One of the things most evident to those of us working in litigation – and one of the reasons the ministry of the Alliance Defense Fund is so important – is that Christians are, in many quarters, denied basic legal protections afforded other citizens. Two quick examples, to illustrate the “specialized treatment” so many people of faith are subjected to in our culture today:
In Bowling Green, Kentucky, members of a student pro-life club, Hilltoppers for Life, at Western Kentucky University received permission from school administrators to erect some 3,700 crosses in an old football stadium to commemorate children’s lives lost to abortion. On April 20, the Hilltoppers discovered a WKU art student placing condoms on each of the crosses. She claimed she was converting the Hilltoppers display into her own art exhibit, with her professor’s approval. Security guards refused to intercede to block the desecration.
On April 26, ADF attorneys representing the Hilltoppers sent the president of WKU a letter accusing university officials of at least tacit acceptance, if not outright endorsement, of the art student’s actions. The letter asked WKU to investigate the incident, urge the art student to publicly apologize, and ensure that she doesn’t receive academic credit for her vandalism. The letter also requested disciplinary action against both the student and her art teacher.
Meanwhile, in Rockland, Maine, city officials have decided that – despite state statutes that exempt other charitable organizations from paying property taxes – Aldersgate United Methodist Church will be taxed on its parking lot and parsonage.
Aldersgate’s main building and grounds were exempted, and the city attorney has stated that, “Were Aldersgate also entitled to exemption as a charitable and benevolent organization, the entire property would be exempt from taxation.” Still, he refuses to recognize the church’s extensive and visible charitable efforts.
“Churches are at a distinct disadvantage under the current law, which grants a tax exemption for the entire property of a non-church charitable group but only grants a partial exemption for churches,” says ADF Senior Legal Counsel Joel Oster. “It’s unconstitutional to single out churches to be treated differently, simply because they are churches, while allowing virtually identical non-religious uses to have favorable tax treatment.”
So, on April 23, ADF attorneys filed a complaint on behalf of the church in state court, pointing out that, along with its usual church work in the community, Aldersgate “makes its facilities available to a wide variety of public groups without charge, such as local orchestras, children’s development services, and branches of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.”
Portland attorney Stephen C. Whiting, one of more than 2,100 attorneys in the ADF alliance, is serving as local counsel in this case. Please be in prayer for him, and all the ADF lawyers nationwide who are working to address and remove the “exceptions” that are denying so many Christians their constitutionally protected rights.
This post originally appeared here.