Advancing Religious Liberty
9/7/10 at 10:59 AM 0 Comments

Christian Beliefs – A Poison Pill for Public Policy

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Author: ADF Senior Legal Counsel Joel Oster

A recent decision by a federal district court in Connecticut has sent a very troubling message to those holding religious beliefs – you are not full members of society, but second class citizens!

Let me explain. For many years, groups like the ACLU have argued that Ten Commandment monuments must be taken down, Bibles should be removed from schools, prayers must cease, and memorial crosses along the highways must be removed. Their rationale is that such things make the ACLU supporters feel like political outsiders and not full members of society.

They get this mantra from former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor. According to her, the First Amendment “seeks to ensure that government does not make a person’s religious beliefs relevant to his or her standing in the political community … thereby sending a message to nonadherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community.”

Well, the tables have turned now. In an effort to appease the anti-religious crowd, the courts are now stripping away the basic rights of Christians. Last month, a federal district court stopped the Enfield Public School District from holding graduation ceremonies at the First Cathedral, a very large Baptist church in the area.

But before we even get to the part of the opinion that treats religious persons as second class citizens, I have to comment that this case is an example of political correctness gone awry. Most graduations in large public schools have one thing in common – they’re crowded! Many have to ration out tickets and pick their favorite family members because not all can attend due to limited space. But because of this lawsuit filed by the ACLU, hundreds of family members missed out on this most special of times. So rather than have an event in a comfortable environment, with adequate seating and cooling system, it was held in a crowded gym. And for that, thank you ACLU!

But a politically incorrect ACLU or judicial opinion is not front page material anymore. What should be screamed from the rooftops is this emerging trend to strip Christians’ rights as full citizens in America. Here is why I am saying this: the main reason the judge ruled against the school district is because the Family Institute of Connecticut (“FIC”), a pro-family organization, lobbied the school district to hold the graduation services at the Cathedral.

Did you catch that? The reason the judge ordered the graduation services to be stopped at this location is because a pro-family organization wanted the services to be located there! I only wish I were making this up.

The court said, “The issue here, however, is not Enfield Public Schools’ purpose, but instead the broader context within which a reasonable observer would understand the 2010 graduations. Given the unity of interest that developed between FIC and the Chairman, FIC’s agenda-and FIC and Chairman Stokes working together on that agenda-is clearly part of that context.”

You see, the interests of the Enfield Public School District and the FIC were similar – they both wanted the graduation ceremony to be held at First Catherdral. But their reasons were not the same! The School District wanted the graduation services to be held at the Cathedral because it was the most cost effective place to hold the ceremony in a comfortable environment. FIC wanted the graduation ceremonies to be held there because as a pro-family organization, it wanted this special occasion to be held at a place where most family members could attend.

In addition, the FIC did not want this outside special interest organization coming into his town and demanding that the services not be held at a church. They believed that caving to such demands would violate the constitutional rights of FIC and the church.

Unfortunately, the judge ruled against the school district due to this organization’s beliefs. So the message here to those holding religious values is … keep them to yourself! Because if you share them, or go to your governing officials and ask them to do something, then the governing official will have to deny your request.

It’s as if religion is a poison pill that will kill whatever a religious person hopes for. In essence, the government is telling the church, “because of your religious beliefs, you are not full members of society. You are outsiders in your own community. Others who do not share you beliefs are more favored in this community.”

Now where have I heard that before?

This post originally appeared here.

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