Advancing Religious Liberty

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Posted 1/16/12 at 11:01 AM | Alliance Defending Freedom

NYC Housing Authority Relents, Allows Churches’ Worship Services to Remain in the Community Centers

In the first big victory for equal access in New York City this year, the NYC Housing Authority has relented of its efforts to evict the churches meeting for worship services at the community centers of the public housing projects. Pastor Joe Fletcher of Bronx Bible Church, and Pastor Dimos Salaberrios of Infinity New York Church, received calls last Friday from NYC Housing Authority officials, who told the pastors that the City was willing to sign long-term agreements so that the churches could continue conducting their worship services in the projects. At least five churches meet in the city’s housing projects’ community centers.

In December, after the Supreme Court denied review in the Bronx Household of Faith case, the Housing Authority sought to expand the ban on worship services from the NYC public schools to include the community centers at public housing projects. These facilities are open to all community groups and individuals to meet. This was an unwarranted expansion of a court decision. In the Bronx Household of Faith case, the appeals court did not give a comprehensive blank check to city officials to eradicate private religious worship services from every public forum in New York City. FULL POST

Posted 1/16/12 at 10:54 AM | Alliance Defending Freedom

ADF Joins Coalition Calling on U.S. Department of Education to Protect Speech on Campus

Author: ADF Legal Counsel David Hacker

The ADF Center for Academic Freedom has joined a broad coalition of organizations calling on the U.S. Department of Education to clarify when colleges may and may not investigate and punish student “harassment.” The letter, written by our friends at FIRE, is available here.

We’ve told you before how to spot a speech code, the majority of which involve anti-harassment policies. And these unconstitutional policies are nothing new. So why did FIRE send today’s letter? FIRE’s president, Greg Lukianoff, explains in the Jan. 6 Washington Post:

[Last year, the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights] issued a 19-page letter in April dictating to colleges the procedures they must follow in sexual harassment and assault cases. Among its many troubling points, including a requirement that sexual harassment cases be adjudicated using the lowest possible standard of evidence allowable in court, is the fact that the letter makes no mention of the First Amendment or free speech. This ignores the role that vague and broad definitions of harassment have played in justifying campus speech codes and censorship over the past few decades. By mandating so many procedural steps colleges must take to respond to allegations of sexual harassment while simultaneously failing to mandate a consistent, limited and constitutional definition of harassment, the OCR encourages those on campus who are already inclined to use such codes to punish speech they simply dislike. FULL POST

Posted 1/13/12 at 1:50 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

NYC Pastors Fight for Equal Access to Conduct Worship Services in NYC Government Buildings

New York City pastors are leading a growing movement opposing the New York City Department of Education’s policy banning worship services conducted by religious groups. Today several NYC pastors and NYC Councilman Fernando Cabrera were arrested for trespassing when they prayed in front of the door of the building where the City’s Law Department has its offices. The seven arrested did so to draw attention to New York City’s efforts to expand the ban on worship services to public buildings beyond public schools.

Last month, two churches meeting in community centers connected to public housing projects in the Bronx were told that they would have to stop meeting for worship services at the end of December while the New York City Housing Authority considered adopting a policy similar to the NYC Department of Education banning worship services. The Housing Authority officials told the pastors they were doing so in light of the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear ADF’s Bronx Household of Faith case, which upheld the NYC Department of Education’s policy prohibiting community groups from conducting worship services in public schools during off hours. ADF attorneys successfully convinced the Housing Authority to delay the order for the churches to leave until the end of February. ADF has been strongly urging the Housing Authority to allow the churches to remain and not to adopt the anti-worship policy like the public schools have. FULL POST

Posted 1/13/12 at 1:38 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Without Religious Freedom, There Is No Other Liberty

Author: ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot

The Supreme Court recently refused to hear a case with important religious freedom implications — Bronx Household of Faith v. Board of Education, City of New York.ADF asked the Supreme Court to reverse the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit’s incredible holding that the New York City Board of Education can allow schools to be rented for meetings encouraging everything from atheism to zodiac watching, but deny use for a worship service. Briefly stated, the court held that school officials can prohibit churches from renting school facilities to hold worship services, as long as they allow churches in for other types of events.

The court’s ruling has serious legal implications for religious freedom. We at ADF were hopeful the Supreme Court would review this case and resolve the very difficult position in which the Second Circuit has placed churches (and school officials) in the states of New York, Connecticut, and Vermont. Now, if a church needs to rent the school auditorium for a Christmas play, it must decide whether to describe the event as a worship service because it includes songs and a prayer, or merely a celebration of a national holiday from a Christian point of view. Is it dishonest to not refer to it as a worship service? And God help the school principals charged with reviewing such applications. How are they to determine if a Christmas play violates a school’s policy banning worship? It certainly would have been nice to get some direction from the Supreme Court on these questions. Hopefully the Court will see fit to take another similar case soon. FULL POST

Posted 12/23/11 at 6:17 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Peace on Earth

Over at Townhall.com, ADF attorney Benjamin Bull has authored a column titled "Peace on Earth" in which he writes about little Domenic Johansson and how the Swedish government took him away from his parents simply because they home-schooled him. The Swedish government forcibly removed Domenic 2.5 years ago!

Mr. Bull proceeds to tell the story of other Christians around the world who have been oppressed, silenced, and even murdered for their faith. You can read the entire article here.

“Extremists, here and abroad, believe there can be no peace until everyone believes the same thing. In fact, peace depends not on a brutally enforced unity, but on thoughtfully cultivated freedom. In this season, as so many of us are thinking – as we should – of the children who don’t have toys or a turkey for Christmas, let us also remember those children who long not just for something to eat or play with, but for the freedom to honor the deepest convictions of their souls.” FULL POST

Posted 12/23/11 at 6:13 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Washington Times: HAGELIN: We Need Christmas Now More Than Ever

On Dec. 18, there was an article in The Washington Times about the continued attacks on Christmas and how we need Christmas now more than ever. Read the whole article here.

This post originally appeared here.

Posted 12/23/11 at 6:09 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Another National Day of Prayer Victory

Author: ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot

On December 12, Judge Silver, a federal judge in Arizona, threw out a claim that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer violated the Establishment Clause by issuing day of prayer proclamations in observance of the National Day of Prayer. The court cited the Seventh Circuit’s recent ruling in FFRF v. Obama, saying “hurt feelings” don’t give someone standing to bring a federal case. The Court also said that no constitutional injury results from plaintiffs getting up to turn off the TV or avoiding conversations with people because they don’t want to hear about the prayer proclamations.

Judge Silver got it exactly right. The Establishment Clause doesn’t give anti-religionists license to roam the country or channel surf looking for things to be offended by, and then making a federal case out of them. There is no right not to be offended in America. This decision, like the Seventh Circuit’s decision in FFRF v. Obama in which ADF represented Mrs. Dobson and the National Day of Prayer Task Force, is another very important step in limiting the ability of anti-religion activist groups like FFRF to harass state and local government officials who simply want to acknowledge our nation’s religious heritage. These groups often use lawsuits and the attorney fees that come with them as a vehicle to intimidate government officials into silence about their own religious beliefs, as well as those of our Founding Fathers and the vast majority of present day Americans. FULL POST

Posted 12/23/11 at 6:06 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

We Wish You a Merry...Bill of Rights Day!

Author: ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Travis Barham

December 15th. At first glance, this date seems utterly insignificant, a fleeting reminder that we have only have ten days to finish our Christmas shopping. Yet it stands with July 4th as one of our most important historical anniversaries. For it is on this date that the Bill of Rights turns two hundred twenty years old.

In the Declaration of Independence, our Founding Fathers proclaimed that we are “endowed by [our] Creator with certain unalienable rights,” rights that no government can take away. In the Constitution, they built a government designed to secure those liberties. But because all governments tend to abuse power, they specifically identified some of those rights in the Bill of Rights, providing an extra layer of protection for our freedoms.

In Federalist 51, James Madison outlined—without necessarily intending to do so—why the Bill of Rights is so critical:

If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. FULL POST

Posted 12/23/11 at 5:53 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Pa. Supreme Court Hands Down Early Christmas Present to the Preborn

Author:  ADF-allied attorney Randy Wenger

This time last year, the Independence Law Center, an ally of the Alliance Defense Fund, filed an amici brief on behalf of the Pennsylvania Family Institute, the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, and about 60 state legislators in a case called In the Interest of Jane Doe, which involved a minor seeking an abortion. State law requires a minor to get a court order (called a judicial bypass) prior to having an abortion unless one of the child’s parents agrees to the abortion. Up until now, our courts have routinely granted these bypasses; however, this is not to be a rubber stamp. Instead, a court is to give a bypass only when the child shows the maturity necessary to make the choice or if the abortion is somehow deemed to be in the child’s “best interests.” FULL POST

Posted 12/23/11 at 4:26 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

DC Agency: Single-Sex Dorms at Catholic U Don’t Violate Law

Author: ADF Senior Counsel Gregory S. Baylor

The District of Columbia Office of Human Rights has held that John Garvey, president of Catholic University of America did not violate a District law banning sex discrimination by returning the institution he leads to single-sex dormitories. As I mentioned in a summer blog post, George Washington University law professor John Banzhaf filed a charge of discrimination against President Garvey. FULL POST

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