Advancing Religious Liberty

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Posted 11/4/11 at 1:12 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

The battle is joined over the right to pray…

Author: ADF President, CEO, and General Counsel Alan Sears

ADF Attorneys Defend North Carolina Public Officials Whose Prayer Policies Are Under Siege

For five years, members of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners have been under legal attack from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – the number one religious censor in America – and Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU). Both object to the Commissioners’ custom of allowing “sectarian” prayer to open public meetings … even though the person offering the invocation has always been allowed to do so in keeping with his own faith, whatever that may be.

Not good enough, say attorneys for the ACLU and Americans United, who represent three people who claim offense at the mere mention of “Jesus” or “Christ.” The Commissioners, they insist, must desist from allowing public prayer in those names. As federal judge, Paul V. Niemeyer, strongly dissenting from adverse lower court rulings says, “the [other judges have] dared to step in and regulate the language of prayer.” FULL POST

Posted 11/4/11 at 1:03 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Atheists and Agnostics Are the Largest Affiliation of Yale Law School Students

Author: ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence

A recent survey of the religious affiliations of students at Yale Law School in New Haven, Connecticut, shows that more students identified as atheist or agnostic than any other group, edging out those who identified with any Christian group by a nose. Atheists accounted for 20.1% of the Yale Law students, and another 13.7% identified as agnostic. This total of 33.8% just surpassed the number of students identified with any type of Christian-related group:

What is interesting is that Yale undergraduates describe themselves as much more religious than those in the law school, with a much smaller percentage of atheists and agnostics:

At the law school, a whooping 49% of the Yale Law students agreed that religion is “not too/not at all important” in their lives, compared with 16% of Americans who said so in a national poll. Only 26% of Yale Law students said religion is “very important” in their lives, compared to 56% of Americans nationally. Here is the graphic from that survey: FULL POST

Posted 11/4/11 at 12:45 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

A Christ-Centered College Moves to Preserve Its Identity: Why the Fuss?

Author: ADF Senior Counsel Gregory S. Baylor

Shorter University, a Christ-centered institution of higher education in Georgia, recently adopted a Personal Lifestyle Statement for university employees. The first section, entitled “Christian Commitment and Membership in a Local Church,” states as follows:

Shorter University will hire persons who are committed Bible believing Christians, who are dedicated to integrating biblical faith in their classes and who are in agreement with the University Statement of Faith. Moreover, employees are expected to be active members of a local church. FULL POST

Posted 11/4/11 at 12:36 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Two Common Objections to Pulpit Freedom Sunday

Author: ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley

Every time I mention Pulpit Freedom Sunday, I generally get two basic objections to the concept of Pulpit Freedom. Yet these objections in some way are either misguided or just flat out wrong.

Pastors should not preach politics from the pulpit.

This is a common objection to Pulpit Freedom Sunday since we are asking pastors to evaluate the candidates running for political office in light of Scripture. Some respond by saying that pastors should not preach about politics from the pulpit.

The main problem with this objection is that the definition of what is political keeps changing. Thirty years ago, a pastor could preach a sermon from Scripture that marriage was between one man and one woman and no one would have been concerned or would have even thought to complain to the IRS that the Church was violating the Johnson Amendment in the tax code by speaking politically. Yet today, if a pastor were to stand in the pulpit and preach a sermon that says marriage is between one man and one woman, that sermon would be instantly deemed “political,” and somehow church-goers, and the culture at large, would assume that the Church was wrong and should stay out of “politics.” FULL POST

Posted 11/3/11 at 7:10 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Pulpit Freedom Sunday 2011 – A Success by All Accounts

Author: ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley

Pulpit Freedom Sunday 2011 was held October 2 and by all accounts was a tremendous success. A total of 539 pastors participated in Pulpit Freedom Sunday which was a massive increase from the 100 pastors that participated last year. Pastors participated from 47 states and Puerto Rico and they represented a broad cross-section of denominations and backgrounds. We had churches with average weekend attendance from 13 to 20,000 who participated in Pulpit Freedom Sunday.

Pastors chose the candidates and races to address and the sermons covered everything from city council races to state candidates, to the declared Presidential candidates.

The breadth of participation from such a broad swath of the country and of the church demonstrates that Pulpit Freedom Sunday is becoming a nationwide movement of pastors who are reclaiming their constitutional right to speak freely from the pulpit without fearing any intimidation or censorship by the government. This movement is truly God’s people coming together in this vital moment of our country’s history to make an impact for biblical truth. FULL POST

Posted 11/3/11 at 6:06 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

A Church, a Mayor, and a Discarded Democracy

Author: ADF Senior Legal Counsel Joel Oster

There are times in my life that I thank God we live in a free country. But then, there are other times I wonder if we are free at all. The tale of this Texas town makes you wonder if democracy is on life support in our country, and when will the church finally rise up and say, “Enough is enough!” 

It all started when the mayor and a few council persons in El Paso, Texas, decided they wanted to provide benefits to same-sex partners of city employees. Now as could be expected, this did not sit well with many in the community and in the local churches who thought that those who practice this behavior should not receive special benefits. 

So in November 2010, the citizens of El Paso, by popular petition, placed on the ballot and passed an ordinance prohibiting unmarried domestic partner benefits. This was democracy in action! A mayor and a few elected officials announced that they intended to pass a bad law, and several citizens responded with a grassroots effort and voiced their collective will to the city.  FULL POST

Posted 10/28/11 at 1:16 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

In Pennsylvania, a Precedent-Setting Win for Religious Freedom

Author: ADF President, CEO, and General Counsel Alan Sears

It’s the kind of case that’s become all too common in recent years – a public elementary school chiding children for attempting, in even the most gentle, harmless manner, to live out their faith.

In California and New Jersey, youngsters have been penalized for wanting to perform to Christian music at after-school talent shows. In Tennessee, the punishment was for reading a Bible at recess. In Indiana, school officials frowned when a little girl handed a classmate a Bible – outside of class time – at his request and with his parents’ permission.

And then there’s the case we told you about earlier this year near Scranton, Pennsylvania, where a fifth-grader was forbidden to hand out fliers inviting classmates to a Christmas party at her church. The fliers – which were distributed during a non-instructional time, before classes started – advertised a party at which “Admission and all activities are free! Face Painting, Ping Pong, Foosball, Cup-Stacking, Games, Prizes, Puppets, Music, Snacks, and more!” FULL POST

Posted 10/28/11 at 1:07 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Does the Law Require Catholic U to Build a Mosque?

Author: ADF Senior Counsel Gregory S. Baylor

George Washington University law professor John Banzhaf has accused the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington, DC, of discriminating against Muslim students at Catholic University of America (CUA). Banzhaf complains that CUA has denied Muslim students ”the same equal access to its facilities and services enjoyed by other student groups, including Jewish ones, solely on the basis of their religion.” More specifically, he contends that:

usually, or at least frequently, these Muslim students at CUA find that they must perform their prayers surrounded by symbols of Catholicism – e.g., a wooden crucifix, paintings of Jesus, pictures of priests and theologians, etc. – which many Muslim students find inappropriate and not especially conducive to praying according to their very different religious beliefs. Furthermore, some Muslim students find they must do their meditation in the ‘school’s chapels and at the cathedral that looms over the entire campus – the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception’ – hardly a place where students of a very different religion are likely to feel very comfortable. FULL POST

Posted 10/28/11 at 12:59 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Another Man Jailed for Criticizing Islam

Author: ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot

An Egyptian court is reported to have sentenced a man to three years in jail and hard labor because he ”intentionally insulted the dignity of the Islamic religion and attacked it with insults and ridicule on Facebook.” No mention is made of exactly what the man said, or what his religion is, but it’s likely that he wasn’t a Muslim because the court observed that ”all members of religions are obligated to tolerate the others’ existence.”

Egyptian law prohibiting insulting another’s religion in an attempt to protect religion obviously has the opposite effect. If merely criticizing Islam can land you in jail for three years, you will very likely refrain from saying anything that remotely appears to view other religions negatively (such as ”Jesus said, No man cometh to the Father but by me.”) FULL POST

Posted 10/28/11 at 12:44 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Bishop Warns of Government Assault on Religious Freedom

Author: ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is rightly concerned that religious freedom as we’ve known it in this country for hundreds of years is increasingly under assault – by our own government! In an open letter to his fellow bishops, Bishop Dolan, President of the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops lists numerous examples of government laws, policies, and regulations that have been propounded without any regard for the religious liberty upon which they are trampling. He notes that the Department of Health and Human Services has recently required religious organizations to provide a broad range of reproductive services (such as abortion) to employees and/or the people being served by the ministry – many of which are in clear violation of the religious teachings of Roman Catholics as well as many Protestant denominations. The Department of Justice has refused to defend laws protecting marriage, and recently argued before the Supreme Court in the EEOC v. Hosanna-Tabor case that the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment doesn’t provide any special protection for churches from governmental interference with their decisions to hire ministers. FULL POST

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