Advancing Religious Liberty

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Posted 2/17/12 at 11:26 AM | Alliance Defending Freedom

In Illinois, an Assault on Rights of Conscience and Religious Freedom

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

Remember how restaurants and other establishments used to post those signs saying, “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone?” In some cases, owners were more specific: “No shirt, no shoes – no service.” Those signs speak to a fundamental right of property owners to have a reasonable say in what does and doesn’t transpire on their premises.

It’s a right that officials in Illinois are trying to deny the proprietors of the TimberCreek Bed and Breakfast in Paxton, after they declined the request of two men to hold their “civil union” ceremony at the inn.

The two men filed complaints against TimberCreek with the state’s Human Rights Commission, claiming sexual orientation discrimination. Since then, the Commission has shown a much greater concern with the outrage of the two men – who of course had the option of holding their ceremony at any number of other establishments in the area – than with the conscience rights of the bed-and-breakfast’s owners, whose religious convictions spurred their refusal to host the event. FULL POST

Posted 2/8/12 at 10:11 AM | Alliance Defending Freedom

No Court Should Redefine Marriage

Author: ADF Senior Counsel Brian Raum

No court can change the nature of men and women, or change the truth that the complementary union between husband and wife is different from any other human relationship. And no court should presume to redefine marriage — yet two of three judges in the oft-overturned Ninth Circuit have attempted to do so with Tuesday’s decision in the lawsuit over California’s marriage amendment, Perry v. Brown.

The decision emphatically denies any holding regarding “whether same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marry, or whether states that fail to afford the right to marry to gays and lesbians must do so.” Instead, the court boldly extends the holding of an unrelated Supreme Court decision, Romer v. Evans, to conclude that once same-sex unions are granted the title of “marriage,” that moniker cannot be taken away. Not surprisingly, the Ninth Circuit was completely unconcerned with the fact that Californians never granted any ability for two men or two women to “marry” — that short-lived “right” was granted by a one-vote majority of California’s Supreme Court in 2008. FULL POST

Posted 2/8/12 at 9:59 AM | Alliance Defending Freedom

NYC Feels the Heat: NY Senate Approves Equal Access for Churches Bill 52-7

Author: ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence

The New York Senate Monday approved the bill 52-7 that would compel New York City to rescind its policy banning private religious worship services in the public schools when school is not in session. The bill had overwhelming bipartisan support, and now moves to the New York Assembly. I joined hundreds of Christians and their pastors from New York City as they visited state lawmakers to urge them to support the bill. I accompanied them to answer questions by the lawmakers and their staff about the Bronx Household of Faith case and to assure them that they would not be “defying the court” by passing the bill. The decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals last June only ruled that it was constitutionally permissible for NYC to have its anti-worship service policy, but that the Constitution did not require it.

The NYC school district is taking this bill seriously, because I ran into School Chancellor Dennis Walcott, who had been lobbying lawmakers to defeat the bill. The NYC School Chancellor is not going to travel to Albany unless he is concerned that the bill would pass. Unfortunately, Chancellor Walcott clings to the obsolete arguments that every other major school district and most courts in the nation have rejected, that schools must promote “separation of church and state” by singling out religious groups and banning their worship services from the empty school buildings. The government does not endorse religion by simply allowing religious groups to meet in public schools on the same terms and conditions as every other community group. FULL POST

Posted 2/8/12 at 9:54 AM | Alliance Defending Freedom

American Atheists…There They Go Again

Author: ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Travis Barham

Recently, the Georgia director of American Atheists announced that his organization would target two national Christian organizations—Child Evangelism Fellowship and Fellowship of Christian Athletes—for legal action. What do these organizations do? Well, they minister to thousands of children, often holding their meetings in public school buildings after school—as both the First Amendment and the Equal Access Act allow them to do. But this upsets Mr. Stefanellis and his fellow atheists, so they accuse CEF and FCA of “targeting the impressionable minds of our children” and of using “unethical,” “immoral,” and “illegal” methods. All of this ominous rhetoric amounts to nothing more than the type of intimidation tactics that atheists and secularists have specialized in for decades. That said, it would be nice if Mr. Stefanellis and his comrades understood a few basic things. FULL POST

Posted 2/5/12 at 5:30 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Planned Parenthood Needs a Time Out

Author: ADF Senior Counsel Casey Mattox

If you work for a nonprofit organization, as I have for my entire career, you understand the importance of the continued financial support from those who make your work possible. As stressful as these pressures can be, however, they are a blessing. The need to maintain transparency and demonstrate your effectiveness at accomplishing the purpose for which the donor gave their hard-earned money is what keeps an organization disciplined and focused. Nonprofits are not entitled to others’ money. Nonprofits must earn it. Yet, whether it comes to federal taxpayer dollars or donations from private groups, Planned Parenthood just doesn’t understand this.

A few days ago, the nation’s leading breast cancer charity, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, announced that it would no longer provide grants to Planned Parenthood. (Webmaster note: Komen later issued an apology that has left many in a state of confusion about what Komen will do with future funding.) In recent years, Komen has donated between $500,000 and $700,000 per year to Planned Parenthood perform manual breast exams on some women. Ostensibly, Planned Parenthood refers some women to other healthcare providers for mammographies. This referral was necessary because not a single Planned Parenthood clinic in the entire country has a mammogram machine. Not one. Komen appears to have made the sensible decision that its donors’ dollars would be better used actually paying for mammograms instead of subsidizing Planned Parenthood’s abortion practice. Who can disagree with that logic? Most nonprofits would have taken that decision with disappointment but also with a measure of grace, thanked Komen for the millions it had given them over the years, and examined how they could improve their services to be worthy of receiving grants from Komen or others in the future. FULL POST

Posted 2/5/12 at 5:18 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Parochial Schools and Peyote: How Illegal Drugs and Christian School Teachers Are Related

Author: ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot

Back in 1990, the Supreme Court decided that laws prohibiting use of the hallucinogenic drug peyote did not violate the freedom of religion of Native Americans who ingested it as part of their religious ceremonies. Many outside of the legal community thought this was the right result because of concerns that drug abusers might pretend to have religious beliefs in an attempt to circumvent bans on illegal drugs. But most religious freedom lawyers were very concerned about this case (Employment Division, Dept. of Human Services of Oregon v. Smith) because of the rationale the court used to justify its decision. In brief, the Court determined that as long as a law neutrally applies to everyone, the fact that it doesn’t make exceptions for religious people or churches doesn’t violate the Constitution – even though the law may prohibit them from doing something their religious beliefs require.

This rationale seems to work fine in extreme cases like use of illegal drugs or human sacrifice. But it would also allow local governments to prohibit use of wine for communion if alcohol consumption was outlawed in a particular town or county. A neutral law could even require a church to refrain from discriminating based on sex when hiring clergy members. FULL POST

Posted 2/5/12 at 5:13 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

NYC: Schools in Churches OK; Churches in Schools Not OK

Author: ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence

When I was in NYC last weekend, I learned about a huge inconsistent way that NYC public schools treat churches. Churches may not meet in public schools, but public schools can meet in churches! As you know, NYC does not want churches and other religious groups meeting in public schools because they are concerned that impressionable youth will be confused and wrongly think that the public school endorses the church meeting there on Sunday mornings.

So it greatly surprised me to learn last Sunday that the NYC Department of Education rents Roman Catholic schools to hold public school classes! On Sunday morning, I learned about P.S. 133 in Brooklyn, a public school that meets in a Catholic parochial school building. I was so surprised to learn of this, that I walked over to the school to see it for myself. This building has large crosses extending from the edges of the roof, yet NYC public schools hold classes there for children of all faiths. I talked to the priest at the Catholic church next door, St. Thomas Aquinas (I was there as Mass was ending on Sunday). The priest told me that the archdiocese rents many Catholic school buildings to the NYC public schools because they need additional space to conduct public school. FULL POST

Posted 2/5/12 at 5:06 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Thousands March for Equal Access Across the Brooklyn Bridge

Author: ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence

Thousands of Christians, pastors, other people of faith joined together last Sunday afternoon to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to express their opposition to Mayor Bloomberg’s plans to evict the churches meeting in the public schools after February 12. People began gathering around 3:00 pm at Cadman Plaza Park, near the Brooklyn (southern) end of the Brooklyn Bridge. And they were a diverse lot. The Hispanic Pentecostal pastors arrived together wearing their distinctive white windbreakers. Pastor Dimos Salebarrios from Infinity New York Church in the Bronx brought many from his church that meets in a community center connected to a housing project. Pastors from the Park Slope area of Brooklyn and from lower Manhattan came with members from their church. But they were all dwarfed by the large contingency of Koreans who came from New Frontier Church in Chelsea. It was like a large number of reinforcements had come, like when the Elfish soldiers arrived at Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers to help the soldiers of Rohan. Reporters and television camera crews set up impromtu interviews all over the park. FULL POST

Posted 2/4/12 at 4:37 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Common Sense Is Refreshing: Tolerance Is a Two-Way Street

Author: ADF Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco

If you read this blog within the past few days, you already know that the Sixth Circuit issued a terrific decision for religious liberty in ADF’s case on behalf of Julea Ward, a student Eastern Michigan University (EMU) expelled from its counseling program because of her religious beliefs.  Among its many memorable quotes is this zinger: “Tolerance is a two-way street.”  This is tough medicine for public universities, which so often preach tolerance but practice it for only those who agree with the leftist views that dominate most college campuses.

In addition to this great quote on tolerance, I also wanted to share a few quotes from the opinion that show the refreshing common sense the court applied in rejecting EMU’s arguments. FULL POST

Posted 1/30/12 at 3:41 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Press Misunderstands the Importance of Recent Supreme Court Case

Author: ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot

I recently explained the importance of the Supreme Court’s decision affirming a church’s right to control whom it employs as a teacher in its religious school in a post you can read here. Unfortunately, the vital protection this case provides for religious freedom has largely been lost on the mainstream media. Instead, they’ve often focused on how this decision may affect teachers at religious schools. One AP article went so far as to assert that a teacher of Jewish Studies at a Jewish school should be seen as a “teacher whose subject is religion, not a religious teacher.” In the context of a religious school, this is completely at odds with the concept of religious freedom. FULL POST

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