Advancing Religious Liberty

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Posted 3/15/12 at 5:55 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Are you, or the religious organization you serve with, religious? Ask the government to find out!

Author: ADF Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco

A Christian student group trying to form a recognized student organization at University of North Carolina Greensboro (UNCG) recently found out it was not religious. How did it find this out? UNCG officials told it so.

The group, Make Up Your Own Mind (MUYOM, for short), is an explicitly Christian group dedicated to promoting its orthodox Christian views and its biblically-based beliefs regarding the sanctity of life and sexual purity. Its constitution clearly states its religious mission, its multi-point Statement of Faith, and its life-affirming and pro-abstinence views. And to maintain control over its religious identity and message, it requires its members and leaders to agree with these views.

Despite all this evidence (and more) of its religious character and mission, UNCG told MUYOM it was not a religious group. The consequences? MUYOM is denied recognition, which means it cannot access the many avenues of communication available to other recognized groups and vital to meaningful existence on campus, unless it is willing to admit students who disagree with its religious beliefs as members and leaders. Notably, UNCG does not require this of other belief-based groups, since UNCG’s policies expressly allow such groups to restrict members to students who share the groups’ beliefs, except MUYOM. This is a blatant violation of the group’s fundamental First Amendment rights. (And, in case you were wondering, Alliance Defense Fund just filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against UNCG on behalf of the group). FULL POST

Posted 3/15/12 at 5:46 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Florida Christian College Challenges Exclusion from State Aid Program

Author: ADF Senior Counsel Gregory S. Baylor

Florida Christian College (FCC) and five of its students filed suit against the State of Florida March 8, challenging their religion-based exclusion from the Florida Resident Access Grant (FRAG) program. My colleagues and I at the Alliance Defense Fund are privileged to represent them. FULL POST

Posted 3/15/12 at 5:41 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Former Planned Parenthood Clinic Director: Planned Parenthood Defrauded Taxpayers

Author: ADF Senior Counsel Michael J. Norton

Planned Parenthood’s Houston and Southeast Texas affiliate routinely submitted “repeated false, fraudulent, and ineligible claims for Medicaid reimbursements” through the Texas Women’s Health Program over a period of years, according to a federal lawsuit originally filed in July 2010 and made public on March 9.

ADF attorneys representing Abby Johnson, former director of Planned Parenthood’s Bryan/College Station clinic, filed the suit under the Federal False Claims Act and Texas Medicaid Fraud Prevention Act, which allow “whistleblowers” with inside information to expose fraudulent billing by government contractors. By law, such cases must initially be filed under seal and may not be made public while federal and state governments decide whether to join the case.

The suit alleges that Planned Parenthood of Houston and Southeast Texas, now known as Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, knowingly committed Medicaid fraud from 2007 to 2009 by improperly seeking reimbursements from the Texas Women’s Health Program for products and services not reimbursable by that program. According to the lawsuit, by filing at least 87,075 false, fraudulent, or ineligible claims with the Texas Women’s Health Program, Planned Parenthood wrongfully received and retained reimbursements totaling more than $5.7 million. FULL POST

Posted 3/15/12 at 5:37 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Changing Marriage Changes Everything

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

Calling on Americans to set aside a day for focused, unified prayer is not a new thing in the history of our nation. Presidents George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Calvin Coolidge, Ronald Reagan, all did it, just to name a few. But calling on believers for a day of unified, focused prayer specifically aimed at marriage is a relatively new thing – although it shouldn’t be. It’s something Christians in America should have been doing because marriage has been under siege for a long time. And the most recent threat it faces comes from the push for same-sex “marriage” by those involved in the homosexual agenda.

Believers across the country answered the Alliance Defense Fund call to set aside a day to pray for marriage on February 26. On Facebook alone, thousands told us that they would be praying either on their own or with their church families. And we now know that hundreds of thousands prayed in their homes, their churches, their Bible studies, and their Sunday school classes—all asking God’s blessing on the institution of marriage, specifically marriages in their community and for the future of marriage throughout our land. FULL POST

Posted 3/15/12 at 5:30 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Be Wary of Empty Church Rooms: Church Property Tax Exemptions Under Attack

Author: ADF Senior Legal Counsel Joel Oster

This tough economy is hitting everyone. From unemployment to Wall Street bailouts to rocketing gas prices, it seems that everyone is hurting for cash. Apparently, local governments are no exception. Across this nation, local taxing authorities are trying to increase their coffers by denying property tax exemptions for churches. If you are not careful, your church could be next.

One such battle is taking place in Concord, New Hampshire, involving Liberty Assembly of God. Their story should serve as a warning to all.

The church has existed in its current building for more than 15 years. It’s your typical church. It has services on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. A music minister leads the people in singing. It runs a food pantry and even has the occasional person who sleeps through the pastor’s sermons.

Unfortunately, this church came upon hard times. Attendance dropped, and consequently, the church was not using every room as it had before. For example, instead of using four rooms for Sunday school classes, they now only needed to use two. FULL POST

Posted 3/15/12 at 5:25 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Church’s Outreach Ministry to the Poor Leads to Large Tax Bill

Author: ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley

As I recently posted, there are very good reasons why churches should be tax exempt. One Nashville church, though, found that its attempts to reach out to the poor and needy in the community resulted in a very large property tax bill. Their case is an example of the increasing attacks on church tax exemption.

Christ Church Nashville is a large, vibrant congregation in Nashville, Tennessee. The church completed an addition to its church building in 2004. The addition was designed for the purpose of outreach to the community. It contained an indoor playground, a chapel, a café connected to a bookstore, and an indoor gymnasium with a fitness center. Christ Church’s desire in constructing these facilities was to become a gathering place for the community. The church reasoned that there were people surrounding its campus that would not normally come into a traditional church, so it sought to open itself to those people as a place of gathering and religious outreach. FULL POST

Posted 3/15/12 at 5:20 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Should Churches Be Tax Exempt?

Author: ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley

Why is your church tax exempt? Why should it continue to be tax exempt? If I were to sit down and ask you these questions, would you have a clear and coherent answer? I suspect this is something we seldom think about. After all, tax exemption for churches has always been given and we assume, because of its historical longevity, it always will be given.

The fact that most Americans cannot explain why their church is tax exempt indicates a forgotten history and is emblematic of a society that has systematically devalued the church as a beneficial societal institution.

Whenever I litigate a case about church tax exemption or Pulpit Freedom Sunday, the inevitable media comments go something like this: “Churches should pay taxes just like everyone else! They have tons of money, so why can’t they pay their fair share? Why should churches get a free ride? Make them pay!” Comments like these are more prevalent today than any other time I can remember. FULL POST

Posted 3/15/12 at 5:13 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

In New York City: Another Victory in “The Case That Will Not Die”

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

One of the most essential keys to victory in the justice system is persistence – and no Alliance Defense Fund case demonstrates that more powerfully than the now 17-year history of Bronx Household of Faith v. The Board of Education of the City of New York.

The case centers on the equal access rights of churches to meet in public school buildings when classes are not in session. Although New York officials have made those facilities available to many private groups through the years, they say that letting churches hold services somehow violates the mythical “separation of church and state” clause so beloved of those who are hostile to any expression of faith in the public square.

This, despite the fact that civic leaders throughout the greater New York City area have attested repeatedly to the extraordinarily beneficial contributions so many of these congregations have made to the schools, the districts, the neighborhoods, and in the lives of countless individuals. Across the five boroughs, these churches have reached gang members with the love of Christ … fed, clothed, and housed the poor … provided programs for disabled children …donated computers and air conditioners and scoreboards and fresh coats of paint to their host campuses. FULL POST

Posted 3/15/12 at 5:06 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Do You Want To Go into Debt for This? Dennis Prager Summarizes Four Years of a Typical “Progressive” College Education in 60 Seconds

Author: ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence

Dennis Prager urges college students and their parents to evaluate the value of going into debt for a college education in which students are bombarded for four years with withering criticism of every major value they hold. Prager does this by summarizing the major tenets taught at most public colleges and universities in the nation today. Here are some of the those politically correct maxims:

God is at best a non-issue, and at worst, a foolish and dangerous belief.

Christianity is largely a history of inquisitions, crusades, oppression, and anti-intellectualism. Islam, on the other hand, is “a religion of peace.” Therefore, criticism of Christianity is enlightened, while criticism of Islam is Islamophobia. FULL POST

Posted 3/2/12 at 12:47 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

When Scientists Are Censored

Author: ADF Legal Counsel David J. Hacker

Inside Higher Ed reports that evolutionists have censored a forthcoming book on intelligent design.

Score one for science this week. Evolutionary biologists were horrified by the news that a scholarly press was going to publish a work in favor of intelligent design. But a spokesman for the publishing house confirmed to Inside Higher Ed Wednesday that the book’s publication is on hold as it is subjected to further peer review.

Earlier this week, the Panda’s Thumb, a blog about evolutionary theory, posted an item about a forthcoming book from Springer called Biological Information: New Perspectives. The blog-poster and other commenters said the book was a compilation of articles by creationists and intelligent-design proponents and Springer had no business publishing such “creationist pseudoscience.” FULL POST

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