Advancing Religious Liberty

CP Blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of The Christian Post. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author(s).

Posted 2/17/12 at 12:01 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Vanderbilt’s Two-Stepping Town Hall

Author: ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Travis C. Barham

Vanderbilt’s crack-down on religious groups has captured headlines and ignited controversy on campus. Chancellor Zeppos’ recent “message” on “nondiscrimination” announced a town hall to explain everything. At this meeting, the dean of the divinity school served as a religious stage prop while Provost Richard McCarty and General Counsel David G. Williams filled three hours with double-talk.

Both the complete video footage and the highlights from that footage expose Vanderbilt’s policy change for what it is: a purge cloaked in a nondiscrimination guise that targets religious students who make the mistake of taking their faith and freedoms seriously. And it is lead by people who do not understand the role of religion in students’ lives, who have little regard for basic freedoms, and who refuse to put their policy in writing. FULL POST

Posted 2/17/12 at 11:34 AM | Alliance Defending Freedom

NYC’s Phony Argument that It Is “Subsidizing” Religion by Allowing Churches To Meet in Schools

Author: ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence

One of the specious arguments that the New York City has repeatedly made is that it is “subsidizing” churches by allowing them to meet in the public schools. That argument runs something like this: Because it would cost a lot of money for a church to hold its worship services, in say, Madison Square Gardens or the Ritz Carlton in Battery Park than in a NYC public school, that difference is a subsidy to religion. We have repeatedly countered that deficient argument by pointing out that the NYC school officials set the rate and that it is a uniform rate that all community groups pay. The only money changing hands is from the pocket of the churches to the hands of the school district. Religious groups receive no special discount or preferential deal.

After listening to pastors speak at a press conference in Albany, I now realize that there is another argument that shoots down the “subsidy” nonsense. Factually, the churches are subsidizing the NYC schools, not the other way around! The NYC school officials tell only part of the story, and do not admit or reveal that churches have voluntarily spent large amounts of money to help the public schools! FULL POST

Posted 2/17/12 at 11:29 AM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Court Upholds Indiana School Choice Program

Author: ADF Senior Counsel Gregory S. Baylor

Indiana’s school voucher program does not violate the state constitution, a state court ruled January 13.

In 2011, the Indiana General Assembly created the Choice Scholarship Program. Qualifying families receive vouchers, which they may redeem at private schools, both secular and religious. A collection of taxpayers sued, alleging that the program violated three provisions of the Indiana constitution. The Marion County Circuit Court granted summary judgment to the defendants on all three claims.

The court first held that the program did not violate Article 8, Section 1 of the Indiana Constitution, which requires the state General Assembly to “encourage, by all suitable means, moral, intellectual, scientific and agricultural improvement” and to “provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools.” The court reasoned that the imposition of this latter duty did not preclude the legislature from satisfying the first duty through means other than the public school system. FULL POST

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

load more