Alliance Defense Fund

Urgent: Public Comment On Adoption Regs Ends Tonight; ADF: "Adoption In The Best Interest Of The Child"

There are only hours left in the 30 day re-opened public comment period regarding a proposal that would allow Virginia government to discriminate against faith-based child placement agencies by forcing them to place children up for adoption to homosexuals, contrary to their consciences, faith beliefs and principles. Comments must be posted by tonight at 11:59 p.m. Nearly 2,000 people have commented so far.

If you have yet to do so, please contact the Board of Social Services and urge it to reject the proposed regulation that would discriminate against faith-based child placement agencies by forcing them to adopt children to homosexuals or cease performing their mission of helping children.

Our friends at Alliance Defense Fund have submitted exceptional comments that describe the history of adoption and its purpose — to give children the best possible outcome, and that it has always been in the state's interest to adopt children to stable, loving homes with both a mother and a father.

According to Austin Nimocks, ADF's senior legal counsel:

While the missions of several child-placing agencies are expressly faith-based, that faith basis directly serves Virginia's public policy in reflecting the universal understanding that, ideally, children need both a mother and a father. Therefore, Virginia should not burden these agencies with any regulations with threaten their ability to find children homes with loving mothers and fathers.

Nimocks goes on to make the case that the history of adoption laws in Virginia and the nation shows that their purpose is to imitate the natural family. It is in the best interest of children to be place with both a mom and a dad. The proposed regulation would both discriminate against faith-based ministries as well as deny children their best hope and opportunity.

In Virginia, individual homosexuals already are allowed to adopt and there are public and private agencies that facilitate those adoptions. Adding discriminatory language to the regulations would not increase the number of children being adopted into homes. In fact, it would decrease it by forcing the majority of private child placement agencies, which are sectarian, to cease fulfilling their mission or violate their faith. This would not help children but place them at risk.

This proposed regulation also places undue restrictions on birth mothers and consequently adoption agencies. Within the confines of an adoption conducted through a private agency, a birth mother is due the freedom to choose an adoptive parent of the same religious convictions so that her child may be raised accordingly. Consequently, private adoption agencies are deserving of the ability to screen adoptive parents based on the agency’s beliefs or the beliefs of their birth mothers.

Please contact the Board of Social Services by following the instructions below and urge them to reject any regulation that discriminates against faith-based child placement agencies. It's simple. Follow these instructions:

1. Click here.

 

2. Once on that page, click "Enter a comment."

3. Type "Preserve religious freedom" in the subject line.

4. Type and submit your comments.

Some points you may wish to consider incorporating into your comments:

» On April 20, the State Board of Social Services correctly upheld the fundamental right of faith-based child placement agencies to continue their great work of helping children and families without governmental intrusion into the practice of their faith.

» Faith-based child placement agencies have a right, under federal and state law, to make decisions that are consistent with their religious beliefs, including their beliefs about marriage and family life. This right must be respected and preserved.

» Children benefit from being placed in situations that reflect the natural family, with a mother and a father.

» Many birthparents and prospective adoptive parents hold these beliefs as well, and they have every right to work with agencies that share their values.

» Forcing agencies and individuals to choose between following their own values or following the proposed discriminatory regulation would be an unprecedented violation of religious freedom in Virginia. Religious liberty is foundational to our Commonwealth and our country.

» Faith-based agencies provide vital services to our communities. They must be allowed to continue the great work they are doing.

Forsyth County To Appeal Fourth Circuit Prayer Ruling

A three-judge panel of the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, by a 2-1 vote, recently upheld a lower court's ban on prayers by clergy at public meetings that may mention the name of a particular deity. The ruling, in Joyner v. Forsyth County, contradicts decades of Supreme Court precedent and is in conflict with several other circuit court opinions on the same issue. It invites government censorship of public prayer. The Family Foundation joined with several other family policy councils in an amicus brief to the court and was in the audience when oral arguments were made. Alliance Defense Fund allied attorney and founding dean of Louisiana College's Pressler School of Law Mike Johnson, who argued the case before the Fourth Circuit in May, replied in a statement that:

America’s founders opened public meetings with prayer. There's no reason that today's public officials should be forced to censor the prayers of those invited to offer them simply because secularist groups don't like people praying according to their own conscience.

Throughout his majority opinion, Judge Harvey Wilkinson seeks to recognize the "legitimacy of legislative prayer" while at the same time requiring that "prayer" be void of any religious, or specifically Christian, references. It ridicules sectarian prayer as denying "invocations their inclusive aspect" and renders all faiths equal, stating that "those of different creeds are in the end kindred spirits." This position exposes the idea of government "neutrality" toward religion for what it is — pure censorship and hostility toward public exercise of faith. In a frightening opinion fraught with contradiction and illogic, the majority reduces religious expression to a place deserving less protection than other speech: "The First Amendment teaches that religious faith stands on a different footing from other forms of speech and observance."

(Note the inclusion of "observance" and not just "speech"!) Essentially, the majority argues that simply uttering the name of Christ at a public meeting "advances" Christianity, offends people of other faiths, and therefore cannot be tolerated, unless there is an arbitrary number of other deities recognized as well.

Judge Paul V. Niemeyer strongly dissented, writing that:

The majority has dared to step in and regulate the language of prayer — the sacred dialogue between humankind and God. Such a decision treats prayer agnostically; reduces it to civil nicety; hardly accommodates the Supreme Court's jurisprudence in Marsh v. Chambers . . . and creates a circuit split [with the 11th Circuit]. ... Most frightfully, it will require secular legislative and judicial bodies to evaluate and parse particular religious prayers under an array of criteria. ... I respectfully submit that we must maintain a sacred respect of each religion, and when a group of citizens comes together, as does the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners, and manifests that sacred respect — allowing the prayers of each to be spoken in the religion's own voice — we must be glad to let it be.

The irony is that secularists claim there must be a "separation of church and state" except when the state can impose itself as editor-in-chief of prayer. As Judge Neimeyer alludes to, the prayers are an affirmation of the individual's belief and his or her exhortation to the deity in which he or she believes to guide the legislative body to which he or she is invited. Government intrusion, then, is not safeguarding an advancement of religion by government, but infringing on the individual's right to exercise his or her religious expression.

Other federal courts have upheld the ADF model invocation policy on which Forsyth County's policy is based, including a very recent July 11 decision that upheld the invocation policy of Lancaster, Calif. Each of the four other federal courts to review similar invocation policies since 2009 has found them to be constitutional. Not only that, but there was another vote recently — a 6-1 vote by the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court (Stamford Advocate).

The details of this case date back to March of 2007 when the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed suit against Forsyth County Board, stating, “[the Board] does not have a policy which discourages or prohibits those whom [the Board] has invited to deliver prayers from including references to Jesus Christ, or any other sectarian deity, as part of their prayers.” The two plaintiffs represented by the ACLU complained that a prayer offered at one specific meeting in December of 2007 that mentioned the “Cross of Calvary,” the “Virgin Birth” and “Jesus” made them feel “distinctly unwelcome and ‘coerced by [their] government into endorsing a Christian prayer.’”

Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing Tomorrow Morning On DOMA, TFF Allies To Testify, Attend If Possible

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow morning to discuss S.598 — a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (read the bill here). Approved in 1996 by 84 percent of Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton, DOMA defines marriage as between one man and one woman, and protects states such as Virginia from being forced to accept another state's recognition of same-sex marriages. Both the House and the Senate have introduced bills to repeal DOMA and President Obama has called DOMA unconstitutional. His Justice Department decided, in the middle of the legal process, to stop defending DOMA in court, a radical shirking of constitutional responsibility to defend the laws of the country when challenged. The defeat of these repeal DOMA bills are crucial to the stability of God-ordained, traditional marriage as the bedrock of our society.

Several excellent scholars will testify in favor of keeping DOMA, all allies all of The Family Foundation: Tom Minnery (executive director of CitizenLink), Austin Nimocks (senior legal counsel for Alliance Defense Fund, see excellent blog post on marriage, here), and Edward Whelan (president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, see the written testimony he will present tomorrow). If you live in Northern Virginia, and if it is at all possible, please attend the hearing tomorrow morning to show your support for DOMA. Because of the anticipated size of the crowd, the hearing has been moved from the Dirksen Senate Office Building to room 216 of the Hart Senate Office Building. Although the hearing begins at 10:00 a.m. attendees need to be in line no later than 8:00 to get a sea. We ask those who cannot that you keep Tom, Austin and Edward in your prayers as they defend for us the definition of marriage. (The proceedings may very well end up on C-SPAN and/or archived its web site.)

American Voters On Same-Sex Marriage: Not So Fast!

Recent news reports have celebrated Mainstream Media driven polling that suggests Americans are becoming more supportive of same-sex marriage. Proponents of redefining marriage have bludgeoned citizens through op-eds, letters to the editor and media appearances, making some who believe marriage is a sacred union between one man and one woman wonder if homosexual marriage is inevitable (as we noted about New York earlier this week, for example). But a new, comprehensive, scientific poll, coupled with analysis of marriage amendment voting patterns, shows that a vast majority of Americans still believe in the traditional definition of marriage — by a wide margin. It found that 62 percent of Americans believe marriage is only between one man and one woman, with 53 percent strongly agreeing with that statement. The survey was commissioned by the Alliance Defense Fund and conducted by the nationally known public opinion research firm Public Opinion Strategies between May 16 and May 19.

Public Opinion Strategies Partner Gene Ulm, who directed the survey, said:

These numbers are not surprising. More than 63 million Americans in 31 state elections have voted on constitutional marriage amendments. Forty million Americans in all — 63 percent of total voters — have voted to affirm marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Look at that last statement closely. Sixty-three percent of voters in the nation have already voted in favor of traditional marriage, which reflects the percentage in the poll (see state-by-state voting chart). Regardless of what left-leaning media driven polls say, those voters have made their decision — and they support God's design for marriage.

Public Opinion Strategies is a nationwide firm that has provided polling for Fortunate 100 companies, NBC, the Wall Street Journal and NPR. According to ADF:

The survey was part of a broad and comprehensive effort examining American attitudes toward marriage. In addition to the national survey, the effort included 14 focus groups completed across the country.

Needless to say, this report should serve as an encouragement to all of us, and also remind us that we cannot be deceived by media reports that led some to believe that the marriage issue is lost. Indeed, we are the majority on this important, society defining issue.

But same-sex marriage advocates and their allies in the national media and government are not going to give up their relentless assault on marriage. Here in Virginia, where we've settled the issue of marriage in our Constitution, homosexual advocates are pushing their agenda through non-discrimination policies in state government, policies that are unnecessary, illegal, and threaten our tradition of religious liberty. While we've won the marriage issue, we must continue to be vigilant in our defense of our freedoms.

Is Public Prayer Unconstitutional?

As if the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals isn't busy enough this week. Not only will it decide on ObamaCare, it got the above question, too, in a case in which The Family Foundation filed an amicus brief last year. Now asked, another three judge panel will decide the constitutionality of the prayer policy of the Forsyth County, N.C. — but with national implications. The policy, drafted by the Alliance Defense Fund, allows for anyone of any faith to pray before county government meetings on a first come, first serve basis. The content of the prayers are not reviewed by government officials. Plaintiffs represented by the ACLU contend that, because most of the "prayers" at the meetings over an eighteen month period were "sectarian," the policy is unconstitutional. According to ADF attorneys, plaintiffs have argued in briefs that any prayer before public meetings is unconstitutional.

Judges Harvie Wilkinson, Paul Niemeyer and Barbara Keenan comprise the panel. If their questioning of attorneys arguing the case is any indication of where they stand on the issue, Judge Keenan is clearly in the ACLU camp. Appointed to the court by President Obama, she was particularly hostile toward ADF's arguments and clearly favored the idea of "inclusive" prayers if there were going to be any prayers at all. Judge Niemeyer appeared much more favorable toward public prayer, stating that prayers without mentioning a specific deity are "just words." Judge Wilkinson seemed like the swing vote, questioning both sides on multiple issues throughout the hour and ten minute hearing.

The details of this case date back to March 2007 when the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed suit against North Carolina's Forsyth County Board of Supervisors, stating:

[the Board] does not have a policy which discourages or prohibits those whom [the Board] has invited to deliver prayers from including references to Jesus Christ, or any other sectarian deity, as part of their prayers.

As ADF Senior Legal Counsel Mike Johnson, who argued in favor of the policy, aptly pointed out, "An invocation according to the dictates of the giver's conscience is not an establishment of religion. If it was, you'd have to argue that the drafters of the U.S. Constitution were violating the Constitution in the prayers and invocations that they themselves offered." (Mike Johnson testified, at Family Foundation request during the 2009 General Assembly, on behalf of the rights of state police chaplains to pray in Jesus' name. See video.)

A primary issue in the case is whether or not a voluntary prayer before a government meeting is "government" or private speech. If private, it is clearly protected by the First Amendment. But by the ACLU's logic, anything said at a government meeting by a private individual is government speech just by virtue of saying at that meeting.

Several Virginia legislators also signed on to an amicus brief in support of religious liberty in Joyner v. Forsyth County. They include Delegates Kathy Byron (R-22, Lynchburg), Bill Carrico (R-5, Galax), Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas), and Brenda Pogge (R-96, Yorktown); and Senators Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg) and Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-27, Winchester).

Update: HUD Backs Off Michigan Woman Seeking Christian Roommate

It's okay to seek a Christian roommate after all! This big sigh of relief comes from news reports that the Department of Housing and Urban Development will not pursue any type of anti-discrimination complaint against a Michigan woman who advertised in her church bulletin for a Christian roommate. Alleluia! In America, you can still choose to live with whom you want! According to FoxNews.com:

The complaint filed by the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan had accused the unidentified 31-year-old woman of posting an ad that "expresses an illegal preference for a Christian roommate, thus excluding people of other faiths."

HUD acknowledged that statements suggesting a preference for one religion are prohibited, but it concluded that the woman in this case didn't violate the law.

"In light of the facts provided and after assessing the unique context of the advertisement and the roommate relationship involved in this particular situation potentially involving the sharing of personal religious beliefs, the Department defers to Constitutional considerations in reaching its conclusion. Accordingly, the Department finds that there is no reasonable cause to believe that the Act was violated in this matter," HUD said.

How charitable of Big Brother HUD. The language of the ad is "prohibited" but she was within her constitutional rights. Liberal bureaucratic doublespeak.

Joel Oster, an Alliance Defense Fund attorney, said:

Clearly this woman has a right to pick and choose who she wants to live with. Christians shouldn't live in fear of being punished by the government for being Christians. It is completely absurd to try to penalize a single Christian woman for privately seeking a Christian roommate at church — an obviously legal and constitutionally protected activity.

All of which is so clearly obvious except to those extreme few — in and out of government — who believe in government control and that government knows best. However few, it is a determined few, and worthy of remaining diligent against. The fact that this was even an issue shows that freedom and values are still on the defensive and a rollback of the Leviathan is in much need.

(State Approved) Roommate Wanted

Opponents to our values often tell us to keep our noses out of their lives, that what happens in private isn't anyone's concern. Mind your own business they tell us. Apparently, as is usually the case, their standard doesn't apply equally. A case in point: A Michigan woman is facing a federal investigation because she posted an ad on her church bulletin board seeking a Christian roommate.

Seriously. State approved roommates!

Finding a roommate is stressful enough — trying to find a complete stranger who has a compatible lifestyle, sometimes under financial pressure. But according to our friends at the Alliance Defense Fund (see Speak Up Movement blog), the government now is in the business of telling us with whom we can and cannot live:

The Fair Housing Center of West Michigan filed a complaint with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, alleging that this 'posting' was discriminatory. The Michigan Department of Civil Rights has turned this over to the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which notified this lady that it will now be handling this investigation.

The lady under investigation is not a landlord or manager of multi-family apartments. She simply owns a home and is seeking someone of like faith to share her 900 square feet living space. But apparently, in the United States, in The Age of Obama, the desire to have a roommate who shares one's faith is such a threat to our national well-being that it requires state and federal investigations. So much for our freedom of privacy . . . or of association . . . or of religion.

You might wonder why this matters to us in Virginia. After all, we don’t have a "Department of Civil Rights" going around investigating similar "threats."

Or do we?

In Virginia we have something called the Human Rights Council that is tasked to . . .

investigate, seek to conciliate, refer to another agency, hold hearings pursuant to the Virginia Administrative Process Act (§ 2.2-4000 et seq.), and make findings and recommendations upon complaints alleging unlawful discriminatory practices.

Now don't get me wrong. If serious acts of real discrimination take place there should be a way for victims to be protected. But it is undeniable that such an entity can be used to intimidate and threaten people who are doing absolutely nothing wrong but practicing their freedom.

The Alliance Defense Fund makes it clear (see news release) that the woman in Michigan . . .

has a fundamental, constitutional right to seek out a Christian roommate. To claim that she loses her constitutional rights to freedom of association, freedom of religion and freedom of speech just because someone else might be offended that she wants to live with a roommate of the same faith is preposterous.

This week's elections demonstrated a serious mistrust in our government. Citizens spoke loudly that our government is far too big and threatens too many of our freedoms. While much of the debate has surrounded fiscal issues, a government that can control what doctor you see or how much income you have can very easily control which roommate you choose. That is what citizens across the nation voted against on Tuesday.

We can hope that what is happening in Michigan doesn't happen in Virginia, or we can elect men and women to office who understand the limits of government and the constitutional freedoms that we once enjoyed.

What's A Room Full Of Pastors Ready To Engage In The Public Square Look Like?

Here's a picture of Monday's Annual Pastors For Family Values Pastors Summit, held in Richmond. About 250 pastors from around Virginia and from all denominations heard from religious liberty experts worthy of a national convention: Virginia Fourth District Congressman and Founder of the Congressional Prayer Caucus Randy Forbes, historian and Wallbuilders Founder David Barton, scholar and Ameriseach Founder Bill Federer, Alliance Defense Fund Chief Legal Counsel David French and PFFV Chaplain and S.T.A.N.D. Founder Bishop E.W. Jackson, Sr. If you think we had a motivated bunch before . . . .

pastotrs summit 2010

What do you get when you have a room full of pastors? A modern "Black Robe Regiment" which the pastors who led the call for independence from Britain were called. Today, such pastoral leadership in the public square is just as much in demand.

"Every Speaker Was Inspiring, Informative And Motivating"

Those are the words of just one of the nearly 250 pastors and church leaders from around the commonwealth who gathered in Richmond yesterday for The Family Foundation and Pastors For Family Values Pastor Summit. This year's theme was, "A Passion to Preserve Our Religious Liberty." From the opening time of praise and worship to the closing stirring address by our own chaplain, Bishop E.W. Jackson, Sr., we were, as another pastor said, "enlightened, convicted, and motivated." It was great to have so many longtime Family Foundation pastors combined with many new faces who are committed to discipleship in the area of civic involvement.

Our first speaker, Congressman Randy Forbes, provided an insiders look at some of the ridiculous attacks on our religious founding that he has fought against in Washington, D.C., such as when the new Capitol visitor center would not allow the Pledge of Allegiance because it references "God"! We so appreciate the work of Congressman Forbes as he has led the fight to protect our history in Washington.

Of course, many in the room came to hear from our keynote speaker, historian David Barton. Barton addressed the crowd twice and once again supplied an extraordinary amount of information about our founding — in particular, the role that clergy played in our fight for independence. As always, he was informative and motivational. One pastor told of praying with a colleague after the event who was spiritually convicted by David's words.

Perhaps the most moving address of the day came from Alliance Defense Fund attorney David French. He spoke about the direct attacks on Christian religious liberty taking place on our college campuses and how ADF has defended the rights of dozens of students and professors. He told of how much courage it takes for a college student to stand up to the threats and intimidation of college administrators, professors and other students. But he then told his own personal story of volunteering for the Army at age 37 and going to Iraq to fight for our freedom. He talked of God's provision and how our God is bigger than any threat we face. We also heard a presentation by Bill Federer concerning the history and philosophy of Islam and the threats it presents to both our religious and political liberties.

Other words and phrases used by pastors to describe yesterday’s summit include "excellent," "outstanding," "a wonderfully inspiring and educational conference," and "best equipping event I’ve ever attended."

It is our firm belief that unless pastors take the lead in educating and motivating their congregations to action in civil government we cannot be successful in returning our commonwealth and nation to their founding principles. That is why we are so encouraged by yesterday’s event. The pastors who came left energized and ready to take the lead. As a result, we know Virginia will never be the same.

Pastors Summit In Richmond September 20 Features David Barton, Congressman Randy Forbes, Bill Federer And Bishop E.W. Jackson, Sr.

Since our founding 25 years ago, The Family Foundation has worked to engage pastors in the civic process. With new threats to religious liberty and the rights of the church to proclaim publically the gospel exposed every day, there is no time like the present to get involved. In that vein, on September 20, our Pastors for Family Values outreach arm is holding its third annual Pastors Summit, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., at the Ramada Plaza Richmond West (directions, information). More than 200 pastors from all corners of the commonwealth already have committed to attending. More are welcome as we have assembled a lineup of extraordinary speakers whose credentials rival that of any national convention, and of which we barely scratch the surface here, including: 

» Historian David Barton, Founder and President of WallBuilders, who appears frequently on cable news channels (see interview with Mike Huckabee on Fox News Channel); 

» Virginia 4th District Congressman Randy Forbes, Founder and Co-chairman of The Congressional Prayer Caucus, whose House floor speech on religious liberty is one of the most watched Congressional speeches ever (see video);

» Bishop E. W. Jackson, Sr., Family Foundation Chaplain and President of S.T.A.N.D., a national organization dedicated to maintaining America's Judeo-Christian heritage;

» Alliance Defense Fund Senior Counsel David French, one of the country's top religious liberty attorneys, (see Fox News interview with Laura Ingraham, here);

» Author and lecturer Bill Federer (see video), President of Amerisearch and frequently quoted in the media; and

» Family Foundation President Victoria Cobb, a recent participant in the 2010 The King's College Distinguished Visitor Series.

The theme this is, "A Passion to Preserve Our Religious Liberty," which is timely with new and greater threats to our religious liberty emerging almost every day, coming at us from every direction. It is imperative that pastors are equipped and engaged for the inevitable battles that lie ahead, and the reknown speakers addressing the summit will educate and inspire. 

The event is free for pastors, but registration is required (click here). Summit information, including hotel room discounts, can be found there. If you are not a pastor, but think your pastor should know about the summit, please share this link with him. For more details, please call Roger Pogge at 804-343-0010 or e-mail him at roger@familyfoundation.org. It is vitally important that every pastor in Virginia is informed and encouraged to engage the culture in this very important area of our faith.

Bishop E.W. Jackson, Sr., speaking at a Pastors For Family Values event in Norfolk earlier this year, where he underscored the importance of pastor engagement in the public square. 

Reminder: ADF, TFF Sponsor Regional Litigation Academy September 23-24 In Arlington

What do lawyers and pastors have in common? Plenty, especially when it comes to defending religious liberty against encroaching progressive secularism that means to do away with as much faith-based influence in society and the public square as possible. So here's a reminder for attorneys and pastors: The Alliance Defense Fund and The Family Foundation are sponsoring a Regional Litigation Academy in Arlington next month. Registration closes on September 10. The RLA is a one-and-a-half-day continuing education seminar for attorneys, pastors and church administrators. Pending approval, the RLA is worth eight Continuing Legal Education credits (including one ethics credit) in Virginia. The RLA is on Thursday, September 23, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., and Friday, September 24, from 8:00 a.m. to noon at the Sheraton Crystal City Hotel Arlington (1800 Jefferson Davis Highway). The registration fee is $25 and includes lunch on the first day and all materials. 

Sessions include Protecting the Church as a Non-Profit Corporation: Counsel, Strategies and Tactics; Protecting the Marketplace of Ideas: Combating Campus Censorship; Protecting Life, both Young and Old: Emerging Issues and Responsive Strategies, and others.

To register, or for more information, click here or contact contact Leah Rose at 480-444-8067 or at lrose@telladf.org.

The Alliance Defense Fund is a legal alliance that defends the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding and litigation. ADF is a national leader in law and public policy, and has been a key ally in the battle for values across the nation. Most recently, it provided key testimony on behalf of religious liberty legislation to the Virginia General Assembly.

The Family Foundation is honored to partner with ADF again to sponsor this timely and informative academy on the precious topic of protecting religious liberty. Our past experiences in hosting RLAs prove them to be one of the most worthwhile and educational CLE opportunities available to attorneys. For pastors, it is a great chance to learn more about the threats to religious liberty and how to stop them.

ADF, TFF To Sponsor Regional Litigation Academy For Attorneys And Pastors This September

The Alliance Defense Fund and The Family Foundation invite all attorneys and pastors to a Regional Litigation Academy in Arlington. The RLA is a one-and-a-half-day continuing education seminar for attorneys, pastors and church administrators. Pending approval, the RLA is worth eight continuing legal education credits in Virginia, including one ethics credit. The RLA is Thursday, September 23, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., and Friday, September 24, from 8:00 a.m. to noon, at the Sheraton Crystal City Hotel Arlington at 1800 Jefferson Davis Highway. The registration fee is $25.00 and includes lunch on the first day plus all materials. Parking in the hotel’s garage is $22.00 per day and there are other parking options nearby.

You can register by clicking here by September 10.

Sessions include, Protecting the Church as a Non-Profit Corporation: Counsel, Strategies and Tactics; Protecting the Marketplace of Ideas: Combating Campus Censorship; Protecting Life, Both Young and Old: Emerging Issues and Responsive Strategies; and more.

The Alliance Defense Fund is a legal alliance defending the right to hear and speak the Truth, through strategy, training, funding and litigation. ADF is a key ally in the battle for values across the nation and most recently provided key testimony on behalf of religious liberty legislation to the General Assembly.

The Family Foundation is honored to be able to partner with ADF again to bring you this timely and informative academy. Having hosted an RLA in the past, we can say that it is one of the most educational and worthwhile CLE opportunities available to attorneys. It also is a great chance for pastors and church administrators to learn more about the threats to religious liberty that are, or may soon, encroach upon their rights to minister to their churches, and what they can do to stop these threats.

For more information, or if you have trouble registering online, please contact Leah Rose at ADF at 480-444 8067 or at lrose@telladf.org.

Augusta State, Illinois Church Cases Show Religious Liberty Remains In Jeopardy

About three months ago, we told you about the debate regarding the potential removal of a Mojave Desert memorial cross on public property. Later, we gave you an update on the Joyner v. Forsyth County case in which the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed suit against the Forsyth County, N.C., Board of Supervisors because it did not prohibit prayers in Jesus' name. Last month, we told you about the federal judge who declared the National Day of Prayer to be unconstitutional. Our religious liberty is in jeopardy. This month, we regret to report that the attacks on our religious liberty have not let up. This past Tuesday, the Alliance Defense Fund filed suit against Augusta State University, in Georgia, on behalf of counseling graduate student Jennifer Keeton, on the basis of religious viewpoint discrimination (see news release).

Augusta State has threatened to expel Keeton if she does not keep silent and, furthermore, renounce her Christian beliefs regarding human sexuality and gender identity (see Shane Vander Hart at Caffeinated Thoughts blog). In something akin to yet another campus case we reported, Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, the university has told Keeton that she must enroll in diversity and sensitivity training, read suggested material on the topic, and write papers about how her diversity training and reading have influenced her. If she does not conform, she will be expelled, despite her upstanding academic record and clinical performance. Keeton has, in effect, been told that she must deny her faith in order to continue her education. So much for freedom of thought academia is supposed to endorse and encourage.

Religious discrimination is not contained to college campuses. River of Life Kingdom Ministries in Illinois bought a building with the intent of holding Sunday church services. However, city regulations, while allowing facilities such as day care centers, community centers, taverns and live entertainment venues, specifically prohibit churches.

River of Life filed suit and the Seventh U.S Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the discriminatory city regulations stating, "Commerce and industry must be recognized for what they are, necessary and desirable elements of the community." The court, in essence, stated that churches are not necessary and are undesirable to the community (see ADF's Joel Olster at Speak Up blog). Moral and religious teaching aside, churches provide entire communities benefits that city-allowed facilities provide — day care, community activities, and entertainment — often at no charge to taxpayers. Not only that, but the decision guts the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Person's Act, a bipartisan law signed by then-President Bill Clinton (see RLUIPA.com).

Religious discrimination is a pervasive force throughout our culture. The Family Foundation is keenly aware of the danger facing our religious freedoms. This summer, we have been hard at work tracking the wave of religious discrimination moving across the county and determining how best to protect and advance your freedoms. Join us today as we persist in this struggle to defend and value our faith.

Alliance Defense Fund Event In Williamsburg

The Alliance Defense Fund is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations that defends the right of people to live out their faith freely. It is one of the true workhorses of the conservative cause, defending limited constitutional government in the legal arena across the country where our traditional values are constantly under assault by leftist groups and activist judges. It has led many legal battles in which we have been privileged to join and its gifted staff has lent itself to our policy efforts at the General Assembly. We proudly call them allies and partners. On Wednesday, July 21, at 6:00, ADF President, CEO and General Counsel Alan Sears will appear in Williamsburg at a cookout to provide updates on ADF's current work and issue and court proceedings it is monitoring. This will be an informal event, located in an air conditioned pavilion. It is a family event, so children are welcome. If you live near the Peninsula area, or are planning to be there Wednesday, we encourage you to attend and learn more about ADF and how you can help it continue its important and outstanding work. For more information, or to RSVP, call 757-645-3915 or e-mail dasco5@cox.net.

U.S. Supreme Court: Come One, Come All!

In a bizarre ruling that lacks honesty, constitutional reason and plain old common sense, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Monday (see opinion) that a Christian organization (or any organization for that matter) on a public college campus cannot determine its own membership and leadership rules. You may remember that in April, The Family Foundation hosted a luncheon with attorneys from the Alliance Defense Fund who were involved in the case, Christian Legal Society vs. Martinez. This case arose when the University of California Hastings College of Law in San Francisco denied recognition to CLS, including equal meeting space and most means of communicating on campus (the first time in the school’s history that they had denied such recognition to any organization). The reason? Although CLS welcomes everyone to all its activities and events, CLS would not agree to eliminate its Statement of Faith requirement for officers and those who select them, the voting members. Hastings deemed CLS's Statement of Faith and its interpretation that Christians should not engage in extramarital sexual activity to violate the religion and sexual orientation portions of its nondiscrimination policy. Hastings has since interpreted its rule as prohibiting all groups from excluding anyone from voting membership or leadership on the basis of beliefs of any kind. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Hastings' decision.

The Supreme Court Monday in a decision written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg stated that the “accept-all-comers” policy was constitutional. Essentially, Hastings Law School now requires that any club that receives university approval must allow anyone to join – including leaders – even if those individuals are antagonistic to the mission and purpose of the organization! In other words, the College Republicans would have to allow Democrats in their leadership, and visa versa.

In addition, if “all-comers” can join and become the majority, speech is limited to that which is accepted by the majority. The free exchange of ideas is limited only to those ideas that are “politically correct” and accepted by the majority. The consequences of such limits on speech and expression are enormous.

In coming to its conclusions, the Court completely ignored the true facts of the case and sidestepped ruling on the true underlying issues – a so-called “non-discrimination” policy that clearly and boldly discriminates against religious belief.

Incredibly, in a case of either profound naïveté or outright ignorance, Ginsberg argued that it is unlikely that college students would attempt to infiltrate an organization they don’t agree with. Seriously?

The case is not completed. While the Court upheld the Hasting “accept-all-comers” policy it sent the case back to the Ninth Circuit (perhaps the most liberal court this side of The Hague) to determine if Hastings had applied its policy to CLS fairly. The good news is that because the facts of the case are so narrow the decision is limited only to Hastings College of Law, the only place where an “all-comers” policy exists. The bad news is that the Court had an opportunity to strengthen the first amendment and chose not to do so.

In their dissent, Justices Alito, Roberts, Scalia and Thomas vehemently disagreed with the majority, calling the decision a “serious setback for freedom of expression in this country,” adding, there is “no freedom for expression that offends prevailing standards of political correctness in our country’s institutions of higher learning.” The dissent also calls into question the honesty of the majority, arguing that the majority ignored facts and simply accepted arguments from Hastings that were clearly dishonest.

As I have been saying for sometime, religious liberty in American is facing ever-increasing threat. While some may call it hyperbole, the list of cases where Christians have lost their freedom of expression or freedom of association continues to grow. While most Americans are focused on the depressed economy and the exponential growth of our federal government, we cannot ignore the fact that our freedom to express our faith publically is being undermined.

Sadly, it seems that the church in America will be the last to know that it is no longer free.

Family Foundation Files Brief In Religious Liberty Case

Recently, The Family Foundation, in conjunction with several other state family policy councils, filed an amicus brief in the religious liberty case of Joyner v. Forsyth County. The details of this case date back to March of 2007 when the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed suit against North Carolina's Forsyth County Board of Supervisors, in which it stated:

[the Board] does not have a policy which discourages or prohibits those whom [the Board] has invited to deliver prayers from including references to Jesus Christ, or any other sectarian deity, as part of their prayers.

This is yet another blatant, undisguised attack on the free exercise of Christian faith. But our friends at the Alliance Defense Fund are defending the Board — and our liberty — in this case.

Joyner v. Forsyth County was characterized by legal gymnastics for nearly three years until January when the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina sided with the ACLU. Shortly after, the Board appealed the ruling and the case now in headed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, based in Richmond. Since Virginia also resides in the Fourth Circuit, the decision made in this case could profoundly impact religious liberty in Virginia. Therefore, The Family Foundation felt it imperative to stand up for our freedoms by jointly filing an amicus brief.

As ADF Senior Legal Counsel Mike Johnson aptly points out:

An invocation according to the dictates of the giver’s conscience is not an establishment of religion. If it was, you’d have to argue that the drafters of the U.S. Constitution were violating the Constitution in the prayers and invocations that they themselves offered.

(Mike testified in committee during the 2009 General Assembly, at our request, on behalf of a bill to allow state police chaplains the religious liberty rights to pray in Jesus' name.)

Several Virginia legislators also signed on to an amicus brief in support of religious liberty in Joyner v. Forsyth County, including Delegtes Kathy Byron (R-22, Lynchburg), Bill Carrico (R-5, Galax), Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas) and Brenda Pogge (R-96, Yorktown); and Senators Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg) and Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-27, Winchester). Unfortunately, due to uncontrollable circumstances, the five-hour window for legislators to sign on precluded many others who expressed a desire to join the brief. Those who could not, given the short deadline, include Delegates Tag Greason (R-32, Potomac Falls) and Ed Scott (R-30, Culpeper), and Senator Steve Newman (R-23, Forest). (There may be an opportunity for to sign on to an amended brief, but if your legislators are not listed here, it may simply be because they weren't able to respond in the short window.

NARAL Brings Its Act Of Deception To A City Near You

Despite its humiliating defeat this past General Assembly session, in addition to its "academic" report getting mercilessly shredded by doctors, lawyers and experts in the field, NARAL is traveling the state this summer and fall to present its "Crisis Pregnancy Center Road Tour," and collect signatures from those who oppose Pregnancy Resource Centers. NARAL writes:

We’ll share the findings from our year-long undercover investigation of medically inaccurate and deceptive crisis pregnancy centers across Virginia.

"Medically inaccurate" and "deceptive"? Really? One example of PRC's supposed "medical inaccuracy" listed in NARAL's flawed report is as follows:

Twenty-four of the CPCs, regardless of the stage of development, called the potential zygote, embryo, or fetus a "baby." (p. 18).

"Medical inaccuracy?" That’s laughable.

During this past General Assembly session, NARAL spearheaded an effort to require PRCs, among other requirements, to put a sign on their doors that essentially say they are not health care facilities and do not provide abortions or contraception. It might as well have required PRCs to post directions to the nearest abortion center. Not long into testimony in a Senate sub-committee, at which The Family Foundation joined with pro-life allies as well as PRC directors, volunteers and clients to handily debunk NARAL's myths, Senator (and sub-committee chair and NARAL's handpicked patron) Ralph Northam (D-6, Norfolk) saw the futility and inaccuracy in NARAL's PRC "investigation" and called for the defeat of his own bill. However, despite its embarrassing defeat, NARAL still does not accept the invalidity of its claims. It believes public opinion is on its side . . . hence, the road trip and petitions.

In related news, the Alliance Defense Fund filed an anti-discrimination claim a few weeks ago on behalf of a PRC against Montgomery County, Md. (The Maryland legislature recently passed a bill almost identical to the defeated Virginia bill backed by NARAL.) A similar case has also been filed in Baltimore. According to ADF:

[Montgomery County] basically tell[s PRCs they] have to post a sign saying that "we don’t have any medical professionals here, and the county recommends you go find a medical professional. They don’t impose any rule like that, of course, on abortion clinics, and they intentionally crafted this rule to exclude them.

Despite the potential legal ramifications and no solid, academic groundwork to stand upon, NARAL clearly intends to reintroduce this ludicrous bill at some point due to its road trip and petition effort. This is nothing short of bullying tactics by a large, partisan, political group against these non-political, non-profit organizations, which keep to themselves and help pregnant women looking for options and counseling during a difficult period. Once again, The Family Foundation will work to ensure the overwhelming defeat of any such bill. If you are interested in helping us fight to protect the Pregnancy Resource Centers against attacks from NARAL, Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, then please click here. Thank you for standing with us in this critical effort!

Religious Liberty At Stake In Supreme Court, Fourth Circuit Cases

It seems like every day we hear about another assault on our First Amendment right to free religious exercise. From the silencing of prayers at high school graduations and government meetings to nondiscrimination policies intended to thwart religious activity, the message of leftist elites is clear — you can believe what you want (for now) but keep it to yourself. It makes us all the more thankful that we have advocates like the Alliance Defense Fund on our side. Yesterday, The Family Foundation joined ADF to co-host a luncheon briefing for attorneys and pastors on a religious liberty case that will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court next Monday. This case (Christian Legal Society v. Martinez) arose when the University of California Hastings College of Law in San Francisco denied recognition to CLS, including equal meeting space and most means of communicating on campus. The reason? Although CLS welcomes everyone to all its events, CLS would not agree to eliminate its Statement of Faith requirement for officers and its voting members.

Hastings deemed CLS' Statement of Faith and its interpretation that Christians should not engage in extramarital sexual activity to violate the religion and sexual orientation portions of its nondiscrimination policy. Hastings has since interpreted its rule as prohibiting all groups from excluding anyone from voting membership or leadership on the basis of beliefs of any kind. The Ninth U.S. Circuit of Appeals, widely recognized as the most radical appeals court in the country, upheld Hastings' decision in a two sentence, unpublished decision.

Casey Mattox, legal counsel to the Alliance Defense Fund, and co-counsel on this case alongside CLS attorneys, told luncheon attendees about the impact this case may have on university campuses as well as the far-reaching impact it may have on any Christian ministry. In essence, if the left gets its way, any organization or church that receives state support — including tax exempt status — would be discriminated against if it does not accept behaviors that are contrary to their beliefs.

At the same time, The Family Foundation is working with ADF in seeking legislators who will sign onto amicus briefs it has drafted in a religious liberty case in Forsyth County, N.C. There, a lower court decreed that all prayers at government meetings must be so-called "non-sectarian." If the lower court is not overturned by the Richmond-based Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, it could mean that — for the first time in American history — prayers offered before sessions of legislatures, city councils, and all other public bodies in at least the states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia, must be censored to exclude all references to a particular deity (e.g., Jesus). The lower court opinion ignores the instruction of the U.S. Supreme Court and other federal appellate and district courts that previously considered this issue and upheld the cherished American tradition of uncensored legislative prayer.

Meanwhile, our policy team is focusing much of our summer research efforts on how we can best protect our First Amendment right to religious expression through the legislative process. We still have yet to see the General Assembly remedy the situation for state police chaplains who remain prohibited from praying publically according to their beliefs, and too many of our local governments have censored prayers at their meetings under the bullying of radical secularists at the ACLU. This must stop.

It is safe to say that our constitutionally protected right to freely exercise our faith in public is in peril. For many of our political leaders the Constitution itself is a nuisance. We must continue to work to ensure that the rights of all religious Americans are protected — and we will.

Family Foundation, Alliance Defense Fund To Discuss Christian Legal Society Vs. Martinez

The Family Foundation of Virginia and the Alliance Defense Fund will host a discussion Tuesday, April 13, on the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court Case Christian Legal Society vs. Martinez. The Court will determine whether a public university can require recognized campus Christian student organizations to have nonbelievers and persons engaged in activities contrary to the beliefs of the organizations as voting members and officers if the club receives money from the school (see more from OneNewsNow.com). Sort of like forcing someone who favors a neighborhood development into a group that opposes it. Doesn't make a lot of sense. As for the money question, it comes from student fees, so it's not really "money from the school." We'll have more after the event concludes on Tuesday. For more information, call 804-343-0010. We look forward to our continued alliance with ADF, a legal team dedicated to preserving religious liberty.

Family Foundation Response To Governor McDonnell's Executive Directive On "Sexual Orientation"

The following is an excerpt from a statement I released today concerning Governor Bob McDonnell's recent "Executive Directive" regarding "sexual orientation." For the full statement, including several examples of "sexual orientation" conflicting with religious liberty, click here. For a PDF of the entire statement, click here. Below, you will find links to sourced research studies, a legal analysis and an action item.

Response to Governor McDonnell's Executive Directive No. 1 

The reactions to Governor Bob McDonnell's recent decision to issue an "Executive Directive" that includes "sexual orientation" as a protected class in his administration's hiring decisions have been varied. While some, including the Commonwealth’s largest homosexual political group, Equality Virginia, who advocated for the policy change, have praised the Governor, they have also expressed disappointment that the Directive didn’t go far enough. Others have questioned why the Governor issued the Directive at all. Many are confused about its implications.

News outlets that increasingly have less print space for substance, only address the surface-level point of "discrimination." It is not acceptable, however, for thoughtful, forward-looking policy organizations to limit their review of the Directive in this manner.

At issue is not, in fact, the simple question of whether the Directive's undefined label of "sexual orientation" disqualifies one for a state job or requires special compensation/treatment in state employment. Instead, nondiscrimination policies that include sexual orientation, whether enshrined in law or implemented through internal constructs, and regardless of their legal weight, highlight the inevitable and unavoidable clash between the unalienable fundamental right of religious liberty and the postmodern era of sexual freedom. It is a clash that isn't taking place simply in the realm of ideas, but in courtrooms across the country, affecting the lives of everyday Americans. Potentially, there is no greater threat to our Constitutionally protected right of conscience, and as importantly the right to exercise our faith publicly, than that of the continued advancement of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) "rights."

And perhaps no one has put this battle more succinctly and honestly than respected Georgetown University Law professor, lesbian, LGBT activist and Obama nominee to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Chai Feldblum, who stated:

There can be a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases sexual liberty should win. I'm having a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win.

Those who advocate for the advancement of sexual behavior protections in our law have little or no room for those who have religious convictions on those issues. In her paper, Moral Conflict and Liberty: Gay Rights and Religion, Feldblum, who authored the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), argues quite openly that it is the primary goal of the LGBT political movement to elevate (either through legislation or the courts) homosexual orientation to moral equivalence with heterosexual orientation and to do so at the cost of religious liberty.

She admits in her assessment of the clash that, "we are in a zero-sum game: a gain for one side necessarily entails a corresponding loss for the other side," but "in making the decision in this zero-sum game, I am convinced society should come down on the side of protecting the [sexual] liberty of LGBT people."

* * * * * *

In responding to Governor McDonnell's Directive granting protection to LGBT people seeking employment or who are currently employed in his administration, Kent Willis of the ACLU takes Feldblum's statements to their logical conclusion:

We hope this is only the beginning, and that the Governor's example will inspire legislators to finally pass a law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in both private and public sector employment. [Emphasis added]

Willis' may be the most honest statement thus far. As both Willis and Feldblum clearly articulate, there is no religious liberty interest that can withstand the interest of LGBT people to self-identify and express their identity publicly.

» To contact the Governor and express your concerns about his decision, please click here.

» For more on the potential legal ramifications of Governor McDonnell's Directive, click here for Alliance Defense Fund's analysis.

» For more information on the impact of nondiscrimination policies on traditional marriage laws and amendments click here for a Heritage Foundation Backgrounder.

» For more information on the impact of same sex marriage on religious liberty click here for a Heritage Foundation Backgrounder.