public realm

Big Week For Religious Liberty! (Or, Kaine And Stevens Cut From The Same Cloth)

Just two days ago, the U.S. Supreme Court rendered a 5-4 decision to uphold the display of a Cross on a World War I Mojave Desert memorial on what had been public property (once a national park, the land now is owned privately, yet a lower court ruled the Cross still could not be displayed.) In its majority opinion, the court stated:

The goal of avoiding governmental endorsement does not require the eradication of all religious symbols in the public realm.

The timing of the decision couldn't have been more fitting — the same day, Governor Bob McDonnell reversed the Kaine administration's discriminatory prayer policy that prohibited Virginia State Police chaplains from praying at public events according to their faith.

Religious liberty 2, ACLU 0!

This recent Supreme Court case, Salazar v. Buono, reversed the decision from a California lower court that ordered the removal of a Cross placed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars in the Mojave National Preserve in 1934 as a memorial to World War I soldiers (see California Catholic Daily). The circumstances surrounding the case, however, are far from simple.

The disagreement began in 1999 when a retired National Park Service employee sued saying that the Cross on public property constituted an unconstitutional establishment of religion. A federal court agreed and ordered that the Cross be removed. The decision was appealed and the U.S. 9th Circuit Court (the nation's most left-wing court) upheld lower court's decision. However, in 2003, before the Cross could be removed, Congress intervened and transferred the land in question to a private owner in an effort to side step the controversy.

Once again the lower courts and 9th Circuit weighed in and stated that Congress' maneuver was objectionable and did not solve the problem. In the meantime, plywood was used to cover the cross to prevent "any further harm." The U.S. Supreme Court then granted cert in the case to put the confusion to rest.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion and sent the case back to the lower court to be reassessed "in light of a policy of accommodation." The logical assumption is that the display of the Cross will now be allowed. Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas agreed with the majority, but additionally argued that the retired park employee did not have standing to sue since the property had been transferred to a private owner. In addition, while the court did not specifically rule on the display of a Cross on public property, it certainly hinted that it would find such a display acceptable in some circumstances.

However, the written dissent truly was tragic. Justice John Paul Stevens, soon to retire,  wrote that the Cross was an improper and intolerable government endorsement of a specific faith. Similar to Kaine's discriminatory chaplain prayer policy, this opinion is yet another example of growing anti-Christian sentiment (see Huffington Post for anti-Catholic hysterics). Simply the fact that four Supreme Court justices could buy into this "logic" of censorship is proof that we must do more to protect our freedom of conscience. The Family Foundation will continue to keep a pulse on this issue and work on efforts to further protect religious liberty.

Quotes Of The Day

Poetically, from Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy:

Here one Latin cross in the desert evokes far more than religion. It evokes thousands of small crosses in foreign fields marking the graves of Americans who fell in battles, battles whose tragedies are compounded if the fallen are forgotten.

And legally:

The goal of avoiding governmental endorsement does not require eradication of all religious symbols in the public realm. A cross by the side of a public highway marking, for instance, the place where a state trooper perished need not be taken as a statement of governmental support for sectarian beliefs. The Constitution does not oblige government to avoid any public acknowledgment of religion's role in society. See Lee v. Weisman, 505 U. S. 577, 598 (1992) ("A relentless and all-pervasive attempt to exclude religion from every aspect of public life could itself become inconsistent with the Constitution"). See also Corporation of Presiding Bishop of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints v. Amos, 483 U.S. 327, 334 (1987) ("This Court has long recognized that the government may (and sometimes must) accommodate religious practices and that it may do so without violating the Establishment Clause"). Rather, it leaves room to accommodate divergent values within a constitutionally permissible framework.

A Big Thank You!

A big thank you to each and every one of the 600-plus who attended our Annual Gala last night: attendees, sponsors, volunteers, speakers, perfomers . . . everyone. You all have our sincerest, most heartfelt gratitude for all that you did to make last night a great success! We made it known that Phill Kline was not to be missed and he did not disappoint. There wasn't one person in the Greater Richmond Convention Center last night who wasn't genuinely inspired with his message of putting principle over politics, of what true leadership is, of allowing ourselves to be intolerant of injustice, especially injustice to the innocent-unborn; and the real characteristics of the in-fashion word "hope" (hint: you can't have hope without faith because hope is an expectation of something good yet to come, which is . . . faith).

For those not able to attend as well as who did and want to re-live the event, please return here next week and beyond: We hope to post pictures from the Gala and video of Mr. Kline's speech. We also hope to have more on yesterday's news conference at which Mr. Kline also attended.

Despite what many consider down times in Virginia (and America) for conservatism and traditional, Christian values in the public realm, last night's overwhelming outpouring of support, enthusiam and dedication to cause proves that our philosophy of limited government, liberty and protection of the family still resonates and thrives.

We sincerely cannot thank adequately enough all of you great Virginians who continue to support The Family Foundation of Virginia throughout the year with your time, financial contributions, counsel, steadfast encouragement in good times and bad, and for all manners of support you provide. Most of all, we deeply appreciate your constant prayers for us and our mission. Please know we reciprocate those prayers to all of you.