separation of church and state

Full Senate To Finally Vote On Major Religious Liberty Constitutional Amendment!

This year, Senator Bill Stanley (R-20, Moneta) has introduced a state constitutional amendment, SJ 287, that would help clarify and restore some of our religious liberties. (The resolution is co-patroned by Senator Bill Carrico (R-40, Galax). It passed the Senate Privileges and Elections committee earlier this week after lengthy debate, and will be voted on by the full Senate early next week. This is the first time in recent memory that a religious liberty amendment has been voted on by the full Senate!

Please call your senator or e-mail him or her and urge a YES vote on SJ 287!

For years, the free speech and free religious exercise rights of Americans have been slowly chipped away by federal courts. Now, in many places in Virginia, we no longer can pray at the start of a local government meeting, our kids can't mention their faith in graduation speeches, and far too often government bureaucrats silence religious speech in an attempt to enforce the "separation of church and state" without understanding constitutional rights.

The debate over religious liberty has surrounded the establishment clause and free exercise clause of the First Amendment. Secular liberals have used the establishment clause as a mallet to bludgeon the free exercise of religion, essentially arguing, as they did in the committee, that "private" religious free exercise is just fine (most of the time) but as soon as such activity becomes "public," such as praying at a government meeting, it is a violation of the establishment clause.

They are basically stating that when the government simply allows public free exercise of faith it is "endorsing" or "establishing" that faith, which makes it, in their eyes, unconstitutional. (Never mind the nonsense of the argument — as if there is one unified Christian faith, or that a prayer at a public event constitutes a particular, sectarian religious service.)

Such logic relegates faith to nothing more than a private matter, silencing our voice in the public square. It flies in the face of the Founders' vision and endangers the freedom of all faiths. Unfortunately, because much of the damage done to our freedom has been at the hands of federal judges, states are left with little to do, except send clear messages to the federal government that it is improperly applying the First Amendment.

That's where Senator Stanley's amendment comes in. Based on an amendment passed overwhelmingly just last year in Missouri, SJ 287 plainly restates that people of faith — all faiths! — have the right to express their faith in the public square, whether that be at a government meeting or a high school graduation.

Many Virginians are tired of the government's assault on our faith. The Founders never intended for faith to be a "private matter," as evidenced by not only the First Amendment but by their words and actions. It is time that Virginians send a clear and unambiguous message to the federal government that we have had enough.

Please call your senator or e-mail him or her and urge a YES vote on SJ 287!

Board Of Health To Vote On Abortion Center Safety Standards Week From Today, Please Plan To Attend

Pro-abortion defenders are demanding that members of the Virginia Board of Health, who might actually have "religious and personal" views on the topic of human life, recuse themselves from voting at next Friday's crucial Board of Health meeting. So please plan to join us Friday at the Board of Health meeting in Richmond. Pro-life Virginians must attend and show that we are the voice of Virginia. The efforts to silence pro-life Virginians is just another example of the radical, secular Left's desperate and relentless attack on religious freedom and our rights as citizens to make decisions according to our faith. Their distorted and fraudulent understanding of America's First Freedom, our right to exercise our faith in the public square, is simply antithetical to all that they are trying to accomplish.

In fact, our own state constitution’s Statute for Religious Freedom makes it clear that we are free to hold religious views and those views cannot "diminish" or affect civil capacities, such as serving on a citizen board, saying:

. . . but all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain their opinions in matters of religion, and the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.

At June's Board of Health meeting, where radical protesters from MoveOn.org and "Occupy Richmond" turned out in droves, perhaps the most fascinating and oft-repeated testimony by the pro-abortion activists was that the health and safety standards for abortion centers amounted to a "violation of the separation of church and state." Somehow anyone who actually believes that the abortion industry should meet some basic health and safety standards can only do so if they are somehow motivated by their faith, and that if they are, somehow they do not have the same citizenship rights to influence the political process as any other American. The tone of many of the opponents was often very disrespectful and angry, and certainly not "tolerant" of opposing viewpoints.

Unfortunately, some members of the board appeared to be swayed by the arguments of the protestors and voted to water down the proposed safety standards. But the standards are back before the board because Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli refused to approve its decision to change the standards because it is his obligation, under Virginia law, to ensure that they meet all the requirements of the Code of Virginia.

Now, one militant group calling itself "Cooch Watch" is inciting student activist groups around Richmond to attack board members who might actually believe in protecting human life. We anticipate hundreds of college students led by these left-wing groups to protest at the Board of Health meeting next Friday in hopes that they will intimidate the board. They are mobilizing, and have even booked hotel rooms near the board meeting.

We must show the Board of Health that we are pro-life and we are the majority.

Please plan to join us next Friday, September 14. Please forward this link to your pro-life friends and share it on your social media sites. Plan to arrive at the Perimeter Center (9960 Mayland Drive, Richmond, 23233) at 7:30 a.m. to prevent pro-abortion activists from filling the room and silencing your voice. Seating is very limited, so not everyone will be able to get into the meeting. That's why its so important to arrive early. We encourage you to bring a handmade sign showing your support for life. The meeting is scheduled to adjourn at 3:00, so depending on when the vote is held, this may become a day-long event. Please contact us if you have additional questions (804-343-0010 or vafamily@familyfoundation.org).

We must make our voice heard before the radical, secular Left succeeds in silencing the voice of religious Americans!

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.’”

"Pope Pelosi" Preaches Ineloquently

The House Speaker who would be Pope, Nancy Pelosi, again tried her hand at theology. At the recently convened Catholic Community Conference, a Capitol Hill briefing sponsored by the National Catholic Reporter and Trinity Washington University, she did something that can only be described as an inarticulate babble, proving the axiom that one shouldn't speak about what one doesn't know. (Among her previous embarrassing and scandalizing comments, she tried to reinterpret Catholic teaching on abortion.) Now, she's quoting Scripture. How quaint. She volunteered her favorite Biblical passage is "The Word." Then, apparently in unfamiliar territory, and trying to sound authoritative, she tried to make it up as she went along — appropriate for someone who wants the Bible to mean what she wants it to mean on any given day.

Then she says something so completely astonishing, even for her, but apparently she thinks The Word speaks to her, and what it says is to go out and give "The Word" voice by spending every last dime in the country! Never mind that she doesn't give the Bible any credence when it comes to Life or marriage, isn't this the same Pelosi — the embodiment of her left-wing Congressional colleagues — who thinks there is a "separation of church and state"? If so, then it applies to her theology, too. Whatever it might mean.

Pass "The Word" to the speaker. It's not what she thinks it means.

U.N. President Is Right

The following comes from a President of the United Nations:

"I am going home America — farewell.

"For seventeen years I have enjoyed your hospitality, visited every one of your 50 states. I can say I know you well.

"I admire and love America. It is my second home.

"What I have to say now in parting is both a tribute and a warning: Never forget, Americans, that yours is a spiritual country.

"Yes, I know that you are a practical people. Like others, I have marveled at your factories, your skyscrapers and your arsenals.

"But underlying everything else is the fact that America began as a God-loving, God-fearing, God-worshipping people, knowing that there is a spark of the Divine in each one of us. It is the respect for dignity of the human spirit which makes America invincible. May it always endure.

"And so I say again inparting, thank you, America, and farewell. May God keep you always — and may you always keep God."

Shocking, isn't it, that someone associated with the United Nations could ever make such a proclamation?

Oh, I forgot to tell you, these are the words of the former president of the U.N., former Philippino delegate to the U.N. and former Ambassador to the U.S., Carlos Romulo. The words above were spoken in 1962 — just as the United States was discovering the so-called separation of church and state; just as the Supreme Court was ordering God out of schools; just as the cultural revolution of the '60s was about to explode. 

Good thing we know better now. Good thing we didn't listen to Mr. Romulo and "always keep God." I mean, look how much better off our nation is today. Lots more abortion, lots more divorce, lots more out-of-wedlock births, lots more crime, lots more greed, lots more poverty, lots more of all those things that make America "progressive"! Good thing we don't see the divine spark in each one of us — or at least not in the unborn. 

God bless America Amerika.

The ACLU's Not Gonna Like This One

Virginia Congressman Randy Forbes has been one of the most passionate defenders of our nation's Christian hertiage, no more so than in a speech he recently gave on the floor of the House of Representatives. According to Forbes' press office, with more than 2,400,000 views, it is one of the most widely watched floor speeches in YouTube history:

A widely viewed speech with great reason.

VEA/NEA Endorse Policy Contrary To Virginia Law At The Expense Of Education

Yesterday,we reported on the VEA's proud go-along at the NEA national convention endorsing same-sex marriage (see here). Instead of concetrating on issues that matter to teachers and improving education, the VEA has endorsed advocating a radical left-wing policy in contradiction of the Virginia Constitution and statutory law. The president of the VEA, Dr. Kitty J. Boitnott, responded to our post with a long comment on the thread stating that our take on the VEA/NEA position wasn't exactly what the convention meant with its lock-step adoption of the radical homosexual agenda. She goes on about "social justice." What any of this has to do with teaching clearly is beyond most parents' concerns for their children's education. 

Not only is the  homosexual marriage resolution contrary to the views of a majority of Virginians, she did not answer our concern about whether the VEA, with this policy position, now will encourage its member teachers to ignore the new traditional marriage guidelines to the Family Life Education curriculum. A true conflict of interest now is on the record.

Adopting a radical agenda contrary to Virginia law. Wasting time on matters completely non-germane to education. A significant conflict of interest.

We report. You decide. Below is the resolution:

NEA Representative Assembly New Business Items (NBIs) NEW BUSINESS ITEM E ADOPTED

"Resolutions B-13 (Racism, Sexism, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identification Discrimination) and I-13 (Civil Rights) set forth NEA's opposition to the discriminatory treatment of same-sex couples and its belief that such couples should have the same legal rights and benefits as similarly-situated heterosexual couples. The Legislative Program is in accord: NEA supports "obtaining, preserving, and strengthening basic civil and human rights under law," and specifically calls for "passage of a federal statute prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression." Section IV(b). In implementation of the foregoing policies, the Representative Assembly adopts the following action plan with regard to same-sex couples:

1. NEA will support its affiliates seeking to enact state legislation that guarantees to same-sex couples the right to enter into a legally recognized relationship pursuant to which they have the same rights and benefits as similarly-situated heterosexual couples, including, without limitation, rights and benefits with regard to medical decisions, taxes, inheritance, adoption, and immigration.

2. NEA does not believe that a single term must be used to designate this legally recognized "equal treatment" relationship, and recommends that each state decide for itself whether "marriage," "civil union," "domestic partnership," or some other term is most appropriate based upon the cultural, social, and religious values of its citizenry.

3. NEA will support its affiliates in opposing state constitutional and/or statutory provisions that could have the effect of prohibiting the state and its political subdivisions from providing the same rights and benefits to same-sex couples as are provided to similarly-situated heterosexual couples.

4. NEA will take such actions as may be appropriate to support efforts to (a) repeal any federal legislation and/or regulations that discriminate against same-sex couples, and (b) enact federal legislation and/or regulations that treat same-sex couples and similarly-situated heterosexual couples equally with regard to social security, health care, taxation, and other federal rights and benefits.

5. NEA recognizes that the term "marriage" has religious connotations and that same-sex marriages may not be compatible with the beliefs, values, and/or practices of certain religions. Because of its support for the separation of church and state and the right to religious freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, NEA supports the right of religious institutions to refuse to perform or recognize same-sex marriages.

The Executive Committee will monitor the implementation of this New Business Item, and keep NEA affiliates informed of actions taken to achieve its objectives."

Attention Americans United For Separation!

In a case of the left hand ignoring not knowing what the, umm, left hand is doing, we want to make sure that the folks at Americans United For Separation of Church and State, and our friends at People for the American Way, are made aware of a horrible violation of the separation of church and state that may cause the very foundations of our society to collapse. (These "watchdogs" monitor our blog and post on their Web sites some of our material as a warning to "separatists" since we are threatening to the very existence of Amerika as a civilization.) According to yesterday's Washington Post, all Democrat candidates for governor made appearances in, gulp, churches this Sunday! What is worse, if you can imagine, one of the pastors apparently endorsed a candidate right in the pulpit!:

Moran visited Fifth Street Baptist Church in the Highland Park neighborhood on the north side of Richmond, where Deeds appeared two months ago. He came at the invitation of Evelyn Morris-Harris, leader of the Democratic Black Caucus of Virginia, and the Rev. Todd F. Gray, the church's pastor.

Gray encouraged the parishioners to vote tomorrow and told them that he will be casting a ballot for Moran.

"Brian is right on guns. He's right on affirmative action. He's right on taxes. He's right on jobs," Gray said. "I'm not telling you who to vote for. I'm just telling you who I'm voting for. I'm voting for Brian Moran."

Of course, the Post reported these clear violations of all it is to be an Amerikan without so much as a whisper of impropriety. I'm sure, however, the our friends at Americans United and PFAW will be issuing press releases and sending notes to the Department of Homeland Security demanding immediate investigations.

Oh, and don't forget the IRS . . . they must be tired of only investigating churches where Republicans visit.

Or Prohibiting The Free Exercise Thereof

Last week, a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruledthat the Rev. Hashmel Turner, a member of the Fredericksburg City Council, could not open council meetings with a prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Former United State Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor sat on the panel as a guest judge, and wrote the opinion (click here to read the opinion). At issue was whether government could regulate prayer. Fredericksburg councilmen traditionally take turns offering a prayer to open city council meetings. When it was Turner's turn, he offered prayers "in the name of Jesus Christ." Predictably, the ACLU threatened a lawsuit, so city council changed its policy prohibiting such specificity, allowing a so-called non-sectarian praise of God, instead.

Turner and his lawyers, from the Charlottesville-based Rutherford Institute, plan an appeal to the United State Supreme Court. As Rev. Turner told The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, "I don't believe the last say-so in the matter should be left up to Justice O'Connor, so I intend on going ahead to the Supreme Court."

Here is the First Amendment in its entirety:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

According to The Free Lance-Star, Justice O'Connor wrote "that the city's policy makes the prayers more inclusive and does not violate Turner's First Amendment rights to free speech."

What too many people, including, unfortunately, justices and judges, don't seem to understand is the "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" part of the establishment clause (see a good post here from American Sentinel). While they pontificate about a "separation of church and state" which is nowhere mentioned in the amendment, they are dead silent on the non-prohibiting part, which is expressly stated. If the government, which is charged to protect free speech and exercise of faith can't protect such practices on its own grounds, who's to say they will protect it elsewhere?

As far as the establishment clause, so often misapplied, there's nothing in Rev. Tuner's prayer, nor in allowing him to pray, that establishes a state-run church. The Fredericksburg City Council is not Congress, for starters. Second, many faiths worship Jesus Christ, so that doesn't establish a specific church, such as Southern Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, etc. (Sorry, ACLU, "Christian" isn't a church, just like Islam doesn't define all of the denominations within that faith.) Third, it would have to be one powerful prayer to create a national church in such a swoop.

In fact, the council prayer isn't directed to the citizens of Fredericksburg or even public school students — not even Midshipmen at the Naval Academy. It's directed to the councilmen, so that they may have the wisdom to make good decisions. They should be able to pray as they wish. It is a freedom of speech issue as much as a freedom from government mandated or written prayer as anything else. It's funny how liberals scream government should not sanction formal prayers, such as a daily school prayer. But here's government — the city council — going so far as to mandate the deity and phraseology Rev. Turner can reference or use (they allowed "Almighty God" and "Heavenly Father"). What forms of government do state-regulated prayer bring to mind?

It certainly is confounding how such simple and plain language is so wrongly interpreted, especially when the framers of the constitution wrote extensively and clearly about the content of the constitution. We'll keep praying for Rev. Turner and like-minded public officials, as well as for judges to finally learn to get it right. At least as long as the government lets us.

Holy Cow! Someone DID Call The ACLU!

On June 25, I sarcastically wrote that someone needed to call the ACLU because Fort Lee scheduled a concert of Christian and Gospel music. It's not as if the ACLU doesn't have a track record here: It has spouted its most tenuous of all its "separation of church and state" claims into the ranks of the military before, especially when the Boy Scouts contracted the use of one of its bases (Fort A.P. Hill) for its Jamboree a few years ago because the Boy Scouts recognize God. ("God forbid!" the atheist said.) Well now! Who is to say we don't have an influence around these here parts? Look what we found in The Washington Post, datelined June 25 (click here for entire article):  

The American Civil Liberties Union is threatening to sue the U.S. Naval Academy unless it abolishes its daily lunchtime prayer, saying that some midshipmen have felt pressured to participate.

In a letter to the Naval Academy, Deborah Jeon, legal director for the ACLU of Maryland, said it was "long past time" for the academy to discontinue the tradition. She said the practice violates midshipmen's freedom to practice religion as their conscience leads them.

We like the Naval Academy's response:

The Naval Academy rejected the ACLU's request that the prayer be eliminated.

"The academy does not intend to change its practice of offering midshipmen an opportunity for prayer or devotional thought during noon meal announcements," the university said in a statement. It said that some form of prayer has been offered for midshipmen at meals since the school's founding, in 1845, and that it is "consistent with other practices throughout the Navy."

This prayer is voluntary. If those in training to defend our country want to give thanks and receive the blessings through the strength of group prayer to the Lord their Creator throughout this process, they have every right. If they have not a care, a minute of silence might do them good in the bustle of an Annapolis day. If it makes them better officers to defend America, why should the atheists care? Who does this hurt, except our country, if this moment of prayer benefits us with the best possible officers? Shouldn't we all want the best possible officers? 

We want to publicly offer our apologies to the entire U.S. Military and, in particular, the United States Naval Academy for any role we may have had in this nuisance of an inconvenience brought on by the busy bodies at the ACLU, who constantly look for a solution where there are only imaginary problems regarding church and state. So, while we have nothing against West Point, in this instance, we're fully behind the Middies.  

GO NAVY!