Augusta State, Illinois Church Cases Show Religious Liberty Remains In JeopardyAug. 03, 2010
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.