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.
Family Foundation Files Brief In National Day Of Prayer CaseJul. 07, 2010
The Family Foundation today signed onto an amicus brief (see brief) by Liberty Institute filed in the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in support of the National Day of Prayer in Freedom from Religion Foundation v. Obama (see news release). Those represented in the brief in addition to The Family Foundation include Dr. James Dobson, the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family Action (CitizenLink), the American Civil Rights Union, Let Freedom Ring, and Liberty Counsel, as well as 27 other state family policy councils. On April 15, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled that the federal government's observation of prayer is unconstitutional (see Christian Post), despite numerous rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court that protect long-standing traditions of religious invocations. Today's brief argues that not only is the National Day of Prayer constitutional, but that Judge Crabb's ruling establishes active hostility to religion and must be reversed.
When Congress passed a statute in 1952 calling for the president to issue a proclamation designating the National Day of Prayer, it memorialized the virtually unbroken tradition of presidents from Washington to Truman, each of whom designated a day of prayer.
In May, The Family Foundation also joined an amicus brief in the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in another important religious liberty case, Joyner v. Forsyth County (N.C.). The details of this case date back to March of 2007 when the American Civil Liberty Union 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.
It is clear that attacks on our first freedom, the right of conscience, seem to be coming every day. The National Day of Prayer has been recognized by presidents of both parties and by Congress for decades and prayer has been part of our national character since its founding. It is appalling that a single judge can undermine that longstanding tradition but, unfortunately, the courts have a mixed record at best on protecting our First Amendment rights.
The Family Foundation has been, and always will be, a voice for religious freedom in our commonwealth. The words of Thomas Jefferson's Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom — that are the foundation for the tradition of religious liberty in our nation and the precursor to the First Amendment — must be preserved and protected. That is a legacy that we have inherited and we must defend.