By Bridget Niece
What is happening to an American’s right to religion? Has this country gone mad? Today there are lawsuits all over this great country because someone decided they did not want to hear or see some type of religious material or because they believed it violated some law. The right to religious freedom is guaranteed in the Constitution. So why are some fighting it and even winning? If someone decides to worship a piece of cheese in the shape of Jack Black should they not be able to? Should someone be so offended that they would want the “Praise the cheese,” t-shirt to be banned? Would it be ok to be angry if they had a car magnet with the words “Believe in Jack Black Cheese and be Saved?” Most would be annoyed, think this person is crazy or laugh at the ignorance. But is it worth taking up precious brain space to be offended? There are enough crises in this world to drive any one of us into madness. To make matters worse there are some that are targeting charitable programs, currently assisting former prison inmates, which are performed by religious organizations. Without these charitable organizations that have been willing to put in the time, money and effort necessary to give assistance to former inmates, there will be an inevitable increase in recidivism. This increase can only result in either more government programs to fill this gap created by the loss of religious charitable organizations, thereby creating a higher tax liability for citizens and/or an increase in crimes due to the lack of assistance programs for inmates seeking help and the increased recidivism rate. It simply isn’t necessary to waste precious energy on targeting religious institutions and symbols. That energy could be better spent on feeding the hungry, shoeing the shoeless, preventing AIDS, loving a child or giving to the community local or global.
Below are some examples of cases regarding religion that is quite shocking. This information is obtained from the Liberty Legal Institute Website at www.libertylegal.org , particularly from the Hostility to Religious Expression article listed on their resources page. Please also visit www.donttearmedown.com for another surprising case of veteran memorials being attacked because of the addition of the cross as a symbol.
Barrow v. Greenville I.S.D.
Mrs. Barrow, a 15 year teacher with her principal’s certificate for 10 years, was told by the Superintendent that she could only have the principalship for which she was recommended if she agreed to take her own children out of a Christian school. When Mrs. Barrow explained her religious objections to removing her children, she was denied the position. LLI defended Ms. Barrow and the rights of Christian parents to choose religious education for their children without government retribution. The U.S. District Court in Dallas ruled that the right of parents to choose private education was not a fundamental right and thus ruled against Mrs. Barrow. LLI attorneys appealed and won a 3 to 0 reversal before the Federal Court of Appeals. Following a two-week jury trial, the jury found that the superintendent had violated Ms. Barrow’s constitutional parental rights and awarded Ms. Barrow lost wages and punitive damages and ordered the superintendent to pay LLI’s attorney fees.
Lynne, Diane “Petition Posted to Defend ‘God Bless America’”, WorldNet Daily, Jan. 31, 2003
Military honor guardsman, Patrick Cubbage, was fired for saying “God bless you and this family, and God bless the United States of America” to families as he presented a folded flag in honor of a fallen veteran. Though the families did not object to the practice, Cubbage’s co-guardsmen complained to their supervisor, and Cubbage was warned not to say the blessing to the families. Later Cubbage gave the blessing to a family after a request from the fallen veteran’s son, and shortly thereafter Cubbage was fired for giving the blessing.
From Lynn Lucas Middle School in Houston, Texas
A school teacher threw away two students’ Truth for Youth Bibles and took the students to the principal’s office where she threatened to call CPS on their parents for permitting them to bring their Bibles. Later at the same school, different officials threw away students’ book covers showing the Ten Commandments, claiming the commandments were hate speech and could offend students.
From Balch Springs, Texas (Barton v. City of Balch Springs)
Senior citizens were told to stop their 20-year-old practices of praying before their meals, hearing an inspirational religious message, and singing gospel songs in their Senior Citizens Center because of a new city policy banning religion in public buildings. A lawsuit was filed to defend the seniors’ rights. The Department of Justice also opened an investigation. The seniors were also told that if they won their suit, their meals would be taken away since praying over government funded meals violates the “separation of church and state.”
From Viroqua, Wisconsin
Viroqua High School planned a diversity day which included sessions that presented the viewpoints of Hmong, Jews, Muslims, Native Americans, African-Americans, homosexuals, Latinos, Buddhists, the physically disadvantaged, and the economically disadvantaged. A school official stated that the viewpoints of Christians and former homosexuals would be excluded. After being confronted with legal precedent showing such discrimination to be unconstitutional, the school decided to cancel the Diversity Day rather than include Christians’ and former homosexuals’ viewpoints.
From Muskogee Public School District, Oklahoma
An 11-year-old Muslim student was suspended for wearing her religious hair covering to school, in violation of the school’s dress code. A lawsuit was filed to protect the student’s religious rights in federal court in Oklahoma, and the school district only settled the case after the U.S. Department of Justice opened an investigation.
Santa Fe Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290 (2000)
A lawsuit was filed to challenge a school district policy permitting student-led, student initiated prayer prior to football games. The court struck down the policy, determining that it violated the Establishment Clause. In the lower court in this same case, the Judge ordered students not to pray in Jesus’ name and told them that federal marshals would be on hand to take students to the county jail, saying “Anyone who violates these orders, no kidding, is going to wish that he or she had died as a child when this court gets through with it.”
Gray, Jeremy. “Man Fired Over Lapel Pin Garners Support”, Birmingham News, June 27, 2004
The Hoover Chamber of Commerce fired employee Christopher Word because he wore a Ten Commandments lapel pin.
Jones, Carolyn. “Brentwood: Returning God to yearbook ad would cost high school thousands”, San Francisco Chronicle, March 7, 2007
The yearbook staff at Liberty High School changed a parent’s ad for his son’s graduation from “May God bless your life” to “May He bless your life.”
Selman v. Cobb County Sch. Dist., 2004 US Dist. LEXIS 5960 (N.D. Ga. 2004)
A Georgia School District decided to place a sticker in new science textbooks explaining that evolution was theory rather than fact, and encouraging students to study with open minds and critical thinking skills. A handful of parents complained that the sticker restricted teaching evolution and promoted creationism and filed a lawsuit to prevent its use, claiming that such a sticker violated the Establishment Clause.
Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987)
A suit was filed to challenge Louisiana’s Creationism Act. The Creationism Act provided that if evolution is taught in public schools, creation science must also be taught and if creation science is taught, then evolution must also be taught. The suit sought to strike down the act as a violation of the Establishment Clause. The Supreme Court obliged, striking down the law.
From Bedford County, Virginia
A private landowner agreed to allow The Cowboy Church of Virginia to conduct services on his property. After a few months the landowner received a Notice of Violation, stating that his barn could not be used for religious services and that his property wasn’t zoned for religious meetings.
Full Gospel Powerhouse Church of God in Christ v. City of Wichita Falls, et al.
An African-American church bought a church building that subsequently burned down. The tax appraisal district denied them a tax exemption because they could no longer meet on the property for services and assessed back taxes for non use because of the fire. There were other churches, however, with open land not being used that were granted exempt status. The church was forced to file a lawsuit to protect its very existence.
American Jewish Congress v. Bost, et al
“Separation of church and state” groups sued the State of Texas in federal district court for its charitable choice program. The lawsuit was an attempt to strike down the charitable efforts of several businesses and churches involved in a program to move people off welfare roles into paying jobs.
Freedom From Religion Found. v. McCallum, 324 F.3d 880 (7th Cir. 2003)
The Freedom from Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit to prevent correctional authorities from directing inmates to Faith Works because the halfway house incorporates Christianity into its program.
From Olympia, Washington
Governor Chris Gregoire lit a Menorah in a celebration at the state Capitol, and accepted the gift of a Menorah for her home. The Menorah that was lit during the ceremony was displayed in the Capitol rotunda with a Christmas tree. However, when a local resident asked for a Nativity scene to be displayed with the Menorah and the tree, the Governor refused.
From Cumberland County, Tennessee
Cumberland County received a threatening letter from the ACLU about a Nativity scene outside the county courthouse, even though the county created an open forum for the public and local businesses to display business logos, statues and other items.
From New York City, New York
The NYC Environmental Protection Agency allowed Chanukah banners and in the past allowed employees to celebrate the Indian festival of Diwali. The agency banned Christmas banners, red and green decorations and even removed the “holiday trees.” Staff members obtained 115 petitions demanding that the agency back down. The agency allowed the Christmas decorations and issued an apology to employees.
Alvarado v. City of San Jose, 94 F.3d 1223 (9th Cir. 1996)
The City of San Jose installed and maintained a sculpture (“Plumed Serpent” – of Aztec mythology) to commemorate the Mexican and Spanish contributions to the city’s culture. When people began to bring flowers and burn incense at the sculpture, citizens filed suit claiming the sculpture violated the Establishment Clause, but the court upheld the sculpture.
Those individuals that are for the separation of church and state need to decide how far they wish it to go and decide what they are personally willing to give up for themselves and their children in order to get it. This includes crime rates increasing because of the lack of charitable services shut down by groups not wanting to “fund” groups with a religious message or just don’t want their criminals to be churched. If that is a view held then a solution needs to be provided that will take the place of these wonderful organizations that have provided such services for decades or longer. Make sure that you also provide services like soup kitchens, clothing, beds and all the services that have been provided by different churches all over the world. Without those services many would have died. Those services are a valuable part of society and a source of pride for the citizens of the United States. Charity should be at the heart of what this country stands for and if all the religious organizations are restricted here in this country we are in deep trouble. Please protect the rights this country’s great leaders blessed us with. Speak out against those that wish to change this country into something it was never meant to be and help direct those same people to more noble pursuits so that world can see where our hearts really lie.