Judge Denies Online Religious Group’s Bid for Church Status

By Clifford M. Marks

God may be listening, but the IRS isn’t — or at least, not if you’re preaching online.

The federal tax agency won a victory Monday for its decision not to grant church status to a religious organization that primarily conducts its worship services via radio and internet, reports the National Law Journal.

Why would it matter? Becasue non-church non-profits are subject to greater regulatory scrutiny and oversight than are churches.

The Foundation of Human Understanding, “based upon Judeo-Christian beliefs and the doctrine and teachings of its founder,” Roy Masters, had appealed the IRS classification to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, where a three-judge panel waded into the murky waters of church classification precedent.

Despite what Federal Circuit Judge William Bryson said was a decided dearth of guidance about how to apply the “church” label, the panel largely looked to the associational test, which requires that members meet regularly for organized worship. Not good news for the Foundation of Human Understanding.

“The fact that all the listeners simultaneously received the Foundation’s message over the radio or the Internet does not mean that those members associated with each other and worshiped communally,” Bryson wrote.

Neither the foundation, its lawyer, nor the IRS returned a request for comment from the National Law Journal.

But never fear, digital disciples. The ruling may well leave room for chat room worship to qualify for the church moniker, non-profit attorney Arthur Rieman tells the NLJ.

But Rieman does worry that if the IRS doesn’t clarify its classifications, non-profits conducting board meetings electronically could run afoul of the agency.

“If my clients’ boards of directors can meet that way, is it much different than allowing a church congregation to congregate that way and hold a worship service?” he asked. “The IRS is going to have to address that sooner or later.”

Courtesy of http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2010/08/18/judge-denies-online-religious-groups-bid-for-church-status/

Florida School Faces Court Hearing After Banning Bibles on Religious Freedom Day

Fort Myers, FL – Tomorrow Liberty Counsel will meet the Collier County, Florida, School Board in the Fort Myers federal courthouse. This lawsuit challenges the board’s recent ban on Bibles during Religious Freedom Day on school campuses in Collier County, Florida. For years, the school board allowed World Changers to provide free Bibles to interested students by placing them on tables where students could voluntarily pick one up during noninstructional time, but now the school officials claim that Bibles do not provide any educational benefit to the students and the distribution should stop. Liberty Counsel tried to convince the school board to correct its actions outside of court. But because of the school board’s defiant actions, there will be a preliminary injunction hearing at 10:00 a.m. EDT in Judge Charlene Honeywell’s chambers.

The Collier County School District policy specifically allows the distribution of literature by nonprofit organizations, but only with the approval of the superintendent and the Community Request Committee, whose members are appointed by the superintendent. Approval was denied to World Changers, despite the fact that its distribution included a disclaimer of any school endorsement or sponsorship and that receiving a Bible was purely voluntary. The district censored World Changers’ message simply because it included the Bible, while other private groups remain free to distribute their private literature. 

The school district suffers from a misunderstanding of the Establishment Clause, which does not prohibit private religious speech or literature. The distribution of Bibles by World Changers is private speech in a forum where other secular literature is allowed. As the Supreme Court has stated: “There is a crucial difference between government speech endorsing religion, which the Establishment Clause forbids, and private speech endorsing religion, which the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses protect.”

Mathew Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented: “Liberty Counsel is committed to protecting the First Amendment rights of students. The policies and actions of the Collier County School District and its superintendent are unconstitutional. School officials cannot single out religious viewpoints for discriminatory treatment.”

Roadside crosses for fallen Utah police unconstitutional, court rules

A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled that roadside crosses erected to memorialize fallen Utah Highway Patrol officers violate the First Amendment’s prohibition of government endorsement of religion.

The Denver-based 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals said that the 12-foot-high crosses bearing the name and badge number of deceased officers sent an unconstitutional religious message to motorists on the state’s highways.

“We hold that these memorials have the impermissible effect of conveying to the reasonable observer the message that the state prefers or otherwise endorses a certain religion. They therefore violate the establishment clause of the federal constitution,” the appeals court said in a 35-page decision.

Proponents of strict separation between church and state immediately praised the decision.

“This is an important victory,” said David Niose, president of the American Humanist Association. “Governmental endorsement of Christianity, even in the form of an officer’s memorial, isn’t appropriate on our public highways.”

He added, “There are other ways to honor fallen officers, and the court’s recognition of this certainly strengthens secular government.”

13 crosses on Utah highways

Since 1998, two members of the Utah Highway Patrol Association have organized the placement of monuments on Utah roadsides to honor fallen troopers. Before erecting each memorial, the group consults the family of the fallen trooper about the potential of erecting a memorial in the form of a large cross. No family has objected to the cross or requested a different symbol.

Currently, 13 crosses are displayed along Utah highways. They include a photo of the fallen trooper, the year of death, and biographical information. They also display the insignia of the highway patrol.

American Atheists, Inc., objected to the crosses being displayed on public land and sued to have them removed.

A federal judge threw the lawsuit out. On Wednesday, the appeals court reversed that decision, agreeing with the atheist group that the crosses violate the separation of church and state.

Supporters of the cross memorials argued that they are no different than the crosses in military cemeteries or those used in other roadside memorials marking the site of traffic fatalities.

The appeals court judges disagreed. They said the critical issue was how the large white crosses on public land would be perceived by motorists and others. “We conclude that the cross memorials would convey to a reasonable observer that the state of Utah is endorsing Christianity,” they said. “The memorials use the preeminent symbol of Christianity.”

Qualms over crosses’ ‘massive size’

While most roadside memorials marking traffic fatalities are 12 to 16 inches high, the troopers’ crosses are 10 times that size, the court said. “The massive size of the crosses displayed on … public property unmistakably conveys a message of endorsement, proselytization, and aggrandizement of religion that is far different from the more humble spirit of small roadside crosses,” the court said.

The judges said they were also concerned that the memorials included the insignia of the Utah Highway Patrol. They said the combination of the cross and insignia links the state with a particular religious symbol. And that, they said, “may lead the reasonable observer to fear that Christians are likely to receive preferential treatment from the UHP – both in their hiring practices and, more generally, in the treatment that people may expect to receive on Utah’s highways.”

The judges added: “The reasonable observer’s fear of unequal treatment would likely be compounded by the fact that these memorials carry the same symbol that appears on UHP patrol vehicles.”

The decision notes that most residents of Utah were raised as or are followers of the Mormon religion, which does not view the cross as a religious symbol. The judges noted that “cross-revering Christians comprise approximately 18 percent of the population of Utah.”

But they went on to stress that the state could still violate the establishment clause by promoting the cross and the religious groups that do revere it.

Courtesy of http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Justice/2010/0818/Roadside-crosses-for-fallen-Utah-police-unconstitutional-court-rules

Schools claim Lucifer as model and guardian

While a California school district is seeing a boom in interest in a controversial educational philosophy that goes back more than 100 years, at the same time it’s fighting a lawsuit over whether the system is legal in public schools.

California’s capital city offers two Waldorf-inspired public schools — John Morse Waldorf Methods School (K-8), and the high school George Washington Carver School of Arts and Sciences. The Sacramento City Unified School District now is facing a trial in federal court on allegations that those schools are religious, making them ineligible to receive taxpayer dollars.
 
The lawsuit, filed in 1998 by the group People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools, is just now making it to trial after several appeals. In an interview with The Sacramento Bee, the president of PLANS uses phrases like “cult-like religious sect” and “new-age religion” to describe the activities at the schools.
 
Dr. Bruce Shortt, author of The Harsh Truth about Public Schools, explains to OneNewsNow that the Waldorf system is based on a dangerous philosophy called “anthroposophy” from the writings of 19th-century Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner.
 
“And in those writings he basically posits that the universe is driven by conflict between Lucifer and the god of darkness called ‘Ahriman’ — and his educational philosophy is built around that conflict,” says Shortt. “…In fact, in his view Christ came to earth as a ‘son god’ to balance the forces of light and darkness.”
 
The author says these views are reflected in The Waldorf Teachers Survival Guide.
 
“As a matter of fact, quoting from the guide, it says ‘most of what contributes to our work as teachers — preparation work, artistic work, even meditative work — is under the guardianship of Lucifer. We can become great teachers under his supervision….’  And it continues in that vein.”
 
Although the Waldorf system is primarily offered through private education, the demand for Waldorf public schools has grown to more than 40 across the country, including two dozen in California.

Courtesy of http://www.onenewsnow.com/Legal/Default.aspx?id=1126896

Questions and Answers with Author and Attorney Tim Rowe

1)      What motivated you to write The Magnificent Goodness of God? 

Our generation has lost faith in the goodness of God and His character. Without a right concept of God’s true nature and character, the foundation of Christian living crumbles, and the Church will fall into a downward spiral and lose its effective witness for Christ. We must know with great certainty what our God is like and His heart toward His beloved children. The goodness of God encompasses everything that God is, and is a perfect representation of all His characteristics.  There is not one stain in the moral character of God and not one sliver of evil. The origin of all sin is found in a mistrust of God’s character. If we don’t know who God is, we cannot trust Him and love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. We must not look at the world or our own experiences to define God. If we make this mistake, we can’t help but impugn God’s character. Satan tempted Eve on this very point by questioning God’s character. He does the same to us today. I want people to understand that God does not have a dark side; God is not two-faced; God is not good one day and evil the next. God does not have good days and bad days. God does not have any personality issues or character flaws. Understanding the goodness of God is first and foremost in spiritual warfare, because without this you can never stand for God faithfully.

2)      Why do you think the subject of God’s goodness is being lost in the modern day church?

I believe people have let their experiences, or culture, or religion define God rather than going to the Bible and letting God speak as to what His true nature is. We have become distracted often in many surface things and have failed to develop an intimate relationship with our God. I present a wonderful study guide of the Bible on the goodness of God, using over 30 translations of the Bible and 3000 verses to weave a tapestry of truth as to what the goodness of God is and how it can transform your life.  Eventually, something or someone will turn our heart from God if we do not understand His goodness that relentlessly pursues us all the days of our lives. Unfortunately, the church has too often had far more faith in the power of the enemy to defeat us than we do in the power of God to deliver us, change us, empower us, and demonstrate His mighty nature in and through us. Jesus Christ is the absolute pinnacle of the goodness of God and it is only through Him we begin to taste and see the magnificent goodness of God. It is time that there is an awakening of the goodness of God in the heart and soul of Christianity.

3)      You host a tv and radio show called “Faith and the Law.”  Is that an oxymoron?

God is vitally concerned about justice and the Bible sets forth laws that bring justice, liberty and balance to society.  Faith and the law are actually supposed to be intertwined and work together closely to allow an individual the absolute freedom to pursue life with God.  The law is to set boundaries so the sin nature does not run wild. God wants to set up laws that allow people to pursue and worship Him in complete freedom without interference from the government or civil authorities. As we look at the relationship of faith and the law, any law that diminishes, restricts, prohibits or destroys faith is not a just law and exactly opposite to the law’s true purpose. All laws should work together so faith flourishes. This is why religious liberty is so important. Religious liberty for Christians is under increased and relentless attack all over the world. Christians are being arrested for praying and preaching in public parks; they are being fired for wearing crosses to work; students are expelled for wearing t-shirts with a pro-scripture message and children have been accused of hate crimes for laying a Bible on their teacher desks. As amazing as it sounds, this is going on in the United States of America and it is important for Christians to stand up for their legal, constitutional rights and fight back against those who are trying to take away our freedom to exercise our religious beliefs.  The ACLU has tried to create a “faith-blind” secular society and laws, whose perverse effect is to rob all Americans of their religious diversity and uniqueness. The subtle message of the ACLU’s stance is that we can only be unified if we each agree to deny our commitments to our religious values (our faith) and agree to remain silent. We as Christians have stood silent for too long as the atheists and agnostics have controlled the legal system. As a result, many of our religious liberties are eroding at an alarming pace. This is often done through unjust rulings and laws by people and judges that have little understanding of the biblical principles present in the founding of our country and have given too much hype to the overused metaphor of  ‘separation of church and state’ that is not in our Constitution. This is the essence of why we feel faith and the law is such an important truth for Christians to understand so the gospel can have free movement in this country and reach the hearts of men, women and children without hindrance from unjust and unwise laws.

4)       Is the law becoming more and more hostile toward the Christian faith? Why or why not?

The American system of jurisprudence is still the best in the world even though it has some flaws and imperfections. It was founded upon a strong dedication to the God-given inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and a commitment to justice. The Bible and history provided a strong moral law and the law was not subject to the moods and minds of every single judge. The legal system has been moving toward secular humanism where man is glorified as the ultimate reason for everything and God is left out of the picture. Our legal system must have a driving moral principle behind it or it begins to crumble. God is just and God is good and there are moral principles of life set forth in the Bible that are the foundation of the Judeo-Christian system of law in the United States. So often, we have forsaken these values in the name of tolerance or in the name of intellectualism and we have become too “smart” for our own good. The law is becoming more and more hostile to Christianity around the globe. Atheists and Agnostics and God-haters have risen to the forefront of so much of our culture and they are pushing their godless agenda and want no resistance. The lamp of liberty is beginning to dim in America and we must rise up as Christians and begin to claim our legal rights like the Apostle Paul claimed his rights as a Roman citizen. The greatest threat to liberty in this country is not radical Islam but nominal Christianity. When teachers cannot even mention the word God without being prosecuted in Florida, when the theory of evolution is coddled and protected by the courts as scientific truth while creationism is thrust to the side, when a Christian college group cannot even require their voting members and officers to sign a statement of faith without losing their status as a college group at our universities, something is radically wrong. Our legal system has had a dramatic shift away from God and instead turns to the judges as ‘gods’ determining that the law is whatever they say it is and the Constitution is a changing document with the culture of the times. There is no longer a moral standard, just shifting beliefs. Christians need to wake up and become more firm in their total devotion to the Lord. I pray for this country every day, but I also have a moral responsibility as a citizen of the United States to speak out against the destruction of our Constitution and our rights as Christians. Religious liberty is the foundation of our country and should be guarded and guaranteed to every American. 

5)      What do you say to a family who has been faithful to God all their lives yet their child dies or is abducted?    

We are an intense spiritual warfare and there are evil things that happen every day in a very sinful, fallen world, but I don’t believe that scripture teaches God causes it or endorses it. We do not realize at times how many idols have been erected in our hearts that act as barriers to receiving the promises of God.  How much are we praying? How much are we in the Word? Do we watch television hours a day and never crack open the Bible and wonder why our lives our spiritually anemic? We must discipline ourselves to do the fundamentals of Christianity and always be alert in prayer for we have an enemy who comes as a thief in the night.  We pray too little, study the Bible too little, know very few promises of God, do not walk in wisdom and then blame God when things happen. Sometimes things happen because of a lack of wisdom.  God expects us to use our head. In regards to healing, there is great healing available in the cross of Christ and his finished work on the cross. But we do not always rise up to the standard of the Word and believe the promises. There is nothing wrong with going to the doctor and God has worked miracles through doctors and medicine. With Adam’s fall, the body has the curse of death on it and will eventually die. Often we don’t have health because we don’t walk in wisdom by eating the right foods, getting enough sleep, exercising, etc.  We expose our bodies and souls to other perils foolishly and then ask God to bail us out. God is a God of mercy, but the walk of health takes faith, wisdom and fervent prayer. God can deliver us from any attack of the wicked one, but Christians do have a target on their backs in spiritual warfare and we must learn to stand with the whole armor of God not just a portion of it.  There is also great healing in the Communion Ceremony, but very few Christians know the significance of the bread in Communion. Bread represents Jesus Christ’s body that was broken for our physical, mental and spiritual healing. The Corinthian church did not properly discern the Lord’s body and there were many sick, weak and dying in the church because they did not know the great healing in the communion ceremony. Understanding Communion will bring great healing to the church. The devil received the authority to exercise dominion upon the earth as the god of the age when Adam transferred to him as an act of high treason in the Garden.  He is responsible for all the evil in the world and it is a daily battle standing up to his attacks.  With the help of God, we can overcome and be more than conquerors in any situation in life. The Bible says that Jesus came to destroy the works of the Devil (1 John 3:8). His ministry was to heal those oppressed by Satan (Acts 10:38). Nowhere do the Gospels portray Jesus as healing those oppressed by God. Rather than God, it is Satan who is the source of evil. He is the one who has authority over all the kingdoms of the world (Luke 4:5 and 6), and it is Jesus’ job to crush his head (Gen. 3:15).

6)      Paul had a thorn that he claimed God would not take away.  So how does all that mesh with God’s goodness?

Paul’s thorn has been a “thorn in the flesh” for many Bible scholars. People have guessed a thousand things as to what it was–from sickness to eye problems –but the Scripture is very clear on the issue. The first thing we know is that it did not come from God as  II Corinthians 12:7 says it was a “messenger of Satan.” It came from Satan who is the great accuser of God’s people not from the God of all goodness. The word of God also says it was sent by Satan to buffet Paul  and the word buffet means “to strike blow after blow.”  When prior usages of the word “thorn” are worked in Scripture, it becomes obvious that the thorn in the flesh was people or human messengers that Satan sent to stop Paul and hinder Paul from sharing the gospel of Christ. The devil uses people who open their minds and hearts to him and controls them to do the kind of things that they did to Paul. At the same time, he works to arrange the circumstances in our lives so as to tempt us to respond according to our flesh (sin nature) rather than leaning on the spirit of God within us and allowing the Lord’s strength to be manifest in our lives. He can marshal people to hinder Christians and the movement of God’s Word. He has the authority to do that according to Scripture and it says when you live godly you will suffer persecution, but God has the ability to deliver us out of them ALL. But who did we rely on? Ourselves or God? His strength or ours? When we are under attack, it is only with God that can we be strong and by His grace overcome. This abundantly shows the goodness of God because even in the midst of the attack by the enemy, God is there to comfort, strengthen and pull us through. The goodness of God does not mean that you will never be under spiritual attack as a Christian. It is recognizing and embracing our weakness that drives us to our Savior, who will sustain and energize us to do His work.

 

Atheists Advertise: Imagine No Religion, Sleep In on Sundays

A humanist group has launched another billboard blitz telling the public that it’s OK to sleep in on Sundays, among other things.

“Obviously, there are many reasons to reject religion, most of them intellectual,” said Dan Barker, FFRF co-president. “But face it – one of the immediate benefits of quitting church, besides getting a 10 percent raise because you can stop tithing, is getting to sleep in on Sundays! What the world really needs is a good night’s sleep.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation will have 20 billboards placed throughout the Tampa and St. Petersburg, Fla., area this month.

Four different ads are being featured, including “Sleep In On Sundays,” “Imagine No Religion,” “God & Government: A Dangerous Mix,” and “In Reason We Trust” – which is the group’s newest message.

Some of the messages are designed with a stained glass window motif.

“We want our billboards to be attractive, since our messages are controversial, and freethinkers like stained glass as much as the religious do,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor, in a statement. “But we’d also like to create a little cognitive dissonance. Wouldn’t it be something if you saw this message, ‘Imagine No Religion’ or ‘Sleep in on Sundays,’ in a church?”

Incorporated in 1978, FFRF describes itself as an association of freethinkers, including atheists, agnostics and skeptics. The Madison, Wis.-based group claims more than 15,500 members nationwide.

Gaylor has pointed out that the nonreligious are the largest-growing segment of the population by religious identification in the United States. The popularly cited 2008 American Religious Identification Survey had revealed that the percentage of Americans claiming no religion jumped from 8.2 percent in 1990 to 15 percent.

Though many do not attend religious services, more than half (56 percent) of nonreligious Americans believe in God and 49 percent pray regularly, according to sociologist Bradley R. E. Wright.

Still, FFRF wants to send the message that not all Americans believe in God or follow a religion.

“If all people see is religion, it wins by default,” Gaylor said, as reported by the St. Petersburg Times.

FFRF began running billboard campaigns in October 2007 and has so far placed their messages in 25 states. This is the first time the group is advertising in Florida.

Editor’s note: God calls them fools in Psalms 14:1 who say there is no God. They are missing out on such an awesome opportunity for a relationship with their Creator. Their hearts will remain empty and chasing the wind for their entire lives without God.

Courtesy of http://www.christianpost.com/article/20100811/atheists-advertise-imagine-no-religion-sleep-in-on-sundays/index.html

Federal Judge Overturns Same-Sex Marriage Ban in California

San Francisco (AP) – A person close to the case says a federal judge has overturned California’s same-sex marriage ban in a landmark case that could eventually land before the U.S. Supreme Court.
 
Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker made his ruling Wednesday in a lawsuit filed by two gay couples who claimed the voter-approved ban violated their civil rights.
 
A copy of the ruling had not yet been publicly released.
 
Both sides previously said an appeal was certain if Walker did not rule in their favor. The case would go first to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals then the Supreme Court if the high court justices agree to review it.

Courtesy of http://cnsnews.com/news/article/70546