Month: March 2011

ADF encourages governors to ignore activist groups, observe 2011 National Day of Prayer

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Alliance Defense Fund issued letters to be received by governors across the U.S. Monday urging them to observe and participate in the 60th Annual National Day of Prayer on May 5. The letter also encourages the governors to resist the demands of activist groups that claim the tradition is unlawful. Millions of Americans and thousands of local leaders participate in this constitutional event every year.

“America’s founders participated in public prayer activities; public officials today should be able to do the same,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “Local observances of the National Day of Prayer are constitutional and appropriate, particularly since the event simply provides all Americans an opportunity to pray voluntarily according to their own faith–and does not promote any particular religion or form of religious observance.” 

“In 1952, President Harry Truman signed into law a joint resolution by Congress to ‘set aside an appropriate day as a National Day of Prayer,’” the ADF letter to governors states. “In 1988, the law was amended by Congress and signed by President Ronald Reagan to specify that the annual event should be observed on ‘the first Thursday in May in each year.’”  Yet atheists and activist groups have challenged the constitutionality of government entities to recognize the event, claiming their acknowledgement violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. 

“You can be confident that your participation in and acknowledgement of the National Day of Prayer are constitutionally protected activities,” ADF attorneys explain in the letter. “You are free to proclaim your support for this event, and you are under no obligation to satisfy the demands of any disgruntled individual or civil libertarian group that may oppose such action.”

From the time of this nation’s founding, public prayer has been an essential part of America’s culture and tradition. The tradition of designating an official day of prayer actually began with the Continental Congress in 1775, and on October 3, 1789, President George Washington issued a National Day of Thanksgiving Proclamation. Ever since, American presidents have made similar proclamations and “appeals to the Almighty.” ADF attorneys contend that proclamations and appeals of state and local officials are no different. Historically, all 50 governors, along with U.S. presidents, have issued proclamations in honor of the National Day of Prayer.

ADF attorneys note that the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly acknowledged that presidential proclamations of thanksgiving and prayer, including the NDOP, are part of our heritage, and in no way violate the Constitution.

“A decision last year [in the lawsuit Freedom From Religion Foundation v. Obama by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin] does nothing to change this law,” ADF attorneys assured in the letter. “The judge determined that the President of the United States is not prohibited from issuing a proclamation declaring a National Day of Prayer. She did hold that a federal law instructing the President to do so on a particular day is unconstitutional, but she stayed enforcement of her ruling till the matter could be appealed. That case is currently pending before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.”

  • Pronunciation guide: Theriot (TARE’-ee-oh)
ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.

The Return Of Jesus Christ: As A Thief In The Night

By David C. Grabbe

As we slide further into the time of the end, and the bright summer days continue to be spiritually dark, it is common for us to look around for an indicator of how long it will be until Jesus Christ returns. We might scan the horizon for any clue to how and when the end-time prophecies will be fulfilled and Christ will return. We watch events in the world continue to churn seemingly out of control, but we do not see many key prophecies being fulfilled.

In the parables, prophecies, and epistles, a phrase is used frequently with regard to the Day of the Lord and the return of Jesus Christ. Though it may vary slightly from verse to verse, numerous instructions are given to “watch, because the Day of the Lord [or else Christ Himself] will come as a thief in the night” (emphasis ours throughout). “Watch” in such instances does not mean what many think it means. It is tied closely with our Savior’s return, yet it has little to do with physical observation. Why is such watching important? What does it have to do with Christ returning as “a thief in the night?”

One oft-quoted “watching” verse is Luke 21:36: “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” It is frequently interpreted to mean that we should be closely watching current events so we know how close we are to Christ’s return. The common paraphrase of this command is “watch world news, so that as you begin to see prophecy unfold, you can escape the horrors of the Tribulation.”

This interpretation has led to a cottage industry of sorts within the greater church of God. A tremendous amount of effort is put into commenting on world events and tying them into biblical prophecy. The underlying assumption is that God wants us to have our finger on the pulse of the news, and this knowledge—combined with prayer—will make us worthy to escape all those prophesied things. But does this assumption agree with Scripture?

In fact, the Greek word translated “watch” has nothing to do with looking at events or keeping world news under close observation. Even without examining the underlying Greek, we can tell from the context that Jesus has something else in mind. Verse 36 begins, “Watch therefore,” signaling that it concludes or summarizes previous material. We cannot understand verse 36 until we know what preceded it.

Keeping an Eye on Number One

Verses 34-35 provide the context for Jesus’ command to “watch”:

But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth.

Clearly, Jesus’ message is not an admonition to watch world events so that we will know when He will return. Instead, His instruction is to watch ourselves, which is what “take heed to yourselves” suggests. He is talking about being vigilant about our own spiritual state, as well as being circumspect and spiritually awake as we go through life. The danger is that, if we do not “watch” ourselves—that is, continually take stock of our condition and responsibilities—self-indulgence and material concerns will distract us, and we will find ourselves spiritually unprepared when the end comes.

Luke 21:36, then, is not an injunction to be glued to CNN, FOX, the Drudge Report, or any other news source. In fact, a subtle danger exists in being too caught up in current events, as it can distract us from the more vital spiritual preparation. The upshot is that the Day will come, and we do not know when.

Watching events unfold is not what makes us “worthy to escape,” but our cooperation with God as He forms His character image in us does. Thus, in addition to prayer, we have to be vigilant in our covenant with Him. We have to “take heed” to ourselves constantly, examining our walk and how we are seeking and imitating God.

The Greek word translated “watch,” at its most basic, means “to be sleepless,” implying continuous and wakeful concern, such as being on watch when a loved one is ill. It means to be intent or to exercise constant vigilance over something, as a shepherd watches over his sheep or a leader watches over his charges (Hebrews 13:17). Watching signifies a state of being untouched by any influence that may cloud the mind; one “watching” guards against drowsiness or confusion. Hand-in-hand with “pray always,” it denotes being alert for spiritual dangers and beguilements. Obviously, this state will not transpire from following—or even deeply analyzing—current events.

Luke 12:35-40 provides a good illustration of watching:

Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning [that is, be prepared]; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. . . . And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

In verses 37-38, Jesus pronounces a blessing on those whom the Master finds watching when He returns. It is not that they have their noses pressed to the glass, watching for His return. Instead, those who are vigilant and careful in their responsibilities will be blessed. They are watching over the Master’s house, ensuring that all is in order, even if it means sleepless nights. “Be ready” in verse 40 is a simple summation of the “watching” He desires.

Verse 38 warns that He might return in the second watch or in the third. Regardless of whether the Master returns early or late (from our perspective), He wants His servants to be ready and His household in order. He wants them to be maintaining the house, diligent in their duties, so that all is prepared for His return. If they spend their days staring out the window, watching the road for His return rather than fulfilling their duties, they will be neglecting what He has charged them to do.

The duties of a typical servant include many mundane, monotonous, and repetitive chores. It is easy for a servant to think, “What is the use? Do I really have to do this right now? Since there is no sign of the Master right now, perhaps I can just relax, and prepare quickly when His return seems near.” Such a servant would be inclined to spend more time watching from the window for the Master’s return than he would be performing his assigned tasks. Yet, a servant’s responsibility is to be prepared and to make sure the household (the church) is prepared, not to anticipate the timing of the Master’s return.

Jesus says repeatedly that we will not know. If we believe Him, our focus will be on being faithful and vigilant in the things He has given us to do. His return will take the household by surprise—there is no other way to understand His many statements. The critical point is the state of readiness and the usefulness of the household and the servants when He returns. If the household is not ready, or if the servants have been sleeping rather than working, they will face His wrath.

A Steward’s Responsibility

In verses 42-47, the instruction to watch continues. However, this time Jesus focuses specifically on the responsibility of the steward—the one given authority over the household while the Master is away:

And the Lord said, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has. But if that servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.”

His theme is preparation and faithful continuance of duty. He tasks the steward—a type of the ministry—with giving the household “food in due season.” Similarly, Paul outlines the responsibilities of church leadership in his letter to the Ephesians. Notice that the focus is on the church, not on the world: “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry [service], for the edifying of the body of Christ. . .” (Ephesians 4:11-13). Church leaders are responsible for feeding and preparing God’s household and encouraging them to watch themselves.

If the steward does not properly watch, however, the human proclivity is to let down—and abuse. The steward in Luke 12:45 is focused on the Master’s return—or lack thereof—rather than on his own alertness and attention to his duties. As a result, he falls into excesses of eating and drinking (rather than providing food for the household). He ends up beating those he was supposed to watch over, as if he thought they belonged to him. Clearly, those who have stewardship responsibilities in the church have an added weight to “take heed to themselves” lest they neglect or even damage those for whom they are supposed to be providing spiritual food.

Mark 13:32-37 provides another illustration of watching:

But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning—lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!

In this parable, it is even more apparent that the Master intends for the servants to be watchful—diligent, alert, taking heed to themselves—in their work and authority rather than for His return. Twice, He says that no one knows the timing of His return—not even Himself! Here, He tells us that we do not know the “day and hour,” but after His resurrection He expands this unknown variable to “times or seasons” (Acts 1:6-7).

So, even though we might be able to have a rough idea when that time draws near (see Matthew 24:32-33; Luke 21:29-31), in general, it is secret and indeterminable. Our time, then, is best spent focusing on our responsibilities before God rather than being caught up in the details of how it might unfold. These things are unknowable, but even if one could correctly anticipate them, it would all be for naught if the individual is not spiritually prepared for Jesus Christ’s return (see also Matthew 24:42-44).

Coming in the Night

The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) uses a different metaphor, but the critical admonition is the same. A cry awakens them all at midnight, but it leaves them no time for preparation—it announces the Bridegroom’s presence and commands them to meet Him. At that point, there is no opportunity to get things into shape quickly—to grow hurriedly, overcome, develop a relationship with the Father and the Son, and take on their character image. The period of preparation has ended; the time that has been prepared for has come. The Bridegroom tells those who had not made advance spiritual preparations, “I do not know you.” They lose out on the opportunity that God had given to them because they would not watch themselves—not make the necessary preparations.

In I Thessalonians, Paul also addresses the Day of the Lord coming “as a thief in the night”:

But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. . . . But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (I Thessalonians 5:1-2, 4-9)

Like us, the return of Christ was much on the minds of first-century Christians, yet Paul tells them he felt no need to write concerning its timing. Why? Because they should have known that the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. There was no point in Paul trying to outline it all, as it will happen at a time that nobody can anticipate.

However, he writes something that seems contradictory in verse 4: Since they are not in darkness, that Day should not “overtake [them] as a thief.” What is actually meant is that the day of God’s wrath would not possess them—literally, “take them over.” God’s wrath would not swallow them up, or the destruction of that Day does not need to have power over them. He does not mean that it would not surprise them, but as a parallel verse clarifies, “For God has not appointed us to wrath” (verse 9), even though they will be surprised.

Verse 6 contains the same admonition seen elsewhere to be awake, to be sober, and to watch. Though we are not appointed to wrath, other verses show that we can certainly still incur it if we are not taking heed to ourselves (see Hebrews 10:26-31). So we are instructed to watch—to be vigilant about our spiritual state, to have continuous and wakeful concern over fulfilling our part of the covenant, to be on guard against spiritual dangers, spiritual drowsiness, and deception. Simply watching down the road for a sign of the Master’s return really does not prepare us for anything at all.

Letter to Sardis

Finally, Jesus writes this same message to a portion of the end-time church:

And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, “These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: ‘I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.’” (Revelation 3:1-3)

After calling them essentially the “church of the mostly dead,” He instructs them to “be watchful.” He complements this with, “strengthen the things which remain,” which qualifies the meaning of “watch.” There is still a glimmer of life within this church, but the letter gives the impression that they have relaxed in their spiritual responsibilities so much that they are nearly comatose. They have not been vigilant in their core responsibilities or on guard against deception, apathy, or neglect. They have not had sleepless nights over their standing with God.

Interestingly, in the Bible’s first mention of the Day of the Lord (Isaiah 2:12), it says that it “shall come upon everything proud and lofty, upon everything lifted up—and it shall be brought low.” The primary target is the proud—the self-assured. The ironic thing is that this state of spiritual near-death could easily come about even while they are avidly watching world events. They could be quite adept at following the news reports and may know better than anyone what is really going on in the world and how it fits with prophecy.

But that does not fulfill Christ’s and the apostle’s commands to watch! It is not that it is wrong to keep tabs on world news, but watching world news is chiefly about observing. True watching emphasizes diligence; it is being alert to spiritual dangers more than physical ones. It is about faithfully carrying out our God-given responsibilities, like a servant in the Master’s house. None of that results from simply being a news- or prophecy-addict.

In verse 3, He tells them to call to mind the previous lessons and instructions they have heard. He tells them to repent and to guard and maintain their position so they backslide no further. As before, His description gives little indication of spiritual vibrancy or zeal. There probably is a great deal of activity, since He says that they have a name—or reputation—for being alive. Yet, in the areas that truly matter—like growth, faith, seeking God, and overcoming—not much is happening.

He also warns them that, if they will not watch themselves and their covenant responsibilities to their Master, He will come upon them like a thief.

Plainly, Christ will return when we do not expect Him. We may be able to observe some general indicators when key prophecies are fulfilled, but the overall timing will be a mystery. His coming will be like a thief in the night, purposefully hidden from all. Rather than trying to discern the timing, we are instructed to “watch”—not world events, but to watch over all that God has given to us, so that when that Day arrives, we are ready. He knows that if we are faithful in little—in the mundane, the monotonous, the unexciting—we will also be faithful in the truly great things that lie ahead.

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Religion may become extinct in nine nations, study says

By Jason Palmer Science and technology reporter, BBC News, Dallas

Half-empty church 

A study using census data from nine countries shows that religion there is set for extinction, say researchers.

The study found a steady rise in those claiming no religious affiliation.

The team’s mathematical model attempts to account for the interplay between the number of religious respondents and the social motives behind being one.

The result, reported at the American Physical Society meeting in Dallas, US, indicates that religion will all but die out altogether in those countries.

The team took census data stretching back as far as a century from countries in which the census queried religious affiliation: Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland.

Their means of analysing the data invokes what is known as nonlinear dynamics – a mathematical approach that has been used to explain a wide range of physical phenomena in which a number of factors play a part.

One of the team, Daniel Abrams of Northwestern University, put forth a similar model in 2003 to put a numerical basis behind the decline of lesser-spoken world languages.

At its heart is the competition between speakers of different languages, and the “utility” of speaking one instead of another.

“The idea is pretty simple,” said Richard Wiener of the Research Corporation for Science Advancement, and the University of Arizona.

“It posits that social groups that have more members are going to be more attractive to join, and it posits that social groups have a social status or utility.

“For example in languages, there can be greater utility or status in speaking Spanish instead of [the dying language] Quechuan in Peru, and similarly there’s some kind of status or utility in being a member of a religion or not.”

A man fills in a census form Some of the census data the team used date from the 19th century

Dr Wiener continued: “In a large number of modern secular democracies, there’s been a trend that folk are identifying themselves as non-affiliated with religion; in the Netherlands the number was 40%, and the highest we saw was in the Czech Republic, where the number was 60%.”

The team then applied their nonlinear dynamics model, adjusting parameters for the relative social and utilitarian merits of membership of the “non-religious” category.

They found, in a study published online, that those parameters were similar across all the countries studied, suggesting that similar behaviour drives the mathematics in all of them.

And in all the countries, the indications were that religion was headed toward extinction.

However, Dr Wiener told the conference that the team was working to update the model with a “network structure” more representative of the one at work in the world.

“Obviously we don’t really believe this is the network structure of a modern society, where each person is influenced equally by all the other people in society,” he said.

However, he told BBC News that he thought it was “a suggestive result”.

Courtesy of

“It’s interesting that a fairly simple model captures the data, and if those simple ideas are correct, it suggests where this might be going.

“Obviously much more complicated things are going on with any one individual, but maybe a lot of that averages out.”

Judiciary Committee Passes Forbes’ Resolution to Reaffirm National Motto and Uphold Fundamental Rights

Washington, D.C., Mar 17 – Congressman J. Randy Forbes (VA-04) announced today that the House Judiciary Committee has voted in favor of the “In God We Trust Resolution,” H. Con. Res. 13. The resolution, introduced by Forbes and supported by 64 bipartisan Members of Congress, reaffirms the national motto and supports and encourages the public display of the national motto in all public buildings, public schools, and other government institutions. “Today, the House Judiciary Committee asked two simple questions: does the United States still have the right to trust in God, and if so, should it? If the answer is ‘yes’ to both questions, then the truths we declare to be ‘self evident’ and the rights we hold as ‘endowed by our Creator’ are indeed transcendent and cannot be taken away by any government. I applaud the Judiciary Committee for answering ‘yes’ and reaffirming not only our nation’s trust in God, but also our fundamental rights as Americans,” said Forbes. Forbes introduced the “In God We Trust Resolution” in response to a pattern of omitting God from our national heritage: · In 2007, a 17-year old Eagle Scout requested a flag and accompanying certificate in honor of his grandfather mentioning “love of God and country.” The certificate was initially censored until Members of Congress intervened. · Also in 2007, the U.S. Mint circulated an “unknown number” of one-dollar coins omitting the motto, “In God We Trust.” Though the motto was restored, it was relegated to tiny script on the edge of the coin rather than its previous place on the coin’s face. · In 2008, the new Capitol Visitors Center was stripped of the national motto until 108 lawmakers called on the Architect of the Capitol to restore the “In God We Trust” engraving in the main foyer. · The Department of Veterans Affairs temporarily banned flag folding recitations at military funerals that referenced God or religion, even if specifically requested by the family of the deceased. Members penned a letter to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs requesting a reversal of the policy. Soon after, the Department backed off of the ban. · The replica of the top of the Washington Monument contained inside was not properly displayed so that the inscription “Laus Deo,” which means “Praise be to God,” was not fully visible. Members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus wrote the National Park Service, which issued a statement acknowledging the oversight and committing to redesign the display so that the Laus Deo inscription could be seen. “There is a small minority who believes America does not have the right to trust in God, who believes the United States should not affirm trust in God, and who actively seek to remove any recognition of that trust. The passage of this legislation today, along with recent federal court decisions, sends a message that ‘In God We Trust’ is not only written in the halls of our federal buildings, but it is a bedrock upon which our nation is built,” said Forbes. Congressman Forbes is founder and chairman of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, a bipartisan group of over 70 members of Congress whose purpose is to protect America’s religious heritage and the right of all Americans to pray according to their faith.

Trend In Public Schools To Bring Back Prayer

The U.S. Supreme Court may have prohibited the mandatory tradition of prayer in public schools, but their decision doesn’t prohibit schools from offering students to pray on their own initiative, says a Philadelphia councilwoman.

Ever since the 1962 Engel v. Vitale ruling, many public schools have steered clear of prayer, even if student-lead, but there is a new trend to revitalize the practice after years of its ban has proven to be more harmful to society than good.

The issue that prompted the Engel ruling was over New York school children who simply prayed: “Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence on Thee and beg Thy blessing over us, our parents, our teachers and our nation.”

City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, chair of the Committee on Education, said her Philadelphia constituents had requested a hearing over bringing back prayer in school and that she was more than willing to address the topic.  She brought it forth through a resolution which passed last Thursday, according to

The resolution adopted unanimously by the City Council says “Students are free to pray alone or in groups as long as the activity is not disruptive and does not infringe on the rights of others,” and adds that “prayer can promote more virtuous living and may have a positive impact on student behavior.”

Philadelphia is not the only city to consider prayer and meditation for their public schools.  Late last year a federal appeals court paved the way for Chicago schools to institute prayer through the Silent Prayer and Student Reflection Act.

In October 2007, Illinois legislators approved the Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act. The law itself reads:

Sec. 5. Student prayer. In order that the right of every student to the free exercise of religion is guaranteed within the public schools and that each student has the freedom to not be subject to pressure from the State either to engage in or to refrain from religious observation on public school grounds, students in the public schools may voluntarily engage in individually initiated, non-disruptive prayer that, consistent with the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses of the United States and Illinois Constitutions, is not sponsored, promoted, or endorsed in any manner by the school or any school employee. (emphasis added).

Originally, former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich vetoed that measure, saying the Act was a violation of the constitution, but the Illinois Senate countered – voting 42-9 in overwhelming support of the legislation.

The Illinois Act was then challenged in court by an atheist on behalf of his daughter.

The father said the purpose of the legislation “is to get more prayer into the public school classroom, in clear violation of all three prongs of the ‘Lemon Test’ three-part Supreme Court standard for state / church separation. ”

However, in October 2010 the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the Act, giving the green light for students of Chicago to pray in their classrooms.

Andy Norman, attorney with the Illinois Family Institute, a group who filed a friend of the court brief in support of the law, applauded the ruling saying the that periods of silence cannot be interpreted as an establishment of religion.

“This law connects with our nation’s heritage and a clear understanding of the First Amendment,” said Norman. “Students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse door.”

In Texas, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in March 2009 in Croft v. Perry upholding a Texas law that required public school students to observe a daily minute of silence in order to pray, reflect or simply remain quiet.

The provision, which originally took effect in September 2003, changed the way school days begin in Texas, allowing children to “reflect, pray, meditate or engage in any other silent activities” for one minute after the U.S. and Texas pledges of allegiance have been recited.

Solicitor General James Ho, who argued for the State, said the moment of silence fostered patriotism, provided time for contemplation and protected religious freedom.

“In an age where children are bombarded with distractions, beginning each school day with a moment of silence offers a welcome moment of quiet contemplation,” said Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott .

Judge Edith Brown Clement noted in the 5th Circuit ruling that the lawmaker who sponsored the moment-of-silence bill expressed a desire to add prayer to Texas’ existing statute after the 4th Circuit found a similar law in Virginia was constitutional.

Regardless, the unanimous three-judge panel affirmed the lower court’s ruling saying the law is constitutional because it expressly allows any silent use of that minute, whether religious or not.

In the Texas case, a couple sued on behalf of their three children, who were enrolled in the public school system. The Dallas couple contended that including the word “pray” in the mandatory moment of silence law was a way for lawmakers to advance religion in schools.

Liberty Legal Institute, a nonprofit organization that focuses on religious issues, filed a brief supporting the state in the lawsuit.

“We applaud the Fifth Circuit for affirming students’ right to pray while at school,” said Hiram Sasser, the institute’s litigation director.

As far as Philadelphia students are concerned, Blackwell agrees with the other states, saying that encouraging students to pray could also encourage them to think about the social-justice aspects of religion.

“Man naturally wants to help his fellow man,” she said. “I’m hoping that, in 2011, we can foster that feeling of love and being my brother’s keeper.”

Related posts:

  1. Appeals Court: Moment of Silence in Schools is Constitutional
  2. Court Halts Schools Flawed Policy on Student-Prayer Event
  3. N.C. Pastor Fired For “Jesus” Prayer At State Capitol
  4. Appeals Court Says School Officials May Be Personally Liable For Religious Discrimination
  5. N.C. County Will Appeal Ruling That Censors Prayer

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Texas Bill Would Protect College Professors Who Question Evolution

A new Texas bill would make it illegal for colleges to fire or refuse jobs to professors based on their research on intelligent design or other theories on the origin of life that question evolution.

The measure from Republican state Rep. Bill Zedler would prohibit public institutions of higher education from discriminating against or penalizing faculty members or students, in regard to employment or academic support, based on their “conduct of research relating to the theory of intelligent design or other alternate theories of the origination and development of organisms.”

The bill, HB 2454, was received by the Higher Education Committee earlier this week.

Researchers who study intelligent design deserve the same academic freedom as those who support evolution, said a spokesman for Discovery Institute, an intelligent design think tank based in Seattle, Wash.

“Without academic freedom to follow the evidence where it leads, science cannot progress,” Casey Luskin, program officer in Public Policy and Legal Affairs at Discovery Institute, told The Christian Post.

Luskin said there is a “widespread pattern of discrimination” against intelligent design proponents, pointing to several cases in Texas.

In 2007, Baylor University shut down an evolutionary informatics lab by professor Robert Marks after administrators learned he was doing pro-ID research. The lab was forced to move from the university server to a third-party server. The incident was documented in Ben Stein’s “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.”

Another incident at Baylor a few years ago involved the Michael Polanyi Center, considered to be the first intelligent design think tank at a major research university. Headed by leading ID-theorist William Dembski, a senior fellow of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, the center was also shut down due to intolerance of the pro-ID viewpoint.

The cases of discrimination aren’t just limited to college teachers, according to Luskin. Students could be counted as committing academic suicide for not subscribing to a neo-Darwinian evolution viewpoint.

Michael Dini, a biology professor at Texas Tech University, states on his website that he does not write letters of recommendation for students applying to medical or graduate school if they did not accept neo-Darwinian evolution.

Dini explains the reason for this criteria: “The central, unifying principle of biology is the theory of evolution, which includes both micro- and macroevolution, and which extends to ALL species.”

“Someone who ignores the most important theory in biology cannot expect to properly practice in a field that is now so heavily based on biology,” he writes.

The professor adds that the criteria for a letter of recommendation are not meant to discriminate against anyone’s personal beliefs but are to “help insure that a student who wishes my recommendation uses scientific thinking to answer scientific questions.”

Luskin disagreed with Dini’s policy.

“His policy is patently discriminatory because it refuses to treat students on an equal basis if they scientifically disagree with Darwinian macroevolution,” stated Luskin.

The intelligent design proponent said scientists fight antibiotic resistance by observing that there are limits to Darwinian evolution.

“We use drug cocktails to combat antibiotic or antiviral drug resistance because there are limits to the amount of evolution that can take place in a bacteria or virus,” he said.

“One can be a good physician and disagree with Darwinian macroevolution.”

HB 2454 requires a two-thirds vote to pass in the House.

Courtesy of

Federal Court Enjoins Enforcement of Notorious ACLU Consent Decree in Santa Rosa County, FL

Pensacola, FL – Today, Federal District Court Judge M. Casey Rodgers granted in part a Preliminary Injunction in favor of twenty-four clients of Liberty Counsel, and granted a request for hearing on their remaining claims. The case attracted national attention when the ACLU attempted to punish and even jail local school administrators and staff for praying over their meal. The ACLU pressured the Santa Rosa County (Florida) School Board into a Consent Decree that unconstitutionally forbids all manner of religious expression at school, right down to the mere uttering of the words “God Bless.” After vindicating the school officials charged with criminal contempt for prayer, Liberty Counsel filed suit to invalidate the unconstitutional Consent Decree. The School District joined hands with the ACLU in defending the Consent Decree, and both asked the Court to dismiss Liberty Counsel’s challenge.

Today, Judge Rodgers denied the motions to dismiss and concluded that the lawsuit must be allowed to proceed. Affirming Liberty Counsel’s long-standing position that the Consent Decree unconstitutionally bans the private speech of teachers, students, parents and community members at school, the Court concluded that “confusion exists regarding when [school employees] are acting in their official capacity, subject to the restrictions in the consent decree and other school policies, or when they are free to act or speak in a private capacity at school events.” In a blow to the ACLU’s argument that its Consent Decree was clear, the Court further concluded that “substantial confusion exists regarding what speech or conduct is permitted during school events.”

A trial on the merits will occur in mid-summer. In the meantime, Judge Rodgers concluded that even though “a preliminary injunction is an extraordinary and drastic remedy,” one aspect of the Consent Decree – its attempt to prohibit school employees from fully participating in private baccalaureate events – is so flawed that it must be immediately stopped. The Court thus enjoined the School Board “from enforcing any school policy that restrains in any way an employee’s participation in, or speech or conduct during, a private religious service, including baccalaureate” pending the trial on the merits.

Mathew D. Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented: “We are thrilled that the court has halted the School District and the ACLU from violating the constitutional rights of school employees. School employees do not lose their constitutional rights as a precondition to receiving a government paycheck. The ACLU-crafted Consent Degree is outrageous and blatantly unconstitutional. It literally attempted to criminalize Christianity. We are pleased that this assault on the Constitution has been halted.”