Faithandthelaw's Blog

The law as it relates to Christians and their free exercise of religion

Archive for April, 2013

Parks Services Reverses Decision – Permits Woman To Distribute Free Bibles

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on April 26, 2013

bible-e1365853008275A Louisiana woman who was ordered by Park Rangers to stop giving away free Bible at her farmer’s market stand, will now be permitted to after some timely legal assistance led to the Park Services Department reversing its decision.

According to reports:

“I was really just elated,” the woman, Shirley Elliott, told The Christian Post. “I was just happy that I could do what I felt like I needed to do, and what the Lord wants me to do.” Elliott says she always kept Bibles in her car to give to others, but found the Thibodaux Farmer’s Market near Jean Lafitte National Historic Park to be an ideal place to offer them to shoppers. She has been selling produce and homemade jellies at the market since 2011, according to Liberty Counsel, and in 2012 she set out the books along with a sign indicating they were free. But in December she was told by a park ranger that she could no longer offer the Bibles at her stand because “they were on federal property,” and she was instructed that she could hand them out in a separate area designated for literature distribution. (source).

Rather than give up her desire to share the Gospel at her stand, Elliot contacted the Liberty Counsel a legal advocacy group which represents Christian victims of religious discrimination. Liberty Counsel attorney Richard Mast Jr. wrote a letter to Carol Clark, superintendent of the park. In the letter he advised of why the park’s decision amounted to viewpoint discrimination. According to the park’s own policies, non-profit distribution of literature that pertains to education, youth and nutrition is permitted. And thus preventing a licensed vendor from giving away free Bibles to those who choose to take them would be discrimination solely on the basis of its religious nature.

Thankfully the letter led to a swift resolution of the matter:

Clark responded with a letter to Liberty Counsel in which she called the situation a “misunderstanding.”  “The NPS (National Park Service) respects the right of vendors to make free religious materials available,” wrote Clark. “Please assure Ms. Elliott that she is welcome to offer free Bibles at her produce and homemade jellies table.” (source).

Christian perseuction in the United States of America | Park Services Bans bible distribution.

The Bible has returned to the Farmers Market.

The efforts to silence the voice of Christianity is becoming so vociferous that even a woman giving away free Bibles at a food stand is subject to persecution. Jesus Christ prophesied that this persecution would take place and even His own disciples faced it during their ministry:

Then came one and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people. Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned. And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him. – Acts 5:25-32.

Pray for Christians to continue to exercise their right of free speech to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the unbelieving world. As it grows more hostile to the Bible’s message (while accommodating and embracing other faiths), it is even more urgent to share the message of forgiveness of sins and eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ.

Courtesy of http://beginningandend.com/parks-services-reverses-decision-permits-woman-to-distribute-free-bibles/

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Atheist Group Loses Lawsuit Challenging Prayers at Florida City Commission Meetings

Posted by faithandthelaw on April 16, 2013

Downtown-Lakeland-FLLakeland, Florida – A Florida atheist group has lost their court challenge surrounding prayers that are offered during Lakeland’s City Commission meetings.

Atheists of Florida had filed a lawsuit against the City of Lakeland and its mayor, Gow Field, in 2010, contending that the prayers that preceded each meeting violated the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution. The organization states that it sat in on a meeting in March 2010 and complained that the prayer was clearly Christian. It requested that the City have a moment of silence instead.

In its lawsuit, the group noted that prayers at the meetings include phrases such as “in the name of Jesus Christ,” “our Savior,” “the King of kings” and “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

A month after filing in district court, officials opened up the prayers to all religions in an effort to end the dispute. However, a year later, Atheists of Florida stated that it was not yet satisfied as the prayers were still predominantly Christian. One Muslim and two Jews had reportedly participated in a year’s time.

A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit against the City, and Atheists of Florida appealed to the 11th Circuit. This week, the court upheld the ruling of the lower court, stating that the prayers — according to the new policy — were not unconstitutional.

“The selection procedures of the invocational speakers invited to deliver an invocation at Lakeland City Commission’s meetings pursuant to policies and practices initiated informally in March 2010, which were codified with the passage of Resolution 4848 in August 2010, do not support the AOF’s contention that Lakeland attempted to exploit the prayer opportunity to proselytize or advance or disparage any one faith or belief,” wrote Judge Arthur Alarcon on behalf of the panel. “Nor do those policies and practices have the effect of affiliating the Lakeland City Commission with any discrete faith or belief.”

“Accordingly, we are persuaded that the district court did not err in granting Lakeland’s motion for summary judgment with regard to Lakeland’s policies and practices for the selection of speakers since March 2010 and codified in Resolution 4848,” he concluded.

The judges advised, however, that they lacked jurisdiction to decide Atheists of Florida’s contention that the prayers were unlawful prior to the new policy.

“For the same reasons, the district court lacked jurisdiction, and we vacate that portion of the district court’s judgment addressing the merits of AOF’s challenge to the pre-March 2010 prayer practice and remand for the district court to dismiss that portion of the challenge as moot,” Alcaron wrote.

“We were elated to hear the news earlier today on the court’s ruling,” stated Lakeland Mayor Gow Fields following the decision. “I believe very strongly that this was a very important message to make: That the Constitution applies to those that want to exercise their right to offer an invocation for heavenly guidance for their elected officials.”

The Lakeland City Commission has been opening its meetings with prayer since 1951.

Courtesy of http://christiannews.net/2013/03/28/atheist-group-loses-lawsuit-challenging-prayers-at-florida-city-commission-meetings/

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American Pastor Imprisoned in Iran Given Ultimatum to Deny Christ or Remain in Prison

Posted by faithandthelaw on April 15, 2013

abedini-aclj-300x225An American pastor who was sentenced to eight years in an Iranian prison for planting house churches in the country says that officials in Iran have given him the ultimatum to either deny Christ or remain incarcerated.

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which has been working for the pastor’s release, reports that they have obtained a new letter written by Saeed Abedini, which outlines the pressure that he is facing behind bars.

“‘Deny your faith in Jesus Christ and return to Islam or else you will not be released from prison. We will make sure you are kept here even after your 8 year sentence is finished.’ These are the threats that prison officials throw at me,” the pastor writes. “My response to them is Romans 8:35-39.”

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” the Scripture cited by Abedini reads. “As it is written, ‘For Thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

“The reality of Christian living is that difficulties or problems do arise in our lives,” he continues. “Persecution and difficulties are not new occurrences, but are seen often in the Christian life. It is through the suffering and tribulations that we are to enter the Kingdom of God.”

The ACLJ outlines that while Abedini’s physical strength is growing weak because of the brutal conditions in prison, his faith remains strong and is “what is keeping him alive.”

As previously reported, 32-year-old Abedini, who resides in Idaho with his wife and children, has been incarcerated in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison since late September for allegedly threatening the national security of Iran by planting house churches in the country a decade ago, and for attempting to turn youth in the nation away from Islam and toward Christianity. He had traveled to Iran to build an orphanage last fall, and was about to return to the states when he was taken into custody.

“When I saw my family for the first time behind the glass walls, I could see my mom four meters away. As she approached me and saw my face, she broke down and could not get closer. She was crying,” he wrote in a letter released last month. “I understood what she felt because after weeks of being in solitary confinement in Evin Prison, I also got to see my face in the mirror of an elevator that was taking me to the prison hospital. I said hi to the person staring back at me because I did not recognize myself. My hair was shaven, under my eyes were swollen three times what they should have been, my face was swollen, and my beard had grown.”

The ACLJ is asking for Christians around the world to send a note of encouragement to Abedini while he is incarcerated.

“We must let him know that we will never forget him and will never stop working for his release,” it states, noting that 20,000 people have already submitted correspondence for the pastor. “This has already quickly become one of the largest letter writing campaigns ever.”

Information on the Save Saeed campaign may be found at savesaeed.org.

Courtesy of http://christiannews.net/2013/04/14/american-pastor-imprisoned-in-iran-given-ultimatum-to-deny-christ-or-remain-in-prison/

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Pro-Life Group Granted Rights as Official Student Club of Johns Hopkins University

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on April 11, 2013

Guernsey_Fernandez_1ANN ARBOR, MI – The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC) a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan announced this morning that the Student Government Association (SGA) Judiciary Committee of Johns Hopkins University (JHU) issued a unanimous decision late yesterday evening overturning a SGA ruling that denied recognition to Voice for Life (VFL) as an official student club of the University.

TMLC, whose mission includes defending the constitutional rights of pro-life groups and individuals, representing VFL, authored an April 4th letter to top Johns Hopkins University officials and the SGA Judiciary Committee laying out the legal basis requiring recognition of VFL. However, Andrew Guernsey, VFL’s president and Chris Fernandez, VFL’s treasurer, presented VFL’s case to the SGA Judiciary Committee last night.

Responding to the decision, Andrew Guernsey commented: “We commend the SGA Judiciary for honoring Johns Hopkins’ institutional commitment to free speech by overturning Voice for Life’s rejection by the SGA Senate. Today is a victory not only for pro-life students here at Johns Hopkins, but for pro-life students around the country. We hope that our story of rising above discriminatory opposition can inspire pro-life students around the country to courageously take a stand for life and speak truth to power at their own college campuses.”

Continued Guernsey, “On behalf of JHU Voice for Life, I wish to thank all our supporters in the Hopkins-Baltimore community and around the country. I especially want to express my gratitude to Students for Life, FIRE, and the Thomas More Law Center for their support in helping us win approval from the SGA. It is important that pro-life students like us who face unjust discrimination on their college campuses know that they are not alone, and that there are powerful resources to help them win the battle for free speech in order to win the war of defending the dignity of every human life.”

Monica Rex, Vice President of JHU VFL, added: “Now that the SGA Judiciary Committee has approved us, we are ready to begin the real work of saving lives! While the road was difficult, we have learned just how much this fight for life means to us, and how important it is that students at Johns Hopkins have the opportunity to hear our pro-life message. Johns Hopkins has always stood for the very best in higher education, and we look forward to bringing our pro-life message to future leaders in the medical industry here at Hopkins.”

On March 12th, SGA denied VFL’s application for official recognition as a student club on the grounds that VFL’s intention to peacefully engage in sidewalk counseling off campus at a Baltimore abortion facility violates the University’s anti-Harassment and Code of Conduct policies, and that VFL’s website includes a link to the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform’s website, which features images of aborted preborn babies, considered by members of the SGA to be “offensive”.

The SGA March 12th denial was affirmed by the SGA Senate on March 24th. VFL filed an appeal with the student Judiciary Committee.

Richard Thompson, TMLC’s President and Chief Counsel, commented: “This is a great example of courageous students facing tremendous opposition, sticking to their deeply held pro-life principles and advancing those principles based on their right to free speech so deeply engrained in our culture, enshrined in our constitution, and fostered at Johns Hopkins University.”

 

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Federal Judge Throws Out Atheist Lawsuit Seeking to Remove 9/11 Cross From NYC Museum

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on April 1, 2013

aaacross11Manhattan, New York – A federal judge appointed by former president Bill Clinton has thrown out a lawsuit filed by a national atheist organization that sought to remove a steel beam cross from the 9/11 Museum in New York City because it promoted Christianity.

As previously reported, the group American Atheists stated that the cross, which was found in the rubble following the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, has caused individuals to suffer “depression, headaches, anxiety, and mental pain and anguish,” and even indigestion. It had filed suit against numerous responsible parties, including the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“This shrine is a cross. It was picked up, trimmed, polished, the word ‘Jesus’ was carved on top of it, it was prayed over in front of a church for five years, and then it was installed in the WTC memorial with no warning by a priest in a religious service where in the ground was consecrated,” stated David Silverman, the president of the organization. “This is a working Christian shrine in the memorial, and then they had the gall to say it’s not religious in nature, that it represents everybody. That’s not true. It does not represent Jews, Muslims, Mormons or atheists, and they all had deaths on 9/11.”

He also claimed that the cross was problematic because it was stationed on public land.

 

Attorneys for the museum filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit last August, and have been waiting on an answer from the court ever since. Area residents who supported the display stated that they were upset by the legal challenge.

“I’m angry that we are being forced to defend this,” 9/11 survivor Joe O’Connor told reporters. “It was very important to the people who were down there at the time.”

“They’re trying to [take away symbols of hope] a little at a time with these frivolous lawsuits,” he said. “Our country needs to stand tall. It’s so much easier to destroy than to create things.”

On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Deborah Batts, appointed by Bill Clinton, rejected the arguments of American Atheists regarding its belief that “the government enshrinement of the cross” excluded non-Christians from being recognized in the tragedy. She dismissed the group’s lawsuit, stating that the cross served both a “historic and secular purpose.”

“No reasonable observer would view the artifact as endorsing Christianity,” Batts wrote. “[The museum curators] have not advanced religion impermissibly, and the cross does not create excessive entanglement between the state and religion.”

American Atheists says it is disappointed in the outcome.

“We are angry that we have to have this fight,” Silverman told CNN. “We will not sit and let the 500 atheists who died on 9/11 go unnoticed.”

He plans on filing an appeal in the case.

Museum curators state that they are elated with Batts’ ruling.

“[I am thankful that the court] agrees that the display of the World Trade Center Cross is not a constitutional violation but is in fact a crucial part of the 9/11 Memorial Museum’s mission of preserving the true history of 9/11,” president Joe Daniels told reporters.

“The museum is gratified by the decision,” added attorney Mark Alcott. “The plan has been to display this as one of hundreds and hundreds of artifacts … because it is part of the history of the recovery efforts after the 911 attacks.”

“For some of these people, [the cross indeed] had symbolic significance,” he acknowledged, referring to the first responders on the scene. “They treated it as a religious object and it gave them a great deal of comfort at a difficult time. The 9/11 museum is simply depicting what happened.”

Courtesy of http://christiannews.net/2013/03/30/federal-judge-throws-out-atheist-lawsuit-seeking-to-remove-911-cross-from-nyc-museum/

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