Month: May 2013

Florida County Backtracks From Fines Against Open Homes Fellowship

orlandoOrlando, FL – After Liberty Counsel sent a demand letter to the Orange County Code Enforcement Board, the county dropped more than $50,000 in fees, property liens, and a notice of foreclosure levied against the non-profit Open Homes Fellowship, a Christian ministry with a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program. Now, the organization will pay just $325. Open Homes has served the local community for 25 years and operates a Christian, nine-month program that has higher success rates against drug and alcohol relapse than do comparable secular programs. An Open Homes Fellowship rehabilitation residence was damaged by fire. Despite the best efforts of Open Homes and of volunteer workers, construction related to the fire damage lasted longer than the initial two month deadline and six month extension granted by the county, resulting in excessive fines against the charitable organization.

When Open Homes decided to rebuild, the board granted it just two months to finish all the necessary repairs, which unavoidably included finding money and volunteers for the non-profit’s unexpected repair project. Open Homes attended a hearing and was granted another six months, with the standard fine of $150 per day accruing thereafter. When it became apparent that they would not be finished on time, they attended the next board meeting and showed good progress. The board instructed Open Homes to finish repairs by “early next year” and that, once “all the appropriate permits are filed, more than likely we’ll come back, and I’m sure that a reasonable settlement will be made at that time.” Repairs were finished in Spring 2013 after Open Homes spent nearly $25,000 in materials and approximately $70,000 in donated labor. Open Homes was then assessed a $50,400 fine and served with a foreclosure notice from the county.

Liberty Counsel pointed out that in a similar case in the same neighborhood, the board had waived about $1 million in fines that accrued over an eight-year period. However, with Open Homes, Orange County submitted notice of foreclosure less than two years after the fire and while Open Homes was still within the most recent timeframe given by the board. Apparently, Open Homes was caught in the middle of a conflict between the board and the building inspection department. Several years ago Liberty Counsel filed suit against Orange Country when officials tried to revoke Open Homes’ license to operate. Liberty Counsel won that case and the County had to pay more than $50,000.

“Government boards and officials at all levels need to fairly apply the law, ” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. Charles Camorata, Director of Open Homes said, “It is so wonderful to have Liberty Counsel in our corner.”

Liberty Counsel is an international non-profit litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.

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Pentagon May Court Martial Soldiers Who Share Christian Faith

flouThe Pentagon has released a statement confirming that soldiers could be prosecuted for promoting their faith: “Religious proselytization is not permitted within the Department of Defense…Court martials and non-judicial punishments are decided on a case-by-case basis…”.

The statement, released to Fox News, follows a Breitbart News report on Obama administration Pentagon appointees meeting with anti-Christian extremist Mikey Weinstein to develop court-martial procedures to punish Christians in the military who express or share their faith.

(From our earlier report: Weinstein is the head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, and says Christians–including chaplains–sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ in the military are guilty of “treason,” and of committing an act of “spiritual rape” as serious a crime as “sexual assault.” He also asserted that Christians sharing their faith in the military are “enemies of the Constitution.”)

Being convicted in a court martial means that a soldier has committed a crime under federal military law. Punishment for a court martial can include imprisonment and being dishonorably discharged from the military.

So President Barack Obama’s civilian appointees who lead the Pentagon are confirming that the military will make it a crime–possibly resulting in imprisonment–for those in uniform to share their faith. This would include chaplains—military officers who are ordained clergymen of their faith (mostly Christian pastors or priests, or Jewish rabbis)–whose duty since the founding of the U.S. military under George Washington is to teach their faith and minister to the spiritual needs of troops who come to them for counsel, instruction, or comfort.

This regulation would severely limit expressions of faith in the military, even on a one-to-one basis between close friends. It could also effectively abolish the position of chaplain in the military, as it would not allow chaplains (or any service members, for that matter), to say anything about their faith that others say led them to think they were being encouraged to make faith part of their life. It’s difficult to imagine how a member of the clergy could give spiritual counseling without saying anything that might be perceived in that fashion.

In response to the Pentagon’s plans, retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, who is now executive vice president of the Family Research Council (FRC), said on Fox & Friends Wednesday morning:

It’s a matter of what do they mean by “proselytizing.” …I think they’ve got their defintions a little confused. If you’re talking about coercion that’s one thing, but if you’re talking about the free exercise of our faith as individual soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, especially for the chaplains, they I think the worst thing we can do is stop the ability for a soldier to be able to exercise his faith.”

FRC has launched a petition here which has already collected over 30,000 signatures, calling on Secretary Hagel is stop working with Weinstein and his anti-Christian organization to develop military policy regarding religious faith.


The FRC petition has now exceeded more than 40,000 signatures at the time of this update.

Breitbart News legal columnist Ken Klukowski is senior fellow for religious liberty with the Family Research Council and on faculty at Liberty University School of Law. 

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