Faithandthelaw's Blog

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

Archive for April, 2014

Churches and Government Facilities: A Battleground for the Gospel

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on April 28, 2014

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Two cases in Hawaii and New York City threaten the long tradition of churches using public school facilities. From the very beginning of the United States, churches have used government facilities for worship services. In 1795, a church used the United States Capitol building just two years after the cornerstone was laid and before Congress officially began meeting in the building. In fact, worship services were held in the Capitol building until around the time of the Civil War.

In the pioneer era, it was commonplace for church worship services to be held in public school buildings and for public schools to be held in church buildings. Indeed, it makes a great deal of sense for churches and schools to occupy the same physical space given that churches generally operate at times when schools are not in session and vice versa.

Despite this long history and the fact that church use of governmental buildings has not led our country any closer to establishing a national religion, there are forces that do not want churches to use school buildings for religious worship.

In one case, Alliance Defending Freedom has been representing the Bronx Household of Faith in New York City for close to 20 years. The New York City public schools established a policy that allows community groups to use school facilities but prohibits using them for religious worship. The case has bounced back and forth between the trial court and the appeals court in New York several times. In the most recent ruling, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the school’s policy excluding religious worship was constitutional. Alliance Defending Freedom appealed that ruling to the full Court of Appeals and will continue to fight for the ability of churches to use school facilities equally. Churches should not be discriminated against simply because they are religious.

In another case, Alliance Defending Freedom represents two Hawaii churches who were sued by atheists, claiming that the churches knowingly underpaid rental fees to the schools they were using. The lawsuit filed was brought under the state’s False Claims Act, which allows insiders who possess confidential information of fraud to file a whistleblower lawsuit to recover the money on behalf of the state and to assess triple damages. If successful, the atheists get to keep a portion of the money they recovered, and they are asking for an award of several million dollars. But the churches paid all the rent they were charged, and the Department of Education knew about the charges and payments by the churches. Alliance Defending Freedom asked the trial court to dismiss this lawsuit. Churches should not be bullied into giving up their right to equal use of government buildings.

These lawsuits are just a few of the attacks against churches using school facilities. So how should a church respond? Should they abandon any attempts to use school facilities for worship services?

No. This approach disregards the many startup churches who can only afford to rent government school facilities. It also ignores that in places like Hawaii and New York City, property is at a premium with frequently nowhere for churches to meet other than public buildings. And it overlooks the rich history of complementary use of government buildings by churches since the very beginning of this country.

Churches should not be pushed out of public spaces simply because some find the message of the Gospel “offensive.” Nor should churches themselves voluntarily abandon the public square where the proclamation of the Gospel message is sorely needed.

Alliance Defending Freedom has attorneys willing to defend a church’s right to have equal access to government facilities and not be subject to intimidation tactics seeking to forcibly remove churches. If you or your church are facing threats or encountering problems regarding use of governmental facilities, please contact us so an attorney can review your situation.

Courtesy of http://blog.speakupmovement.org/church/uncategorized/churches-and-government-facilities-a-battleground-for-the-gospel/

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Posted in Attack on Christianity, Faith Issues in Our Times, Religious Freedom | Leave a Comment »

No honor in his hometown: Jesus not welcome in Nazareth school

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on April 8, 2014

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Alliance Defending Freedom filed a federal lawsuit Monday against a Pennsylvania school district on behalf of a 1st grade student and his parents. In February, Nazareth Area School District unconstitutionally prohibited the student from distributing St. Valentine’s Day cards to his classmates because the cards contained a note that mentioned God and included the Bible verse John 3:16 after a sentence about the history of St. Valentine’s Day.

“Public schools ought to encourage, not suppress, the free exchange of ideas, including those communicated through Valentine’s Day cards. A Bible verse and a reference to God does not make such a card unconstitutional,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Sharp. “Religious expression is just as protected by the First Amendment as other messages that students communicate.”

“To single out a faith-based message for censorship is exactly the type of hostility to religion that the First Amendment forbids,” added ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “We hope the school district will revise its policies to respect the constitutionally protected free speech of its students and make ongoing litigation unnecessary.”

In February, the parents of the 1st grader helped him assemble the cards for “Friendship Day,” the politically correct name the school district uses for St. Valentine’s Day. The cards included a note that stated, “Happy Valentine’s Day! St. Valentine was imprisoned and martyred for presiding over marriages and for spreading the news of God’s love. In honor of St. Valentine’s Day, I want you to know that God loves you!!! ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but have eternal life.’ John 3:16.”

When the student arrived with his cards at Floyd R. Shafer Elementary School in Nazareth, his teacher noticed the faith-based notes and brought them to the attention of the school’s principal, William Mudlock. Mudlock ordered them removed because of their religious nature and because they contained a Bible verse, telling the student’s parents that they could be “offensive” to others.

At a meeting with the student’s parents, Mudlock explained that the child’s note sought to “establish the supremacy” of his faith over others as prohibited by school district policy. He pointed to NASD Policy 220 on “Unprotected Student Expression,” which states that the school officials can prohibit student expression that seeks “to establish the supremacy of a particular religious denomination, sect or point of view.”

The complaint filed in J.A. v. Nazareth Area School District with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania explains that the same federal court struck down an identically worded policy at another Pennsylvania school district in 2008, saying that such policies “restrict what effectively amounts to all religious speech, which is clearly not permissible under the First Amendment.”

Ted Hoppe, one of nearly 2,300 attorneys allied with Alliance Defending Freedom, is serving as local counsel in the case.

Posted in Attack on Christianity, Faith Issues in Our Times, Hot Legal News, Religious Freedom | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Officials In Laos Tell Christians To Renounce Faith In Jesus Christ Or Be Deported

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on April 2, 2014

Laos-Map-Christian-PersecutionImagine being told that if you did not give up your faith in Jesus Christ that you would be forced out of your town and lose all of your property. That is precisely what a group of Christian families in three villages in the nation of Laos were told by their government officials after it was discovered that they were meeting regularly for home Bible study and worship.

According to reports:

Local authorities in Laos are threatening Christians in three villages with expulsion unless they renounce their faith, with residents in one village calling the converts “pigs and dogs,” according to an advocacy organization.
In a public meeting of Christians and others in Huay village of Atsaphangthong District, Savannakhet Province, local officials on Saturday (Sept. 21) ruled that Christians will be expelled for converting away from indigenous beliefs and practices, a representative from Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF) told Morning Star News.
“The Christians shared with us that they were called ‘pigs and dogs’ by those who attended the village meeting,” said the representative, who requested anonymity. “The Christians met among themselves and made a decision to reject the authorities’ decision.” (source).

 

The conflict with local authorites started in the Nongdaeng village in Borikan District, Borikhamsai Province. A Christian told the HRWLRF representative that on August 30th, local officials threatened 11 families with eviction if they did not renounce Christ. “They charged these Lao Christians with believing the religion of a foreign Western power, which is considered destructive to the Lao nation,” the representative said in a press statement. “Officials expressed their intention that no Christian faith can be adhered to or practiced in Nongdaeng.”

Despite the threats from their local chiefs, the 11 families continued to meet for house worship. On September 14th, the local official called a meeting for all residents and announced: “You Christians should stop believing in the Christian faith. If you want to lose your homes and your properties and be deported [evicted], then you go ahead and continue with your Christian faith.”

In Savannakhet Province, in the village of Nonsung in Phin District a similar meeting was called by the local official. At the meeting the Christians were ordered to participate in pagan rituals such as taking an oath to animist spirits and drinking water that had been “cleansed” by a medium who called on spirits to purify it. They refused and were also threatened with deportation.

“The tactic is however being used against Christians elsewhere. In Allowmai, which is just eight kilometers away from Vongseekaew, six Christian families, along with their pastor, Bounlert, were ordered on 18 October to take an oath with sacred water in order to be allowed to remain in the village.”

Christians in Laos told to renounce faith | Watchlist persecution no media coverage

The group went on to say that Pastor Bounlert was detained in September along with four other Christian leaders; two of them were released after two days. The provincial authorities subsequently ordered the release of Bounlert, Adang and Onkaew, saying that their arrest by the district police was unjustified. But the police have kept the pastors in custody and threatened to imprison them for two to three more years if Christians in Allowmai do not perform the rituals.
Christian leaders in Savannakhet province believe that the police are trying to force Christians to recant their faith through taking part in the spirit rituals because they were unsuccessful in pursuing legal action against the pastors. (source).

Pray For The Church in Laos

Christians in Laos told to renounce faith | Watchlist persecution no media coverage

 

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. – Matthew 5:10-12.

It may seem hard to believe that this level of persecution is taking place, but it is just one example in an alarming trend of Christian persecution worldwide. Laos, with a population of approximately 6 million, is 1.5% Christian (the majority of the country is Buddhist or follows a mix of Buddhism and animist religions). As a very small minority, the door is open wide for Christians to be oppressed, beaten, jailed and even killed for their faith. Open Doors USA, an international Christian aid group lists Laos as the 18th worst country in the world for Christian persecution.

Pray for the Christians in Laos – for their safety, that they can remain in their homes and most importantly for their faith. They are living a Christian life that puts their livelihood and life on the line every day. Pray that God will sustain them and strengthen them in the face of persecution, and that they will continue to proclaim the name of Jesus Christ and share His Gospel. And pray for your own faith and other Christians to show the same resolve and boldness in the face of far less opposition. Lord willing, those who were once enemies of God, will come to know and receive free forgiveness and eternal life in the name of Jesus Christ.

Courtesy of http://beginningandend.com/officials-in-laos-tell-christians-to-renounce-faith-in-jesus-christ-or-be-deported/

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