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US Supreme Court Argument Preview: Religion, Rights, and the Workplace

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on March 20, 2014

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At 10 a.m. next Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hold ninety minutes of oral argument on the government’s authority to require private businesses to provide birth control and other pregnancy-related services to their employees under the Affordable Care Act.  Arguing for the challengers to the so-called “contraceptive mandate” will be Paul D. Clement, of the Washington, D.C., law firm of Bancroft PLLC.  Defending the mandate will be U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr.   Each will have forty-five minutes of time, under an order issued Thursday expanding the time beyond the normal amount.  The consolidated cases areSebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius.

Background

For the first time since the broad new federal health care law partially survived its most sweeping constitutional challenge in the Supreme Court nearly two years ago, the Affordable Care Act comes up for a new test before the Justices.  This time, the Court will be examining whether the government may enforce against private businesses owned by religiously devout owners the requirement that employee health plans provide no-cost coverage for women’s pregnancy-related services, including birth control.

These services, required under the so-called “contraceptive mandate” in the Act and in government regulations, are not themselves in legal trouble:  the only issue before the Court at this point is which businesses can be ordered to provide the services to their female workers at no cost to them.

That issue will be debated by two of the legal gladiators who met in the last test at the Court of the Affordable Care Act:  Washington attorney Paul D. Clement, a former U.S. Solicitor General, and the current Solicitor General, Donald B. Verrilli, Jr.

There probably would be a significant loophole in the contraceptive mandate’s reach if the challengers win.  Some women’s rights groups have estimated that millions of women would be affected.  Female workers of the two companies involved and those of other religiously oriented companies would have to cover personally the cost of at least some of the birth-control services — unless the government were to set up a new program on its own to do so, which is a very unlikely prospect.

Thus, the two cases that the Court has combined for review set up a direct conflict between the interests of some employers against those of their female workers of child-bearing age.  The federal government is clearly on the workers’ side, but the lower federal courts have been divided on who should win.

The dispute only involves private businesses because religious groups, as such, are given an exemption by regulations the government has issued.  Even some businesses get exemptions, too, because their employee health plans have been “grandfathered,” but before long those, too, will actually have to provide the benefits at issue, or face heavy financial penalties.

At the level of their greatest potential, the two cases raise the profound cultural question of whether a private, profit-making business organized as a corporation can “exercise” religion and, if it can, how far that is protected from government interference.  The question can arise — and does, in these cases — under either the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause or under a federal law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed by Congress in 1993.

In a manner of speaking, these issues pose the question — a topic of energetic debate in current American political and social discourse — of whether corporations are “people.”  The First Amendment protects the rights “of the people,” and the 1993 law protects the religious rights of “persons.”  Do profit-making companies qualify as either?

Aside from whether corporations do have any religious rights, as such, the cases also raise the question whether the religious rights of their owners — real people, who undeniably can act according to their faith — are violated by the requirement that their companies obey the contraceptive mandate.  Ordinarily, in business law, corporations are separate from their owners, but the owners in these cases resist that notion, at least so far as the owners’ religious views actually shape the business of their companies.

No one doubts that the owners of the two companies have sincere religious objections to some forms of birth control or that their beliefs do counsel them to avoid any role in providing those services to their employees.  The companies and their owners do not have to convince the Court that that is what they believe — only whether that belief controls enforcement, or not, of the mandate.

One company is Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., and a related company, Mardel, Inc.  Headquartered in Oklahoma City, the two companies are owned — through a trust — by members of the Green family.   Hobby Lobby is a chain of more than 500 arts-and-crafts stores across the country, with more than 13,000 employees.  Mardel is a chain of Christian book stores, with 35 outlets and about 400 employees.

The Green family members signed a formal commitment to run the two chains according to Christian religious principles — closing on Sunday, advertising their religious orientation, and playing religious music in the stores.   The owners and their stores do not object to every part of the contraceptive mandate, but they do object to the use of any drugs or intrauterine devices that — in the words of their lawyers — “end human life after conception.”

They have estimated that, if they follow their faith and violate the mandate, they face fines of about $1.3 million a day, or almost $475 million a year.  They believe that cancelling their health plan to avoid obeying the mandate would put them at a competitive disadvantage with other employers.   They do not believe that the government can force them to make such choices.

The other company is Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., a company based in East Earl, Pennsylvania, that also has operations in other states, making wooden cabinets and wood specialty products.  It has about 950 employees.

The company is owned by members of the Hahn family, who are Mennonite Christians.  Their faith teaches them that it is wrong to take a human life and to prevent its creation through drugs and intrauterine devices  If the company or its owners were to violate the mandate to adhere to their beliefs, they estimate that they would face financial penalties of about $35 million a year.

Federal appeals courts ruled in conflicting ways.  The U.S. Court of Appeals f0r the Tenth Circuit decided that Hobby Lobby was likely to win its challenge because, even though it is a profit-making business, it can, indeed, act according to faith principles.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit decided that neither the company, Conestoga Wood Specialties, nor its owners could claim First Amendment religious rights — because, it found, the corporation is incapable of doing so, and because the owners had chosen the corporate form for their business and it stands apart from their personal interests.

Petitions for certiorari

The federal government asked the Supreme Court to review the Hobby Lobby case, while the Hahn family and their woodworking company did the same in their case.  As offered to the Justices, the two cases together raise both the First Amendment religious rights question and the RFRA statutory issue, as to both the companies and their owners.

The First Amendment provides that no law may be passed, at any level of government, that prohibits “the free exercise of religion.”  RFRA provides that government agencies (only at the federal level, since the Act no longer applies at the state and local levels) may not impose a “substantial burden” on the religious exercise of “a person,” even if the law is one that everyone ordinarily must obey, unless the government can justify the burden to satisfy a “compelling government interest,” and only if it is the “least restrictive means” of doing so.  It does not specifically define “person.”

On November 26, the Court agreed to review both cases and consolidated them for review.

Briefs on the merits

Hobby Lobby Stores — whose name will probably provide the label for the case in history – argued aggressively in its merits brief that the federal government was pursuing “a misguided shell game” in which only the Green family has rights and the corporation suffers alone the burden of the mandate.   That, it contended, was a move to ”drive a wedge” between the family and its corporation.

The brief insisted that, if the Court uses the definition of “person” that is in the federal Dictionary Act, it would refer not only to natural persons, but to corporations, too.  And, under the ACA regulations at issue, the filing said, the government is seeking to force employers to provide specific contraceptives, not just “an exchange of money.”  It is the contraceptives, not their cost, that burdens the Green family’s faith and the principles of Hobby Lobby Stores and the related bookstore chain, the brief argued.

Saying that the Court must apply “strict scrutiny,” the most demanding test for the validity of a government mandate or program, the Hobby Lobby brief said that the government has “not come close” to satisfying that standard.  The official claims that the mandates support public health and women’s equality are so broad that they could never meet that test, the brief said.

The retail chains’ filing said that the government has come up at the last minute with another attempted justification — that is, that the mandate is part of a comprehensive scheme of providing health benefits to all.  But that notion, the brief said, is belied by all the exemptions the government has allowed.

Because the question that the government raised in its petition in the Hobby Lobby case was restricted to the scope of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the retail chains’ merits brief is confined to that issue.

The merits brief for Conestoga Wood Specialties and its owners deals with its claims under both RFRA and the First Amendment.  The filing begins with a defense of the Hahn family’s claim that its members choose to practice their faith through business activity, as well as in their personal lives.  “The corporate formality of a business is not determinative of whether religious exercise occurs in that business,” it contended.

But, if the family’s religious interests could be separated from the company, the brief went on, the company itself “exercises religion, too.”  Under state law, the corporate form may be used “to pursue all lawful purposes, without excluding religion,” Conestoga’s lawyers told the Court.  The Supreme Court, they added, “has never limited religious freedom to natural persons.”

Aside from arguing that the contraceptive mandate substantially burdens the religious rights of the Hahns and of their company, the brief said that Congress in passing the Affordable Care Act did not require that contraceptive services be included in employee health plans; that was added by the federal government in ACA regulations.

And, like Hobby Lobby, the Conestoga filing asserted that “strict scrutiny” is the only valid test to apply and that the government cannot show that it has a compelling interest in enforcing the birth-control mandate against religious objectors.  If the government is intent on assuring access to birth control, the brief said, it could either expand existing programs which provide that service or create new ones.

The Obama administration’s merits brief in Hobby Lobby focused on the RFRA claim, and its separate brief in the Conestoga case sought to answer claims under both RFRA and the First Amendment.

In each filing, the government made the same basic points:  profit-making businesses do not “exercise” religion at all, for purposes of either federal law or the Constitution; the mandate only applies to corporations and not to their owners and, in any event, corporations law treats the business separate from the owner; and, even if the mandate did have to satisfy a compelling government interest, it does so by assuring that female workers have access to an important health benefit as part of a comprehensive health insurance scheme.

The contraceptive coverage requirement, according to the government, is a neutral obligation that applies to profit-making businesses in general, and does not target any religious exercise.  The exemptions that have been provided for other businesses — those whose plans are “grandfathered” and thus do not immediately have to obey the mandate — will only exist in a phased sequence, and that alone is not enough to deprive the mandate of its neutral character, the U.S. brief said.

In passing RFRA, the brief contended, Congress did not intend to “uniquely disable the government by working a dramatic expansion” of the claims for exemption based on religious liberty.  Besides, it added, there has not been a single decision by the Supreme Court that struck down a federal law — or required an exemption to it — on the theory that that was necessary “to protect the rights of a for-profit corporation or of the owners, managers, or directors of the corporation.”

The government brief also made a religious liberty argument of its own.  It said that giving for-profit businesses the chance to obtain an exemption from federal laws based on religion would threaten “the special place of religious institutions in our society.”  Congress has often given religious bodies exemptions from laws, but it has always “drawn the line at for-profit corporations,” the brief said.

If Hobby Lobby and Conestoga are legally entitled to exemptions, Congress would be discouraged from providing exemptions for non-profit religious organizations “for fear that doing so would automatically entitle for-profit corporations to the same accommodation,” according to the government’s argument.

The briefs for the government also asserted that there actually is no burden on any religious exercise by owners or corporations, because the choice to use a birth-control pill or device would be made independently by the female workers covered by a health insurance plan.   The connection between those choices and the interests of the employer who finances the plan, the brief went on, is “too indirect” to make a legal difference.

The amicus briefs

If numbers of amici were to make a difference, there is no contest in these cases:  the government drew two dozen briefs in support, while Hobby Lobby and Conestoga are backed by five dozen filings.  There are two briefs that do not take a position on how these specific cases should be decided, but they take opposite positions:  a brief by professors of history and law argues that the Court has always treated corporations differently from natural persons, while a brief by a group of traditional religious organizations urges the Court to adopt an expansive view of the right to religious exemptions from public laws.

The boldest brief in support of the government takes a position that the government did not, urging the Supreme Court to strike down RFRA as an unconstitutional attempt by Congress to scuttle a Supreme Court decision requiring religious organizations to obey laws that apply generally.  That is a brief by a disparate group of advocacy organizations, including non-believers and survivors of clergy sexual abuse of children.

There is, on the corporations’ side, a brief by constitutional law scholars seeking to answer that constitutional challenge.  That brief contends that RFRA is a valid exercise of Congress’s legislative powers, and that nullifying the law “would threaten thousands of statutes that protect religious minorities.”

There are predictable allies on each side:  civil rights and women’s rights groups, liberal organizations, professors of various disciplines, and liberal lawmakers on the side of the federal government and the ACA, and traditional religious organizations and advocacy groups, conservative and libertarian entities, professors of various disciplines, and conservative lawmakers on the side of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga.

Analysis

If the legal territory the Court enters in these cases is not entirely new, it is also not well traveled.  The Court has sort of assumed since 1886 — without ever ruling flatly — that corporations are “persons” in a constitutional sense.  And, over time, it has filled in some of the gaps on what rights corporations are to have under the Constitution.  But it has never said, explicitly, that they are endowed with the right to freely exercise a religious faith.

These two cases give it the chance to do just that, if it is so inclined, and that would be a profound constitutional shift, with deeply uncertain implications.  It would, at a minimum, pave the way for businesses to choose whom they serve according to the identities of the customers and how those square with the religious preferences of the company.

But the Court need not go that far, even if it should lean toward ruling in favor of an exemption within the business world from the ACA’s contraceptive mandate.  It could decide that the Green family and the Hahn family have a right to exercise their religious beliefs in the way they run their business firms, and that this mandate intrudes on those rights.

Along the way, of course, the Justices would have to find a way around the conventional business law notion that corporations stand apart from their owners.  But they could do that with a very narrow definition of the rights of the owners of a company that is so closely held that it is essentially not a public corporation, except in name.  Again, though, that would grow out of the rights of the owners, not of the corporate entity itself.

The problem in anticipating a victory for religious owners, though, is that the focus in that analysis may fall too heavily on the owner’s interests, and insufficiently on the interests of the employees.  What is at stake on that side of the legal controversy is the interest of female employees in managing their personal lives and their reproductive health, with obvious implications for their ability to carry on their work lives and careers.

Just as there are Justices now on the Court who would, indeed, view this controversy through sympathetic eyes for business management, there also are Justices now serving who would certainly view sympathetically the claims of female workers of child-bearing age.

In these two cases, those two perspectives seem distinctly at odds, and the chances of finding common ground between them seem remote, indeed.

For example, the easiest way to rule for a religious exemption for businesses or their owners in this case would be to interpret the Affordable Care Act as not even authorizing the government to include birth control in the requirements for employee health plans.  That is an argument that the lawyers for the businesses here actually make.  But to rule that way would be to read the purposes of the statute’s coverage of preventive health services so narrowly as to ignore the realities of the health of women who work in offices, factories, and shops.

In terms of the legal foundations for a ruling, the Court might well go into this case hoping to avoid making new constitutional law, on the institutional premise that it should not decide a constitutional question unless it has no way to avoid it.

But it would be hard to base a ruling in this case solely on the scope of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, because that Act is essentially designed to protect constitutional rights of religious liberty.  To know what that law does protect requires knowing what the Constitution embraces — either as to corporations, or as to their owners, or both.

Only one thing, perhaps, is certain as the argument in this case approaches: whatever the Court decides, it will not decide the fate of the Affordable Care Act.  The nation’s politics, and many of its legislatures (including Congress), are absorbed with debates over whether to keep the law, to amend it, to render it unenforceable, or to repeal it altogether.  None of that depends upon the outcome of this case.

The Court has not been asked to strike down any part of the law, and it almost certainly won’t volunteer to do so.  All that is at issue is who must obey the contraceptive mandate.

Posted in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby StoresConestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius,AnalysisFeaturedHealth CareMerits Cases

Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, Argument preview: Religion, rights, and the workplace, SCOTUSblog (Mar. 20, 2014, 3:30 PM), http://www.scotusblog.com/2014/03/argument-preview-religion-rights-and-the-workplace/

Posted in Faith Issues in Our Times, Hot Legal News | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Federal Judge: Teacher Who Punished Student for Expressing Catholic Belief Against Homosexuality Violated Student’s First Amendment Rights

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on June 20, 2013

news_img_3584ANN ARBOR, MI – The Thomas More Law Center today announces a victory in their lawsuit against teacher Johnson McDowell of Howell High School in Howell, Michigan. Federal District Judge Patrick J. Duggan of the Eastern District of Michigan issued his opinion yesterday.

The Court declared the teacher’s actions in punishing Daniel Glowacki for expressing his beliefs against homosexuality violated “Daniel’s First Amendment rights.” In its findings of fact—the Court described how the teacher initiated a discussion about homosexuality. The teacher wore a purple t-shirt and was promoting the homosexual agenda. In response, the Plaintiff, 16 year-old Daniel Glowacki stated that homosexuality was against his Catholic beliefs. The teacher, admittedly, became angry and threw Daniel out of class because he disagreed with Daniel’s beliefs.

The teacher in the lawsuit tried to blame Daniel and claimed he caused a disturbance in the teacher’s classroom. The teacher’s claims were wholly unsupported by all of the other evidence in the case, including affidavits of students in the classroom and the teacher’s own earlier statements. The teacher also tried to argue that Daniel’s religious statement was tantamount to “bullying.” The Court dismissed that claim as well, holding that Daniel’s speech could not be silenced because the teacher did not like Daniel’s religious beliefs and viewpoint.

The Court’s opinion echoed the longstanding legal precedent that “students do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Cmty. Sch. Dist., 393 U.S. 503, 506 (1969).

The teacher argued that Daniel’s speech that his religion did not approve of homosexuality was a bullying statement. However, Judge Duggan, citing several cases, disagreed (citations and quotations omitted).

While the Court certainly recognizes that schools are empowered to regulate speech to prevent students from invading the rights of other students, people do not have a legal right to prevent criticism of their beliefs or for that matter their way of life. Relatedly, a listeners’ reaction to speech is not a content-neutral basis for regulation. While a student or perhaps several students may have been upset or offended by Daniel’s remarks, Tinker straight-forwardly tells us that, in order for school officials to justify prohibition of a particular expression of opinion, they must be able to show that this action was caused by something more than a mere desire to avoid the discomfort and unpleasantness that always accompany an unpopular viewpoint. Simply put, the law does not establish a generalized hurt feelings defense to a high school’s violation of the First Amendment rights of its students.

Thomas More Law Center attorney, Erin Mersino was the lead counsel in the lawsuit. It is expected that the teacher will appeal the decision.

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, commenting on the favorable court decision, stated:

“The purpose of our lawsuit was to protect students’ constitutional rights to free speech, defend religious liberty, and stop public schools from becoming indoctrination centers for the homosexual agenda.”

The Thomas More Law Center originally filed its federal lawsuit back on December 14, 2012 against the teacher, Johnson McDowell, and the Howell Public School District. The claims against the School District were dismissed, and the Court held that the teacher alone was the responsible party.

The ACLU appeared in the case as amicus and supported Daniel’s position against the teacher.

Courtesy of http://www.thomasmore.org/

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

Secular Humanism is a Religion But is Getting Special Treatment by the Courts

Posted by faithandthelaw on May 9, 2010

John Dewey described Humanism as our “common faith.” Julian Huxley called it “Religion without Revelation.” The first Humanist Manifesto spoke openly of Humanism as a religion. Many other Humanists could be cited who have acknowledged that Humanism is a religion. In fact, claiming that Humanism was “the new religion” was trendy for at least 100 years, perhaps beginning in 1875 with the publication of The Religion of Humanity by Octavius Brooks Frothingham (1822-1895), son of the distinguished Unitarian clergyman, Nathaniel Langdon Frothingham (1793-1870), pastor of the First Unitarian Church of Boston, 1815-1850. In the 1950’s, Humanists sought and obtained tax-exempt status as religious organizations. Even the Supreme Court of the United States spoke in 1961 of Secular Humanism as a religion. It was a struggle to get atheism accepted as a religion, but it happened. From 1962-1980 this was not a controversial issue.But then Christians began to challenge the “establishment of religion” which Secular Humanism in public schools represented. They used the same tactic Atheists had used to challenge prayer and Bible reading under the “Establishment Clause” of the First Amendment. Now the ACLU is involved. Now the question is controversial. Now Secular Humanists have completely reversed their strategy, and claim that Humanism is not at all religious, but is “scientific.”This page examines two issues:

  • Secular Humanists and Humanistic courts have admitted that Humanism is a religion.
  • Why they now claim Humanism is not a religion, in order to avoid problems under the “Establishment Clause” of the First Amendment.
For further reading, see R.J. Rushdoony, The Messianic Character of American Education, chapter 27, “Education as a Religion.” He writes,

[T]he state school is a religious institution. As pointed out in Intellectual Schizophrenia, the public school is the established church of today and a substitute institution for the medieval church, dedicated to the same monolithic conception of society. Some years ago, Dewey very candidly discussed “Education as a Religion” (John Dewey, “Education as a Religion,” The New Republic, August, 1922, p. 64f.) As Whitehead observed, “The essence of education is that it be religious.” (Alfred North Whitehead, The Aims of Education, NY: Mentor Books, 1952, p. 26)
     The public or state schools have thus been inescapably religious. Their “common faith” has been described as “made up of elements provided by Rousseau, Jefferson, August Comte, and John Dewey. ‘Civil religion’ is an apt designation for this faith.” (G.H. Williams, Harvard Divinity School Bulletin, 1948-1949, p. 41.)

In 1961, the U.S. Supreme Court acknowledged that Secular Humanism was a religion. Nevertheless, many Humanists deny the significance of the Court’s assertion. In order to buttress the claim that the identification of Secular Humanism as a religion in a footnote in the Torcaso case is more than mere “dicta,” here is a memorandum prepared “[a]t the request of the staff of the Committee on Education and Labor” by Congressman John B. Conlan.


The U.S. Supreme Court cited Secular Humanism as a religion in the 1961 case of Torcaso v. Watkins (367 U.S. 488). Roy Torcaso, the appellant, a practicing Humanist in Maryland, had refused to declare his belief in Almighty God, as then required by State law in order for him to be commissioned as a notary public. The Court held that the requirement for such an oath “invades appellant’s freedom of belief and religion.”
The Court declared in Torcaso that the “no establishment” clause of the First Amendment reached far more than churches of theistic faiths, that it is not the business of government or its agents to probe beliefs, and that therefore its inquiry is concluded by the fact of the profession of belief. Actually, the Court in Torcaso rested its decision on “free exercise” grounds, not the “Establishment Clause.” Abington v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203, 264-65 (1962) J. Brennan, concurring.
The Court stated:  

We repeat and again reaffirm that neither a State nor the Federal Government can constitutionally force a person to “profess a belief or disbelief in any religion.” Neither can constitutionally pass laws or impose requirements which aid all religions as against non-believers,10 and neither can aid those religions based on a belief in the existence of God as against those religions founded on different beliefs.11

Footnote 11 concerning “religions founded on different beliefs” contains the Court’s citation of Secular Humanism as a religion. It states

Among religions in this country which do not teach what would generally be considered a belief in the existence of God are Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culture, Secular Humanism, and others. See Washington Ethical Society v. District of Columbia, 101 U.S. App. D.C. 371, 249 F.2d 127; Fellowship of Humanity v. County of Alameda, 153 Cal. App. 2d 673, 315 P.2d 394; II Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences 293; 4 Encyclopedia Britannica (1957 ed.) 325-327; 21 id., at 797; Archer, Faiths Men Live By (2d ed. revised by Purinton), 120-138, 254-313; 1961 World Almanac 695, 712; Year Book of American Churches for 1961, at 29, 47.

It is important to note that this citation of Secular Humanism as a religion is not merely dictum. The Supreme Court refers to the important 1957 case of Washington Ethical Society v. District of Columbia (101 U.S. App. D.C. 371) in its holding that Secular Humanism is a non-theistic religion within the meaning of the First Amendment.
The Ethical Culture movement is one denomination of Secular Humanism which reaches moral and cultural relativism, situation ethics, and attacks belief in a spiritual God and theistic values of the Old and New Testaments.
The Washington Ethical Society case involved denial of the Society’s application for tax exemption as a religious organization. The U.S. Court of Appeals reversed the Tax Court’s ruling, defined the Society as a religious organization, and granted its tax exemption.
The Court Stated,

The sole issue raised is whether petitioner falls within the definition of a “church” or a “religious society” . . . . The taxing authority urges denial of the tax exemption asserting petitioner is not a religious society or church and that it does not use its buildings for religious worship since “religious” and “worship” require a belief in and teaching of a Supreme Being who controls the universe. The position of the tax Court, in denying tax exemption, was that belief in and teaching of the existence of a Divinity is essential to qualify under the statute. . . . To construe exemptions so strictly that unorthodox or minority forms of worship would be denied the exemption benefits granted to those conforming to the majority beliefs might well raise constitutional issues . . . . We hold on this record and under the controlling statutory language petitioner qualifies as “a religious corporation or society” . . . .

It is incumbent upon Congress to utilize this broad definition of religion in all its legislative actions bearing on the support or non-support of religion, within the context of the “no-establishment” clause of the First Amendment.

Other Justices have reflected back on the Torcaso opinion and confirmed our analysis.

Justice Scalia wrote:

In Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488, 495, n. 11 (1961), we did indeed refer to “SECULAR HUMANISM” as a “religio[n].”
Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987) note 6

Justice Harlan summed it all up:

[Footnote 8] This Court has taken notice of the fact that recognized “religions” exist that “do not teach what would generally be considered a belief in the existence of God,” Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488, 495 n. 11, e. g., “Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culture, SECULAR HUMANISM and others.” Ibid. See also Washington Ethical Society v. District of Columbia, 101 U.S. App. D.C. 371, 249 F.2d 127 (1957); 2 Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences 293; J. Archer, Faiths Men Live By 120-138, 254-313 (2d ed. revised by Purinton 1958); Stokes & Pfeffer, supra, n. 3, at 560.
Welsh v. United States 398 U.S. 333 (1970) note 8

But many who favor a secularist “separation of church and state” will contend that fundamentalists invented the idea that Humanism is a religion. Like most Americans, these secularists do not understand the legal issues involved here.

The Humanist-dominated Court is permitting Secular Humanists to have their cake and eat it too.

Secular Humanism is a religion
“for Free Exercise Clause purposes.”

The Court has undeniably defined Secular Humanism as a religion “for free exercise purposes.” When Secular Humanists want the benefits of a religion, they get them.

Tax Exemption. Secular Humanism has been granted tax-exempt status as a religion. The Torcaso quote cited the cases.

Conscientious Objection. Even though Congress originally granted conscientious objector status only to those who objected to war for religious reasons (i.e., because of a belief in God), the Supreme Court turned around and said that Humanists who don’t believe in God are “religious” for C.O. purposes. U.S. v. Seeger, 380 U.S. 163, 183, 85 S.Ct. 850, 13 L.Ed.2d 733, 746 (Holding that belief in a “Supreme Being” is not a necessary component of “religion,” quoting a Secular Humanist source, “Thus the ‘God’ that we love . . . is . . . humanity.”)

So Secular Humanism is emphatically and undeniably a religion — “for free exercise purposes.”

Any claim that “the clear weight of the caselaw” is against the proposition that Secular Humanism is a religion  is a misleading claim. Secular Humanism is a religion (“for free exercise clause purposes”).

Secular Humanism is Not a religion
“for Establishment Clause purposes.”

But when Christians attempt to get the religion of Secular Humanism out of the government schools, based on the same emotional frame of mind which atheists had when they went to court against God in schools, then pro-secularist courts speak out of the other side of their faces and say that Secular Humanism is NOT a religion “for establishment clause purposes.” This is slimy deceitful legalism at its worst.

But it explains why so many are confused about whether Secular Humanism is a religion.

Here is the rule: When Secular Humanists want the benefits of religion, Secular Humanism is a religion. When Secular Humanists are challenged for propagating their religion in public schools, it is not a religion. If that sounds insane, it is; but all insane people are still rational. This insanity is cloaked in the rational-sounding rhetoric of constitutional law. Remember:

Secular Humanism is a religion “for free exercise clause purposes,” and it is not a religion “for establishment clause purposes.”

Here’s how it works. In Peloza v. Capistrano Unified School Dist., 37 F.3d 517 (9th Cir. 1994), a high school biology teacher tried to balance the teaching of evolutionism with creationism based on the claim that Secular Humanism (and its core belief, evolutionism) is a religion. The court emphatically rejected this claim:

We reject this claim because neither the Supreme Court, nor this circuit, has ever held that evolutionism or secular humanism are “religions” for Establishment Clause purposes. Indeed, both the dictionary definition of religion and the clear weight of the caselaw5 are to the contrary. The Supreme Court has held unequivocally that while the belief in a divine creator of the universe is a religious belief, the scientific theory that higher forms of life evolved from lower forms is not. Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578, 107 S.Ct. 2573, 96 L.Ed.2d 510 (1987) (holding unconstitutional, under Establishment Clause, Louisiana’s “Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science in Public School Instruction Act”).

Note 5: See Smith v. Board of School Com’rs of Mobile County, 827 F.2d 684, 690-95 (11th Cir. 1987) (refusing to adopt district court’s holding that “secular humanism” is a religion for Establishment Clause purposes; deciding case on other grounds); United States v. Allen, 760 F.2d 447, 450-51 (2d Cir. 1985) (quoting Tribe, American Constitutional Law 827-28 (1978), for the proposition that, while “religion” should be broadly interpreted for Free Exercise Clause purposes, “anything `arguably non-religious’ should not be considered religious in applying the establishment clause”).

Thus a teacher who wants to tell his students about his religious beliefs is free to do so if his religion is the religion of Secular Humanism, but may not tell his students about his religious beliefs if his religion is Christianity. Christians are not even allowed to discuss Christianity with students during lunch break, while Secular Humanists are allowed to teach the tenets of the religion of Secular Humanism from the blackboard during class.

Peloza alleges the school district ordered him to refrain from discussing his religious beliefs with students during “instructional time,” and to tell any students who attempted to initiate such conversations with him to consult their parents or clergy. He claims the school district, in the following official reprimand, defined “instructional time” as any time the students are on campus, including lunch break and the time before, between, and after classes:

You are hereby directed to refrain from any attempt to convert students to Christianity or initiating conversations about your religious beliefs during instructional time, which the District believes includes any time students are required to be on campus as well as the time students immediately arrive for the purposes of attending school for instruction, lunch time, and the time immediately prior to students’ departure after the instructional day.

Complaint at 16. Peloza seeks a declaration that this definition of instructional time is too broad, and that he should be allowed to participate in student-initiated discussions of religious matters when he is not actually teaching class.

The school district’s interest in avoiding an Establishment Clause violation trumps Peloza’s right to free speech.

While at the high school, whether he is in the classroom or outside of it during contract time, Peloza is not just any ordinary citizen. He is a teacher. He is one of those especially respected persons chosen to teach in the high school’s classroom. He is clothed with the mantle of one who imparts knowledge and wisdom. His expressions of opinion are all the more believable because he is a teacher. The likelihood of high school students equating his views with those of the school is substantial. To permit him to discuss his religious beliefs with students during school time on school grounds would violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Such speech would not have a secular purpose, would have the primary effect of advancing religion, and would entangle the school with religion. In sum, it would flunk all three parts of the test articulated in Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 91 S.Ct. 2105, 29 L.Ed.2d 745 (1971). See Roberts v. Madigan, 921 F.2d 1047, 1056-58 (10th Cir. 1990) (teacher could be prohibited from reading Bible during silent reading period, and from stocking two books on Christianity on shelves, because these things could leave students with the impression that Christianity was officially sanctioned), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 112 S.Ct. 3025, 120 L.Ed.2d 896 (1992).

Secular Humanist teachers and school administrators (who are protected by the “free exercise” clause of the First Amendment as members of tax-exempt religious organizations and religious conscientious objectors) are free to propagate their views in schools, but Christians are not. If Christians propagate their views, it is an “establishment clause” violation, but not if Secular Humanists propagate their views.

Secular Humanism is a religion “for free exercise clause purposes,” and it is not a religion “for establishment clause purposes.”


Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, {23} And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
Romans 1:22-23

Courtesy of http://vftonline.org/Patriarchy/definitions/humanism_religion.htm

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Day of Prayer observed in Denver, but lawsuit looms

Posted by faithandthelaw on May 8, 2010

The faithful gathered around the Colorado Capitol on Thursday morning for the National Day of Prayer, despite a recent federal court ruling that the observance violates the constitutional ban on government-backed religion.

A similar lawsuit is pending against Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter. The plaintiff in both cases, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, alleges Ritter has violated the state constitution by declaring a local Day of Prayer to mirror the national event.

At the center of both cases is the Colorado Springs-based National Day of Prayer Task Force, an evangelical Christian group led since 1991 by Shirley Dobson, wife of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson. The group helps organize Day of Prayer events across the country.

In deciding the federal lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Barbara B. Crabb of Wisconsin wrote that the prayer day is unconstitutional because its sole purpose is to encourage citizens to pray, “an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function.”

However, she postponed the injunction until all appeals are exhausted. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is appealing the April 15 ruling.

Last Friday, President Barack Obama again proclaimed the first Thursday in May a National Day of Prayer. Ritter made a similar decree for Colorado, back on March 25.

“The capitols of every state will be covered in prayer,” said John Bornschein, executive director of the National Day of Prayer Task Force.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation claims the NDP Task Force inappropriately collaborates with the government in marking the day of prayer.

“The evangelical mission of the NDP Task Force is ‘to communicate with every individual the need for personal repentance and prayer,’ ” the Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote in its complaint against Ritter.

Dan Bonifazi, Denver counsel for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, said the national and state prayer days blur the line between church and state.

“The NDP Task Force is a conservative Christian organization that e-mails proclamations and scripture to governors, who then cut and paste what they’re sent into their programs,” Bonifazi said.

Judge Crabb also acknowledged in her decision that much of the controversy has been generated by events planned by private organizations, such as the NDP Task Force.

“Government officials, including former presidents, have sometimes aligned themselves so closely with those exclusionary groups that it becomes difficult to tell the difference between the government’s message and that of the private group,” she wrote.

Bornschein denies that the task force is running the show.

“We don’t use bully tactics with officials. We remind them of the day,” Bornschein said. “They are free to participate or sign a proclamation. We’re simply organized.”

The case against the state will be decided by District Judge Robert S. Hyatt. Bonifazi expects a summary judgment by the end of summer.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers has argued in court filings that the nonbinding proclamation of a Colorado Day of Prayer merely declares a special day to celebrate “the right of free exercise of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

NDP Task Force officials said it could be some time before the courts finally settle the issue.

“Regardless of the decision, with or without the participation of elected officials, we will continue to call Americans to prayer,” Bornschein said. “We need prayer.”

Electa Draper: 303-954-1276 or edraper@denverpost.com

Courtesy of http://www.denverpost.com/ci_15035864

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The First Amendment: Separation of Church and State

Posted by faithandthelaw on May 1, 2010

The “separation of church and state” phrase gets thrown around frequently as a first amendment issue, but you’d be surprised to see the phrase doesn’t appear where it’s frequently credited—in the first amendment to the Constitution.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Whoops — the magic phrase doesn’t appear. Notice what the amendment does say regarding religion:

  • Congress shall not force (establish) a national religion.
  • Congress shall not prohibit or restrict freedom to worship or other expressions of religion.

The founders wanted to make sure no one either forced a particular religion nationally, or prevented anyone from worshiping whatever they wanted. If you’re a Christian, great, if you follow Buddha, no problem — if you’re a druid and worship trees, good for you. If you’re an atheist and worship Darwin and Dawkins, glad that’s working out for you.

But we are not to have a national religion run by the federal government—a theocracy if you will. Yet many people attempting to force the country into an atheist secular humanist mold dwell on the first part of the amendment, and forget the second. Paul Fidalgo, the communications manager for the Secular Coalition for America makes that mistake as he responds after Sarah Palin called the United States a Christian nation:

While the founders’ views on religion varied from person to person, there is no doubt that they believed strongly that religion had no place in government…

Our Constitution established a secular government and has no mention of Jesus, Christianity, or a god of any kind, despite the false message spread by figures such as Sarah Palin who claim that America was founded as a Christian nation,” Fidalgo continued1

No place in government? Not so—they prayed before sessions, posted the ten commandments, and so on; history shouts the error of Mr. Fidalgo. As they included religion in their government, Mr. Fidalgo remains factually incorrect just as if he claimed the sky is orange or 2+2=5; his statements are absurd in their stunning factual errors; we’ll just cite examples of God and Jesus in government2, which contradicts his assertion the founders believed “religion had no place in government”.

Whereas, the people of these United States, from their earliest history to the present time, have been led by the hand of a kind Providence and are indebted for the countless blessings of the past and present, and dependent for continued prosperity in the future upon Almighty God; and whereas the great vital and conservative element in our system is the belief of our people in the pure doctrines and divine truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ, it eminently becomes the representatives of a people so highly favored to acknowledge in the most public manner their reverence for God: therefore, Resolved, That the daily sessions of this body be opened with prayer and that the ministers of the Gospel in this city are hereby requested to attend and alternately perform this solemn duty. Reports of Committees of the House of Representatives Made During the First Session of the Thirty-Third Congress (Washington: A. O. P. Nicholson, 1854)

And for the objection of using chaplains in Congress? If, as Mr. Fidalgo, says the founders believed “religion had no place in government”, perhaps he could explain the following3 as well:

The whole view of the petitioners seems founded upon mistaken conceptions of the meaning of the Constitution. … If [the use of chaplains] had been a violation of the Constitution, why was not its character seen by the great and good men who were coeval with the government, who were in Congress and in the Presidency when this constitutional amendment was adopted? They, if any one did, understood the true purport of the amendment, and were bound, by their duty and their oath, to resist the introduction or continuance of chaplains, if the views of the petitioners were correct. But they did no such thing; and therefore we have the strongest reason to suppose the notion of the petitioner to be unfounded. … They had no fear or jealousy of religion itself, nor did they wish to see us an irreligious people… The Reports of the Committees of the Senate of the United States for the Second Session of the Thirty-Second Congress, 1852-53 (Washington: Robert Armstrong, 1853)

Quite a difference exists between government forcing national religion on its citizens, and freely allowing religious expression even (gasp!) in government. The first is unconstitutional, the second most certainly is not (as we’ll get to shortly).

The first amendment involves freedom to religion (whatever religion means for you—Christianity, Buddhism, atheism, Judaism, etc), not the freedom from religion many people try to make it; examining how the founders and government acted in those early days makes this abundantly clear. By attempting to force their religion of atheism4 onto others, those people try to prohibit the free exercise of someone’s religion.

Freedom of religion isn’t freedom from religion, it means if your faith lies with Jesus, Buddha, atheism (yes, atheism requires faith5), or the tree in your backyard, you’re free to do so. It does not mean you won’t hear other points of view, or you have the right to force others to refrain from religious expression simply because you don’t want to hear it. What happened to tolerance and honoring diversity6? If someone has beliefs you don’t hold, sit quietly and respectfully while they observe their faith. Is that not the very definition of tolerance and honoring diversity?

Thus if a student wants to mention God, Jesus or Buddha in their school speech, it must be allowable, as it can’t be a government establishment of religion for the simple reason the student isn’t a government official. Additionally, the early founders included religion in daily government activities; the idea the founders meant the first amendment required an atheist secular society fails to stand the test of history.

But some atheists attempt to twist the first amendment into an I-never-want-to-hear-God idea, which it clearly was never intended to be—by studying how the founders acted in those early years, this becomes abundantly obvious; a Supreme Court ruling in 19527 noted the country is religious, and should not prefer atheism over religion.

We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being. … When the state encourages religious instruction or cooperates with religious authorities by adjusting the schedule of public events to sectarian needs, it follows the best of our traditions. For it then respects the religious nature of our people and accommodates the public service to their spiritual needs. To hold that it may not would be to find in the Constitution a requirement that the government show a callous indifference to religious groups. That would be preferring those who believe in no religion over those who do believe. Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U. S. 306 (1952)

The Supreme Court acknowledged the religious background of the country which should end the silly discussion about the historical religious nature of the country; a debate can ensue whether the founders had the correct idea in the way they handled religion in government (that’s a matter of opinion, not fact), but by examining history it’s obvious Mr. Fidalgo’s laughably absurd claim demonstrates a stunning and complete failure to acknowledge facts.

No matter how often he, other atheists, and history-deniers repeat erroneous claims, the claims remain factually wrong.

This case is closed—next time, we’ll discuss more credible theories … like the moon landing hoax.

Courtesy of http://www.dyeager.org/post/2010/04/first-amendment-separation-church-state

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Victory: Pro-Life Student Group Finally Recognized at University of Arizona

Posted by faithandthelaw on April 22, 2010

TUCSON, Ariz., April 21, 2010—In a victory for freedom of association, the University of Arizona has reversed course and granted its Students for Life (SFL) group official recognition. The decision gives the group equal access to university resources. SFL’s application was initially denied by UA’s student government because the group’s proposed constitution required that members share beliefs about the sanctity of human life. After the student government denied recognition to his group, SFL founder Jeremiah Lange came to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help.

“FIRE is pleased that the University of Arizona has recognized its obligation to uphold the First Amendment right to freedom of association guaranteed to its students,” FIRE Vice President Robert Shibley said. “When students form groups around shared beliefs, they exercise a core constitutional right. A diversity of belief-based groups enhances the marketplace of ideas on campus.”

FIRE asked the U.S. Supreme Court to acknowledge this right of student groups to freely associate in a friend-of-the-court brief in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, which was argued before the Justices on Monday.

UA’s application procedure for new student groups requires submission of a proposed constitution and a nondiscrimination statement. Lange submitted an application for SFL that satisfied the written guidelines of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona (ASUA), the student government. SFL also included a requirement that “member[s] must agree to stand by the princip[le]s that life is sacred and that the intentional killing of human beings through abortion, euthanasia, and murder, and all forms of eugenics are morally reprehensible.” The application was denied in a February 25, 2010, e-mail to Lange in which ASUA Club and Organization Standards Board Director Jarrett Benkendorfer informed Lange that “organizations cannot require participants to fulfill or abide by specific principles.” Benkendorfer informed Lange that the belief-based requirement was “unnecessary” because “students holding shared views with your club will be attracted to your organization.” 

In a March 15 letter to UA President Robert N. Shelton, FIRE pointed out that no ASUA regulations specified that student groups were prohibited from requiring voting members to share the group’s organizing beliefs, contrary to what Benkendorfer had alleged. Further, FIRE informed Shelton that preventing Lange and SFL from making belief-based membership choices was a denial of the group’s First Amendment right to freedom of association. As the Supreme Court made clear in Roberts v. United States Jaycees (1984), “freedom of association plainly presupposes a freedom not to associate.” FIRE expressed doubt that recognized student groups including the College Republicans, Students for Justice in Palestine, Students Organized for Animal Rights, Voices of Opposition, Liberty in North Korea, Young Democrats, and Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán were aware that they were unable to require members to share their central beliefs. 

If the Supreme Court rules against a similarly situated student group in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, the ability of belief-based groups to exist and maintain their expressive identity on campuses around the country will be in jeopardy.

In a March 29 response, Arizona Student Unions Executive Director Bill Shiba avoided answering FIRE’s constitutional concerns, but asked Lange to reapply. On April 1, FIRE again wrote President Shelton, noting the inadequacy of Shiba’s reply and asking that Shelton “personally ensure that ASUA respects the constitutional right of UA students to assemble with others around shared beliefs.” In a reply of April 14, Shiba informed FIRE that SFL’s application had been accepted.

“Public universities like the University of Arizona cannot deny students their First Amendment right to meet with others of like mind to advance a message of their own choosing,” said Will Creeley, FIRE’s Director of Legal and Public Advocacy. “The university’s initial denial of recognition to Students for Life is a troubling example of what will happen across the country if the Supreme Court permits public universities to render freedom of association an empty right on campus. Fortunately, the University of Arizona has done the right thing by recognizing that campus life benefits from hosting a multitude of groups expressing a multitude of viewpoints.” 

FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, due process, freedom of expression, academic freedom, and rights of conscience at our nation’s colleges and universities. FIRE’s efforts to preserve liberty at the University of Arizona can be viewed at thefire.org.  

Courtesy of http://www.thefire.org/article/11794.html

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Preying on the National Day of Prayer

Posted by faithandthelaw on April 20, 2010

By Chuck Norris

© 2010  

Proof that progressivism is alive and well on planet Earth came again last week via the Wisconsin federal judge’s ruling that the National Day of Prayer, or NDP, is unconstitutional.  

Appointed to the bench by Jimmy Carter, U.S. District Judge Barbara B. Crabb wrote that the government can no more enact laws supporting a day of prayer than it can encourage citizens to fast during Ramadan, attend a synagogue or practice magic. She further gave the rationale, “The same law that prohibits the government from declaring a National Day of Prayer also prohibits it from declaring a National Day of Blasphemy.”

Even more preposterous logic is found in her words: “In fact, it is because the nature of prayer is so personal and can have such a powerful effect on a community that the government may not use its authority to try to influence an individual’s decision whether and when to pray.”

As most know, the first Thursday in May has been honored as a National Day of Prayer since 1952, when its approval flew through the Congress as a way to help separate America as a country with a Godly heritage and to aid her success against atheistic communism. Ever since, presidents have commemorated the NDP. Even President Obama issued a proclamation in 2009 about the NDP, though he did not hold ecumenical and public events with religious leaders as former President George W. Bush had done.

Regarding Judge Crabb’s ruling on the NDP being unconstitutional, Chief Counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice Jay Sekulow hit the judicial nail on the head when he said, “It is unfortunate that this court failed to understand that a day set aside for prayer for the country represents a time-honored tradition that embraces the First Amendment, not violates it.”

Though this ruling is only one, these skewed judgments permeate nearly every stratum of our society. And they often hinge upon erroneous and ignorant views of America’s Judeo-Christian heritage, and especially the First Amendment and the so-called separation of church and state.

Liberals would have you believe that the First Amendment establishes an impenetrable and impassable “separation of church and state.” But that phrase appears nowhere in the First Amendment, which actually reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

The phrase “the separation of Church and State” actually comes from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1802 to the Danbury Baptists. He told them that no particular Christian denomination was going to have a monopoly in government. His words, “a wall of separation between Church and State,” were not written to remove all religious practice from government or civic settings, but to prohibit the domination and even legislation of religious sectarianism.

The Danbury Baptists had written to Thomas Jefferson seeking reassurance that their religious liberty would be guaranteed, not that religious expression on public grounds would be banned. Proof that Jefferson was not trying to rid government of religious (specifically Christian) influence comes from the fact he endorsed using government buildings for church meetings, signed a treaty with the Kaskaskia Indians that allotted federal money to support the building of a Catholic church and to pay the salary of the church’s priests, and repeatedly renewed legislation that gave land to the United Brethren to help their missionary activities among the Indians.

Some might be completely surprised to discover that just two days after Jefferson wrote his famous letter citing the “wall of separation between Church and State,” he attended church in the place where he always had as president: the U.S. Capitol. The very seat of our nation’s government was used for sacred purposes. As the Library of Congress notes, “It is no exaggeration to say that on Sundays in Washington during the administrations of Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) and of James Madison (1809-1817) the state became the church.” Does that sound like someone who was trying to create an impenetrable wall of separation between church and state?

If all the things the American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU, and other progressive groups said about the First Amendment were true, Jefferson would flunk their religious-state separation test. Progressives don’t want Americans to know that for the founders, Judeo-Christian belief and practice and government administration and policy were not separated at all. Denominational tests for public office were prohibited, but the idea that Judeo-Christian ideas and practices had to be kept separate from government would have struck them as ridiculous because the very basis for the founders’ ideas were rights that were endowed upon all of us by our Creator.

The ACLU and like-minded groups are not preserving First Amendment rights. They are perverting the meaning of the Establishment Clause (which was to prevent the creation of a national church like the Church of England) to deny the Free Exercise Clause (which preserves our rights to worship as we want, privately and publicly). Both clauses were intended to safeguard religious liberty, not to circumscribe its practice. The framers were seeking to guarantee freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.

Critics try to oppose the NDP’s constitutionality by saying it didn’t exist prior to 1952 as a national observance. But all one must do is go back to the framers of the Constitution to understand that, whether one looks at Creator-language in such pivotal documents as the Declaration of Independence or the role religion played in establishing ethics and morality even in political arenas, not one justice or government official back then would have agreed with the ruling of Wisconsin Judge Barbara Crabb.

In 1789, after being urged by Congress on the same day they finished drafting the First Amendment, President Washington issued a Thanksgiving proclamation stating, “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.”

President John Adams declared that America’s independence “ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.”

Ben Franklin was particularly eloquent on the power of prayer in government, as he addressed those who attended the Constitutional Convention:

In the beginning of the contest with Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers in this room for the divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard; and they were graciously answered. All of us, who were engaged in the struggle, must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favor. To that kind Providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? Or do we imagine we no longer need its assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time; and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, That God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?

It’s a question that needs to ring from the corridors of Congress to the halls of our public schools and homes: “And have we now forgotten that powerful friend?”

To answer for yourself and your household, take a minute right now to sign the official NDP prayer petition.

As the Protect Prayer website says, “U.S. District Judge Barbara B. Crabb needs a history lesson, and we need to send a message to Congress: ‘It’s time that we put a stop to renegade judges who rule with no understanding of our nation’s history. Our Founding Fathers declared National Days of Prayer to be constitutional, and so should you!'”

Most of all, join a group in your local community on this 59th National Day of Prayer on May 6, bow your head in prayer with them, beseech God to forgive and heal our land and demonstrate in action your First Amendment rights!

(See Chuck Norris’ brand new video Patriot Service Announcement about fighting government tyranny at YouTube or BlackBeltPatriotism.com.)

Courtesy of http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=142297

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Advocates International on Behalf of its Advocates All over the World Supports Freedom of Expression, Religion and Association for Religious Student Organizations in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez

Posted by faithandthelaw on April 19, 2010

The United States Supreme Court hears oral arguments today in a case to decide whether a government ‘non-discrimination policy’ being imposed by the University of California’s Hastings College of Law to exclude recognition of a Christian law student organization at the school, based upon its Statement of Christian Faith, constitutes a discriminatory and unconstitutional deprivation of law students rights of free expression, religious free exercise and association.

Contact: Samuel B. Casey, Advocates International, 703-624-4092, sbcasey@advocatesinternational.org

WASHINGTON, April 18 /Christian Newswire/ — Advocates International, the worldwide public interest advocacy organization of more than 30,000 Christian lawyers, jurists, law professors and law students committed to doing justice with compassion, called for prayer and solidarity in support of the freedoms of expression, religion and association being argued tomorrow morning before the United States Supreme Court by Stanford University Constitutional law Professor Michael McConnell in Christian Legal Society  v. Martinez.    Prayers are also requested for the questions and deliberations of the justices that they might adjudicate this vital constitutional questions in a just manner consistent with the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

In support of Christian Legal Society’s request to be recognized without discrimination as a law student organization by the University of California’s Hastings College of Law, Advocates International (AI) also filed an amicus curiae (‘friend of the court’) brief with the U.S. Supreme Court.  AI is asking the Court to defend the First Amendment rights of expression, religion and association by overturning the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ unpublished decision in Christian Legal Society v. Kane, which allowed University of California Hastings College of the Law to forbid its chapter of the Christian Legal Society to organize around shared religious and cultural beliefs. AI’s brief, which was one of 22 amicus briefs filed in support of reversing the Ninth Circuit’s decision, uniquely advised the Court that international law and applicable foreign law all weigh in favor of reversing the judgment below.

AI’s President Sam Ericsson and AI’s General Counsel, Sam Casey, who between them (since 1981) have been involved in almost all of the cases upon which Christian Legal Society relies in asserting their claims, said “if student organizations cannot require that their leaders and voting members actually share the group’s viewpoints, freedom of association on college campuses will be stripped of all meaning. If we are to have meaningful freedom of association on college campuses, individual students must have the right to form groups around shared beliefs — and the state must not be able to dictate what those groups’ beliefs should be.”

The case concerns UC Hastings College of the Law’s refusal to recognize the Christian Legal Society (CLS) as a registered student group. Hastings based its refusal on the fact that even though all students may attend and participate in CLS meetings and activities, voting members and group leaders must sign a “Statement of Faith” that expresses belief in CLS’ particular religious worldview. At issue is a provision stating that “[a] person who advocates or unrepentantly engages in sexual conduct outside of marriage between a man and a woman is not considered to be living consistently with the Statement of Faith and, therefore, is not eligible for leadership or voting membership.” The statement clarifies that “[a] person’s mere experience of same-sex or opposite-sex sexual attraction does not determine his or her eligibility for leadership or voting membership.” Hastings argues that this provision violates the university’s ban on “sexual orientation” discrimination, despite the fact that the provision conditions membership on changeable conduct and belief, not immutable status. Hastings’ restriction on freedom of association was eventually found constitutional by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on the ground that the policy was viewpoint neutral and applied equally to all student groups, even though in practice it prevented only one group,  CLS,  from existing with equal (or any) recognition on campus.

AI’s Sam Ericsson observed that the “Ninth Circuit’s decision should deeply alarm all who care about the rights of those holding minority viewpoints on America’s campuses, as it will make nearly every campus group vulnerable to takeover and dissolution by its enemies if it is adopted by the Supreme Court.”  This is not a pie-in-the-sky threat, either–indeed, using the Ninth Circuit’s rationale, the College Republicans could take over the College Democrats, pro-choice groups could take over pro-life groups, and atheist students could take over a Muslim group. All this, and nobody could do anything about it. The Ninth Circuit’s decision would put the imprimatur of law on the establishment of a stifling, majoritarian campus culture where dissenters’ voices are rarely heard. That is a frightening prospect.”

The Ninth Circuit’s decision is in direct opposition to an earlier, nearly identical case from the Seventh Circuit, Christian Legal Society v. Walker. In Walker, the Seventh Circuit held that Southern Illinois University’s denial of recognition to a CLS chapter was likely a violation of the First Amendment. The court made the obvious point that “[i]t would be difficult for CLS to sincerely and effectively convey a message of disapproval of certain types of conduct if, at the same time, it must accept members who engage in that conduct,” and had “no difficulty concluding that SIU’s application of its nondiscrimination policies in this way burdens CLS’ ability to express its ideas.” Since the Ninth Circuit’s decision directly conflicts with the Seventh Circuit’s opinion, the Supreme Court’s decision in Martinez will likely resolve this circuit split.

AI  wrote to inform the Court that this case presents an issue of common concern to people all over the world who, like the Christian law students in this case, face growing state denials or impermissible conditions perniciously designed to muzzle the exercise of their freedoms of speech, association and religion in cases analogous to the instant case where private religious fellowships who otherwise pose no threat to public health or safety are discriminatorily denied registration or recognition because of their disfavored religious beliefs, ideals or commitments.

The universally acknowledged freedoms of speech, association and religion set forth in the UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS (UDHR), the INTERNATIONAL COVENANT ON CIVIL & POLITICAL RIGHTS (ICCPR) and the EUROPEAN CONVENTION FOR THE PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS (ECHR), as adjudicated in analogous cases by the European Court of Human Rights, confirm the jurisprudential wisdom of the applicable First Amendment cases upon which the Christian Legal Society relies in its opening and reply briefs in asking the United States Supreme Court to reverse the judgment below.

AI’s brief was one of  22 friends of the court briefs filed in support of CLS, representing a diverse group of more than 100 organizations, including the Attorneys Generals of 14 states,  and tens of millions of Americans, as well as the global legal community represented by AI’s brief.  Taken together, these “friends of the court” represent a broad  political and social cross-section spectrum composed  all ages and faith traditions, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Jewish, Sikh, Hispanic and Islamic communities, various colleges and universities, most campus ministries in America and even Gays and Lesbians for Liberty.  This case culminates an almost thirty year effort by CLS’ Center for Law & Religious Freedom to protect the freedoms of expression, religion and association from usurpation by various state actors using all manner of excuses from “separation of church and state” to their current assertion of so-called “non-discrimination” provisions to, in fact, discriminate against religious people and their ideals.  As AI asserts in its brief, the decision in this case will have not just national implications, it will likely influence judicial decision-making around the world.

The case is set for oral argument before the United States Supreme Court on April 19, 2010.  For copies of the briefs filed by the parties and the friends of the court, click here.  For a balanced overview of the case by the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), click here.

Advocates International is an international organization of attorneys in over 150 nations who seek to do justice with compassion, including through its Task Force on Religious Freedom dedicated to protecting the rights to free expression, religious belief and free exercise and association throughout the world for all people.

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The Battle for Religious Liberty in America

Posted by faithandthelaw on April 19, 2010

Rick Tyler

By early summer of 1787, the refrain echoing in Independence Hall from the skeptics among the delegates gathered in Philadelphia, was the fear that the new Constitution made wide the path to tyranny for the new central government. The “anti-federalists” insisted that the rights of the citizens of the new republic be made plain to avoid usurpation by an encroaching federal government. The First Congress subsequently passed and sent a list of proposed amendments to the states on September 25, 1789. The first ten that were ratified by the states comprise what become known as the Bill of Rights.

The very first sentence of the First Amendment to the Constitution begins, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Given this plain statement, with its intent so abundantly clear, it’s hard to imagine how in the course of human events that intent has become so tangled. Yet the courts have tortured these simple words into a maze of contradictory interpretations.

“The very first sentence of the First Amendment to the Constitution begins, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.””

The Secularist War Against the Free Expression of Religion in America

Today, the founders’ original intent is all but lost in a post-modern world patrolled by the fascistic impulses of self-appointed enforcers of political correctness.

If you think that characterization is too harsh or hyperbolic, consider the following true stories:

Deep within the Mojave National Preserve in Southeastern California, there is a cross affixed atop a lonely outcropping of rock known as Sunrise Rock. It commemorates the men and women who died fighting for freedom in World War I. A cross of one kind or another has stood on this rock for the last 75 years. Today the cross is obscured with plywood by order of a Federal Court until the Supreme Court decides its fate.

The President of William and Mary College removed a cross from the historic Wren Chapel because he decided it was “unwelcoming”.

In the new Capitol Visitors Center in Washington, DC, our Godly heritage was initially purged from the displays. Among the numerous errors of historical fact, our national motto was incorrectly identified as “E Pluribus Unum” instead of “In God We Trust.” And that motto was purposefully omitted from the display representing the House chamber, even though in the actual chamber the words “In God We Trust” are displayed prominently above the Speakers Chair.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that allowing school children to recite the Pledge of Allegiance with the phrase “under God” is unconstitutional.

A pastor was arrested in a California Mall for having a casual conversation about faith with two shoppers.

A Baptist Minister who offered sidewalk counseling to women considering abortion served 30 days in jail for peacefully protesting outside a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Oakland, California.

A student at Missouri State University studying to be a social worker was interrogated by school faculty and subsequently threatened with expulsion when she asked for an alternative assignment that did not compromise her Christian beliefs. She had been required to lobby state legislators in favor of adoption by same-sex couples.

Despite that fact that Federal courts have repeatedly ruled that public universities cannot discriminate against religious student organizations, the University of Wisconsin de-funded the student group, Wisconsin Roman Catholic Foundation (WRCF), arguing that funding the WRCF violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

A Vermont Family Court judge ruled that the biological mother of a 7 year-old girl must turn over her daughter to her long-time lesbian partner after the mother became an evangelical Christian, broke up the relationship, renounced the homosexual lifestyle, and moved to Virginia.

California voters went to the polls and voted overwhelmingly to protect traditional marriage. Four California State Supreme Court judges overruled the will of four million voters and declared that the ballot initiative was unconstitutional. Voters subsequently overruled the judges and passed a state Constitutional Amendment to protect marriage. A lawsuit is now being heard in Federal Court claiming that amendment violates the U.S. Constitution.

Congress passed a “hate speech” law subjecting pastors and other faith leaders to prosecution for preaching about aspects of their faith the state decides are “hate speech.”

In DeFuniak Springs, Florida, a judge ordered that a copy of the Ten Commandments in the courthouse be covered during a murder trial, because he didn’t want jurors to see the command “Do not kill.”

In Balch Spring, Texas, senior citizens meeting at a community senior center were prohibited from praying over their meals.

In Memphis, Tennessee, a library offered shelf space for displaying community announcements. When a local church used the shelf to announce its Christmas program with a small Nativity scene, the library required that Joseph, Mary, Jesus, and the three Wise Men be removed, leaving only the farm animals.

In EuClaire, Wisconsin, college students were prohibited from holding Bible studies in their own private dorm rooms, but were allowed to conduct discussion groups on any other topic.

In Saint Louis, Missouri, an elementary student caught praying over his lunch by a school official was lifted from his seat, reprimanded in front of the other students, and taken to the principal, who ordered him to stop praying.

Other instances include the state requiring pre-approval for Bible courses. There have been prohibitions on displaying: crosses on memorials, nativity scenes, the Ten Commandments, and even cemetery planters in the shape of a cross. There are bans against children using religious themes in their school artwork. Cities including Los Angeles have removed religious symbols from their city seals even if the depiction was historic. There are bans on non-inclusive public prayer. College campuses are notorious for speech codes especially on religious speech. In one legislative chamber there was even a ban on thinking a religious thought when introducing a bill!

This list is by no means exhaustive, but sadly it’s emblematic of the countless instances of religious intolerance, the hundreds of cases in the courts this year alone, and the thousands like them over the last decade.

“Radical secular activists in alliance with their chief prosecutor against religious freedom, the ACLU, use the courts as their principal vehicle for attack.”

Radical secular activists in alliance with their chief prosecutor against religious freedom, the ACLU, use the courts as their principal vehicle for attack. They continue to gain ground by recruiting sympathetic candidates for office to wage their battle in the halls of the Congress and the state capitols across the country. These efforts are part of a sustained and serious ongoing effort to purge symbols and expressions of faith, and indeed to litigate or legislate God and God’s morality from the public square, from our courts, our state houses, our schools, hospitals and even our churches.

Taken together this anti-religious campaign comprises the single largest threat to not only religious liberty in America but to freedom and the Republic itself.

The Myth of Constitutional “Separation of Church and State”

But because of its incremental nature, too few American recognize the loss of freedom, especially the loss to people wishing to live out their faith. The secularists have convinced so many Americans including people of faith that there is a constitutionally mandated separation of church and state, that it is now accepted as “truth.” The problem is that it is not true. Not only is “separation of church and state” not in the Constitution, it is not contained in a single law. Remember the Constitution only prohibits Congress from establishing a national religion or infringing on the “free exercise” of religion.

This entire campaign is a legal concept that grew out of a personal letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury, Connecticut Baptists where he referred to the First Amendment as having created a “wall of separation” between church and state. Jefferson was trying to alleviate the concerns of the Baptists in Danbury, assuring them that the state had no intention of interfering with their type of worship. We know this because Jefferson and the other Founders knew full-well the power of a state controlled church and they adamantly rejected it. What Jefferson wrote has been turned completely upside down by the courts and now the secular culture.

The Founders’ Embraced and Promoted Religion in America’s Public Life

Today, “separation of church and state” is asserted to mean that actions, speech, or any public displays of faith on government property are unconstitutional. This would be unrecognizable to Thomas Jefferson or his fellow founders. Nearly every Sunday during his Presidency, including the very Sunday after he wrote that letter, Jefferson rode up Pennsylvania Avenue to attend church services which were held in the Capitol building itself until at least the 1860s. Jefferson also lent the Treasury building for religious services. He saw no inconsistency with religious worship on public property.

Perhaps Jefferson should have simply sent the Danbury Baptists “The Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom” which he drafted in 1779, three years after the Declaration of Independence. It passed the General Assembly of Virginia in 1786. Like the establishment clause, it is clear enough that we might have averted the current debate had his original intent been honored. Here is what Jefferson’s law said in part, all of which can be seen on the Jefferson memorial in Washington, DC: “No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship or ministry or shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion. I know but one code of morality for men whether acting singly of collectively.” This sentiment, reflected in the First Amendment, was widely held, not because the Founders were anti-religious but because they were religious.

“The “Separatist” misconception which the secularists have asserted, is now pervasive, not only with regard the First Amendment, but throughout virtually every aspect of our culture.”

The “Separatist” misconception which the secularists have asserted, is now pervasive, not only with regard the First Amendment, but throughout virtually every aspect of our culture. Militant secularists now dominate the intellectual and cultural commanding heights of our civilization including academia, the newsrooms, entertainment, public schools, art, history, and even the churches.

Their indoctrinations have created a generation so uneducated about our history especially our Godly heritage that most Christians cannot even articulate a defense.

It is up to every American who believes in freedom to assert leadership, retake the heights, and displace the radical occupiers. To regain the intellectual and cultural commanding heights may take a generation, but it will be worth the struggle. We need to reconnect the present with our past. Only then can we understand how to move forward. Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (KJV). Understanding our history within the context of world history makes clear the present. Knowing and understanding what happened in the past, allows us to see emerging patterns that will help guide us away from repeating history’s calamities. We not only need to take this responsibility for ourselves, we need to ensure that we are selecting leaders who share our worldview.

How To End the Tyranny of “Separation” and Restore “Free Exercise”

Judges 9:7-15, provides an insightful parable about selecting leaders. In that story, the most qualified plants –those who produce the best fruits, the olive, the fig, and the vine –were all asked to lead. But all refused citing some excuse. So the bramble was asked to lead by default. And of course, the bramble eagerly agreed. Today, we have too many bramble bushes leading us and not enough olive, figs and grape vines. The reason is not so much that the brambles keep getting elected over the fruit; it is that men and women of character who are producing many fruits in the private sector are failing to step into leadership roles in the public sector. If we are to reoccupy the economic, intellectual, cultural, and spiritual commanding heights of American civilization, then a dedicated crop of leaders are going to have to step up and clear out the brambles.

Testing Candidates

“But how can the average voter determine which candidates will produce the fruits of freedom and which ones will strangle it?”

But how can the average voter determine which candidates will produce the fruits of freedom and which ones will strangle it? Here is one simple test. You really need to know just one thing – the candidate’s worldview. Does he or she believe God is in charge or does he believe man is in charge? If he or she believes God is in charge, you can with reasonable certainty predict how that candidate will vote on taxes, abortion, marriage, defense, and virtually any other issue. If she believes, as John Adams believed, that liberty is a gift from God, your candidate will vote for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness because, as the Declaration of Independence asserts, those are rights given to us by God and not government. So you can count on the fact that he or she will vote for smaller limited government, lower taxes, protect life, marriage, and freedom because your candidate knows man’s nature is subject to the corrupting temptations of power.

A God-fearing candidate will also most certainly vote for a strong defense. If he or she is then criticized for supporting “big government,” the answer is simple. A strong defense is essential to protect freedom. Freedom is second in importance only to life, because it allows us to pursue happiness.

If on the other hand, if the candidate believes man is over God or God does not exist, he or she will vote the opposite. Why? Because if you don’t believe there is a God, then you can rationally conclude that you are going to need a very big government. And that means more, more , more – more taxes, more bureaucracy, more rules, more regulations, and less freedom.

Why Free Exercise of Faith Threatens Statists

Here is the nub of the issue about religious freedom. Why do the secularists want to tear down crosses, arrest people for talking about their faith in shopping malls, redefine marriage, prohibit crèches and menorahs on public property, keep students from the Bible, and remove God from the public square? The answer is really very simple. The religious worldview is the single greatest threat to the left’s utopian vision of powerful, centralized, bureaucratic government that will control every aspect of our lives. Only if citizens can be kept ignorant or apathetic about their Creator, will the secular left be able to impose their statist socialist agenda. That is why protecting religious liberty was the first priority of the Founding Fathers. Freedom of faith is the prerequisite for protecting all liberty. The freedom of every American is threatened when government interferes with the religion of any American.

Rick Tyler is the Founding Director of Renewing American Leadership

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Judge advances student’s lawsuit against college that said change your beliefs or be dismissed from grad school

Posted by faithandthelaw on March 29, 2010

 

© 2010 WorldNetDaily 

A federal judge will allow to continue a lawsuit by a former student against a long list of university officials who tossed her out of a graduate counseling program after she said her Christian beliefs would not allow her to affirm homosexual behavior.  

Eastern Michigan president Susan W. Martin

WND reported earlier on the dispute involving Eastern Michigan University, which was accused of tossing Julea Ward out of the program illegally.

 She sued following “disciplinary proceedings” that resulted from her request that a training class “client” be referred to another student because she could not counsel him concerning his homosexual relationship, according to the Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom.

 When the case was filed, WND called president Susan W. Martin’s office for comment and was referred to a media relations office. A statement release later by Pam Young, director of communications at EMU, did not address the student’s dismissal.

Young said, “Although Eastern Michigan University does not comment on pending litigation, we are a diverse campus with a strong commitment not to discriminate on the basis of gender, race, disability, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.”

But David French, senior counsel for the ADF, said then, “When a public university has a prerequisite of affirming homosexual behavior as morally good in order to obtain a degree, the school is stepping over the legal line.”

Ward was dismissed from the program March 12, 2009, and the dean of the college of education affirmed the decision on March 26, according to the ADF.

The court’s decision, written by U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh, said, “Ward has sufficiently [pled] and come forward with evidence that EMU defendants’ act of dismissing Ward violated First and Fourteenth Amendment rights so clearly established that a reasonable official in their position would have clearly understood that they were under an affirmative duty to refrain from such conduct.”

The judge said there are “genuine issues of material fact” about the school’s “true motivations” for dismissing Ward from the program. Further, the judge concluded, the student’s actions to avoid in advance a counseling session for which she had reservations probably actually followed professional ethical guidelines, instead of breaking them as the school accused.

The demand by EMU regents, school executives and others for the case to be dismissed was therefore denied, the judge said.

The student had been targeted by the school’s disciplinary process as a result of her decision, and she was “informed that the only way she could stay in the graduate school counseling program would be if she agreed to undergo a ‘remediation’ program … to see the ‘error of her ways,'” ADF said.

The goal was to have Ward “change her ‘belief system,’ as it relates to counseling about homosexual relationships, conforming her beliefs to be consistent with the university’s views,” the law firm said.

She refused and was given the choice of leaving voluntarily or having a formal review.

The ADF Center for Academic Freedom defends religious freedom at America’s public universities. ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith.

Courtesy of http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=132853

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