Blog

15 Jan

Why Religious Freedom Matters

As a New Year begins, America finds itself at a tipping point, with the stakes for religious freedom at an all-time high.  Many cases are working their way through the courts while some will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.  These cases involve prayer, military religious rights, faith-based business owners, and houses of worship.  Unfortunately, many cases don’t even make it to the court system since citizens will often capitulate to intimidation out of ignorance of their First Amendment protections, fear of job or societal repercussions, or legal costs  (though many law firms defend religious freedom pro-bono.)
 
       Examples of Student Religious Expression on trial:  
  At two different Long Island, NY, public schools students were made to turn their t-shirts inside out to hide the Bible verses on the shirts.
  A Florida agency banned two Christian schools from using a stadium speaker system to pray before a championship game, even though this was common practice. 
These 2 cases are each one step below the Supreme Court.
 
       Examples of Military Religious Rights on trial:
  A 33-year Air Force veteran, Oscar Rodriquez, was forcibly removed from a private retirement ceremony at a CA airbase because he planned to say the word “God” in his speech.
  Two high-ranking military officers, Col. Bohannon and Col. Madrid, are being punished for their religious views on marriage.
 
       Examples of Business Owners on trial:
  An OR family-owned bakery is being fined $135,000 for declining – on religious grounds – to create a custom cake for a same-sex wedding. The government says it also wants to “rehabilitate” their religious views.
  MN film makers, Angel & Carl Larsen, are facing large fines or 90 days in jail for declining to video a same-sex wedding.
 
       Examples of Houses of Worship on trial:
  A synagogue in Dallas, TX, is fighting for its existence against zoning regulations.
  An Orthodox Jewish community in Los Angeles, CA, was sued by animal rights activists trying to prevent a millennium-old religious ceremony (kosher chicken) from taking place in various synagogues.    
 
(CFFR, Students of Faith lessons, 2017; firstliberty.org, 12/28/17; ncregister.com, 6/22/12; thf_media, s3,amazonnews)
 
 “The liberty enjoyed by the People of these States, of worshiping Almighty God agreeable to their Consciences, is not only among the choicest of their Blessings, but also of their Rights.”  George Washington
08 Jan

Celebrate Religious Freedom Day – January 16, 2018

National Religious Freedom Day is observed on January 16 every year since 1993 to commemorate the Virginia General Assembly’s adoption of Thomas Jefferson’s landmark Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom on January 16, 1786.  This vital document became the basis for the Constitution’s First Amendment establishment clause, and led to the protection of freedom of religion for all Americans.  Every president writes an official Proclamation on this day.

 Why We Need Religious Freedom:
 “Religion and good morals are the only solid foundation of public liberty and happiness,” said Founding Father, Samuel Adams in 1778.

An academic report from Princeton University argues that vigorously advancing religious freedom is in America’s national interests:
 ·         The basis for religious freedom is  awareness of the reality and dignity of the human person.  Since religion is a human impulse to know and relate to something bigger than one’s self and is a phenomenon found in all times and cultures, to interfere with living out religious experience, is to interfere with human fulfillment.
 ·         “When citizens are free to have an ultimate commitment to something more than human, something beyond the authorities of state and society, the power of the state is thereby limited.”
 ·         At the same time, religious freedom disciplines religious people to treat their non-coreligionists with respect.
 ·         Morally, religion is just not religion unless it is done freely.
 ·         Legally, democracies have recognized that – far from being a marginal special interest – religious freedom is a central human right.

 (ncregister.com, 2012; mormonnewsroom.org, 2/3/12; Dr. D. Dreisbach, 2/16/15)

 “I still believe that standing up for the truth of God is the greatest thing in the world.  This is the end (purpose) of life.”       Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
01 Jan

Partial Victory for First Amendment Freedoms

A federal court judge ruled in mid-December that an Atlanta, GA, city policy requiring public employees to get permission to do other work outside their city employment, that led to the firing of Fire Chief Kevin Cochran in 2015, was unconstitutional.  The long-time fire chief had a distinguished career that included an appointment by Pres. Obama as the U.S. Fire Administrator.  Nevertheless, he was fired for authoring and self-publishing a book for his men’s Bible study that upholds the biblical view on sexuality.
 
“Atlanta can no longer require employees to get permission from the city for speech unrelated to work or punish them if they don’t,” said an Alliance Defending Freedom attorney.   “This win protects all city employees wanting to engage in ‘controversial’ speech – whether that be what the Bible has to say about marriage or what Charlie Brown and the Bible have to say about Christmas.”
 
However, the Atlanta city attorney is also declaring victory.  “We are pleased that Judge May ruled that the mayor acted lawfully and appropriately in terminating Mr. Cochran’s employment. … (This lawsuit) is an employment matter involving an executive  in charge of more than 1,100 firefighters and tasked to lead by example.”
 
For now, Cochran’s case will continue through the courts to determine if the chief gets his job back and receives some compensation.
 
Chief Cochran said, “It’s still unthinkable to me that the very faith and patriotism that inspired my professional achievements and drove me to treat all people with love and equity is what the government ultimately used to bring my dream career to an end.  All Americans are guaranteed the freedom of actually believing and thinking in such a way that does not cost them the consequences that I’ve experienced in this termination.”

(frc.org, 12/21/17; wabe.org, 12/20/17; christianpost.com, 12/21/17)
 
“We have become certain of two things: religious freedom is under attack, and we will not cease our struggle to protect it.”  Cardinal Timothy Dolan, New York
25 Dec

The True Meaning of “Separation of Church and State”

Our forefathers would have never accepted or permitted the restrictions on religion or conscience that are enacted today under the banner “Separation of Church and State,” since these restrictions are the exact opposite of the intent of Thomas Jefferson’s “separation …” phrase.  The intent of the founders was not to establish the government as a God-free zone, but to ensure that matters of religious conscience and practice was a government-free zone.
 
Yet, frequently today, crosses are ripped down in parks, prayer has been banished from schools, and there are lawsuits trying to remove “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance.  
 
How did this happen?  It seems that over the past half-century, when we weren’t paying close attention, atheist and freedom-from-religion groups challenged America’s founding principles in the public square, in schools and in the courts, thus succeeding in mutating Jefferson’s reassurance to the Danbury Baptist Church that government couldn’t interfere in their First Amendment Freedom of Religion rights.  President Jefferson wrote that the “free exercise” clause “built a wall of separation between Church and State.”
 
Our founders fought for a nation where, in the words of Pastor John Leland, all would be “equally free – Jews, Turks, Pagans, and Christians.”  They knew from history that an attack on anyone’s religious liberty would be destructive to everyone’s religious liberty; for where government, through power, can dictate, there is no liberty.
 
                 (christiananswers.netforbes.com, 7/9/11; wnd.com; KrisAnneHall, 6/26/13)
 
“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?”       Benjamin Franklin