Freedom of Religion

Federal court upholds prayer in Congress

A federal court ruled Wednesday that Congress can continue to open its sessions each day with a prayer, and upheld the House’s ability to pick and choose who’s allowed to lead the prayer. U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer, a Bush appointee who sits in Washington, D.C., rejected a challenge by Daniel Barker, co-president of Freedom From Religion Foundation, who said he was not permitted to give an opening invocation, even though other guest chaplains have been permitted. Judge Collyer said House rules didn’t permit him to lead the prayer because he had left his faith. Judge Collyer also said an opening prayer has been a tradition in this country for more than two centuries, and the Supreme Court has ruled it doesn’t violate the Establishment Clause. “To decide that Mr. Barker was discriminated against and should be permitted to address the House would be to disregard the Supreme Court precedent that permits legislative prayer,” Judge Collyer wrote in her opinion on Wednesday. Mr. Barker said her ruling was tainted by personal bias against nonreligious people. “The judge’s acquiescence in this inequity sends a crystal clear message that our government, founded upon our entirely secular Constitution, may discriminate with impunity against atheists and freethinkers,” he said. But House Speaker Paul D. Ryan applauded the ruling. “Since the first session of the Continental Congress, our nation’s legislature has opened with a prayer to God. Today, that tradition was upheld and the freedom to exercise religion was vindicated,” said Mr. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican. He added the return of Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise, Louisiana Republican, who was shot earlier this year by a left wing zealot, reminded Congress of the power of prayer.

Indeed..  This ruling was spot on, and with precedent from the Supreme Court.  This idiot from FFRF got slapped down, and rightfully so.  This is a small, yet important, victory for religious freedom, and for freedom of speech.  As we’ve documented on numerous occasions here at The Daily Buzz… The whole notion of a “separation of church and state” is bs.  There is no such thing.  That phrase originated in a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to the members of a church where he raised the idea in a philosophical sense.  That’s it.  Nowhere in our founding legal documents (i.e. The U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights, etc.) is that phrase found.   Our founders intended freedom OF religion; NOT freedom FROM religion.  Kudos to Judge Collyer for her spot-on analysis, and excellent ruling!

Starnes: Bernie Sanders attacks Trump nominee for following teachings of Christ

First they came for the wedding planners and the bakers. Then they came for the Catholic farmers and the Baptist high school valedictorians. And now, the secularists are coming after the evangelical public servants. On Wednesday, Russell Vought, President Trump’s nominee to be deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, was viciously attacked by Sen. Bernie Sanders over his Christian faith. Sen. Sanders deemed Vought unsuitable for office because he believes that salvation is found alone through Jesus Christ. He said someone with that kind of a religious belief system is “really not someone who this country is supposed to be about.” Sen. James Lankford warned that Sander’s comments “dangerously close to crossing a clear constitutional line for how we evaluate qualifications for public service.” “The First Amendment is crystal clear that the federal government must protect every American’s right to the peaceful and free exercise of religion,” the Oklahoma Republican said. “We cannot say we have the free exercise of religion and also require people to practice their faith only in a way that government officials prefer.” The Vermont senator’s comments brought strong condemnation from Christians across the nation – including Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. “Senator Sanders is taking the Obama era’s religious hostility and putting it on steroids,” Perkins said. Thousands have signed a Family Research Council petition demanding Sanders apologize for his outburst of religious bigotry. Robert Jeffress, the pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas (and a Fox News contributor), said that there are only two choices for the senator: “Apologize to the country for his foolhardy attempt to introduce an unconstitutional litmus test that would exclude 41 percent of the country, or resign.” The controversy stems from an article Vought wrote in 2016 defending his alma mater, Wheaton College. In that article, he described Islam as a “deficient theology.” “This is a fundamental problem,” he wrote in The Resurgent. “Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ his Son, and they stand condemned.” Sanders confronted Vought during the congressional hearing. To read a transcript of the exchange been Sen. Sanders and Russell Vought, click here.

Wow..  You really can’t make this stuff up, folks..  We all know how much of a lunatic, crazy ol’ Bernie is.  But, now we can add the adjective bigot to the list.  Isn’t ironic how the left is also preaching how we all need to be more “tolerant”..  But, when it comes to Christians, the left is VERY intolerant..  If you’re a Christian, you can’t have a job in government.  That is essentially what Bernie is suggesting.  So what if he this guy thinks Islam is a “deficient theology” (which, by the way, it is).  Who cares?  That has NOTHING to do with the time of day, or the job for which he is being considered.  Oh.. and what about that First Amendment to the Constitution?  Christians (who make up over 70% of Americans, according to the last census) are entitled to it’s protections.  Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) was more than right to slam Bernie for hiss outrageous questions and bigoted grandstanding.  Unreal..

Starnes: Bible reading not allowed before class, Northern Arizona Univ. professor tells student

It’s apparently okay to read history books at Northern Arizona University, but not the Good Book. Mark Holden, a 22-year-old history major, tells me he was ordered to leave a lecture hall after his professor objected to him reading the Bible before the start of the class. Holden alleges that Professor Heather Martel ordered him to put away the Good Book around six minutes before a scheduled history class. It’s unclear why she objected to the reading of God’s Word. According to her biography, Professor Martel is a noted scholar who is working on an essay titled, “The Gender Amazon: Indigenous Female Masculinity in Early Modern European Representations of Contact.” She also teaches classes on Global Queer History and Feminist Theory. When Holden declined to stop reading his Bible, the professor summoned Derek Heng, the chairman of the department. Heng then proceeded to explain the situation. Holden recorded the conversation and turned it over to congressional candidate Kevin Cavanaugh. In turn, Cavanaugh provided me with a copy of the audio. “So Professor Martel says that she doesn’t want you sitting in front of her because you put, you know, a Bible out, right?” Heng said. “So she doesn’t want me in the front because I have my Bible out,” Holden replied. “No, I think she, I mean, well why do you have your Bible out anyway,” Heng asked. After a bit more back and forth regarding the dynamics in the classroom, the chairman of the department got to the heart of the issue. “So, will you, will you, will you, put your Bible away,” Heng asked. The incident occurred back in February, but just recently became public after Campus Reform reported on the controversy. Holden had previously drawn the ire of his professor during a classroom discussion on assimilation. “All the students agreed with her that assimilation is oppressive and evil,” Holden said. “I suggested there are both positive and negative aspects to assimilation.” As an example, he referenced a report about two Muslim men in California who reportedly said the Koran justified doing terrible things to women. “She told me I was a racist and she would not tolerate that kind of racism in the class,” Holden said. “I told her Islam was not a race and I was only talking about what the two Muslims men as individuals said – I was not making broad claims about Islam or my interpretation of the Koran.” After a bit of back and forth, Holden said the professor told the class, “Welcome to Trump’s new America – where straight white males can say prejudicial things without being reprimanded for it.” I reached out to Holden and university officials for their side of the story – but so far they have not returned my calls. However, I did obtain an email Martel sent to Holden warning him about “disruptive behavior.” “For the remainder of the class, I will ask you to move to one of the desks along the wall by the door,” she wrote. “The roll sheet will be passed to you. You will make sure that students who come in late sign in. I will also require that you respect me and the other students in the class by acting in a civil manner.”

Soo.. At a publicly funded university in AZ, a professor is openly attacking one of her students for reading a Bible BEFORE class, and then goes on to attack his race (white) in front of the rest of the class, thereby humiliating him…and then penalizes the poor kid for having the nerve to question her liberal orthodoxy regarding assimilation.  Wow..  This professor should be suspended, and the kid apologized to in writing by that professor.  To read the rest of this investigative piece by culture warrior Todd Starnes, and hear that recording in question, click on the text above.  This type of political correctness should NOT be tolerated on our colleges and universities.  And, if this crap continues, tax-payer funding should be withheld.

 

French: Washington’s Supreme Court Imposes Its Progressive Faith on a Christian Florist

If you care about the Bill of Rights, the rights of conscience, or even the English language, there’s a chance that this morning you felt a disturbance in the Force — as if the Founders cried out in rage and were suddenly silenced. That disturbance was the Washington Supreme Court’s oppressive ruling in State of Washington v. Arlene’s Flowers, a case holding that a florist was bound by state law to use her artistic talents to design floral arrangements to celebrate what she viewed as an immoral event: a gay wedding. The pretext for overriding the florist’s rights to free speech and religious liberty was Washington’s so-called “public accommodations law,” which required the owner, Barronelle Stutzman, to provide goods and services to customers “regardless” of their sexual orientation. Let’s be clear, according to the plain language of the law and the undisputed facts of the case, Stutzman did nothing illegal. She had always consistently and joyfully served gay clients, including the man who ultimately decided to bring potentially ruinous legal claims against her. On each of those prior occasions, however, she was not using her artistic talents to help her clients celebrate an occasion she considered immoral. In other words, she was not discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. She was making a decision not to help celebrate an action, a form of expression. She would no more celebrate a gay wedding than she would any form of immorality, gay or straight. To dispense with her argument, the court did what numerous progressive courts have done: It rewrote the law. It rejected what it called the “status/conduct” distinction, and essentially interpreted the word “orientation” to also mean “action.” To understand how nonsensical and dangerous this is, one need merely apply it to other categories of expression. Is it now racial discrimination to refuse to bake a cake with Confederate flag icing, since the person asking for such a cake will almost always be white? Is it gender discrimination for fashion designers to refuse to “dress” Ivanka or Melania Trump? They’re women, after all. But this is the sexual revolution we’re talking about, so it’s necessary for the court to make a statement declaring the government’s allegiances. Indeed, late in the opinion its author gave the game away. Picking up on the absurd and historically ignorant comparison of the modern gay-rights movement with the civil-rights movement in the segregationist South, the judge wrote, “This case is no more about access to flowers than civil rights cases in the 1960s were about access to sandwiches.” What are they talking about? The federal government took the extraordinary step of passing the civil-rights acts to give black Americans access not just to sandwiches but to hotel rooms, jobs, voting rights, and all the other things they were systematically denied as southern states and communities continually and oppressively imposed the “badges and incidents of slavery” on them. In the pre-civil-rights South, black citizens often had trouble finding places to eat or sleep. They couldn’t vote. They couldn’t get justice in state courts. Civil rights was about access, at its most elementary and necessary level. But that’s not the case any longer. The gay couple in this case had no trouble finding flowers. Stutzman even recommended other florists who would have been happy to help them celebrate their wedding. So, given the absence of any real harm, the court said that the state had a compelling state interest in punishing the “independent social evil” of discrimination toward a “broader societal purpose: eradicating barriers to equal treatment of all citizens in the commercial marketplace.” That’s it right there: the state religion. It reserves for itself the exclusive ability to name, define, and eradicate “social evils,” and heaven help the individual citizen who disagrees. There is no need to show a traditional, legally recognized harm. There is no need to prove lack of access to alternative artistic expressions. There is only the need to show that the business owner won’t use her unique talents to help celebrate the sexual revolution. Finally, if you doubt the court’s malice, look only to its last ruling — that Stutzman can be held personally liable for her allegedly discriminatory act. In other words, the court is willing to pierce the corporate veil to impose individual liability even in the absence of the traditional justifications for that drastic step. Stutzman didn’t commit fraud. She didn’t commingle her personal and corporate funds. She kept her private and professional affairs separate. But she still faces personal financial ruin. Social-justice warriors will no doubt celebrate the breaking of another egg for their cultural omelet. Meanwhile, Stutzman’s lawyers — my friends and former colleagues at the Alliance Defending Freedom — are appealing her case to the Supreme Court. Once again, eyes will be fixed on Justice Kennedy. Will he continue to impose his own version of the state religion, the one he so enthusiastically articulated in Obergefell? Or will he remember that words have meaning, orientation doesn’t mean action, and the state can’t compel citizens to condone what they consider immoral.

Agreed!!  And, well said, David.  Attorney, and Army Reserve officer (Major), David French was responsible for that outstanding legal op/ed.  David was awarded the Bronze Star for his service in Iraq.  Excellent!!    🙂

Starnes: State of Georgia demands pastor turn over sermons

A lay minister who is suing the Georgia Department of Public Health for religious discrimination has been ordered by the state’s attorney general to relinquish his sermons to the government, according to federal court documents. “Please produce a copy of your sermon notes and/or transcripts,” Attorney General Samuel Olens wrote to attorneys representing Dr. Eric Walsh. Dr. Walsh said he will not comply with the request. “No government has the right to require a pastor to turn over his sermons,” Walsh said. “I cannot and will not give up my sermons unless I am forced to do so.” Walsh, a Seventh-day Adventist lay minister had been hired in May 2014 as a District Health Director with the Georgia Department of Public Health. A week later, a government official asked him to submit copies of his sermons for review. He complied and two days later he was fired. His attorneys said the government was curious about sermons Dr. Walsh delivered on health, marriage, sexuality, world religions, science and creationism. He also preached on what the Bible says regarding homosexuality. He has since filed a federal lawsuit charging state officials with engaging in religious discrimination. “He was fired for something he said in a sermon,” attorney Jeremy Dys told me. “If the government is allowed to fire someone over what he said in his sermons, they can come after any of us for our beliefs on anything.” Dr. Walsh has assembled a powerhouse legal team comprised of Parks, Chesin & Walbert along with First Liberty Institute, one of the nation’s most prominent religious liberty law firms. “It’s an incredible intrusion on the sanctity of the pulpit,” Dys said. “This is probably the most invasive reach into the pulpit by the state that I’ve ever seen.” Neither the attorney general nor his communication director responded to telephone calls or email correspondence. Dys said the government’s request came as part of the process to build their case against his client. The request, he said, carries the same force of law as a subpoena. “Pastors and rabbis across the country – especially in the state of Georgia should be frightened that a state would demand all the sermon notes and transcripts of a pastor,” he said. “This is unprecedented.” It may be unprecedented, but is it illegal?

It should be illegal!  The very idea that a governmental body (in this case, the state of Georgia) would demand that a member of the clergy that they turn over their sermon notes is the kind of fascism we’d expect from a totalitarian state like N. Korea and other communist countries; NOT here in America..  Awful..

French: Religious Liberty: The Necessary Fight

In more than two decades spent litigating to preserve religious liberty in this country, one thing has become abundantly clear to me — millions of Christians don’t want this fight. It’s not that they’re reluctant warriors; they’re not warriors at all, and they will look for almost any excuse to stay on the sidelines. There are no shortage of Christian pundits willing to soothe their consciences. Some tell them that defending America’s first freedom isn’t “loving” or “compassionate.” Some even adopt the Left’s language and argue that religious liberty is a mere pretext for bigotry. But perhaps the most destructive (and seductive) argument of all is that conservatives are overreacting, and the entire fight does more harm than good — i.e., that controversial religious-liberty bills are a solution in search of a problem. Writing in The Atlantic, Jonathan Merritt presents the textbook example of this argument, asserting that conservatives are “fighting ghosts” and that the “problems these [religious-liberty] bills claim to solve don’t actually exist.” As the piece goes on, and he lays out example after example in an attempt to prove his point, Merritt makes clear he just doesn’t know the facts. Let’s start with the counseling profession. Yesterday, Tennessee governor Bill Haslam signed into law a common-sense protection for mental-health counselors, immunizing them from liability when they refuse to treat clients whose “goals, outcomes, or behaviors” conflict with their own sincerely held beliefs. In other words, a Christian counselor doesn’t have to counsel someone in methods to make their adulterous or same-sex relationship more successful. Merritt says that he’s interviewed Christian counselors and can’t find anyone who believes their religious liberty is at stake. He could and should have cast a wider net: I’ve personally advised counselors in Tennessee who expressed deep concern that they will be drafted into the sexual revolution. In fact, some feared that even the act of advocating for the new law could expose them to punitive action. That fear is well-founded. In 2014, the American Counseling Association made a number of significant changes to its code of ethics. It not only declared “promoting social justice” to be one of the “core professional values” of counselors, it made intentional revisions designed to require counselors to counsel clients even when clients seek outcomes that are antithetical to the counselor’s values. Specifically, the ACA called out two cases, Ward v. Polite (I was counsel on that case) and Keeton v. Anderson-Wiley (I wasn’t a counsel of record but worked with the plaintiff’s lawyers) where Christian students were ousted from counseling programs because they were unwilling to promote and facilitate same-sex relationships. The ACA wanted to make it crystal clear that its code of ethics would give no aid and comfort to values-based referrals. An ethics-revision task force specifically said that they were trying to close “a little ‘out’ in the old code.” They chose to do so in a particularly Orwellian way. The new code requires re-education — telling counselors that they must “seek training” in those areas where “they are at risk of imposing their values onto clients, especially when the counselor’s values are inconsistent with the client’s goals or are discriminatory in nature.” You don’t like gay marriage? Get thee to diversity training! And that’s just one issue. Regarding gender-neutral bathrooms, Merritt ignites the same burnt-over straw man that the Left has been torching for months, claiming that conservative arguments against allowing men in women’s bathrooms and locker rooms are “based on stereotypes claiming transgender people are unstable and dangerous perverts.” Wrong, wrong, wrong. The argument is that unstable and dangerous perverts will exploit gender-neutral bathrooms to gain increased access to women and girls. I’m not worried about Caitlyn Jenner. I’m worried about actual sexual predators. Finally, Merritt repeats the common (and mistaken) claim that religious-liberty laws such as the one vetoed in Georgia and those signed in Mississippi and North Carolina are practically useless, because those states’ public-accommodation laws don’t prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in the first place. In other words, there is no way that a Christian baker in Georgia or a Christian florist in Mississippi can be forced to participate in gay weddings to begin with, so why pass the law? This analysis ignores a number of crucial legal realities. State law may not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but that doesn’t mean state governments can’t creatively manufacture their own de facto nondiscrimination regimes. In Georgia alone there are now two cases pending — one against the city of Atlanta and the other against Georgia’s Department of Public Health — in which government officials allegedly fired Christian employees because of their private speech on matters of sexual morality. The absence of an explicit statewide nondiscrimination law doesn’t prevent local governments or public colleges from passing (and vigorously enforcing) their own regulations, either. I’ve been personally involved in dozens of cases and controversies where public universities restrict religious liberty based on their own rules and regulations — often in states where public-accommodation laws don’t include protections for sexual orientation or gender identity. Finally — as the Obama administration and federal courts have proven — bureaucrats and judges can “find” additional nondiscrimination protections even in pre-existing statutes. It would come as some surprise to the drafters of Title VII and Title IX, for example, that these statutes are now being interpreted by the EEOC, the Department of Education, and some federal courts to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity — even though those words appear nowhere in the laws themselves. When courts, bureaucrats, university administrators, and professional associations are stocked with sexual revolutionaries, corrective action is necessary. State law provides an imperfect remedy, but it can at least give people of faith one additional weapon in the battle against coercive secularism. It is undoubtedly true that religious-liberty battles tend to enrage the secular Left. Each public confrontation motivates social-justice warriors to destroy jobs in conservative communities and slander Christians in endless, bigoted online broadsides. But to argue that one shouldn’t fight censorship because it might make the censor angry is to simply surrender your liberty. The existence of vicious opposition isn’t evidence that your arguments are flawed; it means you’re on the right track. Men have died to preserve our fundamental freedoms. Woe to this generation if we back down in the face of boycotts and hashtags. I’ve discussed this before, and I’ll discuss it again. The church was built by apostles who withstood beatings; too many modern Christians can’t even endure Tweetings. Secular fury is a fact of faithful Christian life, and if placating PayPal takes precedence over defending liberty, then we deserve our cultural and political fate. — David French is an attorney, and Army Reserve officer (Major) who was awarded the Bronze Star for his service in Iraq

David nails it again!!  Outstanding!!    🙂

Florida city wages soviet-style crackdown on churches

A government crackdown on churches has Christians in Lake Worth, Fla., wondering if they live in the United States or the former Soviet Union. Churches in Lake Worth, population 36,000, have been ordered to acquire a business license. As if the church has to get the government’s permission to preach and pray? But wait. It gets worse, folks. City officials were so concerned about one congregation that they dispatched a code enforcement officer cloaked in a hoodie to spy on a Southern Baptist church that was meeting in a coffee house.

How crazy is that?!