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Two situations.  In one, people were asked to attend a graduation ceremony in a comfortable church auditorium with air-conditioning and comfortable chairs.  In the other, a person was tortured and killed for holding religious beliefs. 

Which one do you think represents the evil that our first amendment was meant to prohibit?

It was 50 years ago (September 12, 1960) that John F. Kennedy gave his now famous speech to the Houston Ministerial Society.   When JFK was running for President that year, he was facing severe criticism for being a Roman Catholic. And so during this speech, he emphatically declared that his faith would be separate from his duties as President.

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute….  I believe in a President whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office…. 

I am not going to opine at length now about how idiotic it is to claim that a politician can separate his or her religious beliefs from civic duty.  A person of faith cannot separate religious beliefs from his or her thoughts and actions any more than you can separate your central nervous system from your body.  Your faith, if genuine, controls your every move, your every thought.  Faith is not something you “put on” when convenient.  Either you are a person of faith, or not. 

But I do want to comment on this perverted misunderstanding of the concept of “separation of church and state.”  Today, groups like the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State laud JFK’s speech for stating that there is an “absolute separation” between church and state.  They have used this misguided phrase to justify a purging of all things religious from the public square. 

Voluntary student prayer in the public schools?  According to the ACLU, this violates the separation of church and state. 

Prayers before Congressional sessions?  The ACLU says no

Ten Commandments monuments on display in front of the Courthouse?  The ACLU believes this is offensive and thus violates the separation of church and state. 

A public high school graduation being held in a comfortable church auditorium?  Not if the ACLU has its way!

But really, was the concept of separation of church and state meant to prohibit graduations in comfortable church auditoriums?  Was the genesis of this idea to clean up government lawns from being overcrowded with monuments?

No!  These things are all examples of living everyday life in a society where people have religious beliefs.  Rather, our founders were trying to prohibit the kind of punishment for religious beliefs like what happened to Michael Sattler. 

Michael was a leader of the Anabaptist movement in the 16th Century, and held several beliefs that were not shared by the ruling government of his day.  In America, our Constitution protects the right to hold beliefs that are not shared by the mainstream.  This was not the case in Michael’s day.

And so because of his beliefs concerning baptism, he was arrested as a heretic.  He was tried and convicted.  His sentence for holding these beliefs?  Death.

But he was not sentenced to an ordinary death.  His tongue was cut out to prevent him from giving his testimony during his burning.  Flesh from his body was torn with red hot tongs.  He was drug by a wagon across the town.  And this torture was concluded by being burned at the stake.

All of this – because of his beliefs.  This is why we have religious freedom in America.  We do not have religious freedom so that our religious history can be sandblasted from government buildings. 

The First Amendment was not meant to force graduation ceremonies to be held in crowded gymnasiums rather than a comfortable church auditorium.  Our Constitution was not meant to prohibit politicians, who possess Christian beliefs, from using that moral base to enact sound laws for this nation.

This type of thinking is a mockery to the real harm inflicted on our ancestors because of their religious beliefs.

Groups like the ACLU will argue, “But it’s a slippery slope.  Once you allow graduations to be held in comfortable plush chairs in an air-conditioned auditorium, then you are only one step away from dragging a person through town behind a wagon, tearing his body with fire hot tongs, and burning his body at the stake.”

The lunacy of this comparison is self evident.  But there is a slippery slope involved here.  And that is this – by following the road the ACLU would have us follow, we will end up being a nation whose children know nothing of our religious heritage, and where all things religious are banned from the public square because they might offend someone.

It’s time to remember what religious freedom is really all about.

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ADF Senior Legal Counsel - Church Project

Every once in a while, I stroll via the internet to the ACLU’s website to see what is going on.  I’m not real sure why I do because I always end up angry at most of the things the ACLU is involved in.  I expected to hear about the latest lawsuit the ACLU brought against a nativity scene or against a City Council who opens their legislative meetings in prayer.  Imagine my surprise, though, when I see trumpeted on the ACLU’s website the fact that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued an official proclamation stating that September 15 is “ACLU Day.”  And then, I see the news that the ACLU just wrapped up its five year fundraising campaign where it hauled in a whopping $407 million dollars!  That’s a lot of money to fund a radical organization like the ACLU that stands against traditional marriage and for unrestricted abortions.

As ADF’s President and CEO, Alan Sears, says in his book The ACLU vs. America, if the ACLU’s vision for America were realized, some of the following (along with much more) would be the reality in America today:

All legal prohibitions on the distribution of obscene material – including child pornography – are unconstitutional.

Pornographic outlets can locate wherever they please

Tax-funded libraries should not restrict access of children to pornography on the internet

The military cannot stop open displays of homosexual behavior within its ranks

All legislative, military  and prison chaplaincy programs should be abolished

All criminal and civil laws that prohibit polygamy (having multiple wives) and same-sex “marriage” should be done away with.

This is just a small snippet of what the ACLU’s vision for America is.  It should not surprise us that the ACLU’s vision is so radical.  After all, this was the organization that represented NAMBLA, the North American Man-Boy Love Association, a group that promotes pedophilia.  The ACLU has a radical vision for America and now it has a massive war chest to back it up.

So church, the question is posed to us – what are we going to do about this?  How are we going to counter the ACLU’s massive war chest?  Are we to sit back and allow the forces of the ACLU to implement their vision for America unchecked? 

These questions were answered by the founders of ADF many years ago when they established ADF and tasked it with a mission to defend religious liberty, the sanctity of human life, and the traditional family.  And we have a plan for how to defend our most precious liberties.  Check out our website for many ways you can get involved.  But one thing is plain – we need for you to help us.

Now is not the time for the church to sit back and wring its hands.  Instead, like David did on the battlefield with Goliath, we should run “quickly toward the battle line,” all the while proclaiming to this culture and society that no matter what weapons they have, “I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. … the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hand.” 1 Samuel 17:45, 47.

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ADF Senior Legal Counsel - Church Project

This story from Baptist Press is a must-read for churches that have and use wireless microphones.  When Television switched over to a digital format in 2009, the FCC changed the rules for what frequencies were permissible for wireless devices.  Most older wireless microphones operate within the “700 MHz band” (between 698 and 806 MHz).  This band has now been reserved for emergency workers such as police and fire and are off-limits.

Churches who have not already checked to see if their wireless microphones are in compliance should do so immediately as churches could face significant fines for operating wireless microphones in the prohibited frequency range.  Many churches have seen this coming for some time, but if you have missed it, you should check out your church’s wireless microphones.  Besides the fines, older wireless microphones that operate in the 700 MHz range can experience interference and can also interfere with emergency workers using that frequency range for their communications.

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ADF Senior Legal Counsel - Church Project

A new Gallup poll shows how much confidence Americans have in their institutions.  The big news from the poll is the very low confidence rating Americans have in Congress – only a shocking 11% of those polled have great confidence in Congress as an institution.  But among the major institutions in American life, Americans ranked their confidence in the “church or organized religion” as fourth behind only the military, small business, and the police.  The poll shows that 48% of Americans have a “great deal of confidence” in the church.  That number was at 52% a year ago.

Yet despite the decline in percentage from a year ago, the poll shows encouraging results that nearly half of all Americans have “a great deal” of confidence in the church.  This is good news because it is the church that is the wellspring of religious freedom, and religious freedom necessarily restrains government and promotes liberty.  As Alexis DeTocQueville, a french political scientist who observed America from 1831-1832, stated about the role of religion in public life:

When the religion of a people is destroyed, doubt gets hold of the higher powers of the intellect, and half paralyzes all the others.  Every man accustoms himself to have only confused and changing notions on the subjects most interesting to his fellow creatures and himself.  His opinions are ill-defended and easily abandoned; and, in despair of ever resolving by himself the hard problems respecting the destiny of man, he ignobly submits to think no more about them.  Such a condition cannot but enervate the soul, relax the springs of the will, and prepare a people for servitude.  Not only does it happen, in such a case, that they allow their freedom to be taken away from them; they frequently themselves surrender it.

These are sobering words that remind us of the power and importance of the church in American life.  As DeTocqueville pointed out, as the church suffers and declines in American life, freedom declines correspondingly.  Archbishop Charles Chaput recently stated in his book Render Unto Caesar, that, “In America, people understood that to be free themselves, their churches must be free; but those churches must also be active in shaping virtuous citizens.”

Archbishop Caput and DeTocqueville are right.  The church must be free for freedom to flourish, but the church also has responsibilities to shape the virtue of the citizens for freedom to continue to flourish.  The Gallup poll is good news for the church in America, but it should also serve as a sobering reminder of the Church’s responsiblity in American life.


ADF Senior Legal Counsel - Church Project

A recent AP article picked up by news outlets across the country describes how Gano Baptist Church in Georgetown, Kentucky is teaching young people about our country’s religious heritage.  Here’s a description of the event in the Church’s own words:

At a Vacation Liberty School your children will be sent on a daily journey back to the founding of our nation and learn the truth about our history and the impact faith had on both the founding fathers and the foundation of our country.

Amazingly, the article quotes Americans United for Separation of Church and State as being concerned about this effort of a church to teach kids our religious heritage and how the Founding Fathers’ faith played an important role in their political decisions.  Let’s be clear – there is absolutely no legal prohibition on churches teaching about the religion of our founders, even if pastors do so from the pulpit. ADF has put together an easy to read summary of the current law governing churches and politics called “Guidelines for Political Activities by Churches and Pastors.” The only current prohibition on church political speech has to do with endorsing and opposing a candidate who is currently running for office (and ADF is doing its best to change that unconstitutional law through the Pulpit Initiative).

Gano Baptist Church’s Vacation Liberty School has nothing to do with particular candidates and is perfectly legal. One wonders why the Left is so afraid of kids learning the truth about our history. As Christ said, “The truth will set you free.” Gano Baptist Church appears to be doing a great job protecting our freedom by telling the truth about our history. I hope they keep it up and ignore the groundless warnings of groups like Americans United.

Please leave a comment below to share your thoughts or follow us on Facebook to join the conversation.


ADF Senior Counsel - Church Project

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