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NYC City Council to Vote on Permitting Worship Services in Empty Public Schools

Posted on May 10th, 2013 Equal Access | No Comments »

UPDATE: The New York City Council passed a resolution Wednesday 38-11 in favor of requesting the state legislature to overturn the city’s public school policy of singling out worship services for exclusion from empty school buildings during non-school hours.

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Religious liberty will likely take a step forward May 22, when the New York City Council votes on a resolution asking the New York Legislature to overturn a state law that permits the New York City public school policy that bans private worship services in the vacant buildings when school is not in session.

This is the latest turn in the ongoing effort to repeal the New York City public school’s anti-worship service policy.  Alliance Defending Freedom’s lawsuit on behalf of NYC church Bronx Household of Faith is also challenging the policy in court.  Currently, churches and other religious groups are holding worship services in the schools because of a federal district court injunction against the policy issued in June 2012.  The City appealed the court order, and we are awaiting a ruling by the federal appeals court in New York City.

NYC Council member (and Pastor) Fernando Cabrera is trying to open another front against the policy by leading the effort to repeal the policy through the legislative process.  Mayor Michael Bloomberg directs the NYC Department of Education, and fully supports the policy banning private worship services from the schools.  The City Council lacks the authority to change the policy directly, but it does have the power to ask the state legislature to change the state statute that provides Mayor Bloomberg the legal authority to ban the religious activities.  These resolutions passed by the City Council carry significant weight at the state legislature in Albany, and usually spurs it to action.

Councilman Cabrera attempted to have the City Council pass this resolution in early 2012, but was blocked by the Speaker of the City Council, Christine Quinn.  Speaker Quinn, who is running for mayor, has expressed support for the policy banning worship services.  According to the Wall Street Journal, Speaker Quinn’s tight control of the City Council has loosened in recent months because of her run for mayor.  The Wall Street Journal also reports that Councilman Cabrera sensed an opportunity to move the stalled resolution, and Speaker Quinn agreed to allow the resolution to come to a vote on May 22.

Councilman Cabrera expects the City Council to pass the resolution.  Whether the New York Legislature will pass the necessary legislation to overturn the New York City anti-worship service policy is unclear.  In early 2012, the New York Senate passed such legislation, only to see it die in the Assembly because the Speaker of the Assembly, Sheldon Silver, refused to allow the bill to come to a vote.  The Senate bill would have likely passed in the Assembly, because a majority of the Assembly’s members had signed on as co-sponsors of the bill.  Speaker Silver may respond differently to the proposed legislation and allow Assembly members to vote on it, if the legislation is in response to a resolution passed by the influential New York City Council.

New York City remains the only major school district in the United States that prohibits private religious services in public school buildings during non-school hours.  The churches and other religious groups meeting in the NYC schools help some of the poorest and neediest people in the city.  Whether by a court order, or a law passed by the New York Legislature, it is time for this policy to go.

Author

ADF Senior Vice President; Senior Counsel

Video: Major General Douglas Carver Tells Stories of Serving as a Chaplain

Posted on May 8th, 2013 Religious Freedom | 1 Comment »

Major General Douglas Carver, Retired U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains, tells stories of individual people he came into contact with while serving.

Watch & Listen >> http://alln.cc/XNcYfS
Protect and promote the rights of our churches.

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Christian Equality Under Attack by UN Chief

Posted on May 1st, 2013 Religious Freedom | No Comments »

“Speaking via video link to the Oslo Conference on Human Rights on April 15, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced that he is launching an international campaign to elevate the demands of sexually confused individuals over the rights of other individuals.”

Benjamin Bull’s column looks at the U.N. Secretary-General’s pledge to put the fight for special rights for some groups—sexually identified—over religious concerns. Read the entire post here.

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Same-Sex “Marriage” And The Church: What’s On The Horizon?

Posted on May 1st, 2013 Churches and Politics,Marriage | 4 Comments »

My grandmother used to always quote the old mariner’s saying: “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight.  Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.”  While meteorologists will debate whether this saying is accurate, one thing about it is true.  Before the days of radars and satellites, the sailors of old would always keep an eye on the horizon to judge whether gathering clouds were harbingers of bad weather.

We also have a saying at Alliance Defending Freedom: “While you shepherd your flock, we’ll watch the horizon.”  The sentiment behind this statement is that pastors frequently lack time or expertise to watch the horizon and judge what poses a legal threat to the church. That’s why God placed Alliance Defending Freedom in this place at this time. We are watching the legal horizon.

This year, marriage is a hot topic in legal circles. The United States Supreme Court is deciding cases involving the definition of the institution created by God in the Garden of Eden even before the fall of man. How can you as a pastor best respond in these challenging times?

Before the Court has its say, America’s pastors must have their say

The Supreme Court decision is expected to be handed down by the end of June. In its decision, the Supreme Court will have its say on how our laws will treat marriage. But before the Supreme Court has its say, America’s pastors must have their say. That’s why we are conducting Pulpit Freedom Sunday on June 9, 2013. On that day, pastors across the country will stand united to proclaim with one voice what God’s design for marriage is and why our country should honor that design and resist the siren’s call to redefine this most basic of human institutions.

If you have not yet signed up for Pulpit Freedom Sunday, please do so. The sign-up process only takes a minute.  If you cannot preach on June 9, then pick a Sunday as close to that day as possible and indicate the date of your message in the sign-up process.

In this crucial time in our country’s history, the voice of God from the shepherds of God’s flocks must be heard proclaiming biblical Truth about marriage to a society that far too often seems on the verge of forgetting marriage altogether.

What’s the state of the marriage battle?

Given the complexities of the legal process, many pastors feel daunted by the prospect of communicating the state of the marriage battle. However, we’ve made it easy for you.  This simple map will show you the current state of the battle to protect marriage in the United States.

There are also numerous sermon preparation resources on our website to help you effectively communicate about marriage to your congregation. There are resources about God’s design for marriage, and the threat that same-sex “marriage” poses to religious freedom.

We also have created a resource highlighting the positions certain elected officials took before the Supreme Court on the issue of marriage. You can use this resource to praise elected officials who fought to protect marriage as God intended, or to call out with biblical Truth those officials who took a public stand against marriage.

What do I need to do to protect my church?

We also receive many questions about what proactive steps churches can take to protect themselves.  There are a couple of things all churches can do to best position themselves for the future.

First, read our resource Seven Things all Churches Should have in their Bylaws. We also have some suggested bylaw language on marriage and human sexuality that will help churches in this regard.

Second, we advise every church to adopt a facilities usage policy that governs use of church facilities for wedding ceremonies. We have created a sample policy for you to use to ensure your church is protected.

Even in those states that adopted same-sex “marriage” or some equivalent, such as civil unions, churches do not have to allow use of their facilities for wedding ceremonies that are inconsistent with their faith. But there is an effort underway in some areas — such as Hawaii and Hutchinson, Kansas — to force churches to allow use of their facilities for same-sex “weddings” if they open their facilities for use by non-members for weddings at all. Passing a facilities usage policy provides a good defense. Put simply, no government official has the right to force a church to allow its facilities to be used for events that violate its religious beliefs.

Never forget that Alliance Defending Freedom is “watching the legal horizon.” We will continue to keep you updated and provide the best ways you as a pastor can respond to protect your church from legal threats.

Author

ADF Senior Legal Counsel - Church Project

Prayer – It’s Needed, It’s Right And It’s Legal!

Posted on April 26th, 2013 Religious Freedom | 1 Comment »

My son recently came to me and asked me why a person would want to bomb innocent people running a race in Boston.  Sometimes as dads, we just don’t have the right answer.  If he had come to me for algebra help, I could save the day.  If he needed a heavy object moved, I would be the man.  If he needed help understanding girls, well … there’s always mom!

But sometimes, we as parents just don’t have the answers.  The only thing we can do is take our cares and our concerns to our Heavenly Father.  And yes, as a nation, we can also take our country to prayer as well.  In 2 Chronicles 7:14, we read, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

On Thursday, May 2, 2013, people from all walks of life will be taking their heartfelt needs to God in prayer.  Teachers, electricians, athletes, commercial real estate agents, public officials, mothers, bankers, doctors, and indeed Christians from all walks of life will be seeking the face of God.  From the Boston Marathon bombing, to Sandy Hook, to North Korea, to our economy – we as a nation lack answers and we need guidance from our Heavenly Father.

We at the Alliance Defending Freedom encourage you to join with us, and the many others, in seeking Him on this special day.  It’s needed.  It’s right.  And since we at the Alliance Defending Freedom specialize in constitutional litigation, let us also say – it’s legal!

Having a national day of fasting and prayer is as much a part of our national landscape as voting booths and majestic mountain peaks.  In 1775, the Continental Congress asked the colonies to pray for wisdom in forming this infant nation.  In George Washington’s very first address as president, the first ever address by any president to this nation, he called this nation to a day of prayer.  The call to prayer has continued throughout our history, including President Lincoln’s proclamation of a day of “humiliation, fasting, and prayer” in 1863.

In 1952, a joint resolution by Congress, signed by President Truman, continued this tradition and declared an annual, national day of prayer. In 1988, the law was amended and signed by President Reagan, setting first Thursday of every May as the National Day of Prayer.

So don’t fall prey to those claims by groups seeking to destroy religion in America.  Not everyone is proud of our religious heritage, and some wish to delete this day from our history books.  Atheists have attacked a Hattiesburg, Mississippi town for planning a prayer observance this year on May 2.  A few years ago, the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a federal lawsuit seeking to strike down the National Day of Prayer.  But these attacks are baseless, and it is legal for all citizens, whether pastors, mayors or the president, to seek the aid of the Almighty on this special day.

If you are interested in protecting the National Day of Prayer, if you are concerned about the future of our nation, then the best way to protect the National Day of Prayer is to participate in the National Day of Prayer.  So we invite you to find an event near you,  http://nationaldayofprayer.org/events/, or if an event is not close, then by yourself or with another, join in the chorus of prayers on Thursday May 2, 2013 and let’s together seek His will.

Author

ADF Senior Legal Counsel - Church Project

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