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What’s It All About, Alpha?

Posted on March 19th, 2012 Religious Liberty | 2 Comments »

The United States Supreme Court decided not to hear a case today.  Alpha Delta Chi (ADX) v Reed.  But that’s not really news considering that they decide not to hear about 99% of the cases brought to them.  What is news though is that the issue in the case of whether religious groups can chose leaders who share their religious beliefs remains hotly contested on the national level.

If you keep up with the news, you know that universities across the country are singling out religious groups and claiming that it is “discriminatory” for them to choose leaders that share the same religious beliefs.  Like in this case where a Christian sorority and fraternity wanted to be lead by Christians.  I know, you are probably thinking—you are kidding me, right?  Isn’t it just common sense that every church, synagogue and other religious group has the right to be lead by pastors, rabbis, etc. of the same religious persuasion?  I mean, wouldn’t we all be shocked if we went to church on Sunday only to find an avowed atheist in the pulpit?  Therein lies the rub.  This is law, not logic.

What’s even more disturbing, and indicative of the hostility that many public universities display toward religion, is that there is no requirement in the law that they prohibit religious groups from choosing like-minded leaders, only that they may—under certain circumstances—prohibit them.   And those circumstances are being fudged.  What do I mean by that?  Last year the Supreme Court held in CLS v. Martinez, based on a stipulation that all groups were required to accept anyone, that no group could then “discriminate” against anyone.  Sound fair?  Not if you dig a bit deeper.

By way of example, let’s examine that issue in this case, ADX.  The university is claiming that they too–like Martinez–have a so-called “all-comers” policy.  But they exempt all fraternities and sororities from the prohibition on gender discrimination, thus not requiring them to accept all-comers, and that is half of all clubs.  And this doesn’t even take into consideration that in real life student groups choose whomever they want, thereby excluding whomever they don’t want.  So it is really a “some-comers,” or more accurately, an “anyone-we-want-comers” policy.  And last time I checked, religious speech and exercise are protected not once, but twice in the First Amendment.   One would think that would weigh heavily in the discussion.

So the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear this case just ensures that the battle continues.  Universities will continue claiming that they have legal cover to discriminate against religious groups, and religious groups will continue to fight to remain, well, religious.  And it is more important than ever for religious groups to continue fighting for this God-given right to be religious.  As the battle rages on, it becomes more and more likely that the Supreme Court will have to weigh in on the issue at some point.

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ADF will continue the fight for the rights of private student organizations to define their membership and select their leaders without interference or retaliation by state university officials.  Please contact ADF if you are encountering similar problems at your state university.

Lions (and Tigers) and Prayers, Oh My!

Posted on November 16th, 2011 Freedom of Religion | 7 Comments »

My colleague, Jordan Lorence, wrote a blog about the recent prayers that took place on the Penn State Nittany Lions’ football field before last Saturday’s game.  In it he was surprised to see that no groups on the left had come out and criticized this event.   His very logical conclusion was that even those groups would have the public relations sense not to criticize prayers that were lifted up over such a tragedy as has been recently exposed.  Sorry, Jordan, you not only spoke to soon, but you also assumed that such groups would have the common sense or decency to let it go.  No such luck.

Just today, I came across a press release sent out by our atheist friends at the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF).  Can you guess what it was about?  Yep.  The prayers offered at the football game.  Apparently not too worried about the public relations debacle that the objection presents, the FFRF had some harsh words for the two schools.  Before it lashed out at those involved, it made clear that it spoke for its 17,000 members across the country, 600 of which were in Pennsylvania.  Of course, FFRF does not speak for the 100,000+ at the stadium or the millions of viewers on television that did not object to the prayers.

Attempting to capitalize on a statement made by one of the coaches that the decision to pray was a “no-brainer” given the circumstances, FFRF retorted that “the coaches failed to use their [brains].”  A bit childish, if you ask me.  But that’s not all.  In an amazing display of irony, FFRF quotes from the Bible.  They claim that Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount support their claim that to pray publicly is to engage in “rank hypocrisy.”  First, let me say that I am glad to see that the FFRF is reading the Bible, or at least part of it.  But it is a bit odd  to say that you don’t believe what the Bible says, but yet quote it in an attempt to  prove your point.  FFRF’s reliance upon this scripture is, unsurprisingly, mistaken.  This passage is not condemning public prayer—just read Daniel.  It is condemning those who pray publicly just to bring attention to themselves.  It addresses the condition of the heart, not the prayer.  So was everyone praying really just grandstanding–not actually caring about those victims whom they prayed for–but merely trying to look religious?  I doubt it.  FFRF should stick to what it does best, misinterpreting the Constitution, rather than misinterpreting the Bible.

One final thought.  Does it violate the so-called separation of church and state to have a prayer before a collegiate sports event that anyone can participate in, or not.  Don’t think so.  Was anyone coerced to participate?  Nope.  It’s quite incredible to claim that the Founding Fathers were drafting a document forbidding any “government” participation in prayer while they were engaging in it themselves.  But don’t bother with the facts.  According to the FFRF, our Constitution is a living and breathing document that evolves into whatever we (or, a few of us, at least) want it to say.  But that’s a whole other post.


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In Loco Parentis? Will The Real Parents Please Stand Up.

Posted on October 21st, 2011 Public Schools,School Choice | 10 Comments »

The Latin phrase in loco parentis literally means “in the place of parents” and has been referred to loosely by courts as the place held by local schools when students are in attendance. But this concept is being taken too far by public school officials.

One recent example involved school officials in Hartford Public Schools who hosted a play promoting homosexuality as normal and showing heterosexuals as outcasts. One scene in the play also showed two boys kissing.

Photo Credit: MICHAEL McANDREWS

These officials, in all of their arrogance, took it upon themselves not to notify parents ahead of time because they thought that students needed to learn empathy toward homosexuals and that they should be exposed to things that would make them uncomfortable. Wait just a second, so these school officials purposefully hid this from parents so that they could expose kids to it? Incredible. Every parent should be outraged. It shouldn’t matter what parents would have ultimately decided regarding their own children. What should matter to all parents is that school officials decided to hide this from them, in a flagrant dismissal of their rights and their role in training their children. And is this the job of public schools? To expose our children to sexual issues of the school official’s choosing that make our children uncomfortable? Is that what we, as parents, pay our taxes to support?

One principal, David Chambers, apparently proud of his decision not to send an opt-out letter to parents in advance, was cited in a local paper, the Hartford Courant, as stating that the “reaction [by the students] of disgust was a good sign.” Adam Johnson, another principal, stated that he was “glad” they did so. So this is who we have teaching our children? Principals who not only fail to respect our roles as parents as to how we think best to raise our kids, but who deceptively keep us in the dark regarding how they wish to raise our kids.

It comes as no surprise that the play was a collaborative effort with a local group True Colors which claims to meet the needs of “sexual minority youth”—three words that don’t belong together. Nor does it come as much of a surprise that there has been a community outcry. What does come as a surprise, however, is that no punishment has been meted out against these principals for their poor leadership and decision-making, and for their usurping the roles of local parents.

It’s no wonder that school choice is all the rage. These school officials need to be taught a lesson that schools are for teaching the 3 R’s, not for indoctrinating our children in what they think is sexually appropriate. Parents should overwhelm this District with complaints until appropriate action is taken to ensure that school officials understand their proper role. They apparently do not.

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FFRF: Imagine No Religion

Posted on August 16th, 2011 Public Schools | 7 Comments »

So exactly who is it that we should be listening to when it comes to the so-called Separation of Church and State?  Should it be a radical far-left group which prides itself in mocking the millions of Americans who believe in God?

Because that is exactly what the Freedom From Religion Foundation does.  Take for example, its recent Christmas, excuse me, Solstice cards, including “Heathens Greetings,” or “Yes, Virginia! There is No God.”  Or its billboard campaign which includes classics like “Imagine No Religion,”  “Faith is Believing What You Know Ain’t So,” or my favorite, “Nothing Fails Like Prayer.”

So when FFRF sent a threatening letter to a school in Mississippi regarding a recent prayer gathering claiming that it violated the Constitution, we should first consider the source, then the facts.  My understanding from recent reports is that a local school principal decided to have a voluntary time of prayer to pray for the success of the upcoming school year.  Terrible, I know.  He invited the community to participate voluntarily on a Sunday —not part of a school day—not part of anything official, just a bunch of community members voluntarily gathering to pray.  It took place even before the school year began, before teachers were required to report, and before students were required to begin attending classes.  And pray they did.  So did that voluntary prayer gathering, even at a school (God forbid), violate the Constitution?  According to FFRF’s skewed reading of it, yes.  According to the actual Constitution, and case law, no.

Even the cases that FFRF cites in its letter are stretched beyond their true holdings.  No case states that a person forfeits their own freedom of religion merely because they have taken a job with the government.  And there is a tremendous difference both factually and legally between an official government prayer made during school  where students are required to be present, and a voluntary community prayer time that everyone, including students, is invited to attend that takes place outside of school time.

Are we that far gone in this country where community members–even those who work for the government–can no longer voluntarily gather together to pray for our students, schools, community, or country?  And isn’t that what we do each year at See You at the Pole and on the National Day of Prayer?  If FFRF has its way, these events will no longer be “legal” under the supposed evolving, changing version of our founding documents.

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