Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Petitions put Co-ed Bathroom Bill on hold for now

The Pacific Justice Institute reports that a referendum has put on hold a 37 word bill which would have opened up restrooms, locker rooms and showers in K-12 public schools to students “irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records.”  Known as the Co-ed Bathroom Bill, Assembly Bill 1266 originally was due to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014.  But voters in all 58 of California’s counties have put on the brakes by submitting more than 600,000 signatures to the Secretary of State.

Under Article II, §9 of the California Constitution, the People have reserved to themselves their inherent power to review statutes enacted by lawmakers.  “The voters are essentially part of the legislative process,” said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute and a frequent guest on Faith on Trial.  “Through the referendum, they either approve or veto the law,” Dacus continued.  

There has been some confusion about what constitutes a referendum.  By its nature, a referendum involves a law that has been passed by the Legislature, but not gone into effect.  Because the signatures have been filed, the implementation of the law is suspended until the final signature tally.  After that, the law will continue to lie dormant until the voters render their judgment in the November 2014 election.  


Friday, December 27, 2013

Baptist universities win injunction against Obama's HHS Mandate

Today (December 27) a Houston federal court delivered a major blow to the controversial HHS mandate ruling in favor of East Texas Baptist University and Houston Baptist University.  In a 46-page opinion, the court ruled that the federal mandate requiring
Eric Rassbach
employers to provide employees with abortion-causing drugs and devices violates federal civil rights laws, and issued an injunction against the mandate. Religious plaintiffs have now won injunctions in 9 out of 12 such cases involving non-profit entities challenging the mandate.

“The government doesn’t have the right to decide what religious beliefs are legitimate and which ones aren’t,” said Eric Rassbach, a former guest on Faith on Trial and Deputy General Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and lead attorney for East Texas Baptist and Houston Baptist Universities. “In its careful opinion, the Court recognized that the government was trying to move across that forbidden line, and said “No further!” 
In its opinion, the federal court specifically rejected the government’s argument that it evaluate the Universities’ beliefs: “The religious organization plaintiffs have shown a sincerely held religious belief that the court cannot second-guess.”

The decision is part of a recent groundswell of cases decided against the government. In nine of the twelve cases decided thus far, federal district courts across the country have issued injunctions against the mandate. 
“The government has enforced the health care reform law very unevenly, handing out exemptions to those it sees as its allies,” stated Rassbach. “Perhaps the worst part of the government’s approach is that it seems to have decided that religious institutions are the only ones not to get an exemption.” 

Also participating as plaintiff in the case is Westminster Theological Seminary, a Reformed Protestant seminary based in Philadelphia. Westminster is represented by Kenneth Wynne of Wynne & Wynne, LLP.
To date, there are currently 89 lawsuits challenging the unconstitutional HHS mandate. Two HHS mandate cases involving for-profit plaintiffs – Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood – are set to be argued before the Supreme Court in March. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Legatus wins injunction against HHS mandate; Priests for Life forced to appeal denial of a similar injunction

Legatus wins injunction

Legatus, the Nation’s largest organization of top Catholic business CEOs and professional leaders, obtained a Preliminary Injunction against the Federal Government in its case challenging the HHS Mandate.  Federal District Judge Robert H. Cleland of the Eastern District of Michigan entered the Order granting the Thomas More Law Center’s motion for a preliminary injunction on Friday afternoon, December 20, 2013.

The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, filed the lawsuit on behalf of Legatus on May 7, 2012.  “Legatus” is the Latin word for
Erin Mersino
“ambassador”, and its members are called upon to become “ambassadors for Christ” in living and sharing their Catholic Faith in their business, professional and personal lives.  It was founded in 1987 by Catholic philanthropist Tom Monaghan, to bring together the three key areas of a Catholic business leader’s life – Faith, Family and Business.  Legatus currently has over 4,000 members in 31 states.

Erin Mersino, who has appeared as a guest on Faith on Trial several times, is the TMLC’s lead attorney handling the Legatus case.  She has been spearheading the Law Center’s challenges to the HHS Mandate in eleven cases thus far.

In granting TMLC’s motion for a Preliminary Injunction, the Court found that even with the new rules adopted by the Government concerning religious accommodations, Legatus will likely show at trial that the HHS Mandate “substantially burdens the observance of the tenets of Catholicism.”  Further, the Court found that there were many other ways to achieve the Government’s interest to increase free contraception without restricting the religious liberty of Legatus.  Accordingly, the Court found that the government has not made a convincing argument showing the HHS Mandate is advancing a compelling government interest by the least restrictive means.

Fr. Pavone, Priests for Life forced to appeal

Last Friday, the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) filed  an emergency motion for an injunction in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, asking the court to halt the enforcement of the Obamacare contraception mandate as applied against religious organizations pending appeal of a lower court ruling.  The motion was filed on behalf of Priests forLife, a Catholic pro-life organization; Father Frank Pavone, the National Director of Priests for Life; Dr. Alveda King, the niece of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Pastoral Associate and Director of African-American Outreach for Priests for Life; and Janet Morana, the Executive Director of Priests for Life.  Absent an injunction, the mandate will apply in full force against Priests for Life on January 1st.

Robert Muise
Last Thursday, Federal Judge Emmett G. Sullivan, sitting in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, upheld the government’s enforcement of the contraception mandate as applied against Priests for Life.  Within an hour, AFLC filed an immediate appeal of the ruling to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and within 24 hours, filed an emergency motion with the appellate court totaling 125 pages. The motion asks the court to issue an order enjoining the mandate while the case proceeds through the appeal process.  Judge Sullivan had previously upheld the Obamacare contraception mandate as applied against for-profit companies, only later to be reversed by the D. C. Circuit.

Robert Muise, Co-Founder and Senior Counsel of AFLC, and another Faith on Trial guest, commented: “The Supreme Court has long held that religious exercise is impermissibly burdened when government action compels religious organizations to violate a fundamental tenet of their religious beliefs.  Unless the emergency injunction is granted, on New Year’s Day the federal government will force Priests for Life to face a Hobson’s choice: it can either violate its sincerely held religious beliefs or face crippling fines of $100 per employee per day that it is not in compliance with Obama’s unconstitutional and unconscionable mandate.”

Friday, December 20, 2013

Thomas More Law Center: Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson’s view on homosexuality reflects the Catholic Church’s teachings

With all of the filth that can be seen on television and in movies these days, the mainstream media has made it increasingly clear that there is only one thing for which there is no place:  Christianity and the Bible’s teachings on homosexuality.

Phil Robertson, patriarch of the Robertson Family from A&E’s wildly popular show Duck Dynasty, is learning the hard way about the mainstream media’s sacred ground – homosexuality. Despite being a self-proclaimed “Bible-thumper” and a non-negotiable on the prominent role that faith and religion play in the Robertson Family’s life, Phil was recently “suspended indefinitely” from the show for remarks he made in a GQ Magazine profile in which he, among other things, discussed his opinions on the immorality of homosexuality.

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center commented:

“What Phil Robertson said about homosexuality as an Evangelical Christian in his GQ interview, reflects the teaching of the Catholic Church, and the viewpoint of a vast majority of Americans.  A & E willingly capitulated to the intimidation tactics of the militant homosexuals.  Remaining silent in this circumstance of religious intolerance merely emboldens militant homosexuals.  Christians must mobilize and respond with the same zeal and vigor as these homosexuals.”

The discussion on homosexuality begins after this line from Robertson,

“Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong,” he says. “Sin becomes fine.”

When asked to explain what he means the article quotes Robertson as saying:

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.”

Then according to the article he paraphrases Corinthians by saying:

“Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

Not a bad paraphrasing as 1st Corinthians 6:9 reads “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality.”

Some criticize Robertson for allegedly saying homosexuals are going to hell. That’s not what he said.  In fact, Robertson, in a vein similar to that of Pope Francis’ statement of “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”  states:

“We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven... That’s the Almighty’s job. We just love ’em, give ’em the good news about Jesus—whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort ’emout later, you see what I’m saying?”

Robertson, in his own backwoods way is reflecting the teachings of the Catholic Church on homosexuality.  According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law . . . . Under no circumstances can they be approved.” (2357)

The Catholic Catechism’s version of Robertson’s “We just love’ em,” quote is:

“They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” (2358)

Members of the Robertson Family regularly discuss religion, abstinence, family values and traditional American heritage in interviews and on the show, which is part of the show’s appeal and a large draw for its millions of fans.

Only this time, militant homosexual groups got involved.

The homosexual agenda’s number 1 priority has been to silence Christians about homosexuality. The right to Free Speech, in their opinion, does not belong to the faithful, including Phil Robertson.

The Thomas More Law Center supports the rights of Christians to freely discuss their faith, including their faith’s stance on homosexuality. As we stood by high school student Daniel Glowacki when he was disciplined by his teacher for stating that as a Catholic he opposed homosexuality, we stand beside Phil Robertson. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

PJI files suit over bathroom bill

Thursday, attorneys from the Pacific Justice Institute filed suit against California state and county officials who refused to accept signatures for the referendum of the “School Bathroom Bill.” Secretary of State, Debra Bowen, and the Registrar of Voters for Tulare and Mono Counties, Rita Woodward and Lynda Roberts, are named in the suit.

The California Constitution gives voters a full 90 days to hand in their signatures from when legislation is passed—even if those days fall on a weekend or a holiday.  In this case, the final date for submitting the signatures was on Sunday, November 10, 2013.  For two counties—Tulare and Mono—the Secretary of State claims that the signatures were submitted too late.

Evidence filed with the Court, however, shows that the packages containing the signatures were presented at these county offices on the 88th and 89th day—a Friday afternoon and a Saturday.  In Tulare County, the county mailroom clerk simply refused to sign and accept the package from the FedEx driver.  In Mono County, the signatures were delivered but county personnel did not process the signatures until after the deadline.

In papers filed with the Court, PJI attorney Kevin Snider submitted a sworn declaration stating that he made arrangements for 18 different counties up and down the state to open on Sunday—the 90th day—in order to receive the boxes of signatures.

"Officials from these 18 counties understood their obligations under the California Constitution," said PJI president, Brad Dacus, a frequent guest on Faith on Trail.  "It is ironic that California's chief elections official does not give a second thought to disenfranchising the voters from Tulare and Mono counties," Dacus continued.  PJI and the Privacy for All Students coalition is committed to make certain that every signature is counted.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Long Island school says Christian clubs are "Illegal"

Yesterday, attorneys with Liberty Institute and McDermott Will & Emory LLP sent a demand letter to school administrators of Ward Melville High School in defense of  a student’s right to form a Christian Club on campus.

“Students of faith in New York public schools have the same freedom to form a religious club as other students who want to form a fishing club or chess club,” said Liberty Institute Jeremy Dys.  “In this case, Ward Melville High School is violating federal law by rejecting this club because it is religious.”

Liberty Institute’s client applied to form a Christian club at Ward Melville High School, but school administrators simply ignored his application for more than two months.  Only when the student’s parent asked the principal about her son’s application, did the student learn why his club had been denied.  Religious clubs, according to school administrators, are illegal in New York public schools.

“All we are asking is to exercise the same freedom to form a club that everyone else has at our school,” said John Raney, the student at Ward Melville who has applied to start Students United in Faith.  “Ward Melville has 41 different student clubs, why won’t Ward Melville tolerate our faith-based student club?”

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Portland public schools terminate Pro-Life teacher

Dana Cody
On Monday the school board for the Portland (Oregon) Public School District voted to terminate the teaching contract of Bill Diss, a teacher who has been an outspoken opponent of Planned Parenthood. Mr. Diss experienced censure in his teaching career beginning in 2007 when he publically opposed the building of a new Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in downtown Portland. The current action follows Mr. Diss’ opposition to being forced to facilitate presenters from the Teen Outreach Program (TOP), a program administered by Planned Parenthood, coming into his tutorial session to recruit students.

“Bill Diss is a well qualified teacher with a track record of success,” states Dana Cody, President and Executive Director of Life Legal Defense Foundation, and a frequent guest on Faith on Trial. “As the circumstances surrounding this termination demonstrate, Mr. Diss has done nothing that would merit being fired from his job. LLDF will pursue every possible avenue in defending Mr. Diss’ rights in this matter, and hopes to see his rights ultimately protected despite PPS’ actions.”
Background: Bill Diss has taught Technology, Math, Computers and Electronics at Benson High School since 2002. He has also taught several classes at the community college level. He is highly regarded in his abilities and his success both by students themselves, by their parents, and fellow teachers. Mr. Diss is the only teacher in the state of Oregon who has been certified as qualified to teach college level computer science to high school students for dual credit. His initiative and hard work have attracted outside grants to Benson opening up even greater opportunities for Benson students. For the first five years at Benson High, Mr. Diss was rated as proficient or better, with numerous positive compliments in his reviews. Mr. Diss’ methodology and teaching style has remained substantially the same in all his years of teaching.

The positive reviews took a dramatic change for the worse, however, when Mr. Diss began to speak out in opposition to the building of a new Planned Parenthood facility in downtown Portland. Mr. Diss was involved in opposition activities on his own time, and did not bring his political or religious convictions into his instruction in the classroom. Nonetheless, he began to experience complaints about his political activities from school administrators, and his teaching came under sudden, rigorous scrutiny. Complaints, negative evaluations, letters of reprimand and formal meetings became a regular part of Mr. Diss’ life at school for as long as he engaged in outspoken, public opposition to Planned Parenthood.
Shortly after the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year, presenters with the Teen Outreach Program (TOP) came to Mr. Diss’ tutorial classes to give a presentation recruiting students for the TOP program. When presenters entered the tutorial, Mr. Diss, consistent with District policy, asked for identification. He was handed a card that identified the presenters as employees of Planned Parenthood. This knowledge surprised Mr. Diss, and caused him serious emotional distress due to his well-known personal religious convictions and his years of work to oppose that organization. He expressed his dilemma to Benson Principal, Carol Campbell at the time and asked to be excused from being present for the presentation due to his religious convictions. His request was denied. He was told that he would be required to be present for the TOP presentation. Through the remainder of the school year during which he taught, Mr. Diss continued to have to deal with Planned Parenthood staff as they administered the TOP program.

Simultaneous to his request not to be involved with TOP, Mr. Diss’ teaching came under renewed censorial review. Mr. Diss accepted the input from school administration, but the year proved to be extremely stressful, including numerous classroom observations and meetings with school administration. On March 19, 2013 school administrators summarily demanded that Mr. Diss leave the school premises and not return—placing him on paid administrative leave. Mr. Diss was told to leave the school and was escorted off the premises by a police officer. This unnecessary show of force is symbolic of the animus faced by Mr. Diss throughout the year.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Federal court strikes down most of Utah’s anti-polygamy statute

A Utah federal court has ruled that most of that state’s law banning polygamy is unconstitutional. 

Plaintiffs, the polygamous family featured on the TLC reality series "Sister Wives," sued seeking a declaratory judgment that Utah's ban on plural marriage is unconstitutional. Plaintiffs are members of a religious group that believes polygamy is a core religious practice.  Federal district Judge Clark Waddoups held that the portion of the statute barring cohabitation while married to someone else is unconstitutional as a violation of free exercise rights. 
Concluding that in operation the ban is not applied neutrally, but is primarily used to target religious co-habitation, the court held that the ban is subject to strict scrutiny, and fails that test.  Judge Waddoups also concludes that the ban, under a rational basis review, violates plaintiffs' rights to be free from government interference in matters of consensual sexual privacy, and is void for vagueness. In ruling on this portion of the statute, the court said that it was not constrained by the U.S. Supreme Court's 1878 decision in Reynolds v. United States upholding the federal anti-bigamy statute because that decision dealt only with a ban on multiple marriages, not on cohabitation while married.

Read more about this on Breitbart News.

Broad support for NM photographer reflected in new briefs filed with US Supreme Court

Prominent libertarian supporters of redefining marriage are among the parties that filed briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court Friday in support of a New Mexico photographer who declined to use her artistic expression to communicate the story of a same-sex ceremony. Also supporting the photographer in the Alliance Defending Freedom case are 18 other professionals in her industry and attorneys general from eight states.

In August, a concurrence accompanying the New Mexico Supreme Court’s ruling against Elane Photography said that the owners, Jon and Elaine Huguenin, must abandon their freedom as “the price of citizenship.” Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys asked the U.S. Supreme Court last month to review the case.

“The First Amendment protects our freedom to speak or not speak on any issue without fear of government retaliation. All Americans should oppose unjust laws that force citizens--under threat of punishment--to express ideas against their will,” said Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence. “As those who filed supportive briefs in this case understand, a government that forces any American to create a message contrary to her own convictions is a government every American should fear.”

The Cato Institute and legal scholars Dale Carpenter and Eugene Volokh filed one of the friend-of-the-court briefs. Wedding photographers from across the country and state attorneys general from the states of Alabama, Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Virginia filed the other two briefs.

The petition Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed with the U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 8 explains that the Huguenins “will serve anyone; they do not turn away any customers because of their protected class status. But they will decline a request, as the First Amendment guarantees them the right to do, if the context would require them to express messages that conflict with their religious beliefs.”

A July Rasmussen poll found that 85 percent of Americans believe a Christian photographer has the right to say no if asked to take pictures at a same-sex ceremony that conflicts with the photographer’s religious beliefs. The editorial boards of both The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Times have recently agreed.

In 2006, Huguenin declined Vanessa Willock’s request to photograph a commitment ceremony between Willock and another woman. Huguenin declined the request because her and her husband’s Christian beliefs conflict with the message communicated by the expressive event, which Willock asked Huguenin to help her “celebrate.”

Willock easily found another photographer for her ceremony, and for less money, but nevertheless filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission against Elane Photography. After a one-day trial, the commission ruled against the Huguenins and ordered them to pay $6,637.94 in attorneys’ fees to Willock. The case then made its way through the New Mexico state court system as Elane Photography v. Willock.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Where has “Faith on Trial” gone?

Actually, we haven’t gone anywhere!  But then, Why, then, you might ask are you not on the radio?  Very simple, all the local programming on Iowa Catholic Radio is stepping aside during the Advent and Christmas seasons to allow the broadcasting of beautiful Christmas music 24-7.  Our local programming will resume the week of January 6, 2014.  That means on Tuesday January 7 we will be back at our regular times: 9 a.m. live and rebroadcast at 9 p.m.  In the mean time we will keep you posted on the latest legal news involving our religious freedoms here and on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/FaithOnTrial where you can carry on a discussion of the issues posted.  If you have any comments, suggestions, or questions about our broadcasts you can contact us at: DeaconMike@IowaCatholicRadio.com or Gina@IowaCatholicRadio.com.  And don’t forget to “Like” us on Facebook.

Faith on Trial with Deacon Mike Manno and co-host Gina Noll is heard every Tuesday 9 and 9 on Iowa Catholic Radio, 1150 AM; 88.5 & 94.5 FM in Central Iowa and streams live on IowaCatholicRadio.com.

Becket Fund defend abbot, small church in fight against atheists’ bid to force IRS to censor church sermons

The Becket Fund for Religious Libertyon behalf of an Anglican priest and his church, Holy Cross Anglican Church, moved to intervene in a lawsuit by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) seeking to force the IRS to punish houses of worship for preaching on moral issues in a way that has political implications.

The Becket Fund is intervening to defend Father Patrick Malone’s right to preach from the pulpit to his 55-member congregation at Holy Cross Anglican Church free from IRS censorship. While the IRS has long banned sermons that concern political candidates or certain hot-button moral issues, it has generally avoided enforcing the ban against churches. The anti-religious FFRF noticed, and is now suing in a Wisconsin-based federal district court to force the IRS to start enforcing the ban against churches like Holy Cross.
“Given recent IRS abuses, only a group like FFRF could want to force the IRS into the sermon censorship business,” said Daniel Blomberg, Legal Counsel for the Becket Fund. “Ministers preaching the truth to power helped start the American Revolution, stop slavery, and end racial segregation. Despite what FFRF wants, the tax man has no role in editing sermons.”

As the vicar of Holy Cross, Father Malone—who is also a Benedictine abbot—has a duty to provide religious guidance to his congregation on how to faithfully live as Christians. Under Anglican theology, this includes seeking justice and protecting the disadvantaged in society, especially those who are threatened by unjust laws. Father Malone believes that reversing unjust laws requires rejecting unjust lawmakers, and thus preaches openly about both.
Now FFRF wants the IRS to punish Father Malone and the Church for his sermons, by imposing laws that would revoke the Church’s tax-exempt status, involve the IRS in the Church’s finances, and levy fines against both the Church and individual leaders, such as Father Malone.

“While there’s room for religious disagreement over whether the pulpit should preach politics,” Blomberg said, “Everyone should agree that the IRS shouldn’t be the one making that theological decision—especially when it’s acting as FFRF’s attack dog.”
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

DoD asked to review connections to the Southern Poverty Law Center

The Thomas More Law Center with the Family Research Council (FRC) and 14 other organizations announced yesterday Thursday a letter has been sent to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel requesting that the Department of Defense (DoD) ensure that future training materials do not rely on information from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) or any other organization that engages in groundless and highly pejorative mischaracterizations of long-standing Christian organizations for their own political purposes.

The request comes after several training incidents in which Army instructors may have relied on anti-Christian materials produced by the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that was linked to domestic terrorism in federal court in February, 2013.
Lt. General Jerry Boykin (retired), Family Research Council's executive vice president, made the following comments:

"In recent months, Army instructors have begun relying on the Southern Poverty Law Center, an anti-Christian group linked to domestic terrorism, as a source for its briefings. While we are encouraged that the Army Secretary has issued an order ceasing such briefings, we remain concerned that individual installation briefings may continue to draw upon SPLC materials.
"We are asking Secretary Hagel to issue clear guidance to the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute and instructing installations to stop relying on SPLC and other non-governmental sources as approved resources for equal opportunity training or other purposes.

"We will continue to monitor this situation and remain in contact with the Department of Defense to ensure that instructors carry out their role to train our troops to defend our freedom, and not push the Southern Poverty Law Center's anti-Christian agenda," concluded Boykin.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A message from the Advocates for Faith and Freedom: Help fight for Christmas

Will you help us preserve the real meaning behind Christmas?

We are looking for cases where people have been denied the right to celebrate the true meaning behind Christmas because of the ever present hostility directed at Christianity!
Here are some examples of the hostility we’re talking about:
  • One South Carolina charter school canceled its annual Operation Christmas Child toy drive, since The American Humanist Association threatened them with a lawsuit.  The group claimed that the school’s actions violated the Constitution, since Operation Christmas Child is a project of the Christian relief agency Samaritan’s Purse.  
  • A neighborhood in Orange County, in which several homes put up elaborate lights and decorations for the benefit of the community were told they needed to take down some of the lights because they are a violation of City ordinances.  They were confused, since they had done this for the last 5 years without any city interference.  
  • One Wisconsin school district told music educators that, for holiday programs, they had to either: 1) Include 5 non-religious holiday songs for each religious one; 2) Hold a music program with no holiday music at all; or 3) Cancel the concerts.
If you have heard of a situation like one of these, or experienced it yourself, please contact our office so our lawyers can intervene.

We want to make sure that parents, students, teachers, governmental agencies, property owners and businesses owners don’t cower to the threat of the so-called “separation of church and state.” That phrase is not in our Constitution and does not require us to remove all semblance of Christ from this season celebrating His birth!  

God bless you and Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Judge, ACLU say baker must provide same-sex wedding cake

Two men filed a complaint with the state of Colorado after a cake artist declined to use his creative abilities to promote and endorse their same-sex ceremony even though other cake artists were willing to do the job and marriage between members of the same sex is not legal in Colorado.

In July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, to make a wedding cake to celebrate their same-sex ceremony. In an exchange lasting about 30 seconds, Phillips politely declined, explaining that he would gladly make them any other type of baked item they wanted but that he could not make a cake promoting a same-sex ceremony because of his faith. Craig and Mullins, represented by attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union, immediately left the shop without comment and later filed a complaint the Colorado Civil Rights Division.

Friday and administrative law judge held that the baker had violated state law.  Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Nicolle Martin said, “America was founded on the fundamental freedom of every citizen to live and work according to their beliefs. Forcing Americans to promote ideas against their will undermines our constitutionally protected freedom of expression and our right to live free. If the government can take away our First Amendment freedoms, there is nothing it can’t take away. We are considering our next steps.”

Friday, December 6, 2013

Cases dismissed and pro-lifers’ First Amendment rights protected in Missouri; Thomas More Society attorneys secure dismissal of baseless charges by the City of St. Louis

Today [Friday] in St. Louis Circuit Court, Associate Circuit Judge Michael Noble dismissed charges against pro-life activists, Brian Westbrook, executive director of Coalition for Life St. Louis, and Rita Sparrow, veteran sidewalk counselor, after testimony and arguments this morning. The cases had been brought by the City of St. Louis, stretching ordinances beyond their intended scope in order to charge Mr. Westbrook and Ms. Sparrow for simple, peaceful demonstration outside the local Planned Parenthood.

In June 2012, St. Louis police accused Mr. Westbrook of “False Advertising” for displaying a sign that advised abortion-bound women that there were “Free Pregnancy Tests and Ultrasounds” available at the nearby Thrive ultrasound van.

The City claimed that, because Westbrook himself was not providing such free tests or ultrasounds, his sign was deceptive and misleading. Westbrook was, however, referring Planned Parenthood patrons to the ultrasound van parked just across the street from the Planned Parenthood clinic, where ultrasound and pregnancy tests were freely provided.

The charge against Mr. Westbrook was thrown out when the court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss. The judge thus acknowledged that the City was frivolously using a commercial consumer protection ordinance against a selfless, non-profit pro-lifer saving babies.

Similarly, in October 2012, police misapplied an ordinance to charge Ms. Sparrow with “littering with household goods” for using a folding chair to hold up her signs and a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary on a lawn chair next to the driveway into Planned Parenthood in St. Louis. The charge against Ms. Sparrow was that she violated the City’s “Anti-Littering Ordinance,” which forbade placement of unattended personal property on city property, such as public sidewalks, parks, etc.

After hearing the City’s police officer testimony and looking at a video that showed other objects on the parkway near the driveway in addition to Ms. Sparrow’s lawn chair, the judge threw out the case. He commented that there was no evidence that Ms. Sparrow had ever left her lawn chair unattended, and he compared the City’s charge in Ms. Sparrow’s case to the City charging those attending a concert in a city park and bringing their lawn chairs for that purpose.

As with Mr. Westbrook, the City had expanded an ordinance far beyond its intended scope to use it to stifle legitimate, First Amendment protected activity.

Representing the pro-lifers were Gerard Nieters of O’Fallon, Missouri, special counsel hired by Thomas More Society from Chicago, and Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society. Brejcha argued the motions to dismiss both charges, while Nieters conducted the trial proceedings held in Ms. Sparrow’s case before Judge Noble dismissed the charge after the presentation of the City’s evidence was completed.

In one part of his argument, the City attorney betrayed the truth of what prompted the City to bring these baseless charges against pro-lifers. The City attorney argued that Westbrook was “taking business away from” the targeted business, namely, Planned Parenthood. This reveals the underlying motive for the charges.

“Dismissal of these charges constitutes a big victory for all pro-lifers in St. Louis, Missouri, and elsewhere, as the Planned Parenthood facility is the only abortion provider left in our entire state,” said Gerry Nieters, attorney for defendants. “Furthermore, the judge’s dismissal of the City’s charges in both these cases is of major importance for protecting citizens’ First Amendment rights.”

Tom Brejcha added “While we applaud this result, we remain extremely troubled that St. Louis authorities ever brought such frivolous criminal charges against these innocent, pro-life heroes. It has been our honor to defend them.”

With the dismissal of all charges, Mr. Westbrook and Ms. Sparrow look forward to continuing their peaceful counseling of women outside Planned Parenthood without fear of harassment by the City.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

PA County threatens ministers with arrest for serving poor

Isaiah 61 Ministries has been serving the homeless, the poor and elderly in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, for more than five years. Now, heading into the holiday season, local government officials are prohibiting the ministers and volunteers of Isaiah 61 from ministering to and serving those most in need.

Liberty Institute and Independence Law Center sent a demand letter to Dauphin County Commissioners for wrongfully pushing the ministry off public property and threatening to arrest ministry workers and volunteers.

Isaiah 61 Ministries is a well-established, nonprofit Christian ministry with volunteers from various denominations “striving to show those less fortunate that they are loved and not forgotten.” Every week, for the last five years, ministry volunteers have provided meals, toiletries, clothing and other forms of assistance to the homeless, poor and elderly in Harrisburg.

Recently, government officials for Dauphin County, PA, issued a directive to Isaiah 61 and several other ministries, prohibiting them from engaging in their ministerial work, even thought the groups conduct their ministry activities on public property.

The issue escalated to the point that the commission actually threatened to arrest ministry workers and volunteers if they continue to serve.

“Serving the homeless, the poor and elderly is a central tenet of the Christian faith,” said Jeremy Dys, Liberty Institute attorney. “Those who exercise their faith by caring for the poor on the streets of Harrisburg ought to be applauded for their kindness, not threatened with jail time.”

In the demand letter, Liberty Institute notes that the Dauphin County officials’ actions violate the First Amendment, the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the Pennsylvania Religious Freedom Protection Act.

Liberty is asking that these ministries be permitted to continue their acts of Christian ministry on public property.  

Situations like this are happening more often than you may think. More than ever, city and county governments are trying to prohibit faith-based groups from exercising their First Amendment rights, through discriminatory acts, “zoning ordinances” and permit procedures.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

School superintendent who opened girls’ locker rooms to boys now threatening to have police monitor social media of parents who complained

In a twist of irony, school officials who have been under fire for disregarding student privacy rights are now warning complaining families that law enforcement will be monitoring social media discussions about their concerns.

In a report, Superintendent Rhonda Vendetti again waved off parents’ and students’ concerns about the district’s decision to allow a teenage boy at Florence High School who identifies as a girl to freely enter girls’ bathrooms and locker rooms. The district was responding to a letter from
Pacific Justice Institute raising serious concerns about the privacy rights of PJI clients who are teenage girls at the school. The Superintendent’s conclusions were not surprising, since she had already sought sympathy from and given an exclusive interview to a transgender activist. What was surprising to PJI attorneys, though, was the report’s failure to address threats by the athletic department against some of the girls’ continued participation in school sports after they asserted their rights. 

Even more troubling was the Superintendent’s warning that the complaining families were now subject to having their social media monitored by police.

“Since we first broke this story, it has been shocking to see the lengths to which school officials and LGBT activists have gone to suppress the truth,” stated Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, and frequent guest on Faith on Trial. “We have now received a large and growing stack of hate mail from supposedly tolerant LGBT supporters, most of which is based on unquestioning faith in school officials who have proved to be untrustworthy. It is increasingly apparent that school officials and LGBT activists are on an all-out mission to discredit our clients rather than deal with the serious problems they have identified with a biologically teenage boy sharing bathrooms with their teenage daughters. These new developments only stiffen our resolve and renew our focus to seek a balanced solution that honors the rights and needs of all students.”

ADF files suit against school that prohibited distribution of “See You at the Pole” flyers

The Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit on behalf of a student after a Kansas public school prohibited her from posting or handing out religious fliers promoting the student-led “See You at the Pole” prayer event held before school. The school freely allows a variety of other types of materials to be posted and distributed but singled out the student’s fliers because they contained Bible verses.

“Public schools should encourage, not shut down, the free exchange of ideas,” said Legal Counsel Matt Sharp. “The law on this is extremely clear: school policies cannot target religious speech for exclusion. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech for all students, regardless of their religious or political beliefs.”

In September, a seventh-grade student at Robert E. Clark Middle School posted fliers with Bible verses in advance of the “See You at the Pole” event, a day when students across the nation gather around the flagpole at their local school before the beginning of the school day to pray for the school, students, staff and the nation. The fliers were a precursor to additional fliers providing the date and time of the “See You at the Pole” event that the student intended to distribute later.

A school counselor confronted the student at a school dance in front of her friends and informed her that the fliers were “illegal” because of the Bible verses and could not be posted or distributed at school. A district wide policy bans the distribution of “religious materials…on school grounds or in any attendance facility before, during, or after the school day or a school activity.”

School officials took down and destroyed the fliers. Because of the threat of punishment from the school counselor, the student could only secretly distribute a few informational fliers with the time and place of the event to other students out of sight of teachers. As a result, very few students attended the event.

The school has allowed the posting of a variety of materials, including a hand-made poster of a tombstone with the words “RIP” and a poster of rap artist Lil’ Wayne with the words “Good Kush and Alcohol.”

The Alliance Defending Freedom lawsuit, K.R. v. Unified School District No. 204, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas, explains, “Students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate. Non-disruptive, private student expression is protected by the First Amendment.” Moreover, “the government may not discriminate against speech based on its viewpoint, regardless of the forum.”

The lawsuit also notes that the student’s posting of the material did not “interfere with the orderly conduct of educational activity within the school.”

“Marginalizing students of faith removes an important influence for good from the school community,” added Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco, a former guest on Faith on Trial. “We hope the school district will revise its policy so that students can exercise their constitutionally protected freedoms.”

ACLU is now suing the USCCB because Catholic hospitals will not permit abortions

The ACLU has filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on behalf of a woman who was not informed by a Catholic hospital in Muskegon, Michigan of the option to terminate her pregnancy when her water broke after 18 weeks of pregnancy. The complaint alleges negligence "for promulgating and implementing directives that cause pregnant women who are suffering from a miscarriage to be denied appropriate medical care, including information about their condition and treatment options."  The suit complains that the USCCB's Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services provide that abortion is never permitted.

“We atheists laugh at you Christians. And in 100 years, no one is going to believe in God because the science will prove he doesn’t exist.”

Robert  Tyler, General Counsel for the Advocates for Faith and Freedom, a former guest on Faith on Trial, reports the following:

[The above] is the statement from one 7th grade teacher in Massachusetts who felt she had the unfettered right to show such visceral hostility toward her students in a social studies class. Similar comments were made on other days but we don’t have time to go into them here. Imagine the effect this hostile communication will have on future generations. One mom complained to the school principal, but the anti-Christian comments didn’t stop. That same mom called on us for help, and we have agreed to file a lawsuit against the school district and the teacher, if the family is willing. While bullying is a hot topic within today’s schools, the bullying most often overlooked is the bullying that some school administrators and teachers unleash on their own students just because the students have or express a Christian worldview. We need to find more cases like these so we can set legal precedent against religious hostility expressed in the classroom by public school teachers. These children are the future and we can’t allow generations to be lost due to the atheistic influences of a hostile public school environment.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The war on Christmas takes another ugly turn; school board pulls Christmas cards, tells teachers to turn their backs on students in prayer

Todd Starns is reporting that school administrators at Brooklet Elementary School in Georgia have removed the Christmas cards students gave to their teachers.  In the past the home-made cards were displayed in the school for all to see. However, under orders from the Bulloch County Board of Education, all the cards were removed over the Thanksgiving holiday break.

Additionally, teachers have been ordered to remove any religious items from their classrooms. They have also been ordered to avoid student-led prayer and should they be in a room where students are praying, they have been ordered to turn their backs on their students.
You can read Todd’s full article here.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Our nation’s Thanksgiving: A time to thank God

Our Nation’s first Thanksgiving Day took place on November 26, 1789.  It was a religious event.

To the chagrin of the anti-religionists among us today, on September 25, 1789, the first act of Congress after framing the Bill of Rights, which prohibited an establishment of religion, was to pass a resolution requesting that the President of the United States recommend to the people a “Day of Public Thanksgiving and Prayer.”  This Resolution is clear evidence that our Founding Fathers never imagined that the language of the Establishment Clause they had just adopted in the Bill of Rights would someday be interpreted by the Supreme Court as creating a “wall of separation between church and state” and used to ban God from the public square.

Washington enthusiastically agreed to the Resolution of both Houses of Congress.  In his Proclamation dated October 3, 1789, he began: “Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour; …”

Nowadays, Thanksgiving in America is a joyful celebration; a day to spend with family and friends; a day to eat turkey; a day to watch football and Thanksgiving Day parades.  But at this time of great turmoil around the world, it is important that we reflect on the reasons for our Nation’s First Thanksgiving.  On this Thanksgiving Day, please, take time to thank God for the many blessings we enjoy in this amazing land of ours, and to think about, and implore God’s protection, over the men and women serving in our Armed Forces who stand the lonely guard, in rough and faraway places, so that we may enjoy this Thanksgiving Day far from the sounds of war. 
Below is the first National Thanksgiving proclamation issued by President Washington. Please take a moment to read it. Click here to see the actual Proclamation.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Supremes to hear two HHS mandate challenges this term; decisions could come this June

The U.S. Supreme Court today agreed to consider two cases involving President Obama’s HHS mandate, which requires employers to cover contraceptives and abortion producing drugs in their health plans. One case involves Hobby Lobby Inc., an Oklahoma City-based arts and crafts chain with 13,000 full-time employees. Hobby Lobby won in the lower courts.

The other case is an appeal from Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., a Pennsylvania company that employs 950 people in making wood cabinets. Lower courts rejected that company's claims. The cases will be combined for arguments, probably in late March. A decision should come by late June.

These are two landmark cases addressing the constitutionally guaranteed rights of business owners to operate their family companies without violating their deeply held religious convictions.

“This is a major step for the Greens [owners of Hobby Lobby] and their family businesses in an important fight for Americans’ religious liberty,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead lawyer for Hobby Lobby. “We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will clarify once and for all that religious freedom in our country should be protected for family business owners like the Greens.”

In July, a lower federal court granted Hobby Lobby a preliminary injunction preventing the government from enforcing the HHS mandate requiring the family businesses to provide in the employee health insurance plan two drugs and two devices that are potentially life-terminating. Another federal court denied a similar request from Conestoga Wood Specialties.

The Greens and their family businesses – who have no moral objection to providing 16 of the 20 FDA-approved contraceptives required under the HHS mandate and do so at no additional cost to employees under their self-insured health plan – then took the unusual step in October of joining the government in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case, despite the family’s victory in the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

There are currently 84 lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the HHS mandate.   

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Conscience rights under Obama, next on Faith on Trial

Professor Charles Rice
On May 17, 2009 President Obama gave the commence address at the University of Notre Dame and was awarded an honorary degree.  The invitation was controversial and was opposed by the local Catholic Bishop and 80 other U.S. bishops across the nation, as well as numerous members of the faculty at Notre Dame.  During his address, the president said:  "Let's honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded not only in sound science, but also in clear ethics, as well as respect for the equality of women." How well did he do in honoring the conscience rights of those who disagree with abortion? This week on Faith on Trial Charles E. Rice, Professor Emeritus at Notre Dame Law School, will grade the president on that promise.  Professor Rice is the author of the book What Happened at Notre Dame and the forthcoming Contraception and Persecution. Listen to Professor Rice this Tuesday at 9 a.m. and re-broadcast at 9 p.m. (central) on Iowa Catholic Radio, 1150 AM, 88.5 & 94.5 FM and streaming live on IowaCatholicRadio.com.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Where were you 50 years ago today? Do you know who else died that day?

John F. Kennedy 1917-1963
C. S. Lewis 1898-1963
Everybody alive 50 years ago will remember where they were when they heard the news of President Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, Texas.  This weekend there will be numerous television specials on the assassination and its continuing affect on the United States.  But did you know that on the same day President Kennedy (b. 1917) died the great Christian apologist C. S. Lewis (b. 1898) also died? Lewis, you might recall, was a prolific author who penned such classics as The Chronicles of Narnia, Mere Christianity, the Great Divorce and the Screwtape Letters.  Ironically, Aldous Huxley (b.1894) also died on this date 50 years ago.  

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Why we bring Faith on Trial to you

These are just some of the reasons why Iowa Catholic Radio brings this program to you, courtesy of our friends at the Alliance Defending Freedom:

In New York, the school board has been trying for nearly two decades to block Bronx Household of Faith from meeting in a public school building for worship services on Sundays.
In Michigan, the radical group “Bash Back” invaded Mount Hope Church and disrupted a worship service while showering the congregation with propaganda on homosexual behavior.

In Montana, Canyon Ferry Road Baptist Church faced election law charges after a volunteer passed out petitions to place a marriage amendment on the Montana ballot.
In Arizona, Gilbert city officials ordered Oasis of Truth Church to stop meeting or holding Bible studies in its pastor’s private home.

In Illinois, the City of Carlinville refused to allow Carlinville Southern Baptist Church to use a building it had purchased for worship services.
In Louisiana, a federal contractor ordered Calvary Baton Rouge Church to stop feeding people left homeless by Hurricane Katrina because the group offered a voluntary prayer service and Bible study.

In New Jersey, the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights issued a complaint against the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association of the United Methodist Church for not allowing a “civil union” ceremony at their worship pavilion for people practicing homosexual behavior.
“Like” us on Facebook and check out our program every Tuesday at 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Monday, November 18, 2013

This week on Faith on Trial on Iowa Catholic Radio

Tuesday we have two great guests.  First up is John Wells, Commander USN Ret., who is the attorney representing two chaplains suing the Veteran’s Administration claiming that they were harassed out of a VA chaplain training program.  Following John is Erin Mersino, staff attorney with the Thomas More Law Center.  This will be Erin’s second guest appearance on the program and this time she will be discussing the secular war on Christmas.  Tuesday 9 a.m. (Central) and re-broadcast at 9 p.m. on Iowa Catholic Radio 1150 AM, 88.5 & 94.5 FM and streaming live on IowaCatholicRadio.com. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Veteran put on leave for saying “God Bless America”

A retired military veteran who now works in a hospital was stunned when supervisors called him into the office last week to demand that he remove “God Bless America” from his e-mail signature block.  What happened next was even more shocking—he complied with the directive but was placed on administrative leave for “insubordination” when he said he wanted to consult with legal counsel about his rights.  

Pacific Justice Institute now represents this veteran, Mr. Boots Hawks, and sent a strongly-worded letter to his supervisors at Dameron Hospital in Stockton, California, late Tuesday.  In the letter, PJI Staff Attorney Matthew McReynolds reminded the hospital that Mr. Hawks has been a dedicated employee for ten years, earning such distinctions as “Employee of the Year” for his work in quality assurance.  Prior to joining the hospital staff, Mr. Hawks spent twenty years in the U.S. Army, attaining the rank of Sergeant First Class.  PJI is demanding that supervisors rescind their disciplinary action and their censorship.

PJI President Brad Dacus, a frequent guest on Faith on Trial, commented, “Rarely do we see something as shocking as supervisors placing a hard-working military veteran on leave right before Veterans’ Day for saying something patriotic.  The hospital’s actions were outrageous and illegal.  We expect a swift apology and full restoration of Mr. Hawks’ rights.”  

Mr. Hawks returned to work on Wednesday to find that lock combinations had been changed and his computer password had been suspended.  The hospital had not yet responded to PJI’s letter as of Thursday morning.