Home » Entries posted by admin
Stories written by admin

Pompeo Questioned About Past Statements on American Muslims During Senate Confirmation Hearing

Written by Don Byrd

Secretary of State Nominee Mike Pompeo, currently the Director of the CIA, faced questioning from Senators last week about previous statements he has made regarding American Muslims. Of particular concern were his suggestions that Muslims in the United States were not speaking out against terrorism. As Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) pointed out (around 4:02:00), however, nothing could be further from the truth.

MARKEY: Next Monday is the fifth anniversary of the Patriots Day Marathon bombing in Boston. . . . [F]ollowing those attacks, you falsely alleged that American Muslim leaders were “potentially complicit in violent acts for failing to speak out,” even though the American Muslim community and its leaders had already condemned that attack. Because words matter, Mr. Pompeo, do you believe that your statements falsely accusing American Muslim leaders of being complicit in the Boston Marathon attacks exemplifies the kind of moral leadership that our country should have in the post of Secretary of State?

POMPEO: …It is true that many leaders spoke out about it. I’m not sure that we ever get to a point where it’s enough…

MARKEY: The Boston Muslim community came out and condemned it. Is there any way in your …read more

New Jersey Supreme Court Rules Church Restoration Grants Violate the State Constitution

Comments Off on New Jersey Supreme Court Rules Church Restoration Grants Violate the State Constitution

Written by Don Byrd

Government grants used to repair twelve (12) churches in Morris County, New Jersey violated the state constitution’s ban on aid to religion, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled earlier today. And that ban, the Court held, is not in conflict with the U.S. Constitution.

The Religious Aid Clause in the New Jersey Constitution states that no person shall “be obliged to pay tithes, taxes, or other rates for building or repairing any church or churches, place or places of worship, or for the maintenance of any minister or ministry, contrary to what he believes to be right or has deliberately and voluntarily engaged to perform.” That provision, the Court emphasized, has “for more than 240 years banned the use of public funds to build or repair any place of worship,” regardless of the government’s intent.

From 2012 to 2015, the churches, all of which maintain active congregations, were awarded more than $4 million in government grants to repair and restore church structures as a part of a historic preservation program. While the U.S. Supreme Court in Trinity Lutheran Church disallowed the exclusion of churches from certain neutral grant programs, the New Jersey court highlighted the fact that here the …read more

Continue reading …

Louisiana School Boards Seek Changes in Religious Expression Policy in Response to Lawsuits

Comments Off on Louisiana School Boards Seek Changes in Religious Expression Policy in Response to Lawsuits

Written by Don Byrd

The Webster Parish School Board on Monday night voted to adopt a nine-page policy governing religious expression in public schools after a lawsuit claimed school officials routinely promoted religion in violation of the First Amendment. The policy seeks to “preserve and spell out student religious rights while ensuring Webster Parish school stay within the letter of the law,” according to a Minden Press-Herald report.

The policy addresses issues such as school employees participating in prayer or religious activity alongside students and the manner in which students who speak at official events may choose to reference religious themes during opening remarks.

Meanwhile, in nearby Bossier Parish, the school board will meet later this week to discuss a similar policy proposal. KTBS reports:

The proposed policy … bars school employees from participating in or encouraging prayers or expressing personal religious beliefs to students, but says employees can wear symbols of their faith.

[Board attorney Jon] Guice, who also represents the Webster Parish School Board, met with [parent plaintiff Christy] Cole’s attorneys and a federal judge Tuesday to discuss a settlement in the suit.

The settlement, if approved, would decide the case in favor of Cole and require the …read more

Continue reading …

Lawsuit Challenges Michigan Constitution’s Ban on Financial Aid to Religion

Comments Off on Lawsuit Challenges Michigan Constitution’s Ban on Financial Aid to Religion

Written by Don Byrd

A new lawsuit filed by a Grand Rapids, Michigan Catholic school claims a provision in the state’s constitution prohibiting government aid to private school violates the religious freedom guarantees of the U.S. Constitution. The complaint follows a court ruling last year halting government funding designed to reimburse non-public schools, including religious schools, for certain state mandates.

The Detroit News reports:

Immaculate Heart of Mary filed a lawsuit last month against the state because the school is forced by the government to comply with various public health measures but isn’t given state aid to help it meet the mandates. It has asked the state Court of Claims to declare a voter-approved measure unconstitutional because it “forces a religious school to choose between remaining a religious school or become entitled to a public benefit.”

The school goes on to state that the provision represents “anti-Catholic.” Proponents of the measure argue that funding for government mandates as the legislature approved here would open the door to more significant grants, even a “back-door way to get vouchers.”

Stay tuned.

…read more

Continue reading …

Judge’s Lawsuit Against Arkansas Supreme Court Members Claiming Religious Liberty Violations Proceeds

Comments Off on Judge’s Lawsuit Against Arkansas Supreme Court Members Claiming Religious Liberty Violations Proceeds

Written by Don Byrd

A fascinating case is making its way through the federal courts in Arkansas, as a judge who was removed from death penalty cases because of his stated religious and moral opposition has sued members of the state’s Supreme Court for violations of the First Amendment and Arkansas Religious Freedom Restoration Act (ARFRA). Last week, a federal district court allowed claims against the justices to proceed.

Here is an excerpt from the opinion describing the issues raised by the plaintiff judge:

In his Complaint, Plaintiff acknowledges that “in his personal life and his capacity as a pastor, [he] has expressed his personal religious and moral views on the death penalty.” He admits participating in prayer vigils as an exercise of his religious expression and claims to have “always conducted his religious activities outside the auspices of his judicial role.” Plaintiff contends that “notwithstanding his personal religious beliefs and moral views about the death penalty, [he] has always attempted to interpret Arkansas law on the death penalty fairly, without predisposition and according to law and precedent.” Plaintiff admits that on April 10, 2017 he expressed his personal view, in a blog post about religious faith,that “the death penalty is ‘morally’ …read more

Continue reading …

Washington State Enacts Law to Protect Against a National Religious Registry

Comments Off on Washington State Enacts Law to Protect Against a National Religious Registry

Written by Don Byrd

Legislation signed into law by Washington Governor Jay Inslee prohibits state personnel or agencies from disclosing information about a person’s religious affiliation to the federal government. House Bill 2097 also bars employers from requiring employees to disclose such information, and exempts from religious information from disclosure requirements under the Public Records Act.

The law bolsters individual privacy rights with regard to religious affiliation. At the same time, it seems designed to specifically protect religious minorities by curtailing the possibility of state participation in any federal religious registry. A report from the Woodward Patch includes a helpful quote from bill sponsor, state rep. Derek Stanford (D-Bothell):

“It is unfortunate that a culture of religious intolerance is brewing in our country. We must not be silent while whole communities are scapegoated due to their religious affiliation,” Stanford in a statement. “This measure will prevent our state from taking part in any federal religious registry, and I was glad to see bipartisan support for this effort to protect religious minorities.”

A national religious registry of course sounds far-fetched; it is surely and wholly un-American. But many advocates remain concerned that the Trump Administration – which has already …read more

Continue reading …

Shurden Lectures 2018: Follow your conscience and raise your voice

Comments Off on Shurden Lectures 2018: Follow your conscience and raise your voice

By Cherilyn Crowe

What does the First Amendment mean for Americans today? How can we continue our country’s commitment to religious liberty?

Dr. Charles C. Haynes spoke on the campuses of Mercer University to shed light on these questions and more during the 2018 Walter B. and Kay W. Shurden Lectures on Religious Liberty and Separation of Church and State.

The founding director of the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute, Haynes has been a longtime collaborator with the Baptist Joint Committee and a national leader in discussions on the role of religion in public life.
He began by noting the current climate in our culture, with growing harassment of religious minorities in the United States.

“At this defining moment in American history, we the people face a stark and momentous choice,” he told the crowd during his first lecture on the campus of Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta.

“Will we reaffirm and renew our commitment to the guiding principles of religious liberty that enable Americans to realize the dream of ‘E Pluribus Unum’ – out of many, one? Or will we succumb to forces of intolerance and hate that are the root cause of religious and ethnic division, conflict …read more

Continue reading …

New threats to religious liberty require new efforts to build a stronger vision

Comments Off on New threats to religious liberty require new efforts to build a stronger vision

By BJC General Counsel Holly Hollman

For many reasons, it seems our work is getting more difficult. As BJC staff members talk to student groups, travel to speak at universities and participate in conferences, we often find confusion about religious liberty. Even among individuals and churches who have long supported our work, we hear worries about divisions. Friends are straining to hold on to the common ground we share as people who have fought for religious liberty. Regardless of the group to whom I’m speaking, I have learned not to assume much about the audience’s understanding and expectations of religious freedom. In the current environment, opinions are often shaped by emotionally charged — and often unnecessarily contentious — arguments surrounding recent challenges.

The BJC is responding to these increasing and difficult challenges. Many are particularly divisive, including conflicts over legislative proposals to protect civil rights and religious exemptions, deliberate efforts to exploit fears about religious minorities, and an intensity of partisan rhetoric that echoes in social media. We have maintained our commitment to a traditional understanding of religious liberty, informed by the lessons of history and a dedication to our values. We’ve stepped up our engagement …read more

Continue reading …

Florida commission rejects proposal to eliminate state ‘no-aid’ clause

Comments Off on Florida commission rejects proposal to eliminate state ‘no-aid’ clause

By Jennifer Hawks, BJC Associate General Counsel

A groundswell of support from Baptist, Jewish and other religious liberty supporters saved an important protection in the Florida Constitution during a year-long review process.

The Florida Constitution requires lawmakers to reevaluate it every 20 years and propose additions or deletions to it; voters then approve or reject the proposals at the ballot box. This process is accomplished through the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC), with members appointed by various state officials.

The BJC and our Florida supporters have been monitoring this year’s CRC as the commission had been considering one specific proposal to repeal an important protection for religious liberty: the state’s “no-aid” clause.

Thirty-nine states have some sort of a “no-aid” constitutional provision that prohibits the state from spending money to support a house of worship. These provisions have a long history, with some even pre-dating the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Baptists and other colonial religious dissenters fought for these early religious liberty protections that separated their churches from state funding and control.

During this current debate, Baptists joined with other Christian, Jewish and non-Christian neighbors to support the state “no-aid” clause, reaffirming the importance of this provision in providing religious freedom for all …read more

Continue reading …

Massachusetts City Moves to Protect Church Providing Sanctuary to Immigrant Family

Comments Off on Massachusetts City Moves to Protect Church Providing Sanctuary to Immigrant Family

Written by Don Byrd

Springfield, Massachusetts Mayor Domenic Sarno raised eyebrows when he suggested a local congregation should lose their tax-exempt status for providing sanctuary to a mother and her two children who are facing deportation back to Peru. Sarno added that local officials “would not stand for harboring and protecting immigrants.” In response, however, the city council voted unanimously in an attempt to protect the church, and calling on the mayor to “walk back” those statements about the church’s tax-exempt status.

The Boston Globe reports:

In a packed City Hall chamber, several councilors evoked Martin Luther King Jr. and quoted Bible passages in voicing support for the measure. Timothy Ryan, among the sponsors of the resolution, said churches that provide sanctuary to unauthorized immigrants are “fulfilling their religious mission.”

“It’s so fundamental, and what they have done by coming together in providing sanctuary for this unfortunate young lady is 100 percent within their religious views, within their religious mission.”

Gisella Collazo and her two children sought refuge inside the South Congregational Church after being told by immigration officials to return to Peru on March 26, according to the Globe report. The resolution prohibits city officials from “interfering with the religious freedoms …read more

Continue reading …
Page 1 of 11123Next ›Last »