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San Antonio Express-News: Controversial crosses on a tower at the new Texas A&M University-San Antonio campus have been removed.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State: The full 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to decide whether it is constitutional for a public school to hold graduation ceremonies in the sanctuary of a Wisconsin church. | Doe 3 ex rel. Doe 2 v. Elmbrook School District
Christian Post: The county was represented by the Alliance Defense Fund, an organization that frequently takes up the case of Decalogue displays on public property.
Group criticizes Ark agency for not specifying rules for grant to school that teaches religion | The Republic (AP)
The Republic (AP): Harris, R-West Fork, has said he thought religious displays are permitted if paid for with private money. Harris said he met Tuesday with a lawyer from the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund, which works to preserve religious freedom. The attorney is planning to meet with state officials, Harris said
Religion Clause: Following up on a complaint last week by Americans United, the Arkansas Department of Human Services says it will change its inspection checklist for pre-kindergarten schools funded under the Arkansas Better Chance (ABC) program to assure compliance with church-state restrictions.
Ark. agency investigating whether legislator’s state funds promote religion at his preschool | The Republic
The Republic (AP): Harris said the Alliance Defense Fund, a nonprofit Christian advocacy group based in Scottsdale, Ariz., that handles cases related to the First Amendment’s freedom of religious exercise clause, will represent Growing God’s Kingdom if the school needs legal counsel.
ADF President and General Counsel Alan E. Sears at the TellADF Blog: For five years, members of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners have been under legal attack from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – the number one religious censor in America – and Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU). Both object to the Commissioners’ custom of allowing “sectarian” prayer to open public meetings … even though the person offering the invocation has always been allowed to do so in keeping with his own faith, whatever that may be.
Religion Clause: The House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution yesterday held hearings on “The State of Religious Liberty in the United States.” The prepared statements of witnesses are available online.
ACLU: A religiously based homeless shelter in Washington, D.C. will no longer require the homeless to attend religious services as a condition of getting food and shelter, and the D.C. government no longer plans to pay tax dollars to the shelter as a result of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of the Nation’s Capital and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Justin Deyer at Public Discourse: An upcoming Supreme Court decision might give government, rather than religious organizations, the final say on who counts as a religious minister.
“Americans United Urges Appeals Court To Review Decision Allowing Public School Commencements In Wisconsin Church”
Americans United for Separation of Church and State: In a Sept. 9 decision, a three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the Elmbrook School District’s use of Elmbrook Church to hold graduation ceremonies for two local high schools does not violate the Constitution. Americans United today asked the full 7th Circuit to review the case.
“Pulpit Freedom Sunday blasted by group advocating separation of church and state” | The Colorado Independent
The Colorado Independent (includes video): The ADF doesn’t seem to be arguing that such political practices from the pulpit is legal, but that it should be legal. The group views the restrictions placed on church as a part of their tax-exempt status as an undue shackle, which they believe violates the constitutional right of free speech . . . Below, video of Bishop Phillip Porter, Jr., or Aurora, CO, speaking in favor of Pulpit Freedom Sunday . . .
Red County: What CARD wants is for Christian faith-based groups to be forced to hire atheists, should they apply, and Catholic or Orthodox Jewish groups to be forced to hire Muslims, Hindus, or Wicca Priestesses should they apply. CARD’s letter, and the request it makes of the President, is akin to the same God-hating logic we’ve seen groups like Americans United for Separation of Church and State leverage inasmuch as CARD’s contention is that once a faith-based organization accepts federal money, they have to cash in their religious freedom.
More Pastors Sign on to Preach Politics From Pulpit, Christian News: This Sunday, more than 400 pastors will be using their pulpits to preach politics and challenge the Internal Revenue Service’s regulations that restrict religious leaders from endorsing candidates and discussing policies with their congregations . . . “Our goal has always been … to have the Johnson amendment declared unconstitutional,” Stanley said.
CSMonitor.com: The group pushing this legal test, the Alliance Defense Fund, has been enlisting more and more pastors since 2008. The yearly autumn protest, called Pulpit Freedom Sunday, is timed just before elections. Many participating pastors are eager to turn the US into “a Christian nation” by playing a direct role in politics.
Iowa Independent: “This is an appalling attempt by the Religious Right to turn houses of worship into house of partisan politics,” said Rev. Berry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. “Americans attend church for spiritual guidance, not to get a list of candidates to vote for on election day.” The Alliance Defense Fund, a religiously motivated legal group which considers itself as a counter to the American Civil Liberties Union, is encouraging pastors throughout the nation to “freely speak to their congregations on political matters from a biblical perspective.
ADF Attorney Joel Oster appeared on the Josh Tolley Show to discuss this: Will 2nd Circuit uphold right of NY town to allow prayer before public meetings? | MP3 audio 27:27 mins
Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State at OpposingViews.com: It’s going to be a long election season, and we’re bound to see a lot more of this. The Alliance Defense Fund and other Religious Right organizations are already prodding churches to flagrantly violate the law by endorsing and/or opposing candidates from the pulpit. These groups hope to build a church-based political machine to elect their favored candidates to office. Once in power, these people will pursue a fundamentalist political agenda, work to enact laws that impose their narrow version of faith on all of us and assail the church-state wall.
One of the biggest churches in the Mid-South is in the middle of a heated political controversy. The Tennessee Equality Project claims Bellevue Baptist is in violation of its (501) (c) (3) tax exempt status by having up a very clear link up to Family Action of Tennessee, a website that appears to endorse certain city council members.
Greg Baylor at Townhall : In March 2011, the school board in Douglas County, Colo., voted 7-0 to implement a school voucher program. It was designed to provide concerned parents with 75 percent of the education money provided by the state for their children if the parents preferred to send their children to the private school of their choice.
Left wing and homosexual organizations ask Obama to stifle religious freedom in ‘Faith-Based’ initiative
Americans United for Separation of Church and State: Americans United for Separation of Church and State has joined a coalition of religious, education, civil rights and health organizations in a letter to President Barack Obama expressing concern over his approach to hiring bias in the “faith-based” initiative.
Pantagraph: But the religious leaders are bolstered by well-funded Christian legal organizations supporting their cause. The most prominent — the Alliance Defense Fund, a group based in Scottsdale, Ariz., that spent $32 million in 2010 — is challenging a 1954 tax code amendment that prohibits pastors, as leaders of tax-exempt organizations, from supporting or opposing candidates from the pulpit. The fund sponsors Pulpit Freedom Sunday, in which it offers free legal representation to churches whose pastors preach about political candidates and are then audited by the Internal Revenue Service. (So far, no IRS investigations have been triggered.) Last fall, 100 churches participated — up from 33 in 2008. This year’s Pulpit Freedom Sunday scheduled for Oct. 2, is expected to draw more than 500 churches. [Kelly Shackelford of Liberty Institute quoted]
The New Civil Rights Movement: The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), the conservative Christian lawyers who are supporting Prop 8 in federal court, are beginning a push to force the IRS to end its regulations that prohibit churches and other religious institutions from campaigning. [more . . . ]
89.3 KPCC Southern Cal. Public Radio: A well funded Christian legal defense organization called the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) is leading the charge to overturn the amendment that bans political speech in churches. For the last 3 years the organization has sponsored an event in which pastors give a political sermon and send the text of their speech to the IRS, hoping to trigger an audit. The ADF then offers free legal services to any pastor that gets audited. So far, the IRS hasn’t taken the bait. According to the ADF, the first amendment trumps tax law and pastors should be able to advocate for whatever they want. | ADF Attorney Erik Stanley and Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State were on the program.
Smoky Mountain News: Brigman said the school system “will ensure that future graduation speakers refrain from religious speech.”
Religion Clause: Film maker Greta Schiller, working with the National Center for Science Education and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, is launching the “Celebrate Science” campaign beginning Aug. 28 in Tallahassee, Florida. A press release issued Monday announced that the Campaign will feature a new film, “No Dinosaurs In Heaven,” in cities around the country.
Brett Harvey on Family Policy Matters with Bill Brooks: The ongoing prayer litigation in Forsyth County, NC
Americans United: Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the ACLU of Indiana and the national ACLU today asked a federal court to block an Indiana city’s plan to use public funds in support of a religious school.a
Americans United for Separation of Church and State: AU filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a case pending before the justices called Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The case deals with a Michigan religious school that fired a teacher because of a medical condition.
The News Journal: For years, the Sussex County Council has opened each of its meetings with the recitation of the Protestant version of the Lord’s Prayer. Despite requests to stop this practice, the council continued. Now, Sussex County and the council are facing a lawsuit filed by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a Washington, D.C.-based religious liberty watchdog group.
KMGH Denver: Judge Michael Martinez is holding a three-day hearing starting Tuesday to consider whether the Choice Scholarship Pilot Program violates the state constitution.
ADF: 4th Circuit’s decision on Forsyth County prayers out of step with other courts, American history
In a 2–1 decision Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit upheld a district court’s ban on prayers by clergy that may mention a particular deity prior to public meetings in Forsyth County, N.C.
Kevin Theriot: “Good News! Americans United for Separation of Church and State admits the phrase “separation of church and state” not in Constitution”
The Jeffersonian view of separation is one wherein the First Amendment shackles the government but keeps the Church free, as is clearly seen in Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists; the kind of separation leftist radicals embrace is one wherein the government is often used to silence public display of faith—a concept that the Founders never embraced or fostered.
The Nonprofit Quarterly : In one instance, a church lost its tax exemption, but we suspect that the IRS and the federal government in general are little interested in publicizing cases about the IRS telling ministers what they can and cannot say from the pulpit or on church websites. There is probably little appetite to take on Pastor Brown’s argument that the Americans United complaint is “just harassment and persecution of anti-religious people against people of faith.”
Americans United for Separation of Church and State and allies send letter to Congress opposing parental choice in education
Americans United, Allied Groups Oppose Taxpayer Funding of Religious Schools In Washington, D.C. | Americans United: Americans United for Separation of Church and State has joined 52 educational, religious and public policy groups in calling on Congress not to divert taxpayer dollars to religious and other private schools in the District of Columbia.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State: Americans United for Separation of Church and State today warned the South Bend (Ind.) Common Council that its plan to use public funds to support a religious school is unconstitutional.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State: In a letter to the IRS, Americans United asserts that Tom Brown Ministries appears to have run afoul of federal tax law, which prohibits houses of worship, ministries and other 501(c)(3) non-profit groups from endorsing or opposing candidates.
Adelle M. Banks Religion News Service via National Catholic Reporter: David Cortman, senior counsel of the Alliance Defense Fund, which argued for both the National Day of Prayer and for the Arizona tuition credit program, is not surprised about strategies to move to the state courts. “If they can’t challenge them in federal courts, they’ll certainly challenge them in states,” he said, “but we’ll also be there to defend those programs.”
Americans United for Separation of Church and State: Americans United for Separation of Church and State has asked officials at a Texas school district to stop sponsoring prayers during high school graduation ceremonies. Two high schools within the Klein Independent School District — Klein High School and Klein Collins High School . . .
AU, Allied Groups Urge Obama To Discriminate Against Faith Based Organizations in Federal Contracting Policies
Americans United for Separation of Church and State: In 2002, President George W. Bush rolled back these protections by issuing a new order that allows religious organizations that receive government contracts to discriminate in hiring based on religion.
ACLU: Three civil liberties organizations filed suit today in Denver District Court to challenge a school voucher plan adopted by the Douglas County School District. The American Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado and Americans United for Separation of Church and State sued on behalf of a group of parents, clergy and other taxpayers who oppose the program’s effort to divert taxpayer money to primarily religious, private schools. | Complaint: LaRue v. Colorado Board of Education
Brad Abramson on “Grassroots America: We the People”: The attack on a student’s graduation prayer in Texas
ADF attorney Brad Abramson appeared on the Grassroots America: We the People with George Stevenson to discuss the litigation in Schultz v. Medina Valley Independent School District. | MP3 audio 13:22 mins
Ken Klukowski at the Washington Examiner: James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and the rest of the framers of the Constitution would be astounded to hear a federal judge order a valedictorian’s prayer is not protected by the First Amendment, but marketing sickening video games to children is protected by the First Amendment.
Federal Judge Prohibits Prayer at Texas Graduation Ceremony: AG says I’ve never seen such a restriction on speech issued by a court
FoxNews.com: I’ve never seen such a restriction on speech issued by a court or the government,” Abbott told Fox News Radio. “It seems like a trampling of the First Amendment rather than protecting the First Amendment.”
OneNewsNow.com: Brett Harvey, senior legal counsel for Alliance Defense Fund responds. “Private speakers, whether they be students or outside speakers who have some reason to participate in the graduation ceremony, speak freely,” the attorney explains. “And [if] that person chooses to include a prayer as part of their message to the graduates, then that’s entirely constitutional.”
WWLTV.com: The ACLU and a couple of other organizations dedicated to the separation of church and state are asking for an apology after a student led a graduation ceremony crowd in the Lord’s Prayer despite warnings to refrain.
Atlanta J. Constitution: More than 2,000 Cherokee County high school graduates will walk across the stage of First Baptist Church of Woodstock to get their diplomas this weekend, despite a potential lawsuit from a civil liberties group over using the religious venue.
Religion Clause Blog: Finalizing action that Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear announced last year (see prior posting), the Kentucky Tourism and Development Finance Authority voted unanimously yesterday to grant $40 million in tax rebates to a Noah’s Ark theme part to be built by Answers in Genesis ministry.
Jim Campbell at the Speak Up Movement Church Blog: Last week, Americans United for Separation of Church of State accused the Alliance Defense Fund of working at “cross-purposes” by defending, in a petition recently filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, the Utah Highway Patrol Association’s secular use of roadside crosses to memorialize fallen troopers who died while serving the people of Utah. AU’s alleged outrage, its spokesperson claimed, stemmed from its unfounded assertion that the Alliance Defense Fund tried to “secularize [the] Christian symbol” of a Latin cross through its legal arguments.
Religion Clause Blog: “In Florence, South Carolina yesterday, the Florence School District 1 board unanimously but reluctantly banned administrators from sending religious messages to school employees.”
Huffington Post: The Alliance Defense Fund, which argued for the Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization, hailed the “national precedent” that will limit similar suits in federal courts. “The court’s reasoning is sound,” said ADF senior counsel David Cortman. “The government does not own 100 percent of every American’s paycheck. The donations are private money, not government money.” Americans United for Separation of Church and State agreed the decision could prevent federal court action on the issue in the future, but vowed to continue the fight in state courts. “This is not a good day for the wall of separation,” said the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “A few more bricks are out of it.”
Leader Telegram: The Alliance Defense Fund applauded the ruling and said it sets a “national precedent” that “empowers parents. (They) should be able to choose what’s best for their own children,” said David Cortman, its senior counsel.
Anniston Star: “And on the first day of the 2011 legislative session, Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, introduced a bill to amend the state constitution to allow the Ten Commandments to be displayed in public schools and buildings . . . The bill, officially Senate Bill 37, is already being eyed by the Alabama branch of the American Civil Liberties Union . . . ”
Americans U. for Separation of Church and State: “The U.S. Senate should reject a push to revive a controversial school voucher scheme in the District of Columbia, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State . . . ”
Opposing Views opinion by Americans U. for Separation of Church and State: Julea Ward, a self-described “orthodox Christian,” filed a lawsuit against the university, alleging that school officials violated her free speech and religious liberty rights. Represented by the Alliance Defense Fund, she claims she cannot “affirm any behavior that goes against what the Bible says” and would always refer to other counselors “all clients who seek counseling for sexual relationship issues she believes to be against the teachings of the Bible.”
Americans United Wall of Separation Blog: Zachary Kopplin, a senior at Baton Rouge Magnet High School, wants to see the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act repealed, and he’s working with state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans) to garner support for a bill she plans to introduce in April that will do just that . . . When Gov. Bobby Jindal signed the measure back in 2008, Americans United warned that it was merely another attempt by creationists to slip fundamentalist religion into biology classes . . . ”
ADF attorney Erik Stanley writing at Speak Up Movement / Church: “The most recent ‘contribution’ to the hyperbolic musings of the [Americans United for Separation of Church and State] blog was this little piece that trumpeted that ADF has now ‘converted’ to AU’s position, and now believes that ‘separation of church and state’ is in the Constitution . . . The quote I made was in the context of a larger argument about the fact that there is a proper understanding that church and state should be separate in some ways. This is a view that ADF has always adhered to and fought for (which is also Jefferson’s view), that the state is prohibited from in any way attempting to control churches.”
Americans United for Separation of Church and State: “[Erik Stanley], senior legal counsel for the ADF, told the Religion News Service, ‘It makes no sense to tax churches and to limit their ability to provide their services, and it does damage to the constitutional separation between church and state.’ Yes, you read that right. The ADF has admitted that the separation of church and state is in fact a part of the U.S. Constitution.”
Americans United for Separation of Church and State: “House Speaker John Boehner’s plan to subsidize religious schools in the District of Columbia would undercut civil rights and civil liberties and add to the federal budget deficit, while failing to improve education, according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State.”
Fox News (AP): “A Johnson County man is suing the local government after officials rejected his proposal for a display on the separation of church and state in the courthouse’s ‘public forum’ area . . . The county commission rejected Stewart’s proposed display in June after consulting with the Alliance Defense Fund, a law firm dedicated to Christian advocacy.”
Humanist Examiner: “A Tennessee county faces a lawsuit for violating the separation of church and state. Americans United filed a lawsuit on behalf of resident Ralph Stewart challenging Tennessee’s Johnson County for an unconstitutional preference for Christianity . . . The county commission rejected Stewart’s proposed display in June after consulting with the Alliance Defense Fund, a law firm dedicated to Christian advocacy”
Common Dreams: “Americans United, a Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group, is challenging the Johnson County Commission’s decision to display the Ten Commandments and Christian literature in the courthouse lobby while refusing to display a local man’s posters about the historic role of church-state separation in American law.”
Shane Vander Hart writing at Caffeinated Thoughts: “I started to read over the weekend a new book by Dr. Wayne Grudem, professor of systematic theology at Phoenix Seminary called Politics According to the Bible. In the first chapter he discusses five wrong views about Christians and government. One of those is the view that government should exclude religion. This is the view that is promoted by groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.”
Yahoo Associated Content: “Last summer, residents of King, NC, were challenged for flying the Christian flag, but today, they seem to be enjoying a sort of victory . . . The Alliance Defense Fund was involved in helping King make this crucial decision . . . To date, city dwellers have sent in 110 applications requesting to fly a flag in honor of a loved one at the Veterans Memorial. One asked for the atheist flag, some for no flag, and most for the Christian flag.”
Atlanta Journal Constitution: “Across metro Atlanta, church campuses are becoming sanctuaries for cash-strapped start-up charter schools. The partnering has provided classrooms for hundreds of Georgia public school students. Charter schools save on rent and churches get help covering expenses.”
The Humanist: “The far-right lawyer group, the Alliance Defense Fund, has been the driving force behind these pastor protests. Based in Scottsdale, Arizona, the alliance is anti-abortion and opposed to same-sex marriage and boasts of having ‘more than thirty-five full-time Christian attorneys.’ The organization did not respond to a request for comment, but has made no secret of the fact that it’s itching for a court fight—all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary.”
Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, writing at Opposing Views: “The Alliance Defense Fund and its allies in the Religious Right were working to persuade pastors to endorse or oppose candidates from the pulpit during Sunday services. AU repeatedly reminded pastors and congregants that such actions are a violation of federal law. Under the Internal Revenue Code, all 501(c)(3) non-profit groups are barred from intervening in campaigns by endorsing or opposing candidates.”
Rob Boston writes at Americans United for Separation of Church and State / Wall of Separation: “[T]here are people out there bound and determined to use Christmas as another front in their misguided ‘culture war’ . . . Consider this column by David French, an attorney with the right-wing Alliance Defense Fund, which appeared on The Washington Post’s website. While I disagree with French’s views, he at least has the virtue of candor. He freely admits why the Religious Right carps on this issue so much – it’s a reminder to the rest of us that Christians (of his stripe) rule.”
WNCT: “A dispute over the display of flags in a North Carolina town may continue despite a city-backed compromise . . . The Alliance Defense Fund . . . say[s]non-religious symbols can be displayed on the flagpole as long as they’re on a list approved by the federal Veterans Administration.”
Cherokee Tribune: “Cherokee County School District students see themselves as caught in the middle of a legal battle that will decide the site of their graduation ceremonies. Students say they’re voicing their opinions in hopes the school board members tasked with making the decision will consider their views.”
USA Today: “Although Oklahoma’s law is the first to come under court scrutiny, legislators in at least seven states, including Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah, have proposed similar laws, the National Conference of State Legislatures says. Tennessee and Louisiana have enacted versions of the law banning use of foreign law under certain circumstances.”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “The group that wants Cherokee County to stop using a church building for school graduations says it will hold off sending letters demanding that Cobb and DeKalb counties also stop using sanctuaries. ‘We are waiting to get specific information about the environments in those churches,’ Alex Luchenitser, an attorney for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said Wednesday.”
North Carolina Family Policy Council: “The council approved the ‘limited public forum’ policy, which was crafted with the assistance of the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), at its December 6 meeting. Under the policy, the residents of King can submit applications to the city, requesting that a specific religious flag be flown to honor a veteran in their family.”