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CNSNews: Four gay couples who filed a federal lawsuit last month challenging Tennessee’s refusal to recognize their same-sex marriages asked a federal judge for a preliminary injunction Wednesday to force the state to grant them marriage licenses while the case is being heard.
One News Now: Rory Gray of Alliance Defending Freedom says a friend-of-the-court brief has been filed with the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.“We’re just trying to make sure that the courts don’t prevent using a provider because they’re religious, just because they happen to be a Christian school,” he tells OneNewsNow. “Obviously, that shouldn’t violate the establishment clause. This is a completely secular program and students are really learning completely secular subjects, and that should be the end of the matter.”
WBIR.com: A fast-growing, worldwide congregation for atheists called Sunday Assembly picked an unlikely spot to try and launch a new group. It’s Nashville. Where the Southern Baptist Convention is headquartered.
WBIR.com: In one year, Tennesseans will take to the polls to vote on a controversial abortion measure. If passed, Amendment 1 could give the state’s legislature the power to create abortion laws. Currently, it does not have that power.
Religion Clause Blog: The charges claim that Ballew violated rules requiring judges to promote confidence in the judiciary and avoid bias and prejudice based, among other things, on religion.
Matt Sharp at Alliance Defending Freedom: But what about students who are “ostracized and excluded” for wanting to pray at football games? Does the ACLU stand for their rights? What about players who want to huddle together on the field before games to pray for the safety of everyone? What about the student who, when selected to speak at graduation, wants to recite a blessing from the Bible? Not a word from the ACLU about these students’ rights.
10-Year-Old’s ‘God Is My Idol’ Assignment Now Accepted By Tenn. School; Given 100 Percent After Rejection Backlash
Christian Post: The school previously told the young student that she could not choose God as her idol, and was even told she had to remove her assignment from school premises. However, after intense media backlash and involvement from the Liberty Institute, the school has changed its mind and performed a U-turn.
AP: 4 Same-sex Couples File Lawsuit In Tennessee Four same-sex couples legally married in other states have filed a lawsuit challenging Tennessee’s law that prohibits recognition of their marriages. National Center for Lesbian Rights press release: Same-Sex Couples File Marriage …
NewsChannel5: Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero said she will add domestic partner benefit coverage for city workers, making Knoxville the second municipality in the state to offer such benefits.
OneNewsNow: Matt Sharp of Alliance Defending Freedom says ADF followed up with its own letter to correct that claim. Sharp, Matt (ADF)“And the troublesome thing is that a lot of schools, because they hear this constant drumbeat from the ACLU, may start to believe it and may start to take actions that would restrict the religious freedom of students,” he explains. “And that’s why whenever these things do pop up, we want to respond quickly.”
Matt Sharp appeared on the Drew Mariani Show to discuss this: Letter: Tenn. student-led game-day prayers constitutional. | MP3 audio 8:03 mins
Christian Legal Group Tackles ACLU’s Criticism of Student-Led Prayers at School Football Games | ChristianNews.net
ChristianNews.net: Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) crafted the letters as a counter to correspondence recently sent by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which complained about the prayers after it learned that a number of schools were allowing the invocations.
Tennessean: Tennessee GOP Chairman Chris Devaney says in a missive sent Thursday morning to superintendents across the state that the ACLU is trying “to intimidate Tennessee students and high school athletes from exercising their First Amendment rights” by praying at school functions. Devaney cites the same case the ACLU did, Santa Fe v. Doe, which said students may voluntarily pray anytime before, after or during the school day . . . The complete text of Devaney’s letter is available here.
WRCBTV.com: In the transcript of his 7-minute speech he mentions one bible verse and the word “God” six times. Weeks later the Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote to the school board calling Stewart’s speech a “serious concern” . . . “Inviting a pastor in the first place should have been a red flag for the school. Pastors only speak about religious issues for the most part,” Seidel says.
Christian Post: “There’s no legitimate basis for public school officials to shut down students’ private religious speech,” Alliance Defending Freedom lawyer Rory Gray said in a letter from the legal group to the school district. “Students who express their faith before, during or after the school day are exercising their constitutional freedoms. Atheist groups are attempting to browbeat schools into believing otherwise,” Gray added. The organization’s senior legal counsel Jeremy Tedesco added: “The Constitution should be the only permission slip students need to exercise their freedom of speech.” “We commend the school for not caving to the ACLU’s unwarranted demands but urge them to amend their outdated policies so that this does not happen in the future and students’ religious speech is protected,” he added.
WKMS.org: Praying for your high school football team is OK. But the American Civil Liberties Union says those before-game prayers should not be sponsored by public schools.
ACLU: School superintendents across the state today received letters from the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee in response to recent reports of school-sponsored prayer in numerous public school football programs. The letter provides information on the First Amendment’s requirement that public schools refrain from endorsement of religion.
Crossville Chronicle: The agreement states Cumberland County Schools, “shall not authorize, sanction or knowingly allow the Gideons International, or any other organization not solely composed of and led by students, to distribute Bibles or other written materials of a primarily religious nature designed to proselytize public school students during instructional time in the classroom or during an organized assembly on school grounds during school hours.”
Religion Clause Blog: In State of Tennessee v. Crank, (TN Ct. Crim. App., Sept. 26, 2013), the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction of Jacqueline Crank on one charge of child abuse or neglect related to the 2002 death of her teenage child. The mother turned to prayer instead of medical treatment for her daughter who eventually died of cancer.
The Baptist Standard (APB): The same day the government asked the Supreme Court to decide, lawyers from the Alliance Defending Freedom asked the high court to strike down the contraceptive mandate. The Arizona-based ADF represents Conestoga Wood Specialties, owned by a practicing Mennonite family who desire to conduct business in a manner that reflects their sincerely held religious beliefs. “All Americans, including family business owners, should be free to live and do business according to their faith,” said Senior Counsel David Cortman. “A major aspect of freedom is at stake. If the government can force the Hahns to violate their faith just to engage in their livelihood, then the government can do the same or worse to others.”
Baptist Press: “The question is whether the government can pick and choose what faith is, who the faithful are, and when and where they can exercise that faith,” said Matt Bowman, senior legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents Conestoga.
Obamcare at SCOTUS & 10 year old banned from writing about God | Jeremy Tedesco on the Frank Sontag Show
Jeremy Tedesco appeared on the Frank Sontag show to discuss the Conestoga challenge to the Obamacare abortion pill mandate and the case of a little girl in Tennessee who was banned from writing about God. | MP3 audio 6:19 mins
KSL.com: A statement from the district to WREG acknowledged, “No laws or district policies allow teachers to limit students’ expression of religious beliefs in their personal classwork.” The Post pointed out that the Alliance Defending Freedom states on its website, “Students have more freedom to express their faith on campus than you, or they, realize.”
10-Year-Old Banned From Writing About God By Memphis Teacher, Told to Remove Paper From School Property
Christian Post: “Public schools should encourage, not shut down, the free exchange of ideas. The personal well-wishes of a student are no different just because they mention God,” Senior Counsel David Cortman said in a statement back in February, as previously reported by The Christian Post. “Public school officials have no legitimate basis to shut down personal speech just because it has a religious reference.”
Todd Starnes at Fox News: A Tennessee mom is looking for answers after her daughter’s teacher refused to let the child write about God for a school assignment.
TimesFreePress: The Freedom From Religion Foundation is calling South Pittsburg High School’s pre-game prayer service, dubbed “Meet Me at the 50,” unconstitutional.
“Gay-Pride Assignment Did Not Violate Students’ Rights, Tenn. College Finds” | Chronicle of Higher Education
Chronicle of Higher Education: No students complained through the college’s formal grievance procedures, but the college received a letter of complaint in June from the Alliance Defending Freedom, an advocacy group that says its mission is “to gain justice for those whose faith has been unconstitutionally denied in the areas of religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family.
WorldNetDaily: In a lawsuit brought by the Alliance Defending Freedom, it is alleged a student was prohibited from exercising his speech by passing out pro-life fliers anywhere on campus except for a small “speech zone.” “Colleges should be the marketplace of ideas,” said David Hacker, a senior legal counsel for the organization. “Free speech should not be censored or limited to a ridiculously small area on campus, nor should students need permission to hand out flyers.
Citizen-Times (AP): The investigation was undertaken after the Alliance Defending Freedom sent a complaint letter to Columbia State President Janet Smith. The organization, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., describes itself online as “a servant ministry building an alliance to keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel by transforming the legal system and advocating for religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family.”
TimesFreePress.com (AP): The investigation was undertaken after the Alliance Defending Freedom sent a complaint letter to Columbia State President Janet Smith.
The Daily Herald: In June, the Alliance Defending Freedom sent CSCC President Janet Smith a letter stating Professor Linda Brunton violated her students’ First Amendment rights when she required them “to wear Rainbow Coalition ribbons for at least a day and to express support for the homosexual community.” The organization identified itself as an “alliance-building legal ministry that defends and advocates for free speech, religious freedom, and other fundamental rights.”
Times Free Press: Chattanooga City Councilman Chris Anderson said he’s working on legislation that would likely give health insurance and benefits to city employees with same-sex spouses or domestic partners.
Bob Smietna of the Tennessean at The Journal News: But Eric Stanley, senior counsel of the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Alliance Defending Freedom, says the First Amendment does give religious groups special privileges. Too much government regulation of churches would interfere with religious freedom, he said. Stanley believes the Department of Justice has called Gaylor and her husband’s bluff in the parsonage lawsuit. “What is really going on is that they don’t like the housing allowance,” he said. “The foundation wants the government to be hostile to religion.”
Feds Offer Tax Breaks to Influential Atheist Who Fights Against Benefits for Clergy | Christian News Network
Christian News Network: The district court has yet to respond to Gaylor’s most recent court actions. However, Eric Stanley of the Alliance Defending Freedom told The Tenneseean that the First Amendment gives churches and other religious groups special privileges, so he believes that the housing allowance tax provision is fully appropriate. “What is really going on is that they don’t like the housing allowance,” he said. “The [FFRF] wants the government to be hostile to religion.”
USA Today via 11Alive.com: But Eric Stanley, senior counsel of Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Alliance Defending Freedom, said the First Amendment does give churches and other religious groups special privileges. He said that too much government regulation of churches would interfere with religious freedom. Stanley believes that the Justice Department has called the foundation’s bluff in the parsonage lawsuits. “What is really going on is that they don’t like the housing allowance,” he said. “The foundation wants the government to be hostile to religion.”
BizPacReview: Over 200 Coptic Christians in Nashville, Tenn. took to the streets Monday in a mass demonstration calling out the Obama administration for its lack of response and begging Americans to “pray for Egypt” while calling for an end to the terrorism inflicted by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Christian Post: Eric Stanley, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, told The Tennessean the First Amendment affords religious groups special privileges. Overregulating churches, he says, would violate their religious freedoms. “What is really going on is that they don’t like the housing allowance,” he told the publication. “The foundation wants the government to be hostile to religion.”
Bob Smietna of USA Today at Religion News Service: But Eric Stanley, senior counsel of Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Alliance Defending Freedom, said the First Amendment does give churches and other religious groups special privileges. He said that too much government regulation of churches would interfere with religious freedom. Stanley believes that the Justice Department has called the foundation’s bluff in the parsonage lawsuits. “What is really going on is that they don’t like the housing allowance,” he said. “The foundation wants the government to be hostile to religion.”
WBIR.com: But Eric Stanley, senior counsel of Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Alliance Defending Freedom, said the First Amendment does give churches and other religious groups special privileges. He said that too much government regulation of churches would interfere with religious freedom. Stanley believes that the Justice Department has called the foundation’s bluff in the parsonage lawsuits. “What is really going on is that they don’t like the housing allowance,” he said. “The foundation wants the government to be hostile to religion.”
Tennessean: The federal government wants to give Annie Laurie Gaylor a clergy tax break for leading an atheist group. Gaylor, head of the Madison, Wisc.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, wants to stop them — and she’s asking a federal judge for help. The standoff is the latest twist in a court battle over the parsonage exemption for clergy, a tax break that allows “ministers of the gospel” to claim part of their salary as a tax-free housing allowance.
You Can’t Change the Rules in the Middle of the Game: University forced to Set Clear Rules when Regulating Free Speech | Jon Scruggs
Jon Scruggs at Speak Up Movement: The Sixth Circuit decision confirmed that university officials elsewhere cannot write vague policies that enable them to make up the rules on a case by case basis. And this principle will only become more important going forward since more and more people are finding the Gospel message to be offensive and thus “unfit” for “reasoned” discourse.
Tennessean: A Christian prayer at the recent dedication of Stewarts Creek High School again has raised questions about prayer in schools and at public meetings.
The Hill: Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) said a “serious problem” with ObamaCare is that it gives taxpayer money to abortion providers, such as Planned Parenthood.
Newsmax: Sen. Stacey Campfield has introduced legislation — nicknamed the “Merry Christmas Bill” — that would assure the legal right to issue “traditional greetings” during “winter celebrations,” the Knoxville News reports.
One News Now: Jonathan Scruggs is legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, which is defending McGlone. He says the Sixth Circuit’s reversal of a lower-court decision will allow his client to continue challenging UT’s unconstitutional requirements for speakers on campus. “It also gives our client the right to basically be on campus while it goes forward, and the right to avoid some vague policies,” the attorney tells OneNewsNow.
Tennessean: Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU of Tennessee said that a Tennessee judge should not have barred a couple from naming their child “Messiah.”
Religion Clause Blog: AP and WBIR report on the decision of a Newport, Tennessee Child Support Magistrate who last week ordered that a 7-month old child’s name be changed to Martin instead of Messiah, even though Messiah was among the fastest rising baby names last year.
Jonathan Scruggs appeared on the Frank Sontag Show on 99.5 KKLA to discuss this: 6th Circuit Orders Halt To Univ. Of Tenn. Speech Restrictions and ACLU vs. Gideons’ Bibles. | MP3 audio 16:55 mins
Nashville Scene: A tweet from the Tennessee Equality Project this morning signaled that the march toward the state’s own legal fight over same-sex marriage rights begins today.
Religion Clause Blog: In McGlone v. Cheek, (6th Cir., Aug. 2, 2013), the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals held that a traveling Christian evangelist would likely succeed in showing that the University of Tennessee’s policy requiring outsiders to obtain sponsorship in order to speak on campus is unconstitutionally vague.
“The First Amendment does not allow university administrators to pick and choose which viewpoints are allowed on campus. Rather, the university is a ‘marketplace of ideas’ where all viewpoints should be welcomed. For this reason, universities cannot use vague policies to stifle speech on campus. The 6th Circuit was right to conclude that the University of Tennessee’s policies are unconstitutionally vague and deter expression on campus.”
Since this nation’s founding, public meetings have been opened with prayer. We commend the court’s decision to affirm this freedom as constitutional. This practice has always been lawful in America. Secularist groups might not be happy with this result, but an invocation offered according to the dictates of the giver’s conscience as part of a policy like Hamilton County’s is not an establishment of religion.
WBIR.com: Tuesday night’s Knoxville City Council meeting began the same way it has for years, with an invocation. That’s in spite of a recent letter to the city by an organization that is trying to remove prayer from government meetings.
Religion Clause Blog: In Kucera v. Jefferson County Board of School Commissioners, (ED TN, July 9, 2013), a Tennessee federal district court held that the Jefferson County (TN) school board violated the Establishment Clause when, for budgetary reasons, it eliminated the county Alternative School and instead contracted with Kingswood School, a Christian institution, to operate the county’s program for students who had been suspended or expelled from their regular school.
The appellants, a group of business entities that
Kevin Theriot on the Zeb Bell Show to discuss this: College assignment flunks First Amendment by forcing students to promote professor’s views. | MP3 audio 13:16 mins
Edge Boston: Travis Christopher Barham, legal counsel for the Christian group, stated in the letter to the college that Brunton’s assignment violated principals of the First Amendment. This assignment posed serious problems for students who did not wish to convey this message and particularly those – like those who contacted us – whose religious convictions prohibit them from supporting conduct their faith teaches is unnatural and immoral,” Barham wrote.
One News Now: Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Matt Sharp says students in Dr. Linda Brunton’s general psychology class at Columbia State Community College were required to wear a “Rainbow Coalition” ribbon and tell people who asked about it that they were wearing it in support of “gay rights.” Sharp, Matt (ADF)”It’s a very clear-cut example of this professor, a government official, of compelling students to promote and support a viewpoint with which they personally disagreed,” Sharp tells OneNewsNow.
Hemant Metha at Patheos: The Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom even sent the school a letter(PDF) demanding an apology and a promise that this assignment will never be given again. Of course, I’m having a hard time believing . . . Was this a good assignment to begin with? Absolutely. It’s good for students — especially college students — to step outside their comfort zone and experience what it’s like to be part of a minority group. [Alliance Defending Freedom Attorney David Hacker addressed this in a radio interview here.]
College assignment flunks First Amendment by forcing students to promote professor’s views | David Hacker on 99.5 KKLA with Frank Sontag
Democrat and Chronicle: “Dr. Brunton’s assignment violates decades (of) clearly established law by compelling students to support in public views they either do not wish to advocate or find abhorrent,” Barham wrote . . . David Hacker of Alliance Defending Freedom said that teaching students to have empathy or to understand opposing views in the classroom is allowed. But students can’t be required to wear the ribbons outside the class. Hacker would not identify the students who complained about Brunton or say how many there were. He also did not know if the organization had documents showing whether the assignment was required.
Daily Caller: “When students objected to how she was pushing her personal views on the class, she explained that it is her job ‘to educate the ignorant and uneducated elements of society,’” Barham told Fox News. The professor reportedly prohibited any discussion of the morality of homosexuality, rejecting such lines of reasoning as “throwing Bible verses.” “Dr. Brunton essentially turned her general psychology class into a semester-long clinic on the demands of the homosexual movement,” Barham added.
NBC Nashville: Several students contacted the Alliance Defending Freedom, claiming the professor instructed the class to wear Rainbow Coalition ribbons for a day, and if someone asked why they were wearing it, they were to say they were supporting the homosexual community and its political agenda.
Tenn. Professor Requires Students to Support Gay Rights, Calls View of Those Opposed to Assignment ‘Ignorant’ | Christian Post
Christian Post: “Colleges should be the marketplace of ideas, not environments where professors manipulate students into advancing particular political agendas,” said Litigation Staff Counsel Travis Barham. “The Constitution does not allow any government official to force another person to adopt or advocate a particular moral or political view. But this professor did just that with this assignment and thus clearly violated freedoms protected by the First Amendment.” Barnham told Fox News that Brunton “essentially turned her General Psychology class into a semester-long clinic on the demands of the homosexual movement.”
News Channel 5 (includes video): The assignment asked them to basically advocate a position, supporting this rainbow coalition that they sincerely disagreed with,” said David Hacker, with Alliance Defending Freedom. “They had sincerely held religious beliefs against that topic and didn’t want to wear a ribbon.”
Columbia Daily Herald: According to a letter sent to the college Monday from Travis Christopher Barham, legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization that defines itself as an “alliance-building legal ministry that defends and advocates for free speech,” complaints were recently levied against Professor Linda Brunton for lessons students allege supported the “homosexual movement.”
Politix: “Colleges should be the marketplace of ideas, not environments where professors manipulate students into advancing particular political agendas,” stated ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Travis Barham. “The Constitution does not allow any government official to force a person to adopt a particular political view, but this professor did just that, and thus clearly violated freedoms protected by the First Amendment.”
BizPacReview: She referred to those who believe in traditional marriage as “uneducated bigots” who “attack homosexuals with hate,” said Travis Barham, an attorney with the Alliance Defending Freedom who represents several of Brunton’s students. “Dr. Brunton essentially turned her General Psychology class into a semester-long clinic on the demands of the homosexual movement,” Barham added.