In what could prove to be a landmark decision upholding the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom of assembly and practice, the Supreme Court late Wednesday slapped down New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s limits on worship assemblies in certain hard-hit areas of New York.
In a 5-4 decision, the Court said Cuomo’s restriction of religious assemblies in the targeted areas to no more than 25 individuals in some and no more than 10 in others must address a “compelling” state interest, satisfy “strict scrutiny” and be “narrowly tailored” to minimally impinge on First Amendment rights.
But Cuomo’s regulations failed on both counts, saying “Stemming the spread of COVID–19 is unquestionably a compelling interest, but it is hard to see how the challenged regulations can be regarded as ‘narrowly tailored.’
Pastor Rob McCoy, who describes himself as a “pro-life Democrat,” recently converted his church, Godspeak Calvary Chapel in Thousand Oaks, California, into a strip club.
Yes, you read that correctly, a strip club. McCoy acted in response to California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decree that church congregations cannot assemble to worship God but strip clubs and numerous other kinds of establishments can remain open.
So, McCoy did a quick strip (of his tie, people, nothing more, this is church, remember?!??), accompanied by the 1960s show tune, “The Stripper.”
At least 31 of the nation’s 50 state capitols will have Nativity Scenes of Christ’s birth in December 2020 and one of the attorneys behind the legal campaign defending such religious expression in the public square is confident the day is coming soon when every state will have such exhibits.
“The nativities are going up in more than half of the states and it’s based on a free-speech rationale that is very hard to defeat,” Thomas More Society Founder Thomas Brejcha told HillFaith Friday. “Even the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Illinois and Texas publicly said we were totally justified in doing so.”
Brejcha said he has no doubt at all that within a few years there will be Nativity Scene displays in the capitol rotundas of all 50 states.
Students at a Kansas middle school will no longer be able to fill Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes with gifts for poor children overseas after the superintendent caved to an atheist activist group’s litigation threat.
“While it is laudable for a public school to promote student involvement in the community by volunteering and donating to charitable organizations, the school cannot use that goal as an avenue to fund a religious organization with a religious mission,” the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) told Pratt Public Schools Superintendent Tony Helfrich in a Nov. 3 letter, according to Michael Foust, reporting for Christian Headlines.
Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito told Thursday’s meeting of the Federalist Society’s National Lawyer Convention that America’s First Amendment guarantees of religious liberty and freedom of speech are in grave danger, thanks in large part to state and local policies justified as responses to the Covid Pandemic.
“The pandemic has resulted in previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty,” Alito told the convention at the outset of his address, which he delivered virtually.
Christian churches in China that decline to convert into propaganda tools for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are being destroyed, or converted into factories or “cultural centers” controlled by the government.
“According to Bitter Winter, an outlet that monitors religious liberty violations in China, the restrictive government shuttered an old church in the southeastern province of Jiangxi in April because the congregation was ‘organizing illegal gathering[s]’ and refusing to join the Three-Self Church, a government-backed and endorsed version of the church,” reports Faithwire.
There is virtually no religious freedom in China as the dictatorship in Beijing is steadily increasing its oppressive measures against all forms of religious practice and expression not approved by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The Federalist reporter Arielle Del Turco describes the CCP’s latest gambit:
When a Chinese Christian, Chen Yu, was caught boldly selling religious publications not authorized by the government, his punishment was a seven-year prison sentence and an approximately $30,000 USD fine, handed down by a court last month.
Such steep punishment for promoting and adhering to a religion is all too common in China today. Faith is increasingly under attack in President Xi Jinping’s China. As religious expression becomes more dangerous there, people around the world should be speaking up in defense of China’s persecuted believers.
In addition to Chen’s fine and imprisonment, the court ordered local police in the Zhejiang province to destroy 12,864 religious books from his online bookstore. Make no mistake—this is a regime that is deeply afraid of the growth of Christianity.
Go here at The Federalist for the rest of Del Turco’s story.
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Trevor McFadden ruled late Friday in favor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church (CHBC) in its request for a preliminary injunction against the District of Columbia government’s ban on congregational meetings of more than 100 people.
“The Court determines that the church is likely to succeed in proving that the District’s actions violate [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993] RFRA,” McFadden wrote.
“The District’s current restrictions substantially burden the church’s exercise of religion. More, the District has failed to offer evidence at this stage showing that it has a compelling interest in preventing the church from meeting outdoors with appropriate precautions, or that this prohibition is the least-restrictive means to achieve its interest. The Court will therefore grant the Church’s motion for injunctive relief,” McFadden continued. Continue reading “Federal Judge Tells D.C. Mayor She Cannot Ban Meetings of Capitol Hill Baptist Church”
Capitol Hill Baptist Church (CHBC) is being unreasonably burdened by District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser and the D.C. government with its anti-Covid regulations that effectively bar members of the congregation from exercising their First Amendment right to religious freedom, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
“Here, Defendants (collectively, the Honorable Muriel Bowser and the District of Columbia) are imposing a substantial burden, within the meaning of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), on Plaintiff Capitol Hill Baptist Church’s religious exercise by denying the church the ability to gather as a single body as required by its sincere religious faith,” DOJ said in a Statement of Interest filed Friday with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Three cheers for the American Humanist Association (AHA), which has filed a brief in the Supreme Court case of Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski, that will be argue soon before the nation’s highest tribunal.
Contrary to the appearance of the case title, it’s about the right of individual students — in this case, Chike Uzuegbunam, a now-former Georgia Gwinnett College student — to share their religious faith on campus.
Uzuegbunam, who is represented in the litigation by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), had twice attempted to distribute Christian witnessing materials outside of two tiny “free-speech zones” on the campus.
The ADF is also representing Joseph Bradford, another former student at the Georgia school who “self-censored” after seeing how Uzuegbunam was treated.
“People need to be given every chance to preserve their First Amendment rights. While the AHA and ADF may approach the Constitution from different angles, at the very least we agree that First Amendment litigation and the associated rights are essential to our democracy,” AHA Executive Director Roy Speckhardt said in a statement announcing the brief’s filing.
Department of Justice officials have warned San Francisco authorities that their decree limiting church attendance in the “City by the Bay” to one person at a time is unconstitutional and a violation of every San Franciscan’s right to freedom of religious practice.
In a September 25 letter to Mayor London Breed, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Eric Drieband and U.S. Attorney for Northern California David Anderson wrote:
“San Francisco’s treatment of places of worship raises serious concerns about religious freedom. In particular, the limitation of indoor worship to one congregant without regard to the size of the place of worship is draconian, out of step with the treatment afforded other similar indoor activities in San Francisco, wholly at odds with this Nation’s traditional understanding of religious liberty, and may violate the First Amendment to the Constitution. Continue reading “DOJ Warns San Francisco Officials They Can’t Limit Church To One Congregant At A Time”
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser and the D.C. government are depriving Capitol Hill Baptist Church (CHBC) of its members’ only means of worshiping together, according to a suit filed on the congregation’s behalf in federal court.
First established in 1878, CHBC is attended by dozens of congressional staff members who live in the Capitol Hill neighborhood surrounding the U.S. Capitol complex.
Senior Pastor Mark Dever is a nationally known evangelical leader and the founder of the 9Marks organization that provides ministry and administrative resources for churches across the nation.
“For CHBC, a weekly in-person worship gathering of the entire congregation is a religious conviction for which there is no substitute,” the church said in its suit filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
A Kroger grocery store in Conway, Arkansas, fired two long-time women employees who declined to wear aprons bearing a LGBQT pin because doing so would force them to appear to endorse a political opinion that violates their Christian faith.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin, so the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed suit against the Ohio-based grocery chain with stores in 35 states, according to McClatchy News. The stores are Kroger and Harris-Teeter outlets.
“Companies have an obligation under Title VII to consider requests for religious accommodations, and it is illegal to terminate employees for requesting an accommodation for their religious beliefs,” said Delner-Franklin Thomas, district director of the EEOC’s Memphis District Office, which has jurisdiction over Arkansas, Tennessee and portions of Mississippi.
“The EEOC protects the rights of the LGBTQ community, but it also protects the rights of religious people,” she said in an EEOC news release announcing the suit earlier this week.
Just a few weeks ago, North Valley Baptist Church Pastor Jack Trieber was vowing his Santa Clara, California, congregation would not submit to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Covid restrictions.
“We are not closing down this church,” Trieber declared in a video address that went viral on the Internet. That declaration came after officials imposed more than $50,000 in fines against the congregation for holding indoor services, contrary to the restrictions.
This past Sunday, however, Trieber preached to his congregation outdoors, with congregants sitting in their cars listening to him on their vehicles’ radios. Instead of the familiar “Amen” in response to the sermon, congregants honked their horns.
“Trieber said he came to the decision to hold outdoors services after much prayer and fasting. ‘We have been so conditioned in America [that] we have to fight everything,’ Trieber said,” according to Christian Headlines (CH).
“Trieber read from Exodus 14:14 – ‘The Lord shall fight for you’ — and said he was handing the battle to God instead of personally fighting it. In Scripture, Trieber said, ‘God fought many of the battles with the people doing nothing,’” CH reported.
“Santa Clara County had filed a lawsuit against the church but has dropped it in light of the church moving its services outdoors, he said. ‘To me, that’s a victory,’ Trieber said,” CH reported.
California authorities are clearly determined to make an example of Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church (GCC) in Los Angeles County in retaliation for defying the state’s ban on indoor worship meetings.
The ban has been challenged by other California congregations, but MacArthur is an internationally known evangelical pastor, book author and opinion molder. He and GCC are represented in court by Jenna Ellis and the Thomas More Society. Go here, here and here for previous HillFaith posts on GCC.
Yesterday, Sunday, September 13, MacArthur and GBC defied a court order specifically banning the congregation from meeting indoors. During the service, MacArthur described the specific demands California seeks to impose on all churches in the state.
As MacArthur goes through these demands, it should be obvious to all reasonable persons that California officials are attempting bureaucratic strangulation by regulation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom and assembly.