What’s This? Atheist Group Files SCOTUS Brief Backing Christian Student’s Right To Witness

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.


 

DOJ Warns San Francisco Officials They Can’t Limit Church To One Congregant At A Time

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.

Photo by Anthony Garand on Unsplash

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”

Capitol Hill Baptist Church Sues D.C. Government; Claims It Has No Alternative To In-Person Services

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.

Capitol Hill Baptist Church Senior Pastor Mark Dever (Screenshot from CHBC video).

“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.

Continue reading “Capitol Hill Baptist Church Sues D.C. Government; Claims It Has No Alternative To In-Person Services”

EEOC Files Suit Against Kroger For Religious Discrimination In LGBTQ Apron Pin Case

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.

EEOC Logo

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.

Go here for more information from the EEOC.

 

California Church Changes Course, Moves Services Back Outdoors

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.

Pastor Jack Trieber of North Valley Baptist Church, Santa Clara, California (Screenshot)

“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.

Go here for more from CH.


 

FAITHFUL DISOBEDIENCE: Here’s The Absurdly Detailed California Covid Orders to Prevent Churches From Meeting To Worship Indoors

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.


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‘We Are Not Closing Down This Church’ — California Pastor Warns Officials

Pastor Jack Trieber of North Valley Baptist Church in Santa Clara, California, is appealing to all Americans for aid in his congregation’s struggle to exercise their First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion.

In an impassioned Facebook video, Trieber declared “we are not closing down this church” as a result of more than $52,000 in fines levied against the congregation by Santa Clara County officials, based on Covid guidelines issued by California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Trieber joins Grace Community Church of Los Angeles and Pastor John MacArthur in defying Newsom’s guidelines that bar indoor meetings in churches.

Grace, represented by the Thomas More Society, has won four court decisions but county officials’ most recent retaliation was cancellation without prior warning of a parking lot lease that had been in force without problems for 45 years.

With resistance to seemingly unreasonable Covid-related restrictions growing, especially among Christian congregations, the issue is certain to assume greater prominence on Capitol Hill when Congress returns after Labor Day:


Shouldn’t You Be Following HillFaith By Now???

Some Critical Thinking On Critical Theory And How Some Christians Are Responding To It

Natasha Crain earned her MBA in statistics from UCLA, so she knows how to read the numbers. But she is also pretty good at sorting out the meanings behind and beyond words and phrases, too.

Author Natasha Crain.

“Critical Theory” is being heard regularly these days. It’s been a commonplace on American campuses for several decades, but it has exploded into the public consciousness in recent weeks as more than a few voices among and defending rioters have cited arguments derived from the phrase.

Crain fears that many evangelical leaders are being taken in by claims and analyses based on Critical Theory, and in the process they are unwarily buying into concepts and actions that have no place in Christianity. Here is part of her thinking on Critical Theory: Continue reading “Some Critical Thinking On Critical Theory And How Some Christians Are Responding To It”

Crosses On 250 Churches In One Province Forcibly Removed By The Chinese Communist Party (CCP)

Repression against Christian churches throughout China is on the upswing generally as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) seeks to crush that nation’s fastest growing faith.

Bitter Winter, a religious freedom watchdog group, reports that regime officials are forcing churches to remove their crosses.

“One church member in Anhui told Bitter Winter that China fears Christians will ‘unite with foreigners against the state,’ according to the Christian Headlines (CH) digital news outlet.

“’As crosses are being removed throughout the country, those who refuse to cooperate will be accused of opposing the Communist Party,’ the church member said. ‘We are pressured to give up our faith, but we will persevere.’

“Churches in China must register with the government and join either the Three-Self Patriotic Movement or the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. Because state-registered churches face severe restrictions, millions of Christians worship in illegal underground churches,” CH reported.

Go here for more.

A Quick Briefer For Hill Staffers On Church Meetings, First Amendment Worries And Coronavirus

Thousands of churches and synagogues across the country have moved their regular services from meeting together in one facility to gathering “together” via Internet teleconferencing. It’s a suitable approach for coping with a temporary problem.

But what if the problem becomes more long-lasting, with official directives banning gatherings of 10 or more people continuing past the end of April and well into … well, who knows how long? That’s when things could get very complicated and when that happens, Congress almost always gets involved.

PJMedia Managing Editor Paula Bolyard has a thoughtful, accessible look at why the situation is a challenge for Bible-based congregations now and a warning of what could be coming down the road.

Bolyard’s title sets the context: “Should Church Violate Shutdown Orders? The Answer Is More Complicated Than You Might Imagine.” That’s why Hill staffers need to know this stuff, regardless of whether they are followers of any particular denomination or faith, or none at all. Continue reading “A Quick Briefer For Hill Staffers On Church Meetings, First Amendment Worries And Coronavirus”

Actor, Skeptic John Rhys-Davies: ‘We Owe Christianity The Greatest Debt Of Thanks That A Generation Could Have’

If you’ve seen the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy or the “Indiana Jones” series, you saw Hollywood actor John Rhys-Davies. He’s also starring in the forthcoming “I Am Patrick” about the Irish saint.

Screen shot from “I Am Patrick” trailer on youtube.com.

Rhys-Davies is not a Christian, but he is not bashful about expressing his admiration of and appreciation for the role of Christianity in the development of individual civil liberties we take for granted:

“Everything that we value — everything that I valued when I was a student 50, 60 years ago, which I cannot any longer count on an audience accepting — really comes from Christianity,” Rhys-Davies recently told podcaster Lucas Miles.

“The idea of the right of free speech, the idea of the right to hold your own opinion really derives from the second century A.D., when Roman Christians were told they must practice the emperor’s religion and faith, and that quiet voice in them said, ‘No, actually, I serve a different God. And I have a divine right to do so,’” he told Miles. Continue reading “Actor, Skeptic John Rhys-Davies: ‘We Owe Christianity The Greatest Debt Of Thanks That A Generation Could Have’”

To See Tomorrow’s Digital System For National Oppression, Just Take A Look At China Today

China is not ranked on top of the 50 worst nations for persecuting Christians compiled by Open Doors USA, as that dubious distinction belongs to North Korea, followed close behind by Afghanistan.

Great Wall of China. Photo by Bruce Röttgers on Unsplash.

But China is building a pervasive system of digital surveillance-based oppression that is presently aimed at the estimated 125 million Christians there, but which could easily be duplicated in other nations and used to silence anybody who disagrees with the regime in power.

That’s according to Open Doors CEO David Curry, who told a recent news conference unveiling the 2020 list of top 50 anti-Christian nations that China is constructing a “blue print” for a “system of persecution for the future” to be sold on the world market. Continue reading “To See Tomorrow’s Digital System For National Oppression, Just Take A Look At China Today”

New Index Finds Huge Majorities Of Americans Back Religious Freedom In Public And Private Life

Massive majorities of Americans across the political spectrum support maximum toleration and accommodation of religious practices in the public and private realms, according to a newly launched annual survey.

The accompanying chart dramatically demonstrates that support for religious freedom is overwhelmingly bipartisan, cutting across the ideological and party spectrums. The yellow areas indicate opposition, while the blue areas represent support for religious freedom.

The 2019 Religious Freedom Index from the Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty is a nationally representative survey of 1,000 individuals who were asked a battery of 21 questions designed to measure opinion on six major dimensions of religious freedom in America. Continue reading “New Index Finds Huge Majorities Of Americans Back Religious Freedom In Public And Private Life”

Hong Kong’s Sea Of Protesters Part To Allow Ambulance Through; Moses Unavailable For Comment

Hong Kong’s population includes an estimated 7.5 million people, approximately two million of whom participated at the height of the protests that have grabbed world-wide attention.

At one point earlier this week, something quite amazing happened: The sea of protesters parted to allow an ambulance to get to somebody in distress. As the ambulance passed by, the protesters reformed their ranks.

The protests have been remarkable in many ways that even the New York Times is noticing: Continue reading “Hong Kong’s Sea Of Protesters Part To Allow Ambulance Through; Moses Unavailable For Comment”

FIRST AMENDMENT: Supreme Court Delivers Huge Win For First Amendment, Tolerance

In a 7-2 decision with Justice Samuel Alito writing the opinion for the majority, the Supreme Court said Thursday that a Maryland memorial dedicated to the memories of 49 local residents who died in World War I does not violate the Constitution simply because a cross is its most prominent feature.

HillFaith founder and editor, Mark Tapscott

“For nearly a century, the Bladensburg Cross has expressed the community’s grief at the loss of the young men who perished, its thanks for their sacrifice, and its dedication to the ideals for which they fought,” said Alito, one of the High Court’s most conservative members.

“It has become a prominent community landmark, and its removal or radical alteration at this date would be seen by many, not as a neutral act but as the manifestation of ‘a hostility toward religion that has no place in our Establishment Clause traditions,’” Alito said.

The latter statement quoted from a concurring decision written by liberal Justice Stephen Breyer.

Alito also wrote that “the Religion Clauses of the Constitution aim to foster a society in which people of all beliefs can live together harmoniously, and the presence of the Bladensburg Cross on the land where it has stood for so many years is fully consistent with that aim.”

Go here for the text of the Court’s decision.