When U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito spoke to the National Lawyers Convention of the Federalist Society in early November, no one would have predicted that his address would be a Christmas gift to America.
Alito’s basic message was a warning that the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty — our “First Freedom” —is being jeopardized as never before by politicians using Covid-19 as an excuse to violate the Constitution.
A small mostly Hispanic Christian congregation in La Habra Heights, a suburban municipality a little south of Los Angeles, has filed suit in federal court seeking relief from illegal official harassment and excessive, unjustified fines.
The harassment, according to Pastor Joe Garcia of World Aflame Ministries, is the work of La Habra Heights City Manager Fabiola Huerta and Juan Garcia, a private citizen who lives near the congregation’s rented meeting place.
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.
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.
Grace Community Church in Los Angeles County is the latest Christian congregation to challenge California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s ban on religious gatherings in 30 Golden State jurisdictions.
Grace is led by Pastor John MacArthur, one of the nation’s most influential evangelical Christian pastors and authors. His ministries encompass books, translations of the Bible, radio and digital programs seen around the world, missionary works and multiple other outlets.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
In today’s hyper-charged environment, these type of statements are becoming more frequent. It’s understandable how one would react when hearing something like this. For me, a sense of indignation, fear, and anger are the emotions I typically feel.
Things get ugly when permission to speak depends upon whether the hearer agrees with what is said
A recent keynote speaker at the Harvard University Art & Science Faculty Conference on Diversity told his Twitter followers in 2015 that people who base their spiritual beliefs on the Hebrew scriptures should be “locked up.”
Author and speaker Tim Wise went on in that tweet, saying “people basing their beliefs on the fable of Noah and the Ark, or their interpretation of Sodom and Gomorrah … rather than science or logic … If you are basing your morality on a fairy tale written thousands of years ago, you deserve to be locked up … detained for your utter inability to deal with reality … NO, we are not obligated to indulge your irrationality in the name of your religious freedom …”
Wise undoubtedly thinks everybody else — including those who accept the Hebrew scriptures and all other “fairy tales” — absolutely are obligated to respect his spiritual beliefs or lack thereof.
Pastor Wang Yi of Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, China, is in jail, accused by the Communist government in Beijing of “inciting subversion of state power.”
The pastor absolutely denies the charges, which are based on the fact he preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ, including His claim to be “the King of Kings” and His injunction to “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and the things that are God’s to God.”