Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
– First Amendment, U.S. Constitution
As demonstrated in the first entry in our Bill of Rights, Americans are a religious people with a history steeped in faith. The first act of the Continental Congress called for prayer. President Lincoln enacted a day of prayer and fasting, and President Truman created an annual National Day of Prayer. The constitutions of all 50 states directly recognize and honor God in some way.
The First Amendment is a major recognition of these values. The amendment guarantees every American freedom of religion; however, the American Civil Liberties Union is aggressively twisting it inside out to force the government to restrict religious expression.
Despite promoting itself as a great defender of individual rights, the ACLU is the foremost religious censor in America. This column only affords enough space to mention but a few of the innumerable examples of the ACLU’s anti-religious zealotry. But they are enough to illustrate the lengths to which the ACLU will go to attempt to impose this foolhardy agenda on America.
In the late 1960s, plaques bearing non-sectarian passages from Psalms were privately donated and installed at Grand Canyon National Park. (Even if you haven’t heard of this story, you can probably guess where this is heading.) An ACLU paralegal “discovered” the three-decades-old plaques and e-mailed the National Park Service to demand an explanation. This simple correspondence so rattled the Park Service that they removed the plaques without a legal fight.
In effect, one e-mail from a leftist legal group caused a governmental agency to restrict the free exercise of religion. Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund assured the Park Service that the plaques did not violate the Constitution. To the contrary, the plaques are a form of expression that the Constitution guarantees. Thankfully, the Park Service allowed the plaques back in – at least for the time being.
In another alarming example, the ACLU joined a suit against Catholic Charities, demanding that the organization provide contraception coverage in any group prescription-drug program offered to its employees. Since the teachings of the Catholic Church prohibit the use of such contraceptives, the ACLU was demanding that the state force the group to violate the tenets of its founding faith.
Sadly, the Supreme Court of California agreed with the ACLU’s reasoning that since Catholic Charities employs and ministers to non-Catholics, it was not allowed to faithfully follow Catholic doctrine. Another ACLU body blow designed to subvert religious freedom.
Yeshiva University, a conservative Jewish institution, did not allow two lesbians to live in married student housing since it was forbidden by their faith’s teachings. The ACLU and other activist groups sued the private institution, bringing it all the way to the New York Court of Appeals.
Attorney Harvey Blitz, who supported Yeshiva in the case, rightfully stated that accommodating same-sex couples in this manner would amount to a “promotion of the gay and lesbian lifestyle,” which is “inconsistent with Orthodox Jewish principles.”
Despite the obvious meaning of the First Amendment, the court sided with the ACLU and against traditional religious beliefs. Yeshiva was forced to act contrary to its religious beliefs and house same-sex couples as if they were married.
This dramatic erosion of religious liberty is the result of the ACLU’s deliberate, incremental strategy. The group often starts its attacks against cash-strapped organizations or legally unsophisticated governmental agencies. Many times, a forceful letter from a big-firm ACLU lawyer is enough to cause an administrator to restrict the public expression of religion.
Even if the embattled organization is sympathetic to a believer’s plight, officials often determine it isn’t worth the hassle or considerable expense to fight the ACLU in a protracted battle. When people do stand their constitutionally protected ground, the ACLU often finds judges and courts likely to support their leftist legal interpretations. And every successful case serves as a precedent for the next.
The ACLU’s destructive assault on the religious heritage of this nation must be challenged – and vigorously. We as a people must stand our ground to protect our constitutionally guaranteed right to freely practice our religion in public and private.
When we do, the true colors of the ACLU are often exposed for the world to see. Frustrated at his lack of success in getting a school board in Tangipahoa Parish, La., to refrain from opening its meetings with prayer, the ACLU of Louisiana’s executive director Joe Cook desperately described the members of the board this way: “They believe that they answer to a higher power, in my opinion, which is the kind of thinking that you had with the people who flew the airplanes into the buildings in this country, and the people who did the kind of things in London.”
Such outlandish comments reveal how the ACLU truly feels about those who acknowledge a higher power than themselves in this country. This kind of thinking is being – and must continue to be – exposed. Because if their legal snowball is allowed to continue unchallenged, the First Amendment won’t be worth the parchment on which our Founding Fathers paid so dearly to write.