(Editor’s note: This is Part 2 of a two-part series on religious liberty. Read Part 1 here.)
Last week in Part 1, I gave 12 examples of how religious liberty has been assaulted in just the past two years in the U.S. Here are a couple dozen more instances just for good measure, as reported by the Family Research Council, the office of Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., and various media outlets.
- The following public institutions have recently joined the growing rank of those which have banned the use of “Easter” in order to diminish or eliminate references to religion: East Meadow School District in Long Island, N.Y.; Prospect Heights Public Library, Ill.; Heritage Elementary School, Ala.; Manhattan Beach School District, Calif.; Flat Rock Elementary School, S.C.; and West Shore School District, Pa.
- The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that the state’s annual Day of Prayer proclamations violated the state constitution.
- Officials in Buhler, Kan., are removing a cross from the city’s seal, which was placed on it four decades ago to represent the city’s founders, who were immigrants fleeing religious persecution.
- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruled crosses placed on Utah roadsides to honor fallen state troopers violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
- A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that a cross displayed as part of the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial in San Diego, Calif., was unconstitutional.
- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that a North Carolina board of commissioners’ prayer policy was unconstitutional because the prayers mentioned “Jesus” too frequently.
- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled that a Florida city commission’s practice of offering invocations at the beginning of meetings was unconstitutional.
- For decades, the Sussex County Council in Delaware had opened meetings with the Lord’s Prayer, but after a year-long court battle challenging the practice, the council agreed to replace it with a recitation of Psalm 23.
- Other lawsuits by activist groups are sweeping the nation targeting the tradition of city and county council prayer. Here are a few more recent examples:
- North Carolina – Prayer in public meetings debated in Greenville.
- New Jersey – New Invocation Policy Includes Indemnification Waiver for All Council Members.
- California – Rialto City Council defends public prayers before meetings.
- Michigan – Prayer at Oakland Twp. meeting draws ACLU’s attention.
- Georgia – Cave Spring rethinking Lord’s Prayer issue.
- Washington – ‘Christ’ ban signals apparent end to Longview council meeting invocation.
- Officials at HHS denied funding for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ successful program for sex trafficking victims because of the church’s teaching on human life.
- In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, many New York synagogues and other houses of worship discovered that they were ineligible among other nonprofits for financial assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
- Presidential administration officials refused to intervene in the closing of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
- Walter Reed National Military Medical Center drafted policy that prohibited individuals from using or distributing religious items during visits to the hospital.
- Three-star Army general and Delta Force war hero, Lt. Gen. William G. (“Jerry”) Boykin, couldn’t speak at West Point because of his Christian faith.
- The Air Force Academy apologized for merely announcing Operation Christmas Child – a Christian-based charity and relief program designed to send Christmas gifts to impoverished children around the world.
- The Marine Corps considered tearing down a Camp Pendleton cross meant to honor fallen heroes.
- The Navy relocated a live nativity at a base in Bahrain to the chapel area.
- Air Force officials stripped religious curriculum from a 20-year-old course on “just war theory.”
- Yet, as reported in the Los Angeles Times, as of November 2011, the Air Force is building an $80,000 Stonehenge-like worship site for “earth based” religions, including “pagans, Wiccans, druids, witches and followers of Native American faiths.”
- The Department of Veterans Affairs censored references to God and Jesus during prayers at Houston National Cemetery.
- The Pentagon released new regulations forcing chaplains to perform same-sex weddings, despite their religious objections. However, members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus worked tirelessly to ensure that the final version of the FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, signed into law in January (2013), included key religious freedom protections for service members generally and chaplains specifically (Section 533).
- The Pentagon revoked approval to use the logo of each service branch on the covers of Bibles sold in military exchange stores.
What is going on in the U.S. military? Apparently the military’s urge for neutrality is officially and fundamentally transforming into hostility on faith.
What is so difficult about the feds understanding of the Free Exercise clause in the First Amendment, in which they “… shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise thereof …”?
Long gone are the days when, before the start of World War II, the commander in chief, President Franklin Roosevelt, actually wrote the prologue to the Gideon Bibles given to the Armed Forces, encouraging them to find strength and courage from its contents: “As Commander-in-Chief, I take pleasure in commending the reading of the Bible to all who serve in the armed forces of the United States. Throughout the centuries, men of many faiths and diverse origins have found in the Sacred Book words of wisdom, counsel, and inspiration. It is a fountain of strength, and now, as always, an aid in attaining the highest aspirations of the human soul.”
As I wrote in my New York Times bestseller, “Black Belt Patriotism,” skeptics are quick to point to Thomas Jefferson, who is generally hailed as the chief of church-state separation. But proof that Jefferson was not trying to rid government of religious (specifically Christian) influence comes from the fact that he endorsed using government buildings for church meetings, signed a treaty with the Kaskaskia Indians that allotted federal money to support the building of a Catholic church and to pay the salary of the church’s priests, and repeatedly renewed legislation that gave land to the United Brethren to help their missionary activities among the Indians.
Some might be completely surprised to discover that just two days after Jefferson wrote his famous letter citing the “wall of separation between Church and State,” he attended church in the place where he always had as president: the U.S. Capitol. The very seat of our nation’s government was used for sacred purposes. As the Library of Congress website notes, “It is no exaggeration to say that on Sundays in Washington during the administrations of Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) and of James Madison (1809-1817) the state became the church.”
The official website for the Office of the Chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives explains that near the Rotunda of the Capitol there is a room set apart for prayer, established by the passage of both Houses in Congress in 1954: “Its only purpose is to provide a quiet place where individual Representatives and Senators may withdraw to seek Divine strength and guidance, both in public affairs and in their own personal lives. … The room’s inspirational lift comes from the stained glass window with George Washington kneeling in prayer as the focal point. Surrounding him are the words from Psalm 16:1, ‘Preserve me, O God, for in thee do I put my trust.’ Above him are the words from Lincoln’s Gettysburg address: ‘This Nation Under God.'”
The only fight left is for we the people to defend our First Amendment’s freedom of religion, not espouse or enable the freedom from religion. Start in your own town or city, and take the battle all the way to Washington.
Write or call your representatives, then the White House to voice your opinion about the assault on religious liberty occurring across our land and what you think should be done about it. You can reach the White House at 202-456-1111 or by email here.