Bob Unruh joined WND in 2006 after nearly three decades with the Associated Press, as well as several Upper Midwest newspapers, where he covered everything from legislative battles and sports to tornadoes and homicidal survivalists. He is also a photographer whose scenic work has been used commercially.More ↓Less ↑
On Miami’s Metrorail, 82-year-old Emma Anderson was forcibly removed at Brickwell Station by a security guard.
According to a lawsuit, the guard accused her of “publicly singing spiritual hymns.”
He insisted that public singing, dancing and playing music without a permit is against the Miami-Dade Transit rules.
The case is just one of hundreds referenced in a newly updated report by legal experts with the Texas-based Liberty Institute. The nonprofit legal advocacy group says the evidence shows the U.S. government is steadily advancing an agenda to replace the “Creator” in the Declaration of Independence with itself.
Liberty Institute says the report documents more than 1,200 cases of attacks by the government on the right to free expression of religion through rules, regulations, laws and precedents.
“The founders called ‘free exercise’ of religion, guaranteed in the First Amendment to the Constitution, our ‘First Freedom,’” the report says. “They regarded the right of everyday people to express open allegiance to the Creator as a safeguard against government attacks on any rights given by that Creator.”
But what would happen if “open and widespread expression of religious freedom – in government, schools, workplaces, the military, public places, and more – is eliminated, driven into the shadows of society?”
“What if religion becomes an opinion only to be expressed privately in your home or quietly in your church, if at all? What if religious liberty becomes a poor, subservient tenant of an arbitrary and imperious government landlord?” the report asks.
“If that occurs, then government can erase any of your rights as it sees fit, since government, not the ‘Creator’ cited by the founders, will be regarded as the ultimate definer, giver or taker of all rights,” the report says.
The report is a joint effort of the Liberty Institute and the Family Research Council, which a year ago was the target of a now-convicted domestic terrorist who declared he wanted to kill as many people as he could.
Floyd Lee Corkins told investigators that he got the idea of targeting FRC from the Southern Poverty Law Center, which routinely labels organizations that support traditional marriage instead as hate organizations.
The report divides the hundreds of pages of documentation about attacks on religious freedom in America into three categories: attacks in the public arena, in schools and against churches and other religious groups.
Among the current high-profile battles is the dispute over Obamacare’s demand that employers pay for abortifacients and workers pay for abortion services, even if they have a religious objection to killing unborn children.
The report says there also are prohibitions on veterans’ memorials, displays of the Ten Commandments and public invocations, such as the pastor who was told he was not allowed to pray “in Jesus’ name” at a Memorial Day event.
Cheerleaders were barred from putting Bible verses on banners at football games, a third-grader was told he could not include a religious message along with goodies he was handing out to classmates, and a student wasn’t allowed to say “Jesus” when asked what Easter meant.
A church in Holly Springs, Miss., had to fight opposition from city officials to plans for a new building.
But the report says “there is hope.”
“While [the report] shows that attacks on religious liberty are dramatically increasing in the United States, both in the frequency and in the severity of the attacks, this survey also shows that those persons and organizations, like Liberty Institute, that stand up for religious liberty win when they fight,” the report says.
“When those who value religious liberty actively engage the cultural and legal battle against secularism, they push back the secularists’ agenda,” it says.
While the “tidal wave” of anti-religious activism is surging, there “is still time to turn back this tide.”
“In fact, there is encouraging evidence that we can do so if we choose. Liberty Institute and the Family Research Council have joined forces to boldly defend and restore religious liberty in America. This includes opposing and exposing the escalating efforts by activist organizations and government bureaucrats to redefine and regulate religious freedom as conceived by America’s Founders. From the local district courts to the U.S. Supreme Court to the halls of Congress and state legislatures, we will face each challenge head on to protect our most precious liberty – our freedom of religion.”
A long list
The 82-year-old Anderson filed a lawsuit to recover for battery, assault and negligence. She also sought an order protecting the rights of future passengers.
Additional egregious actions, according to the report, included park rangers ordering a woman to stop handing out Bibles at a farmer’s market “on federal property.”
The governor of Kentucky vetoed a bill to protect sincere religious believers against government overreach and coercion.
The report says: “Opponents vilified religious believers by spreading offensive and invidious messages. A gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender advocacy group labeled religious protections an ‘endorsement of discrimination,’ placing ‘women, children, people of color and all Kentuckians’ at risk. Similarly, the governor publicly expressed worry that protecting religious believers from governmental coercion may ‘threaten public safety, health care and individuals’ civil rights.’”
In Tempe, Ariz., a Romanian immigrant was arrested for peacefully distributing Christian tracts to passersby on the sidewalk.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture ordered a shelter in Evansville, Ill., to prohibit people from participating in voluntary prayer before meals.
“The prayers were open to all and were not mandatory. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, however, demanded that UCS stop the prayers or stop accepting federal assistance to feed the homeless. The UCS now permits only a moment of silence before meals.”
Among the other cases in the report:
A pastor in New York won the right to hold a Bible study in community center that had banned “religious” events.
A church in Dallas was ejected from an empty high school where it had been holding Sunday services, even though the church had a valid lease.
The city of Plano, Texas, tried to prevent WillowCreek Fellowship Church from opening because of the angle of the roof of its church building.
An Ohio library ordered a Christian group not to meet there to talk about traditional marriage, unless advocates for homosexuality also were present.
An African-American church in Texas was billed for property taxes after its building burned down. The assessor’s argument was that members no longer could meet on the property, so it no longer was tax-exempt.
The NFL threatened churches showing the Super Bowl on their big screen televisions.
A church in Brookville, Pa., was fined for opening its parsonage to three homeless men to live there.
A minister’s invitation to the National Prayer Luncheon was revoked because he was critical of open homosexuality in the military.
The city of Cheyenne, Wy., denied permission for a non-profit organization to run a daycare center.
An Alabama student was ordered not to wear a cross necklace, and a valedictorian in Iowa was ordered to give a secular speech.