Clearing the Path for Truth

From the Desk of Nate Kellum

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Unmuzzling the Gospel

The Center for Religious Expression is committed to assisting truth-bearers who are being threatened and restricted from conveying the truth of the gospel in the public square. CRE pursues legal action that protects the fundamental, God-given right to share truth. In the past few weeks, CRE has secured two victories for our clients, clearing the path for them to share the truth. 

PrideFest in Pensacola, Fla., is a homosexual-themed event that is free and open to the public. At last year’s PrideFest, a local pastor, Bill Adams, and several members of his congregation attempted to hand out free calendars containing a salvation message on the back on the public sidewalks surrounding Seville Square while PrideFest was taking place in the park.  Neither Pastor Adams nor anyone in his group discussed the topic of homosexuality. Nevertheless, organizers for the event complained to the City of Pensacola Police, who promptly ordered Pastor Adams to leave the sidewalk or face arrest.   

Because sidewalks are public spaces where citizens should be free to share their views, CRE filed a lawsuit on Pastor Adams’ behalf in federal court, and the federal court granted a motion for preliminary injunction in late May, so that Pastor Adams will be able to freely offer a gospel message to those passing by on their way to PrideFest this month.   

Last week, a federal judge sitting in the Western District of Wisconsin granted another motion for preliminary injunction sought by the Center for Religious Expression, allowing Ryan Woodhouse to share his faith in Riverside Park during the annual Riverfest celebration in La Crosse, Wisconsin.   

Riverfest is an annual event held since 1983 that offers numerous events and activities to celebrate Independence Day in the park, attracting the public to Riverside Park, a public park located in downtown La Crosse. Last Fourth of July, in 2012, Woodhouse was forced by police officers under the threat of arrest to leave the park after attempting to share a Christian message because Riverfest officials did not want his message there.

Now, Ryan Woodhouse can celebrate this Fourth of July in a way that best expresses liberty for him: sharing his faith. 

We should expect that Christians who speak the truth will be challenged in our culture, but we should never cede any constitutional rights or allow Christians to be silenced. As these cases and many others show, Christians can stand up for the truth and win, securing their liberties in the process.

When the rights of Christians are threatened, CRE is there to faithfully defend them. When Christian voices in the public square are marginalized or silenced, we are privileged to unmuzzle the gospel. 

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, June 17, 2013

Courageous Speech

by Nate Kellum

He didn't think he would give a speech.  For quite some time, Roy Costner IV was second among his classmates, and didn't realize an extra class raised his grade point average enough for him to be the valedictorian of Liberty High School's Class of 2013.  But when the honor was bestowed on him, and he was asked to give the traditional valedictory speech, Costner didn't want to waste this opportunity to acknowledge the most important influence in his life: his Christian faith.  

Read the rest of this week's blog at American Thinker.

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, June 10, 2013

Red Coat

by Nate Kellum

It has been three weeks since Kermit Gosnell was found guilty of first-degree murder in the deaths of three babies, involuntary manslaughter in the overdose death of a mother seeking an abortion, and over 200 counts of violating Pennsylvania state abortion laws. As the dust settles from the shocking revelations of that trial, many wonder if any good will come out of it. 

Early indications are positive. 

Even before the verdict was delivered, 95 congressmen co-sponsored a bill called the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. If passed into law, this bill would ban elective abortions in D.C. at the point a baby is capable of feeling pain, identifying 20 weeks in the womb and even younger as falling in this category. Thanks to the publicity surrounding the Gosnell case, this same type of protection is now being pursued for every state in the union. 

As Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte remarked, “The terrifying facts uncovered during the course of the trial of late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell, and successive reports of similar atrocities committed across the country, remind us how an atmosphere of insensitivity can lead to horrific brutality. The grand jury report in the Gosnell case itself contains references to a neonatal expert who reported that the cutting of the spinal cords of babies intended to be late-term aborted would cause them, and I quote, ‘a tremendous amount of pain.’ These facts justify expanding the application of this bill nationwide, and I fully support Constitution Subcommittee Chairman Franks’ intention to do so.”  

In addition to inspiring change in our laws, the Gosnell case is inspiring scrutiny of other abortion doctors, exposing similarly gruesome practices that demand elimination. Dr. Douglas Karpen, who operates two clinics in Houston, has been accused of many of the atrocities found in the Gosnell clinic and is being investigated by county authorities, the Texas Department of State Health Services and the Texas Medical Board.    

Several abortion clinics in Maryland had their licenses suspended late last month as well.   

For those of us who support the right to life, these reports are encouraging, but we need to keep the Gosnell story relevant, lest it become yesterday’s news, and forgotten.    

The powerful 1993 movie, Schindler’s List,  tells of Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist who viewed the holocaust with casual indifference, that is, until he noticed a young girl in a red coat, first as she meandered her way through a crowd, and then later, as she laid dead on a cart carrying Jews for incineration. Her red coat, being the singular splash of color in the black-and-white film, stuck out to Schindler, signifying a real life, causing him to come to grips with the horror of the holocaust. That insight, according to the story, moved him to action.    

May the news of those butchered in Gosnell’s clinic have the same effect on us, being our red coat, and move us to action.

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, June 3, 2013

Staying Christian

by Nate Kellum

It’s graduation time all across the country, and as many Christian students enjoy the pomp and circumstance of high school commencement, they have a sinking feeling about the challenges that await them in college. They have heard about liberal professors and atheistic movements at their school of choice, and wonder: “Will I be persecuted for my faith?”

The answer is likely… yes.  In the world we currently live, Christians frequently encounter some form of persecution on the public university campus. These students should nevertheless take heart - and take heed - to the fact that they carry their constitutional rights with them to college.

Just like everyone else, Christian students have the freedom to live out and express deeply-held beliefs. A university cannot rightly force a Christian to stop being Christian.

But this doesn’t keep universities from trying. To maintain secular orthodoxy on campus, many institutions of “higher learning” employ creative means to silence dissenting voices. Some universities have promulgated “free speech” zones that relegate religious speakers to certain undesirable parts of campus.  A few universities have labeled Christian evangelism as “hate speech” and banish it.  Other universities force Christians to buy tables as vendors to share the gospel.  Still others discriminate against Christian student groups, making them accept non-adherents as leaders.    

All of these policies are blatantly unconstitutional.  The First Amendment gives all citizens – including Christian citizens - the right to peacefully speak, assemble and associate. As long as Christian students remember these rights, and have the temerity to invoke them, they need not fret about their religious freedom on campus.  

Congratulations to all graduates. Whether you are off to a small Christian college or a large public university, my humble advice is to abide in God’s word and pursue the truth.  The truth will set you free, including a freedom from the expectations of others.  And, in pursuing truth, you will necessarily be salt and light on your campus, advancing the kingdom of God, whether you realize it or not.    

Many are praying that your generation will be like Joshua’s, one that renews the culture and leads the people towards repentance and a return to God.   

Don’t worry about whether you will be persecuted for being a Christian. Be bold, be strong, the Lord your God is with you wherever you go, even on the campus of a secular university.

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, May 27, 2013

Conspiracy Theory

by Nate Kellum

It’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you.

The news that IRS agents had applied undue scrutiny to Tea Party and other politically conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status was disturbing enough. We’re now hearing from many respectable Christian organizations claiming they have likewise been targeted for discrimination, for what they say and for what they stand for.

Rev. Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, sent a letter to President Obama accusing the IRS of harassing two affiliated non-profit organizations, Samaritan’s Purse and Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, because they advocated against same-sex “marriage” and abortion. Both groups were subject to unfounded IRS audits.

Eerily similar, a newsletter in North Carolina, the Biblical Recorder, reported a sudden IRS audit soon after they voiced support for a state amendment banning homosexual unions.

Christian Voices for Life relayed a significant delay in their attempt to obtain tax-exempt status from the IRS.  Family Talk Action, an advocacy group associated with James Dobson’s Family Talk radio show, was exposed to an unusual amount of questioning over the course of two years in trying to secure a 501(c)(4) designation.  And a pro-life group, Coalition of Life of Iowa, has complained of a similar delay in their efforts to get non-profit status.

On Friday, in a house hearing investigating the IRS scandal, Rep. Aaron Schock (R) brought to light the type of questioning Coalition of Life of Iowa endured in the process.  Noting that Coalition of Life promoted a respect for life through prayer, the IRS asked:  “Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers?”

To what end does the IRS want to use knowledge of prayers?

I shudder to think of it.  Even scarier, these incidents reveal that this abuse is not the product of a highly-active, profoundly-biased rogue agent (or two), but a true conspiracy implicating a systematic, deliberate effort to silence the voices of Christians, along with other conservatives.  All signs point to those at the highest levels of the IRS and in the legislative and executive branches of government being well aware of these unconscionable actions.   

The power to tax is the power to silence, which, of course, is the whole idea behind this effort.  The IRS is communicating clearly that organizations sharing government orthodoxy, or are willing to keep contrarian views to themselves, can remain in business.  All others will be eliminated.

But not even the federal government – with all its power – can silence dissent.  This is a First Amendment issue, relating to inalienable, God-given rights that the government should not and cannot take away.  Much like the organizations that pressed on through the difficult process the IRS laid out for them, we must all persevere in maintaining our right to speak.

In retaining that right, now would be good time to use it.

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, May 20, 2013

Cheer On

by Nate Kellum

To inspire players and fans, high school and middle school cheerleaders in the tiny Southeastern Texas community of Kountze made banners with encouraging messages for the football team to run through. Their source for inspiration was a place they had often found in their young lives: the Bible.

The banners contained phrases like “If God is for us, who can be against us?” and “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for I, the Lord your God, am with you wherever you go.” Looking for a way to be positive and uplifting in the face of losing seasons, biblical quotes put words to their feelings and longings.

Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation - that’s right, Freedom FROM Religion Foundation - threatened all of that when they sent an ominous letter to the school district last September, attacking the banners and the school for permitting Christian messages to be uttered on school property. Claiming these banners would have the effect of establishing religion in the school, the group promised legal sanction if remedial action was not taken immediately.    

The threat – though largely empty – was sufficient.  Soon thereafter, the superintendent for the school system caved and banned the banners.    

The cheerleaders, though, have shown the quotes are more than words on a banner.  Finding that same inspiration they were exalting, they contested the decision in court.   

In bringing suit, the cheerleaders enjoyed broad support from various state and local officials in Texas, including Governor Rick Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott. A group of local parents created a Facebook group after the ban, Support Kountze Kids Faith, which has gained over 45,000 members.   

Aside from being popular, the legal action also has merit.  The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution establishes the right of every citizen to freely speak her mind and religious speech is no exception to this rule. Contrary to the wishes of Freedom From Religion Foundation, Christian messages cannot be censored just because some might dislike them.    

The judge hearing the matter – District Court Judge Steve Thomas – agreed. The cheerleader’s case was supposed to go to trial, but last week the judge granted a motion for summary judgment in their favor, precluding the need for it. As Judge Thomas explained in his decision, “the evidence in this case confirms that religious messages expressed on run-through banners have not created, and will not create, an establishment of religion in the Kountze community.” 

This setback will not deter Freedom From Religion Foundation or others like them.  They will not rest until they have purged every mention of God and His truth from public discourse and every semblance of religion from public space. Only then will their mission be complete.  

But those of us who wish to exercise and express our Christian beliefs need not fret.  As the Kountze cheerleaders remind us: “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, May 13, 2013

Shock Value

by Nate Kellum

Novelist Flannery O’Connor once observed that some audiences require a shock to appreciate the distortions in modern life, “to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures.”

America is receiving a much needed shock about abortion. For far too long, our nation has accepted this medical procedure – implicating the slaying of pre-born babies – as natural.  But new-found publicity surrounding the Kermit Gosnell trial is exposing the distortion of abortion.   

Over the last several weeks, a Philadelphia jury heard evidence about the abortion practice of Kermit Gosnell, a provider accused of brutally murdering babies born alive and causing the overdose of a 41-year old patient. Thanks to the media finally picking up the story, now, the rest of country is hearing about the horrific happenings in Gosnell’s clinic.   

Americans have learned how Gosnell took scissors and snipped the spines of newborns as they emerged from their mothers still alive. The revelations are as condemning as they are appalling.  As Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams noted, “A doctor who cuts into the necks severing the spinal cords of living breathing babies, who would survive with proper medical attention, is committing murder under the law.”   

Equally as shocking, Gosnell’s approach would have been perfectly legal, except for the fact that he killed the babies after they were delivered instead of killing them in the womb.  

In truth, Gosnell’s gruesome ways are not much different from how abortions are committed on a daily basis in any of the hundreds of “reproductive health” clinics found in the United States.  Babies are likewise torn apart in these places. The difference between Gosnell’s crimes and legalized abortion is approximately ten inches (between the baby being in utero and outside the womb).             

Against this backdrop, on April 26, President Obama became the first sitting president to address Planned Parenthood’s annual conference. Describing himself to these abortion advocates as “a president who’s going to be right there with you, fighting every step of the way,”  Obama took the opportunity to criticize states like North Dakota that have passed laws protecting life in the womb.   

What Obama has not criticized, or even mentioned, is Kermit Gosnell.  

President Obama, Planned Parenthood, and other abortion supporters would like the public to believe Gosnell is an outlier, but the honest – albeit late - reporting on this Philadelphia massacre is taking hold.  The hard of hearing are detecting a shout and the almost-blind are making out large and startling figures.   

While investigators aptly depict Gosnell’s clinic as a “house of horrors,” the shocking details from the trial are making us realize: Every abortion clinic is a house of horrors.   

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, May 6, 2013

Morally Crooked

by Nate Kellum

As the vote nears, it looks more and more like the Boy Scouts of America will adopt a “compromise” plan that will radically alter the organization and its future.

Back in January, the Boy Scouts national leadership declared a possible policy change that would allow self-identified homosexuals to become Scouts and Scout leaders. They postponed the decision until a large group of scout leaders could vote on it, at the national council in May.

Since that announcement, numerous Scout supporters have urged the leadership to stand fast against the homosexual advocates, but a new proposal released on April 19th indicates that they have succumbed to the pressure. While maintaining - for the time being - a prohibition against openly homosexual leaders, the resolution provides: "No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone."

Under this proposal, homosexuals are free to become Scouts. Unlike the original proposal, which left the ultimate decision about homosexual members and leaders up to the local chapters, this would be a universal policy for all chapters.

The “compromise” gained steam last week when it received a lukewarm endorsement by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Mormon church sponsors more Boy Scout troops than any other religious organization.

But this “compromise” comes at a high price, for it requires the Scouts to betray its own oath.

The Scout Oath reads:  “On my honor I will do my best, to do my duty to God and my country, and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”  The Scouts have historically viewed homosexual conduct as being inconsistent with the morally straight pledge.        

The new policy reflects a change in thinking, creating a new set of values for the Boy Scouts and a quandary with the current oath.  This oath will either be reinterpreted to include a false notion of “morally straight,” altered to remove the phrase “morally straight,” or perhaps, in light of the fresh philosophy, abandoned altogether.  

In any event, the oath will not be the same and neither will the Scouts. The policy represents one foot in the door, with the other foot following behind. Having abandoned the idea that homosexual behavior runs counter to their values, the Scouts will no longer have a basis for excluding homosexual leadership.

Before our very eyes, the Boys Scouts of America are transforming into something very different. If the policy is adopted, the Scouts will no longer be a group encouraging boys to be morally straight. They will promote the morally crooked instead.

Photo courtesy of Rob Weir.

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, April 29, 2013

Fight for Right

by Nate Kellum

When some students at Johns Hopkins University re-organized a group to share the truth about abortion, they thought they were fighting for the right of the preborn. Little did they know they’d be fighting for their own.   

Voice for Life had existed as an officially recognized student organization for fifteen years –  between 1995 and 2010 – at JHU.  Several current students decided to revive the group when they saw an opportunity to educate their classmates about the reality and ramifications of abortion. They filled out the paperwork, went through the proper channels, and their group was recommended for approval by the Student Government Association’s Appointments and Evaluations Committee. Yet, when the Student Senate met last month, they chose to ignore the recommendation and denied Voice for Life’s application to become an official student club.   

The reason? JHU’s Student  Senate offered two. First, the Senate surmised that the group’s intentions to peacefully engage in sidewalk counseling off campus at a Baltimore abortion facility “clearly violates the JHU Harassment and Code of Conduct policies.” Second, the Senate took note of the Voice for Life website including a link to the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, which they deemed offensive.   

The denial of Voice for Life was in effect a denial of truth and a denial of the university’s mission in searching out truth. Voice for Life President Andrew Guernsey remarked: “It is inconsistent with the JHU’s motto ‘The truth will set you free’ for the SGA to try to hide its students – many future doctors and nurses – from the truth about abortion and how it hurts women, families and, most of all, innocent preborn babies. In fact, at the abortion facility a block from Hopkins campus, a woman died this month and the Maryland government had to step in. If someone was there to sidewalk counsel on that day, that woman and her baby might still be alive today.”   

Guernsey and other student leaders in Voice for Life refused to give up.  They figured if Voice for Life is to be a voice for life, they could not forego truth.      

Realizing a constitutional right was at stake, Voice for Life contacted university officials, who agreed that sidewalk counseling is protected speech under the First Amendment and that nothing Voice for Life did or intended to do violated the students’ Code of Conduct.   

Subsequently, the Student Government Association’s Judiciary heard the case, and in a unanimous decision, overturned the Student Senate’s ruling, granting Voice for Life official recognition as a Johns Hopkins University student organization.   

This story of steadfastness contains a good lesson for us all. When we share truth, we should expect pushback. As Scripture teaches, people love darkness because it hides their evil deeds (Jn 3:19.) But we can’t let detractors deter us. We have an inalienable right to convey truth, as acknowledged in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. And like Voice for Life, we must fight for this right.   

The truth cannot be silenced. As JHU’s motto reminds us, the truth will set you free. 

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, April 22, 2013

Newsworthiness of Truth

by Nate Kellum

We instinctively rely on the media to keep us informed. Whether we read the paper, surf websites or watch news programs, we presume these outlets will apprise us of newsworthy stories. But our reliance is misplaced.  

Bias infects virtually all major news outlets, shaping not only how a story is reported, but whether it is reported at all. Should we ever doubt this lack of objectivity in America’s newsrooms, we need look no further than the coverage, or more aptly put, the non-coverage, of the Kermit Gosnell trial. 

In case you haven’t heard - and you probably haven’t - on March 18th, prosecutors opened the trial of Kermit Gosnell, an abortion doctor in Philadelphia charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of seven infants, all born alive after abortion procedures, as well as third-degree murder in the death of a woman who was given a fatal overdose of anesthesia before an abortion procedure. Gosnell, 72, pled not guilty and faces the death penalty if convicted.  

The details of the case are scandalous, the kind that typically garner the attention of those wanting to sell or gain advertisers for news-related products. Seven babies (and most likely many more) were allegedly killed by snipping their spinal cords after they were born. Gosnell routinely aborted children delivered at twenty-six weeks or later, children who were viable - had a fighting chance at life - had they been born at a hospital and given proper care. Exhibiting little concern for those undergoing these procedures, Gosnell harmed and killed women in addition to the babies.    

The grand jury report about Gosnell’s gruesome practice is rich with intrigue, "This case is about a doctor who killed babies and endangered women. What we mean is that he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable babies in the third trimester of pregnancy - and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors. The medical practice by which he carried out this business was a filthy fraud in which he overdosed his patients with dangerous drugs, spread venereal disease among them with infected instruments, perforated their wombs and bowels - and, on at least two occasions, caused their deaths."  

While the notorious nature of the trial for Gosnell begged for publicity, the mainstream media was silent on the subject, choosing instead to fill up space and airtime with reports on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voicing public support for homosexual marriage. World Magazine, a Christian publication, has provided regular coverage of this event for its readership, but if you subscribe to major publications like the Washington Post or New York Times, or read major websites like Politico or the Atlantic, for your news, you probably missed it. No network news shows covered it; neither did CNN.  

The omission is no accident.  When infants are brutally murdered, when women are treated with such little care as they were by Gosnell’s clinic, the pro-choice position favored by most of the media falls apart.  Rhetoric meets reality and rhetoric loses.  

But despite the media’s best efforts, the word is getting out about Gosnell and his despicable acts, thanks in large part to social media. Hundreds of thousands of tweets and Facebook posts were made about the Gosnell trial last week, as interested people sought to make their own friends and family aware of the situation, even if the media refused to do so. And, as the trial has worn on, many have begun to openly question the media for avoiding coverage.  

 Last Friday, ten members of the House of Representatives joined the chorus from the floor of Congress, with a sign declaring "The National Media Cover-up" as their backdrop, so as to inform their colleagues of this important trial.  

The mounting pressure on the media is having an effect.  The story has gained more traction over the last several days and even liberal media outlets are issuing apologies for ignoring the trial in the first place. Through honest reporting, people are finally learning about Kermit Gosnell and more about the evils of abortion.    

If left to their own devices, many members of the media will only report on what they want to you know. As evidenced with the Gosnell trial, we must require more from our news-bearers; we must demand truth. For nothing is more significant, more impactful, more newsworthy, than truth.        

Photo of empty seats reserved for media at the Gosnell Trial on Thursday, April 11 courtesy of twitter user @jdmullane.

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, April 15, 2013

Straight from the Vending Machine

by Nate Kellum

As if acting out a scene from a dark, futuristic tale, a federal judge in Brooklyn recently ordered the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to lift the ban precluding the selling of “morning-after” abortifacient pills – marketed as “Plan B One-Step” – to minors over-the-counter.  

In 2011, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius rejected a request from the FDA to allow girls under 17 to buy Plan B over-the-counter in drugstores and pharmacies.  The Secretary declared that a doctor ought to be seen first. Viewing the matter much differently, U.S. District Judge Edward Korman of New York opined that age restrictions on over-the-counter sales of the morning-after pills are "arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable" and ordered reversal of the policy.  

The judge reasoned that as long as an adolescent can read and comprehend the understanding of the label, the inclusion of a doctor’s prescription is unnecessary.

This regrettable view glosses over the value of a trained medical physician in the process.  Prescriptions are mechanisms by which doctors evaluate young girls and assess whether they are being abused, coerced or manipulated. They can protect girls from predators.  The wise instruction of a physician is critical to those who may be at risk from even more than an unplanned pregnancy.

In the wake of this judicial edict, it is now far too easy for impressionable young girls to make life-altering – as well as life-taking – decisions without the benefit of any unbiased counsel.

The Justice Department says they are contemplating whether to appeal this ruling, but what they’re contemplating is less than clear. The judge accused the Obama Administration of political expediency in applying the age-restriction, and considering the timing of the Secretary’s determination (in the midst of a campaign), the suggestion has merit. With the presidency in tow, the present willingness of the administration to spur loyal supporters comes into question.

The pro-abortion lobby is pushing for a culture where Plan B and other abortion-inducing drugs can be found on every street corner, with abortions being so cheap, so easy and so casual people will forget the implications of what they’re doing. Unfortunately, their plan is taking hold; we are steadily descending down that slippery slope.  

In rural Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, Shippensburg University sells Plan B One-Step at cost in a vending machine, allowing the purchaser to put in money, push a button, and get the product. Other universities and public health centers are poised to follow.   And after Judge Korman’s decision – eliminating concerns about the age of the buyer – our public schools could be next. 

To counter this movement, we must be willing to stand up for life – by speaking up. We need to share the truth about abortions and abortion-inducing drugs, informing others of the real loss of life and costly pain associated with them.  For if we stay silent, we shouldn’t be surprised – in the not so distant dystopian future – to see Plan B in A7, above the Snickers and to the right of Lay’s potato chips, in the junior high break-room.

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, April 8, 2013


by Nate Kellum

The slogan for North Dakota is “legendary.” This one-word motto refers generally to Lewis & Clark, Theodore Roosevelt, and other adventurers who bravely traversed the picturesque Badlands located in the southwestern part of the state.  

Those who stand for life now recognize North Dakotans as legendary for another reason. Last week, blazing a trail through the badlands of Roe v. Wade, North Dakota’s elected leaders passed a series of common-sense laws regulating the practice of abortion in that state.  

As part of the most comprehensive legislation geared toward the protection of life in the country, one of the newly-enacted laws bars abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. Much like the other laws passed in North Dakota - prohibiting abortions premised on gender selection or genetic defects and requiring physicians who commit abortions to have hospital privileges - the heartbeat law reflects the state’s profound interest in the life of the unborn child as well as the welfare of the mother.   

There is no surer sign of life than a heartbeat.         

Unsurprisingly, this law about heartbeat is causing heartburn among those in the pro-abortion lobby. Since modern technology can pick up a heartbeat as early as six weeks into a pregnancy - not long after many mothers learn of the news - the abortion industry in North Dakota will be taking a huge hit.  

This monumental legislative effort reflects an earnest attempt to protect state interests while navigating through the constitutional markings set by the U.S. Supreme Court. Like North Dakota Governor Dalrymple explained, “Although the likelihood of this measure surviving a court challenge remains in question, this bill is nevertheless a legitimate attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade.”  

State laws have long proven to be effective means for guarding life.  A detailed analysis of pro-life state laws by State Politics and Policy Quarterly reveals a direct link between a 22% decline in abortions in the U.S. between 1990 and 2005 and increasing legislature restricting abortion on the state level.  This new sea-change law – stopping all abortions after recognition of heartbeat – will ensure the safety of many more lives.    

Following North Dakota’s trail, there are bills pending in Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, and Wyoming that would all protect children found to have a heartbeat.  

The tide is definitely turning against the abortion-on-demand mindset that was once prevalent in our country. While laws representing this movement – like North Dakota’s heartbeat law – are sure to be challenged in the courts, we need not fret about it.    

Roe v. Wade is a poorly-reasoned, ill-founded ruling that begs to be overturned. And North Dakota’s heartbeat law could be the vehicle that obliges the Supreme Court to reconsider the case and the implications of it. If so, the High Court, like North Dakota, just might do something legendary.   

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, April 1, 2013

No Age Requirement for Religious Expression

by Nate Kellum

Recognizing that children enjoy the same constitutional liberties as their parents, last week, the state of Mississippi passed the Mississippi Student Religious Liberties Act.  

The law addresses a surging and disturbing uptick in religious discrimination taking place in our public schools.  In the face of an increasing number of reports of students – from all over the country - being censored from praying at athletic events, referencing their faith at graduation ceremonies, and even displaying Bible verses (like “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”) on cheerleader-made spirit banners, Governor Phil Bryant signed the law to assure that students are treated differently in the Magnolia State.  

The Mississippi Student Religious Liberties Act, which will be enacted July 1st of the year, requires the public school districts in the state to adopt a policy establishing a "limited public forum" for students to express their religious beliefs, irrespective of the beliefs they choose to express.  

Thanks to this new law, Mississippi students will be able to pray and refer to their faith in situations where other forms of student speech are deemed acceptable in school settings, from the intercom during announcements to team huddles. They will be free to organize religious-oriented clubs on campus and mention their deeply-held religious beliefs in assignments without fear of sanction. And yes, cheerleaders will also be able to paint Bible verses on their spirit banners.  

Last month, my home state of Mississippi was chided by many for being the last state in the Union to ratify the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery.  This month, the State is taking bold leadership in guarding constitutional freedoms.         

Every state would do well to emulate this effort, reaffirming the existence of First Amendment rights in public schools.  The constitutional protections granted student expressions of faith are too often lost on those charged with the educational care of our children.  

As State Senator Chris McDaniel, the principal author of this legislation, explains: “Due to a misinterpretation of Establishment Clause principles, religious expression has been improperly suppressed by some teachers and administrators. Government should not discriminate against or disfavor religious expression. Students do not discard their liberties at the schoolhouse door. The First Amendment is consistent with SB 2633 in that it protects the right of freedom of expression from unnecessary government interference, even if that expression happens to be religious.”  

This law, of course, may encounter legal challenges from organizations committed to the strict secularization of the culture. But the State vows to stand behind its students.  Mississippi Speaker of the House, Philip Gunn, has welcomed an offer from Center for Religious Expression to defend the law, should that defense become necessary.   

In Mississippi, you must be 21 years old to marry, 15 years and six months old to drive, and at least 14 years old to work, but the State rightly confirms by law there is no age requirement for religious expression.

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, March 25, 2013

Cake Stand

by Nate Kellum

When Aaron and Melissa Klein politely declined to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, they had no idea their choice would make national news. What they knew was the so-called “marriage” – which isn’t even legal in their home state of Oregon – was contrary to their Christian beliefs.   They didn’t want to profit from something they couldn’t condone.  

The Kleins did not wish to offend with this decision. They gladly sell their baked goods to anyone regardless of sexual proclivity or lifestyle. But they couldn’t willfully participate in an activity that they believe is proscribed in God’s Word.  

For merely following the dictates of their Christian faith the Kleins now face state investigation for violation of the Oregon Equality Act, a law that makes no allowance for religious beliefs.   

The Kleins are not flinching. As Aaron Klein informed his local NBC affiliate, he'd rather close down their Sweet Cakes by Melissa bakery business than "be forced to do something that violates [his] conscience.”  

Though the Kleins aren’t looking for validation for their decision – other than that rooted in Scripture – they do happen to enjoy a constitutional right to act according to conscience. It is an inalienable (God-given) freedom our Founding Fathers accounted for in the First Amendment.  

This fundamental right is presently at tension with the very powerful, ever-popular homosexual movement in our country.  With the cause to legitimize same-sex unions spreading like wildfire from state to state, more and more Christian business owners are facing challenges similar to that encountered by the Kleins. Claims are being pressed against photographers, florists and a variety of other vendors who similarly want to avoid active support of same-sex “weddings.” These brave Christians are ostracized, ridiculed in the press, labeled as bigots, charged with discrimination, cited for violation of local and state laws, and issued fines that would bankrupt just about any small business.  

In the face of these attacks, at the Center for Religious Expression, we are stridently urging courts to acknowledge the Christian’s freedom of religion – not just freedom to worship in church – as guaranteed by the First Amendment. Our freedom to follow our conscience must be assured.

But unless we – as Christians – are willing to abide our conscience, this freedom is useless. The Kleins should be an inspiration to us. Living in culture that is becoming increasingly hostile toward the Christian faith, we are approaching a day when all of us who profess Christ will be forced to take a stand. We need to pray for courage for that day.   

A stand can take many forms; for the Kleins, their stand was on cake.       

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, March 18, 2013

Literally Standing for Principle

by Nate Kellum

Last week, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky held the floor of the Senate for nearly thirteen hours as he conducted an old-fashioned, Mr. Smith-goes-to-Washington type filibuster. This was no political stunt; Paul was literally standing (a long time) for principle.  He delayed the vote on the nomination of John Brennan as CIA director to draw attention to the Obama administration’s reluctance to affirm basic constitutional rights guaranteed to every American.        

Many of us share similar concerns about the Administration’s treatment of religious freedom. Through word and deed, the White House continues to pursue this dangerous idea that our religious freedom only relates to worship and does not exist outside of our homes and churches, spurring significant and regrettable tension between those governing our nation and those who want to live out their faith.  

This tension is perhaps best reflected in the Administration’s unconscionable contraceptive mandate that forces religious organizations to either facilitate insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs contrary to their missions and convictions or face terminal fines and penalties.  Churches and religious orders are exempt from this requirement, while distinctly Christian groups – like American Family Association (AFA) – are mandated to comply despite their religiously-based beliefs.   The White House refuses to acknowledge religious freedom outside of the church setting, causing AFA and others to secure those rights in federal court.   

The Bill of Rights was written to keep the government from restricting the freedoms of American citizens in this way.  As Senator Paul explained during his filibuster, “The rights of the individual that were enshrined in the Constitution are important things that democracies can't overturn... the Bill of Rights are yours. You got them from your Creator. They were enshrined in the Constitution. Nobody gets to take them from you. Nobody.”  

Though Paul was referring the Fifth Amendment, the sentiment applies equally to the First Amendment (containing Free Speech and Free Exercise of Religion clauses) and the balance of the Bill of Rights. These rights are God-given, not government-driven.   

Senator Paul’s filibuster triggered action. In response, U.S. Attorney General Holder wrote a letter to him promising that the U.S. Government would abide by the Bill of Rights after all.  And Brennan was subsequently confirmed as CIA Director.  It is foreboding, though, that when Brennan took his oath, he opted to do so with his right hand on an original draft of the Constitution – a document that does not contain the Bill of Rights.     

To assure continued recognition of our cherished liberties delineated in the Bill of Rights, we must be willing to follow Senator Paul’s lead and stand on – and perhaps for – principle. Coping with a government that marginalizes the Bill of Rights, we must be vigilant in defending and exalting our inalienable rights, including our First Liberty (religious freedom) articulated in the First Amendment. These guarantees were no mere after-thought to the U.S. Constitution; they define who we are as a people. We cannot forsake the Bill of Rights without forsaking ourselves.  

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, March 11, 2013

Freedom to Be

by Nate Kellum

For many years, Christian student groups at the university level have fought for their very existence on campus. University officials frequently isolate these groups for discrimination, and have done so, paradoxically, under the banner of “non-discrimination” policy.  

This ironic injustice begins innocently enough. University administrators gather and discuss the evils of discrimination. With righteous indignation, they go on about how no student should ever be left out of a club due to race, sex, or national origin. And then, as they formulate policy, little leftist birdies whisper in their ears about religion and sexual orientation being protected categories as well. The upshot is a promulgated non-discrimination policy mandating compliance from all student groups, with administrators going home feeling good about themselves.

But while all this might seem fitting on the surface, a non-discrimination policy–with the inclusion of religion and sexual orientation–spurs more discrimination than it prevents.    

Administrators tend to gloss over the unequal impact the policy has on religiously-based groups. While it makes sense to keep the Chess Club from barring African-American students, or the Engineering Society from excluding Latinos, the rationale starts to break down when it prohibits Christian groups from maintaining leadership that agree with the mission.        

Any student group, whether Christian or not, must necessarily consist of like-minded people who come together on the basis of shared values, make policies in line with those values, and choose leaders that best represent those values.

Universities apparently recognize this truism in permitting fraternities and sororities to exist without forced mixing of the sexes. They don’t require College Democrats to offer leadership positions to registered Republicans. They don’t compel the Vegetarian club to include meat-lovers or the Gay & Lesbian Club to recognize input from contrarians. Yet, they insist on pushing non-believers on Christian student groups, causing these groups to either abandon their official recognition or their values in the process.        

Noting this absurdity, Virginia legislators have recently taken action, passing a bill through the House and the Senate this month protecting students’ constitutional rights on campus. It reads: “A religious or political student organization may determine that ordering the organization's internal affairs, selecting the organization's leaders and members, defining the organization's doctrines, and resolving the organization's disputes are in furtherance of the organization's religious or political mission and that only persons committed to that mission should conduct such activities; and no public institution of higher education that has granted recognition of and access to any student organization or group shall discriminate against any such student organization or group that exercises its rights” (HB 1617.)  

In a campus culture where evangelical Christian students face hostility with increased regularity, this common-sense bill is a welcome clarification. Virginia’s governor would do well to sign it into law, and other states would do well to follow Virginia’s lead. Christian student groups, like any other student group, should enjoy the freedom to be. 

Photo courtesy of Flickr user gurg.

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, February 25, 2013

Troubling View

by Nate Kellum

Seeing how the President’s administration deals with matters of religious freedom, one has to wonder whether they understand the concept.

Of course, the Health and Human Services Mandate forcing religiously-based organizations to facilitate employee insurance coverage for abortifacient drugs strongly indicates disregard of – if not disdain for – religious liberty. The continued indifference to our First Liberty was revealed further with the Administration’s recent stance on a German family seeking political asylum.

In 2008, Uwe and Hannelore Romeike, along with their five children, fled their native Germany for the United States, seeking refuge from persecution for homeschooling. The Romeikes withdrew their children from local schools, and began homeschooling in 2006, concerned that compulsory education was undermining their Christian faith.

Homeschooling is banned by law in Germany, which caused the Romeikes to accumulate $10,000 in fines and have their children removed from their home. The Supreme Court of Germany upheld the law in disheartening fashion, explaining that the purpose of the ban is to “counteract the development of religious and philosophically motivated parallel societies.”

This authoritarian policy strikes at the heart of basic freedoms American Christians hold dear. For this reason, many welcomed the Romeikes when they arrived in the United States and rejoiced with them when they were granted political asylum on January 26, 2010. Federal immigration judge Lawrence Burman ruled the Romeikes had a reasonable fear of persecution for their beliefs, rightly depicting the homeschool ban as “utterly repellent to everything we believe as Americans.”

Astonishingly, the President’s administration is appealing that ruling, challenging the permanent resident status of the Romeike family, thus, placing them in danger of deportation. The government contends that evangelical Christians are not being treated unfairly by the law since everyone is banned from homeschooling in Germany.

The law has already been appealed to the European Convention of Human Rights, to no avail. German parents were told that “integration into and first experiences of society are important goals in primary-school education.” The United States – being a country founded on religious freedom – was supposed to be the Romeike’s beacon of hope.

The Administration’s view is short-sighted and troubling. Though the homeschooling ban applies across the board in Germany, its impact is felt primarily by those maintaining Christian scruples. The Administration, in this and other matters, act as though religious freedom only relates to worship. This has been confirmed in multitude of speeches by President Obama, where he has highlighted the freedom to worship without mentioning our freedom of religion.

While our freedom to worship is certainly important, freedom of religion is a broader concept, encompassing more liberty, including the freedom to live out our lives – and parent our children – according to our deeply-held religious beliefs.

The freedom we enjoy as Christians does not dissipate as we leave the church parking lot. The framers of our Constitution – who embraced the reality of our inalienable, God-given rights – understood this principle well. Somebody should tell the Administration.

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, February 18, 2013

The Problem with Compromise

by Nate Kellum

Several weeks ago, the Boy Scouts of America declared a possible policy change that would allow self-identified homosexuals to be Scout leaders. Then, last Wednesday, the Executive Board for the Boy Scouts met to make a decision on this monumental issue.

As it turned out, no sea-change occurred on this day. The determination was put off until the National Council meets this May. But given time to catch our breath, those of us who still retain sanity must wonder: How can this even be a matter of debate? Don’t the Boy Scouts of America support morality and virtue? Didn’t the Boy Scouts defend their right of associational freedom to choose leaders representing their values, all the way up to the Supreme Court?

It was just thirteen years ago that the Supreme Court upheld the Boy Scouts’ right to form leadership according to their conviction “that homosexual conduct is not morally straight.” Now, some of the leadership in the Boy Scouts are pushing for a change on this stance that would utterly transform the organization, not only affecting long-standing policy, but fundamentally altering who they are as a group.

These leaders are seeking what they depict as a compromise, claiming they want to leave it up to the local chapters to decide whether heterosexuals ought to lead a Scout troop.  That’s like Chick-fil-A saying they will leave it up to local franchises whether to sell chicken.  If the Boy Scouts of America embrace partial inclusion of homosexuals, they would no longer be the Boy Scouts of America, or at least no longer the group that has historically held that name.   

In 1998, the Canadian Scouts overturned their policy against homosexuality and soon experienced a mass exodus. They have lost two-thirds of their membership since the policy change, despite considerable efforts to grow the program. Most do not recognize the current version as true Canadian Scouts.  

The Boy Scouts of America won their case at the Supreme Court on the ground that forced inclusion of professed homosexuals would destroy the identity of the Boy Scouts. Astonishingly, not long after surviving that scare, the Boy Scouts are contemplating destroying their identity themselves. 

This should be a wake-up call to us all regarding the forces at work in our politically correct culture.  Who’s next?  Who’s safe?  This radical agenda that has infiltrated the Boy Scouts endangers every institution that cherishes traditional values, compelling unwanted compromise and change.  

Not every compromise is bad and some change is inevitable.  But God and His Word are not subject to change.  At the Center for Religious Expression, we will continue to stand with those who stand fast in their faith.  Principles can’t be compromised and neither can identity.  

Photo courtesy of Rob Weir.

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, February 11, 2013

Lack of Respect

by Nate Kellum

The Obama administration released Friday a proposal updating the rules for enforcing the controversial Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Mandate for women’s “preventive services” coverage under the Affordable Care Act. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius trumpeted the proposal as a compromise that continued to supply the same contraceptive coverage for female employees “while respecting religious concerns.” But because the coverage for abortifacients, like Plan B (the morning-after pill) and Ella (the week-after pill) remains intact, and many religious employers are not exempted from the process, the concerns were not truly respected.

CRE has more than a passing interest in these proposed rules. We have been retained by American Family Association (AFA) – and contacted by other similarly-situated groups - about possibly bringing a legal challenge to the mandate. Christian organizations, like AFA, are caught in the cross-hairs of this heavily politicized effort. Contrary to their religious convictions, and organizational missions, AFA and other religiously-affiliated entities are being forced to enable drug use that cause abortions.If the proposal is adopted, it would be as egregious as the previous version. While qualifying nonprofit employers would no longer be required to pay insurance companies directly for the objectionable coverage, they must still facilitate the process, contracting with the insurance company and connecting that company with employees for coverage of aboritfacients. The fact that they no longer make direct payment for insurance coverage – knowing that they nevertheless supply it – is of little solace.

It is deeply offensive to hear the media portray this proposal as a “compromise.” This change is purely semantic in nature, a diversion tactic that fails to fool anyone who understands the concerns at stake.

These proposed rules could have been different. In an attempt to reach a compromise, HHS could have included a provision that exempted all religious organizations from participation. Instead, HHS made clear with the new rules that only churches and other “houses of worship” will be afforded an exemption. Other religious entities are given an impossible choice, either: 1) forego health insurance for your employees and subject your organization to cost-prohibitive fines and penalties, or 2) violate your religious convictions and operate in a way that directly contracts your mission.

That’s not much of a choice, and that’s not much respect.

We cannot accept small gestures of accommodation without real and meaningful change to this policy that possibly represents the greatest threat to religious freedom our country has ever seen. More respect is needed. Our consciences cannot be subject to this sort of compromise.

Photo courtesy of the American Life League.

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, February 4, 2013

Gaining Ground

by Nate Kellum

Forty years ago last week, the Supreme Court handed down Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision legalizing abortion in the United States. We have lost 55 million people since the rendering of Roe v.Wade – 55 million lives – that would have surely enriched ours. But as we mourn that unspeakable loss, we do so with hope, anticipating the day when this tragedy will end.

Current polling indicates significant trending in public opinion. Half of Americans now identify themselves as pro-life, with one poll showing that 83% of Americans do not believe our country’s abortion laws are restrictive enough.

The pro-life cause is gaining ground because the truth about abortion is coming out.

Technological advances over the last several decades - like ultrasound - give parents a firsthand view of their babies and help uncover the reality of life at conception.

Crisis pregnancy centers and pregnancy medical clinics are now making ultrasounds readily available for parents, allowing them to see the truth for themselves. Coupling technology with compassion, these Christian-based missions are saving countless lives.

This faithful witness against abortion extends beyond technology, as Christians are becoming bolder in speaking the truth about abortion through all sorts of venues, from taking part in march for life events to personal conversations. Refuting the falsehoods of our culture, Christians are unapologetically sharing the tidings that abortion ends human lives and is harmful to women in many ways.

Pro-life legislation over the years has also aided in furthering truth. Informed consent laws ensure that women are not coerced into abortions and understand all of the options on the table. Parental notification laws keep parents from being excluded in these life-or-death decisions. A detailed analysis of pro-life state laws by State Politics and Policy Quarterly reveals a link between a 22% decline in abortions in the U.S. between 1990 and 2005 and state laws like these.

The more we speak and know about abortion the more likely our society will condemn it.

Just this month, the Alabama Supreme Court issued a ruling protecting unborn children under the state’s chemical endangerment laws. As Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange observed, “The Court has ratified our argument that the public policy of our state is to protect life, both born and unborn." We commend this and pray that very soon our nation’s public policy would be the same.

At the Center for Religious Expression, we are committed to clearing the path for truth. Only the truth will set our country free from the great evil of legalized abortion.

Photo of some of the hundreds of thousands of marchers at the 2013 March for Life courtesy of Flickr user sjakofclifeline.

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, January 28, 2013

The Louie Giglio Moment

by Nate Kellum

Today is inauguration day, and like many, my thoughts have turned to Louie Giglio. Giglio is the pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta who was widely known for his leadership of the Passion conferences and work against sex trafficking before everyone became aware of him as the man who withdrew from offering the benediction at President Obama’s second inauguration.  

Pulling out was not Giglio’s idea. His letter to the White House explained that he stepped down from the role at the urging of the Obama administration, following attacks by the left for a fifteen-year-old sermon where he applied biblical ethics to homosexual behavior. In wake of this, orthodox Christians must ask:  Are we still welcome in the public square?  

As many have pointed out, there is a modern-day McCarthyism taking hold in the United States, where instead of asking "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?" people are asked, “Do you now or have you ever believed that homosexual behavior is a sin?”  

Under this standard, millions of Americans are left out in the cold as personae non gratae to this President’s administration until or unless they “repent” of this political misstep.  

When Christians are silenced for merely sharing biblical truth, we ought to be more than worried. The intolerance of the left towards Giglio’s deeply held religious beliefs (which frankly have little to do with the prayer he would have offered) should concern us and cause us to be vigilant to insure that our constitutional freedoms remain protected.  

Our freedom of conscience, our right to believe according to our deepest convictions – as well as our right to utter them - is under attack. We must not be bullied into denying the truth of Biblical Christianity just to participate in the civil discourse.  

That’s why we at the Center for Religious Expression exist, to insure the liberty of Christians to freely express their faith in the public square.  

As Benjamin Franklin aptly pointed out as a young man in 1722: “Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of speech.... Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freedom of speech.”

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, January 21, 2013

France: A Forerunner?

by Nate Kellum

Happenings in Europe can be insightful for determining what we can expect in our country and how we–as American Christians–can cope with the agenda to come. With that in mind, recent events in France are deserving of our full attention.  

When Socialist President François Hollande was elected last May, he promised government endorsement of same-sex unions under the moniker “marriage for all.” In a secular country with liberal politics and very low church attendance, politicians and pundits assumed Hollande would make good on his promise and France would soon join other European nations altering the definition of marriage to include same-sex unions. Many have been surprised to learn that a religious movement has arisen against same-sex “marriage” in France, with unexpected bedfellows making their voices heard.  

Religious leaders from Catholic to Muslim to Jew to Evangelical have spoken out, urging the government to proceed with caution before abandoning societal norms like marriage and parenthood. Many French citizens are listening and seem to agree with the sentiment, concurring with arguments about the need for children to have legal associations with both fathers and mothers.  

Just yesterday, a march was organized in Paris. Citizens came from all over the country, marching along three routes and converging on the Eiffel Tower. Organizers estimated the crowd at over 800,000. Even with lower police estimates, it was one of the largest protests in over 25 years. As more speak out against “marriage for all,” polls are showing a measurable impact in public sentiment.  

This battle is far from over in France. President Hollande and his government have been resolute about their intentions in passing the “marriage for all” law. But the very fact that there is a battle on this issue–and not a mere afterthought by this point–underscores the fundamental importance of religious expression in the public square.   

Let us pray for our Christian brothers and sisters in France as they fight for their beliefs and for the hearts of the French legislature to be soft to their message.  And let us also pray for ourselves, that when our time comes–which will be sooner rather than later–we too will have the courage to share our religiously-based views in the public square.   

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, January 14, 2013

Troubling Comment

by Nate Kellum

Last Thursday night, President Obama signed this year’s annual defense authorization bill, entitled the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 (NDAA), as expected, but in conjunction therewith, he released a statement that many advocates of religious freedom find troubling.

President Obama highlighted a provision found in the NDAA bill and called it “unnecessary and ill-advised.” He was referring to Section 533 that protects the freedom of conscience of military chaplains following the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

Section 533 reads: “The Armed Forces shall accommodate the beliefs of a member of the armed forces reflecting the conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the member and, in so far as practicable, may not use such beliefs as the basis of any adverse personnel action, discrimination, or denial of promotion, schooling, training, or assignment.”

This provision can hardly be viewed as “unnecessary and ill-advised” in the wake of the sea change imposed on the U.S. military in 2011, jettisoning time-honored policy and placing a stamp of approval on homosexual behavior. It is essential to the notion of religious liberty that our military chaplains not be forced to engage in activities that cut against their deeply-held religious beliefs, like performing marriage ceremonies for homosexual couples. If a chaplain chooses not to participate in that activity, we must ensure freedom in making that choice.

Obama wasn’t at liberty to get rid of that section. The NDAA authorizes military spending and the President does not possess the power to veto any section of it; his options were to either sign it into law or reject the bill entirely. But had President Obama been granted the opportunity…. The President’s troubling comment could be a harbinger of things to come.

Pray for our chaplains as they serve those in harm’s way. As the effects of dropping “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” start to ripple through our armed services, it is imperative that we keep watch over our chaplains’ religious freedoms and ensure their continued ability to shepherd our service men and women without compromising their beliefs.

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, January 7, 2013

For I was Hungry

By: Nate Kellum

In June, a new ordinance took effect in Philadelphia, making it illegal for churches to feed the homeless in local parks.

Laws curbing activities relating to homelessness, such as bans on outdoor sleeping, are nothing new, but Philadelphia’s ordinance is part of a growing and disturbing trend that target those who serve the homeless.

This trend directly affects the Christian’s ability to be Christian. Passages like Matthew 25 make clear that serving the needy is a way of practicing faith. But from New York to Dallas to Las Vegas to Philadelphia, cities all over the country are making it more difficult for Christians to minister to “the least of these.”

Bobby Herring, his wife Amanda and their friends had been preparing meals in their homes and bringing them to the streets of Houston to feed the homeless for fifteen months when they were stopped by police for not having the requisite permit. Herring appeared before the Houston City Council to defend their program, and the city ultimately agreed to make special accommodations for this small-scale outreach. Standing up for their constitutional rights made a difference there.

Many Christians in Philadelphia tried similar appeals, but they fell on deaf ears. Not satisfied to abandon the hungry or let their rights be trampled, they decided to take legal action.

Several churches and religious ministries filed suit in federal court against Philadelphia and justice prevailed. Federal Judge William H. Yohn Jr. overturned the ordinance, remarking: "It hardly needs to be said that plaintiffs' food-sharing programs benefit the public interest," Yohn wrote. "Despite [the city's] considerable efforts, many Philadelphians remain homeless and hungry... There is a strong public interest in protecting the free exercise of religion. Plaintiffs' food-sharing programs benefit the public interest.”

The Center for Religious Expression stands ready to defend Christians facing similar laws that impede on their religious freedom. We are thankful for this precedent, which is sure to help others who find themselves unconstitutionally restricted from expressing one of the most basic acts of Christianity: caring for the needy.
Posted by Joanna Young at Thursday, January 3, 2013

Much at Stake

By: Nate Kellum

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court announced it will consider the propriety of two statutory measures undergirding the traditional view of marriage: Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California's Prop 8. The significance of this review cannot be overstated.

DOMA was overwhelmingly passed in the Senate and the House - by both Democrats and Republicans - and signed into law by President Clinton in 1996 to allow each state to determine how their citizens would view marriage, whether to affirm the traditional meaning or to abandon it. Prop 8 was voted in by the people of California in 2008 to amend their state constitution to define marriage as being between one man and one woman. Both laws support the time-honored role of marriage in our culture.

As Congress observed when DOMA was passed, the government has an interest in marriage because it has an interest in children. Copious studies have shown that children with both a mom and a dad are better off, with numerous benefits to their physical, social, and emotional states. These benefits to children necessarily benefit the whole of society, leading to lower crime rates and self-supporting citizens.

Since the passing of DOMA, more than 30 states have considered the virtues of traditional marriage and passed constitutional amendments confirming the union of one man and one woman. The citizens of California were trying to do likewise with Prop 8.

If same-sex “marriage” is ushered in, the institution will never be the same. Polygamy and polyamory (group marriage, for example, 4 girls/2 guys) will surely follow, and these mutations will only mark the beginning of the marriage frontier. For once marriage opens up to redefinition, there will no longer be any legal basis for rebuffing any sort of “marriage.”

Moreover, with marriage being altered, so will religious liberty. This has happened in Europe, where people who voice support for traditional marriage have been prosecuted under hate-speech laws. Churches and Christian organizations have – contrary to their consciences - been forced to supply benefits for same-sex couples. 

There is much at stake before the Supreme Court. If marriage begins to mean anything, it will mean nothing, and we will lose something critical to our societal well-being. Join CRE in praying for the Supreme Court justices as they contemplate the fate of this cherished institution.
Posted by Joanna Young at Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Bearers of Hope

By: Nate Kellum

There is something about tragedy that brings clarity. The horrific reports we heard Friday out of Newtown, Connecticut - about a young man, who, fresh off of murdering his own mother, walked into an elementary school and killed 26 people, including 20 children – remind us of that.

I wanted to write on another topic this week, but my heart, my mind, and eventually, my fingers on the keyboard, redirected me to Connecticut.

In the wake of the tragedy, various politicians and pundits have offered theories on how we can “fix” this, ranging from increased gun control to more state services for mental illness, but those closest to the heartbreak have had a different focus. They are turning (or perhaps returning) to their faith; the churches in Newtown are overflowing. When tragedy hits, most of us, just like the folks in this small Connecticut town, instinctively look to God.

There was a similar response following the Columbine shootings, the Virginia Tech massacre, and the September 11 events. But, why is that? What is it about a catastrophe that elevates the importance of God?

In desperate times like these we realize that we are dependent creatures after all. Stripped of pretense, forced to face the cruel reality of this fallen world, our view of life becomes much clearer. And more than anything else, we need hope.

We need hope to carry on.

This hope is not found in government programs, or legislation, or elected officials. This hope is not found in this world. We can only find true, lasting hope in Jesus Christ, a message we will all celebrate one week from now.

And that’s why at CRE we are so privileged to aid and represent Christians who want to share their faith – the good news of Jesus - with others. They are bearers of hope.

Posted by Joanna Young at Monday, December 17, 2012

Outlawing Wisdom

By: Nate Kellum

California recently passed SB 1172, an extraordinary law that bans professional counseling for those wishing to overcome unwanted same-sex attractions. If it withstands legal challenge, the law goes into effect January 1, 2013. From that point on, anyone in the state who struggles with same-sex attraction will be required to cope without biblically-based counseling and Christian practitioners will be barred from sharing counsel they believe would be best for their patients. This unprecedented governmental interference into private counseling sessions will shield harmful sexual sin from reproach and blatantly violate freedom of religious expression.

The pro-homosexual lobby tenaciously fights to promote their lifestyle, often utilizing the government as a hammer for forcing social acceptance, with SB 1172 being just a recent example. In 2005, a similar attack took place here in Memphis. The State of Tennessee threatened to shut down Love in Action (now known as Restoration Path), a ministry dedicated to helping individuals adversely impacted by sexual sin. At the insistence of pro-homosexual activists, the State ordered Love in Action to obtain a mental health license to continue with their counseling ministry. This requirement would have imposed various undue and costly burdens on the ministry, coercing Love in Action to either abandon their mission or close their doors. In my former employment, we intervened legally, and by God’s grace, Love in Action/Restoration Path continues even today providing needed help and healing for individuals and families dealing with the fallout of sexual sins.

In the Book of Proverbs, we’re taught: “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” SB 1172 assures foolish thinking and behavior by outlawing wise advice. This bill effectively outlaws wisdom.

Other states will surely follow California in their attempt to normalize homosexual behavior. The Center for Religious Expression stands ready to intervene and clear the path for Truth. We firmly believe in the Christian’s right to receive truth and to speak it, and we will continue to stand with organizations like Restoration Path as they fearlessly proclaim the message of Christ’s healing power for sexual sin.

Posted by Joanna Young at Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Trashing Tradition

By: Nate Kellum

In 1988, the small town of Buhler, Kansas created a town seal to mark the centennial of the community. The seal promotes Buhler’s slogan “traditional values/progressive ideas” with meaningful, iconic symbols, like a stalk of wheat, a math book, and a cross, all representing the traditional, historically-based values of the town. But the Mayor of Buhler, Daniel Friesen, recently announced that the town will soon be redesigning the seal. Why? Because Buhler is fearful of a federal lawsuit. 

This threat was not at the prompting of jealous corn farmers. The stalk of wheat can stay. Neither does it emanate from English and History teachers demanding equal treatment for their respective subjects. The math book is safe. The singular objection raised about the town seal is – you guessed it - the cross. An active Atheist group, Freedom From Religion Foundation, sent a menacing letter to town officials demanding removal of the cross on the basis that the seal (with a cross) endorses religion in an unconstitutional way.

The Latin cross is a symbol of the Christian faith. Buhler, however, was not trying to promote Christianity or any other religion by placing that symbol in the seal. The image of the cross exemplifies the origins of this Midwestern town that was settled by Mennonites who fled Russia and sought refuge from religious persecution. They found refuge in Buhler.

Current residents of Buhler are facing a similar dilemma – suffering from a new form of religious persecution - but this time, there is seemingly no refuge. Citing personal frustration, Friesen lamented on the town’s website that a legal defense would be a waste of taxpayer’s money because he believes they would lose in court. They are obliged to trash tradition.

This decision reflects a sad state of affairs in our contemporary jurisprudence. While CRE might not totally agree with the legal assessment, the Mayor is right in believing that legal authorities in his jurisdiction could make the case difficult to defend. But can this result be the vision of our Founding Fathers in adopting the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution? Surely not. Being subjected to religious prosecution themselves – much like the settlers of Buhler – they knew how vital it was for us to retain our religious freedom and heritage.

So, if you ever find yourself driving among wheat fields in Kansas, and you stumble across Buhler and its town seal projecting wheat and math as the town’s traditional values, remember, there is a crucial part of tradition that’s missing, and that’s Buhler’s ongoing struggle against religious persecution.

Posted by Joanna Young at Monday, December 3, 2012

War On Christmas Wages On

Photo: REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

A display created by atheists stands at Palisades Park in Santa Monica, California December 12, 2011, as three displays showing the nativity scene are lit up further down the sidewalk. Due to a city lottery system to fairly allocate available spots in the park for displays, atheists have been able to claim display spaces usually used for the nativity scene to display different items, according to local media.

By: Nate Kellum

Christian Post recently reported on a disturbing situation in Santa Monica, CA, where a federal court upheld the city’s decision to bring an end to a Nativity scene in a local park. Though the tradition had lasted for almost six decades (59 years), the annual display fell victim to the conniving machinations of an active atheist group. Last year, the atheists overwhelmed the process used for obtaining space in the park by submitting numerous requests, all geared toward eating up space and blocking the Nativity scene. This year, the city decided to save themselves the headache and foreclosed the process altogether.

This sad affair reminds us that the war on Christmas isn’t a figment of our collective imaginations (as some in the media suggest) – it wages on. The Center for Religious Expression (CRE) stands on the front lines of this war, ready to defend public expressions of the Christian faith, wherever the need may arise.

I recall another matter that happened several years ago in Bartlett, TN. There, a local church, Broadmoor Baptist, and their music director, Brandi Chambless, wanted to promote an upcoming Christmas program at the church by making use of a community shelf at the Bartlett public library. The shelf existed for anybody who wanted to advertise a local event. Brandi anticipated putting up a poster about the event, along with a nativity scene. The library director informed Brandi that they could use the shelf, space was available, but imposed a limitation on the presentation. The director said the poster was okay, the sheep, donkey, and cows could stay, but Joseph, Mary and especially baby Jesus HAD TO GO because of a policy that precluded items deemed “overtly religious.”

Brandi contacted us about the incident and we wrote a letter to Bartlett officials, demanding a policy change. Though resistant at first, the Bartlett Library eventually stood down, agreeing to let Broadmoor present the full nativity scene in the shelf.

To win a war we have to realize we’re in one. Broadmoor Baptist was able to prevent a Nativity scene from transforming into a barnyard by acknowledging the affront and then asking for help. During this Christmas season, remember, CRE is here is to help you as well.Photo: REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

Posted by Joanna Young at Monday, November 26, 2012

Borrowing Trouble

By: Nate Kellum

Last month, the Memphis City Council alluded to “progressive” communities and resolved that Memphis would join their ranks, approving a non-discrimination policy that provides legal protections for the sexual orientation and gender identity of city employees. The protections afforded under this law are largely symbolic. There is no history of any discrimination relating to these matters and the city already has in place laws prohibiting discrimination “for any reason” and precluding employment decisions based on “non-merited factors.”

Notwithstanding, the ramifications of this non-discrimination policy are huge. Taking a major step toward normalizing these sexually-premised behaviors, the Council’s actions have produced unsafe conditions in city facilities and work environs, while possibly setting up the financially-strapped city for legal liability.

Consider the recent predicament at Evergreen State College, in the State of Washington, where a 45 year-old male student, Colleen Francis, has made liberal use of the women’s locker room and sauna, repeatedly exposing himself to young girls found there. You would think the college administrators would protect these girls and bar Francis from entry, but they say their hands are tied. The college’s non-discrimination policy precludes discrimination based on gender identity (just like the Memphis policy), entitling Francis - though biologically a male - unfettered access to female facilities because he thinks of himself (at least at certain times) as female (albeit lesbian). To stop Francis, college officials would subject themselves to a legal claim based entirely on the rights they created themselves with their non-discrimination policy.
The Memphis City Council - borrowing trouble from progressive places - has effectively paved the way for similar quandaries. In their strident effort to appease a particular constituency, they abandoned common sense. Establishing a right for self-professed “gender identity,” the Council has imposed a Hobson’s choice on the City of Memphis: Either facilitate public indecency or face legal liability for failing to do so.

Posted by Joanna Young at Monday, November 19, 2012

What Now?

By: Nate Kellum

Election Day has passed, the votes have been counted, and secularism and immorality has triumphed at the polls. A president who openly ran on the notion that we ought to force private employers to pay for abortions, supply tax-payer funding to Planned Parenthood (the largest abortion provider in America), and support same-sex “marriage,” has been re-elected. Voters in Colorado and Washington approved the legalization of marijuana. Also, in Washington, along with Maryland and Maine, a majority of citizens voted to alter marriage to include same-sex unions. Similarly, in Minnesota, citizens voted against an amendment to their state constitution that would have prevented departure from traditional marriage. We, as Americans, have voted our values, and what we apparently value, above all, is our own selfish, sinful desires, though they lead to our own destruction. 

So, where does that leave American Christians? Should we just “close shop and go home” and wait for the Kingdom to come? While that suggestion has some appeal, the answer is “no.” Because of the foresight of our founding fathers, we retain the unique freedom to boldly live out and share our faith. This freedom, though increasingly threatened, is delineated in our U.S. Constitution and protected by it. We are obliged in these troubling times to stand firm in our faith and share our beliefs with others in the public square.   

The lies of the enemy abound, “abortion doesn’t kill unborn babies or hurt women, but gives them a choice; homosexuality isn’t damaging to traditional marriage or ourselves, but is a viable alternative; Jesus was good philosopher and good man, but not the son of God.” Our call as those privy to the truth – revealed in God’s Word - is to use the liberties we’ve been granted in this country to let that truth be known. It’s not always easy, but to love, truly love, is to share truth. 

While we still have this freedom, let’s be sure to exercise it, whether that be through conversation in the break-room or at the family table, letter to the editor, email to congressman, sign in front of an abortion clinic, or handing out a gospel tract on a public sidewalk. For God’s one and only truth is the one and only hope any of us have.

Posted by Joanna Young at Monday, November 12, 2012

Gospel in the Election

By: Nate Kellum

Recently, Billy Graham took out full-page ads in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and other major newspapers, urging citizens to vote “for candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles ,” citing support for Israel, sanctity of life, and biblical definition of marriage as indices for making this determination.

This public statement on the election stands in contrast to a lot of us Christians who tend to avoid politics and cultural issues. It seems too divisive, too controversial for us. We fear a stance on the issues of the day could hurt our witness for Christ. But, as demonstrated by the one of the most impactful Christian evangelists of our lifetime, the reticence is misplaced.   

In the book of Jeremiah, the Lord calls His people to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:7) The application here, for our day, is clear. We are to be involved in our land, praying for it, striving for and seeking its prosperity. When we vote according to biblical values or when we take a biblical stand on cultural issues of the day, we are seeking the prosperity of our land. God’s ways are the best ways and in them, Christians and non-Christians alike, find the best way to live.   

For his ministry - that spanned well over fifty years - Billy Graham’s undeniable focus has been the promotion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. His ads are a natural product of this focus. By taking a stand for biblical values, voting them, and imploring others to do likewise, we don’t do harm to our witness for Christ, we help fulfill it.

Posted by Joanna Young at Monday, November 5, 2012

Airbrushing the Cross

By: Nate Kellum

As part of Saturday ritual, a group of LSU students go to Tiger Stadium (known to sports fans as Death Valley) bearing purple and gold body paint, prepared to cheer their team on to victory. These zealous LSU fans – known as the “Painted Posse” - also happen to be zealous about their Christian faith, reflected by a small purple cross each have painted near their left shoulders.

LSU officials consider the Painted Posse a good marketing tool. Reporting on the win against South Carolina in their weekly Geaux-Mail newsletter, they published a photo of the posse whooping it up in the stands. But something was missing. LSU officials presented a digitally altered photo that left out the crosses.   

At first, the school rationalized the omission, expressing an intention to steer clear of religious overtones. But following a week’s worth of national headlines, LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva apologized for the alteration.  

This incident is a powerful reminder that we live in a culture that wants to “airbrush” Christianity out of the picture. And it’s not hard to figure out why. The cross is offensive. It’s a message of need, a signal that we can’t justify ourselves. Instinctively, we prefer an alternate reality where the cross – and our desperate need for it - doesn’t exist.   

Yet, at some point, we all must come to grips with the real world, acknowledging who God is, who we are, and the significance of the cross. Instead of ignoring the cross, we ought to embrace the cross, and the beautiful message it represents: God saves sinners.  

That’s why at CRE we strive to protect the message of the cross. We clear the path for those who want the share the truth about God’s love -- as demonstrated in the cross. The cross is too important, too real, to be airbrushed.

Posted by Joanna Young at Monday, October 29, 2012

High Tide

By: Nate Kellum

Recently, the Pew Research Center published a study with troubling findings and a descriptive title: “Rising Tide of Restrictions on Religion.” See study. This study tracked increasing prevalence of governmental restrictions and social hostilities in all five major regions of the world. United States is no exception to this phenomenon. In fact, joining countries like Afghanistan and Egypt, United States was listed among 16 countries with the biggest jump in religious hostility.

At CRE, we are not surprised by the study, having encountered religious hostility in various parts of the United States first hand. Presently, in Buffalo, New York, Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Pensacola, Florida, we represent individual Christians who have been threatened with criminal arrest for handing out gospel tracts on public sidewalks. We have a case in Minneapolis where the Park Board is determined to keep a gentleman from handing out free Bibles in a public park. In Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, they consider evangelism with tracts to be “solicitation” and have a law banning the activity. And we just filed lawsuit in New Orleans, where the City Council extinguishes any attempt to share Christian faith on Bourbon Street at night.

To be sure, the tide is high and a flood of religious restrictions have hit our country, reaching our shores and going far inland. We’re in obvious need of a sandbag dike for flood protection.

That’s the modest role of CRE. Making use of our courts and the constitutional freedoms that bind them, we stack up legal sandbags, stemming the flood of religious attacks against our faith. And, by God’s grace, we will continue to do so until the threat cedes.
Posted by Joanna Young at Monday, October 15, 2012

Religion and Politics

September 20, 2012

By: Nate Kellum

There’s an old saying that one should refrain from bringing up religion or politics in polite company – presumably, in an effort to avoid controversy. But does this notion hold true on a public street?

The New Orleans City Council seems to think so. Last year, they passed an “aggressive solicitation” ordinance that bans loitering or congregating “for the purpose of disseminating any social, political, or religious message between the hours of sunrise and sunset.” If convicted for violating the ban, individuals can be imprisoned for up to six months.

Something is wrong with this picture.  Bourbon Street - known for its bars and strip clubs and being home to Mardi Gras and the Southern Decadence parade - prides itself on being a venue where anything goes and anything can be expressed. Except now individuals aren’t free to share their religious or political views, at least not at night, when people are actually there. Even assuming patrons of Bourbon Street could qualify as “polite company,” this ban is terribly misplaced.

Bourbon Street, like other streets, sidewalks and parks, is the epitome of the public square. It is precisely where people should be free to express their ideas. We might have to be careful about what we say around the water fountain at work, Granny might not be pleased about us bringing up a controversial topic over Thanksgiving dinner, but we should certainly be able to share our views on religion or politics on Bourbon or any other street.

Our right to do so is firmly rooted in First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That’s why we have brought suit on behalf of Pastor Paul Gros to challenge this ordinance. Pastor Gros has a church just one block off of Bourbon Street and he wants to go there every Tuesday and Friday night and declare the good news of Jesus Christ. We’re prayerfully optimistic that Pastor Gros’ right to share the gospel will be acknowledged and upheld by the court soon.

There’s always a place for religious and political discussion… and that’s the public square.
Posted by Joanna Young at Monday, September 24, 2012

Life Values

September 18, 2012

By: Nate Kellum

“Your values are killing us.” I saw that phrase plastered on a banner held up by some pro-homosexual activists outside of the Omnishore Hotel in Washington, D.C. this past weekend. They were protesting while the Values Voter Summit sponsored FRCAction was taking place inside the hotel. 

Undoubtedly, the “values” that drew the ire of the protesters concern homosexuality and same-sex “marriage,” which makes the activists’ slogan rather rich in irony.

There’s not much empirical proof that traditional marriage (being between one and one woman) harms anybody, much less “kill[s]” them. In fact, a recent study shows that people committed to traditional marriage - both men and women - live longer.

On the other hand, same-sex relations trigger significant mental and health concerns, most notably, death. The incidence of death through HIV/AIDS alone is staggering. As of 2007, almost 275,000 American men had died from AIDS, with sexual relations with other men being the singular risk factor. Social science also shows that those who identify themselves as homosexual have a remarkably higher risk for suicidal ideation, substance abuse, mental disorders and intentional self-harm, compared to the rest of the population. And these risks have no tie to societal approval - or disapproval - of the conduct.

Given these facts, if any “values” are killing homosexuals, sadly, it’s their own. Biblical values can spare them from suffering and death. That’s why as Christians – in the face of extraordinary pressure to keep our values to ourselves – we must speak up and share our biblically-based views in the public square. It’s more than a philosophical debate, it’s more than a cultural issue; it’s a matter of life or death.
Posted by Joanna Young at Monday, September 24, 2012

Prayer Bullies

By: Nate Kellum

A group of self-proclaimed Atheists from Madison, Wisconsin, Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), have invaded the Mid-South area, threatening to file a lawsuit should Memphis City Council refuse to abandon its long-standing practice of beginning meetings with prayer. No suit yet, just threats.

FFRF held a press conference in the Memphis public library (on Sunday of course) disparaging the Council for allowing prayers, and claiming that they expect to file a lawsuit “soon.” Then, they submitted a guest commentary article that was published in the local newspaper on the following Saturday, again, expounding on “why [they’re] suing Memphis City Council over prayers.” In this commentary, Dan Barker, co-president of FFRF, labors to explain why Marsh v. Nebraska, the singular U.S. Supreme Court case directly on point, the one decision that deals with prayers before governmental bodies, doesn’t really apply to the situation at all. Accepting FFRF’s rants about these prayers, you would have to believe that Council members ought to be arrested on the spot for allowing them.

Barker and FFRF are in essence prayer bullies, constantly threatening harm, should they not get their way. What’s obvious, though, is that Barker has more bark than bite. Should they ever get around to filing a lawsuit – in lieu of just talking about it – that action will surely fail. Why? Because of the very case that Barker tries so hard to rationalize, Marsh v. Nebraska.

In Marsh, the U.S. Supreme Court held that “[t]he opening of sessions of legislative and other deliberative public bodies is deeply embedded in the history and tradition of this country” and clearly constitutional. On the strength of this holding, just last week, a federal district court in East Tennessee refused to grant FFRF’s request to eliminate prayers taking place before the County Commission of Hamilton County. (Unsurprisingly, Barker didn’t mention this ruling in his guest commentary).

The Center for Religious Expression is assisting the Memphis City Council in formulating a defense to this very defensible action. FFRF relies on posturing, not precedent, in their never-ending effort to strip our country of prayer. It’s time somebody stood up to these prayer bullies.

Posted by at Monday, September 3, 2012