When Is Higher Education Against Diversity?

Yesterday Christian Headlines posted an article with the following headline, “Duke University’s Student Government Rejects Young Life over LGBTQ Policies.”

The article reports:

Duke University’s student government has denied the Christian organization Young Life official status as a student group on campus, citing its policy on sexuality.

The decision by the Duke Student Government Senate on Wednesday (Sept. 11) comes amid ongoing clashes nationwide between religious student groups and colleges and universities that have added more robust nondiscrimination policies.

Young Life, like many evangelical groups, regards same-sex relations as sinful. Its policy forbids LGBTQ staff and volunteers from holding positions in the organization.

The student newspaper the Duke Chronicle reported Thursday that the student government senate unanimously turned down official recognition for the Young Life chapter, because it appeared to violate a guideline that every Duke student group include a nondiscrimination statement in its constitution. 

Young Life, which is based in Colorado Springs, is a 78-year-old organization with a mission to introduce adolescents to Christianity and help them grow in their faith. It has chapters in middle schools, high schools and colleges in all 50 states and more than 90 countries around the world.

But the student government objected to a clause in Young Life’s sexuality policy. After the student government was told the organization would not change its sexuality policy, it rejected the group.

The Young Life policy states: “We do not in any way wish to exclude persons who engage in sexual misconduct or who practice a homosexual lifestyle from being recipients of ministry of God’s grace and mercy as expressed in Jesus Christ. We do, however, believe that such persons are not to serve as staff or volunteers in the mission and work of Young Life.”

So following the Biblical guidelines on sexuality (both heterosexuality and homosexuality) will prevent your Christian group from being recognized on a College Campus.

The article concludes:

Over the past two decades, many colleges and universities have attempted to exclude religious groups because of their positions on sexuality, among them InterVarsity and Business Leaders in Christ.

Greg Jao, senior assistant to the president at InterVarsity, said about 70 colleges and universities have attempted to exclude InterVarsity chapters over the years — in some cases because it bars LGBTQ employees, in others because its faith statement more generally violates school nondiscrimination policies.

In most cases, the issues are resolved, but others have ended up in court. InterVarsity is now suing the University of Iowa and Wayne State University.

“Most of the time universities back down because it’s a violation of students’ First Amendment rights,” said Eric Baxter, vice president and senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a law firm that defends religious freedom cases.

Duke, however, may be in a different category as a private institution. Private universities don’t have the same obligations under the First Amendment’s free exercise clause that a government entity does.

As a private entity, Duke may actually be able to do this, but any Christian who sends their child to Duke is supporting an anti-Christian agenda.

The Fact That Something Offends You Does Not Make It Illegal

September 11, 2001, was a horrible day for America. Everyone in the country was touched in some way by that event–either they knew someone who was injured or killed, or they saw the pictures of people jumping out of buildings and understood the horrors of the attack. There were some amazing stories that came out after the attack about people whose courage and clear thinking saved lives and people whose faith upheld them as their world literally collapsed. One of the most moving things was the ‘cross’ found in the rubble that became a place where people prayed and left flowers. That cross was slated to be included in the memorial museum remembering September 11th. The atheist group American Atheists protested and sued. A federal judge in the Southern District of New York threw the case out of court. American Atheists appealed.

Yesterday, Fox News posted an update of the story.

The article reports:

The appeals court ruling Thursday cites an amicus brief filed by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a nonprofit law firm that specializes in church-state law and protecting the free expression of all religious traditions.

“We’re thrilled that the court picked up on this issue,” said group lawyer Eric Baxter, whose brief argued that American Atheists had no right to bring a lawsuit in the first place. “Courts should not allow people to sue just because they claim to get ‘dyspepsia’ over a historical artifact displayed in a museum.”

The museum officially opened on May 21.

The judge has now given the plaintiffs until July 14 to file supplemental legal briefs before deciding whether the case will proceed. Among the questions that must be answered in the new filings is how the offensiveness of the cross, which the plaintiffs view as a Christian symbol for all 9-11 victims, becomes a “constitutional injury.”

The other question is — if the plaintiffs indeed feel displaying the cross “marginalizes them as American citizens” — then how is that a “particular and concrete injury” compared to just “the abstract stigmatization of atheists generally.”

The judge has also asked the plaintiffs to substantiate their claim the museum and Sept. 11 memorial are getting taxpayer dollars.

If we don’t stand up for the First Amendment, we will lose the privileges included in it.

The Court Steps In To Protect Religious Freedom

One of the disputed aspects of ObamaCare is the mandate that forces religious organizations to violate their religious principles in providing abortion and contraception services to their employees. The mandate has been challenged both by religious organizations and by corporations owned or run by people whose religious belief prohibits either contraception or abortion.

CBN News reported today that a number of religious organizations have been successful in obtaining relief from that mandate through the court system.

The article reports:

A federal judge grants almost 200 evangelical ministries relief from the Obamacare abortion mandate while their cases proceed through the courts.

The Becket Fund announced the ruling calling it an early Christmas present that came just more than a week before the January 2014 deadline that would have forced the ministries to either abandon their beliefs about the sanctity of life or face crippling fines.

The class-action lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate include all the non-exempt religious  organizations providing health benefits through GuideStone Financial Resources of the South Baptist Convention and are included in the courts protection.

There is little doubt that the question of whether or not religious organizations should be forced to provide insurance for these services will eventually reach the Supreme Court. It will be interesting to see what the Supreme Court decides.

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Good News For Hobby Lobby

Hobby Lobby has opposed the Heath and Human Services (HHS) mandate requiring them to provide contraception and abortion services to their employees since the mandate was written. Because of this opposition, they have faced fines of $1.3 million a day that were supposed to begin on January 1st of this year. Needless to say, they have fought the fines in court. (previous articles on this case can be found at rightwinggranny.com and rightwinggranny.com).

Hobby Lobby has opposed the mandate on religious grounds. CNS News posted an article on Friday detailing recent events in the court battle between Hobby Lobby and the HHS.

A press release from the Becket Fund (the law firm that is handling the case) states:

Today, for the first time, a federal court has ordered the government not to enforce the HHS abortion-drug mandate against Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. The ruling comes just one day after a dramatic 168-page opinion from the en banc 10th Circuit recognizing that business owners have religious liberty rights. This was the first definitive federal appellate ruling against the HHS mandate.

“Hobby Lobby and the Green family faced the terrible choice of violating their faith or paying massive fines starting this Monday morning,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who represents Hobby Lobby. “We are delighted that both the 10th Circuit and the district court have spared them from this unjust burden on their religious freedom.”

In its landmark opinion yesterday, the 10th Circuit majority found that “no one” – not even the government – “disputes the sincerity of Hobby Lobby’s religious beliefs.” The court ruled that denying them the protection of federal law just because they are a profit-making business “would conflict with the Supreme Court’s free exercise precedent.”

Today, following the 10th Circuit ruling, the trial court granted Hobby Lobby a temporary restraining order against the HHS mandate.  Further proceedings are scheduled for July 19, 2013, in Oklahoma City.

So what is this case really about? Do religious people have the right to practice their religion outside of the walls of their church or synagogue? If you are in business, is it legal for your religion to impact the way you do business? Does the Salvation Army have the right to only hire those people who share their beliefs? Do Catholic adoption agencies have the right to adopt children to families that will raise the children with Christian values?

The bottom line here is simple. Does the First Amendment allow you to practice your religious beliefs in your everyday life?

I find this discussion somewhat ironic. A website called Religion and the Federal Government reminds us:

It is no exaggeration to say that on Sundays in Washington during the administrations of Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) and of James Madison (1809-1817) the state became the church. Within a year of his inauguration, Jefferson began attending church services in the House of Representatives. Madison followed Jefferson’s example, although unlike Jefferson, who rode on horseback to church in the Capitol, Madison came in a coach and four. Worship services in the House–a practice that continued until after the Civil War–were acceptable to Jefferson because they were nondiscriminatory and voluntary. Preachers of every Protestant denomination appeared. (Catholic priests began officiating in 1826.) As early as January 1806 a female evangelist, Dorothy Ripley, delivered a camp meeting-style exhortation in the House to Jefferson, Vice President Aaron Burr, and a “crowded audience.” Throughout his administration Jefferson permitted church services in executive branch buildings. The Gospel was also preached in the Supreme Court chambers.

Jefferson’s actions may seem surprising because his attitude toward the relation between religion and government is usually thought to have been embodied in his recommendation that there exist “a wall of separation between church and state.” In that statement, Jefferson was apparently declaring his opposition, as Madison had done in introducing the Bill of Rights, to a “national” religion. In attending church services on public property, Jefferson and Madison consciously and deliberately were offering symbolic support to religion as a prop for republican government.

The website also contains a picture of Thomas Jefferson’s letter discussing the “wall of separation between church and state.” Reading that letter in context makes it obvious that Jefferson was opposing the establishment of a national religion–not the practice of religion by the American people.

If the free exercise of religion was good enough for the founders of America, it should be good enough for their descendants!

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