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first amendment Archives – Concerned Women for America

Boston Violates First Amendment by Targeting Christian Flag

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All nine justices of the United States Supreme Court agree in Shurtleff v. City of Boston. The city violated the First Amendment rights of Harold Shurtleff, the director of Camp Constitution, by refusing to allow him to fly the Christian Flag at a public pole where the city allowed private groups to fly their flags indiscriminately.

 

“The most salient feature of this case is that Boston neither actively controlled these flag raisings nor shaped the messages the flags sent,” wrote Justice Stephen Breyer in his majority opinion as the Court concluded what Boston was engaging in was not government speech. “Boston told the public that it sought ‘to accommodate all applicants’ who wished to hold events at Boston’s ‘public forums.’” Except for those pesky Christians.

 

Thankfully, the Court 9-0 (though using different rationales) declared, “Boston’s refusal to let petitioners fly their flag violated the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.” The Court correctly stated, “When the government does not speak for itself, it may not exclude private speech based on “‘religious viewpoint’; doing so ‘constitutes impermissible viewpoint discrimination.’”

 

Breyer’s majority opinion was joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. They were also three concurring opinions. One by Justice Kavanaugh, a second by Justice Alito joined by Thomas and Gorsuch, and a third by Justice Gorsuch joined by Justice Thomas.

 

Justice Kavanaugh, concurring, made clear this case only got to the Supreme Court “because of a government official’s mistaken understanding of the Establishment Clause.” We should also add that many judges share the mistaken view, also. But as Kavanaugh writes, “Under the Constitution, a government may not treat religious persons, religious organizations, or religious speech as second-class.”

 

Justice Alito’s concurrence agrees with the Court’s ultimate conclusion but disagrees with the majority’s analysis. And with good reason. Justice Alito rightly points out that some of the “tests” the majority uses to answer the question here, like “the extent to which the government has actively shaped or controlled expression,” can actually be used by bad actors to discriminate against those with whom it disagrees. But that, too, would be an impermissible violation of the First Amendment.

 

Justice Alito smartly advocates for a more precise and robust definition of government speech, which, after all, is the only organism restricted by the First Amendment. “Government speech,” he writes, “is thus the purposeful communication of a governmentally determined message by a person exercising a power to speak for a government.” Furthermore, after establishing that government speech is at issue, “the government must establish it did not rely on a means that abridges the speech of persons acting in a private capacity.” This is the type of clear definitional guidelines that will help judges around the country administer justice in a much fairer way. Let us hope Justice Alito’s test finds wide acceptance in the years to come.

 

Finally, Justice Gorsuch writes a concurring masterpiece on what is known as the Lemon test. This is an approach that Concerned Women for America  has asked the Court to overturn on many occasions. As he wrote, “Lemon ignored the original meaning of the Establishment Clause, it disregarded mountains of precedent, and it substituted a serious constitutional inquiry with a guessing game.”

 

The historical discussion especially is worthwhile in Gorsuch’s concurrence; I commend it to you. Here is a taste (citations omitted):

 

As a close look at these hallmarks and our history reveals, “[n]o one at the time of the founding is recorded as arguing that the use of religious symbols in public contexts was a form of religious establishment.” For most of its existence, this country had an “unbroken history of official acknowledgment by all three branches of government of the role of religion in American life.” In fact and as we have seen, it appears that, until Lemon, this Court had never held the display of a religious symbol to constitute an establishment of religion. The simple truth is that no historically sensitive understanding of the Establishment Clause can be reconciled with a rule requiring governments to “roa[m] the land, tearing down monuments with religious symbolism and scrubbing away any reference to the divine.” Our Constitution was not designed to erase religion from American life; it was designed to ensure “respect and tolerance.”

 

It is a critical discussion that accentuates his clear thinking on religious liberty issues.

 

This is a great win that envisions even greater protections for religious freedom for decades to come—a great development for all Americans regardless of religious belief.

 

SCOTUS Strikes Down Philadelphia’s Anti-Christian Policy

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Catholic Social Services (CSS) has been serving the underprivileged children of Philadelphia for over two centuries. The organization serves children through adoption and foster care services as an outpouring of the love embodied in the tenets of the Christian faith.

This is a problem for the Left.

Today’s secular humanist Left is adamant about crushing dissenting views. All people and organizations that refuse to publicly affirm support for LGBTQIA+ desires must be “canceled”—ostracized, isolated, punished, re-educated. Christians, in particular, are a nuisance. They continue to believe in Creation as told in Scripture. They believe every person has intrinsic value as created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). That’s why they just will not shut up about the injustice of abortion.

Christians insist that God created us male and female (Genesis 1:27, Matthew 19:4) and that God instituted marriage and the family as a foundational institution (Genesis 2:24) that reflects the most sacred relationship between Christ and His Bride, the Church (Ephesians 5:31,32). They dare to promote that children honor both their mother and father (Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:2). They insist on loving God above all and neighbors as themselves (Mark 12:30,31). They even believe their help of the poor is akin to serving Christ himself (Matthew 25:40).

This is intolerable. Well, it’s been tolerable for 200 years, but no more. When the Liberal Elites got wind (through a newspaper report) that CSS would not certify same-sex couples to be foster parents due to its religious convictions, they decided to kick them off the state’s programs designed to help needy children. …

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California Just Doesn’t Get It

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They know it is wrong. You have told them it is wrong. But our kids do it anyway, don’t they? Of course, we know once caught, they promise they will never do it again. Ever. They promise they get it, but you walk away from the conversation thinking, “They don’t get it.”

That was the feeling one got from the state of California after hearing oral arguments this week in two significant First Amendment cases before the United States Supreme Court: Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta and Thomas More Law Center v. Bonta.

The cases challenge California’s effort to force all non-profits that solicit support in the state to disclose to the government sensitive information about their major donors.

Although the state recognizes the glaring constitutional burdens on individual rights to freedom of speech and association, it still claims it needs the private information to guard against fraud. Besides, the state promises to keep the information super confidential.

Only they haven’t. As Justice Elena Kagan pointed out during oral arguments, the district court that heard the evidence in this case found that “there was a pervasive, recurring pattern of inadvertent disclosure by California.” In other words, they promise to keep the donor information private, but they don’t. They leak them intentionally or by error, ensuring, as the court also found, that “donors would likely be subject to threats and harassment.”

So, what do you do when your child has a pervasive and recurring pattern of misbehavior that endangers others? Do you just need them to promise you (one more time) that they will never do it again? …

Click here to continue reading this op-ed as featured on American Thinker.

It’s Final! Education Rule Aims to Protect Free Speech for Faith-Based College Groups

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The U.S. Department of Education has finalized a significant rule to secure free speech and equal access rights for faith-based groups on public college campuses and shield them from discrimination. Earlier this year, Concerned Women for America (CWA) galvanized over 1000 comments in strong support of this rule, which will take effect officially this fall.   

The final rule implements the President’s Executive Order 13864, Improving Free Inquiry, Transparency, Accountability at Colleges and Universities.  It will “ensure that public institutions of higher education uphold fundamental rights guaranteed in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, including protections for freedom of speech, association, press, religion, assembly, petition, and academic freedom, and that private institutions adhere to their stated institutional policies regarding freedom of speech, including academic freedom.”

These protections are long overdue at the college level. Imagine being falsely told your First Amendment rights under the Constitution do not apply on a public college campus.  That has been the reality for many college students and faith-based clubs on campuses across the country.

Religious clubs, of all faiths, are entitled to the same rights and privileges of any group on a public college campus, but that is not always how it plays out. Many faith-based clubs have been prohibited from having any requirement that their club leadership share the organization’s values and beliefs. They have also been denied equal access to university resources that are given to other campus groups.

The U.S. Department of Education’s final rule on Religious Liberty and Free Inquiry accomplishes through the Executive Branch the goal of the Equal Campus Access Act. This religious freedom rule will ensure public college students and clubs retain their First Amendment rights on public college campuses, extending protections to college students similar to those enacted into law in 1984 for public high school students. Students can know their rights are assured under this rule, and any violation should be reported immediately to the U.S. Department of Education for action.

Under the Constitution, students do not lose their First Amendment rights when they walk through the doors of a university.  Clubs of all faiths bring vibrancy and diversity of belief, opinion, and experience, creating a more robust university environment to engage in the free exchange of ideas. That is at the heart of what a university is meant to be.

The Education Department’s final rule adds to the many accomplishments of the Trump Administration to protect religious liberty and end discrimination against faith-based individuals and entities across the federal government, including in education, health care, adoption, employment, and internationally.

Great News on this Religious Freedom Day

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January 16 is Religious Freedom Day. It marks the anniversary of the passage of Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, the precursor language of our First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom. This American ideal was born on Biblical soil. Freedom is impossible without faith. This is as true today as in the times of our founding. John Adams, the principal author of our Bill of Rights said:

The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence, were … the general principles of Christianity … Now I will avow, that I then believed, and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God; and that those principles of liberty are as unalterable as human nature and our terrestrial, mundane system …

Questions of faith are the questions of life. That is why religious freedom is known as our first freedom, listed first as the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. If we lose our religious freedom, we lose our freedoms.

President Donald J. Trump understands this, and he has been a champion of religious freedom since his first day in office. Just today the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is proposing rules to further implement President Trump’s 2018 Executive Order removing regulatory burdens on religious organizations and ensuring they are treated equally under the law within the agency’s programs.

This is important work that will never get much attention in the mainstream media, but which protects people of faith from being forced to do the government’s bidding when it comes to things that violate their conscience, like abortion — a favorite area where the left wants to force pro-life people to actively engage in supporting.

Yesterday, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a memo aimed at protecting religious freedom in government grants at all levels. OMB Acting Director Russ Vought (himself a victim of religious discrimination) said, “No longer will faith-based organizations be bullied by the government, which has not done enough to ensure that religious groups are not discriminated against when receiving federal resources.”

The Department of Education is also taking serious steps to protect religious freedom and clarify the First Amendment’s protection of prayer in public schools. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said in a statement:

Our actions today will protect the constitutional rights of students, teachers, and faith-based institutions. The Department’s efforts will level the playing field between religious and non-religious organizations competing for federal grants, as well as protect First Amendment freedoms on campus and the religious liberty of faith-based institutions. I proudly share President Trump’s commitment to religious freedom and the First Amendment.

And that is just what the president has done recently. The president has also stood strong against the Johnson Amendment which has been used for decades to try to silence pastors’ political and cultural engagement. He has stood strong against anti-Semitism. He has also promoted religious freedom abroad.

The president issued a proclamation today saying:

[W]e reaffirm our commitment to protecting the precious and fundamental right of religious freedom, both at home and abroad.  Our Founders entrusted the American people with a responsibility to protect religious liberty so that our Nation may stand as a bright beacon for the rest of the world.  Today, we remain committed to that sacred endeavor and strive to support those around the world who still struggle under oppressive regimes that impose restrictions on freedom of religion.

Let us continue to pray for the President as he stands for religious freedom and let us support these efforts that are to the benefit of all freedom-loving peoples around the world, not just Christian or religious people.