WASHINGTON (NRB) – National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) is deeply disappointed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Tuesday not to grant a hearing to Stormans v. Wiesman, a case challenging pharmacy rules tailored by the state of Washington to discriminate against those with religious objections to abortion. NRB agrees with dissenting Justice Samuel Alito that “this case is an ominous sign.”
“This week the same five Supreme Court justices who yesterday rejected Texas’ common-sense health and safety regulations on abortion providers and one year ago used legal gymnastics to impose a radical understanding of marriage on the nation again show they are willing to bend or ignore the U.S. Constitution to appease liberal elites,” stated Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, President & CEO of NRB. “In this case, these justices seem not to think worthy of a hearing a well-grounded case based on the Bill of Rights’ guarantee of the freedom to believe and live in accordance with deeply held religious beliefs. Justice Alito is right — the apparent takeaway here is that ‘those who value religious freedom have cause for great concern.’”
In this case, Ralph’s Thriftway, a family-owned business, sought relief from a Washington state regulation that outlawed conscience-motivated referrals from one pharmacy to another for the dispensation of an abortifacient known as the “Morning After Pill.” This rule, strong-armed into effect in 2007 by then-Governor Christine Gregoire (D) with the help of Planned Parenthood, was also opposed by the American Pharmacists Association among other pharmacy groups. Notably, the state allows referrals for numerous other business and convenience reasons.
The pharmacists were victorious in the U.S. District Court on grounds that the rule violated the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment. However, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision in favor of the state.
Among notable quotes from Justice Alito’s dissent, in which he was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas:
“There are strong reasons to doubt whether the regulations were adopted for—or that they actually serve—any legitimate purpose. And there is much evidence that the impetus for the adoption of the regulations was hostility to pharmacists whose religious beliefs regarding abortion and contraception are out of step with prevailing opinion in the State.”
“The dilemma this creates for the Stormans family and others like them is plain: Violate your sincerely held religious beliefs or get out of the pharmacy business.”
“The bottom line is clear: Washington would rather have no pharmacy than one that doesn’t toe the line on abortifacient emergency contraceptives. Particularly given the State’s stipulation that ‘facilitated referrals do not pose a threat to timely access’ to such drugs, … it is hard not to view its actions as exhibiting hostility toward religious objections.”
Notably, attorneys for NRB member Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) were lead counsel for the pharmacists in this case.
The National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) is a nonpartisan, international association of Christian communicators whose member organizations represent millions of listeners, viewers, and readers. Our mission is to advance biblical truth; to promote media excellence; and to defend free speech. In addition to promoting standards of excellence, integrity, and accountability, NRB provides networking, educational, ministry, and fellowship opportunities for its members. Learn more at http://www.nrb.org.
About the NRB Convention
The annual NRB International Christian Media Convention is the largest nationally and internationally recognized event dedicated solely to assist those in the field of Christian communications. The dynamic Exposition consists of around 200 companies and is an active marketplace for those seeking tools and services to expand their organizations. The next Convention, Proclaim 17, will be held at the Orlando World Center Marriott in Orlando, Fla., February 27-March 2, 2017. For more information, go to http://www.nrbconvention.org.
CMA Doctors Lament Supreme Court Decision Upending Women’s Health Protections in Abortion Clinics as Ensuring ‘Back-alley Abortions’
WASHINGTON, June 27, 2016 /Christian Newswire/ — The 17,000-member Christian Medical Association (CMA, www.cmda.org) today lamented the Supreme Court’s 5-3 decision to overturn a lower court ruling that upheld a Texas law protecting the health of women in abortion clinics.
CMA CEO Dr. David Stevens declared in a statement, “Given the shocking revelations of abysmal health and safety deficiencies in abortion clinics around the country, the Court’s disallowance of health and safety requirements just protects what amount to back-alley abortions.
“Texas had the courage to require medically appropriate measures to protect women in abortion clinics, where state investigations had uncovered gross negligence and health hazards. The Supreme Court today upended those reasonable, medically necessary safety and health protections in favor of abortion ideology.
“We hear over and over the abortion mantra, ‘safe, legal and rare.’ But with over a million abortions a year and courts preventing even modest health and safety regulations, abortion is only legal-not at all safe or rare.”
An amicus brief filed in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt for CMA by Alliance Defending Freedom highlighted the state’s interest in protecting women’s health by passing reasonable protections that rationally relate to health risks: “Texas’ law appropriately expresses Texas’s constitutional interest in safeguarding women’s health and maintaining medical standards. The Ambulatory surgical center requirements rationally relate to Texas’s legitimate interest in upholding consistent standards for outpatient abortion providers. The admitting privileges requirement rationally relates to Texas’s legitimate interest in regulating outpatient abortion.”
CMA Executive Vice President Dr. Gene Rudd, an obstetrician-gynecologist, added, “Surgical and drug-induced abortion carry significant risks to the mother that require timely care and continuity of care. The way to ensure adequate care when abortion complications occur is to require that the physician who performed the procedure that resulted in the complication be able to assure rapid treatment of the patient. That needs to be done in a medical facility properly equipped to care for these types of surgical emergencies.”
As CMA’s brief noted, “That is exactly why ambulatory surgical facilities require admitting privileges for physicians performing surgery comparable to elective abortion, and exactly why Texas needs this law to ensure the health and safety of women undergoing both medical and surgical abortion.”
First of all I want to offer our prayers and condolences to his Wife Maureen and his family, as well as to the members of the court and all who knew him. May God’s comfort and strength be with them as they travel through their grief. Justice Scalia was one of the great human treasures of late 20th and early 21st century America. He will be missed, but not as easily forgotten. May Almighty God grant civility and wisdom to those considering his replacement. In this and in all things may God let his will be known, and may this nation pray fervently to see it.-Rev. Robert A. Crutchfield, Founder and Editor FaithInspires.Org.
Here are what some others are saying tonight,
From Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council,
“I join the nation in mourning the passing of Justice Scalia, a man who had a deep love for our nation, the Constitution, and as the father of nine children, was passionate about the institutions of marriage and family.
“He leaves behind a distinguished legacy that will have a lasting impact. His deep commitment to the Constitution was unmatched, especially in an era when judges have legislated from the bench and twisted the nation’s charter document to justify their ideological agendas.
“Justice Scalia believed the Constitution had an objective meaning that could be understood and applied, and that as a nation we need to abide by it carefully for the sake of liberty, order, and justice.
“We offer our prayers and condolences to his family. He will be greatly missed.
“The Supreme Court has now become the centerpiece in this presidential election. There has not been an election-year nomination in generations and the Senate must not break that trend now. With the election only 269 days away, the people should decide what president should fill this seat,” concluded Perkins.
The Second Amendment Foundation released this statement,
“Antonin Scalia was a brilliant legal scholar who not only understood the Constitution, he brought clarity to possibly the most important issue of our time,” said SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb. “I had the honor and privilege to have met Justice Scalia and found him to be a man of strong ethics and intellect, and great character.
“Justice Scalia was a fierce defender of the Constitution and he adhered to its original meanings,” he continued. “I found him to be a warm, charming and humorous man with great wit who deeply loved this country and had an unshakeable belief in the rule of law.”
Gottlieb acknowledged that there is already speculation about how this will affect the philosophical balance on the high court.
“It is important now that the Senate not act with haste to fill Scalia’s shoes,” he observed. “The Court must not be allowed to swing away from supporting Second Amendment rights, which is why we urge the Senate Judiciary to act judiciously, and not take up this important issue until a new president is in office. We cannot allow the important work of Antonin Scalia to be undone by a court thrown out of balance by the appointment of a successor who would be his philosophical opposite.
“For now,” Gottlieb concluded, “our condolences go to Justice Scalia’s family, his colleagues and the Supreme Court staff who have suffered a huge loss.”
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez who serves as President of the Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference reacted this way, “Justice Antonin Scalia stood as a champion of life, religious liberty and limited government. The son of Italian immigrants, his life journey speaks to the power embedded when one reconciles faith with education. His presence on the court represented a firewall against judicial activism. His life should serve as both a reminder and a clarion call for us to be both vigilant and committed in defending our God-given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Americans United for Life President and CEO Dr. Charmaine Yoest called news of the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia “a tragic loss for our country. Americans mourn the passing of a man with deep integrity and unparalleled intellectual force, who valued the Constitution over the whims of popular culture.”
She continued: “Known for his great wit and wisdom, Justice Scalia continually reminded us that the rule of law and protections enshrined in the Constitution are essential. His contribution to our country has been immeasurable. His respect for life in law, calling himself a ‘textualist,‘ allowed him to decide on the tough cases more easily: he once said to reporters, ‘Abortion? Absolutely easy. Nobody ever thought the Constitution prevented restrictions on abortion.'”
Yoest added, “His loss is tragic, and we hope that when it comes time for the Senate to vote on his replacement, that a worthy successor who can pick up his banner can be found after the election.”
Justice Antonin Scalia was a long-standing and consistent voice on the Court for allowing the American people, through the democratic process, to protect human beings from abortion or assisted suicide. He was one of the strongest critics on the Court of the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, as unconstitutional and illegitimate. And he voted with the majority of the Court in 1997 against a constitutional right to assisted suicide. In both cases, he affirmed that the Constitution leaves these issues to the people to formulate public policies through their elected representatives.
Janet Mefferd who is a nationally syndicated Christian radio talk show host offered this to her Twitter followers,” How it feels to lose Scalia: There’s a hole in Hoover Dam, & the one guy with his finger in that hole just died. And breach is now certain.
Meanwhile on Facebook the Tea Party Favorite, and Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz sent the following to his supporters, “Today our Nation mourns the loss of one of the greatest Justices in history – Justice Antonin Scalia. A champion of our liberties and a stalwart defender of the Constitution, he will go down as one of the few Justices who single-handedly changed the course of legal history.
As liberals and conservatives alike would agree, through his powerful and persuasive opinions, Justice Scalia fundamentally changed how courts interpret the Constitution and statutes, returning the focus to the original meaning of the text after decades of judicial activism. And he authored some of the most important decisions ever, including District of Columbia v. Heller, which recognized our fundamental right under the Second Amendment to keep and bear arms. He was an unrelenting defender of religious liberty, free speech, federalism, the constitutional separation of powers, and private property rights. All liberty-loving Americans should be in mourning.
Justice Scalia’s three decades on the Court was one of President Reagan’s most consequential legacies. Our prayers are with his beloved wife Maureen, their nine children, and their precious grandchildren.”
By Rev. Robert A. Crutchfield, Editor Faithinspires.Org
Earlier today the U.S. Supreme Court released its ruling that the U.S. Constitution guarantees same sex couples the right to marry. News of the decision had barely crossed “ the wires” when the reaction from all parts of our nations Christian leaders came flooding back across the same news wires, emails to supporters etc. What follows is a small sampling from some of the press releases etc. we have seen.
The Evangelical Church Alliance issued a statement which read in part,
Evangelical Church Alliance (ECA), one of America’s oldest associations of independent Evangelical ministers, missionaries, and military and institutional chaplains, reaffirms the biblical, natural, and millennial-old nature of the definition of marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman.
The Supreme Court of the United States does not possess the authority, or the expertise, to speak to the nature of Holy Matrimony, which is exclusively within God’s provenance. Jesus explicitly spoke to the divine origin and purpose of marriage when he said, “[A]t the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)
The ECA takes seriously the assurance of Associate Justice Kennedy and the four other justices when they write in today’s opinion, “[I]t must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered.”
Jonathan Falwell of Thomas Road Baptist Church contributed this to the conversation,
“It is a sad day in our nation when the Supreme Court believes it has the moral right to redefine marriage. Beyond the clear Biblical mandate that marriage is a sacred covenant between a man and a woman, this decision flies in the face of all of recorded history. The Bible clearly commands us to love others regardless of their spiritual or moral condition, but it does not leave room for us to change the definition of sin. For those in the faith community, this decision doesn’t change what we do or how we do it. We will continue to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the only hope for the world. We will do this in a way that always reflects Christ’s love, but we will not compromise our values or beliefs according to the Scriptures.”
Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council said in his statement,
“Five justices on the Supreme Court have overturned the votes of 50 million Americans and demanded that the American people walk away from millennia of history and the reality of human nature.
“In reaching a decision so lacking in foundation in the text of the Constitution, in our history, and in our traditions, the Court has done serious damage to its own legitimacy.
“No court can overturn natural law. Nature and Nature’s God, hailed by the signers of our Declaration of Independence as the very source of law, cannot be usurped by the edict of a court, even the United States Supreme Court.
“Marriage is rooted not only in human history, but also in the biological and social reality that children are created by, and do best when raised by, a mother and a father. No court ruling can alter this truth.
“It is folly for the Court to think that it has resolved a controversial issue of public policy. By disenfranchising 50 million Americans, the Court has instead supercharged this issue.
“Just as with Roe v. Wade in 1973, the courts will not have the final say on this profound social matter. The American people will stand up for their right to have a voice and a vote, especially as they experience the ways in which redefining marriage fundamentally impairs their freedom to live and work in accordance with their beliefs.
Steve Crampton, Special Counsel to The Thomas Moore Society who wrote the Society’s amicus brief which made up part of the case the Supreme Court ruled on today, responded this way,
“Today’s Supreme Court decision purporting to redefine the institution of marriage will be regarded by many Americans as a grave aberration that obliterates the borderline between the rule of law and policy-making. Natural marriage – the union of one man and one woman – is the foundation for a stable, fruitful civil society. Without it, societies are prone to crumble. The Constitution does not authorize the Court to redefine marriage, nor to rob the people of their right of self-governance – to debate and determine for themselves what laws will govern. This is not justice. It is sheer judicial activism and politics run amok.”
Rev. Anthony Evans, President to the National Black Church Initiative declares,
“The Supreme Court has redefined the concept of marriage in America by declaring everyone has a right to marriage despite their sexual orientation. The church strongly believes the Supreme Court is about to abolish the institution of biblical marriage…..a marriage between a man and a woman.” This is such an extraordinary ruling bound to cause great anguish in bodies of religions all across the world. Demonstrated acts of unconditional love for our gay brothers and sisters must be exhibited to ensure a smooth transition within and among all communities through the midst of this sensitive legal and moral issue.
This is why the National Black Church Initiative is reaching out to our gay brothers and sisters in anticipation of preventing any verbal, physical or emotional acts against the gay community. We strongly believe in the effectualness of prayer and having a venue for open dialogue and communication as the appropriate solutions going forward. Therefore we are calling for and invite the leadership of the gay community to visit our houses of Christian worship as we seek to show ourselves friendly and engage in this great journey of unconditional love.”
“This is a tragic day for America,” said Linda Harvey, president of Mission America, an Ohio-based Christian pro-family group. “By this unjust and unconstitutional decision, the rule of law in America apparently no longer applies. There is no phrase or word in the 14th Amendment that justifies this illegitimate ruling that will create a monumental, unnecessary division in this country by setting a standard supporting sexual deviance.”
The opinion’s legitimacy is also in question for the refusal of Justices Ginsburg and Kagan to recuse themselves, despite their public participation in same sex “marriages” in the past.
States have been regulating marriage law for over a century, so the majority ruling defies the precedent of states’ rights, including the lawful votes of over 51 million American voters who cast ballots in favor of man/woman marriage in state constitutional amendments, Harvey also said.
“This unsupportable ruling will open the door to the violation of religious convictions and to civil disobedience if necessary by people of faith,” added Harvey. “Despite the bone tossed to people of faith by Justice Kennedy in his majority opinion, Americans can no longer trust this court or trust that such First Amendment freedoms will be sustained.”
This next comment is part of a statement issued by the Georgia Baptist Convention,
“ The Georgia Baptist Convention (GBC) is disappointed and saddened by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on state bans against same sex marriage. The ruling contradicts the longstanding tradition of, and historical definition of marriage between a man and a woman. Even more essential, it contradicts the biblical definition of marriage.
As Justice Kennedy pointed out in arguments, the long-standing belief that marriage is between a man and a woman is “millennia, plus time.” As Christians, our belief is that marriage is ordained by God in the scriptures at the beginning, and only between a man and a woman. Government didn’t create marriage, and therefore shouldn’t change the definition of marriage, nor force it upon those who do not wish to participate in it.
Scripture tells us in the book of Matthew, “that He who created them in the beginning made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” “Throughout the scriptures it is very clear what God’s idea and purpose of marriage is,” said Dr. J. Robert White, executive director, Georgia Baptist Convention. “We support the biblical view of marriage on moral religious grounds, but also for the value and impact traditional marriage has on the family, stability and society as a whole.”
Institute for Religion and Democracy President Mark Tooley commented:
“As in other infamous politicized rulings, the Supreme Court has chosen fashion over law. There are no winners, and the biggest losers are children in America who are the chief victims of the breakdown of marriage and family.
“As The Church has for 42 years rallied ongoing resistance to the court’s Roe vs. Wade invention of a right to unrestricted abortion, so now The Church must resist the court’s attempt to claim authority over the definition of marriage.
“The coming decades offer the opportunity for Christians and other traditionalists to help revive marriage and family as increasing numbers of Americans suffer the consequences of radical secularist assaults on both.
“Now is not the time for despair, retreat or anger. The court’s arrogance should be mocked, and The Church should declare that, in a free society, appointed judges don’t have power over what is eternally rooted in creation.”
Brian S. Brown president of the National Organization for Marriage said in part,
Though expected, today’s decision is completely illegitimate. We reject it and so will the American people. It represents nothing but judicial activism, legislating from the bench, with a bare majority of the Justices on the Supreme Court exercising raw political power to impose their own preferences on marriage when they have no constitutional authority to do so. It is a lawless ruling that contravenes the decisions of over 50 million voters and their elected representatives. It is a decision that is reminiscent of other illegitimate Court rulings such as Dred Scott and Roe v Wade and will further plunge the Supreme Court into public disrepute.
Make no mistake about it: The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and countless millions of Americans do not accept this ruling. Instead, we will work at every turn to reverse it.
The US Supreme Court does not have the authority to redefine something it did not create. Marriage was created long before the United States and our constitution came into existence. Our constitution says nothing about marriage. The majority who issued today’s ruling have simply made it up out of thin air with no constitutional authority.”
From the Episcopal Church which was meeting in its General Convention at the time of the ruling, two of its leaders came out in favor of the Supreme Court’s decision,
First by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori,
“I rejoice that the Supreme Court has opened the way for the love of two people to be recognized by all the states of this union, and that the court has recognized that it is this enduring, humble love that extends beyond the grave that is to be treasured by society wherever it exists,” she said. “Our society will be enriched by the public recognition of such enduring faithful love in families headed by two men or two women as well as by a woman and a man. The children of this land will be stronger when they grow up in families that cannot be unmade by prejudice or discrimination. May love endure and flourish wherever it is to be found.”
To which House of Deputies President the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings added,
“As we Christians are known to say from time to time: ‘Alleluia’.”
“I am elated that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states. In March I had the great privilege of signing on to an amicus brief urging the justices to make the decision they announced today, and I am deeply grateful that they have granted a fundamental human right to people whom had been denied it for so long.”
Jennings said she supports marriage equality “not in spite of my faith but because of it.”
“In more than 35 years of ordained ministry, I have known many faithful, committed same-sex couples whose love gave me a deeper understanding of God’s love and whose joy in one another testified to the goodness of God’s creation,” she said. “I have also learned through simple, everyday experience that same-sex couples make vital contributions to our common life, and I rejoice at the security today’s ruling affords them.”
I am sure this will by no means be the end of the reaction from Christian groups and leaders. It is highly likely that we will be adding more to this article in the coming days.- Pastor Crutchfield
WASHINGTON, Oct. 8, 2014 /Christian Newswire/ — On October 9, 2014, Rob Schenck (pronounced “Shank”), an ordained evangelical minister who did his doctoral work in theology of church and state and is founder of Faith and Action in the Nation’s Capital, will celebrate 20 years of continuous ministry to America’s top elected and appointed officials in Washington, DC.
In the summer of 1994, Schenck relocated to Washington from his native Buffalo, New York, to organize the National Community Church on Capitol Hill. So he could turn his full-time attention to ministering to members of Congress, White House officials, and federal judges, Schenck soon recruited Rev. Mark Batterson to take over the new church planting.
Schenck arrived in Washington with the blessing of a hand-full of churches and some 300 financial supporters. Twenty years later the organization he built with his twin brother and fellow minister, Paul (now a married Roman Catholic priest) has grown to a network of more than 200 churches and 30,000 supporters spread across the country. The ministry operates out of two buildings located immediately behind the Supreme Court, a block from the U.S. Capitol, and ten minutes from the White House.
Over his two decades of missionary service, the Schenck and his brother established the National Memorial for the Pre-born and their Mothers and Fathers, Washington’s largest annual indoor pro-life gathering, opened the National Ministry Center where Bible studies, prayer meetings, and other Christian functions are held, formed the National Pro-Life Center to inspire and educate lawmakers and jurists on the sanctity of life, and erected the only Ten Commandments monument fully visible in the nation’s capital city.
Schenck’s most memorable experiences include leading a suicidal congressman to forgiveness in Christ, extending an evangelistic invitation to a room full of federal judges, and doing emergency chaplain work in the aftermath of a fatal shooting at the Capitol building and following the 9/11/2001 terrorist attack at the Pentagon. Apart from his regular duties, one of the honors he has found most meaningful is officiating numerous funerals at Arlington National Cemetery.
Schenck is currently working on a memoir of his 20-year odyssey for publication some time next year. Beginning October 9, Faith and Action will feature a 20-year retrospective on its website, www.faithandaction.org, and on its Facebook page, Faith & Action. Over the next several months Schenck will also post “Memorable Moments of Ministry in Washington” at his website, www.revrobschenck.com.
Attorney sound bite: David Cortman
On May 20, the high court agreed to hear a New York case concerning the matter, but the court potentially could use the case as a means to clarify or reinforce constitutional standards on a wide array of Establishment Clause and religious freedom cases. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys together with lead counsel Thomas G. Hungar of the Washington, D.C. law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP represent the town of Greece, N.Y.
“Americans today should be as free as the Founders were to pray,” said Senior Counsel David Cortman. “The Founders prayed while drafting our Constitution’s Bill of Rights, and the Supreme Court has ruled that public prayer is part of the ‘history and tradition of this country.’ The numerous and significant parties that have filed briefs in this case support the continuation of this cherished practice.”
The court last affirmed America’s long-standing practice of opening public meetings with prayer in 1983 and now has the opportunity to do so again.
As briefs filed in the case explain, the U.S. Supreme Court settled the matter 30 years ago by affirming that the historical practice of legislative prayers is constitutional. Until relatively recently, the lower federal courts faithfully implemented that well-established rule of law. New legal attacks by individuals and activist groups claiming to be offended by the way private citizens voluntarily pray have created significant confusion in the lower courts.
In this case, Town of Greece v. Galloway, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit suggested that the current legal complexity may cause local and state governments to abandon the practice of legislative prayer, which predates the founding of America and existed for more than two centuries without serious challenge.
- Pronunciation guide: Hungar (HUNG’-ahr)
Alliance Defending Freedom files friend-of-the-court brief in defense of Wis. school district
Thursday, January 24, 2013
Attorney sound bite: David Cortman
“Church buildings should not be treated like toxic warehouses simply because they normally house religious activities. That has never been the intent of the First Amendment,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel David Cortman. “On the contrary, as the judges who dissented on the 7th Circuit’s opinion said, this opinion clearly exhibits an unconstitutional hostility toward religion. The government isn’t being neutral toward religion when it treats it worse.”
Fearing a cramped, wooden-benched, and un-air conditioned gymnasium would ruin their big day, high school seniors in the Elmbrook School District looked for an alternative venue in which to hold their graduation exercises. They asked to move to the nearby Elmbrook Church building because it could easily accommodate all of their guests (even those with disabilities) and offered amenities like cushioned seating, free parking, and temperature control. The rental price of the church was also less expensive than holding the graduation ceremony in the school’s antiquated gym.
District officials agreed and rented the church for graduation ceremonies until the completion of a public school facility that offered similar creature comforts. After that, graduations were held on school grounds. Some offended current and former students and their parents, represented by attorneys with Americans United for Separation of Church and State, filed suit.
The district court ruled that renting Elmbrook Church to obtain “an adequate, convenient, cost-effective graduation venue” was constitutional. A panel of the 7th Circuit agreed based, in part, on the district’s “utter lack of any religious purpose…and the overwhelming evidence that the District desired to make use only of the Church’s material amenities.” A full panel of the 7th Circuit later reversed that decision on appeal.
The Alliance Defending Freedom brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court on. Jan. 18 in Elmbrook School District v. Doe explains that the full 7th Circuit’s decision “mandates government hostility towards religion, precludes government neutrality amongst sects, and puts the First Amendment rights of religious students at risk. It also severely compromises public schools’ ability to rent private venues for secular purposes and threatens to derail valuable educational programs that depend upon religious neutrality for survival. Given the magnitude of the Seventh Circuit’s legal errors and the significance of their real-world impact, this Court should grant review to vindicate the Establishment Clause’s true intent…. The Seventh Circuit’s en banc opinion takes the District’s practical solution to a real-world problem and manufactures a constitutional morass.”
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building legal ministry that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
- School petitions high court over graduation flap (lacrossetribune.com)
- School Petitions High Court over Graduation Flap (wsaw.com)
- FRC Submits SCOTUS Brief On Behalf of 49 Members of Congress in Public Prayer Case (faithinspires.wordpress.com)