Archive for the ‘Church Governance’ Category

Breaking: New Speak Up Church Blog

April 26, 2010

We are proud to announce a new fully integrated, socially connected Speak Up Church Blog.

The new Speak Up Church blog can be found at http://blog.speakupmovement.org/church/

*We will no longer be posting or updating https://speakupchurch.wordpress.com/*

If you subscribed to the RSS feed – the new RSS feed is: http://feeds.feedburner.com/SpeakUpChurchBlog

Screen shot of the new Speak Up Church Blog

Be sure to bookmark or favorite the new blog site: http://blog.speakupmovement.org/church/

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Upcoming Supreme Court Case Could Greatly Impact the Church

April 6, 2010

On April 19, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in one of the most important religious liberty cases in years, Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. Attorneys with ADF and the Christian Legal Society represent a student chapter of CLS at the UC-Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. The law school recognizes a wide array of student groups, but refuses to recognize the CLS group simply because it requires its voting members and officers to share its Christian beliefs.

This case will obviously have significant ramifications for Christian student groups around the country. But what you may not realize is that it could also have significant ramifications for churches and ministry organizations.

The law school’s basic argument is that when it opens up a forum for student groups, it should have the right to ban those groups who have religious-based standards for their leaders or members (as most churches and ministries do). If the U.S. Supreme Court agrees, then these types of “non-discrimination” laws will not be limited to college campuses. They could be imposed on all sorts of public forums, including public facilities where churches commonly meet. In the end, thousands of churches around the country could be left scrambling to find new homes.

It is deeply troubling that non-discrimination laws, which were initially intended to protect religious freedom, are now being used to squelch it. Please pray for our team of attorneys as they prepare for this argument, for the Supreme Court Justices as they consider the case, and for the courageous law school students who are taking a stand for their rights.

Please leave a comment below to share your thoughts or follow us on Facebook to join the conversation. http://www.facebook.com/SpeakUpChurch

The War on Religious Liberty Opens a New Front

March 31, 2010

According to proponents of homosexual behavior, the battle between religious liberty and homosexual behavior is a zero sum game where one side must lose so the other one can win.  And the battleground has now moved to the military.

President Obama has called for repeal of the so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, which prevents open homosexual behavior in the military.  Already, two bills are pending in Congress that would both get rid of DADT and replace it with special rights for homosexual behavior, treating such behavior as deserving the same protection from discrimination as innate, innocuous characteristics like race and gender.

The result of this change will be a major loss to religious liberty in the military, especially for chaplains.  We’ve already seen the effects of such “non-discrimination” laws in the past, and they almost invariably end in marginalizing or attacking Christians simply for being Christians.

Christian counselors have been punished for declining to counsel same-sex couples, Christian chaplains have been disciplined for refusing to turn their worship service over to individuals who openly engage in homosexual behavior, and Christian ministries have been penalized for choosing not to allow their facilities to be used for same-sex commitment ceremonies.

Fortunately, Americans aren’t allowing religious liberty for their soldiers to die without a fight.  ADF sent a letter to the President and other leaders explaining the unconstitutional costs of repealing DADT, and other organizations are wading into the fray.  But victory remains uncertain–perhaps even unlikely, given the current political environment–unless more voices begin to speak out.  Fortunately, it seems like more voices–and some particularly credible ones at that–will be doing so soon.  Stay tuned…

Please leave a comment below to share your thoughts or follow us on Facebook to join the conversation. http://www.facebook.com/SpeakUpChurch

Government quits trying to run Bible schools

March 23, 2010

Government shouldn’t try to tell private Christian educators how to teach Christianity.

                In a decidedly unconstitutional turn of events in April of 2009, the state of Wyoming threatened to shut down a small but well-established Bible school because the school’s Bible classes weren’t state approved.  That the First Amendment prohibits government attempts to control religious education wasn’t enough to stop the state’s actions—at least not initially.  

                The school, Frontier School of the Bible, is a purely religious non-profit technical school that was founded over 40 years ago in LaGrange, Wyoming.  The school’s curriculum is solely aimed at preparing its students for Christian ministry, and the few non-Bible classes taught at the school—like English—are provided only because they aid effective teaching and interpretation of the Bible.  The school has over 1,600 alumni, most serving as missionaries, pastors, and youth ministers throughout the world.  Frontier exists for one purpose: preparing Christian leaders to teach others about God.

                But the state of Wyoming believed that the quality of Frontier’s Christian education might not be good enough for government work, so its education department sent the school a letter last April demanding that it either become approved by the state or close its doors.  And approval by the state didn’t present an attractive choice.  One way to become state-approved would have accreditation.  But for a school that didn’t pay salaries to its faculty or staff (instead, they all have to obtain voluntary financial support, much like missionaries do) in order to keep costs low so ministry-oriented students weren’t crushed by debt at graduation, the sky-high costs of accreditation wasn’t feasible.  Plus, other similar non-accredited Bible schools that have sought accreditation report that it often requires jettisoning the purely Bible-based teaching that was the sole reason for Frontier’s existence.

                The school’s second route to state approval was even worse: getting a state license.  But this would require ceasing to discriminate based on religion both in admitting students to the school and in hiring teachers for its Bible classes.  Nothing could be more destructive to school’s Christian identity and purpose than having its Christian curriculum taught by non-Christians to non-Christians.

                Thankfully, after being challenged on the many constitutional infirmities of demand to the school, the state made the right decisions to protect religious liberty, granting Frontier an interim exemption from the state’s regulations while legislators crafted a fix to the statute.  That fix was signed into law just this month.

                But what if Wyoming hadn’t made the right decision?  It would have set the State up as in authority over the Church to determine the content of theological instruction.  And “setting standards for a religious education is a religious exercise for which the State lacks not only authority but also competence.”  HEB Ministries v. Texas Higher Educ. Coordinating Board, 235 S.W.3d 627, 643 (Tex. 2007).  That is, having a bureaucrat determine the content of a quality Christian curriculum is like having your single neighbor tell you how to raise your children: not only does he not have any right to tell you what to do, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. 

Christian education is too important to be left in the hands of government.

Government Control of Church Schools

March 19, 2010

A church school in Redford, Michigan was dealt a blow to its independence from government control by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on March 9, 2010.  Hosanna-Tabor is affiliated with the Lutheran Church-Misosouri Synod, and operates a church and school.  All the school teachers lead weekly chapel services, teach a 30 minute religion class four days per week, lead prayer three times per day, and teach a morning devotional.  In fact, most of the teachers are commissioned as ministers.

Courts have long recognized the “ministerial exception,” which prohibits courts from getting involved in the relationship between a religious organization and its ministers.  This independence (often referred to as “church autonomy”) from government control is considered vital because ministers are recognized by the law as the lifeblood of the church.

While the Sixth Circuit upheld this principle in EEOC v. Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church, it failed to apply it because it found the teacher in question was not really a minister.  At bottom, the court said she wasn’t a minister because she spent 6 hours a day teaching secular subjects like math, social studies, and music.  Only an hour or so was spent on exclusively religious instruction.

The court failed to recognize something even Christians struggle with – our biblical worldview and Christian principles affect all aspects of our lives.  That certainly includes how we teach our children to interpret music, and interact socially.  It even applies to math, as demonstrated by the great mathematician, Sir Isaac Newton (even though his Christian views certainly were not orthodox).

Apparently, Hossana-Tabor should have been clearer about how its teachers communicate the church’s theology in all subjects.  Hopefully it can do so at trial, since the case has been sent back down to the lower court.