Archive for the ‘Equal Access’ 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/

You can join the conversation on facebook and twitter.

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There Is No Such Thing As Part-Time Christianity

April 12, 2010

Recently, the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships issued recommendations to President Obama concerning the faith-based initiative.  In response, Barry Lynn has critiqued this report in two ways that show a fundamental misunderstanding of religion. 

First, Barry argues that faith-based organizations that have received government funds need to be closely monitored because they, according him, are misspending the monies.  As proof, he said “some faith-based ministries take public funding for ‘secular’ efforts while proudly proclaiming on their internet sites that they are Christ-focused 24/7.” 

In other words, a religious organization that is focused on Christ all of the time cannot accomplish secular things.  What kind of useless religion does Barry believe in?  The religion I adhere to commands us to feed the hungry, give a drink to the thirsty, welcome strangers, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and those in prison.

But according to the religion Barry apparently promotes, if you are focused on Christ, you cannot feed the hungry or provide medical treatment for the sick.  According to this warped religion, if you love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, then you are precluded from building a shelter for the homeless.

What this is essentially saying is that Christians can only be Christian some of the time – that there must be times in our life where we can discard our religious beliefs.  While there are some out there who would like it if they could dispose their religious beliefs when it impedes their sinning ways, this is not our calling as Christians.  Our true calling is a full-time job.  We are Christians 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  And Barry’s assertion that a faith-based organization cannot be accomplishing secular good just because it is focused on Christ all the time is simply wrong.

Thankfully, Barry’s radical view of an impotent religion is not mainstream.  To the contrary, throughout our nation’s history, Christian men and women have lead the way in charitable work, including the building of hospitals, universities, homeless shelters, youth programs, rehabilitation programs, prison ministries, adoption agencies, and the list goes on and on.

One such ministry is Heart to Heart International.  This incredible organization, founded in 1992 by Dr. Gary Morsch, brings much needed medical help to needy people all over the world.  But according to its website, this vitally needed service they are providing is not the result of some secular mindset to do good.  Rather, they “believe that each person is uniquely gifted by God to help those in need—and that acting on this belief has the power to create a healthier world.”

You see Barry, it is wrong to think that you cannot do real social good in the world if you are focused on Christ 24/7.  Quite to the contrary, you are compelled to meet the real tangible needs of others when you are focused on Christ all the time.

Next week, I will focus on Barry’s crusade to force faith-based organizations to rid themselves of their faith-based make-up.

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

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

City zoning officials to churches: “Show me the money!”

April 2, 2010

In the 1996 hit movie Jerry Mcguire, Cuba Gooding, Jr.’s character, Rod Tidwell, demanded that Jerry Mcguire, his sports agent played by Tom Cruise, shout the infamous phrase, “Show me the money!”  

This is what city zoning officials across America are shouting to churches who come before them seeking permission to be located within the city.  “You want to be located in our town?  Then show me the money!  Show me the revenue stream.  Show me the tax base that will be generated.  Show me the development that will ensue.  In short, show me the money!”

In Yuma, Arizona, city officials denied Centro Familiar Cristiano a permit to operate a church in a building it had purchased on Main Street.  The reason for the denial?  According to the city, a downtown church was inconsistent with the economic development the city was trying to obtain in that area. 

Yuma is not alone.  Churches across America have been harassed by city officials for no other reason than city officials do not see the economic value of having a church located within the town. 

My, how times have changed.  In years gone by, churches were valued members of society.  Cities recognized the valuable role that churches played in protecting and developing public morality.  But in today’s world where big brother government is trying to take over the role of the church, city zoning officials are seeing churches as impediments to growth rather than a foundation for growth.   

Fortunately for churches, all is not lost.  Just like a broken clock is right twice a day, Congress got it right in 2000 when it passed the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Person’s Act.  This law protects churches from overzealous city officials seeking to thwart church growth in pursuit of the almighty dollar.  In addition, the House of Representatives just passed HB 2596 that will prohibit cities from prohibiting churches from locating in certain neighborhoods.

It should not be all about the money.  City officials would learn an important lesson in 1 Timnothy 6:20 – that the love of money is the root of all evil.

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

Are Churches More Dangerous than the KKK?

March 12, 2010

Silly question, right? Not to one California church, who was barred from using a public library meeting room, even though the room was open to all other private community groups. The County Librarian even acknowledged that groups like the Ku Klux Klan were free to use the facility. But church services were forbidden.

It may be tempting to dismiss this as one isolated incident. But the sad reality is that these types of policies are prevalent around the country. ADF has successfully represented dozens of churches in similar cases. And we have uncovered hundreds of community centers, libraries, schools, and other public facilities around the country that rent to community groups, but blatantly discriminate against religious groups by refusing to rent to them or by charging them higher rental rates.

These policies make no sense. After all, social science bears out what many of us see as self-evident: churches offer valuable contributions to the community such as social services, education, increased volunteering, and reduced crime. (An Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s paper concisely summarizes many of these studies.) And, especially in this time of economic uncertainty, local governments would surely benefit from the additional revenue it would receive by renting otherwise unused facilities to churches.

So why is there so much hostility toward churches? Public officials often seem to have a Pavlovian-like reaction against anything religious, claiming that the so-called “separation of church and state” prevents churches from ever stepping foot in a public facility. But that’s not what the Constitution actually says. In fact, since 1981, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in four different cases that the First Amendment gives religious groups the right to have equal access to a public forum that other community groups are allowed to use.

Fortunately for the California church, a federal court recognized this precedent and struck down the library policy as unconstitutional, opening the door for churches to have equal access to its meeting rooms. But it took five years of litigation to get there. Other cases have taken much longer. A school district in New York, for example, has been in court for 15 years doggedly fighting to keep churches from meeting in vacant school buildings on weekends.

ADF, who represents both churches, will continue to stand up for the time-honored principle that the First Amendment protects the right of all religious groups to equal access.