Monday, October 25, 2004

Report Details Hostility to Religious Expression in America

Report Details Hostility to Religious Expression in America
U.S. Senator: Purging Campaign 'Pervasive, National, Well Organized'
By Jody Brown
October 21, 2004

(AgapePress) - Thanks to the efforts of a Texas-based legal group, the nine members of one Senate subcommittee now have in their hands a document that outlines literally hundreds of examples of violations of individuals' religious freedoms -- in the United States.

In September, the U.S. State Department reported in its sixth Annual Report to Congress on International Religious Freedom that eight national governments are designated as being of particular concern as violators of internationally acknowledged religious freedom rights. Those eight countries are North Korea, China, Burma, Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, and Eritrea. (See Related Story)

Now comes a report from the Liberty Legal Institute (LLI) in Plano, Texas, that reveals what the group describes as "widespread religious hostility" across the U.S. That report, titled "Examples of Hostility to Religious Expression in the Public Square" [PDF], documents acts of hostility towards, and discrimination against, expressions of faith by students, faculty, government employees, churches, religious organizations, and ordinary citizens.

Kelly Shackelford, chief counsel for Liberty Legal, says the report's contents should get people's attention. "It is amazing that a document like this has never been assembled before," the attorney says. "When you look at what is actually happening around the nation, it's truly scary."

ACLU, Others Tagged
The LLI report was presented on Wednesday (October 20) to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Property, chaired by Republican John Cornyn of Texas. During a subcommittee hearing in early June, it was suggested by some of those testifying that religious freedom was not an issue in America. Cornyn was not convinced by those detractors. The LLI document backs him up.

"The campaign to purge expressions of faith from the public square is pervasive, national, and well organized," the senator states in a press release. "The report not only contains page after page and example after example of hostility to religious expression, it also notes how this effort to cleanse the public square of all religious expressions is carefully orchestrated and organized by some of the nation's leading liberal special interest groups."

The 51-page document identifies three organizations that LLI contends have led a nationwide campaign to remove religious expression from the public square: the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and People for the American Way.

Cornyn's press release accuses all three of those organizations of actively litigating against such things as equal access for religious groups in public schools, school choice programs that would permit needy children to attend parochial and nonsectarian schools alike, and voluntary, student-led religious expression.

The senator says he was not surprised during his subcommittee's hearings to hear from those groups that there was not a problem with religious expression in the United States. "[N]o one will actually admit to being hostile to religious expression," he says. "They know full well that they are far more likely to advance their extreme ideology through the courts, rather than through the democratic process."

Concrete Examples
Following are some samples of hostility to religious expression, as provided in the Liberty Legal Institute report:

A 12-year-old elementary school student was reprimanded by a public school in St. Louis, Missouri, for quietly saying a prayer before lunch in the school cafeteria, according to a federal lawsuit.
Public high school students in Massachusetts started a Bible club and tried to hand out candy canes with a biblical passage attached. The school suspended the students for distributing the candy canes.
A public school sixth grader in Boulder, Colorado, tried to complete her book report assignment by presenting the Bible, but was forbidden from doing so by her teacher. She was also forbidden from bringing the Bible to school.
A Texas school district refused to hire a public school teacher for the position of assistant principal, because her children attended a private Christian school, in violation of the district's policy that the children of all principals and administrators attend public school.
A Vietnam veteran and member of an honor guard at a New Jersey veterans' cemetery was fired for saying "God bless you and this family" to the family of a deceased veteran, even though the family had consented to the blessing beforehand.
Copies of the report are available from Senator Cornyn's website [PDF].