Florida County Commissioners Discover That Religious Freedom Means Freedom for Everyone, Even PagansShare
Religious-right activists celebrated when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this year, in a 5-4 decision, that beginning governmental meetings with sectarian prayers doesn’t violate the Constitution’s Establishment Clause.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins declared: “The court has rejected the idea that as citizens we must check our faith at the entrance to the public square.”
Of course, citizens don’t have to “check their faith at the entrance to the public square.” Citizens have the right to practice their faith and to pray, or not, wherever they like. The issue is whether government may favor a particular religion (or religion generally) and whether offering sectarian prayers does that. The Supreme Court has now said such prayers are permissible.
Well, as you can see in the video clip above, last week an Agnostic Pagan Pantheist — David Suhor — decided to bring his particular beliefs into the regular meeting of the Escambia County Board of County Commissioners in Florida. But that didn’t go over too well with some of the Christians at the meeting. One commissioner walked out, offering this explanation:
“People may not realize it, but when we invite someone a minister to pray they are praying for the county… Read More
UPDATE, 10 a.m., May 7: Even more about how this incident didn’t involve religious discrimination. The governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and a long list of religious-right groups and activists owe UIL officials an apology.
One of the fastest ways to whip up a political firestorm in Texas is to claim that government has violated someone’s religious freedom and then wildly exaggerate the story, even if you don’t know all the facts.
That appears to have been the case last week, when religious-right pressure groups and politicians claimed a Texas high school track athlete had been disqualified for pointing skyward after he ran the anchor leg for his victorious relay team. Under University Scholastic League rules that govern high school sports in Texas, athletes may not engage in excessive celebration, including raising their arms in victory.
One of the first news stories about the incident got the ball rolling with an article headlined: “‘Act of faith’ costs track team a win, trip to state championships.” From there, politics took over, with… Read More
Why would religious-right groups like Texas Values, the Texas lobby arm of Plano-based Liberty Institute, want to help hate groups disrupt funerals for military servicemembers and the victims of tragedies like last week’s fertilizer plant explosion in West? Those groups are demanding that state lawmakers pass a constitutional amendment — HJR 110/SJR 4 — that could effectively gut legislative protections for such funerals.
In fact, the haters from Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas are planning to be in Waco today protesting at a memorial service for the victims of the West tragedy. Westboro — run by chief hater Fred Phelps — is infamous for its “God Hates Fags” signs and demonstrations at funerals for dead servicemembers and other people around the country. The group praises those deaths and tragedies like the West explosion as God’s punishment for an America that tolerates homosexuality.
But if the Westboro haters want to protest at any funerals in West, they won’t be able to get very close. In 2007, Texas lawmakers passed legislation by state Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, that protects mourners. HB 1093 barred protesters from demonstrating within 1,000 feet of a… Read More
On Wednesday the Texas House Higher Education Committee will consider legislation that could force Texas colleges and universities to allow student organizations to discriminate. House Bill 360 by state Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, would withhold state funding from a public or private institution of higher education that requires religious and other student organizations to allow students to participate regardless of those students’ “beliefs or status, including race, gender, and sexual orientation.”
Rep. Krause says his bill is intended to protect the religious freedom of student organizations to exclude those who don’t share their beliefs. Yet his bill could force college campuses to allow — and even fund — student chapters for anti-gay hate groups and racist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan if they claim that their discriminatory practices are based on their religious beliefs.
Last Wednesday, the Texas House Committee on State Affairs took testimony on HJR 110, by state Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, which would add a modified version of the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to the state constitution.
TFN supported passage of Texas RFRA in 1999, and we think it has been working just fine since then. But HJR 110 is not the RFRA of old. The amendment’s vague, overly broad language could create all sorts of unintended consequences and would undoubtedly lead to expensive litigation.
And nobody has explained those potential consequences better than former state Rep. Scott Hochberg did at last week’s State Affairs hearing: