Church and State

Supreme Court Considers First Amendment Ramifications of Church Sign Ordinance

Supreme Court Considers First Amendment Ramifications of Church Sign Ordinance

On Monday, January 12, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the case of whether a local town ordinance violates the First Amendment rights of churches when the ordinance limits the size, quantity, and duration of church signs when political signs are not similarly limited. Attorneys for the town of Gilbert, Arizona have argued that the ordinance is not discriminatory because all non-commercial event signs have the same restrictions. Attorneys for Clyde Reed, the pastor of the Good News Presbyterian Church argued that just because the city claims the ordinance appears to be facially neutral toward religious free speech does not mean that it is actually neutral.

 
 

7th Circuit Rules Challengers to Ministerial Housing Exemption Lacked Standing

7th Circuit Rules Challengers to Ministerial Housing Exemption Lacked Standing

On November 13, 2014, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that an atheist group challenging a tax-exempt housing benefit only available to clergy lacked standing to bring the suit because members of the atheist group could not demonstrate that they had suffered an injury as a result of the clergy tax-exemption.

 
 

Hard-fought religious freedom something to celebrate this Thanksgiving

Hard-fought religious freedom something to celebrate this Thanksgiving

Households throughout the United States are celebrating a presidentially designated Thanksgiving Day. It provides us an opportunity to reflect on the blessings we enjoy as a nation and personally.

The history of this holiday goes back to the arrival of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, Mass., in the late autumn of 1620. Although the New World saw intermittent European activity after the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492, in the minds of many, American history truly began with the Pilgrims.

Because most of the occupants of the Mayflower had belonged to a persecuted religious minority in England — Congregationalists, part of the dissenting church movement — they came seeking freedom to practice religion in concert with each individual's own conscience. But the Pilgrims' quest was by no means the only reason America came to be viewed as a shelter from religious persecution and intolerance.

 
 

Opinion: Atheists, Conscience and God's Name

An atheist airman at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada recently wasn't allowed to re-enlist because he refused to sign an oath containing the phrase “so help me God.”

Initially, Air Force personnel reported that enlistees used to be allowed to opt out of the oath's appeal to deity, but the provision had been withdrawn on Oct. 30, 2013. The Air Force claimed that only Congress could reinstate it.

However, when the American Humanist Association and the media became involved, the Air Force sought legal counsel and reverted to the former practice. But that didn't please some Christians.

 
 

Standing to Sue at Issue In 7th Cir. Hearing on Ministerial Housing Allowance

Standing to Sue at Issue In 7th Cir. Hearing on Ministerial Housing Allowance

On September 10, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral argument in Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) v. Lew. The judges focused on whether FFRF had standing to bring the case.

 
 

Opinion on the Hobby Lobby Decision: More Equal Than Others

Opinion on the Hobby Lobby Decision: More Equal Than Others

By Jason Hines – Today the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that Hobby Lobby and other closely held corporations can refuse to cover certain forms of contraception in the insurance plans they provide to employees because of their “religious beliefs.” Now I put religious beliefs in quotes because despite the Court's decision, I refuse to admit that corporations, created in order to separate themselves from the people who create them, can have religious beliefs.

 
 

Rediscovering Agape: Why the Reformation is Not Over

Rediscovering Agape: Why the Reformation is Not Over

Agape love is the central premise of Protestant Christian theology. According to The Oxford Handbook of Theological Ethics, “Luther's rediscovery of the primacy of agape was the linchpin of the Reformation and the rediscovery of genuine Christian ethics.” (See G. Meilaender and W. Werpehowski, The Oxford Handbook of Theological Ethics, 2007, p. 456.)

Many confuse the concept of agape love with the concept of caritas, or charity, but these are two separate ideas. The concept of agape love is the love of God reaching down to save humanity through grace, while caritas is about humans reaching upward toward God through works.

 
 

7th Cir. to Decide Whether Ministerial Housing Exemption is Constitutional

7th Cir. to Decide Whether Ministerial Housing Exemption is Constitutional

By Michael Peabody – Last November, a federal judge stuck a stick in a beehive when she found that a long-standing tax-exemption for clergy housing was unconstitutional. The case, Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) vs. Lew, is currently on appeal to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and religious organizations are out in force defending the exemption.

 
 

Opinion: Don't Use Religious Liberty to Discriminate

By James Coffin – In the United States, individuals and groups have a long history of discrimination against fellow humans.

But over many decades, legislators and judges have curtailed our freedom to negatively impact others' lives based on our own prejudices. Such government actions have been a great blessing to the targets of discrimination.

Although anti-discrimination laws limit our freedom to say by our actions that we view certain categories of our fellow humans as inferior, unworthy or evil, they also help ensure justice for all.

 
 

Pope Invited to Address Congress by Boehner and Pelosi

Pope Invited to Address Congress by Boehner and Pelosi

In a rare showing of bipartisanship, U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner and his predecessor, Nancy Pelosi, both Catholics, have both issued invitations for Pope Francis to address a joint session of Congress.