Wednesday, June 23, 2010

USA: not immune from Western religious liberty trends

updated 1 July 2010

The principal religious liberty trend of the multicultural West is that religious liberty is disappearing as the traditionally Judeo-Christian culture's Biblical foundations are being excavated. The excavation is integral to the social engineering/renovation project underway aimed at producing a 'post-Christian' culture. Unfortunately, most Christians do not comprehend the implications of this phenomenal strategic shift, and likely will not until the new social order has been consolidated and direct persecution starts to impact them personally.

Christians in the West are losing the right to criticise non-Christian (minority) religions (particularly Islam) and witness to non-Christians (particularly Muslims). They are also losing the right to conscientiously object to new social norms being imposed upon them essentially at the behest of radical feminist and Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender (GLBT) lobby groups.

Just as in non-free states, Western law-makers and law-enforcers claim their interventions are necessary to maintain "peace/harmony" and/or defend "equality" against "intolerant extremist fundamentalisms" (i.e. any ideas contrary to the democratic consensus).

Rattled by the chaos and confusion of cultural collapse (inevitable when culture is robbed of its foundations), Western governments are increasingly resorting to external restraints (authoritarian repression). They are opting for "peace" through appeasement, rather than justice and defence of the constitution through education and rule of law.

To remove contradictions, laws are being amended and reinterpreted, and fundamental concepts are being redefined. Driven by fear of unrest, Western governments are increasingly proving themselves willing to secure "peace" and "harmony" at any cost -- even if the price is loss of liberty. As soon as it appears that intolerant forces might protest, riot or divert their collective vote elsewhere, weak and rudderless Western democracies yield and appease, repressing "divisive" or "provocative" elements at the behest of the most belligerent.

And in a "post-Christian" (as distinct from Judeo-Christian) culture, there is nothing as divisive and provocative as the gospel message and righteousness of Christianity.

USA: RELIGIOUS FREEDOM UNDER THREAT
(2 cases to watch)


NOT ALLOWED: WITNESSING TO MUSLIMS IN DEARBORN

For some 15 years now, the city of Dearborn, in Michigan, USA, has hosted an annual Arab International Festival. (Dearborn is around 30 percent Arab.) Christians (mostly Arab Christians) have been witnessing at the Arabfest for years without any troubles, although it has stirred tensions.

In 2009, on account of complaints, a group called 'Arabic Christian Perspective' (ACP) -- led by Californian Pastor George Saieg, an Arab from the Sudan -- agreed to be confined to a booth. The organisers however, greatly limited ACP's ministry by assigning it a booth at the furthest end of the festival.

Arabic Christian Perspective filed a lawsuit in a U.S. District Court in Detroit alleging its rights were violated when Dearborn police told the group its members would not be able to walk freely through the festival's four- to five-block area passing out Christian literature.

ACP's general counsel and Rob Muise of the Thomas More Law Center, believe the case "will shine a light on the grave injustice Christians have experienced in Dearborn. It asks whether Dearborn is a city of tolerant people and fair-minded public officials, or Dearbornistan, a center of dhimmitude where Christians are unwelcome."

Meanwhile, other groups that continued to witness freely at the Arabfest 2009 were harassed and expelled, despite going out of their way to avoid trouble.

See: Arab Festival 2009: Sharia in the US (Youtube)
Acts 17 Apologetics, 30 June 2010

Michigan Police Crack Down on Arab Christians
Opinion by FrontPage Magazine 5 July 2009


This year, on Thursday 17 June 2010, an appeals court overturned the lower court and ruled that George Saieg and the ACP does have the right to distribute Christian literature, but not inside the Arab Festival, only on the perimeter.

On the evening of 18 June, a team from Acts 17 Apologetics Ministries visited the Arabfest. Taking in no Christian literature, Dr. Nabeel Qureshi (the principal apologist) simply wore a t-shirt with the words "Jesus Always Loves You" and waited for curious Muslims to approach him.

Over a period of around 15 minutes, Nabeel had a couple of wonderful conversations before he and his companions -- Paul Rezkalla, David Wood and 18-yr old Afghan convert Miss Negeen Mayel, were arrested by and led away in handcuffs by Dearborn police to cheers and shouts of 'Allahu Akbar'! The four Christians were charged with breaching the peace and held overnight in Dearborn City Jail.

The Acts 17 Apologetics website contains reports, donated photographs, comments and video footage of: 1) the Friday 18 June incident (also on youtube); 2) an interview recorded after the Christians had been bailed from prison; and 3) a subsequent incident/arrest on Sunday 20 June, recorded outside the Arab Festival when police prohibited the distribution of English-Arabic gospels anywhere within a five block radius of the perimeter of the festival.

NOT ALLOWED: CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION FROM IMPOSED SOCIAL NORMS.

In 2004, the University of California's Hastings College of Law in San Francisco deregistered the campus group Christian Legal Society (CLS) after it was deemed to have violated the College's non-discrimination policy with regard to religion and sexual orientation.

For in 2004, CLS amended its bylaws to mandate that members (i.e. those with voting rights and leadership eligibility) must be able to sign a statement of faith and conduct. According to Hastings College, this provision violated the equality rights of practicing homosexuals and non-Christians.

CLS sued Hastings College on the grounds that their non-discrimination policy violated CLS' right to freedom speech and freedom of association, that is, the constitutionally guaranteed freedom to form around shared beliefs.

In April 2006, a federal district court ruled against CLS in favour of Hasting College.

In March 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld that decision.

When the Supreme Court heard CLS' petition on 19 April 2010, the bench was split down the middle.

On the steps of the Supreme Court on Monday 19 April, CLS chapter President Ryan Elder said anyone is welcome to attend the group's meetings, but gays and lesbians, and those who practice or advocate sex outside of marriage, may not be voting members. "If our Christian group is led by people who don't believe in Christianity, then we cease to have a defining voice to express our core religious beliefs," Elder explained.

CLS was represented by Michael W. McConnell, who told the court: "If Hastings is correct, a student who does not even believe in the Bible is entitled to demand to lead a Christian Bible study." McConnell argued that CLS meetings are open to all, including gays. "What it objects to ... is being run by non-Christians," he said.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor worried whether allowing CLS to set its own rules would mean more discrimination against women and minorities.

Conservative justices noted the Hastings policy could lead to turmoil among student groups if people hostile to their purpose join with the predatory intent of disrupting or destroying them. Justice Antonin Scalia expressed concern that, "Under the school's rules, Republicans could join the campus Democratic club and vote themselves control, or otherwise undermine its mission. To require this Christian society to allow atheists not just to join, but to conduct Bible classes...that's crazy."

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg commented that Hastings, by its policy, is merely seeking more diversity within groups.

But as the Wall Street Journal noted, such a policy does not create more diversity, just more groups that that are essentially more the same. "The larger fact is the way that Hastings-style 'tolerance' and 'diversity' are actually making our campuses less tolerant and less diverse. If every college group must admit even those who are hostile to its mission and beliefs, the result is nonsense and conformity." Furthermore, "When a public university makes a decision, it's not simply a policy dispute. It's a public institution using your tax dollars to put a state imprimatur about who is and who is not fit for the public square."

A judgment is expected before the end of June. At stake is the freedom of all US student groups to choose leaders who share their beliefs.

See:
Christian Student Group Takes Case to U.S. Supreme Court
Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service, 15 April 2010

Law school attack on Christian group before Supreme Court today
By J.P Feire, Associate Commentary Editor, Washington Examiner, 19 April 2010

Court Weighs Rights of Campus Religious Groups
By Nina Totenberg, NPR news, 19 April 2010

Justices Joust Over Christian Group's Rights
Dispute Centers on Whether Student Club Can Receive State Funding After Excluding Members Due to Their Beliefs
By Jess Bravin, Wall Street Journal, 20 April 2010

Supreme Court sharply divided on Christian student group case
The Supreme Court heard arguments Monday in the case of a Christian student group that required members to denounce homosexuality. The court appeared split.
By Warren Richey, Staff writer, Christian Science Monitor, April 19, 2010

Supreme Court Hears Religious Students Case
By Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service, Huffington Post, 19 April 2010

Sameness and 'Diversity' on Campus
Wall Street Journal, 20 April 2010
Why a California dean would force a black group to admit white supremacists.

Christian Legal Society v. Martinez (UC Hastings) (CLS official site)

UPDATE:

US SUPREME COURT RULING SERIOUSLY WEAKENS FIRST AMENDMENT

On Monday 28 June, the US Supreme Court (SC) ruled 5-4 against the Christian Legal Society (CLS), upholding the right of Hastings College to withhold registration from groups that discriminate, saying this does not violate the First Amendment. The SC ruling means that public colleges may dictate anti-discrimination policies. Thus the colleges are permitted to deny Christian groups registration and access to funding on the grounds that they are discriminatory if they insist that their voting members and leaders be Christians who practise biblical morality. The SC ruling has seriously weakened the First Amendment.

A CLS claim will now be tested in a lower court that Hastings College has not enforced its policy in a non-discriminatory way, but has targeted CLS because of its politically incorrect views on homosexuality.

See:
Campus Christian groups loses appeal at Supreme Court
By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer, 28 June 2010

Court: Christian group can't bar gays, get funding
Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer, Monday, June 28, 2010

Christian Legal Society Loses in Supreme Court Case
Group must allow leaders who disagree with its statement of faith.
Ted Olsen and Trevor Persaud 28 June 2010

Supreme Court's CLS decision Sucker-Punches First Amendment
Huffington Post 28 June 2010

Family Research Council Opposes Supreme Court Decision in CLS v. Martinez
Statement from Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, 28 June 2010

'It is God's manner to make men . . . to see their miserable condition as they are in themselves, and to despair of help from themselves, or from an arm of flesh, before he appears for them. . .' (Great Awakening preacher, Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758). From a sermon on Hosea 5:15)
From Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin 061, USA: Religious Freedom Under Threat.