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Religion & Law

First Amendment Center: Religious Liberty First Amendment Center: Religious Liberty

News related to religious liberty.
By First Amendment Center

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Last Entry: March 23, 2011 at 21:00:00

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Shariah hysteria: unwarranted, unconstitutional

Posted on March 23, 2011
In my last column, I sounded an alarm about rise of Islamophobia in the United States, calling attempts in various states to pass anti-Shariah legislation an attack on religious freedom. That inspired a good number of irate readers to sound their own alarm about what they view as my nave and dangerous dismissal of the threat Shariah (Islamic law) poses to the United States...

The truth about Muslims in America

Posted on March 09, 2011
Throughout our history, the United States has endured periodic outbreaks of fear and hysteria ? from the Red Scare to the Yellow Peril. To that ignoble list, we can now add the ?Muslim Menace.? Echoing ?takeover? rhetoric from the past (communists in government, Asians in the workplace), demagogues and anti-Islam groups are using legitimate concerns about homegrown terrorism as an opportunity to stir fears of a stealth Muslim takeover of the United States...

Ind. law on church burglary ruled constitutional

Posted on February 27, 2011
Comment? E-mail me An Indiana burglary law that increases punishments for those who break into religious buildings does not violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment, an Indiana appeals court has ruled. In October 2009, Joshua Burke and two other individuals burglarized and vandalized the True Gospel Assembly Church in Indianapolis...

Arraignment in chapel ruled 'harmless error'

Posted on February 26, 2011
Holding court proceedings in a prison chapel violates the establishment clause, a Texas state appeals court ruled recently ? but it deemed the error harmless and did not require reversing the guilty plea of a defendant who was arraigned there. Conrad Lilly, who was facing charges for assaulting a public servant, was arraigned in the French Robertson Unit Chapel of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Jones County, Texas...

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For pro-democracy revolutions, democracy is not enough

Posted on February 24, 2011
The revolutions sweeping across Northern Africa and the Middle East could mark the beginning of a historic advance for democratic freedom ? ranking in significance with such milestones of liberty as the American Revolution of 1776 and the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991...

County can uphold religious freedom by taking Commandments down

Posted on January 29, 2011
It?s not every day that a school board votes unanimously to ignore legal advice, defy Supreme Court precedent and invite litigation. But that?s exactly what happened earlier this month in Giles County, Va., when members of the board ordered school administrators to hang the Ten Commandments on the walls of the county?s five public schools...

Va. legislator targets Sunday hunting ban

Posted on January 19, 2011
Comment? E-mail me It will be lawful to hunt wild animals and birds on Sundays in Virginia if a measure recently introduced in the General Assembly passes. Legislator Mark L. Keam introduced H.B. 2442 on Jan. 19. It would eliminate the state law against hunting on Sunday...

On Religious Freedom Day, glimmers of hope in sea of despair

Posted on January 15, 2011
Each Jan. 16, Americans are supposed to celebrate Religious Freedom Day, our least known, most neglected national holiday ? except, perhaps, for the even more obscure Bill of Rights Day widely ignored every Dec. 15. If people did pay attention, they might not find much to celebrate...

A Tennessee mosque, a good American story

Posted on December 30, 2010
The No. 1 religion story of 2010 was the emotional, often ugly debate over plans for an Islamic center two blocks from ground zero in Manhattan, according to Religion Newswriters Association members ? and just about everyone else making a list. Not far behind was the media-driven obsession with the Florida pastor who got more than his 15 minutes of fame by dangling the threat of Quran-burning before eager reporters camped outside his church...

Religious rights aren't conferred by majority rule

Posted on December 20, 2010
Comment? E-mail me When we?re in the majority, we generally get our way ? from the playground to Congress. But our basic rights as citizens don?t depend on having one more vote or legislative seat than someone else. There?s no ?51% clause? in the Constitution or Bill of Rights...

To end Christmas wars, separate secular from sacred

Posted on December 18, 2010
Oklahoma Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe singlehandedly breathed life into the flagging ?war on Christmas? debate when he announced earlier this month that he wouldn?t ride his horse in the Tulsa Holiday Parade of Lights this year ? something he has done for decades...

Does God make a difference?

Posted on December 04, 2010
?American education proceeds on the assumption that God is either dead or irrelevant.? So argues philosopher Warren Nord in a provocative new book, Does God Make a Difference?, published by Oxford University Press. Conventional wisdom in public schools and universities, Nord claims, is that students ?can learn everything they need to know about any subject (other than history and literature) without learning anything about religion...

Thanking God for a touchdown: 15 yards

Posted on December 02, 2010
TUMWATER, Wash. ? The organization that governs high school football in Washington is reviewing a ref's decision to penalize a player for dropping to his knee in the end zone to thank God for the touchdown. Tumwater High's Ronnie Hastie scored the TD on Nov...

Sharia fear-mongering threatens religious freedom

Posted on November 20, 2010
Much of the news media seemed bemused or bewildered when Sharron Angle warned of an Islamic-law takeover in America during her unsuccessful bid to unseat Sen. Harry Reid. Angle was widely ridiculed for citing Frankford, Texas (a town that no longer exists), and Dearborn, Mich...

Misusing religion to bash opponents - and win votes

Posted on October 23, 2010
Thomas Jefferson may be an iconic Founder today, but in the 1800 presidential campaign he was widely condemned for being an "atheist in religion and a fanatic in politics" who (it was rumored) had a secret plan to confiscate all the Bibles in the land...

O'Donnell's church-state question provides teachable moment

Posted on October 19, 2010
Editor's note: This article originally appeared on Yahoo News. Sometimes political debates generate light as well as heat. Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell's question "Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?" in an exchange yesterday over teaching creationism in public schools tells us something about her but also reminds us of how often America's bedrock principles on government and religion are misunderstood...

First Amendment includes separation of church and state

Posted on October 19, 2010
Editor?s note: This commentary originally appeared Oct. 19 on The Washington Post?s Web site. Reprinted by permission. The phrase ?separation of church and state,? once a widely shared article of civic faith in the United States, has become a flash point for culture-war debates over the role of religion in American public life...

Why religious literacy matters

Posted on October 09, 2010
Twenty-first century America is the most religiously diverse society on earth and ? among developed countries ? one of the most religious. But how much do inhabitants of our faith-saturated land actually know about religion? Not very much, according to a new survey released by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life on Sept...

Facing faith in American public schools

Posted on September 27, 2010
Editor?s note: This commentary originally appeared Sept. 27 on The Washington Post?s Web site. Reprinted by permission. Beginning this fall, students in Jodi Ide?s class at Brighton High School will go beyond textbook discussions of world religions and engage directly with students in Pakistan, India and elsewhere who actually practice the faith traditions covered in the curriculum...

Separating church from state, fact from fiction

Posted on September 25, 2010
When Glen Urquhart told a candidates? forum last April that Adolf Hitler, not Thomas Jefferson, coined the phrase ?separation of church and state,? he probably didn?t anticipate that his bizarre take on history would be disseminated to the world on YouTube ? just in time for the fall campaign...

N.H. high court: Sex offender can't attend church

Posted on September 19, 2010
CONCORD, N.H. — The New Hampshire Supreme Court has denied a sex offender?s request that he be allowed to attend church with a chaperone. Jonathan Perfetto of Manchester was convicted of possessing child pornography and released from prison in 2008...

Federal judge dismisses challenge to hate-crimes law

Posted on September 15, 2010
Comment? E-mail me A federal judge in Michigan has dismissed a lawsuit by several Christian advocates and pastors who filed an array of constitutional challenges to the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which President Barack Obama signed into law last October...

N.C. high school, teen at odds over nose ring

Posted on September 15, 2010
RALEIGH, N.C. — A soft-spoken 14-year-old?s nose piercing has landed her a suspension from school and forced her into the middle of a fight over her First Amendment right to exercise her religion. Ariana Iacono says she just wants to be a normal teenager at Clayton High School, about 15 miles southeast of Raleigh...

Remembering 9/11: the good, the bad and the ugly

Posted on September 08, 2010
It won?t generate headlines ? or make ?breaking news? on cable networks ? but on Sept. 11 tens of thousands of Americans will fan out into their communities to run food drives, repair schools, refurbish neighborhoods and perform many other acts of service to honor those who lost their lives on 9/11...

Wielding the 'God weapon' poisons the body politic

Posted on September 01, 2010
Editor?s note: This commentary originally appeared Aug. 31 on The Washington Post?s Web site. Reprinted by permission. In the wake of his weekend rally, Glenn Beck kept up the drumbeat of criticism about President Obama's religion, calling it a "perversion" and saying that America "isn't recognizing his version of Christianity," which Beck characterized as "liberation theology...

Am I also a bigot? Pols clueless on ground zero mosque

Posted on August 27, 2010
Published with the permission of Nat Hentoff. May be linked to but not republished without Hentoff's permission. Originally posted by Jewish World Review on Aug. 25. The angry national debate over Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf's intention to build a mosque two blocks north of the horror of 9/11 at ground zero has been further fueled by supporter Nancy Pelosi declaring, "I join those who have called for looking into how ? this opposition to the mosque is being funded...

A defining moment for religious liberty in America

Posted on August 26, 2010
The angry and increasingly ugly debate over a proposed Islamic center in Lower Manhattan ? misleadingly dubbed the ?ground zero mosque? by the news media ? raises troubling questions about the future of religious liberty in the United States. An astonishing one-third of the American public, including 53% who identify as Republicans, believe that Muslims do not have the constitutional right to build a mosque at the proposed site, according to a poll released this month by The Economist...

Soldiers say they were punished for skipping Christian concert

Posted on August 22, 2010
RICHMOND, Va. — The Army said Aug. 20 it was investigating a claim that dozens of soldiers who refused to attend a Christian band?s concert at a Virginia military base were banished to their barracks and told to clean them up. Fort Eustis spokesman Rick Haverinen told the Associated Press he couldn?t comment on the specifics of the investigation...

Giuliani supports moving mosque farther from WTC site

Posted on August 19, 2010
NEW YORK ? Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani yesterday joined a growing number of politicians supporting a move of a proposed Islamic center and mosque near ground zero to state-owned land farther from the Sept. 11 attack site. Giuliani, who led New Yorkers through Sept...

Islamophobia threatens religious freedom

Posted on August 18, 2010
Editor?s note: This commentary originally appeared Aug. 17 on The Washington Post?s Web site. Reprinted by permission. President Obama, after saying that building a mosque at ground zero fit our ?commitment to religious freedom,? backtracked, saying he wasn?t commenting on the ?wisdom? of building it so close to ?hallowed ground...

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