Family Research Council

November 05, 2013 - Tuesday

Greece Asks Court to Pray It Forward

The U.S. Supreme Court has had its share of difficult cases lately -- but tomorrow's shouldn't be one of them. For the first time in 30 years, the justices will be hearing arguments in a case that could change the way Americans look at religious liberty forever. With the chisel of political correctness slowly chipping away at the First Amendment, this is the Court's best chance to beat back the attack -- not just on legislative prayers, but all religious speech and expression.

This latest flare-up started in the sleepy town of Greece, New York, where members kick off the Town Board meetings with prayer. And while the policy was wholly inclusive, Christian prayers were the most popular. Despite the town's efforts to recruit other faith groups, only four of the 127 invocations were offered by non-Christians. A local resident, Susan Galloway, decided the tradition was offensive and petitioned the Board to stop praying altogether.

The town refused, telling Galloway that if she objected, she was free to wait in the hallway until the invocation was over. Instead, Galloway waited in the office of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, which agreed to sue the city all the way to the Supreme Court. In the latest round of appeals, the Second Circuit actually sided with Galloway, ruling that "...such a 'steady drumbeat' of Christian invocations violates the Constitution's prohibition against government endorsement of religion."

But that "steady drumbeat" was no fault of the town's, which encouraged a Jewish man, a Wiccan priestess, and even a local Baha'i chairman to join in the tradition. Apparently, some courts seem to think that Christians should be punished because other faiths don't take advantage of the opportunities afforded them. Even President Obama sees the ridiculousness in that.

In five years, conservatives can count on one hand the number of times the White House has agreed with us on core issues -- and this happens to be one of them. In a move that surprised both sides of the debate, the President didn't just weigh in on this case -- he weighed in on the side of prayer. "Courts should not parse or evaluate the content of prayer," wrote the U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli in a special brief to the justices.

Tomorrow, with 239 years of First Amendment freedoms in the balance, the Court will also have the benefit of knowing where a significant portion of Congress stands on the matter. Adding to the chorus of 34 pro-prayer senators, FRC's Ken Klukowski authored a brief on behalf of 85 House members who all agree: if the Second Circuit's ruling were correct, then Congress would have been violating the Constitution for more than two centuries. Even the Supreme Court, where this very case will be heard, starts every session with "God save the United States and this Honorable Court!"

What happens Wednesday could shape the future of religious liberty across the country -- from the federal government to your local town council. So pray -- publicly! -- that the Supreme Court sides with America's First Freedom!

ENDA: Up Clothes and Personal

The U.S. Senate is on the verge of making history -- and not in a good way. For the first time in more than 20 years of debate, members voted to bring a bill to the floor that tells businesses how to operate and what to believe. Seven Republicans joined the movement to take freedom out of the workplace and inject the Left's twisted views of sexuality into everything from dress code policies to promotional decisions.

By a 61-30 margin, the Senate cleared the last hurdle between the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and final passage before heading to the House. Unlike dozens of other versions, this bill takes the radical agenda a step farther by including "gender identity" as a protected class under the law. According to 61 U.S. Senators, American schools, organizations, companies, and charities would have to swallow their concerns about safety, profits, and future business and not only encourage men to dress like women (and vice-versa) at work -- but make special accommodations for them to do so.

As far as Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) are concerned, U.S. businesses should be punished for not taking a person's sex life into consideration when making employee decisions. "It shall be unlawful," the bill explains, "for any employer -- to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to the compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment of the individual, because of such individual's actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity." To these 61 senators, it doesn't matter if you work with small children, have religious objections, or stand to lose significant business -- the entire marketplace needs to bow to the agenda of 3.4% of the population, or else.

Fortunately, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has better sense than that, and all but assured Americans that his chamber would fight for the rights of U.S. businesses. "We have always believed this is covered by existing law," the aide said, adding that it is "not a new issue or a new position -- it's a longstanding position, and, frankly, not 'news' at all. This has been his position, on the record, for years, stated publicly many times."

Republican Study Committee Chairman Steve Scalise (R-La.) backed up the House's top leader, saying "With a weak economy still struggling under the weight of President Obama's burdensome agenda, we need to focus on common-sense solutions to get our economy back on track rather than legislation like ENDA that will encourage increased litigation and cause even more job losses." As far as these conservatives are concerned, that might put them on the wrong side of a powerful lobby -- but it puts them on the right side of freedom.

The Great Divorce?

Marriage is one of the hottest topics in politics -- but most of the attention has been on defining the institution, not saving it. For American society to thrive, the culture needs to put the emphasis back where it belongs: on preventing divorce. While people worry about the fallout of failed marriages -- like poverty, lower educational outcomes, and increased delinquency in children -- little focus is paid to the role divorce plays in many of these problems. Families are torn in two, children grow up without a stable home or with a missing mother or father, and the legal system strongly encourages breakdown of marriage through policies such as no-fault divorce.

Tomorrow, November 6, at noon FRC is assembling a panel of experts who have worked to stop this cultural epidemic and to encourage couples to remain faithful to the sacred vow "'til death do us part." Join us at FRC headquarters (801 G Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001) as Dr. Hilary Towers, a developmental psychologist and mother of five children, Mike McManus, Co-Chair of Marriage Savers, and Beverly Willett, a nonfiction writer, attorney, and co-founder and Co-Chair of the Coalition for Divorce Reform, talk about what you can do to help stem the tide of divorce in America.

** There were a few familiar faces at Tennessee's Amendment 1 rally yesterday, as FRC Action's Josh Duggar and family turned out with 3,000 other pro-lifers. The "Yes on 1" campaign kicks off a year-long push to add this language to the Volunteer State's Constitution: "Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion." To read more about the Duggars tour through Tennessee, check out the USA Today article here.

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

More Washington Updates »