September 11, 2018
The tide is turning, but the waves of opposition to religious freedom and the freedom of expression are still lapping up onto the public square. It's a reminder that without vigilance and support from groups dedicated to protecting these First-Amendment rights, they will eventually be overcome by the aggressive, unrelenting attacks of those who despise America's Christian heritage. The area most prone to the inundation of these attacks is our public schools, colleges, and universities.
Students for Life at Ball State University, for instance, were recently denied funding for an activity meant to provide educational resources to other students who were pregnant or parenting, solely because of what the organization stood for. The university, through the Student Activity Fee Committee, claimed that it had to deny funding requests for "[a]ny Organization which engages in activities, advocacy, or speech in order to advance a particular political interest, religious faith, or ideology." But apparently that only applied to views the school didn't agree with because the Committee awarded funds to other groups that advocated for abortion and abortifacients, hosted events like "God is Dead: Life without Religion," and advocated "for the social affirmation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, and questioning lifestyles." The students sued and the university ultimately agreed to a settlement requiring a change in the policy. I thank God for young people that are not afraid to stand firm for the truth. They're an example of what boldness and courage produces -- the freedom to believe!
Elsewhere, at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, a paralegal student filed suit against the college after security stopped her from handing out Valentine's Day cards that contained comments like "Jesus loves you! Romans 5:8" and "You are special! 1 John 4:11." The college justified its actions based on its Public Assembly Policy. She challenged the policy on the grounds that it violates her right to free speech. We will watch to see how this case plays out in the courts.
Back in my home state of Louisiana, Bossier Parish has been targeted again by the anti-Christian group, Americans United for Separation of Church and State. This time, they threatened Benton High School with a lawsuit for allowing a local Christian owned business to be a booster club sponsor and have their company name and logo on the football field. The issue was the name of the company: Christ Fit Gym. The company paid $3,500 to feature its advertisement, which displays its Christ-bearing name, its cross-bearing logo, and a citation to the Bible. Legal counsel for the school board advised that it had received a challenge to the logo for being an "improper endorsement of religion." Christ Fit Gym, which has advertised its business at the high school for years, received a temporary restraining order to prevent the censoring of its advertisement. Unfortunately, school officials had already reacted to the threat and spray painted over the logo. Perhaps uncoincidentally, the threat by American's United follows a separate lawsuit filed against Bossier Parish schools for unconstitutionally promoting religion.
Despite the game of whack-a-mole we seem to be playing with those who can't stand the idea of religious expression in the public square, we should be heartened by the courage of those standing up for their rights in these lawsuits. The Benton High School football players instructed to paint over the company's logo said it best. After the boys "just told the coaches we wouldn't do it," one took to social media and wrote that "You have to stand up for Christ no matter what." Well said. The best defense is a good offense. If we want to defend our rights -- free speech and religious freedom -- then let's use them!
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.