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Posts Tagged ‘first amendment’
June 7, 2016 5

Governor Urges Iowans to Attend Bible Marathons

Iowa Gov­er­nor, Terry E. Bran­stand, recently issued a reli­giously divi­sive and likely uncon­sti­tu­tional procla­ma­tion urg­ing all Iowans to attend state-wide Bible read­ing marathons orga­nized by Christian-based groups.

Iowa gov proclamationDeclar­ing “the Bible … as the one true rev­e­la­tion from God, show­ing the way of Sal­va­tion, Truth, and Life …,” the procla­ma­tion states that the Governor:

… encourage[s] all Iowans to join in this his­tor­i­cal 99 County Bible Read­ing Marathon to take place June 30th through July 3rd, 2016 in front of all 99 cour­t­houses and fur­ther­more, encour­ages indi­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies in Iowa to read through the Bible on a daily basis each year until the Lord comes.

Read­ing the Bible gives many Amer­i­cans guid­ance, strength and com­fort.  And it is com­pletely appro­pri­ate for clergy and other reli­gious lead­ers to call on con­gre­gants to read the Bible.  The Gov­er­nor, how­ever, should not be pro­mot­ing such activities.

This procla­ma­tion divides Iowans along reli­gious lines within and out­side the Chris­t­ian faith.  As a start­ing point, there are numer­ous ver­sions of the Chris­t­ian Bible.  So which ver­sion is the right one for Iowans read?  Undoubt­edly, the procla­ma­tion also sends a mes­sage of exclu­sion and mar­gin­al­iza­tion to Iowans who are not Chris­t­ian or are of no faith.

The Governor’s action is a good illus­tra­tion for why the First Amend­ment pro­hibits gov­ern­ment from pre­fer­ring one faith or reli­gion more gen­er­ally.   Offi­cial reli­gious par­tial­ity erodes non-adherents’ trust in gov­ern­ment treat­ing them fairly and in the most extreme cases can coerce adop­tion of a par­tic­u­lar faith based on the belief that it will result in favor­able treatment.

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September 3, 2015 11

Public Officials: If Your Religion Prevents You From Doing Your Job, Step Aside

Many of us make impor­tant deci­sions in our daily lives grounded in our reli­gious val­ues and beliefs. That should be respected, even per­haps, applauded. How­ever when one chooses to take an oath of office or accepts a posi­tion as a pub­lic offi­cial in a sec­u­lar con­sti­tu­tional democ­racy like ours, she has a respon­si­bil­ity to do the job she was hired to do. Rowan County Ken­tucky Clerk Kim Davis’s job requires her to issue mar­riage licenses to any­one who may legally get married.

LGBT Zip code

On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court for­mally rec­og­nized the dig­nity of les­bian, gay, bisex­ual and trans­gen­der peo­ple when it extended the free­dom to marry to same-sex cou­ples nation­wide. The Court ruled that the Con­sti­tu­tion for­bids states to ban mar­riage for same-sex cou­ples. Since the deci­sion, a small minor­ity of pub­lic offi­cials, most notably Ms. Davis, have argued that they should be exempt from hav­ing to issue mar­riage licenses to same-sex cou­ples, cit­ing their sin­cerely held reli­gious beliefs. The Supreme Court dis­agrees, and yet Davis con­tin­ues to defy the Court by deny­ing same-sex cou­ples mar­riage licenses. Now, she and, at her direc­tive, her staff, are refus­ing to issue mar­riage licenses mak­ing it impos­si­ble for any­one to obtain a mar­riage license in that county.

No one should ques­tion or chal­lenge Ms. Davis’s reli­gious beliefs. The fact that some news arti­cles and com­men­ta­tors have crit­i­cized Davis’s beliefs as incon­sis­tent or hyp­o­crit­i­cal is beside the point. The bot­tom line is that she has no right, con­sti­tu­tional or oth­er­wise, to refuse to do the job the state of Ken­tucky pays her to do.

The real­ity, as ADL’s ami­cus brief argued, is that over­turn­ing mar­riage bans ensures that reli­gious con­sid­er­a­tions do not improp­erly influ­ence which mar­riages the state can rec­og­nize, but still allows reli­gious groups to decide the def­i­n­i­tion of mar­riage for them­selves. That remains true. Rab­bis, priests, min­is­ters can­not be com­pelled to par­tic­i­pate in mar­riages of which they do not approve. Reli­gions are not required to sol­em­nize any kind of mar­riage they don’t want to rec­og­nize. How­ever, that does not mean that gov­ern­ment employ­ees may aban­don their duties nor may they seek to impose their reli­gious beliefs on oth­ers by inter­fer­ing with their con­sti­tu­tional right to marry.

If Ms. Davis or oth­ers feel that they can­not ful­fill the duties they were selected to per­form, they should step aside and allow oth­ers to serve the community.

A 501(c)(3) non­profit orga­ni­za­tion, ADL nei­ther sup­ports nor opposes any can­di­date for polit­i­cal office.

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June 3, 2015 2

Governor Haley’s Ill-Considered Participation in Mass Prayer Rally

South Car­olina Gov­er­nor Nikki Haley is pro­mot­ing and par­tic­i­pat­ing in a June 13th Chris­t­ian prayer rally called “The Response: a call to prayer for our nation.”  She regret­tably is fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of for­mer Texas Gov­er­nor Perry who back in 2011 was a keynote speaker at sim­i­lar event bear­ing the same name and attended by 30,000.  Gov­er­nor Haley’s involve­ment in this event is not only deeply insen­si­tive to many of her con­stituents, but vio­lates the spirit if not the let­ter of the Constitution.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley

South Car­olina Gov­er­nor Nikki Haley

Accord­ing to The Response web-site,

Amer­ica is now in such a state of cri­sis … and the root is not to be found in polit­i­cal agen­das, eco­nomic dol­drums, crime rates, or ter­ror­ist threats, as many believe. Our coun­try is in cri­sis because we are a peo­ple who are no longer hon­or­ing God in our pros­per­ity or humbly call­ing on Him in our predica­ments. The Response is com­mit­ted to acti­vat­ing a return to prayer by those with con­trite hearts, to pro­vide wit­ness that the Church is tak­ing a stand for right­eous­ness and ask­ing God for His mercy on the land we love.

It fur­ther states that although “… every­one is wel­come to come and join us in prayer, the focus of the prayer will be unashamedly Chris­t­ian. The only name that will be lifted up will be the name of Jesus Christ.” ADL sup­ports every American’s right to pray and fol­low the reli­gious beliefs of his or her choos­ing, includ­ing Gov­er­nor Haley’s.  But the found­ing fathers knew that the best way to pro­tect these fun­da­men­tal rights is to make sure that our elected offi­cials and rep­re­sen­ta­tive gov­ern­ment would not impose one reli­gion over another or any reli­gion at all. Gov­er­nor Haley was elected to lead a reli­giously diverse con­stituency.  But her offi­cial par­tic­i­pa­tion in The Response and encour­age­ment of oth­ers to attend this event are deeply divi­sive.  It con­veys a dis­tinct mes­sage to non-Christians that they are out­siders.  Such offi­cial actions that divide Amer­i­cans along reli­gious lines are not a pro­duc­tive way to address our nation’s prob­lems. The genius of the First Amend­ment is that reli­gion in all its diver­sity has thrived in Amer­ica because gov­ern­ment is required to keep its dis­tance from it.   Gov­er­nor Haley would be wise to fol­low this essen­tial prin­ci­ple by recon­sid­er­ing her par­tic­i­pa­tion in The Response. As a 501(c )(3) non-profit orga­ni­za­tion, the Anti-Defamation League does not sup­port or oppose can­di­dates for polit­i­cal office.

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