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August 9, 2016 Off

Key Supporter Of After-School Religious Clubs Ironically Says Satanic Temple Can Be Barred 

Recently, The Satanic Tem­ple announced that it plans start­ing after school clubs for the com­ing school year and sent let­ters to a num­ber of pub­lic school dis­tricts advis­ing them of its inten­tions.   Under a 2001 U.S. Supreme Court rul­ing, K-12 pub­lic schools must allow these clubs if they allow sec­u­lar com­mu­nity groups to use their facil­i­ties.  But a key sup­porter of the 2001 deci­sion and after-school access for Chris­t­ian “Good News Clubs” erro­neously disagrees.

Wikipedia images

Wikipedia images

In its Good News Clubs v. Mil­ford Cen­tral School deci­sion, the Supreme Court ruled that pub­lic schools must treat reli­gious and sec­u­lar com­mu­nity groups on the same terms and con­di­tions in after-school access to facil­i­ties.  So if a school allows a sec­u­lar group to use its facil­i­ties, it must do the same for reli­gious groups.

Firmly believ­ing that pro­vid­ing after-school access to reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions con­sti­tutes uncon­sti­tu­tional endorse­ment of reli­gion, ADL in 2000 filed a friend-of-the-court brief with  the U.S Supreme Court oppos­ing such access. How­ever, this deci­sion remains the law of the land.  Fif­teen years later, numer­ous Good News Clubs oper­ate in our nation’s pub­lic ele­men­tary and mid­dle schools.

Lib­erty Coun­sel, a self-described Chris­t­ian min­istry “ded­i­cated to advanc­ing reli­gious free­dom, the sanc­tity of life, and the fam­ily,” is an active defender the 2001 deci­sion and legally rep­re­sents Good News Clubs across the coun­try.   But it now erro­neously claims that pub­lic schools can bar The Satanic Tem­ple clubs, which Lib­erty Coun­sel char­ac­ter­izes as “not legit­i­mate,” while per­mit­ting Good News and other reli­gious clubs.   The schools would be wise not to fol­low this advice. They are con­sti­tu­tion­ally barred from determing whether a reli­gion is “legit­i­mate,” and pick­ing and choos­ing among reli­gions.  Rather, they can either allow or deny all com­mu­nity groups both sec­u­lar and religious.

This issue is a clear reminder that reli­gious free­dom in Amer­ica is for all faiths and why the Good News deci­sion remains prob­lem­atic.  The intro­duc­tion of orga­nized reli­gious activ­i­ties in pub­lic schools is reli­giously divi­sive and risks reli­gious coer­cion.  For these rea­sons, ADL believes that con­sti­tu­tion­ally– man­dated sep­a­ra­tion of church and state must be most robust in our nation’s pub­lic schools.  Although this belief may be dis­taste­ful to some, this posi­tion is not one of hos­til­ity towards reli­gion.  Rather, it reflects a pro­found respect for reli­gious free­dom and recog­ni­tion of the extra­or­di­nary diver­sity of faiths and reli­gious beliefs rep­re­sented in our nation’s pub­lic schools.

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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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May 23, 2016 8

Defense Authorization Act Moves Forward With Discriminatory Provision

Congress standing

Last week, the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives passed the National Defense Autho­riza­tion Act for 2017 (“NDAA”), inclu­sive of a broad, dis­crim­i­na­tory pro­vi­sion spon­sored by Rep. Steve Rus­sell (R-OK). This pro­vi­sion, offered in the name of “reli­gious free­dom,” would allow reli­giously affil­i­ated fed­eral con­trac­tors and grantees to dis­crim­i­nate against women, any reli­gious group, and LGBT peo­ple with tax­payer dollars.

Dur­ing House’s debate on the NDAA, Rep. Sean Mal­oney (D-NY) offered a nar­row­ing amend­ment which would have pro­tected the Obama Administration’s ban on LGBT dis­crim­i­na­tion in fed­eral con­tract­ing. That amend­ment failed on chaotic 212–213 vote dur­ing which Repub­li­can lead­ers took the extra­or­di­nary step of allow­ing vot­ing to con­tinue after time had expired and pres­sured a hand­ful of their Mem­bers to change their votes.

The Anti-Defamation League was one of 84 civil rights and reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions that sub­mit­ted a coali­tion let­ter to Con­gress in oppo­si­tion to the Rus­sell Amendment.

Reli­giously affil­i­ated groups his­tor­i­cally have played an impor­tant role in address­ing many of our nation’s most press­ing social needs, as a com­ple­ment to government-funded pro­grams.   How­ever, faith-based groups should not use tax­payer dol­lars to dis­crim­i­nate on the basis of reli­gion.  And no one should be dis­qual­i­fied from a job under a fed­eral con­tract or grant because of his or her sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, gen­der, gen­der iden­tity, or religion.

The Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee has approved its ver­sion of the NDAA with­out the Rus­sell Amend­ment.  Mov­ing for­ward, ADL and our coali­tion part­ners will con­tinue to oppose the Rus­sell Amend­ment and advo­cate for its exclu­sion from the final ver­sion of the NDAA.

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