First Amendment Freedoms on Trial -- in America
“Religion and morality alone . . . can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand.” -- John Adams (1776)
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The Declaration of Independence (1776)
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech ….”First Amendment to the Constitution (1791)
Faced with numerous challenges to our freedoms of speech and religion, VFF Deputy Director Rita Dunaway recently went before the Ohio Supreme Court to defend a public school teacher who had been terminated for encouraging his students to carefully examine the evidence for and against theories of evolution and creation. The court has not yet ruled on the case, but you can watch her riveting argument, click here and see the video.
Now, in responding to yet another one of many attacks on our freedoms of religion and speech, Rita is filing an amicus brief today (Friday) before the U.S. Supreme Court in defense of a Town Council in New York that has historically invited members of the clergy to offer an invocation at its monthly meetings. However, a federal court has ruled that such a policy is unconstitutional, and it is that ruling that is now under appeal with the Supreme Court.
A licensed attorney with ten years of experience in defending religious liberty cases, Rita has prepared a truly remarkable brief on this case in her position as Vice President for Public Policy of the Virginia Christian Alliance. She provides some background for us, as follows:
“Despite the fact that our Founding Fathers regularly and openly called on God to grant them wisdom and to bless our budding Nation, modern American courts have embraced interpretations of the First Amendment that fly in the face of this rich religious heritage.
“According to many federal judges, any word or action of a government official that can be seen as ‘endorsing’ religion is a violation of the First Amendment. The sad result of this unmooring of the Bill of Rights from its history is that today, every level of government is being systematically sterilized of Christian references.
“The United States Supreme Court has recently taken up a case that will hold critical, long-lasting implications on this issue. The Court will decide whether the Second Circuit Court of Appeals was correct in striking down the invocation policy of the Town of Greece, New York.
“While the town’s policy was a model of fairness and neutrality, allowing any willing clergy member to offer an invocation at the town’s monthly meeting on a rotating basis, the Second Circuit held that it was nonetheless an unconstitutional ‘establishment’ of religion because most of the prayer-givers who chose to participate were from Christian churches.
“In other words, even though the town remained officially neutral toward religion, it may no longer open its meetings with invocations because bystanders might mistakenly think that minority religions are disfavored.”
The Supreme Court’s decision in this case will affect the cause of religious liberty for generations to come, and Rita has made a compelling argument for why it should reverse the lower court’s decision. The Forum is proud to be included on the front page of the brief as a named “Friend of the Court”, along with other like-minded groups and VA legislators.
However, we should not expect her to stand alone. While the cause for freedom is priceless, the effort to defend it is not. As one might expect, preparing and filing this complex brief is an enormous and expensive undertaking. Rita has invested heavily of her time, talent, and treasure in researching and developing the brief, along with help from Don Blake, President of the Virginia Christian Alliance – but all on a voluntary basis.
Therefore, they are requesting help to meet expenses with a donation of $100, $500, $1,000 or more. Everyone who does so will receive a personalized “Certificate of Participation”. In addition, those making a more substantial investment will receive an exact copy of this superb document as presented to the Supreme Court.
Our gifts, no matter how small, will also help Rita and VCA in their ongoing efforts to engage our culture and our government on these and other important issues. Simply make your checks payable to the Virginia Christian Alliance with a note on the memo line for “Amicus Brief”, and send them to the Forum at 3465 Izaak Walton Dr., Harrisonburg, VA 22801 to be passed on to VCA. All gifts are tax-deductible.
As a member of the VCA Board of Directors, and on behalf of Rita and of VCA, I want to thank you in advance for your support. We will keep you informed as the case progresses.
With Warm Regards -- For God, For Country, and For Liberty,
Dean Welty (right) serves on the Board of Directors for the Virginia Christian Alliance and is Director of the Valley Family Forum, a network of families in the Shenandoah Valley that helps build Faith, Family, and Freedom in the culture and in the public square. He also hosts a weekly television program entitled "Valley Faith in Action".
Valley Faith in Action airs at 8:00 p.m. on Friday and at 8:30 p.m. Sunday on WAZT-TV, which is Comcast Cable Channel 13 in the Harrisonburg area. It will air again at Wednesday midnight. You can also access it and other recent programs by clicking HERE.