11/1/2007 - November 2007 SLI Newsletter
Religious liberty is again in the news. There have been two noteworthy recent events. Both deal with religious speech. First, the Contra Costa County Public Library in California denied a local church use of one of its public meeting rooms for a worship service. The room was in a public building and had been made available to members of the public who wished to use it for various "educational, cultural and community-related meetings, programs and activities." However, when the church used it for a service of prayer, praise and worship, permission was revoked.
The federal district court followed U.S. Supreme Court precedent and held it was an unconstitutional "viewpoint discrimination," and worship should be permitted. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that "mere worship" was not as protected as other religious speech and denied use of the public room. Faith Center Church v. Glover, No. 05-16132 (9th Cir. 2007). The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case. 2007 WL 1668585. Folks living in the Ninth Circuit, viz., California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho, Nevada and Arizona, will follow a different law than the rest of the country.
This case is not unlike the one SLI had several years ago against the Verbena Board of Education when it refused churches the opportunity to use a public school auditorium for a baccalaureate exercise. The court supported us and required the Board to let us use the auditorium, since other members of the public could.
On another front, the U.S. Senate passed hate crime legislation to include sexual orientation. That is, an additional sentence can be handed out if a crime is motivated by the victim's sexual orientation. Federal hate crime law already includes race, religion, color or national origin. Most of us feel that any criminal act is motivated by hate and it is not necessary to put a politically correct label on our motivation.
The homosexuals have been trying to get this legislation passed for quite sometime. If this were to become law, those who speak against homosexual conduct could be prosecuted under federal law. If a minister proclaims the perverse sinfulness of homosexuality from his pulpit and then a member of the congregation commits a crime against a homosexual, the minister could be prosecuted. Supporters of the bill deny this. But, would that be more incredible than not being able to worship in a public facility in California?
Religious speech, whether it is holding a "mere worship" service or whether it is condemning a sin in a worship service, must be protected. Our religion is the basis for our morality. If we are not permitted to publicly state that morality, it diminishes us. SLI is pleased to have been involved in such issues in Alabama.
This month's Educational Update concerns a positive development in one of those areas where our morality dictates. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against the expansion of Indian gambling. This can have a significant impact on gambling in Alabama.
Finally, we again remind you we are approaching the end of the year. Many of you will be making your end of the year financial gifts which are tax deductible to you. Please remember SLI and our needs. All gifts to us are tax deductible to you and are not taxable to us.
Yours very truly,
A. Eric Johnston
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