Wednesday, April 21, 2010

US Supreme Court: Religious Freedom or Discrimination?

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Are atheists entitled to lead a Bible study?

Are racist skinheads entitled to participate in a NAACP chapter planning meeting?

These are questions raised in a hearing before the Supreme Court this week regarding a clash between a public university, San Francisco's UC Hastings College of Law, and a Christian Bible study group on the Law College campus, which excludes practicing homosexuals.

The Bible study group was previously recognized after its new policy which disallows practicing, unrepentant homosexuals from participating. The college then revoked the Bible study's status.

The Christian group argues that the Hastings College of Law is trying to force organizations to surrender principles in exchange for access to meeting rooms and bulletin boards.

Stanford law Professor Michael McConnell, representing the Christian group, told the Justices, "If Hastings is correct, a student who does not even believe in the Bible is entitled to lead a Bible study."

He said a campus NAACP chapter "would have to allow a racist skin head to sit in on its planning meetings."

Does this policy stifle religious freedoms?

Or would it subsidize discrimination?

And what did the Supreme Court Justices say about it?

They, of course, were divided and some fell on one side while the others leaned toward the other side of the issue, but they all pressed to define the school's policy and the rights it purportedly violates.

Chief Justice John Roberts disputed the law school's position. He said the school's policy prohibits discrimination, "On the basis of only one type of belief, religious belief."

Justice Antonin Scalia said requiring a Christian organization, "To allow atheists not to just join, but to conduct Bible classes...that's crazy."

I agree.

Justices Sotomayor and Ginsberg seemed to favor the college. No surprise. Sotomayor asked, "Are you suggesting that if a group wanted to exclude all black people, all women, all handicapped persons...that a school has to accept that group and recognize it?"

The response was that they are talking about religious beliefs, not race or gender.

Justice Kennedy concluded, "It's frustrating for us not to know what kind of case we have in front of us."

A ruling is expected by June.

So, should skinhead racists be entitled to join and even lead a NAACP group or an atheist join and even teach a Bible study?

Common sense says, "Of course not."

Or should this case be seen as "different" or "special" because it involves homosexuals and their quest for equality and affirmation? And it involves Christians. A point well made by Chief Justice Roberts.

This same Supreme Court will hear our case next week where we are asking that the names of those who signed the R-71 petitions be sealed to protect those who signed, because the First Amendment allows individuals to engage in political speech without being forced to reveal their identities.

Secretary of State Sam Reed wants to release the personal information on the Internet, and to aid those who have promised to contact and "visit" with those who signed, harassing and intimidating anyone who supports traditional marriage.

Efforts of these and similar groups have resulted in death threats, physical violence and property damage directed at individuals who have stood for the natural, traditional definition marriage.

These are historic and perilous times.

The culture and the future hangs in the balance. To ignore these kinds of assaults on personal religious freedom and political free speech would surely result in we as a nation, found to be "wanting."

Be Prayerful. Be Active. Be Blessed.

Thanks for standing with us.