Callista Gingrich Commentary: Protecting America’s First Freedom

On January 15, during a Sabbath service at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, four worshipers were taken hostage by Malik Faisal Akram.  Thankfully, all four hostages were freed, but that does not erase the evil and hate surrounding this terrorist attack.

Using Jewish worshippers as hostages to force the release of an imprisoned convicted terrorist was the explicit motive of Akram, as made clear by his statements during the attack.  The Washington Post reported, “Akram chose this place, according to people who heard him on the live stream, because it appeared to be the closest assemblage of Jews to a federal facility in Fort Worth where an American-educated Pakistani convicted terrorist is serving an 86-year sentence for shooting at U.S. soldiers and FBI agents.”

Ironically, the day after this horrific attack, the United States observed National Religious Freedom Day, which commemorates the passage of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom in 1786.  This law later inspired and shaped the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

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University Ordered to Pay Almost $2 Million After Students Win Religious Freedom Lawsuit

A federal judge ordered the University of Iowa (UI) to pay $1.9 million in fees and damages after two student groups won a series of religious discrimination lawsuits against the university. 

The Becket Fund, which represents Business Leaders in Christ, will receive $1.37 million while Intervarsity Christian Fellowship will get $533,000, Crux reports. 

Eric Baxter, a senior VP and counsel at The Becket Fund, told Campus Reform targeting students of faith “comes at a price.” 

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SCOTUS to Consider Maine Religious School Tuition Case

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments next week in a Maine lawsuit that challenges a state law prohibiting the use of tuition funds for religious education.

A lawsuit filed by the Institute for Justice and First Liberty Institute on behalf of several Maine families seeks to overturn a state law that prohibits the use of taxpayer dollars for students to attend religious-based schools. 

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Washington Florist Who Declined to Arrange Flowers for Same-Sex Wedding Settles Lengthy Lawsuit

Barronelle Stutzman

A Christian florist in Washington settled a legal case Thursday centering around her refusal to provide custom floral arrangements for a same-sex wedding.

“I have put to rest the last legal considerations for a decision my husband, Darold, and I made nearly a decade ago,” Barronelle Stutzman said in a release from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).

The public-interest law firm that represented Stutzman stated that the legal battle that started in 2012 will end with a $5,000 payment to Robert Ingersoll, the customer she turned down.

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Commentary: Biden Targets the Religious Freedom of Federal Contractors

Joe Biden is systematically eliminating the religious freedom protections that Donald Trump established. The latest example of Biden’s secularist program comes from his Labor Department, which is planning to undo Trump’s policy of defending the religious freedom of federal contractors.

Trump’s Labor Department protected federal contractors who “hold themselves out to the public as carrying out a religious purpose.”

“Religious organizations should not have to fear that acceptance of a federal contract or subcontract will require them to abandon their religious character or identity,” said Trump’s Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia.

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Facebook Courts Religious Groups, Religious Leaders Remain Skeptical

Facebook has been courting partnerships with religious groups in hopes of becoming their virtual home, the New York Times reported in late July. Experts and religious leaders told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the social media platform’s interest in shaping the future of religious experience should be closely monitored to protect religious freedom.

Though it is unlikely that a virtual religious experience will replace in-person religious services, the Times acknowledged, Facebook’s partnerships with religious groups expose Facebook’s plans to shape the future of the religious experience — as it has done with both political and social life.

“I just want people to know that Facebook is a place where, when they do feel discouraged or depressed or isolated, that they could go to Facebook and they could immediately connect with a group of people that care about them,” Nona Jones, a nondenominational minister and Facebook’s director for global faith partnerships, told the Times.

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American Center for Law Sues Virginia County for Unlawful Discrimination for Requiring Church to Obtain Liquor License

Alive Church

The American Center for Law and Justice filed a lawsuit on Tuesday on behalf of a local church against Prince William County, Virginia, due to the government requiring a church to obtain a liquor license in order to use its own property.

The group alleges the county is discriminating against Alive Church of the Nazarene because of the regulation and the church’s belief against obtaining the license.

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Supreme Court Unanimously Sides with Catholic Adoption Agency in Religious Freedom Case

The United States Supreme Court has unanimously sided with a Catholic adoption agency in a religious freedom case regarding same sex unions.

The court ruled 9-0 that the city of Philadelphia’s refusal to contract with Catholic Social Services (CSS) unless CSS agreed to ‘certify same-sex couples as foster parents” violates CSS’s free exercise of the First Amendment.

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Trump’s Spiritual Advisor Criticizes Biden Policies

Paula White, President Trump’s spiritual advisor, took aim at President Joe Biden’s policies since taking office.

In an interview with Dr. Gina Loudon on the Real America’s Voice news network on Wednesday, Pastor White criticized the Biden Administration for enacting policies that are “totally out of alignment” with the Christian faith. Specifically, White pointed to Biden’s attempts to undo much of the progress made by the Trump administration in efforts to protect religious freedom and the right to life.

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Legal Group Intervenes After University Bars Christian Student from Classes over Refusal to Take Vaccines

Girl with mask on

A Christian nonprofit legal group has sent a letter to the University of Alabama-Birmingham after the public university blocked a student from registering for classes because she would not take vaccines.

The letter from First Liberty Institute asks university officials to follow the religious exemption it granted Jackie Gale for her first year at school. The university does not currently mandate the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Due to Ms. Gale’s religious beliefs, she cannot receive the childhood immunizations UAB requires under its immunization policy,” Christine Pratt, counsel for First Liberty, wrote in a May 13 demand letter.

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Commentary: A Critical Tool for Advancing and Defending International Religious Freedom

American flag in front of large crowd of people

The United States recognizes religious freedom as an unalienable right and is committed to its advancement and protection for all.

As the world’s leading defender of the right to worship freely, the United States strongly condemns and holds accountable those nations and non-state actors who reject and violate this fundamental freedom.

In support of this mission, on May 12, 2021, the United States Department of State released the 23rd annual Report on International Religious Freedom as required by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA).  This report describes the status of religious freedom in every country, government policies violating religious beliefs and practices, and U.S. policies to promote religious freedom around the world.  Each year, the report is presented to the U.S. Congress. 

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Commentary: Championing America’s First Freedom

Person waving flag outside of window

The right to worship freely is often called America’s first freedom.  Our founding fathers understood religious freedom not as the state’s creation but as an unalienable right from God.

This universal right is enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as well as the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.”

Today, however, religious freedom is threatened or restricted entirely for millions of people around the world.  Over 80 percent of the world’s population lives in countries with high or severe restrictions on religious freedom.  In far too many places across the globe, governments and others prevent individuals from living in accordance with their beliefs.

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LGBT Legal Group Sues to Strip Religious Universities of Civil Rights Protections

A group of Christian college students is suing the U.S. Department of Education, alleging that Title IX’s religious exemption allows federally-funded religious colleges and universities to discriminate against LGBTQ students.

The Religious Exemption Accountability Project filed the lawsuit in an Oregon federal court on March 29. The suit aims to prohibit any students from using federal tuition grants, student loans, and any other federal financial aid at post-secondary schools that uphold biblical beliefs on gender and sexuality.

“REAP’s lawsuit asserts the constitutional and basic human rights of LGBTQ+ students, seeking to end the sexual, physical and psychological abuses perpetrated under the religious exemption to Title IX at thousands of federally-funded schools, colleges and universities across America,” according to the organization’s website.

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Commentary: India’s Anti-Religious Freedom Laws

Three state governments in India have recently passed new “freedom of religion” laws, also known as anti-conversion laws.  The new laws are an attempt to suppress the alleged “love jihad” – an attempt by Muslim men to marry Hindu women with the intention of converting their wives to Islam.  

Historically, India’s anti-conversion laws differ slightly by state, but as the U.S. Library of Congress noted, “All of the laws seek to prevent any person from converting or attempting to convert, either directly or otherwise, another person through ‘forcible’ or ‘fraudulent’ means, or by ‘allurement’ or ‘inducement.’”  

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Commentary: Trump Administration Protects Patients’ Religious Freedom From COVID Lockdowns

When hospitals in Maryland and Virginia recently denied patients access to their priests, the Trump administration stepped in to protect the patients’ religious freedom from Covid lockdown overreach.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), it took government intervention to resolve the cases, one involving MedStar’s Southern Maryland Hospital Center (MSMHC) and the second one involving Mary Washington Healthcare (MWHC) in Virginia.

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Christian Wedding Photographer and Ministries Sue Virginia Over Law Banning LGBTQ Discrimination

A Christian wedding photographer and two churches, three Christian schools, and a pro-life ministry sued Virginia for its LGBTQ discrimination law. The plaintiffs argue that the law is a violation of religious freedom in the First Amendment.

The Christian plaintiffs say the state law forces their hand. If they don’t forsake God’s commandments, they could endure hundreds of thousands or more in fines and litigation fees. And, they could face a court order to adhere to the law. These individuals are also prohibited from expressing any religious beliefs that may be perceived as discriminatory.

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Conservatives Praise Supreme Court for Ruling States Can’t Discriminate Against Religious Schools

The U.S. Supreme Court said Tuesday that states can’t cut religious schools out of programs that send public money to private education in a 5-4 ruling. 

Hailed as a victory for religious freedom, the justices upheld a Montana scholarship program that allows state tax credits for private schooling in which almost all the recipients attend religious schools.

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Commentary: The Church Collaborates in Its Own Destruction

Pope Francis

One might think the Catholic Church would stand against the orgy of iconoclasm that we are witnessing across the country — toppled statues, defaced churches, and the like. But, no, the feeble voices of priests and bishops join the creepy chorus of the mob. In California, the mob has targeted statues of Junipero Serra, the saintly Franciscan who spread the faith through a system of missions. Where is the Church to protect the statues? Nowhere. In Ventura, where the mob demands the removal of a Serra statue in front of its city hall, the Church has gone along with it.

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