3 - Favorable European ruling for churches' right to govern internal affairs
There was a major ruling by a European court recently that, according to the Alliance Defending Freedom website, "affirmed the freedom of churches to regulate their own affairs as a basic right deserving protection in all 47 of the Council of Europe’s member states."
This came from the European Court of Human Rights. Here's the backstory from ADF:
In 2009, Mr. Karoly Nagy filed an application with the ECHR complaining that Hungary’s courts refused to weigh in on a matter of internal church discipline. The dispute dates back to 2005, when an ecclesiastical court removed Nagy from his pastoral post following church disciplinary proceedings that had been brought against him. A second ecclesiastical court upheld this decision and dismissed Nagy’s appeal. The case went to the Hungarian Supreme Court, which refused to accept jurisdiction because ecclesiastical law was applicable in the case.The Court's Grand Chamber issued the ruling, which "upheld the right of churches to 'ecclesiastical courts and the discipline of ministers,'" according to the site, which related that ADF International was "the only organization to file an expert brief in the case...." The organization contended that, based on international law, "churches and other religious organizations should be able to manage their internal affairs without government interference."
ADF International Deputy Director Paul Coleman stated, “This decision is welcome because it reinforces the rights and freedoms of religious believers in all 47 member states of the Council of Europe to manage their own affairs without unwarranted external interference.”
2 - Michigan farmer who believes in natural marriage allowed to return to market
Back in the United States, Alliance Defending Freedom was involved in a case of Michigan farmers, one of whom had posted his support for traditional marriage on his Facebook page. They had been participating in the East Lansing Farmer's Market and they were disallowed from being a part of it.
The Daily Signal reports that the owners of Country Mill Farms, Steve and Bridgett Tennes "may resume selling their goods there as early as Sunday while their case proceeds," based on a ruling by a Federal judge on Friday.
The website reported last Friday that:
In May, the Tenneses filed a federal lawsuit against East Lansing over the decision to ban them from selling produce at the city’s farmers market, even though their farm is 22 miles outside the city in a different jurisdiction.The city countered by filing a motion to dismiss, and the parties were in court this past week. Country Mill Farms had "sought an injunction allowing the Tenneses to return to the market while the case proceeds."
The site reported that the decision by the judge to "grant the Tenneses the temporary injunction is good news for the family, although their legal fight is far from over." It pointed out that the judge "has yet to rule on the merits of their case."
1 - Group of Texas churches files lawsuit against FEMA
Even amidst reports about the good working relationship with FEMA and faith-based organizations, there's a story from Baptist Press that can cause concern with respect to the church, state, and disaster relief.
The article states that "Three small churches damaged in Hurricane Harvey's unprecedented Texas deluge are jointly suing a U.S. government agency for access to public recovery funds."
These churches in Texas - Rockport First Assembly of God in Rockport, as well as Harvest Family Church and Hi-Way Tabernacle in the Houston area - are being represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which contended that "FEMA summarily bars churches from seeking emergency aid because churches primarily use their buildings for religious purposes," according to the Baptist Press article, citing a press release from Becket.
The churches claim that the Trinity Lutheran case from the U.S. Supreme Court, "affirming a church's right to participate in generally available programs on equal footing with secular organizations," supports their case.
As the BP article points out:
President Donald Trump supported the Texas churches' case in a Sept. 8 tweet. "Churches in Texas should be entitled to reimbursement from FEMA Relief Funds for helping victims of Hurricane Harvey (just like others)," the president tweeted.This report was published on September 13th, three days after a USA Today piece which described how faith-based organizations, such as Samaritan's Purse, Convoy of Hope, and other faith-related groups, worked hand-in-hand with FEMA.
Luther Harrison, vice president of North American Ministries for Samaritan’s Purse, is quoted as saying, “FEMA – they have been a big blessing to us, they're an assistance to us," adding, "For Hurricane Irma, the majority of our equipment has already been dispatched to Texas ... so our office in Canada is bringing their equipment across the border and FEMA was instrumental in helping us clear that with customs and getting all the paperwork done." The story says that Convoy of Hope, in "major disasters," will set up feeding stations, sometimes at FEMA’s request and even using government-provided food and equipment.
Rev. Jamie Johnson, director of the Department of Homeland Security's Center for Faith-Based & Neighborhood Partnerships, stated, "FEMA can not do what it does so well without the cooperation of faith-based non-profit organizaitons [sic] and churches," adding, "It's a beautiful relationship between government and the private sector and it is something to behold."
So, perhaps there is a new understanding between FEMA and faith-based groups, including churches, that can provide an acceptable outcome or even a resolution of the lawsuit, so that churches in distress and people whom they help can get the relief they need.