Saturday, September 17, 2011

The 3 - September 17, 2011

This week on my week-in-review feature, "The 3", a look at a letter sent out by a Christian legal advocacy organizations to Tennessee schools who recently received some so-called "guidelines" on religious expression, or the lack thereof, Also, a report was released by the U.S. State Department on religious persecution worldwide. And, the top story: Christians all across America have been involved in a coordinated effort to invite people to come "back to church".

3 - ADF sends letters to TN schools to correct ACLU constitutional errors

Across the nation, we are seeing examples of schools and school districts that have restricted the rights of students and teachers to live out and speak out about their faith. From the hideous example in Santa Rosa County, Florida, where the school district and the ACLU made a pact that resulted in teachers and administrators living under the threat of jail time merely for praying, to the instance in Mount Dora, Florida, where a teacher was temporarily suspended because of posts on his personal Facebook page that underscored a Biblical worldview, the lines have become blurred regarding religious expression on school campuses.

Just this week, Fox News ran a story about a charter school in Idaho that was closed by the state school board because it dared to teach from "religious texts", including the Bible, in a history class. Its appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was turned back. And, a teacher in California who was ordered to remove banners in his classroom because they contained "religious" references and had received support from a Federal judge was told by the 9th Circuit to remove the banners - again.

Well, the ACLU wanted to "clarify" the rights of students and teachers in the state of Tennessee with regard to religious expression, and in a guide sent out to school districts basically stated that any public on-campus exercise of religion was illegal. The Alliance Defense Fund set out to counter the misinformation, and sent a letter to underscore the constitutionality of many forms of religious expression. The letter said that:
The truth is that students, teachers, and administrators enjoy robust First Amendment [protected] rights at school, and school districts have nothing to fear in permitting the free exercise of those rights...
Here is the information on the ADF's letter, including the types of religious freedom that the ACLU said were not legal in the state. Some of the forms of religious speech and action targeted by the so-called "guide" were:
1) student-led prayer at school, graduation, and sporting events;
2) participation of students, teachers, and administrators at baccalaureate services with religious content;
3) equal access to school facilities and literature distribution programs;
4) equal access and funding for religious student clubs and organizations;
5) students’ right to participate in events such as See You at the Pole and the National Day of Prayer;
6) the religious expression of teachers, coaches, and administrators; and
7) “objective” teaching about religious holidays.

These go above and beyond the court precedents that have been set and upheld throughout the years. Some school districts, fearing reprisals and the potential for court action, have moved to deny students and school officials their constitutional rights to religious freedom. Fortunately, you have organizations such as ADF, Liberty Counsel, and others who are well-versed in the Constitution and have made themselves available to defend students, teachers, and administrators who are concerned about their ability to speak and act in a religious manner being unfairly restricted. For more information on ADF, you can go to

2 - International Religious Freedom report released 9/13/11

This week, the U.S. State Department released its most recent International Religious Freedom Report, which outlined the nature of threats to religious freedom worldwide, as well as the countries where persecution of religious groups, including Christians in many cases, is the greatest.

Here is a report from periodic guest on The Meeting House, Emily Belz of WORLD Magazine.

There are 8 countries that have received the designation as Countries of Particular Concern (CPC): Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan. Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan had reportedly been given waivers in the past. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an arm of the government that operates independently, had urged the State Department to add Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam.
The blog, Religion Clause, had this report. The blog quotes Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as saying:
In the Middle East and North Africa, the transitions to democracy have inspired the world, but they have also exposed ethnic and religious minorities to new dangers.... Now, the people of the region have taken exciting first steps toward democracy—but if they hope to consolidate their gains, they cannot trade one form of repression for another.
This report serves as a reminder of the many around the world who are facing persecution for the faith. The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church gives Christians an opportunity to pray for those who are facing threatening situations on a consistent basis. This year, it is scheduled for Sunday, November 13th. For more information, you can visit the website,

1 - National Back-to-Church Sunday this weekend

Today, thousands of Christians across America were encouraged to take an intentional step and invite someone to visit church with them. This year's third annual "National Back-to-Church Sunday" has been designed to build on the successful track record of this particular occasion, and has been embraced in a significant way.

According to a press release from the Back to Church Sunday website, a study by LifeWay Research and the North American Mission Board of over 15,000 Americans had found that 67 percent say a personal invitation from a family member would be effective in getting them to visit a church. Fifty-six percent say an invitation from a friend or neighbor would likely move them to respond.

Since the inception of NBTCS, more than 3.5 million invitations from some 7400 churches have been issued, and churches that participated last year saw a 26 percent increase in the attendance that weekend. When you consider the huge disconnect between the number of professing Christians in America and the percentage of Americans that actually attend church on any given Sunday (83% claiming to be Christians vs. 20% attending church), this emphasis has the potential to be a significant step for churches as they seek to increase the number of people coming through their doors and becoming involved in their local bodies, so that they might grow spiritually.

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