Sunday, April 28, 2013

The 3 - April 28, 2013

This week's edition of "The 3", my week-in-review feature, all relate in some form or fashion to the topic of religious liberty - one story involves a homeschool family that came to America from Germany seeking out the freedom to teach their children at home, another story involves the narrative that continues to proliferate concerning the right of military men and women to practice their faith.  And, the top story area involves religious freedom protection in one state, and another state's court victory preserving a religious liberties bill passed last year.

3 - Homeschool family from Germany faces U.S. appeals court for right to stay in U.S.

In 2010, after being denied a right to homeschool their children by officials in their native country of Germany, Uwe and Hannelore Romeike moved their family to the United States, where they were granted asylum by a district court in Tennessee. The Romeikes had decided to teach their children at home because they believed that the public schools in Germany were teaching values in opposition to their Christian beliefs. They were forced to pay fines and their children were forcibly removed from their home and taken to the public school.   The Romeikes have 6 children.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement appealed the district court's decision in 2012, and the Board of Immigration Appeals agreed with the government.  From there, the case was appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The U.S. Justice Department is defending the Board's ruling.  Hearings were held before a three-judge panel in the Sixth Circuit this week.

Michael Farris, Chairman and Co-Founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association, which is defending the family, tweeted out, according to The Christian Post, "The oral arguments are over. Tough questions were asked on both sides, and it's hard to predict the outcome, but, I argued before the California Circuit Court and was convinced I lost, but ended up winning. God can intervene."

A petition drive in support of the German family has yield over 120,000 signatures on a website that is tied in to

2 - Military faith slights, real or perceived, continue to surface

It does seem that there have been a number of stories recently involving the U.S. military and its policies toward people of faith.  One of the leading stories recently involved an Army training presentation that labeled evangelicals and Catholics as extremist groups.  That preceded the report of an Army officer's e-mail that referred to the American Family Association and Family Research Council as organizations about which to be concerned.

Now, according to the Christian Examiner website, the Army has banned what are referred to as "Jesus rifles", in which verses of Scripture are etched into the scopes. 

Based on a Fox News report, 2 New Testament references, John 8:12 and II Corinthians 4:6, were engraved at the end of the scopes’ serial numbers by the company Trijicom, a Michigan-based defense contractor.

Soldiers at Fort Wainwright in Alaska said that they were directed to submit their scopes in order for the references to be removed.  Military personnel were to scrape off the scripture reference, verify that the reference is completely gone, and then cover the area with black paint.

Army officials stated that the scopes didn't meet the contract, and the vendor replied that the inscriptions had always been on the sights and there was nothing wrong or illegal about including them.
So, in light of regular reports of religious expression being curtailed within the military, you can certainly understand where there would be concern over reports over military chaplains who had discovered that, the website of the Southern Baptist Convention, had been blocked.   The message that was received by those attempting to access the site was rather ominous, making reference to "hostile content". 

Baptist Press reports that the website has now been unblocked, and that the reason for the restriction was that malware had been detected within the site, which has now been deemed safe for use.  Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, a Defense Department spokesman, is quoted as saying that, "The Department of Defense is not intentionally blocking access to this site...The Department of Defense strongly supports the religious rights of service members, to include their ability to access religious websites like that of the SBC."

Chris Chapman of the SBC says that, "Unfortunately, has joined the ranks of other major organizations that are targets for hackers, detractors and activists. Those engaged in destructive creativity will exploit the continuing development of new technologies to cause new harm and threats of harm continually, so this latest challenge is, for us, just another one of the sort we deal with every day."   A member of the SBC Executive Committee, Roger Oldham, cautioned against jumping to conclusions.

Keep moving, nothing to see here?   Perhaps in this case, yes, but the narrative is continuing to build concerning the religious liberties of men and women in uniform, so it's important to keep tracking various instances, recognizing the importance of the rights of our troops being preserved.

1 - Religious liberties victories in 2 states

There is definite concern over religious liberties on a national level, most recently typlified by the number of religious groups and companies with Christian leadership that have filed suit against the Obamacare contraception mandate.

Some state legislatures have written into their laws language that is intended to protect religious freedom.  The latest state to pass a law to protect religious liberties is Kansas, where Governor Brownback signed into law the Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, which, according to CitizenLink, writes into state law the same strict legal protections for religious liberty that currently exist in the federal judicial system. The stricter standards have been in place at the federal level since Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in 1993 in response to weakening judicial standards protecting religious liberties. RFRA passed the US House of Representatives unanimously and won approval in the US Senate by a margin of 97 to 3 before President Clinton signed it into law.

In 1997, the Supreme Court struck down the act’s ability to mandate such protections in state courts.  Since then, nearly 20 states have passed legislation designed to protect religious liberties.   The first was Alabama, in the 1998 election, which passed a Constitutional Amendment that wrote those protection into the state's constitution.  

And, on the religious liberties front, last year, Missouri passed the Missouri House of Worship Protection Act, signed by Governor Nixon.  And, CitizenLink reports that on Friday, a federal judge ruled in favor of the law, which protects houses of worship from profane, rude or indecent behavior or noise intended to disrupt a service.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had filed a lawsuit against the law on behalf of two activist groups that protest outside Catholic churches. The groups claimed in their lawsuit that the provisions in the statute did not allow them to share their message with members of religious congregations.

U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber ruled that the law did not violate the First Amendment because it is content neutral, meaning it only restricts speech “when it is disruptive because of its manner, not its content…. The Court finds that the State’s purpose for regulation here, to protect the free exercise of religion, is unrelated to the content of the individual’s speech.”

Joe Ortwerth, president of the Missouri Family Policy Council, said that,“We thank God for Judge Webber’s decision, which helps ensure that the hostile efforts of those who would deny others the free exercise of their religion will be met with the force of law.”

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