Sunday, January 18, 2015

The 3 - January 18, 2015

This week's edition of The 3 includes two cases involving the U.S. Supreme Court - this week, the high court announced it would take up the topic of gay marriage, and it heard arguments in a case surrounding a small church's free speech rights.  The other story involves a university that had planned to allow a Muslim call to prayer to be broadcast at its chapel, then reversed its decision.

3 - U.S. Supreme Court will tackle gay marriage

It was just a matter of time - in light of numerous Federal judicial circuits striking down state marriage amendments, coupled with one circuit upholding the traditional definition of marriage, the U.S. Supreme Court announced Friday that indeed it would take up the issue.

According to the WORLD News Group website, the court in its order said it will consider two questions: One, whether the 14th Amendment requires states to license same-sex marriages; and two, whether states must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

The court has consolidated four marriage cases from the states in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled in favor of the definition of marriage as one man and one woman. Those states are Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky.   WORLD reports that the justices will hear an exceptional two-and-a-half hours of arguments on those cases. Usually the court only allots one hour of arguments for each case. The hearings likely will take place toward the end of April, and the court should issue an opinion at the end of June.

2 - Duke University cancels scheduled Muslim prayers 

This week, officials at Duke University decided to cancel plans to allow the Muslim call to prayer to be broadcast from the bell tower of the chapel on its campus, according to a report on the Religion News Service website, which quoted Michael Schoenfeld, a Duke vice president for public affairs and government relations, who said in a statement the school remains committed to “fostering an inclusive, tolerant and welcoming campus” for all students but “it was clear that what was conceived as an effort to unify was not having the intended effect.”

One powerful voice speaking out against the call to prayer was Franklin Graham, who said that the call includes the words “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is great,” which was shouted by Islamist militants during last week’s deadly attacks across Paris.  He said on his Facebook page, "As Christianity is being excluded from the public square and followers of Islam are raping, butchering, and beheading Christians, Jews, and anyone who doesn’t submit to their Sharia Islamic law, Duke is promoting this in the name of religious pluralism.”

A Christianity Today piece on the incident and the broader issue of Christians allowing other faith groups to use their facilities said that on its website, the chapel is described as “a Christian church of uniquely interdenominational character and purpose,” welcoming people of “all faiths and circumstances.”

The dean of Duke Divinity School, Richard Hays, raised concerns about the use of the chapel for the Muslim call to prayer if it’s seen as a Christian church (given its history and iconography), rather than a neutral space on campus.

“There are serious questions...about the wisdom and propriety of allowing Duke chapel to be used for this purpose,” he said in a statement. “Despite some common beliefs and traditions, Christianity and Islam stand in significant theological tension with one another.”  The CT article points out that Duke was founded by Methodists and now describes its Christian ties as “historical and symbolic,” emphasizing its independence from the United Methodist Church.

1 - U.S. Supreme Court considers AZ sign ordinance 

In Gilbert, Arizona, there is a sign ordinance that has been challenged by Good News Community Church, which, according to the Alliance Defending Freedom, rents space in temporary locations for its weekly service.  The church had used small, temporary signs to invite and direct the community to its services.

ADF states that:
The Town of Gilbert Sign Code imposes strict limits on the size, location, number, and duration of the church’s signs. It does not impose the same restrictions on political, ideological, and homeowners’ association signs. If the church violates the code, Pastor Reed could be fined and possibly jailed.
The text of the town’s code regulates signs based on what they say, and the town is applying the code in a manner thatovertly singles out the church’s religious speech for discriminatory treatment. Both are impermissible under the First Amendment. 
The church has argued that the code is an unconstitutional restriction on its First Amendment right to free speech.  On Monday of this week, the case was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman is quoted as saying, "...No one’s speech is safe if the government is allowed to pick free-speech winners and losers based on the types of speech government officials prefer. The Supreme Court has a long history of ensuring that the government treats all speech in a content-neutral manner. That’s why we trust the court will not allow the town of Gilbert to continue giving preferential treatment to certain messages while marginalizing others."

The church's pastor, Clyde Reed, is quoted as saying that the church "learned that if we violate the strict rules on our signs, we face criminal fines and even possible jail time. This whole experience has been shocking to me – our signs inviting people to church are very important yet are treated as second-class speech."

The church and ADF are seeking a reversal of a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which sided with the Town of Gilbert.

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