Sunday, September 06, 2015

The 3 - September 6, 2015

Here in this week's edition of my week-in-review feature, The 3, there is a challenge in Oklahoma concerning the Supreme Court's order to remove a 10 Commandments monument from the Capitol grounds there.  Also, a lawyer who has been involved in defending crosses at Chinese churches from being removed has been placed in jail, and U.S. officials are speaking out.  And, the top story involves a county clerk in Kentucky who was sent to jail because she would not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

3 - OK Attorney General attempts to keep 10 Commandments monument on Capitol grounds

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has released a statement in which he contends that, as the result of ordering the removal of a 10 Commandments monument from the Capitol grounds, the Oklahoma Supreme Court has set a precedent that involves the censorship of all religious expression on government property, according to a report on the Christian Post website, which said that the Attorney General filed a brief in court this past Thursday.  In his statement, the Attorney General stated, "In its decision to remove the monument, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held that no matter how historically significant or beneficial to the state, state law prohibits any item on state property or to be funded by the state if it's at all 'religious in nature.'"

In 2012, this privately-funded monument was installed on the grounds of the Oklahoma Capitol, three years after a bill was passed giving the go-ahead for such a monument.

In August 2013, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the display, arguing that it was an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion. Also, American Atheists filed suit and the New York-based Satanic Temple attempted to get a satanic display erected on the same property, arguing equal access.

In September 2014, Oklahoma County District Judge Thomas Prince ruled in favor of the display, concluding that, as with other displays at the Capitol, the Ten Commandments blended historical and spiritual significance.

However, just this year, on June 30, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled 7-2 against the monument, arguing that it violated the state constitution.
As the Post reports, Pruitt argued that the high court's decision against the display creates a climate of anti-religious hostility.

2 - Leading defender of crosses in China put in jail before scheduled meeting with U.S. Ambassador, U.S. officials call for release 

The United States has called for the release of Chinese lawyer Zhang Kai and a group of religious figures, including Christian pastors, accused of threatening public order and national security, according to a report on the Voice of America website, which reports that the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power, has also launched a campaign for the release of 20 women prisoners of conscience, including Chinese attorney Wang Yu.

Ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first state visit to Washington later this month, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for religious freedom, David Saperstein, said the August 25 detentions of religious figures, including Zhang, were a “particularly alarming development.” It came as he prepared to meet them the next day in China.

Christianity Today story identifies Zhang as the leader of “Lawyers for Protection of the Cross," a group that defends churches whose crosses have been forcibly removed amid a government campaign to strip skylines of Christian symbols.

Zhang Kai is the latest of more than 250 attorneys, pastors, and human rights activists detained or arrested since July in connection with the 400 to 1,200 cross removals in the eastern province of Zhejiang, a Christian stronghold.

The CT story says that according to China Aid, Zhang and his intern, Liu Peng, are being held for six months in a so-called “black jail,” one of several detention facilities outside the established penal system. Torture is common in such centers, where prisoners may be held without trial, China Aid said.

Lawyers representing Zhang and Liu requested to meet with them, but authorities denied that request. Sources told the attorneys that Zhang and Liu have been charged with endangering state security and “assembling a crowd to disrupt social order.”

Saperstein is quoted as saying to news media: “These detentions fit into the disturbing pattern of state intimidation of public-interest lawyers, internet activists, journalists, [and] religious leaders,” adding, “Other people that I have met, or tried to, have suffered harassment of some kind."  He said that the US government "demands the immediate release of these activists, who boldly underline the precariousness of religious life in China."

1 -  KY clerk jailed, supporters rally

As of this blog post, county clerk Kim Davis of Rowan County, Kentucky remains in jail.  According to CitizenLink,  Federal officials took Davis into custody. Davis has maintained she cannot issue same-sex marriage licenses because of her deeply held faith. Late Thursday afternoon, she refused to allow her deputy clerks to issue the licenses in her stead.

She is quoted as saying, “My conscience will not allow it,” adding, “God’s moral law convicts me and conflicts with my duties.”

U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning also warned two other clerks in the state who have taken the same stand, saying they would be held in contempt if they did not comply with his order.

Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, said he was stunned. He said, "The judge could have simply ordered fines, but said they were not enough of a punishment."

This series of events was discussed in a recent conversation with Kim Trobee of CitizenLink.  You can listen to or download it here.

Liberty Counsel is representing Kim Davis, and its website has been posting consistent updates and facts about the case.  The site points out that:
The Supreme Court did not change Kentucky’s marriage law or its forms, but invalidated the legislation limiting marriage to opposite sex couples. It is up to each state’s legislature to conform the law to the opinion. Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers filed a brief in Davis’s case, pointing out to the judge: “The Supreme Court ruling has completely obliterated the definition of marriage and the process for obtaining a marriage license in Kentucky. The General Assembly will be compelled to amend many sections of Kentucky law, not just for the issuance of marriage licenses, to comply with the recent Supreme Court decision.” The brief pointed out that the Governor can call a special session of the legislature, or he could issue an executive order about the licenses to later be codified by the legislature during the 2016 session. A judge is not a super-legislature that can rewrite the law.
A number of clerks had apparently tried to avoid this situation.  Liberty Counsel reports that during the regular session of the Legislature, 57 clerks, including Davis, wrote a letter to Kentucky legislators, pleading with them to “get a bill on the floor to help protect clerks” who had a religious objection to authorizing the licenses. The Kentucky Clerks Association also recommend that the names of clerks be removed from the forms.

The website,, reported that attorneys for Davis said that marriage licenses issued by her office Friday were void because only Davis has the authority to authorize a marriage license, and she refuses to do so.

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