On the heels of overturning Roe v. Wade, two more recent cases that came before the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) have set new precedents for religious freedom.
Speaking during Justice Night at Mercy Culture church, Kelly J. Shackelford, President and Chief Executive Officer of First Liberty Institute, the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious liberty for all Americans, made the statement “God is blowing doors open for religious freedom that I never thought possible. Every American is about to have more religious freedom than they have ever had in their lifetime.”
Mr. Shackelford, the evening’s guest speaker, is a constitutional scholar who has argued before SCOTUS, testified before the U.S. House and Senate and has won numerous landmark First Amendment and religious liberty cases, including the landmark religious liberty victory American Legion v. America Humanist Association.
Religious Liberty is Winning
Every year, SCOTUS receives 8-9,000 requests for cases to be heard. Last year there were only 65 cases taken and two of those were submitted by First Liberty. In BOTH cases, rulings were rendered to support religious freedom.
Religious freedom is winning but people don’t know it. The more you know, the bolder you become. So educate yourself! And then educate others!
David Carson et al. v. A. Pender Makin
In a major victory for school choice and parents’ rights, SCOTUS ruled in David Carson et al. v. A. Pender Makin that states cannot bar parents from using state funds to send their children to a religious school. Maine offers a tuition-assistance program that provides funds for parents to send their children to private secondary schools in areas where public ones do not exist. The state law, however, did not allow these funds to be used for “sectarian” schools. SCOTUS ruled the state law was discriminatory against religious schools and parents will now be free to choose the school of their choice, including those with religious doctrine.
But the ruling has broader application than just school choice. It will set precedent for every government funded program to include everybody – no more excluding religious based entities! This is a major win for religious based organizations to receive funding available to every other organization.
Joseph A. Kennedy v. Bremerton School District
By a 6-3 vote, SCOTUS held that a school district violated the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clause rights of a football coach when it sanctioned him for kneeling and saying a prayer at midfield alone after the game ended. The Court held that Coach Kennedy’s prayer was doubly protected by both the Free Exercise and Free Speech clauses of the First Amendment
In the majority opinion, Justice Gorsuch wrote:
“The Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike…That the First Amendment doubly protects religious speech is no accident. It is a natural outgrowth of the framers’ distrust of government attempts to regulate religion and suppress dissent.”
Surprisingly, there has never been a case on the rights of coaches and/or teachers in regard to their faith. These rights are obvious, right? But in today’s culture of increasing hostility against religious expression, the Kennedy decision sets the precedent regarding the protection of religious expression by public employees.
Lemon is Dead
Possibly more impactful than the Kennedy decision was the “Lemon ruling” that was effectively overturned in the process of deliberating the Kennedy case.
Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971)
Pennsylvania and Rhode Island enacted legislation permitting tax-funded reimbursement to church-affiliated schools, covering expenses such as teacher salaries and the costs of textbooks and other instructional materials. In response to the payments, the plaintiff taxpayers filed suits in federal courts alleging the states violated the First Amendment by “respecting” an establishment of religion. SCOTUS found that two states violated the establishment clause by making state financial aid available to “church-related educational institutions.”
For about two decades, the “Lemon” test was used by the Court to erect a wall of separation between church and state and has been the basis for almost every decision that supported hostility and discrimination. And it has been reversed.
Things are about to change! God has kicked open the door, but He expects us to walk through and DO something with it! These are BIG wins! Spread the good news!
Lies and Fear
Churches, pastors and individuals censor themselves most frequently from fear and lies. We need to stop being afraid of the opinions of man and, instead, fear God. We need to know what our religious liberties are and EXERCISE THEM!
Pastors have the freedom to publicly endorse a candidate. Their constitutional rights do not end because of their profession.
A church entity CANNOT endorse nor donate to a candidate, but they CAN hand out Voters Guides that show the position of candidates. They CAN invite candidates to participate in a forum. They CAN set up voter registration on church property.
Remember, it doesn’t take everybody to stand up and speak truth to stop a totalitarian government, just a remnant willing to stand and speak the truth no matter the consequences.
Church, God has told us to feed and lead His sheep. This requires speaking the truth with boldness. The bible speaks truth to every facet of culture . . . government, family, education, etc. The world has been LOUD for so long. Non-Christians are not quiet about their beliefs, yet Christians are expected to remain silent and “tolerant”. It is time for the church to be a courageous Paul Revere speaking truth into culture.
Share the good news of religious freedom victories by SCOTUS.
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Mr. Shackelford’s recommended reading:
Live Not by Lies by Rod Dreher – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn famously said that one of the biggest mistakes people make is assuming totalitarianism can’t happen in their country. Many American Christians are making that mistake today, sleepwalking through the erosion of our freedoms. Live Not By Lies will wake them and equip them for the long resistance.
The entire Justice Night interview with Mr. Shackelford can be found here.