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Court Challenges: Christian Rights & Nat'l Day of Prayer

There's a very important religious liberties case before the Supreme Court.  The Justices today heard oral arguments on a case involving the constitutional rights of religious groups to set membership and leadership criteria according to the dictates of their religious beliefs. 

We filed an amicus brief with the high court representing more than a dozen Christian leaders and organizations active on college and university campuses including Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Campus Crusade for Christ, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, Young Life, The Navigators, and Fellowship of Catholic University Students.  The case is Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. 

In our brief, we have asked the high court to overturn an appeals court decision that upheld a California law schools denial of official recognition of a Christian student group because the organization refused to agree to let non-Christians to become voting members or leaders.

You can read our amicus brief here.

The case involves a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit siding with the Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. Hastings denied official recognition to a student group the Christian Legal Society (CLS) after CLS said it could not abide by the schools non-discrimination policy. That policy forbids student groups from discriminating on the basis of, among other things, religion. CLS says its religious beliefs prevent non-Christians from exercising control over the group by becoming voting members or serving in leadership positions.

The fact is that it is fundamental to religious freedom that religious groups are free to define their own mission, select their own leaders and determine their own membership criteria.  The First Amendment protections afforded to religious organizations are clear.  The appeals court decision discriminates against religion, undermines Supreme Court precedent, and injects the government into an area that the Constitution forbids.  Were hopeful the Supreme Court will reverse the decision of the Ninth Circuit.

This is the final big religious liberties case heard by Justice John Paul Stevens who announced he is retiring at the end of this term.  A decision on this case from the high court will be released by the end of the term.

There's another important case that could very well end up at the Supreme Court.  Last week's decision by a federal district court in Wisconsin declaring the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional is not only problematic but represents a real challenge to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

As you know, we represented more than 30 members of Congress with an amicus brief filed in the federal district court in this case in Wisconsin. 

The decision runs counter to well established legal precedent and we're confident that this flawed decision ultimately will be overturned. 

We will be filing a brief representing members of Congress challenging this federal district court decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.  If the appeals court fails to reverse this decision, we're confident the Supreme Court will hear the case and ultimately determine that such proclamations and observances like the National Day of Prayer not only reflect our nation's rich history, but are indeed consistent with the Establishment Clause.

We also what you to be a part of this legal appeal.  You can sign on to our Committee to Protect the National Day of Prayer.  We will add the Committee to our amicus brief to be filed with the appeals court. 

This is a very important case.  And, we simply cannot permit atheist organizations like the Freedom From Religion Foundation from succeeding in implementing its strategy to purge all religious observances and references from American public life.

Add your name today to the ACLJ's Committee to Protect the National Day of Prayer.

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The Annual National Day of Prayer First Thursday of May

Protect National Day of Prayer

12:00 AM Apr. 19, 2010


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