The ACLJ Needed Now More Than Ever: Our Agenda for the Future, Protecting Victories and Battling the Dangers Ahead – Religious Liberty
The following is the third installment of a six-part series focusing on why the ACLJ is needed now more than ever to protect the victories we’ve achieved and beat back the ominous challenges we now face under the Biden Administration.
The battle for religious liberty at home and abroad is at the core of the ACLJ’s mission, and that fight is now more important than ever.
- As part of the ACLJ’s efforts to sustain religious liberty within the meaning of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and as part of our effort to thwart the unconstrained application of government power under the cover of a pandemic, the ACLJ has filed a preliminary injunction to stop the criminal enforcement of the state of California’s unwarranted and unjustified attempt to interfere with the exercise of religion. Imagine a state edict taken straight from the handbook of human subordination and repression that attempts to ban church members from singing in church. California has attempted to institute just such an Orwellian scheme. Such efforts are the first steps in banning the freedom of worship, and the ACLJ has taken action. We filed a lawsuit challenging California’s ban on singing and chanting activities in churches and houses of worship on behalf of three California churches: Calvary Chapel of Ukiah, Calvary Chapel Fort Bragg, and River of Life Church. And now we’ve recently filed a preliminary injunction motion in federal court to quickly halt the enforcement of California’s unconstitutional order.
Targeting churches and dictating how they may practice their beliefs, including worship, is unconstitutional – especially at a time when scores of protestors are being permitted, and even buoyed by California’s governor, to take to the streets and chant and shout. It’s biased against churches, and it’s wrong. We have filed for a preliminary injunction to stop this authoritarian scheme that attempts to make a mockery of the United States Constitution.
- Recently, the ACLJ intervened on behalf of a Christian resident of a senior housing complex who was ordered to remove her crosses from her outdoor garden area pursuant to a so-called policy banning all religious decorations. Although both crosses are small, she and the symbols of her faith were targeted by the senior housing management company. Now after ACLJ intervention, the housing development has rescinded its outrageous and discriminatory ban.
- The ACLJ continues to believe that religious liberty is a constitutional principle that is at the heart of who we are as American people. Nowhere is it more important than in the Armed Forces of the United States. The free exercise of religion is critical for those in uniform. Today’s military is an all-volunteer force made up of men and women who frequently serve in isolated places and deploy to various regions of the world where they are far from the support of their churches, synagogues, mosques, and so forth. This reality is part of the reason the courts have upheld chaplains in the military and the unique role of the chaplain who is the commander’s staff officer to ensure the free exercise of religion. President Trump addressed this issue in May 2017 by issuing Executive Order 13798, promoting free speech and religious liberty, noting that “[t]he Founders envisioned a Nation in which religious voices and views were integral to a vibrant public square, and in which religious people and institutions were free to practice their faith without fear of discrimination or retaliation by the Federal Government.” Consistent with Executive Order 13798, members of the U.S. military do not give up this right by joining the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, or Coast Guard. The ACLJ will continue its vigilant efforts in this arena in order to continue to vindicate the free exercise rights of our soldiers.
The Persecuted Church:
After more than seven months of being wrongfully detained in India, Christian Pastor Bryan Nerren – a U.S. citizen – was finally allowed to come home to his family in the United States in May 2020. The false charges against Pastor Nerren – who heads up the non-profit ministry, Asian Children’s Education Fellowship, which has been training Sunday School teachers in India and Nepal for 17 years – were dropped, the prosecution was withdrawn, and the judge lifted all travel restrictions and returned his passport. A misunderstanding that should have taken just hours to resolve administratively within customs turned into a seven-month ordeal, involving false arrest, false charges, jail time, seizure of passport, travel ban, court hearings, custom reports, and appeals.
The ACLJ’s work in this arena never ends, and we continue to be vigilant and prepared to mobilize at a moment’s notice.
We have previously informed our members about China’s relentless and continuous persecution of Christians, as well as its attacks on religious liberty. These attacks span from arbitrarily arresting pastors to surveilling churches and even implementing laws and regulations that essentially regulate what religious groups can and cannot say. Through our European affiliate, the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ), we filed an urgent written submission to the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) detailing China’s continued attacks on religious freedom, and we continue to fight for the release of Pastor John Cao, who has now been unjustly imprisoned for over four years in China because of his faith.
As we stated in our submission to the U.N.:
In December of 2019, a Chinese state-run news agency published the Administrative Measures for Religious Groups. These new government regulations went into effect on 1 February 2020. Under these new regulations, religious groups are prohibited from engaging in religious activities without prior approval from the government, and are also required to accept and “support the leadership of the Communist Party of China.” Moreover, they must also “adhere to the direction of the Sinicization of religions in China, embody the core values of socialism and maintain national unity, ethnic unity, religious harmony, and social stability.” Individuals like Pastor Cao are caught up in China’s capricious and arbitrary attacks on Christians.
In the next installment, I’ll discuss major victories in our fight to demand Government Accountability.
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