Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals Under Attack for Holding Hearing at Liberty University; ACLJ Responds
It is not uncommon that federal and state courts of all descriptions periodically hold actual proceedings at law schools throughout the United States. One such instance recently took place at Liberty University, where the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals, a component of the military justice system, held an actual appellate hearing in the Liberty Law School moot courtroom.
Such proceedings are held to allow students and other interested persons to observe firsthand our judicial system in operation. Normally such proceedings are uncontentious. Not so this time.
This time, a group advocating absolute separation between state and anything avowedly religious has taken great offense at holding such a proceeding at Liberty University, claiming that the mere presence of the court on Liberty’s campus violated the Constitution and a whole host of other laws and regulations.
Why? Because, among other things, Liberty requires that its faculty members “be a model of biblical lifestyle.” Further, Liberty University audaciously and unapologetically holds a “Christian worldview” and teaches “that the Western legal tradition is firmly established upon a foundation of faith.”
This triggered a nasty demand letter to the Secretary of Defense in which the anti-Christian group’s founder demanded (1) that no future proceedings be held at religious schools like Liberty University, (2) that the Air Force “apologize for the repugnant message of fundamentalist Christian triumphalism and exceptionalism” allegedly triggered when the Air Force “allowed this abhorrent travesty to take place at Liberty University,” and (3) that all persons associated with “this sordid matter of unconstitutional outrage” and “fundamentalist Christian supremacy” be “aggressively investigated and visibly punished.”
You’ll note that he loves to string pejorative words together. What is utterly lacking in his demand letter is any evidence whatsoever that any of the judges hearing the arguments presented at the proceeding did anything other than perform their sworn duty as judges. This antagonistic group provides not one iota of actual evidence of wrongdoing—he simply claims that being on the campus of an avowedly religious university violates the Constitution, which is utter nonsense.
Merely repeating again and again that he believes what has occurred is “wholly” and “boundlessly” intolerable and that the Constitution and military regulations “are being rapaciously violated” does not make it so. No matter how many pejoratives he uses to try to convince his audience otherwise, the presence of the court at Liberty was lawful.
When faced with such gross misinterpretations of the law, we at the ACLJ have to respond, and we have done just that delivering our own legal letter to the Secretary of Defense. We cannot let the religiously hostile and hypersensitive determine what the law requires—or permits.
Strict separation of the state from the religious is not only not the Constitutional standard, it grossly violates the Constitutional standard. As the Supreme Court has made clear, “[t]he Establishment Clause does not license government to treat religion and those who teach or practice it, simply by virtue of their status as such, as subversive of American ideals and therefore subject to unique disabilities.” Further, “[t]he First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion.”
Declining to meet on the campus of a religious university because one disagrees with their religious beliefs violates the foregoing by subjecting religious institutions to unique disabilities and by violating government neutrality by favoring secular universities over religiously affiliated universities like Liberty.
Please stand with the ACLJ as we continue to protect the right of Christians to equal treatment by government authorities.