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NJ School District Wages War on Christmas, Bans Carols

children-Christmas-carolesAlliance Defending Freedom sent a letter Monday to the Bordentown Regional School District in Bordentown, N.J., after administrators decided to ban religious Christmas music during winter concert performances at elementary schools within the district. The letter explains the ban is both unnecessary and unconstitutional.

“Schools should not have to think twice about whether they can allow students to perform Christmas carols,” says legal counsel Matthew Sharp. “Courts have unanimously upheld their inclusion in school productions—even when songs deal with Christian themes that are naturally a part of the holiday.”

Recently, the superintendent at Bordentown Regional School District made a public statement that “religious music should not be part of the elementary program[s]” and decided to ban any and all religious music in the December concerts the district’s elementary schools normally hold.

The Alliance Defending Freedom letter explains that “every federal court to examine the issue has determined that including Christmas carols and other religious music in school choir programs fully complies with the First Amendment.” As a result, the First Amendment requires that the district “remains neutral towards religion and refrains from demonstrating an unconstitutional hostility toward songs with religious origins.”

The letter also explains that “the cultural and educational merits of Christmas carols and other religious songs are well established.” One federal appellate court, for example, “recognized over thirty years ago that there is no constitutional objection to students in public schools learning and performing religious songs ‘presented objectively as part of a secular program of education.’ Music educators, not administrative officials, should choose which choral pieces—secular or sacred—are best-suited to the occasion.”

“Misinformation about the First Amendment is frequently what leads to censorship of constitutionally permissible and culturally significant songs performed during Christmas concerts,” adds senior legal counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “We urge the Bordentown Regional School District to rescind this new policy and permit religious music to be included among the many nonreligious songs performed at school concerts.”

A December 2011 Rasmussen poll found that 79 percent of American adults believe public schools should celebrate religious holidays.

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Atheists Demand Christians Stop Praying at Town Meetings

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Atheists in California are trying to remove prayer at the opening of public meetings in a California city.

Alliance Defending Freedom sent a legal memo to Chico, Calif., Thursday after the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter demanding the city stop opening public meetings with a prayer.

The city’s policy allows various members of the community to offer the prayers. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys are currently defending a New York town’s similar prayer policy at the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Americans today should be as free as the Founders were to pray,” says senior counsel David Cortman. “The Founders prayed while drafting our Constitution’s Bill of Rights, and the Supreme Court has ruled that public prayer is part of the ‘history and tradition of this country.’ The city of Chico, therefore, is on extremely firm ground to allow prayer before its public meetings.”

The letter explains, “Fortunately, Chico can not only look to the historical example of the U.S. Congress and clear Supreme Court precedent, but this past Spring the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has expressly reaffirmed the right of Cities to open their public meetings with a prayer.”

The letter additionally points out that the Ninth Circuit “went further to clarify the Cities need not censor the content of the prayers or prevent people from offering prayers that are distinctive to their own faith traditions.”

“A few people should not be able to extinguish the traditions of our nation merely because they heard something they didn’t like,” adds senior counsel Brett Harvey. “Because the authors of the Constitution invoked God’s blessing on public proceedings, this tradition shouldn’t suddenly be considered unconstitutional. It’s perfectly constitutional to allow community members to ask for God’s blessing according to their conscience.”

Air Force Republishes Chaplain’s ‘No Atheists in Foxholes’ Article to Base Website

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The U.S. Air Force republished the chaplain’s devotional article to a base website after an official initially removed it in response to a complaint  about its reflections on the famous quotation “There are no atheists in  foxholes,” often attributed to President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

In early July, a devotional article by Lt. Col. Kenneth Reyes (USAF) was posted on the website of the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in the Chaplain’s Corner titled “No atheists in foxholes:  Chaplains gave all in World War II.”

Shortly after the publication of the devotional, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation requested that the Air Force remove it off the base website  and formally discipline Reyes, claiming it insulted those with no faith,  according to WND.

The letter from the MRFF to the Air Force stated that in his article Reyes  chose to “publicly denigrate those without religion.”

The activist group also stated that Reyes “defiles the dignity of service  members by telling them that regardless of their personally held philosophical  beliefs they must have faith.”

The Air Force removed the article within hours of receiving the complaint,  according to WND.

“Chaplains have the freedom and obligation to speak about faith and religious  values, and this freedom should not be censored or prohibited,” said Alliance  Defending Freedom litigation counsel Kellie Fiedorek in a statement released  Tuesday. “The Air Force should be commended for recognizing this and returning  Chaplain Reyes’s essay to the ‘Chaplains Corner’ portion of his base’s  website.”

ADF filed a Freedom of Information Act request earlier this month in an  attempt to determine what led to the chaplain’s essay being censored in the  first place. “We will continue to monitor that as we stand ready to defend ou  men and women in uniform just as they stand ready to defend us,” said  Fiedorek.

In his devotional  article, Reyes writes that he interviewed a former World War II prisoner of  war and friend who indicated that the phrase has been credited to Father William  Cummings.

Father Cummings was a civilian missionary Catholic priest in the Philippines  and the phrase was coined during the Japanese attack at Corregidor, Reyes  writes.

He explains, “During the siege, Cummings had noticed non-Catholics were attending his services. Some he knew were not Catholic, some were not religious and some were even known atheists.

“Life-and-death experiences prompt a reality check. Even the strongest of  beliefs can change, and, I may add, can go both ways – people can be drawn to or  away from ‘faith.’ With the pending surrender of allied forces to the Japanese,  Cummings uttered the famous phrase ‘There is no such thing as an atheist in a  fox hole.'”

In an American Legion Program broadcast from the White House on Feb. 7, 1954,  Eisenhower used the expression during in his remarks.

Reyes’ devotional article: ‘No atheists in foxholes’: Chaplains gave all in World War  II

By Alex Murashko, Christian Post Reporter

Obama Admin Gives Up Forcing Bible Publisher to Obey HHS Mandate

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In a huge victory for pro-life advocates taking on the controversial HHS mandate, the Obama administration is giving up its effort to force a Bible publisher to obey it. The mandate has generated massive opposition from pro-life groups because it forces employers, regardless of their religious or moral convictions, to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception under threat of heavy penalties.

healthcareThe Obama administration opposed an order a judge gave temporarily stopping enforcement, arguing that Tyndale House Publishers isn’t religious enough for an exemption from the mandate, a component of ObamaCare that forces employers, regardless of their religious or moral convictions, to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception under threat of heavy penalties.

Now, at the Obama administration’s request, a federal appellate court Friday dismissed the Obama administration’s appeal of an order that stopped President Barack Obama from enforcing his abortion pill mandate against a Bible publisher. The administration’s retreat marks the first total appellate victory on a preliminary injunction in any abortion pill mandate case.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing Tyndale House Publishers say the administration is apparently nervous about trying to defend its position that a Bible publisher is not religious enough for a religious exemption to the mandate.

“Bible publishers should be free to do business according to the book that they publish,” said Senior Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “The government dismissed its appeal because it knows how ridiculous it sounds arguing that a Bible publisher isn’t religious enough to qualify as a religious employer. For the government to say that a Bible publisher isn’t religious is outrageous, and now the Obama administration has had to retreat in court.”

“We will continue to argue that the administration cannot disregard the Constitution’s protection of religious freedom for all family business owners and must offer a comprehensive exemption to the mandate,” Bowman added.

The abortion pill mandate is a component of ObamaCare that forces employers, regardless of their religious or moral convictions, to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception under threat of heavy penalties.

Tyndale House Publishers, based in Carol Stream, Illinois, specifically objects to covering abortifacients. It is the world’s largest privately held Christian publisher of books, Bibles, and digital media and directs 96.5 percent of its profits to religious non-profit causes worldwide.

Friday’s order from U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit means the preliminary injunction issued by a district court in November of last year will stand while the case, Tyndale House Publishers v. Sebelius, moves forward.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys and allied attorneys are also litigating nine other lawsuits against the mandate. The lawsuits represent a large cross-section of Protestants and Catholics who object to the mandate. More than 100 lawsuits have been filed in total.

The court’s order was the third nationwide against the mandate and the second obtained by Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys.

In its opinion accompanying a preliminary injunction order in Tyndale House Publishers v. Sebelius, the court wrote that “the beliefs of Tyndale and its owners are indistinguishable…. Christian principles, prayer, and activities are pervasive at Tyndale, and the company’s ownership structure is designed to ensure that it never strays from its faith-oriented mission.

The opinion continued: “The Court has no reason to doubt, moreover, that Tyndale’s religious objection to providing insurance coverage for certain contraceptives reflects the beliefs of Tyndale’s owners. Nor is there any dispute that Tyndale’s primary owner, the Foundation, can ‘exercise religion’ in its own right, given that it is a non-profit religious organization; indeed, the case law is replete with examples of such organizations asserting cognizable free exercise and RFRA [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] challenges.”

Tyndale is subject to the mandate because Obama administration rules say for-profit corporations are categorically non-religious, even though Tyndale House is strictly a publisher of Bibles and other Christian materials and is primarily owned by the non-profit Tyndale House Foundation. The foundation provides grants to help meet the physical and spiritual needs of people around the world.

A diverse coalition of over 300 scholars and religious leaders have called the mandate “unacceptable,” because it still forces many religious organizations to violate their core religious beliefs. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has also denounced it.

The panel that put together the mandate has been condemned for only having pro-abortion members even though polling shows Americans are opposed to the mandate.

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