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Bibles will be removed from guest rooms at Iowa State University’s Hotel Memorial Union in Ames.
The Des Moines Register says a guest had complained to a watchdog group, Freedom From Religion Foundation. The organization wrote to Memorial Union director Richard Reynolds on Jan. 29, asking for the Bibles to be removed. The group’s attorney, Patrick Elliott, said that for a state-run university to provide a Bible to guests, “that policy facilitates illegal endorsement of Christianity over other religions and over nonreligion.”
Reynolds responded last week and said the Bibles would be removed by March 1st. The hotel occupies several floors in the Memorial Union and has 52 rooms. The Bibles will be placed in the Memorial Union’s Browsing Library for lending.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee sent letters this week to several local school superintendents calling on them to stop school-sponsored prayer before football games.
Midway through the state’s high school football season, the civil liberties advocacy group reminded school leaders of several Supreme Court decisions they say clearly ban the practice of publicly-led expressions of religion.
“Our experience is that many public school administrators and educators struggle with how the constitutional guarantees of religious freedom apply to prayer during their school-sponsored events,” said Hedy Weinberg, the ACLU’s executive director. “Our goal is to make sure that school systems statewide understand these First Amendment guarantees and commit to protecting religious freedom for all students, including athletes, and for their families who attend the games.”
In a later interview, Weinberg said the organization sent out letters to 135 county and city school superintendents and directors in the state after reading reports from East Tennessee of coaches publicly endorsing prayer before games, which two Supreme Court decisions said violated the rights of those who didn’t want to take part.
The letter, which asks for school districts “to commit to protecting religious freedom,” does not mention potential legal action against the school systems if prayers continue. Instead, Weinberg called the notifications “a gentle reminder” about the issue.
“This isn’t a race to the courthouse, but I’ll tell you when we’ve not been able to resolve these issues, we have, on behalf of families, pursued litigation,” she said.
While not all area school leaders had received the letters as of Friday, the districts they are in charge of have varied stances on the issue. Weinberg said she had received no specific reports about prayer at games in Middle Tennessee.
Metro Nashville Public Schools’ policy on the issue, last updated in 2011, said the district would not endorse specific religious practices or coerce other students to participate in them.
“Among other things, school administrators and teachers will not organize, encourage, or engage in prayer exercises in the classroom or at school-related events,” the policy reads.
Sumner County Schools Director Del Phillips said he hadn’t received the ACLU’s letter as of Friday evening. He said the civil liberties group shouldn’t have an issue in the district he leads.
“I’ve been to ballgames every week in Sumner County, and that hasn’t occurred in any of them,” Phillips said.
In the state last year, the Freedom from Religion Foundation also called for pregame prayers to cease at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.
The ACLU has gone to court previously with school districts in Cheatham, Sumner and Wilson counties concerning other issues about religion in the classroom.
Weinberg also said the state ACLU typically sends out a letter related to school prayer at some point during each school year.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation has asked Hamilton County Schools to end monthly after-school prayer services at Hardy Elementary School.
A Times Free Press story earlier this month highlighted a prayer walk at the school, where teachers, administrators, parents and students walked the halls to pray with members of Love Baptist Church. In a letter to the school system’s attorney, the national Freedom from Religion Foundation says those actions raise constitutional concerns by offering an endorsement of a particular religion.
Hardy Principal Annette Ferguson could not be reached for comment on Friday. But she earlier told the Times Free Press that the prayer walk was optional. Though she said there were children of many faiths at Hardy, Ferguson said the prayer service only happened after school, so people could choose whether to participate.
The foundation, which has consistently sought to keep prayer and other religious activities out of public schools and other government settings, says Ferguson’s comments were troublesome.
“When she and other administrators participate in these prayer walks in such an official capacity, it makes it clear that they approve of these Christian events, and exhibits favoritism to Christianity over all other religions,” staff attorney Rebecca Markert wrote to the school system.
The Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation has been involved in several local church-state separation issues. Last year, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga banned public prayer before football games after receiving a letter from the group. And the foundation challenged prayer and church-sponsored meals for Ridgeland High School football players last year.
Hamilton County Schools attorney Scott Bennett said he is looking into the matter. But, generally speaking, he said the school system does not treat any religious group more or less favorably than other groups. The school system remains neutral on religion. And while employees may exercise their own religious liberties, he said they may not do so in an official capacity.
Source: Chattanooga Times Free Press
O GOD OUR CREATOR,
from your provident hand we have received our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
You have called us as your people and given us the right and the duty to worship you, the only true God, and your Son, Jesus Christ.
Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit, you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world, bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel to every corner of society.
We ask you to bless us in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened; give us courage in making our voices heard on behalf of the rights of your Church and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.
Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father, a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters gathered in your Church in this decisive hour in the history of our nation, so that, with every trial withstood and every danger overcome-for the sake of our children, our grandchildren, and all who come after us.
May this great land will always be “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Father, we also pray for those who are lost. That they may come to know you and your enduring love for them.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.
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.”
The Freedom from Religion Foundation – one of the nation’s most radical atheist organizations – has filed a federal lawsuit to remove “In God We Trust” from our nation’s currency.
They actually claim our coins are discriminatory.
Yet acknowledging and respecting our nation’s heritage is not “discrimination” – it’s a celebration of our shared history and the Source of our liberty.
At the ACLJ, we’re fighting back. Working with Members of Congress, we intend to file a critical brief defending the National Motto and the right of our nation to acknowledge God in our history and culture.
Add your voice to our brief.
PICKENS COUNTY, S.C. – A high school valedictorian from South Carolina ripped up his approved speech on stage this past weekend, and minutes later, delivered the Lord’s Prayer in defiance of the school district’s decision to no longer include prayer at graduation ceremonies.
Roy Costner IV drew loud applause and cheers when he surprised attendees of the Liberty High School graduation at Clemson’s Littlejohn Colliseum on Saturday.
“From the ACLU sending FOIA requests to every district in the state this year after the Chesterfield County case, then the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent us a complaint about religion at board meetings and some other issues as well,” Pickens County School District spokesman John Eby said, the district has been under fire.
Therefore, officials decided to end invocations at all school functions and replace prayer at high school graduations with a moment of silence.
However, Costner wasn’t going to let activist groups kick God out of his graduation. After taking the podium, Costner took his approved speech and ripped it in half for all to see.
“They write their speeches,” Eby told local television station WYFF. “They send them to someone on staff to have them approved.”
After speaking from a separate script for a few minutes, Costner then began to thank his parents for his Christian upbringing.
“Those that we look up to, they have helped carve and mold us into the young adults that we are today,” he said. “I’m so glad that both of my parents led me to the Lord at a young age.”
“And I think most of you will understand when I say…” he continued, surprising the crowd with what came next.
“Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name,” Costner declared. “Thy Kingdom come…”
As attendees realized that Costner was reciting the Lord’s Prayer, applause began to break out in the colliseum. Within seconds, the applause was accompanied by loud cheers.
“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” he continued. “For Thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.”