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Renewed Hope and A New Dawn for Religious Freedom

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October 28, 2022
Fli Insider | Restoring Faith in America

by Jorge Gomez • 7 min read

Are you ready to experience more religious freedom than ever before?

Unlike any time in the past 50 years, religious freedom is on a major winning streak in America. Thanks to several landmark victories at the U.S. Supreme Court, you are now witnessing the freedom to publicly express religious faith making an unprecedented comeback across our country. After decades of hostility to religion, the tide is finally turning.

Now, prayer can return to public places. Religious monuments that were taken down can go back up. Wherever your faith has been muzzled, religious freedom can confidently be put back where it rightfully and legally belongs.

This is the biggest positive change for religious liberty in our lifetime and a massive boost in protections to live out your faith…but almost no one knows about it.

That’s why we’re excited to announce our latest initiative at First Liberty that will completely open the floodgates for your Fist Freedom. We’re calling it: Restoring Faith in America.

In the video below, President, CEO & Chief Counsel Kelly Shackelford explains more:

Back to Freedom: Your Right to Fearlessly and Boldly Live Out Your Faith

For more than 50 years, public religious expression was silenced, censored and people of faith were far too often stripped of their constitutional rights. A slew of harmful Supreme Court decisions from the 1940s to the 1970s changed the law regarding public religious expression and distorted the original intent of the Constitution.

Millions of Americans were raised under the misconception that any hint of religion was forbidden on government property. We were wrongly told to quietly hide our beliefs. We were deceived into thinking all forms of religious expression had to be locked away inside inside the walls of a house of worship, excluded from the public arena.

But that was never the intent of our nation’s Founders. America was never meant to be a place where expressions of faith had to be hidden.

Faith is—and has always been—at the center of our country. The right to openly live out our faith is a defining part of America and why freedom has flourished for nearly 250 years. We see this in the first settlers who came to the New World seeking religious liberty. We see it in the Founders, who ensured that religious freedom was the very first right in the Bill of Rights.

But what about that “separation of Church and State”?

The phrase “separation of Church and State” has long been wildly distorted by those who want to scrub all religious expression from the public eye. But this phrase does not mean religious exercise or prayer should never occur on government property.

Recall one important fact: The words “separation of Church and State” do not appear in the text of the Constitution. This phrase came from a letter President Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptists, a group of churches in Connecticut concerned with their state government’s weak religious liberty protections. When read in context, Jefferson is saying that the “wall” keeps government from interfering with religious free exercise—contrary to how the phrase is misused today.

President Jefferson himself attended a church service held inside the U.S. Capitol featuring the preaching of Baptist minister John Leland two days after finishing his famous “wall of separation” letter. He also permitted public property to be used for religious services.

The good news today is that finally, after more than a generation, we’re getting back to the Constitution and its original intent for public religious expression. We’re restoring a more historically accurate reading of the First Amendment. We’re dispelling the myths and misuse of the “separation of Church and State.”

Why are you seeing this resurgence of religious freedom? It’s because of a string of recent Supreme Court decisions.

Kennedy v. Bremerton School District is a landmark win that changed the future of religious freedom in America. In June, the Supreme Court upheld Coach Kennedy’s right to take a knee in quiet, solitary prayer after games. But this was a victory going far beyond the prayers of one coach.

The Court set a major precedent affirming that the government cannot censor private religious expression. The Kennedy ruling delivered the final blow to the harmful precedent, Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971). The legal test that came out of that ruling caused many school officials to suppress many religious observances, leading them to violate the rights of teachers and students.

How big of an impact does this have on religious freedom law? Consider this:

  • Lemon has been cited more than 7,000 times in case law by courts across America. That means if Lemon was used to stop public religious expression or a religious display, those legal citations are overturned. This will have a widespread national impact and will help restore countless religious symbols, prayer and other expressions of faith in the public square.
  • Law school textbooks and courses will have to be rewritten. Lemon is gone. Moving forward, our courts and law schools will cite the Kennedy case as the standard.

In recognizing that the 50-year-old Lemon test has been overruled, the Supreme Court’s decision in Kennedy provides a tremendous opportunity to revisit those cases which used Lemon to strike down public expressions of faith (e.g., veterans memorials with religious imagery, Ten Commandments displays, and public prayer) and government funding of and/or provision of government benefits for religious individuals and organizations.

How does this impact YOU? How will this make a difference in the lives of everyday Americans like you—who simply want to live, work and worship freely?

If you’re a public-school teacher, administrator or student, this means your freedom to live out your faith at school is more protected than ever before in your lifetime. Americans of any faith and religious affiliation can engage in a private expression of their faith on campus—without censorship or punishment.

Let’s say you’re a Jewish school teacher. It means you’re now free to wear a yarmulke without fear of being punished. If you’re a Catholic coach, it means you don’t have to hide your beliefs and you can make a sign of the cross before the start of a game. Or if you’re a Christian administrator, you can now say a blessing over your lunch in the cafeteria without worrying about losing your job.

Let’s Restore Our Memorials, Monuments and Religious Displays

How many times have you seen or heard about crosses being torn down? How many veterans memorials have been desecrated for including a Scripture? How many Ten Commandments monuments have been carted off? How many times has a religious symbol or reference been scrubbed because someone claimed to be “offended”? There are simply too many examples to count.

This widespread destruction is over. You can now begin rebuilding and restoring the symbols, monuments and traditions that radicals tore down. Here’s why:

The Supreme Court’s decision in Kennedy builds upon the Supreme Court’s historic 7-2 ruling in American Legion v. American Humanist Association a few years ago, which began to cause a huge shift for religious freedom—specifically for religious traditions, monuments and displays. The Court upheld the constitutionality of the Bladensburg Peace Cross, a large monument located on government property in Maryland. Now fortified by the Kennedy decision, the ruling in American Legion also set a historic precedent protecting similar displays nationwide. It made an important change in our constitutional law, returning to a more commonsense understanding of the First Amendment. For cases involving religious displays, the Court would apply a more constitutionally faithful “history and tradition” test. The victories in American Legion and Kennedy bring an end to the days of offended observers forcing governments to scrub all public references to the divine.

How will this impact your community?

Let’s say you work in law enforcement. It means that your local police station, for example, can put up a memorial for fallen officers containing Proverbs 28:1 or the “Police Officer’s Prayer.” It also means you can proudly display our national motto “In God We Trust” on your patrol cruiser, as do countless sheriff and law enforcement departments across the country.

Are you a military veteran? Then your local VA facility can include a Bible or other religious texts in POW/MIA remembrance displays.

Are you someone who works in local government? It means that religion can be referenced in the seals, flags and names of cities and counties. Those symbols do not have to come down. And if they have, you are now empowered to go and restore them.

What about Nativity displays outside city hall or in a public park? Those can be brought out of storage and placed right back where they were.

More Educational Options for Your Family

In another landmark victory from this past June, the Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling in the Treat Children Fairly case (Carson v. Makin) held that state tuition-assistance programs cannot discriminate against parents who want to send their children to religious schools.

This brings an end to discrimination against students in Maine and across the country. This victory makes it clear that families should not be excluded from participating in widely available public benefits, simply for choosing a religious education.

Critical Race Theory? Prayer bans? Student speech being censored? Christian clubs being canceled? If you’re a parent, you’re probably concerned that your children are being indoctrinated with woke, radical—and harmful—ideologies when they enter the schoolhouse gates.

That’s why the Carson decision is a game-changer, especially if your family chooses a religious education for your children.

There is now more liberty for religious education in school choice programs in multiple states. Because of this ruling, the discriminatory “Blaine Amendments” found in more than 30 state constitutions are now nullified. These provisions prohibit public funds from flowing to religious schools. With the Blaine Amendments effectively removed as a barrier and the legal cloud over choice programs lifted, the path to even greater educational opportunity for your children and grandchildren is now clear.

If your state offers an option to use government funds for private, religious education, then you can apply for those benefits and not face discrimination. Your family can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that you can send your children to a religious school that aligns with your values and beliefs.

While the Supreme Court’s decision in Carson v. Makin opens the door wide open for school vouchers and other government assistance for all schools, whether or not they are religious, the ruling means even more for religious freedom. This case establishes strong precedent that the government cannot discriminate and deny otherwise equally available governmental benefits to people of faith and faith-based organizations because they are religious.

Go! Live in Liberty

From your children’s schools, houses of worship, charities, businesses and the marketplace, your local veterans’ memorials and your neighborhood, every American is experiencing more religious freedom now than in more than a half century.

We encourage every American to seize this tremendous opportunity. There’s renewed hope that we can reclaim our nation’s heritage of religious expression, restore the freedoms that were stripped away and rebuild the foundation on which our Republic is built.

Go forth and live in liberty! God has opened an incredible door for everyone to express our faith and protect freedom, and it is up to us to walk through it.

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