In the News: Breaking Religious Freedom Stories Across the Country

March 24, 2023
In the News Courtney | First Liberty Institute

Catch up on the latest and most important religious freedom headlines around the web.

Shut Out in San Diego?

First Liberty attorney Jeremy Dys published an op-ed for WORLD discussing Canyon Springs Church in San Diego. The church has held services inside San Diego Unified School District’s Marshall Middle School for years. But now activists are upset with the church’s use of the building and want the school district to end its rental agreement with the church. Dys writes:

“If any community group can rent a public school facility why exclude religious ones other than to be ideologically vindictive? Are churchgoers not taxpayers too? Do they not also have an interest in the community the school board represents and serves? Ideologically driven activists may not assert a secular monopoly over taxpayer-funded facilities.”

Restoring Faith in America: Kentucky Legislature Passes Bill to Protect Religious Freedom in Public Schools

The Kentucky Legislature recently passed House Bill 547, and it is now headed to Governor Andy Beshear’s desk. The legislation states that school districts cannot “punish or prohibit an employee from, or punish an employee for, engaging in private religious expression otherwise protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

The bill allows public employees to:

  • Discuss religion and share religious materials with other employees in the same manner that employees are allowed to engage in nonreligious expression and discussions.
  • Gather with their peers for prayer or religious study during lunch breaks or after school.
  • Work as a sponsor of student religious club or organization.
  • Wear religious clothing, symbols, or jewelry.
  • Display religious items in personal workspaces.

Coach Joe Kennedy Finally Rehired After Religious Liberty Win at Supreme Court

The Daily Citizen reports: Joe Kennedy has officially been reinstated in his coaching position after being fired from his job back in 2015. Coach Kennedy was fired for taking a knee and quietly praying at the 50-yard line following football games. For eight long years, Coach Kennedy waged a lengthy legal battle, trying to vindicate both his right to freely exercise his religion and his free speech rights. His legal battle culminated in an important 6-3 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 27, 2022 in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, where the high court ruled in favor of Coach Kennedy.

Michigan’s New SOGI Policy Threatens Religious Liberty 

WORLD reports: Michigan state legislators passed a bill adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s nondiscrimination policy. But lawmakers in Michigan rejected a provision for religious accommodations. Some are worried that this will spell trouble for religious institutions, particularly those that adhere to more traditional views on marriage, sexuality, and gender.

Orthodox Jewish Parents Sue California for Ban on Special Ed Funds to Religious Schools

Religion News reports: A group of Orthodox Jewish parents of children with autism are suing the state of California, claiming it discriminates against religious students by barring private religious schools from receiving public funding for special education resources. The federal lawsuit alleges that it’s impossible for children with disabilities to attend religious schools and receive the same funding they’d otherwise be entitled to had their parents sent them to nonreligious schools.

Lawmakers Push Back on Biden’s Attack on Religious Freedom 

Must Read Alaska reports: Members of Congress are drawing a line in the sand on what appears to be another audacious attack on the religious freedom of Americans by President Joe Biden.

26 Republican Senators and House members sent a letter to the U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary, who announced a policy change that weakens religious freedom protections for some health care professionals. Under the HHS change, health care professionals could lose their jobs or licenses if they refuse to perform abortions or sex change operations for religious reasons.

Author Tells Stories of Christian Martyrs, Warns of ‘Slow Squeezing’ of Religious Freedom in West

The Christian Post reports: Johnnie Moore, a spiritual adviser to former President Donald Trump, recently released a book honoring those who stood firm on their faith even in the face of torture and death. Titled The New Book of Christian Martyrs, the book is an updated version of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, first published in 1563 by John Day.

Moore said he doesn’t want to draw a parallel between the persecution faced by those in many countries around the world and the plight of Christians in the U.S., but he warned that it’s important to nevertheless be “vigilant” on the issue of religious freedom. “There always is this slow squeezing of the religious freedom of the Christian community and other persecuted communities before it gets grandiose, most of the time. Now, that’s a warning from the persecuted church abroad to people in the West.”

Perspective: The Dream of a Religiously Diverse Democracy Is Ours to Achieve

Deseret News reports: The great constitutional promise of America is freedom of religion. The great genius of America follows from that promise: if you give people the freedom to express their faith, they will use that freedom to build up their nation. They will take the inspiration of their faith, plant it in American soil, and grow out of it institutions that serve people of all faiths and philosophies. We are so accustomed to this that we take it for granted. But the truth is that this freedom of religious expression is a rare achievement in human history.

New York Employee Fired for Skipping LGBT Training on Religious Grounds Loses Appeal

The Washington Examiner reports: A federal appeals court rejected the case of a former account clerk in New York who was fired for refusing to attend a required LGBT training session in 2018. Raymond Zdunski worked at Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES for seven years prior to his firing. He sued the organization for unlawful religious discrimination.

“It just seems like the country is against the Christian way of life, and it’s for everything else,” Zdunski said. “We’re not allowed to practice our way of life, but anyone else can, it seems.”

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