"We atheists laugh at you Christians..."

Dear Partner, We have experienced a tremendous number of inquiries of Christians seeking pro-bono legal help in the last 60 to 90 days for many legal assaults on the Christian faith. Our legal team has sprung into action and successfully protected a number of those Christians with our rapid response, as you will see when you read further in the newsletter.

It seems that the root cause behind this assault is the evil unleashed in the spiritual realm. We know that God has called us to stand in defense of the many Christians doing great work in the spread of the Gospel and also, for those Christians who are mere victims of arbitrary anti-Christian bigotry by persons in power.

            Has our legal ministry become more visible in the last 90 days, or is it a sign of the times?

Although we’ve had some recent media attention, I really believe the phone calls and emails are a sign of the times—that our services are needed now more than ever. Here are just a few of the cases we are working on that have come into our office in the last 90 days:

            “We atheists laugh at you Christians. And in 100 years, no one is going to believe in God because the science will prove he doesn’t exist.” This is the statement from one 7th grade teacher in Massachusetts who felt she had the unfettered right to show such visceral hostility toward her students in a social studies class. Similar comments were made on other days but we don’t have time to go into them here. Imagine the effect this hostile communication will have on future generations. One mom complained to the school principal, but the anti-Christian comments didn’t stop. That same mom called on us for help, and we have agreed to file a lawsuit against the school district and the teacher, if the family is willing. While bullying is a hot topic within today’s schools, the bullying most often overlooked is the bullying that some school administrators and teachers unleash on their own students just because the students have or express a Christian worldview. We need to find more cases like these so we can set legal precedent against religious hostility expressed in the classroom by public school teachersThese children are the future and we can’t allow generations to be lost due to the atheistic influences of a hostile public school environment.

            Do Christians still have a right to share the Gospel out loud in public?

We were recently contacted by Michael Marcavage, a minister on the East Coast and publisher of Christian News Network. He regularly engages in street evangelism and has had significant difficulties sharing the Gospel in public—and in this case, along the Atlantic City Boardwalk. This minister was told he needed to apply for a permit as a “street performer” and pay a fee for street evangelism. First, he is not a “street performer” as defined by the city ordinance. Second, the Constitution gives him the right to free speech, and the fee for our right to speak freely in open public forums like a boardwalk  has  already  been  paid by the sacrifice of our brave men and women in the armed forces  who have lost their lives fighting for our liberty. While not  all of us are “cut-out” for street evangelism, we need to protect our right to free speech in public or else our public square may begin to look more like China’s Tiananmen Square.

            We will be filing a lawsuit in New Jersey to secure these rights. From the beginning, our mission has been to defend the First Amendment right to free speech, which includes spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. More recently, we’ve experienced the need to defend not only the right to express our faith, but to defend the right to practice our faith in our daily lives.

We’ve received calls about everything from children chided for reading the Bible as part of a homework assignment to ministers threatened by county officials for refusing to marry same-sex couples.  A reoccurring theme we’re noticing with all this activity: hostility towards a Christian worldview. 

The good news is we’ve had much success. Many of these recent issues have been resolved without even having to file a lawsuit. The important thing is that we are here to take their phone calls and take legal action, which many times simply requires us to send a letter explaining the constitutional protection afforded to our clients.

            While we are trying to help as many people as we can, we simply do not have enough financial resources to help all of these clients defend their religious liberties and fight anti-Christian hostility.

Many of you have asked us about our Justice Gala this year. As you may remember, we normally hold an annual fundraising event known as “Justice” in the fall. This year, we made a strategic decision to skip this event for a few reasons: putting on a Justice Gala each year is a large financial commitment, and it often impacts the resources we have to commit to our primary mission to defend the First Amendment right to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to our new clients.

            Right now we have more inquiries than we can commit to financially, and in order for us to be able to fully handle all the cases coming in WE NEED YOUR HELP!

Typically, about 400 people attend our Gala, and while it’s an educational and often inspiring event, we realized that we could make a greater impact toward our core mission if we could apply the full amount of your donations to the new cases we’ve taken on recently.

Our strategy and hope is that everyone who would normally purchase a ticket or contribute by buying an auction item will make a gift to this campaign. In doing so, 100% of your donation will go directly towards our ministry and new cases—defending religious liberty. If 400 of you could make a donation of $150 (the price of a Justice ticket), we could raise the funds necessary to more aggressively pursue these opportunities and ensure that Christians retain the right to live out their faith in their daily lives!

If you can’t commit to a $150 donation right now but would like to contribute to our mission, we gratefully welcome any and all gifts! We’ve set a goal of $60,000 in order to pursue the astounding amount of cases God has supplied us with, and we would be grateful if you would join us in reaching that goal!

For those of you who regularly attend and enjoy our galas, don’t fret! We’ve already started planning for our regular Justice Gala in 2014!

We’re humbled by your tremendous support over the years, and now—as we see the culture war raging more than ever—we thank you in advance for your help in reaching our fundraising goal to support the many new cases coming into our ministry.  On behalf of the entire Advocates team and our Board, have a Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving!

In His Service,
  
Robert Tyler
General Counsel

A Case at the Supreme Court

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard a case regarding compulsory prayer before governmental meetings. supreme_court_building The town of Greece, NY, decreed in 1999 that all town board meetings would begin with prayer.  The vast majority of clergy asked to lead the prayer are from Christian churches, which some say violates their First Amendment right to freedom of religion, since individuals have vastly different belief systems.

In addition, when the clergy accept the invitation to pray before the meetings, they are then acting on behalf of the government.  Some argue that this crosses the line between “separation of church and state.”

What do you think?  Do you think that compulsory prayer before governmental meetings should be done away with?  Do you think the town should have to simply provide prayer in a more inclusive way, honoring different belief systems?  Or, do you think they should be allowed to continue in the way they’ve conducted business for the past 10+ years?  Join the discussion on Facebook and let us know!

Students Stand in Prayer at School Tomorrow

 Tomorrow, September 25th at 7:00am, students around the nation will gather in prayer around their school’s flagpole. This has been a tradition since 1990, See You At The Poleand since then, millions of kids have gathered for See You At The Pole (SYATP) and lifted up their schools, teachers, friends, families, communities, and nation in prayer on the 4th Wednesday of September.

In years past, we have had the opportunity to support students around the nation in practicing their religious liberty in the school setting. Some administrations, operating under the incorrect belief that SYATP violates a “separation of church and state,” have attempted to put a stop to SYATP events. You can read more about the rights of students regarding SYATP here.

 

What can you do in preparation for tomorrow?

 

  •  Parents and students – Find out if your school is hosting a SYATP event.  Students, this is a wonderful time to meet in solidarity and prayer with your fellow classmates, and we hope you have the chance to participate!
  • Teachers – Pray for your students who will be participating in SYATP.  They are taking a bold step in faith on this day!
  • All – Please join us in prayer for this event around the country.  What an opportunity for young believers to stand strong in their faith and be a light to their peers.

Will the Mt. Soledad Cross Remain?

Recently, we sent an amicus brief to the district court in opposition to the decision of the Ninth Circuit regarding the Mt. Soledad cross in San Diego, CA. Mt Soledad Cross In 2011, the Ninth Circuit ruled that the cross was unconstitutional under the Establishment Clause in our Constitution. The decision stated, "Overall, a reasonable observer viewing the Memorial would be confronted with an initial dedication for religious purposes…” However, the Court did not decide what to do with the memorial.

This decision was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but they declined to hear the case. So, the Ninth Circuit verdict remains in place.

          We believe that this cross is a longstanding memorial to our men and women in uniform, and we – along with other supporters – suggest that the land the cross sits on be sold to a private party so that the memorial can remain. With the sale or transfer of the land to a private organization, the government would be free from any perceived endorsement of religion.

This would be a far better resolution than removing the cross altogether. The Mt. Soledad Cross has stood atop a hill in La Jolla, CA, since 1913 (the current cross was erected in 1954) and is a memorial honoring veterans who have served our country.

ACTION POINT

          Please pray with us as our amicus brief goes before the District Court. We pray that this memorial will continue to stand in honor of those who have bravely served our country!

Trial Begins – Pastor Prosecuted for Reading the Bible Out Loud in Public

Today, the case of two men arrested while reading the Bible - out loud and in public - is going to trial, over a year after the events transpired. One of them is a Pastor Bret Coronado of Reconciled Christian Fellowship in Hemet, California. View the video of the arrest. This story was widely covered by Fox News and many other news outlets shortly after the arrests: Fox News Video.

The men were arrested when they went to their local DMV in Hemet, California, and read from the Bible aloud as people stood in line for the DMV to open.  When the first California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer arrived on the scene, he grabbed the Bible away from the man reading it and said he could not “preach to a captive audience.”  There is no penal code that says such a thing, so the officer later cited them for violating California Penal Code Section 602.1(b) which provides:

“Any person who intentionally interferes with any lawful business carried on by the employees of a public agency open to the public, by obstructing or intimidating those attempting to carry on business, or those persons there to transact business with the public agency . . . is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for up to 90 days, or by a fine of up to four hundred dollars ($400), or by both that imprisonment and fine.”

 This penal code is meant to protect businesses from protesters who intimidate patrons and block entrances.  In this case, the DMV was not yet open at the time the men were there, and they were standing approximately 40 feet away from the entrance of the building.  Obviously, this citation had no merit.

After Advocates for Faith and Freedom filed a federal lawsuit against the California Highway Patrol for unlawful arrest, Riverside County District Attorney Paul Zellerbach decided to charge the men with “trespassing” on State property, a misdemeanor offense under Title 13 of the California Administrative Code, Section 1860(a): “No person shall hold or conduct any demonstration or gathering in or upon any state buildings or grounds unless a permit has been issued by the Department.”

Trial is scheduled to begin at 1:30 pm on Monday, August 5, 2013 in Department S-204 of the Riverside County Superior Court located at 30755 Auld Road, Murrieta, California. The trial is expected to last approximately 4 to 5 days. Criminal defense attorney Nic Cocis of Murrieta, CA, and Robert Tyler, General Counsel of Advocates for Faith & Freedom, will be defending Pastor Bret Coronado and Mark Mackey.

Robert Tyler remarked, “These men were exercising their First Amendment right of Free Speech.  They were simply sharing their faith on public property, and we will defend their constitutional right to do so. This prosecution amounts to nothing more than retaliation for our filing a federal lawsuit.”

The defense contends that the regulation being enforced is unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment right to free speech and is unconstitutionally vague and overbroad in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause. Additionally, however, the defense contends that the permit requirement does not apply because the men were not engaged in a “demonstration” or “gathering”.

Also, join us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date on our progress in this case and others.

Christianity Under Fire

Dear Partner, Over the past couple of decades, Americans have watched as their individual and religious freedoms have slowly been eroded, taken away, or replaced by governmental mandates and legislation.

The situation we are currently facing reminds me of the frog that is placed in a cold pot of water.  When the water slowly heats up, the frog has statue_of_liberty_under_waterbecome so comfortable there that he doesn’t even realize that he is being boiled alive! 

As Christians in America, we have a lot of freedoms for which we should be continually grateful.  Our Constitution promises us that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

However, it is our responsibility to stand up for these liberties that we enjoy and make sure that they do not slowly disappear!  Our present actions will directly affect the future reality for generations to come – this fact alone should prod us forward in defense of what we believe and what makes this Nation so great.

Here at Advocates, I regularly see examples of how our fundamental constitutional liberties are being challenged:

Hostile Attacks on Christianity in the Courtroom – Such as the case of Chad Farnan, a high school student who endured almost daily anti-Empty_classroomChristian and anti-religion rants from his Advanced Placement (AP) European History teacher.  We took this case to court, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals eventually ruled that the teacher could not be held responsible, simply because there was no law or clear precedent that a teacher is liable for his or her statements in the classroom.

Even though the final decision in this case is not what we had hoped for, I am extremely proud of Chad and honored to have fought with him.  We believe that this case was vitally important because, for years, we had heard from teachers who were being admonished or even disciplined for having Bibles on their desk, wearing a Christian-themed t-shirt, or praying with a student.  We felt that it was imperative to stand up for students on the other side of the coin – those whose religious ideologies were being attacked consistently in the captive arena of the classroom.

Silencing Christians – Three men, including a pastor, went  to their local DMV to read the Bible aloud to passers-by, something that they had done previously as a ministry.  On this day, however, the men were arrested by an officer who, after ripping the Bible from the pastor’s hands, said that the men could not “preach to a captive audience” and eventually charged them with “trespassing.” We are defending these men because we believe that, as Americans, we possess freedom of speech.  Even if we would choose a different method for sharing the Gospel, we believe that Christians must defend their right to spread the Good News.  If we don’t protect this right now, we very well might find our options for sharing the Gospel greatly restricted in the near future.

Why We Christians Must Take a Stand – You may have heard of the recent incident at Florida Atlantic University, where a professor  instructed his students to write the name of Jesus on a piece of paper, put it on the ground, and stomp on it. This instruction was given as a classroom “exercise.”

After the media storm that ensued, the university put the professor on academic leave and banned the “stomp Jesus” exercise from all future classes.

This is a great victory, and it happened because Christians were outraged by the incident and spoke up.  What would have happened had local pastors, reverends, and Christians stayed silent?

Sometimes, it can be difficult to take a stand for what we believe to be truth, based on God’s Truth.  It can feel like we are in the minority or that we are alone in the fight.  But, that is not a reason to stay silent.

If we don’t stand up for our God-given liberties and constitutional freedoms – right now – who will?  And, what will the future hold for the generations of Christians to come?

  National Day of Prayer is May 2nd!

On Thursday, May 2, Americans will join together in a collective National Day of Prayer.  This year’s theme is “Pray for America,” based on the followingPraying_hands_in_front_of_American_flag Bible verse:

“In His name the nations will put their hope."   Matthew 12:21

We encourage you to take a moment with your family on this day and pray for America, our president, our legislators, and the hardships that we are facing in today’s economic environment.  Also, let’s remember to bring thanks to God for all of the freedoms that we enjoy in our Nation. God Bless America!

God bless you,

Jennifer_bursch_signature

 

 

 

Jennifer Bursch

Associate General Counsel

Why Are "Adult Businesses" Protected More Than Churches?

Local zoning laws are required by law to permit “adult businesses” without the same burdens hurled upon churches. The U.S. Supreme Court has determined that “adult businesses” are entitled to protection from discriminatory zoning laws because the businesses’ “speech” and “expression” are protected by the First Amendment. And why aren't churches and Christian schools entitled to the same protection as “adult businesses”? It's because of the fact no legal precedent has yet been established on behalf of the churches.

We have a plan to correct this injustice in the courts, but we need your help!

Please be on the lookout for churches that are going through the permitting process to occupy a building, expand their facilities or build a new building. Refer them to Advocates for Faith and Freedom because we can probably help.

We have also found that many zoning regulations applied to churches are unconstitutionally applied or violate the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. Regulations are often unlawful because they impose substantial burdens on churches that are not justified or they impose burdens on churches that are not equally imposed upon other similar uses like movie theaters and assembly halls. Sometimes, churches are unlawfully excluded from zoning districts while other similar uses are permitted.

Please let your church leaders know that we are here to help them. We are searching for the right cases with the right set of facts in order to establish the legal precedent that is long overdue.

 

Victory in San Diego!

Last week, we received an urgent call from one of our ministry friends, Ron Harper. He asked for our immediate help to prevent the County of San Diego from placing a huge burden on churches.church_parking_lot Ron is a contractor who specializes in building churches. Ron informed us that the County of San Diego was planning to adopt a new law that would require all churches to drastically increase the amount of parking they provide before they expand any facilities or build a new building.

Ron said that the new law would require churches to purchase twice the amount of land currently required. Further, a church would be required to buy almost twice the amount of land that a similarly sized movie theater, convention center or other assembly-type use would be required to buy even though the parking needs are the same.

In most cases, the cost of having church in the County of San Diego would be so great that churches would be priced out of existence.

We intervened and wrote an extensive legal opinion to the County of San Diego on behalf of numerous churches, including Maranatha Christian Fellowship and Horizon Christian Fellowship, explaining why the new law violated federal law. Along with Ron, we were able to build a grassroots effort in about 12 hours that included an e-mail blast from a San Diego state assemblyman and support from San Diego churches representing tens of thousands of residents.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously voted down the new law and in favor of churches. The Supervisors mentioned that this had become “a huge controversy, suddenly-out of the blue.” Ron Harper commented, “It was great to watch a victory come together ‘out of the blue’ in such a short time!”

Thank you for supporting our ministry so that we can quickly come to the aid of worthy causes like this one!  Although this case will never hit national news, the victory will help save millions upon millions of dollars for San Diego churches.

Preliminary Victory for Calvary Chapel Bible Fellowship

Calvary_Chapel_Bible_FellowshipShortly after Calvary Chapel Bible Fellowship (affectionately known as "The Barn”) was built in 1999, the County of Riverside, CA, covertly passed a ban on further expansion or establishment of churches in the Temecula Wine Country. After The Barn decided last year to expand its church facilities and build a small private country school for grades K-8, they learned of the County’s ban on churches. We have advised the County that the ban violates federal law and is unconstitutional.

Last week, we won a preliminary victory, as the Board of Supervisors in Riverside County, California, voted unanimously to begin considering an amendment to the existing zoning regulations that would allow churches and other religious organizations to move into the Temecula Wine Country! This does not assure churches the right to move into Wine Country just yet, but it does show a positive sign that the Board will begin working with us to correct the unlawful ordinances.