Friday, October 29, 2010

Vote NO on SQ 755!

Dear Oklahoma Members and Supporters of Americans United:


Thank you for all of your efforts, nationally and locally, to support church-state separation. We could not do the work we do without you.


As the election draws near, we'd like to ask you to vote NO on SQ 755, the so-called "Save Our State Amendment."


This measure, placed on the ballot by the legislature, stirs up fear and intolerance rather than doing anything to "save our state."


Banning courts from considering Sharia law is completely unnecessary. The U.S. Constitution already guarantees this--the Establishment Clause prohibits religion being used as the basis of our laws. And the Oklahoma Constitution also clearly bars this. Article I, Sec. 2 states: "Perfect toleration of religious sentiment shall be secured, and no inhabitant of the State shall ever be molested in person or property on account of his or her mode of religious worship; and no religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights."


So, what's the real purpose of this amendment? Because the amendment doesn't prohibit reliance on all religious law, just Sharia law, it would seem that the intent is to single out one particular religion's teachings as being wrong. Yet the Constitution cannot express preference for one religion or denigrate another--that too is prohibited by the Establishment Clause. The amendment only adds fuel to the anti-Islam rhetoric currently circulating around the country.


We urge you to vote NO on SQ 755. There is no need for this law and it would have no practical effect. What it would do, however, is send a message to Oklahomans about who are insiders and favored members of the political community and who are outsiders and therefore, unwelcome and disfavored.

Reject this amendment of fear and intolerance!

Sincerely,
Americans United
www.au.org

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Investigate Florida Church Whose Pastor Endorsed Slate Of Candidates

Americans United Asks IRS To Investigate Florida Church Whose Pastor Endorsed Slate Of Candidates
October 28, 2010


Sun City Christian Center Violated Federal Law, Says Watchdog Organization

The Internal Revenue Service should investigate a Wimauma, Fla., church whose pastor endorsed a slate of Republican candidates during Sunday services, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

In a complaint filed with the IRS today, Americans United noted that Pastor Arlen Beck of Sun City Christian Center told congregants on Oct. 24 that he had prepared a list of candidates that he intends to vote for and placed copies of the list in the back of the church for their use.

Beck’s actions were reported in the St. Petersburg Times, which quoted an attendee who was offended by Beck’s endorsements.

According to the Times, Beck said, “If you’re conservative you might want to pick one of those up. If you’re liberal you might not want to stop by there.”

Beck later told the newspaper that he does not care if the IRS revokes his church’s tax exemption.

Federal law states that all 501(c)(3) organizations, which includes houses of worship, must refrain from intervening in politics by endorsing or opposing candidates for public office as a condition of receiving tax exemption.

“Pastor Beck is dragging his church into a partisan swamp,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “He has no right to do this while claiming tax-exempt status.”

In a letter to the IRS delivered today, Lynn requested an investigation of the matter.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

http://www.au.org/media/press-releases/archives/2010/10/au-asks-irs-to-investigate.html

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sharia Charade: Oklahoma Ballot Measure Reflects Religious Intolerance

Sharia Charade: Oklahoma Ballot Measure Reflects Religious Intolerance

October 27th, 2010

By Sandhya Bathija.Religious DiscriminationOklahomans who really understand the Constitution should have no reason to fear that sharia law will ever be imposed by the government.

In just six days, Oklahoma voters will decide whether they want to write religious intolerance into their state’s constitution.

That’s what they will be doing if they vote “yes” for a constitutional amendment that would prohibit courts from considering “sharia” – Islamic law – when deciding cases. Since our Constitution already separates religion and government, this proposal has no legitimate purpose.

Supporters are simply fanning the flames of religious discrimination and intolerance. I hope Oklahomans see that.

The ballot initiative – known as State Question 755, or the “Save Our State” amendment – already has received the overwhelming approval of the legislature. The House passed it with an 82-10 vote, and the Senate followed suit by 41-2.

Supporters of the measure claim it’s the only way to protect the state from a takeover by Islamic extremists.

“There is actually a huge pocket of terrorist organizations operating out of Oklahoma,” said Brigitte Gabriel, founder of “Act! For America,” which is backing the measure. “I know this because I work with members of the FBI who are in counter-terrorism and who are paying attention to what’s happening in Oklahoma. What we are seeing right now, not only in Oklahoma, but nationwide [is] where there is a large concentration of Muslim population, [there are] more demands and more push for sharia law.”

Sadly, Gabriel and her allies have fooled a lot of people in Oklahoma into believing that if they don’t vote “yes,” Islamic law will become the basis for American law. A poll by The Tulsa World in July found that 49 percent of voters support the amendment compared to 24 percent who opposed it and 27 percent who were undecided.

It’s really disappointing that the current anti-Islam sentiments circulating in the nation have enabled such fear mongering. Let’s be clear: The U.S. Constitution already states that religion cannot be the basis of our laws. The First Amendment mandates the separation of church and state.

The Oklahoma Constitution is also pretty clear. Article I, Sec. 2 states: “Perfect toleration of religious sentiment shall be secured, and no inhabitant of the State shall ever be molested in person or property on account of his or her mode of religious worship; and no religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights.”

But considering the past antics of the Oklahoma legislature, we know many legislators must be confused about religious liberty and the constitutional separation of religion and government. Americans United often has trouble explaining this foundational concept to some of the state’s lawmakers who seems to want to make their version of Christianity the basis for laws.

Oklahomans who really understand the Constitution, however, should have no reason to fear that sharia law will ever be imposed by the government.

Even the state’s conservative-leaning newspaper, The Oklahoman, knows that. The newspaper asks its readers to vote “no” on the amendment, rightfully asserting that it has “no practical effect and needn’t be added to the Oklahoma Constitution.”

If you live in Oklahoma, or know someone that does, it’s not too late to spread the word.


http://blog.au.org/2010/10/27/sharia-charade-oklahoma-ballot-measure-reflects-religious-intolerance/

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Animus against gays is similar to animus against inter-racial marriage

Proposition 8 Ban On Same-Sex Marriage Has No Legitimate Basis, Americans United Tells Appeals Court

Like Historic Opposition To Interracial Marriage, California Measure Is Based On Intolerance, Psuedo-Science And Religious Dogma, Says AU Brief


October 26, 2010


Like Historic Opposition To Interracial Marriage, California Measure Is Based On Intolerance, Psuedo-Science And Religious Dogma, Says AU Brief
California’s ban on civil marriage for same-sex couples is based on intolerance, pseudo-science and religious dogma, not legitimate public policy concerns, Americans United for Separation of Church and State has told a federal appeals court.

In a friend-of-the court brief, Americans United advised the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that opposition to marriage equality for gay couples reflects the same baseless and inappropriate considerations that once were used to deny marriage rights to slaves and interracial couples.

The brief was filed in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, a closely watched lawsuit that challenges Proposition 8, a California referendum that revoked the right of same-sex couples to obtain civil marriages. The drive to enact the measure was funded and staffed primarily by fundamentalist Protestant churches, the Roman Catholic hierarchy and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons).

Said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, “American law should be based on equality and fairness, not the doctrines of aggressive religious groups. Proposition 8 is grounded in intolerance and sectarian dogma, and the appeals court should reject it.”

The brief, filed jointly Oct. 25 with the Howard University School of Law Civil Rights Clinic, notes that historically opponents of marriage rights for slaves and interracial couples argued that such unions were a threat to the social order and the institutions of marriage and family. They also claimed that such marriages violated their interpretation of the Bible.

Observes the brief, “Even though reliance on religious doctrine as the basis for public policy is as improper today as it was in the days of anti-miscegenation laws, today opponents of marriage between two persons of the same sex use (their) Biblical interpretations to suggest that homosexuality is unnatural because it is against God’s will. Indeed, like their anti-miscegenationist counterparts, opponents of marriage for same-sex couples almost always attempt to clothe their arguments in literal and selective interpretations of the Bible.”

Asserts the brief, “Today, while there is no longer any serious claim that marriage rights should be denied on the basis of race, opponents of marriage equality have attacked same-sex couples, using precisely the same flawed arguments that once were used to justify racial slavery and apartheid. We are now long past the time when anyone would seriously claim that race-based marriage equality threatens the moral fabric of our civilization, is contrary to nature, or is harmful to children.

“Therefore,” the brief concludes, “the onus should be on opponents of marriage equality to demonstrate how arguments that time and experience have so thoroughly rejected in the context of race should now be dug up, dusted off, and given any consideration, much less credibility, in the context of marriage for same-sex couples.”

In addition to AU and the Howard Civil Rights Clinic, six professors at Howard University School of Law and four law student organizations also expressed support for the brief.

The brief was written by Aderson B. Fran├žois, Civil Rights Clinic Supervising Attorney at Howard University School of Law, in cooperation with Americans United Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan and attorneys with the firms of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP and Keker & Van Nest LLP.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.


http://www.au.org/media/press-releases/archives/2010/10/proposition-8-ban-on-same-sex.html

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Christian Flag Vigil in North Carolina

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101021/ap_on_re_us/us_christian_flag_defenders

EXCERPT: By TOM BREEN, Associated Press Writer Tom Breen, Associated Press Writer – Thu Oct 21, 6:05 pm ET

KING, N.C. – The Christian flag is everywhere in the small city of King: flying in front of barbecue joints and hair salons, stuck to the bumpers of trucks, hanging in windows and emblazoned on T-shirts.

The city council decided last month to remove the flag from above the monument in Central Park after a resident complained, and after city leaders got letters from the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State urging them to remove it.

complete at: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101021/ap_on_re_us/us_christian_flag_defenders

Monday, October 18, 2010

IRS Should Investigate Minnesota Church For Electioneering

October 18, 2010


Watchdog Group Says Berean Bible Baptist Church Violated Federal Law

A Minnesota church whose pastor endorsed several political candidates during an Oct. 17 sermon should be investigated by the Internal Revenue Service, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Americans United today filed a formal complaint with the IRS over the action of Berean Bible Baptist Church in Hastings. Church pastor Brad Brandon endorsed Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer and several other candidates from the pulpit yesterday.

“Pastor Brandon has pulled his tax-exempt church into partisan politics in blatant violation of federal law,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “This a clear-cut case, and the IRS should act.”

A reporter with the Minnesota Independent attended the service and reported that Brandon endorsed Emmer and several other candidates for U.S. Congress and state offices. Brandon also distributed a flier listing the candidates that the church has endorsed.

Brandon concluded the Sunday morning church service by stating, “This has been recorded, taped this morning. We are not shy about what we are doing. In fact we are very, very bold in what we are doing. I am not violating the IRS code 501(c)(3). I don’t consider myself violating that, but I do consider myself exercising my free speech.”

But Americans United says Brandon is wrong. Federal law prohibits 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations, including houses of worship, from intervening in elections by endorsing or opposing candidates.
“The leadership of this church knowingly chose to violate the law,” Lynn said. “In my view, the church should lose its tax-exempt status.”

In a letter to the IRS sent today, Lynn wrote, “I urge you to investigate this matter and fully enforce our laws.”

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

http://www.au.org/media/press-releases/archives/2010/10/irs-should-investigate.html

Friday, October 8, 2010

IRS Should Investigate N.Y. Church That Endorsed Gubernatorial Candidate



Watchdog Group Calls On Tax Agency To Take Action Against Brooklyn Church That Endorsed Cuomo



October 7, 2010


A Brooklyn church that endorsed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew M. Cuomo should be investigated by the Internal Revenue Service, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.


Americans United today sent a letter to the IRS about recent activities at Brown Memorial Baptist Church. The New York Times reported that Cuomo spoke at the church during services on Oct. 3 and that he “delivered a pitch for support in his bid for governor, citing his record as attorney general and assailing his opponent ‘for trying to divide us.’”

Furthermore, the paper reported, “The church’s pastor, the Rev. Clinton M. Miller, quickly encouraged congregants to vote for Mr. Cuomo.”

In addition, The New York Observer reported that Cuomo was introduced at the church by Carl McCall, former New York comptroller. McCall attacked Cuomo’s opponent, Carl Paladino, calling him “dangerous” and “unfit to be governor.”

http://www.au.org/media/press-releases/archives/2010/10/irs-should-investigate-ny.html

Americans United Urges Appeals Court to Strike Down the National Day of Prayer

October 8, 2010


Congress Has No Authority To Tell Americans When And How They Should Pray, Watchdog Group Says



Americans United for Separation of Church and State has asked a federal appeals court to find the congressionally mandated National Day of Prayer unconstitutional.

In a friend-of-the-court brief filed with the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Americans United urged the panel of judges to affirm a lower court decision that held the National Day of Prayer statute unconstitutional.

In April, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb of the Western District of Wisconsin ruled that the federal law violates the constitutional separation of church and state. The Obama administration has appealed Crabb’s decision to the 7th Circuit.

“Congress needs to get out of the prayer business,” said the Rev. Barry
W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “Prayer is an inherently religious practice, and our Constitution makes it clear that promoting it is not part of the government’s job.


“Americans are free to pray whenever they want,” Lynn continued. “It's
obvious this ‘holiday’ is not really about the freedom to worship, but rather another opportunity for certain religious groups to use government to push their narrow viewpoint on the rest of us.

“It’s time to end this misguided tradition,” Lynn added. “The district
court got this right, and I’m hopeful the appeals court will, too.”


Congress created the National Day of Prayer in 1952. In 1988, after pressure from the Religious Right, it was codified as the first Thursday in May. The law directs the president to proclaim on that day that Americans “May turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals.”

AU’s brief argues that the NDP statute is a “plain endorsement of religion over nonreligion and of certain types of religious beliefs and practices over others.”

The brief also asserts that the statute has no secular purpose and “by its very terms it is not a commemoration or accommodation of our religious heritage but an active encouragement to engage in religious practice.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, the Americans Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin and the Interfaith Alliance Foundation joined Americans United in filing the brief in Freedom From Religion Foundation v. Obama.

The brief was drafted by Evan M. Tager and Carl J. Summers of the law firm Mayer Brown with assistance from AU’s Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan and two attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union, Daniel Mach and Heather L. Weaver.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

http://tinyurl.com/232fbrl

Friday, October 1, 2010

Iowa Church’s Election Campaign Against State Supreme Court Justices Merits IRS Investigation

September 30, 2010


Church’s Plan To Oust Judges Violates Federal Ban On Electioneering, Says AU's Lynn
Americans United for Separation of Church and State today urged the Internal Revenue Service to investigate an Iowa church that is organizing a church-based campaign to unseat three justices from the Iowa Supreme Court.


Cornerstone World Outreach, a Sioux City congregation, is sponsoring Project Jeremiah, a church-based campaign to encourage voting against the judges in a retention election on the Nov. 2 ballot. Religious Right activists are seeking the defeat of the judges because they ruled in favor of extending civil-marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, said the church’s campaign is a clear violation of federal tax law.

“I don’t think I have ever seen a more outrageous effort to politicize churches,” said Lynn. “This deplorable scheme seeks to turn houses of worship into dens of inequity and intolerance. I call on the IRS to move swiftly to put a stop to this outrage.


“It’s bad enough that the leaders of this church are using donations from the collection plate to fund a hardball political operation,” Lynn continued. “It’s even more appalling that they are doing so in a bigoted attempt to deny civil rights to a targeted minority. This is downright shameful.”


In a complaint filed with the IRS today, Lynn pointed to a Sept. 3 letter that Cornerstone Church sent to pastors around the state urging them to join a campaign to unseat the judges. The letter, signed by Cornerstone Pastor Cary K. Gordon, concedes that the project raises legal dangers but urges pastors to join it anyway.

link to copy of letter:
http://www.au.org/media/press-releases/archives/2010/09/cornerstone-letter-to-irs.pdf

Project Jeremiah, the church missive says, was “organized by the pastoral staff of Cornerstone Church (aka Cornerstone World Outreach), in conjunction with PeaceMakers Institute, Liberty Institute, and the Iowa Family Policy Center, to call for the removal of activist Judges from the Iowa Supreme Court, backed by a pledge of legal protection for pastors from the lawyers of Liberty Institute. Pastors who join this effort are asked to commit to confront the injustice and ungodly decisions of the Iowa Supreme Court by boldly calling upon their flocks to ‘vote no on judicial retention’ for the three consecutive Sundays prior to Election Day.”

Wrote AU’s Lynn, in his complaint to the IRS, “I believe this is a clear violation of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal tax law forbids 501(c)(3) organizations, including churches, from intervening in elections in support of or opposition to any candidate. I urge you to investigate this matter promptly and apply appropriate penalties under the law.”

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.





http://www.au.org/media/press-releases/archives/2010/09/iowa-churchs-election.html