The Congressional Prayer Caucus

 

Today, we are seeing more and more attacks on issues of faith, religion and morality and the courts seem to be striking down religious liberty in the name of preserving it.  In addition to the cases found in the ‘Current Issues’ section, here are more examples:

Religion in the Public Square:  

  • A petition was filed for writ of certiorari, asking the Supreme Court to hear Newdow v. Roberts, in which he challenges the inclusion of the words “so help me God’ in presidential inaugurations.  The case was originally filed in December 2008 to prevent addition of the phrase “so help me God” to the presidential oath and also to prevent the inclusion of prayers in the invocation and benediction of President Obama’s inauguration, as well as the 2013 and 2017 ceremonies.  The district court held that the plaintiffs lacked standing to pursue such cases, and this decision was later affirmed by a three-judge panel in May of 2010. 
  • The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit held that crosses serving as roadside memorials to fallen Utah state troopers are unconstitutional. The 10th Circuit reversed the district court ruling in American Atheists v. Davenport that upheld the memorial crosses. The court held that “the cross memorials would convey to a reasonable observer that the state of Utah is endorsing Christianity.  
  • On May 5, 2010, a teacher and her students were told by police that they could not pray in front of the Supreme Court.  The group was told by a police officer that prayer was not permitted due to federal statute, 40 U.S.C. 1635, which applies to parades or processions in front of the Supreme Court.   

Religious Freedom in Schools:  

  • In Keeton v. Anderson-Wiley, an Augusta State University counseling student was told that her Christian beliefs are unethical and incompatible with the prevailing views of the counseling profession.  The United State District Court for the District of Georgia denied a request for a preliminary injunction and a motion for an injunction pending appeal was filed with the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.  
  • On June 28, 2010, in a 5-4 decision authored by Justice Ginsberg, the Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Christian Legal Society v. Martinez.  The Christian Legal Society (CLS) chapter of the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, had adopted the CLS Statement of Faith, which includes a prohibition on extramarital sex, to join as voting members and to run for officer positions.  The Chapter applied for Registered Student Organization status in 2004; however, their application was rejected because CLS’s bylaws did not comply with the law schools’ Nondiscrimination Policy.  Later the CLS chapter requested an exemption from the Policy, but it was not granted.  The law school interpreted the Policy to “mandate acceptance of all comers: School-approved groups must ‘allow any student to participate, become a member, or seek leadership positions in the organization, regardless of her status or beliefs.’”  This case, now CLS v. Wu, is pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to determine if the policy was selectively enforced against CLS.  
  • Public schools and school boards are also being targeted by organizations seeking to stifle the First Amendment right of student to exercise their religious faith.  While teachers and school officials cannot sponsor or promote religious activity, the Supreme Court has held that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”  For example, students may pray during non-instructional time; organize prayer groups and religious clubs before school; and express their beliefs through homework, art projects, and other assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of their work.  

Legislative Prayer 

  • City Councils across the country are being targeted by secular organizations in an effort to prevent the Councils from opening their meetings with prayer.  Some cities are standing strong, while others have quickly caved to the pressure and revised their policy.  The Supreme Court held that “the opening of sessions of legislative and other deliberative public bodies with prayer is deeply embedded in the history and tradition of this country. From colonial times through the founding of the Republic and ever since, the practice of legislative prayer has coexisted with the principles of disestablishment and religious freedom.” 
 

Stay Connected

Members of the Congressional
Prayer Caucus

Congressman J. Randy Forbes, Founder
& Co-Chairman

Congressman Mike McIntyre, Co-Chairman


For a complete list of Members of the Congressional

Prayer Caucus, click here.


Contact the Congressional Prayer Caucus Amy Vitale, Amy.Vitale@mail.house.gov