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Tony Perkins / September 8, 2014

Navy Clears the Decks for Bible Regs

This summer, the U.S. Navy made plenty of waves with its decision to pull Gideon Bibles from its lodge room drawers. After the public outcry was too much to ignore, branch leaders walked back the decision, choosing to reinstate the books until they could agree on a final policy. Now, over the next couple of weeks, bases like Patuxent River Naval Air Station are going room by room to put the Bibles back after the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) demanded them purged. At Pax River, a base chaplain had been ordered to box all the books up – until this month, when the Gideons plan to have a special dedication ceremony.

This summer, the U.S. Navy made plenty of waves with its decision to pull Gideon Bibles from its lodge room drawers. After the public outcry was too much to ignore, branch leaders walked back the decision, choosing to reinstate the books until they could agree on a final policy.

Now, over the next couple of weeks, bases like Patuxent River Naval Air Station are going room by room to put the Bibles back after the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) demanded them purged. At Pax River, a base chaplain had been ordered to box all the books up – until this month, when the Gideons plan to have a special dedication ceremony.

While the Navy charts its next moves, members of our Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition (led in part by FRC’s own Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin) sent a strong letter to the Secretaries of the Defense Department and the Navy urging the branch to stop its censorship. “… (T)he Navy should direct NEXCOM to allow Gideon Bibles in all facilities for which the Gideons are willing to make Bible donations. Furthermore, this should be a DOD-wide policy – not one merely put in place for Navy facilities,” the leaders write. “We understand that some may claim to take offense at the presence of Gideon Bibles in the guest rooms. That mere fact does not constitute a constitutional problem to be fixed. As the Supreme Court recently observed in Town of Greece v. Galloway: Offense, however, does not equate to coercion. Adults often encounter speech they find disagreeable; and an Establishment Clause violation is not made out any time a person experiences a sense of affront from the expression of contrary religious views…”

“No person is compelled to read a Gideon Bible that has been left in a guest room, and guests with no interest in the Bible can just leave the Gideon Bible in the drawer unopened.” To make its point about the military’s proud religious liberty tradition, the Coalition even included a photo of the World War II-era Bible inscribed by President Franklin Roosevelt and given directly to our troops. It’s time for the Navy to stop listening to the forces of political correctness and keep the First Amendment afloat!

They’re Baaaaaaaaack!

As Congress prepares to return for a two-week sprint before breaking again for the campaign season, much is left undone as gridlock continues between the Republican controlled House and Democratically-controlled Senate. Newly-elected Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) takes the reins and has laid out an agenda that includes passage of a “clean” continuing resolution – a temporary measure that’s needed to keep the government funded through September 30th when the current fiscal bills expire. Among conservatives, debate still exists as to how “clean” it will be and what riders could be attached.

Conservatives worry the bill to be debated this week will only extend into December, kicking the can into a Lame Duck Session where Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and the Senate would have the opportunity to pile on liberal policies without the concern of facing voters again. The agenda also includes passing a jobs/tax package to extend expiring tax breaks for small businesses, as well as an energy agenda and a few health care bills addressing problems created by ObamaCare.

In stark contrast, over in the Senate, Sen. Reid has already signaled his first priority Monday is to vote on a constitutional amendment to restrict free speech. Under the guise of advancing equality in the electoral process, the amendment offered by Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) would be the first time Congress has taken the extraordinary path of amending the Constitution to restrict First Amendment protections already recognized by the Supreme Court.

Reid has also threatened to reintroduce a flurry of other politically charged bills such as Sen. Patty Murray’s (D-Wash.) already failed Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act, a bill the Senate already rejected that would bypass the Hobby Lobby Ruling.

Finally, a couple of hearings are scheduled this week. The first – on Tuesday – concerns a proposed amendment to the Constitution of the United States Relating to Parental Rights, sponsored by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and supported by FRC’s good friend Mike Farris. Farris, Chancellor of Patrick Henry College, has long warned of the threats to parental rights in the U.S. from foreign treaties.

Second, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) is holding another religious liberty hearing, this time focused on religious attacks in Iraq and Syria, which has raised obvious concern with the rise of ISIS. Members are concerned about what should be done about this severer threat to people in the Middle East and what actions need to be taken to address the issue if the President fails to.

Union & Unity in the 21st Century

In Federalist 2, John Jay argues for the ratification of the Constitution on the grounds that the Americans of his day naturally – and providentially – formed one people, united by a common heritage, language, religion, set of political principles, and sacrifice during the Revolutionary War. On the other hand, James Madison argues for ratification in Federalist 10 on the grounds that the heterogeneous population of the extended American republic makes it more capable of combating the problem of faction and, therefore, preserving a decent popular government over time.

Just what sort of unity, then, is necessary for the United States to flourish? How has our answer to this question – and our unity itself – changed over the last century under the influence of Progressive thinkers and political leaders? Find out at FRC’s special policy lecture with Professor David Corbin and Matthew Parks – both of King’s College – next Tuesday, September 9 at noon at FRC headquarters (801 G Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001). To register or watch online, click here.

A Texas-Sized Celebration

Thursday night, I had the honor of joining Dr. Rick Scarborough for Vision America’s annual gala where I gave the keynote address and was the recipient of Vision America’s annual Hero of the Faith Award. I was joined on the program by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R-Texas) former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, and others. It was very encouraging to see the strong showing of support for the work of Vision America in challenging pastors to take the transforming message of the gospel beyond the walls of the church.

FRC has been working in partnership with Vision America in a hand-full of states that have critical elections. One of those states is North Carolina, where we will be teaming up for a nationwide simulcast a week from Sunday night. For more on Star Spangled Sunday and how your church can get involved, check out the website!

This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.

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