Right Opinion

U.S. Navy Keeps the First Amendment Afloat

Tony Perkins · Apr. 24, 2018

The U.S. Navy is sinking the hopes of secularists seeking to rid the military of religious freedom. Under the Obama administration, you may recall that attacks on religious freedom became so frequent that we began chronicling the incidents in a publication entitled, “A Clear and Present Danger: The Threat to Religious Liberty in the Military.” Hostility toward the Bible manifested in numerous ways such as the Navy Lodge program tossing nightstand Bibles, an officer being told to remove a Bible from his desk and even a brief ban on Bibles for wounded soldiers at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. President Obama had created an environment of religious hostility that allowed far-left extremists at the Pentagon to engage in a search-and-destroy mission of religious freedom.

One of the most egregious incidents involved censors removing Bibles from “Missing Man” tables — which are commonly displayed at military functions and installations across the country with the express purposes of honoring those who never returned from war. Only after a massive campaign and more than 64,000 petitions signed by you and our friends within the Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition did the Pentagon back down. As our own Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin said at the time, U.S. servicemen and women know the enemy — and the Bible isn’t it! And yet it required tens of thousands of petitions to pressure the government to come down on the side of the very freedoms our service members are fighting to defend.

Thankfully, we now have a commander-in-chief in President Trump who respects religious freedom and nearly one year ago signed an executive order defending religious freedom. So when militant secularists earlier this month demanded that the Navy remove a Bible from a “Missing Man” table inside the U.S. Naval Hospital in Okinawa, Rear Adm. Paul Pearigen refused. In a letter to the complaining secularists, the rear admiral wrote, “Neither further review nor an investigation of this matter is necessary.” How refreshing to see the Navy keep the First Amendment afloat! Robbing those families of this display to make a political point would not only have been disturbing but unconstitutional.

While this news is encouraging, vigilance is required because a vestige of Obama-era religious hostility is embedded in the Pentagon bureaucracy. For example, an Army chaplain is facing punishment for declining to oversee a marriage retreat that included a same-sex couple — even though his endorsing denomination and Army regulations require that he adhere to his denomination’s religious tenets. The Army only needs to reread the president’s executive order on religious liberty and then quickly issue an apology for threatening to punish a chaplain simply for doing his job.

Even though the Left may have lost the White House, it continues to use government bureaucracy wherever it can to quarantine Christian faith within the walls of our churches. This is why we must use this opportunity under the Trump administration to fortify our freedoms so that our service members — and all Americans — will be free to live out their faith without the threat of government censorship or punishment.

Originally published here.


The Handwriting Meets a Wall for Religious Expression


You wouldn’t print a wedding invitation in Comic Sans font.

A wedding is a serious event with lasting impact upon the lives of all who attend. That’s why many couples choose to hire artists who can give their celebration a calligraphic lift when sending wedding invitations and notices.

Calligraphy takes talent and skill, and Arizona artists Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski have both. They met at a Bible study and soon found that their mutual talents and friendship were the perfect combination to begin a business. Thus began in 2015 Brush & Nib Studio, a place where Joanna and Breanna could express the artistic gifts God had given them for the benefit of their clients, many of whom were seeking projects for their weddings.

But in the new landscape of court-created same-sex marriage, Joanna and Breanna quickly found that their deeply held biblical beliefs about marriage were unwelcome in the Phoenix wedding scene. As FRC’s Travis Weber explained,

With the business’s focus on weddings, the two artists became concerned that their views of marriage conflicted with a city ordinance that defined marriage differently. In fact, the Phoenix law seemed to not only require Brush & Nib to create invitations or other forms of artwork for same-sex weddings, the ordinance also prevented the company from discussing with potential customers or the general public that the artists would only create art consistent with their beliefs.

As Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) notes, the penalties for following their deeply held beliefs about marriage in conjunction with their business were criminal: “For each day Joanna and Breanna followed their religious beliefs and disobeyed the law, they would each be penalized up to $2500 and six months in jail.”

Instead of waiting for an inevitable lawsuit to reach their door, Joanna and Breanna decided to take a proactive step and challenge the oppressive Phoenix ordinance with a lawsuit. In May 2016, ADF filed a lawsuit on behalf of Joanna and Breanna against the City of Phoenix. A lower court ruled against the couple in 2017 that Phoenix could indeed force them to violate their beliefs. Yesterday, the pair had their day in court again as oral arguments for their appeal were heard.

It’s a scene that’s becoming all too familiar around the country: government policies forcing business owners to create speech that conflicts with their deeply held beliefs. This is an important case, one that highlights the fact that no person will be left alone to mind their business. The handwriting is on the wall.

Originally published here.


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

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