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Memorials Day: SCOTUS Gets Final Say on Vets' Cross

Tony Perkins · Nov. 7, 2018

The giant cross in Bladensburg, Maryland was supposed to memorialize a war — not start one. Yet this small town, just a mile from the D.C. line, may be the sight of the most important battle over religious monuments yet. And it will be up to the Supreme Court, with new justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, to finally decide the winner.

When the American Legion built the memorial in 1925, they called it the Peace Cross. Almost a hundred years later, the country’s tribute to the heroes of World War I has seemed like anything but. The American Humanist Association, who never met a religious symbol it liked, is determined to reduce the landmark to dust. Now, after more than a half-decade clash, both sides will have one last chance to make their case. And there’s a lot more riding on it than the 40-foot tribute at the edge of the Anacostia River.

As House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) explained on Monday night’s “Washington Watch,” this isn’t just about honoring the 49 men from Prince George’s County who died. It’s about the 400,000 graves just 13 miles away in Arlington Cemetery — and millions more headstones across America. Scalise, who helped organize a brief from members of Congress, has been pushing the court to take this case and end the ongoing feud over public displays — once and for all.

“This is such an important case, and you were at the forefront of it as well in recognizing that if they take down Bladensburg, they’re going after Arlington [Cemetery]. They’re going after every marker on public land that has some kind of religious symbol — whether it’s the cross or Star of David. This is how people want to be remembered in their death, especially if they sacrificed their lives for our country. To think that a court decision could take that ability away… I’m so glad that Justice Kavanaugh is on the bench to participate in this case, along with Neil Gorsuch, because it means President Trump will definitely have a lasting imprint on this decision — and hopefully, it’s the right decision.”

Like most Americans, he’s tired of anti-Christian groups picking fights over historic monuments like the Mojave Desert Cross, the Bayview Cross in Pensacola, or Mount Soledad in San Diego. This really goes to, Scalise points out, “the heart of religious freedom attacks… People look at this and think, ‘How could a court full of unelected judges say that you can’t have a way to recognize the men and women who died for this country?’ And this was during World War I. For nearly 100 years, this hasn’t been an issue. And all of the sudden, a court is going to come and take away our religious freedom one more time, and we’re on the defensive. We need the Supreme Court to reverse that decision if we’re going to be able to keep these markers up.”

Obviously, cases like this are the product of an activist court. And on an election day like this one, it really drives home what’s at stake. If 2016 had gone the other way, and Hillary Clinton was president, just imagine what the Supreme Court would look like. Not only would we lose this case, we’d lose the majority on just about every values issue that matters — from religious liberty to abortion.

Our friends at First Liberty Institute, who are representing the American Legion, know how ridiculous the other side’s argument is. As FRC’s Alexandra McPhee points out in a new op-ed for the Washington Examiner, “The Peace Cross is a war memorial. Simply because it is shaped like a cross, 40 feet tall, visible to the public, and maintained by the government” doesn’t mean it establishes a religion. Even non-Christians understand that.

Ismail Royer, a prominent Muslim, even authored a brief on the memorial’s behalf — not because he agrees with what the cross stands for, but because he recognizes its importance to his own expression of faith. “When I drive by the Bladensburg war monument,” he writes, “I see a tribute to a community’s fallen men. Being a Muslim, in the cross, I also see the symbol of a misconception about God’s oneness. Unlike our litigious atheist friends, however, I have no difficulty with the presence of the monument on public land. Rather, I am reassured and grateful for this reminder that I live in a land where religion has a public presence.”

Ninety-three years ago, no one would have dreamed that anything about the cross would be controversial. And yet, at its base, almost in foreshadowing, are etched these words: “We shall fight for the things we have always carried nearest to our hearts.” And religious freedom, a cause these men and so many others gave their lives for, is certainly that.

Originally published here.

For Asia Bibi, a Prison without Bars

Asia Bibi may have been acquitted, but she still isn’t free. The radical Muslim mobs are still protesting in the Pakistani streets, chanting for the Christian woman’s death. Prison, for now, is the safest haven she has.

For Bibi, who won a historic victory from nine-year-old blasphemy charges in court, the ruling was a shock. After almost a decade of solitary confinement, the idea of seeing her children and living a somewhat normal life seemed impossible. After all, she’d been accused of one of the Muslim country’s worst crimes: defiling Mohammed. But no proof of the charges had ever been found, and three judges (whose lives are also very much in jeopardy), ruled for Bibi to be released.

Days later, she’s still very much locked down, as Pakistani officials do everything they can to prevent an assassination attempt on her life. According to CNN, the local army and intelligence services “have jurisdiction over the jail and are in charge of her safety. Extra surveillance cameras have been installed at the converted jail in recent days, and any individuals entering or leaving the location are searched, including those who are charged with preparing Bibi’s food, according to the police source.”

Asia’s attorney, Saiful Malook, was forced to leave the country by the U.N. and E.U., who feared he might also be killed for representing her. “I pressed them that I would not leave the country unless I get Asia out of the prison.” In the meantime, global leaders from the U.S., Canada, U.K., and Italy are all working frantically to get Bibi out of danger. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Salvini is one of many offering asylum. “I want women and children whose lives are at risk to be able to have a secure future, in our country or in other Western countries, so I will do everything humanly possible to guarantee that…”

Of course, Western leaders are also casting a worried eye toward Egypt, where a group of masked Islamic gunmen boarded a bus of Coptic Christians, grabbed their cell phones, and shot the men dead. According to the church’s Facebook page, six of the eight victims were from the same family. The other bus of Christians escaped. For President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, who’s is working to restore tolerance for all faiths in Egypt, this tragedy is exactly what his administration has worked so diligently to prevent. Having met and talked with al-Sissi about religious freedom, I know that this massacre will trouble him greatly as it does us.

“I mourn with deep sorrow the martyrs who were killed today by treacherous hands which aim to undermine the solid fabric of the nation, and I wish speedy recovery for the injured,” Sissi said in a statement. “I confirm our determination to continue our efforts to combat dark terrorism and apprehend the culprits.” Those efforts, fortunately, will have the Trump administration’s support. For the last two years, we’ve watched this president make the persecuted a priority — a stark contrast between his agenda and his predecessor’s. And although it will take more time to repair the damage done to America’s credibility on the issue, we continue to be grateful that we finally have a leader who will try.

In the meantime, please continue to pray with us — for the safety of Asia Bibi, for the comfort of so many mourning families in Egypt, and for a day when men and women of all faiths can finally live together in peace.

Originally published here.

A Pronoun Showdown at Ohio College

Nicolas Meriwether teaches philosophy, but he might lose his job over grammar! Turns out, calling a male student “sir” puts you on the wrong side of America’s brave new battle over pronouns.

Like a lot of educators, Meriwether assumed that biology was pretty self-explanatory. Just because a guy wants to be called a girl doesn’t mean he is one. His employers at Shawnee State University in Ohio beg to differ. When Nicolas refused to call a male student “ma'am” or “she,” he was hauled into his bosses’ office and slapped with a personnel violation. According to administrators, acknowledging someone’s biological sex with the right pronoun “creates a hostile environment.”

The student, who unleashed a string of profanity on Meriwether after class, filed a formal complaint with the school, because his professor wouldn’t play along with his manufactured reality. More than a year and a half later, after the school threatened “further corrective actions,” Nicolas is taking them to court.

Amazingly, his attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) point out, “University provost Jeffrey Bauer ‘openly laughed’ at Meriwether’s claim that his religion precluded him from using the student’s preferred pronouns during a meeting held after the professor filed a complaint with his union.” As if that weren’t outrageous enough, the chairman of his humanities department suggested that Christians be banned from teaching certain courses.

ADF’s Travis Barham has a message for the school: “Tolerance is a two-way street.” Universities, he points out, “are meant to be a marketplace of ideas, not an assembly line for one type of thought. But apparently, Shawnee State has ignored that foundational truth.” Proving that Shawnee officials were out to push an agenda, Barham pointed out that the university “refused to consider any solutions that would respect the freedoms of everyone involved. It instead chose to impose its own orthodoxy on Dr. Meriwether under threat of further punishment if he doesn’t relinquish his rights protected by the First Amendment.”

One wrong pronoun, and your career’s at risk! Truly, it’s mind-boggling that this is where the other side has led us as a nation. And we already know where we’re headed next if Democrats take control of Congress — punishments for anyone who refuses to play along with this moral confusion.

Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), has already said that the Equality Act — which would nationalize punishments like Shawnee State University’s — will be a “top priority.” “In the House,” he explained, “the majority will signal a piece of legislation is a top priority by assigning it a bill number between 1 and 10. Leader Pelosi has decided the Equality Act will get one of these priority bill numbers, indicating its importance to House Democrats.”

To see just how much is at stake, click over to FRC’s Q&A.

Originally published here.

This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC Action senior writers.

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