Missouri Family E-News

September 13, 2016

                                   
Tipton Bows
to Atheist Group's Demands  

A rural Missouri school district has acted to scrub any Christian elements from its schools following a complaint from a national atheist organization.

The Tipton R-VI School District in Moniteau County reacted to a letter from the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), an aggressive anti-Christian group based in Wisconsin.

The letter demanded that the Tipton School Board stop offering an invocation before their Board meetings.  The practice started when the School Board prayed before their meeting on September 11, 2001, the day of the World Trade Center tragedy, and decided to continue the practice thereafter.

The FFRF letter also demanded that the school cease the use of the hymn "Blest Be the Tie That Binds" as part of the school's annual candlelight awards ceremony.

School Superintendent Daniel Williams has capitulated to those demands, and decided to take the Christian cleansing in the Tipton schools several
steps further.

Williams has instructed sports coaches not to lead prayers with their players before, during, or after games.  He also ordered that a portrait of Jesus Christ in the school library that was donated in memory of a deceased student be removed.

Williams also agreed that future speakers at graduation programs will include individuals who are not part of the local ministerial alliance.

Parents from the community packed a town hall meeting at a local Catholic school last week to voice their displeasure with the school's decision to cave to the threats of an atheist hate group from another state.

"Singing a hymn at a candlelight program is not disrupting anything," one man stated.  "I think this is a knee-jerk reaction because some people around the country are suing people.  I'm tired as a Christian of being pushed around around and pushed around."

Superintendent Williams told the crowd that they had consulted with school district attorneys and decided to "discontinue practices that could be construed as an endorsement of religion."

Williams correctly explained that federal courts have ruled that prayer and religious activity can be student-initiated, but that school district employees may not lead or initiate activities with a religious theme during school hours or organized school activities.

"If a group of students decide to hold hands at the lunch table and offer a prayer before a meal, it's absolutely OK," Williams told the crowd.  "What makes it OK is that it's student-led and not school or staff-sponsored."

But apparently students have no choice in deciding what music they want to include in their annual awards program.  They have now been told that they cannot continue a timeless tradition of sharing a song about the friendships they hope last for a lifetime.

Here are the "offensive" words to the hymn that will be squelched from the voices of students at Tipton High School:

"Blest be the ties that bind our hearts in Christian love; the fellowship of kindred minds is like to that of above."

"Before our Father's throne we pour or ardent prayers; our fears, our hopes, our aims are one, our comforts and our cares."

"We share our mutual woes, our mutual burdens bear, and often for each other flows the sympathizing tear."

"When we are called to part, it gives us inward pain; but we shall still be joined in heart, and hope to meet again."

"This glorious hope revives our courage by the way; while each in expectation lives and waits to see the day."

"From sorrow, toil, and pain, and sin we shall be free; and perfect love and friendship reign through all eternity."


Hopefully, students at Tipton High will be able to gather on the parking lot after their next awards program, and continue this glorious tradition with or without the endorsement of lawyers, superintendents, or Supreme Court justices.     
       
  

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Civil Rights Authorities
In Iowa Seek Control
Over Church Activities

Two Iowa churches are taking their state civil rights commission to federal court over guidelines that could place a gag order on the church's teachings about sexual morality.  Those guidelines could also require Iowa churches to open their private men and women's bathrooms to individuals of the opposite sex.

One lawsuit has been filed in the U.S. District Court for Southern Iowa by the Fort des Moines Church of Christ.  The litigation seeks to exempt the church from "public accommodation" provisions of the Iowa Civil Rights Act.  Like many states, Iowa has recently adopted language in their "public accommodations" laws that prohibit discrimination based on so-called "sexual orientation" and "gender identity."

The Iowa Civil Rights Act states that places of public accommodation may not adopt viewpoints on human sexuality that would "directly or indirectly" cause "persons of any particular sexual orientation or gender identity" to feel "unwelcome, not acceptable, or not solicited."  The Iowa Civil Rights Commission issued a brochure that stated that the law's provisions would apply to "a church service open to the public."

The brochure sparked a sharp reaction from the religious community, and the Commission then revised it.  The new guidelines state that places of worship are "generally exempt" from the scope of the law, unless a church "engages in non-religious activities which are open to the public." 

The new brochure spells out that the "public accommodations" requirements apply to activities on church property which do not have a "bona fide religious purpose."  An example provided would be a child care facility operated by a church that provides care outside of a church service to families who are not members of the church.

The Iowa Civil Rights Act also contains a facility use mandate that stipulates that restrooms and other private facilities must be accessible to persons based on their so-called "gender identity.  It is unclear whether the Commission intends to enforce that requirement against churches, whether they consider their activities "bona fide" or not.

Christiana Holcomb, legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, says that Iowa civil rights authorities have crossed a constitutional bright line.  "Christians should be free to communicate their religious beliefs and operate their houses of worship according to their faith without fearing government punishment.  It is not acceptable for government officials to be telling churches what is religious and what is not."

Steven O'Ban, senior counsel for ADF, says they are asking the federal court to issue a preliminary injunction prohibiting enforcement of the law against houses of worship in Iowa.  The motion asserts that the Iowa Civil Rights Commission has no authority to ignore First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and religion. "Neither the commission nor any state law has the constitutional authority to dictate how a church uses its facility or what public statements a church can make concerning human sexuality," O'Ban says.

Another lawsuit has been filed by Cornerstone World Outreach, a church in Sioux City.  Pastor Cary Gordon accused the state Civil Rights Commission of "acting like a First Amendment Gestapo--hunting down and harassing churches trying to live out their Christian convictions.  The state is trying to exercise the power to correct or control what I say and teach out of the Bible.  It's fundamentally wrong and I can't comply with that."
"This is a clear case of the state violating the sanctity of the church," says Chelsey Youman, chief of staff at First Liberty, which is representing the Sioux City church.  "It should send chills down the spine of every congregation in Iowa. We think it's an absolute wake-up call to churches across America that a state government can tell you what you can say and not say about your own doctrinal beliefs within the confines of your church."

Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, says the civil rights guidelines amount to government censorship of the religious community.  "'What constitutes 'non-religious' activities, and who decides what those are?  What about churches that allow use of their auditoriums for high school graduations?  What about a church that hosts a barbeque cook-off for the community?...Did the Last Supper qualify as a religious event?  What about the feeding of the five thousand?"

The extreme severity of the threats to religious freedom in this nation cannot be illustrated more clearly than by remarks recently made by the Chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.  Martin Castro stated that "religious liberty" and "religious freedom" have become "code words" for "discrimination, intolerance...and Christian supremacy."

Repeated efforts have been made in the Missouri Legislature in recent years to amend the state's anti-discrimination statutes to include so-called "sexual orientation" and "gender identity."  Such laws have resulted in punitive fines to bakers, florists, photographers, and wedding vendors who declined participation in same-sex union ceremonies. 

Similar "gay rights" laws have even resulted in the loss of tax-exempt status to a church.  Now they are threatening to silence the very  teaching of the Word of God from the pulpit. It is expected that this issue will be debated once again during the 2017 session of the Missouri Legislature.  It is important that you urge your state legislators to take a firm stand for the freedom to practice our faith.   

Joe's Signature

 

Missouri Family Policy Council, 1430 Triad Center Dr., Ste. B, St. Peters, MO 63376
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