Religious Freedom Caucuses Launched
Special Report - October 12, 2012
A national initiative to form religious freedom caucuses in all 50 states kicked off this week with the launch of caucuses led by key lawmakers in nine states. The initiative is sponsored by the American Religious Freedom Project (ARFP) of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, whose mission is described as “fighting the trend to delegitimize religious expression in public life, defending American’s ability to live out their religious beliefs beyond the walls of their houses of worship.” According to a press release, the state religious freedom caucuses, which are the first in the nation, are “composed of lawmakers in prominent leadership positions” in nine states: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. The caucuses “will help legislators set state-specific agendas for strengthening religious liberties, learn from the experiences of sister states, and formulate religious freedom policy based on input from each state’s diverse faith communities,” according to the ARFP.
“[A]s divisive activist-driven litigation against religious expression and freedom became commonplace over the past five to six decades, state legislatures nationwide increasingly handed over their duty to protect religious liberty to the courts,” wrote ARFP’s executive director, Brian Walsh, in a commentary on National Review Online. “As a result, the legal doctrine on religious freedom has become a tattered patchwork reflecting the whims of individualand sometimes ideologicaljudges. Inconsistent and often conflicting court decisions have left most Americans unsure of the scope of this most fundamental freedom.”
As an example of the threat to religious liberty, Walsh cited Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, a case that involved whether the federal employment discrimination statutes applied to the hiring and firing rights of churches and religious schools. While Walsh acknowledged that the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately upheld the right of churches to hire and fire their own leaders without the interference of the government in a landmark 2012 decision, he added that, “it is deeply concerning that administration officials litigating the case thought that the two Religion Clauses of the First Amendment were irrelevant.”
A national survey commissioned by ARFP and released in December 2011 found strong support among Americans for the protection of religious freedoms. Among the poll’s interesting findings:
- 85 percent of Americans in the survey agreed that "religious freedom" means that Americans "can practice their religion without interference from the government."
- Over 92 percent of Americans in the survey disagreed that: “Sometimes the law should require a person to change her religious beliefs or religious practices in order to keep her job.”
- Equal numbers (23 percent each) of Americans say that freedom of religion and freedom of speech are the two First Amendment rights most likely to be threatened.
Report Documents Religious Hostility - August 27, 2012
Religious Freedom On Campus - FNC - Summer 2012
Sixth Circuit Defends Religious Liberty - February 1, 2012
New Media Censors Christian Speech - September 23, 2011
Students Fight For Free Speech - May 19, 2011
Groups Fight For Religious Freedom - August 31, 2010
Court Ruling Will Supress Speech - June 28, 2010
UNC System Adopts "Hate-Crime" Policy - March 8, 2010
Stifling Campus Speech - February 22, 2010
Freedom Of Religion Statement Issued - January 20, 2010
Student Free Speech Rights Violated - December 28, 2009
"Free to Speak" Campaign Launched- July 23, 2009
Report Documents Attacks On Religious Freedom - October 25, 2004
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