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FIRST-PERSON: The intolerance of the ACLU

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (BP)–Like many civic assemblies, Oconee County, S.C., has opened council meetings with an invocation. Council member and pastor Bill Rinehart closed a meeting in October of last year with prayer by saying, “We ask all these things in the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.”

What Rinehart didn’t know was that members of the American Civil Liberties Union “search out and censor corps” were sitting in the audience anonymously, waiting to pounce on the slightest expression of personal faith.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution clearly states that government cannot prohibit the free exercise of religion. But despite this guarantee, a deeply intolerant ACLU is driven to expel religious expression from the public square.

Oconee County was one of three South Carolina councils sent threatening letters by ACLU attorneys around that time last year. The leftist organization was emboldened by a recent U.S. Court of Appeals decision which declared that no specific deity could be mentioned in an opening prayer.

In that case, Wiccan “high priestess” Darla Kaye Wynne was offended that a Great Falls, S.C., town council invocation mentioned Jesus. Demanding the tolerance to her religion that she wouldn’t afford to others, Wynne fought the council. And won.

Not only did the ruling force Great Falls council members to censor their religious expression, the “priestess” also extracted nearly $60,000 in attorneys’ fees from the town and its taxpayers. The victory is somewhat hollow, however, in that a very similar ruling from a different circuit court recently upheld a Virginia county board of supervisors’ decision to exclude a Wiccan from the list of religious leaders available to provide invocations at its public meetings.

The president of the Oconee area’s local ACLU chapter, Mike Cubelo, stated, “You would think council members, public servants, should respect people who do not have the same faith.” Too bad Cubelo doesn’t practice what he preaches.

Writing for the left-wing website The Common Voice, Cubelo penned a shockingly intolerant article titled “A Bullet Memo to the Right.” In it, Cubelo wrote, “To Bob Jones, Pat Robertson, and James Dobson: Kneel down, shut up, and pray in a church closet somewhere. We’ll come and get you when we need a [J]esus jihad.”

The ACLU chapter president continued the mockery: “To the Moral Value Morons: Why couldn’t you just stay home and pray for a W victory instead of actually voting? Don’t you have faith in God’s Will?”

Despite the ACLU’s claims of fighting for religious liberty, Cubelo’s ugly ridicule more accurately displays how the ACLU and their allies view traditional religious beliefs. And South Carolina isn’t the only place they are trying to censor prayer. For instance:

– The ACLU is threatening the Midd-West School Board in Pennsylvania with legal action for opening meetings with prayer and for not allowing field trips on Sundays or extra-curricular activities on Wednesday nights.

– In October, the Georgia Chapter of the ACLU filed suit against two commissioners and seven residents of Cobb County for making “overtly Christian” prayers before meetings. The litigants allege that dozens of prayers mentioned Jesus. A judge denied the ACLU’s request to halt the prayers until litigation is over.

– The ACLU of Indiana filed a lawsuit to stop the Indiana House of Representatives from opening sessions with “sectarian” prayers. The ACLU complained, “Visiting ministers or legislators themselves offered prayers with a heavy Christian emphasis that invoked Jesus Christ.”

– In August, the director of the Louisiana ACLU compared school prayer supporters to terrorists. Speaking of legal action involving Tangipahoa Parish public school officials, Joe Cook said, “They believe they answer to a higher power, in my opinion … which is the kind of thinking you had with the people who flew airplanes in the buildings in this country and people who did that kind of thing in London.” He later offered a half-hearted apology.

Hypocritically, the ACLU claims that they are not against all prayer, just the “sectarian” type where a deity’s name is mentioned. So, religious expression is fine as long as the ACLU, the government, and the occasional witch pre-approves the content. This policy might also be welcomed by Fidel Castro in Cuba, for example.

But governmental officials in America publicly have sought God’s guidance since the founding of the nation. Every presidential inaugural address but one invoked God.

Furthermore, the ACLU’s misuse of the term “sectarian” confirms their true agenda to eradicate Christian prayers from the public life of our nation. The Supreme Court itself has noted that the word “sectarian” was once used as a code word in law for people hostile to a particular church. Today, the ACLU employs the same word against Christianity and Orthodox Judaism in general.

Demanding that Christian public officials censor their prayers makes a mockery of the practice and of their religion. Demanding that the government enforce this censorship of speech makes a mockery of our Constitution. And that mockery cannot be tolerated.
Alan Sears, a former federal prosecutor who held various posts in the departments of Justice and Interior during the Reagan Administration, is president and CEO of the Alliance Defense Fund (www.telladf.org), a Christian religious liberty legal organization. He is co-author with Craig Osten of the book “The ACLU vs. America: Exposing the Agenda to Redefine Moral Values,” available online at www.lifewaystores.com

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  • Alan Sears