Friday, February 5, 2016

Ronald Reagan: A Champion for Religious Liberty


“Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant,
and the rule of law under God is acknowledged.”
Ronald Reagan — March 8, 1983




One of America’s most deeply read and thoughtful presidents, Ronald Wilson Reagan, was a leading champion for religious liberty. As the nation commemorates his 105th birthday this weekend, those who love religious liberty should remember this aspect of his heritage—and honor his memory by seeking to preserve the religious freedom for which he fought.

REAGAN’S SPIRITUAL JOURNEY

Evidence indicates that Reagan was one of America’s most spiritually grounded presidents. Trained early in life by his evangelical Christian mother, his speeches, journals and personal communications suggest that he never forgot the lessons she taught him. 

Reagan prominently laced speeches on domestic and foreign policy with references to the practical implications of doctrines such as sin and the fall (part of his case for limited government, law and order, and confronting evil in regimes like the Soviet Union), and the creation and dignity of every human being in image of God (part of his case for free enterprise and against abortion).

After renowned historian Douglas Brinkley spent six months meticulously examining and editing the private diaries Reagan kept while president, he noted:

In these writings Ronald Reagan’s true nature is revealed…Like his marriage to Nancy, his strong relationship with God was of paramount importance in Reagan’s life. Consistently, he thanks God for allowing him to be physically fit and for sparing his life from [attempted assassin John Hinckley’s] bullet spray, after which he recalls lying on a bed in the emergency room: “I focused on that tiled ceiling and prayed. But I realized I couldn’t ask for God’s help while at the same time I felt hatred for the mixed-up young man who had shot me…I began to pray for his soul and that he would find his way back to the fold.”

RESURRECTION, JESUS AND PRAYER

In these diaries, one also finds Reagan:

·      Taking time to research evidence for the resurrection of Christ and drawing confidence from what he learned.

·      Praying through the night for good weather for a visit from the prime minister of India, whom Reagan was trying to draw away from the influence of the Soviet Union (“Today was supposed to be a rainy one & I’ve been praying since last night.”) The rain held off until just after an important outdoor ceremony that got the meeting off to a good start. 

These are two of many recorded instances of Ronald Reagan exhibiting an uncommon personal pursuit of God, and understanding the life-changing influence of faith.

REAGAN: RELIGIOUS LIBERTY VITAL TO ALL LIBERTY

Because Reagan personally understood religion, Reagan the statesman firmly grasped its value to a free society. And that made him a fierce opponent of threats to religious liberty. 

“Without God,” he said, “there is no virtue, because there’s no prompting of the conscience. Without God, we’re mired in the material, that flat world that tells us only what the senses perceive. Without God, there is a coarsening of the society. And without God, democracy will not and cannot long endure.”

For this reason, Reagan rebutted attacks on religious values as attempts to “abrogate the original terms of American democracy.”

Those “terms” were repeatedly articulated by America’s Founding Fathers, like John Adams, who stated in 1798,

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

(Adams’ words have been proven true. Multiple research studies show that individuals who regularly attend religious services are more likely to adhere to laws and be good citizens.)

To promote religious freedom in America, Reagan:

·      Supported both judicial and legislative action to restore prayer and other religious activity to public schools, including the 1984 Equal Access Act.
·      Left a federal judiciary populated with judges who made key rulings in favor of religious freedom. 
·      Accelerated the careers of countless champions of religious liberty and freedom through his Justice Department.

Most of all, Reagan attacked the widespread misinterpretation of “separation of church and state,” saying in 1983,

When our Founding Fathers passed the First Amendment, they sought to protect churches from government interference. They never intended to construct a wall of hostility between government and the concept of religious belief itself.

Indeed, Reagan saw religious freedom as crucial to the moral stability necessary for a society to afford less government and enjoy more political and economic freedom. 



“FREE TO SPEAK OF AND ACT ON THEIR BELIEF”

Reagan stated in 1984,

We establish no religion in this country, nor will we ever. We command no worship. We mandate no belief. But we poison our society when we remove its theological underpinnings. We court corruption when we leave it bereft of belief. All are free to believe or not believe; all are free to practice a faith or not. But those who believe must be free to speak of and act on their belief, to apply moral teaching to public questions.

Today, contrary to the view of Ronald Reagan, powerful forces in all branches of government and in the culture are questioning the value of religious liberty.

Some float the idea that religious freedom means limiting religious expression to the walls of one’s home or house of worship—and even some houses of worship are facing government interference and legal retribution for nothing more than operating according to their beliefs.

If Americans aren’t free to express their beliefs in public, all their freedoms are in danger.

But the fight is just beginning. Champions of religious freedom—like Liberty Institute—are battling in courts, state legislatures, the U.S. Congress, and the media—and they still have the law and influential court decisions on their side. 

As the nation’s largest legal organization solely dedicated to protecting religious freedom for all Americans, Liberty Institute has a victory rate of over 90 percent.

You can help Liberty Institute win even more victories—and honor religious liberty champion Ronald Reagan, by supporting our efforts with your prayers and financial support.


Other stories:


Liberty Institute Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Reverse Violation of Religious Conscience Rights in Washington State




About Liberty Institute
Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches, in the military and throughout the public arena. Liberty’s vision is to reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation’s Founders. For information, visit www.LibertyInstitute.org.

SILENCING FAITH? Liberty Institute Appeals After Court Denies Preliminary Injunction to Vintage Church

Liberty Institute asks Louisiana’s Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal to protect Vintage Church from Jefferson Parish’s hostile and unlawful enforcement of a noise ordinance.






On Friday, Liberty Institute attorneys appealed on behalf of Vintage Church to Louisiana’s Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal.

The appeal was filed after the Jefferson Parish 24th Judicial District Court denied the church’s request for a preliminary injunction. The injunction would prevent Jefferson Parish from discriminatorily enforcing the noise ordinance against the church.

In 2015, Jefferson Parish banned Vintage Church’s tent services from exceeding noise levels of 60 dB—which is the equivalent of a “typical conversation, dishwasher, [or] clothes dryer” (American Speech-Language Hearing Association)—and barred the church from using any sound amplification, including microphones for preaching, for its 9:00 a.m. service. Jefferson Parish officials even issued criminal summons to the church’s executive pastor, fingerprinting him in front of church members.

While Jefferson Parish has banned the church from exceeding the noise level of a conversation, it allows exceptions for other loud noises such as power tools, construction and demolition noises, lawn mowers, and power generators.

The Parish’s discriminatory restrictions on the church have prevented Vintage Church from holding its worship services without the fear of running afoul of the law. In December 2015, Liberty Institute and volunteer attorney Roy Bowes filed a lawsuit to protect the church’s religious liberty rights.

Liberty Institute Senior Counsel Justin Butterfield said, “It is discriminatory—as well as ridiculous—that Jefferson Parish is demanding that Vintage Church remain below 60 dB while power tools, construction noise, and demolition noise are permitted to be much louder. We are confident that the Louisiana Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal will vindicate Vintage Church’s rights under federal and state law.”

PARISH PROHIBITS CHURCH FROM EXCEEDING THE VOLUME OF A CONVERSATION—BUT ALLOWS POWER TOOLS AND DEMOLITION NOISES

Vintage Church has two locations in the New Orleans Metropolitan area, one of which is in Metairie, Jefferson Parish, La. At its Metairie location, the sanctuary is undergoing expansion in order to accommodate the growing congregation. In the meantime, members are meeting in a tent on church property on Sunday mornings.

In October 2015, Jefferson Parish officials issued Pastor Matthew Brichetto, the church’s executive pastor, a criminal summons (a non-custodial arrest in which the pastor is considered under legal arrest but not taken into custody) after they measured the church’s service at over 60 dB—which is the equivalent of “typical conversation, dishwasher, [or] clothes dryer” (American Speech-Language Hearing Association).

The church hired a sound engineer to ensure their services were compliant. But in November 2015, the church was informed that they could not use any sound amplification system at the church’s 9:00 a.m. service. This included the microphone the pastor used to preach and speakers for worship music.

The church complied, but a few days later Jefferson Parish officials came to the church, claimed the sound was above 60 dB even without any sound amplification, and issued another criminal summons to the pastor. They even fingerprinted the pastor in front of members.

Jefferson Parish has banned the church from using any sound amplification before 10:00 a.m. and from ever surpassing noise levels of 60 dB. However, the parish’s noise ordinance allows power tools, lawn mowers, power generators, and construction and demolition activities—even at times earlier than the church’s 9:00 a.m. service. In addition, construction noises are given a 75 dB limit rather than the 60 dB limit applied to the church.



LIBERTY INSTITUTE TAKES ACTION TO PROTECT CHURCH’S RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

The parish’s restrictions have severely affected Vintage Church’s ability to hold worship services, which is an essential part of the church’s religious activities. For example, without a microphone, the pastor cannot maintain a speaking level loud enough for  all the people to hear what the pastor is saying. In addition, the intimidation of the church by the Jefferson County officials has resulted in a drop in attendance.

On December 10, 2015, Liberty Institute and volunteer attorney Roy Bowes filed a lawsuit against Jefferson Parish.

The lawsuit argued that the parish’s actions violated the U.S. Constitution, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), and the Louisiana Preservation of Religious Freedom Act (LPRA). Among other requests, the lawsuit sought a preliminary injunction to protect the church from the ordinance.

COURT DENIES PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION TO CHURCH; LIBERTY INSTITUTE FILES APPEAL

Although Jefferson Parish recently dropped the criminal charges against Pastor Brichetto, Jefferson Parish has not agreed to stop enforcing its unreasonable and discriminatory sound restrictions against the church. The church’s lawsuit against the parish is proceeding.

On January 6, 2016, the Jefferson Parish 24th Judicial District Court denied the church a preliminary injunction. The court ruled that Vintage Church was not substantially burdened by the noise ordinance.

On February 5, 2016, Liberty Institute appealed the court’s denial of the preliminary injunction to Louisiana’s Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal.

FIGHTING FOR THE RELIGIOUS LIBERTY RIGHTS OF CHURCHES

Liberty Institute is committed to defending the religious liberty rights of Vintage Church and other churches who experience unlawful hostility. Liberty Institute has a victory rate of over 90% and has successfully defended the religious liberty rights of other churches who faced opposition from local governmental entities.

For information on the religious liberty rights of churches and how to best defend those rights, download Liberty Institute’s free Religious Liberty Protection Kit for Churches.


Other stories:


Ronald Reagan: A Champion for Religious Liberty



About Liberty Institute
Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches, in the military and throughout the public arena. Liberty’s vision is to reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation’s Founders. For information, visit www.LibertyInstitute.org.