Is There a Disconnect Between Church-goers and Their Pastors?

As a national defender in the fight for religious freedoms and parental rights, Advocates for Faith & Freedom has increasingly seen pastors back away from teaching biblical worldviews from the pulpit, primarily because of their perception that their congregants don’t want to hear it. This has resulted in a growing disconnect between Christian conservatives and their pastors.

Interestingly enough, a new survey titled “What God’s People Want to Know,” commissioned by WallBuilders and the American Culture & Faith Institute shows conservative Christians actually want to hear more about political issue-related teaching from the pulpit. The fascinating survey asked moderate and conservative Christians about the types of issue-related teaching they wanted to hear from their pastors during the 2014 and 2016 elections.

Contrary to the notion of many pastors that religion has no place in the public square, the findings demonstrate that Christians who hold politically conservative views believe that churches should be more involved in the political process—the opposite message we hear from progressives and the media.

Two out of three respondents said they want more information from their church about what the Bible teaches in relation to current social and political issues.  At least 80% of the respondents indicated their greatest need for information related to the following six issues of “high importance”: Abortion (91%); Religious persecution/liberty (86%); Poverty (85%); Cultural restoration (83%); Sexual identity (82%); and Israel (80%).

Voting-Ballot.jpg

Sadly, the survey also found that one out of every five conservative pastors did not even encourage their congregants to vote in November 2014. It is also alarming that one-quarter of conservative pastors did not teach their congregants biblical principles

about important social and political issues during the six months preceding the election.

The results also underscored just how tone deaf the media and political candidates are when it comes to the issues most important to conservative Christians. Topics frequently pushed by the media, such as healthcare, foreign policy, immigration reform, jobs/unemployment, taxes, gun rights, military spending, and campaign finance reform, did not make the list of issues that mattered.

          What does all this mean and why is it important? The survey reinforces what we have already seen in our legal defense ministry: There is a correlation between the declining spiritual and social health of America and the lack of engagement of our pastors. In the words of the survey summary, “The nation has been demonstrably worse off ever since pastors chose to disconnect faith from politics and governance. America urgently needs cultural direction from those whom God has placed in positions of spiritual leadership. One way of providing such leadership is by shaping the thinking of Christians by teaching them foundational biblical principles related to pressing social and political issues of the day.” To that, we say Amen!

          So, what can congregants do to encourage their pastors to preach on what the Bible says about social and cultural matters?  Try telling your pastor the following:

  • You’re interested in learning what the Bible teaches on the topics and would consider them appropriate subjects for the pastor to teach from the pulpit.

  • You have appreciated the times when the pastor has addressed current issues from a biblical perspective, and you hope to experience more of that kind of teaching on a broader range of issues.

  • You believe learning about what the Bible says in relation to current issues of importance – beyond abortion and same-sex marriage—would be a significant contribution to the body of Christ.

Bible-Open-Pew.jpg

        I believe that pastors have more than an opportunity to teach on these matters; they have a responsibility and calling to do so. While pushback from some congregants is likely, especially those who are more theologically moderate, addressing these issues may serve as an impetus to developing a more biblically centered worldview among many people in the congregation.

We at Advocates for Faith & Freedom are holding free seminars for pastors, administrators, and other non-profit ministries to equip them in leading the Church to positively impact social and political issues. (Check our website at http://www.faith-freedom.com/events for upcoming details).

If you would like more information on what your pastor or church can legally do in terms of speaking about political issues from the pulpit, we have numerous resources available on our website, including the handout “Pastors & Politics: What is Legal and Illegal” and a 10-page booklet, “The First Amendment in Crisis: The Intersection of Church and State.” You can access this information at http://www.faith-freedom.com/learn/church-and-state/.

Thank you for your financial support! We have much to accomplish to change and shape the moral culture of our communities, but we can only move forward with your help. Please continue to hold our attorneys up in prayer as they continue protecting our cherished religious freedom.

Presenting the Gospel while "Under Oath"

Dear friend, More and more, we are experiencing governmental lawyers who seem to have no religious affiliation, no exposure to Christianity, and no knowledge of some of the most basic Christian principles like the “Great Commission.”  To many governmental lawyers, the concept of a Christian spreading the Gospel is almost putrid to their senses.

I am writing my thoughts as I ponder upon a deposition currently ongoing in one of our cases. Our client was questioned by an attorney from the California Attorney General’s Office and I anticipate, based on her questions, that she will eventually argue that our client’s attempts to share the Gospel is not protected religious speech because it is offensive to some members of the public.

Here’s the “silver lining” that is apparent in the deposition transcript: The deputy attorney general has been questioning our client about hell, sin, salvation, good works, and sexuality. She has also questioned whether our client’s group believed that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven and salvation. How do think our client responded? He shared the Gospel message in love and compassion to the governmental lawyer!

“When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” Luke 12:11-12

Far too often, we are experiencing governmental officials who seem to think it is their job to sanitize the public from exposure to a Christian perspective. As our American culture becomes more and more secularized, it is going to be more and more important for us to educate public officials and to defend the First Amendment in courts so that Christianity is not censored in all public arenas.

This is why it is our stated mission to “defend the First Amendment right to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The good news is that we have had significant success in this arena! From the acquittal of Christians sharing their faith on public property who were criminally charged to students sharing their faith in public schools.

Let us give you some more good news from California! We were recently contacted by Texas-based Liberty Legal Institute and Pastor Rick Moore of Calvary Chapel Laguna Niguel. Pastor Rick was attempting to rent city facilities from the City of Laguna Niguel in order to launch his new church. However, when Pastor Rick contacted the City, he learned that although the City rented their facilities to nonprofit organizations, the City could not rent to religiously based organizations because of a discriminatory provision embodied in the City’s ordinances.

With help from Advocates for Faith & Freedom and Liberty Legal Institute, we were able to properly advise Pastor Rick and warn the City Council about the unconstitutionality of the policy prohibiting the temporary rental of property to religious organizations. After a public hearing last month, the City Council voted unanimously to eliminate the discriminatory policy so that churches could rent City facilities just like other nonprofit organizations.

Thank God for this Victory!

Although we recognize that our culture is embracing a radicalized and secular culture, we are excited that God has placed each of us on this earth “for such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14)

Please remember to pray for us as we continue to work in this ministry of protecting our First Amendment right to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If you have the ability, we would greatly appreciate your financial support for the ongoing costs we incur to protect religious liberty. In His Service,

Robert Tyler General Counsel

  

US Supreme Court Upholds Prayer

This week, the United States Supreme Court issued a great ruling in favor of religious liberty. The court ruled that legislative bodies may begin their meetings with prayer, even if the prayer is Christian in nature or directed toward a specific deity.Prayer In the 5-4 decision, Justice Kennedy wrote, “Ceremonial prayer is but a recognition that, since this Nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond the authority of government.”

This case concerned the city of Greece, NY, and its City Council meetings, which begin with a prayer. Most often, that prayer is a Christian one. The opposition argued that these prayers violated the First Amendment, which prohibits the establishment of a specific religion, because they did not seek out a more diverse group of prayer leaders. The majority ruled that the City Council prayers did not violate this law, because the Council did not coerce all attendees to participate in the prayer, and they did not offer any benefits to those who did participate.

We celebrate this victory for prayer, handed down by the highest Court in our Nation!

Join our discussion on Facebook and Twitter, and let us know what you think of this decision.

A Victory in California...and The National Day of Prayer

A Victory in California!           Let us give you some good news from California! Recently, we were contacted by Texas-based Liberty Legal Institute and Pastor Rick Moore of Calvary Church and StateChapel Laguna Niguel. Pastor Rick was attempting to rent city facilities from the City of Laguna Niguel in order to launch his new church. However, when Pastor Rick contacted the City, he learned that although the City rented their facilities to nonprofit organizations, the City could not rent to religiously based organizations because of a discriminatory provision embodied in the City’s ordinances.

          With help from Advocates for Faith & Freedom and Liberty Legal Institute, we were able to properly advise Pastor Rick and the City Council about the unconstitutionality of the policy prohibiting the rental to religious organizations. After a public hearing last month, the City Council voted unanimously to eliminate the discriminatory policy so that churches could rent City facilities just like other nonprofit organizations.

            Thank God for this victory!

National Day of Prayer is TODAY

          Please join us today, May 1, 2014, as we pray for our nation, our leaders, our families, our schools, our churches and ministry leaders, our children, and our future on this National Day of Prayer.

          Please go to our Facebook or Twitter page and share with us what your prayer is today.  Let’s join together as one to lift up our voices to our Almighty God and ask for His providence and guidance!

How Hobby Lobby and Others are Taking a Stand for Religious Liberty

Yesterday, March 25, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two cases challenging the religious liberty issues at stake with the Affordable Care Act (AKA Obamacare): Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. andConestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius.           What are these important cases about?
Religious Liberty in the Courts Obamacare requires that businesses provide health care for their employees, and that health care must include coverage for all contraceptives, at no cost to the employees.

Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties have stated that they don’t have a problem covering most forms of birth control for their employees, but their religious beliefs do not support the use of emergency contraceptives meant for use after conception because they believe that the result of these emergency contraceptives is an abortion.

The question that these companies are presenting to the court is – do for-profit businesses have the right to exercise the religious beliefs of their owners in the workplace?   At issue in the Hobby Lobby case is whether a federal law passed in 1993 called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects Hobby Lobby from being forced to pay for emergency contraception.

At issue in the Conestoga case is whether the First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the company from being forced to pay for emergency contraception.

Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties are joined by at least 45 other for-profit companies that have brought cases to trial regarding the contraception mandate of Obamacare.  In addition, there are separate cases right now that focus on the rights of religiously-affiliated organizations and the mandate.

It will likely be a few months before we hear a decision from the Supreme Court in these cases.  In the meantime,please pray for the companies as they continue to stand up for religious liberty.

Another Victory! Bible Accepted into Public School's Library

Dear Friend, Recently, Advocates for Faith & Freedom was contacted by Gary Nelson regarding his third grader, Victoria, who attends an elementary school in the Temecula Valley Unified School District. The family was disheartened a couple of years ago—when Victoria was in first grade—and was not allowed to donate a Bible to the school-sponsored book donation program. 

Because of the media attention received on the Brynn Williams case, in which Brynn was not allowed to finish her Christmas presentation because she tried to quote a Scripture, Mr. Nelson was moved to contact Advocates after realizing Victoria’s rights had been violated.

The elementary school offers a “Birthday Book Program” in which students may elect to celebrate their birthday by donating a book to the school library on their birthday. The donated book has the student’s name inserted on the front inside cover.  The school then formally recognizes the student at the Friday Flag Salute Assembly.  The student is called up in front of the entire school so that he or she can hold their book up and get a picture taken with their donated book.

On Victoria’s birthday, she brought her favorite book to school to donate…the Bible.  She handed the Bible over to her teacher and said, “John is my favorite book!”  The teacher smiled and accepted the book with a thank you.  A few days later, the teacher handed the book back to the student’s father, Gary Nelson, explaining, “The principal said students cannot donate the Bible. It cannot be in the library,” reported Mr. Nelson.  That Friday Mr. Nelson had to explain to his daughter that her book had been rejected by the school and that she could not be recognized at the assembly.  The family was upset because they felt that not only had the Bible been rejected, but so was the student.

Advocates’ attorneys wrote a detailed 9-page letter to the school district explaining that the Establishment Clause “mandates governmental neutrality” not only among different religions, but also “between religion and non-religion.” Here, the principal’s rejection of the Bible as a viable donation towards the school library was a message of disapproval towards religion. After our attorney met with Mr. Nelson and the school principal, the principal apologized and Victoria was finally recognized at the next assembly and was allowed to donate her favorite book, the Bible, to her school library.  

This case is yet another example of District employees lacking knowledge of First Amendment rights, as well as lack of proper policies and employee training.  Victoria had the right to give the school the Bible under the book donation program, the school had the right to receive it, and students now have a right to go to the library and read it.  We Praise the Lord for this victory!

We are grateful for the Williams family and their courage to stand up for Brynn’s rights!  Mr. Nelson commented that had it not been for the Williams’ coming forward, the Bible would not be in Victoria’s school today.   “I teach my children that Jesus does not hit singles and get on first base…He only hits home runs!” He went on to say, “Because TVUSD “pushed back” on the Williams case, it caught my attention in the media and this issue got resolved too!  All for His glory!”

Update on First Graders Brynn Williams and Isaiah Martinez

Brynn Williams tried to read John 3:16 during a Christmas presentation in her class but was stopped by her teacher before she could read the Scripture. Isaiah Martinez was told that “Jesus is not allowed in school” by his teacher and watched as his teacher tore off his Christmas message attached to the candy canes he  intended  to give to his classmates.   In both of  these  cases, we  filed  complaints with each of their school districts hoping to persuade the school boards to adopt policies that will educate and train school officials about the First  Amendment  liberties afforded  to students and to implement a policy that prohibits school officials from expressing religious hostility and intolerance toward religion. We are in the process of negotiating with each of the school districts. If the districts refuse to respect our demands, we will likely file federal lawsuits to compel each district’s compliance.

Will you stand with Advocates? Here’s how you can help:

  • Pray with us, for our students, teachers, and administrators.
  • Give a financial gift so that we can continue in this work.
  • Let us know if you experience or hear about any hostility towards religion in the public schools.

We thank you for your faithfulness and your prayers as we press on in this mission!

In His Service, Robert Tyler General Counsel
On a Personal Note...

Maybe you noticed that our February newsletter didn’t come at the end of the month as usual.  Well, both Jen and I were very busy during the month of February.  Jen and Jordan Bursch were blessed with the birth of their first child, Harper Grace Bursch.  She was a real miracle in the making after beating the odds of some medical complications. Please  pray for God’s continued blessings on this beautiful and healthy gift of life.

Meanwhile, I spent time on my sixth mission trip to Hinche, Haiti, with my wife and three of our four children. We had another wonderful 

opportunity to support the local work of the Haiti Endowment Fund and its numerous churches and Christian schools in the outlying areas of Haiti’s Central Plateau. Religious liberty and Christian values appear to be well respected in Haiti. Though Haiti has a long history in Voodoo, Christianity  is now  welcomed throughout this poverty stricken  nation.

Teacher Tells First Grader: "You're Not Allowed to Talk About the Bible in School"

This past December, first grader Brynn Williams’ presentation of her family’s Star of Bethlehem was shut down because she’s “not allowed to talk about the Bible in school.” Brynn Williams

Brynn’s incident at Temecula Valley Unified School District comes on the heels of a candy cane case involving West Covina Unified School District first grader Isaiah Martinez who was told, “Jesus is not allowed in school.” You can read the full story of that case here.

On Wednesday, December 18, 2013, Brynn Williams brought home a “share” bag as part of a school assignment.  Brynn’s teacher had given every child in her class a canvas bag with verbal instructions to find something at home that represents a family Christmas tradition, put it in the bag, bring it to school, and be prepared to share the family tradition.

Brynn took the Star of Bethlehem from the top of the family Christmas tree to represent her family’s tradition of remembering why Christmas is celebrated.  Brynn worked diligently on a one minute presentation in order to explain to the class that her family’s tradition is to remember the birth of Jesus at Christmas time.

On the day of presentations, Brynn began: “Our Christmas tradition is to put a star on top of our tree.  The star is named the Star of Bethlehem. The 3 kings followed the star to find baby Jesus, the Savior of the world. John…”

At that moment, Brynn’s teacher interrupted her and said, “Stop right there! Go take your seat!” Brynn was not allowed to finish her presentation by reciting the Bible verse, John 3:16.  In fact, Brynn was the only student not allowed to finish her one-minute presentation. After Brynn took her seat, the teacher explained to Brynn in front of all the other students that she was not allowed to talk about the Bible or share its verses.

Watch the NBC News video.

 

We sent a demand letter to the Temecula Valley Unified School District demanding that a new policy be adopted to prohibit school officials from expressing disapproval or hostility toward religion or toward religious viewpoints expressed by students. The letter also demands that TVUSD provide a written apology and allow Brynn the opportunity to complete her speech during class.

Attorney Nic Cocis serves as co-counsel in this case. Mr. Cocis experienced religious persecution as an elementary school student in communist Romania before his family immigrated to the United States. “The censorship of Christianity was something I came to expect in Romanian schools, not here in the United States,” said Mr. Cocis. “I don’t want my kids to experience what I experienced as a Christian in Romania.”

We've already received news coverage for this case, and here are a few of the links:

Please pray with us as we interact with TVUSD on Brynn’s behalf.  We don’t want any other children to experience the hostility that Brynn has faced in school because of their faith!

Teacher to First Grader: "You're Not Allowed to Talk About the Bible in School"

Advocates for Faith & Freedom Press Release January 13, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:  Lori Sanada (951) 500-7854, (888) 588-6888

Teacher to First Grader: You’re not allowed to talk about the Bible in school

Temecula, CA., First grader Brynn Williams' presentation of her family’s Star of Bethlehem was shut down because she’s “not allowed to talk about the Bible in school."

Brynn’s incident at Temecula Valley Unified School District comes on the heels of a candy cane case involving West Covina Unified School District first grader Isaiah Martinez who was told, "Jesus is not allowed in school.” A copy of that press release was sent out by Advocates for Faith & Freedom last week and may be found here.

 On Wednesday, December 18, 2013, Brynn Williams brought home a “share” bag as part of a school assignment.  Brynn’s teacher had given every child in her class a canvas bag with verbal instructions to find something at home that represents a family Christmas tradition, put it in the bag, bring it to school, and be prepared to share the family tradition.

Brynn took the Star of Bethlehem from the top of the family Christmas tree to represent her family’s tradition of remembering why Christmas is celebrated.  Brynn worked diligently on a one minute presentation in order to explain to the class that her family’s tradition is to remember the birth of Jesus at Christmas time.

Brynn Williams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brynn began her presentation on December 19, 2014:

“Our Christmas tradition is to put a star on top of our tree.  The star is named the Star of Bethlehem. The 3 kings followed the star to find baby Jesus, the Savior of the world. John … [teacher interrupts Brynn].”

Brynn’s teacher said, “Stop right there! Go take your seat!” Brynn was not allowed to finish her presentation by reciting the Bible verse, John 3:16.  Brynn was the only student not allowed to finish her one-minute presentation. After Brynn took her seat, the teacher explained to Brynn in front of all the other students that she was not allowed to talk about the Bible or share its verses.

Robert Tyler, General Counsel for Advocates for Faith & Freedom said: “The disapproval and hostility that Christian students have come to experience in our nation's public schools has become epidemic. I hope that TVUSD will take the lead role in adopting a model policy to prohibit this abuse that has become all too common place for religious-minded students.”

Advocates for Faith & Freedom sent a demand letter to the Temecula Valley Unified School District demanding that a new policy be adopted to prohibit school officials from expressing disapproval or hostility toward religion or toward religious viewpoints expressed by students. The letter also demands that TVUSD provide a written apology and allow Brynn the opportunity to complete her speech during class.

A copy of the demand letter from Advocates for Faith & Freedom can be found here, which provides more depth to the facts and law as asserted by the Williams family.

Attorney Nic Cocis serves as co-counsel in this case. Mr. Cocis experienced religious persecution as an elementary school student in communist Romania before his family immigrated to the United States. "The censorship of Christianity was something I came to expect in Romanian schools, not here in the United States," said Mr. Cocis. “I don't want my kids to experience what I experienced as a Christian in Romania."

Advocates for Faith & Freedom is a nonprofit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting religious liberty in the courts. The website is www.faith-freedom.com.

Email info@faith-freedom.com to receive press releases from Advocates for Faith & Freedom. Also, join us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date on our progress in this case and others.

"Jesus Is Not Allowed In School" Case Gathers Major Media

This week, we told you about our new case, in which our young client, Isaiah Martinez, brought a gift for his classmates: Candy canes with a Christian Isaiah Martinezmessage attached explaining the legend of the candy cane.  After conferring with the principal, his first grade teacher removed the Christian message from the candy canes and told him, “Jesus is not allowed in school.”  You can read the full story of this case here. This is an important case, and one that all parents, students, and teachers deserve to hear about.  The message is critical – our children should not be subjected to hostility from their public school teachers and administrators simply because they are Christians and desire to live out their faith in the place they spend a significant portion of their time…at school.

We are grateful that this case is being amplified by the media so that more families will be encouraged to stand for our religious liberty.  Here are a few of the media links:

          Please keep our clients and Advocates in your prayers as we continue to pursue this matter.  If you’re interested, you can read more about our cases and work within the public schools here.

Help Advocates Fight for Christmas!

Will you help us preserve the real meaning behind Christmas?christmas baby           We are looking for cases where people have been denied the right to celebrate the true meaning behind Christmas because of the ever present hostility directed at Christianity!  Here are some examples of the hostility we’re talking about:

  • One South Carolina charter school canceled its annual Operation Christmas Child toy drive, since The American Humanist Association threatened them with a lawsuit.  The group claimed that the school’s actions violated the Constitution, since Operation Christmas Child is a project of the Christian relief agency Samaritan’s Purse.
  • A neighborhood in Orange County, in which several homes put up elaborate lights and decorations for the benefit of the community were told they needed to take down some of the lights because they are a violation of City ordinances.  They were confused, since they had done this for the last 5 years without any city interference.
  • One Wisconsin school district told music educators that, for holiday programs, they had to either: 1) Include 5 non-religious holiday songs for each religious one; 2) Hold a music program with no holiday music at all; or 3) Cancel the concerts.

          If you have heard of a situation like one of these, or experienced it yourself, please contact our office so our lawyers can intervene.

We want to make sure that parents, students, teachers, governmental agencies, property owners and businesses owners don’t cower to the threat of the so-called “separation of church and state.” That phrase is not in our Constitution and does not require us to remove all semblance of Christ from this season celebrating His birth!

God bless you and Merry Christmas!