Newest Religious Right Tactic: Sue to Get Civil Servant Dough and Block Gay Rights
cyncooper printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sun Dec 03, 2006 at 01:44:08 PM EST
A lawsuit filed in Michigan is the latest legal tactic of the Religious Right to pick the public pocket, while picking and choosing which public laws it will deign to follow. Conservative religious groups want access to government employee donation pools while reserving the right to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

This is the third case of its type filed this year by Religious Right legal organizations, Alliance Defense Fund and Christian Legal Society. In late September, a federal district court in Wisconsin issued a decision supporting the Religious Right position. Florida settled with them. While going virtually unnoticed, this new legal tactic is gaining steam and may be setting up a case for the Supreme Court.  

The three cases have been filed in Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan. All have been brought by The Alliance Defense Fund and the Christian Legal Society, (motto "Seeking Justice with the Love of God -- Luke 11:42.")

The latest, filed on November 3, 2006, is the Michigan case, which claims that the Christian Legal Society and others should be allowed to participate in charity pools of state government employees - United Way type programs.  But, the lawsuit demands, religious groups should not be forced to sign statements of nondiscrimination, as other participants do.

The decision five weeks earlier in Wisconsin was touted by the Christian Legal Society:"Victory for Wisconsin faith-based organizations." The federal district court ruled on September 29, 2006 that the Christian Legal Society and other religious organizations can discriminate and still participate in Wisconsin State Employees Combined Campaign, giving Religious Right organizations access to some of the $2.8 million in government employee donations.

The lawsuits all come from the same source. Designated as the plaintiff is the innocuous-sounding "Association of Faith-Based Organizations" or AFBO.  This wafer-thin "association" is located at the same Springfield, Virginia address as the Christian Legal Society, and with the same phone number.

Significantly, one of the three "leaders' listed on the website is Gregory S. Baylor, Director of Christian Legal Society's litigating arm, the Center for Law and Religious Freedom.  The other two are Thomas C. Berg, Co-Director of the Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law and Public Policy in Minneapolis, and Carl H. Esbeck, legal counsel to the National Association of Evangelicals, active in the Federalist Society and former director of the Justice Department's Task Force on faith-based initiatives.

In other words, these people have in-depth knowledge of the law on faith-based funding and are picking their targets. The cases are custom-designed to place religious ideology as superior to gay rights. The lawsuits are a deliberate effort to push theocractic measures forward.

Records of the Virginia State Corporation Commission indicate that the Association of Faith-Based Organization first organized on March 27, 2006, only days before becoming a plaintiff in its first lawsuit to gouge employee contribution programs. The trio of "leaders" seem to believe that the AFBO name has the right ring for a string of lawsuits and a possible trip to the U.S. Supreme Court to reshape the law.

According to documents in the Wisconsin case, the AFBO claims as members (surprise!) the Christian Legal Society. Other than that, its Wisconsin list is puny: the Pro-Life Wisconsin Educational Task Force, Teen Challenge International-Wisconin, Advocates International and Mission Aviation Fellowship.

The case was a set-up from the get-go. In 2005, the Christian Legal Society applied to be in the pool eligible for state employee funds, but deliberately refused to check off that it complied with non-discrimination requirements.

In Michigan, CLS applied at the same time under the name of "Neighbor to Nation," which it describes as its "umbrella" group.   Neighbor to Nation (originally Share America!) is incorporated in Virginia at the same Christian Legal Society address.

In applying for the donation pool in Michigan, CLS's Gregory Baylor attached a letter saying Neighbor to Nation would not sign the non-discrimination clause because it is a religious entity "organized around a shared commitment to Jesus Christ." Carefully avoiding any anti-gay references, the letter said board members and employees must sign a statement of faith and the group reserves the right to take religious beliefs into account in deciding whom to represent.


"Moreover, a person's participation in extramarital sexual conduct might disqualify them for membership in, employment with, or the receipt of certain services from CLS.

It is CLS's view that the policies and practices described ... do not constitute "discrimination," which is properly defined as the invidious reliance upon irrelevant characteristics.  Nonetheless, we acknowledge that our understanding of the term "discrimination" is not universally held.  Indeed, it has been our experience that many contend that CLS's policies and practices constitute "discrimination" on the basis of religion and marital status.

CLS has a fundamental right, protected by the U.S. Constitution, to hold and practice the policies described in this letter.  Michigan may not, consistent with the law, deny CLS participation in the campaign based upon its policies and practices, which are solidly rooted in orthodox, historic Christianity."

Behind this piety is one simple word: homophobia. The Wisconsin case was a pre-emptive strike, since the state did not require a statement of anti-gay discrimination.

But religious groups latched onto a 2002 letter by the state head of administration, describing groups that might be affected if an anti-gay discrimination policy were adopted (e.g. Catholics United for Life, Prison Fellowship Ministries, Boy Scouts).

Religious groups, such as the Christian Military Fellowship and others, are currently among the 400 charities in the Wisconsin program.

So why the fuss to bring a test case? The answer is probably in Connecticut. A case from there (cited below) ruled the other way, placing gay protection from discrimination as a higher value. The Religious Right lawyers may be aiming to undermine it as precedent and also to get the Supreme Court to reverse it by securing conflicting decisions from elsewhere.

Wisconsin helps them. The decision (Association of Faith-Based Organizations v. Bablitch), authored by the controversial and mercurial Judge John Shabaz, said:

Plaintiff’s members have a constitutional right to expressive association which entitles them to limit membership in their organizations to those who share common religious views ….

Plaintiff’s members also have a constitutional free speech right to solicit funds from state employees.

The judge concluded that Wisconsin “unequivocally supports the right of religious organizations to control their internal governance” by permitting religious employers to discriminate in hiring and letting the department of family services to fund religious organizations without challenging their internal governance.

Kicking out religious discriminators in the donations program would be “a stark single exception,” said the judge.

In the Connecticut case, Boy Scouts of America v. Wyman [335 F.3d 80 (2d Cir.2003)] the Second Circuit Court of Appeals said in 2003 that the state did not have to include the Boy Scouts in a state donations program. Connecticut law expressly prohibited state agencies from providing support to organizations that discriminated based on sexual orientation, and the Wisconsin court found this to be the central difference to reaching its opposite conclusion.

Another case brought by the AFBO in Florida was settled with a proposed change of rules for inclusion in the Florida State Employees Charitable Campaign. The change has yet to be effectuated.

CLS and ADF (which has as founders James Dobson of Focus on Family, Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association, and James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Ministries) are not only aiming to open up new pools of Religious Right funding, but to put new obstacles before gay and lesbian rights.

National legal organizations that care about gay rights need to sit up and take notice. These three copycat lawsuits indicate that CLS and ADF are intent on marching forward: no doubt, more lawsuits are on the way.




Display:
The case from Connecticut on charitable giving argues loudly for state level laws prohibiting discrimination against gays and lesbians.  Because Connecticut had a law, the state didn't have to open up special benefits, such as participation in a fundraising program, to groups that discriminate --  even those that use religion as a justification.

by cyncooper on Sat Dec 02, 2006 at 08:38:31 PM EST

Know what hooked me? Your report that all these fascist organizations have the same address.

by Josh Thomas on Mon Dec 18, 2006 at 01:31:33 AM EST


WWW Talk To Action


Book Report: Yes, Politicians, We Know You Love The Bible. What Else Have You Read?
Real estate magnate Donald Trump says lots of outrageous stuff, but none of it seems to slow him down. His latest gaffe, however, ought......
By Rob Boston (1 comment)
American Renewal Project
On my journey to the American Renewal Project in Austin, Texas, I listened to hard right talk radio out of Houston.  There was an......
By wilkyjr (5 comments)
`Just Go Somewhere Else!': A Cavalier Dismissal Of A Serious Concern
A few years ago, I took part in a panel discussion on church-state issues at a Seventh-day Adventist church in Takoma Park, Md. During......
By Rob Boston (2 comments)
John Dorhauer Puts Christian Right on Notice
Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer was a front pager here at Talk to Action years before he was elected General Minister and President of the......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Father Of Falsehoods: Why Ted Cruz's Dad Is Wrong About Prayer In Schools
Many misconceptions abound about the issue of prayer in schools, and some people persist in believing a lot of myths. One of the most......
By Rob Boston (1 comment)
A Texas Size Conspiracy
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has recently been indicted by a grand jury for an illegal investment scheme.  He faces felony charges. Word has......
By wilkyjr (1 comment)
Are the Anti-Planned Parenthood Smear Videos... Investigative Journalism?
I have been glad to see journalism catching up with the anti-Planned Parenthood scam videos. From The Huffington Post to the New England Journal......
By Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Liberty's Latest Ploy: What's Up With The Sanders Invite?
The announcement that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will speak at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., Sept. 14 has left a lot of people......
By Rob Boston (4 comments)
Creeping Christian Rightism in the Democratic Party
The executive director of a DC group with deep roots in the Democratic faith outreach schemes of a decade ago, has a regular column......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Ghosts Over Mississippi
     Clinton, Mississippi is home to historic Mississippi College.  The Southern Baptist school is owned by the state Baptist convention in the Magnolia......
By wilkyjr (0 comments)
The Cardinal's Gasbag: Catholic League Leader Rushes To Defend Dolan From AU Criticism
There is a thing called Godwin's Law on the internet. It holds that if an online argument goes on long enough, someone will drag......
By Rob Boston (2 comments)
The Theocratic Politics of Raphael Cruz
"There's a relationship there that's unlike any in American history to my knowledge. We've just never seen anything remotely like this...   I believe......
By Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
An Assassin's Motivation?
On June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof quietly sat in the prayer meeting at African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina before he shot......
By wilkyjr (2 comments)
Christian Right Turns to Nullification to Counter Marriage Equality
Last year in The Public Eye magazine, Rachel Tabachnick and Frank L. Cocozzelli warned of the trend on the religious and political Right toward......
By Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Historian Gerald Horne on Charleston, Church, & Slave Resistance
Professor Gerald Horne of the University of Houston notes the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church was at the center of Black resistance to slavery......
By Chip Berlet (1 comment)

Evidence violence is more common than believed
Think I've been making things up about experiencing Christian Terrorism or exaggerating, or that it was an isolated incident?  I suggest you read this article (linked below in body), which is about our great......
ArchaeoBob (2 comments)
Central Florida Sheriff Preached Sermon in Uniform
If anyone has been following the craziness in Polk County Florida, they know that some really strange and troubling things have happened here.  We've had multiple separation of church and state lawsuits going at......
ArchaeoBob (2 comments)
Demon Mammon?
An anthropologist from outer space might be forgiven for concluding that the god of this world is Mammon. (Or, rather, The Market, as depicted by John McMurtry in his book The Cancer Stage of......
daerie (0 comments)
Anti-Sharia Fever in Texas: This is How It Starts
The mayor of a mid-size Texan city has emerged in recent months as the newest face of Islamophobia. Aligning herself with extremists hostile to Islam, Mayor Beth Van Duyne of Irving, Texas has helped......
JSanford (0 comments)
Evangelicals Seduced By Ayn Rand Worship Crypto-Satanism, Suggest Scholars
[update: also see my closely related stories, "Crypto-Cultists" and "Cranks": The Video Paul Ryan Hoped Would Go Away, and The Paul Ryan/Ayn Rand/Satanism Connection Made Simple] "I give people Ayn Rand with trappings" -......
Bruce Wilson (10 comments)
Ted Cruz Anointed By Pastor Who Says Jesus Opposed Minimum Wage, and Constitution Based on the Bible
In the video below, from a July 19-20th, 2013 pastor's rally at a Marriott Hotel in Des Moines, Iowa, Tea Party potentate Ted Cruz is blessed by religious right leader David Barton, who claims......
Bruce Wilson (1 comment)
Galt and God: Ayn Randians and Christian Rightists Expand Ties
Ayn Rand's followers find themselves sharing a lot of common ground with the Christian Right these days. The Tea Party, with its stress on righteous liberty and a robust form of capitalism, has been......
JSanford (4 comments)
Witchhunts in Africa and the U.S.A.
Nigerian human rights activist Leo Igwe has recently written at least two blog posts about how some African Pentecostal churches are sending missionaries to Europe and the U.S.A. in an attempt to "re-evangelize the......
Diane Vera (2 comments)
Charles Taze Russell and John Hagee
No doubt exists that Texas mega-church Pastor John Hagee would be loathe to be associated with the theology of Pastor C.T. Russell (wrongly credited with founding the Jehovah's Witnesses) but their theological orbits, while......
COinMS (0 comments)
A death among the common people ... imagination.
Or maybe my title would better fit as “Laws, Books, where to find, and the people who trust them.”What a society we've become!The wise ones tell us over and over how the more things......
Arthur Ruger (1 comment)
Deconstructing the Dominionists, Part VI
This is part 6 of a series by guest front pager Mahanoy, originally dated November 15, 2007 which I had to delete and repost for technical reasons. It is referred to in this post,......
Frederick Clarkson (2 comments)
Republican infighting in Mississippi
After a bruising GOP runoff election for U.S. Senator, current MS Senator Thad Cochran has retained his position and will face Travis Childers (Democrat) in the next senate election. The MS GOP is fractured......
COinMS (5 comments)
America's Most Convenient Bank® refuses to serve Christians
Representatives of a well known faith-based charitable organization were refused a New Jersey bank’s notarization service by an atheist employee. After inquiring about the nature of the non-profit organization and the documents requiring......
Jody Lane (4 comments)
John Benefiel takes credit for GOP takeover of Oklahoma
Many of you know that Oklahoma has turned an unrecognizable shade of red in recent years.  Yesterday, one of the leading members of the New Apostolic Reformation all but declared that he was responsible......
Christian Dem in NC (4 comments)
John Benefiel thinks America is under curse because Egyptians dedicated North America to Baal
You may remember that Rick Perry put together his "Response" prayer rallies with the help of a slew of NAR figures.  One of them was John Benefiel, an Oklahoma City-based "apostle."  He heads up......
Christian Dem in NC (4 comments)

More Diaries...




All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else © 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.