In just three years, the number of hostile acts against religion in America has doubled, according to a new report conducted by a constitutional attorney.
The report, released by First Liberty Institute, documents attempts to suppress or threaten religious liberty. In the first edition back in 2012, the team of analysts found a total of 600 attacks against religion, but the latest research indicates that the number has skyrocketed to 1,285, based on events compiled from court cases and press reports.
“The religious liberty of Americans is under attack like never before,” Kelly Shackelford, president and CEO of First Liberty Institute, said in a statement. “These attacks are coming from all directions, against America’s churches, in our school, in the military, and in the public arena.”
“The good news is, even though the number of attacks has risen, the Constitution hasn’t changed,” Shackelford added. “Religious liberty is still our first, foundational freedom. And when Americans stand up for their rights, they can win.”
For First Liberty Institute, the report is important because the loss of religious liberty ruins individuals and families and erodes the foundation of other rights. Good employees are unfairly losing their livelihoods and chaplains are being driven out of organizations because of constant harassment from a “relatively small but powerful sector of society.”
In one of the cases highlighted by the report, Bremerton High School suspended Joe Kennedy, a football coach, for following up the end of a game with a prayer, a practice he had continued for seven years. After every game, he would walk up to the 50 yard line and say a prayer once his players had left the field. The school took notice when other students and employees started joining Kennedy.
The military, too, has been hit by aggressive organizations trying to crack down on religious expression. When Lance Corporal Monifa Sterling refused to take down a Bible verse she had displayed in her workspace, the Marine Corps court-martialed her. First Liberty Institute is right in the middle of a court battle to fight the decision.
At another high school, cheerleaders were prevented from listing Bible verses on banners. The cheerleaders were trying to encourage players. Once the Freedom From Religion Foundation discovered what the cheerleaders were up to, the organization shot a letter over to the school demanding the practice end. The school complied and banned the cheerleaders from displaying the verses. The cheerleaders sued and the judge said the school erred and overstepped its authority. The school has since appealed the decision.
“The good news is that the vast majority of the hostility to religion you will read in this survey is unlawful,” Shackelford said in the introduction to the report. “It succeeds only because of its own bluff and the passivity of its victims.”
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