Victory and Defeat for Religious Liberty in Two States
Southern Evangelical Seminary President Dr. Richard Land Highlights Two Important Religious Freedom Cases in Iowa and Alabama
CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES, www.ses.edu) President Dr. Richard Land is juxtaposing two recent cases of religious liberty in America—one victory and one defeat.
Land explored the topic of religious freedom in two recent installments of his daily radio feature, “Bringing Every Thought Captive.”
First, the University of Iowa experienced a tremendous religious liberty victory when a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the university must cease and desist from denying that a Christian student group, Business Leaders in Christ, its registered university status because the group requires its members to follow a statement of faith.
“Judge Stephanie Rose, an Obama appointee, granted a permanent injunction that will keep the University of Iowa from rejecting the status of Business Leaders in Christ based on the university’s human rights policy, which the university had cited in its revocation of the Christian group’s status,” Land reported. “The judge said that the university unevenly applied the policy and still allowed other groups to limit access to leadership or membership based on their religious views, race, sex and other protected characteristics.”
Rose said in her decision, “The Constitution does not tolerate the way defendants chose to enforce the human rights policy. Particularly when free speech is involved, the uneven application of any policy risks the most exacting standard of judicial scrutiny, which the defendants have failed to withstand,” the Des Moines Register reported.
“The uneven application of any policy risks the most exacting standard of judicial scrutiny, which the defendants, the University of Iowa have failed to understand,” Land said. “The suit came after the university told the group to change its constitution after a student said he was barred from leadership because he was openly gay. Judge Rose found that the university had violated the Christian club’s First Amendment rights to free speech, expressive association and free exercise of religion. As the group’s attorney said, ‘The university wanted a license to discriminate, and Judge Rose said no way.’”
Business Leaders in Christ’s president went on to say, “This victory reinforces the commonsense idea that universities can’t target religious student groups for being religious.”
“This is a tremendous victory for religious freedom,” Land said, “and it shows that we still have the right to go to court and demand that our institutions follow the Constitution.”
But conversely, a grave injustice unfolded earlier this month in Alabama, and it should concern everyone who cherishes religious freedom, Land said.
“An Alabama inmate, Mr. Domineque Ray, was executed, having been found guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt by a jury of his peers for the rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl,” Land noted. “As the National Review’s David French so aptly described it, ‘Ray’s execution was just. The circumstances were not.’”
Ray, a Muslim, was denied having an imam in the room with him in the last moments of his life, Land continued. Alabama prisoners are always offered a Christian chaplain in the room, if they desire one, when they are set to be executed. When challenged about barring Muslim imams, Alabama prison officials decided to ban all chaplains of any kind from the execution chamber.
“As my Baptist mother explained to me a long time ago, if we let them discriminate against other religions today, they can discriminate against Baptists tomorrow,” Land said. “The decision by the Alabama prison officials diminishes everyone’s religious freedom. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court upheld the prison officials’ decision on a 5-4 vote, with Justice Elena Kagan writing the dissent on behalf of herself and Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. As Alan Cross, a Southern Baptist minister and an Alabaman, put it so well, ‘I am not a Muslim. I am an evangelical Christian minister in Alabama. But my religious freedom—everyone’s religious freedom—took a hit when my state decided that instead of slowing down to accommodate religious difference, the execution, which is final and irrevocable, had to go on as scheduled.’
“I’m saddened for this decision,” Land added, “and I’m saddened that the Supreme Court upheld it with five conservative votes.”
Discussions about religious liberty and how it relates to apologetics and the defense of the Christian faith often make their way into SES’s on-campus and online curriculum. For 27 years, SES has existed to equip students and ministry leaders to share the Gospel from an intelligent, informed and rational biblical worldview. Courses, conferences, seminars, guest speakers and more seek to accomplish this longstanding mission. Central to this purpose is the provision of a biblical basis and an academic understanding of believers’ commitment to Christ. Therefore, SES seeks to provide an educational opportunity where the Christian worldview is both a framework for thinking and a dynamic for living.
Read more about Southern Evangelical Seminary and SES President Dr. Richard Land and his radio feature here. For more information on SES, visit its website at www.ses.edu or its Facebook page, follow the SES Twitter feed, @sesapologetics, or call (800) 77-TRUTH.