Tag Archives: Freedom Of Religion

Public School Orders Christian Students to Stop Praying, Discussing Religion Together During Recess

For the past three years, a group of Christian students at Pine Creek High School in Colorado Springs, CO have met during a free period to pray and discuss their religious views. Though they typically meet in an abandoned classroom so as to not disturb other students, their prayer group is not an official function of the school, but is instead a voluntary, unofficial meeting between classmates during a non-instructional free period when students are allowed to meet with friends and discuss or do whatever they choose. According to Fox News, one of the students, Chase Windebank, was ordered to Assistant Principal James Lucas’ office on September 29, whereupon he was told that his group was no longer allowed to meet to pray and discuss Christianity during school hours.

In response, a religious liberty-focused law firm called Alliance Defending Freedom took up Windebank’s case and filed suit in federal court last week, alleging that his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights had been violated. Attorney Jeremy Tedesco, who is representing Windebank, said, “He was told that he could no longer pray with his fellow students during free time because of the separation of church and state… He was told that he could pray before the school day begins or after the school day ends but he could not do it during the school day.”

The complaint Tedesco filed on behalf of Windebank describes how the free period in question works at Pine Creek High School, “Defendant Academy School District No. 20 (the “District”) has implemented a policy (the ‘Open Time Policy’) which permits all students to be excused from the homeroom period of the school day, called ‘Seminar,’ on Mondays and Wednesdays, and students who meet certain academic qualifications to be excused from Seminar on Fridays, to engage in a virtually unlimited variety of activities of the students’ own choosing, including hanging out in the cafeteria and other open areas with friends, playing on their phones, meeting together for expressive activities (including both formally recognized clubs and unofficial groups), and going outside to hang out together… This Open Time is akin to recess or lunch period where students have long been recognized to have the right to engage in expressive activities… At the same time, pursuant to the Open Time Policy, Defendants permit other students to meet together in informal groups (among the multitude of other permissible activities) during Seminar time and discuss from a nonreligious perspective the same or similar matters Chase seeks to discuss and pray about from a religious perspective with his friends.”

A school spokesperson said to Fox News, “Students were told that, according to state law and district policy, they could meet during non-instructional time… That is before or after school.”

City of Houston demands Pastors turn over sermons

HOUSTON, October 15, 2014 – The city of Houston has issued subpoenas to a group of local pastors demanding that they turn over all sermons and communications that pertain to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, a measure that was approved by the city council this past June. The ordinance, which is also commonly referred to as the “bathroom bill” is a set of non-discrimination laws that specifically aim to protect transgender rights.

Under these subpoenas, pastors must hand over any sermons that have dealt with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the city’s first openly gay mayor. Pastors who fail to comply with the demands could be held in contempt of court.

Christina Halcomb, an attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the national law firm that is representing the five Houston pastors, stated, “The city’s subpoena of sermons and other pastoral communications is both needless and unprecedented.” Halcomb continued stating, “The city council and its attorneys are engaging in an inquisition designed to stifle any critique of its actions.”

ADF filed a motion to stop the subpoenas claiming the motions are “overbroad, unduly burdensome, harassing, and vexatious.”

The non-discrimination laws were implemented to, among other things, allow men to use ladies restrooms and vice versa. The ordinance was met with fierce opposition and a petition that according the Houston Chronicle reportedly garnered over 50,000 signatures, a number that far surpassed the 17,269 required to put a referendum on the ballot. However, the petition was thrown out by the city in August over alleged irregularities.

The subpoenas against the Houston pastors were issued after a lawsuit was filed against the city by petitioners. Though the pastors were not included in the lawsuit’s filings, they were included in a group of over 400 Houston based churches that opposed the ordinance.

Steve Riggle, the senior pastor of Grace Community Church stated, “This is an attempt to chill pastors from speaking to the cultural issues of the day.” Riggle went on to state, “The mayor would like to silence our voice. She’s a bully.”

David Welch, another pastor among the group subpoened, who serves as the pastor for Bear Creek Church and also as the director for the Houston Area Pastor Council stated, “We’re not afraid of this bully. We’re not intimidated at all.” Welch went on to state, “We are not going to yield our First Amendment rights. This is absolutely a complete abuse of authority.”

Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council stated, “The state is breaching the wall of separation between church and state. Pastors need to step forward and challenge this across the country. I’d like to see literally thousands of pastors after they read this story begin to challenge government authorities – to dare them to come into their churches and demand their sermons.”

Mayor Parker will not publicly state why she wants the pastors’ sermons. When contacted, Janice Evans, the mayor’s director of communications, only stated, “We don’t comment on litigation.”

However, ADF attorney Erik Stanley believes this is an attempt to shame pastors and publicly paint them as anti-gay bigots. Stanley stated, “This is designed to intimidate pastors.”

“City council members are supposed to be public servants, not ‘Big Brother’ overlords who will tolerate no dissent or challenge,” Stanley stated.


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