Louisiana ACLU Mistaken Again

25 04 2006

Via the New Orleans area’s Times-Picayune

Mayor Eddie Price started holding weekly Bible study sessions at City Hall on April 13 and continued the practice Thursday. He said the lunchtime program is open to people of all faiths and the location makes it easy for his employees to participate.

But the mayor’s decision to hold the sessions calls into question whether the practice violates the political doctrine known as the separation of church and state called for in the Constitution.

About 20 people attended the first Bible study, held in a conference room at City Hall, Price said. Roughly the same number joined the second session, this time in the City Council chambers, though several new faces were present, Councilman Jerry Coogan said. He noted that Marlaine Peachey, the mayor’s secretary, donated the food for last week’s program.

Price, who considers himself nondenominational, bristled when a reporter asked about the practice, saying he feels it is his right to hold Bible study sessions inside a public building if he chooses. He noted that the sessions are nondenominational and that anyone interested in participating may join the group.

The sessions simply serve as a way to educate people about God, Price said. He said the practice doesn’t violate the law separating church and state; it’s just about reading the Bible.

But not everyone would feel welcome at a gathering of this type, which makes holding the sessions at City Hall problematic, said Joe Cook, executive director of the Louisiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. Cook was unaware of the Bible study sessions until contacted by The Times-Picayune.

No surprise to me, Stop The ACLU has written about Mr. Cook before when he compared Christians to terrorists when officials at Tangipahoa School district wanted to express their religious liberty once again feels that voluntary religious expression is a threat:

“They believe that they answer to a higher power, in my opinion. Which is the kind of thinking that you had with the people who flew the airplanes into the buildings in this country, and the people who did the kind of things in London.”

Cook’s misunderstanding about the First Amendment still hasn’t changed.

Officials cannot advance or endorse religion in their public capacity, nor can they use public property for this purpose, Cook said in interpreting the law. A municipal building cannot serve as a public forum, as a park or square may, because everything government does must have a secular purpose, he said.

The problem with offering Bible study sessions at City Hall has to do with the fact that public officials are advancing one particular religion — Christianity — while excluding the rest, Cook said. In addition, Cook said the officials likely aren’t making concessions for those who don’t believe in God, and he worried that some employees might feel they have to attend the sessions to stay on the mayor’s good side.

While forcing employees to attend the sessions would be inappropriate, City Attorney David Cressy said he thinks it’s OK to hold the Bible studies at City Hall because they are private functions primarily for the people who work there. For instance, he said, officials could not rent the building to Christian groups but deny Hare Krishnas the same opportunity.

Coogan, who is Catholic, said he thinks people rediscovered their faith in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and want more opportunities to express themselves in a religious setting. He said people who wish to learn more about the Bible must take it upon themselves to study outside of church.

Just like Bible studies in schools that are run by students outside of class time are ok, so are Bible studies run by government officials on lunch breaks since no one is forced to attend.

The notion of “feeling pressured to save your job” is absurd. This “pressure” to kiss up to your boss occurs in 99% of companies and organizations no matter what the boss does or eats. It a lawsuit is based on this, it will open a giant can of worms for unfair workplace practices.

The First Amendment says nothing about preventing government employees from reading the Bible. Read this portion from Updegraph v. The Commonwealth (1824):

Christianity, general Christianity, is and always has been a part of the common law . . . not Christianity founded on any particular religious tenets; not Christianity with an established church . . . but Christianity with liberty of conscience to all men. Thus this wise legislature framed this great body of laws for a Christian country and Christian people.

In fact, the Founders would assume they would read the Bible and made plenty of provision for it in building the Constitution. Unfortunately, the ACLU has jumped on the bandwagon of activist judges and mistakenly sued as many Christians as they can.

H/T: Stop The ACLU

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