Oregon Rules Bakery Violated Gay Couple’s Civil Rights By Denying Them A Cake For Same-Sex Wedding

PORTLAND, Ore. (CBS Seattle/AP) — An Oregon bakery stands by its decision to deny a cake for a same-sex wedding.

The owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa tell KATU-TV that their religious beliefs have not changed after Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries determined the Portland-area bakery violated the civil rights of a same-sex couple. Owner Aaron Klein says it almost seems as if the state is hostile toward Christianbusinesses.

“We still stand by what we believe from the beginning,” Klein told KATU-TV.

Melissa Klein took to Facebook to thank people for standing behind them.

“I know that your prayers are being heard. I feel such a peace with all of this that is going on,” she posted. “Even though there are days that are hard and times of struggle we still feel that the Lord is in this. It is His fight and our situation is in His hands.”

Lewis & Clark law professor Jim Oleske says Oregon is one of 21 states that protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“Based on cases in every other state that has confronted this so far, this business is likely to lose on its claim that it can be exempt from an anti-discrimination law,” Oleske told KATU.

The state is now overseeing a conciliation process to see if the parties can reach a settlement.

“Under Oregon law, Oregonians may not be denied service based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The law provides an exemption for religious organizations and schools, but does not allow private business owners to discriminate based on sexual orientation, just as they cannot legally deny service based on race, sex, age, disability or religion,” the state said in a statement. “The investigation concludes that the bakery is not a religious institution under law and that the business’ policy of refusing to make same-sex wedding cakes represents unlawful discrimination based on sexual orientation.”

Click to http://seattle.cbslocal.com/2014/01/21/oregon-rules-bakery-violated-gay-couples-civil-rights-by-denying-them-a-cake-for-same-sex-wedding/

Atheist Group Challenges Bible Display at Fla. City Hall, Calls It a Violation of the US Constitution

An atheist organization has taken up the cause of a Florida man who has complained for several years that the display of a Bible in one city council’s chambers is a violation of the Constitution.

Randy Heine, the owner of Rockin Cards and Gifts in Pinellas Park, Fla., told The Christian Post he was “stonewalled” by city officials when he tried to have the Bible removed from the dais in the city council chambers back in 2005. He could not afford to take legal action against the city, he says, so his mission was put on hold.

In June 2013 he reached out to the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), an organization that promotes the separation of church and state of which he is also a member, to share his concern.

An FFRF staff attorney sent a letter to Pinellas Park Mayor Sandra Bradbury shortly after claiming that, among other things, displaying the Bible is a government endorsement of religion and is therefore unconstitutional.

“No legitimate purpose is served by having a bible [sic] on the dais. Its presence…only appears to express approval of its contents and of Christianity,” wrote FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel.

Seidel told CP his organization sent several follow-up letters to the city, including one sent earlier this week, but city officials have not yet responded. The city has, however, worked with FFRF on an open records request that was included with the first letter.

Several federal courts have declared that displaying the Bible on government property is a violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, he says. He also says he hopes city leaders will see that they can still exercise their beliefs privately and that FFRF is concerned with protecting the First Amendment.

“They’re free to go to church on their own as often as they want. They’re free to read the Bible on their own as often as they want. They’re free to display the Bible in their homes. They just don’t get to co-opt their government office to advance their religion,” said Seidel.

Doug Lewis, the former fire chief of Pinellas Park who will become city manager next week, told FOX 13 that the city’s attorney is reviewing FFRF’s most recent letter.

“The Bible was given to the city by the Kiwanis Club, I believe when the building was dedicated,” Lewis told the station. “They feel it’s part of City Hall, as being part of the dedication ceremony, and it’s become part of the history of the building.”

Jeremy Dys, senior counsel with Liberty Institute, an organization that advocates for religious freedom, says the Bible has some characteristics of a historical marker, though he could not say for certain if it is being displayed legally based on limited available information.

Liberty Institute reached out to Pinellas Park on Wednesday, Dys says, and offered to help the city evaluate the legality of displaying the Bible. He also says FFRF wants to rid the government of all religious references, and that the city needs to evaluate the situation carefully and not merely bend to the organization’s request.

“I know that the Pinellas Park folks are going to want to follow the law like everybody else is, and so if we’ve got to help them figure out how to abide by the law we’ll do that. But that does not mean that they have to automatically whitewash the entire city of any religious reference whatsoever,” he said.

Tim Caddell, the city’s government relations administrator, told CP that the Bible’s place in the council chambers gets questioned from time to time, though the mayor and council members have not felt the need to remove it.

In addition to the Bible, FFRF has also expressed concern over several other issues in Pinellas Park. These include the prayers said at the beginning of city council meetings, literature about a Catholic Church’s upcoming events that have been included in local water bills and concerns over whether or not a Christian school that is renting from the city is receiving preferential treatment.

Click to http://www.christianpost.com/news/atheist-group-challenges-bible-display-at-fla-city-hall-calls-it-a-violation-of-the-us-constitution-112745/

Pentagon: Religious Proselytizing is Not Permitted

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Religious liberty groups have grave concerns after they learned the Pentagon is vetting its guide on religious tolerance with a group that compared Christian evangelism to “rape” and advocated that military personnel who proselytize should be court martialed.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is calling on the Air Force to enforce a regulation that they believe calls for the court martial of any service member caught proselytizing.

President Mikey Weinstein and others from his organization met privately with Pentagon officials on April 23. He said U.S. troops who proselytize are guilty of sedition and treason and should be punished – by the hundreds if necessary – to stave off what he called a “tidal wave of fundamentalists.”

“Someone needs to be punished for this,” Weinstein told Fox News. “Until the Air Force or Army or Navy or Marine Corps punishes a member of the military for unconstitutional religious proselytizing and oppression, we will never have the ability to stop this horrible, horrendous, dehumanizing behavior.”

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told Fox News he was stunned that the Pentagon would be taking counsel and advice from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

“Why would military leadership be meeting with one of the most rabid atheists in America to discuss religious freedom in the military,” Perkins said. “That’s like consulting with China on how to improve human rights.”

The FRC has launched a petition drive urging Defense Sec. Chuck Hagel to protect the religious freedom of troops “and not to proceed with the purge of religion within the ranks called for by anti-Christian activists.”

Pentagon officials met with Weinstein and his group were to discuss a policy called “Air Force Culture, Air Force Standards,” published on Aug. 7, 2012.

Section 2.11 requires “government neutrality regarding religion.”

“Leaders at all levels must balance constitutional protections for an individual’s free exercise of religion or other personal beliefs and the constitutional prohibition against governmental establishment of religion,” the regulation states.

Military leaders were admonished not to use their position to “promote their personal religious beliefs to their subordinates or to extend preferential treatment for any religion.”

Weinstein said it’s time for the Air Force to enforce the regulation – with zeal.

“If a member of the military is proselytizing in a manner that violates the law, well then of course they can be prosecuted,” he said. “We would love to see hundreds of prosecutions to stop this outrage of fundamentalist religious persecution.”

He compared the act of proselytizing to rape.

“It is a version of being spiritually raped and you are being spiritually raped by fundamentalist Christian religious predators,” he told Fox News.

He said there is a time and a place for those in uniform to share their faith – but he took issues with fundamentalism that he says is causing widespread problems in the military.

“When those people are in uniform and they believe there is no time, place or manner in which they can be restricted from proselytizing, they are creating tyranny, oppression, degradation, humiliation and horrible, horrible pain upon members of the military,” he said.

Perkins said the military regulations have “Weinstein’s fingerprints all over it.”

“It threatens to treat service members caught witnessing as enemies of the state,” he said, referring to a Washington Post article highlighting Weinstein’s meeting with Pentagon officials. “Non-compliance, the Pentagon suggests, even from ordained chaplains could result in court-martialing on a case-by-case basis.”

The Pentagon confirmed to Fox News that Christian evangelism is against regulations.

“Religious proselytization is not permitted within the Department of Defense, LCDR Nate Christensen said in a written statement. He declined to say if any chaplains or service members had been prosecuted for such an offense.

“Court martials and non-judicial punishments are decided on a case-by-case basis and it would be inappropriate to speculate on the outcome in specific cases,” he said.

Ron Crews, the executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, warns that the Air Force policy would “significantly impact the religious liberties of Air Force personnel.”

“Saying that a service member cannot speak of his faith is like telling a service member he cannot talk about his spouse or children,” Crews said. “I do not think the Air Force wants to ban personnel from protected religious speech, and I certainly hope that it is willing to listen to the numerous individuals and groups who protect military religious liberty without demonizing service members.”

In an interview with the Washington Post, Weinstein called proselytizing a “national security threat.”

“And what the Pentagon needs to understand is that it is sedition and treason,” he told the newspaper. “It should be punished.”

Perkins said it was troubling the Obama Administration would place so much trust in someone like Weinstein.

“Unfortunately, it appears our military is on a forced march away from the very freedoms they are sworn to protect,” he said. “This language from Weinstein that Christians who share their faith or offer comfort to others from their faith in Jesus Christ is “sedition and treason” is a treasonous statement in and of itself.”

But Weinstein said they count thousands of Protestants among their ranks – and said they are simply going after fundamentalists.

“As soon as we find a fundamentalist Muslim, atheist, Jewish person or anybody else, we will be happy to fight them – but so far they have been few and far between,” he said.

Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin, an executive vice president with the Family Research Council, told Fox News that he’s deeply concerned by what he call a pattern of attacks on Christianity within the military.

“Mickey Weinstein has a very visceral hated of Christianity and those who are Christians,” he said. “He’d like to see it eliminated from the military entirely.”

If the Air Force policy is implemented, Boykin said Christians who speak of their faith “could now be prosecuted as enemies of the state.”

“This has the potential to destroy military recruiting across the services as Americans realize that their faith will be suppressed by joining the military,” Boykin said.

In the meantime, Weinstein and his group said they will continue to push for the Pentagon to fully implement its ban on proselytizing.

“There is a time, place and manner in which proselytizing is not only allowed, but it’s something we support among our Christian clients,” Weinstein said. “However, you can’t scream fire in a crowded theater and you can’t scream Jesus in a crowded theater at certain times, places, and in certain manners.”

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