Members of Congress are taking a stand

You’re primarily trained in seminary, not through boot camp or The Basic School (TBS). 11MY04JKYou’re not issued an M-16 or sidearm, but given the Word of God as your sword. Your Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) is not combat related, but specifically recognized as a Chaplain by the United States government. Your skill set is not field artillery, cyber warfare, explosive ordinance or any number of things, but in rendering spiritual care and comfort in the face of incredible stress. And yet, you are told again and again by your superiors that you are not allowed to fulfill the very job you were asked to do when you signed your contract.

Twenty-four U.S. Senators and House Representatives continue to fight against this kind of insanity and have written a letter to current Secretary of the Army, John McHugh, regarding a chaplain who was disciplined for simply giving spiritual guidance as part of a suicide prevention briefing to Army Rangers while stationed at Fort Benning, GA. After multiple combat deployments, chaplain and U.S. Army Ranger, Joseph Lawhorne, shared during a training class how his faith had helped him deal with his own depression. His transparency and concern for his fellow soldiers earned him a standing ovation from class attendees. However, because one soldier objected to Lawhorne’s use of a handout containing biblical, as well as secular approaches to handling depression, he is now being officially reprimanded by the Army. The stated goal for the individual in making a complaint was to ensure this situation does not set what he deemed to be a troubling precedent.

The reality here is that Chaplain Lawhorne was not imposing his religious beliefs on anyone, nor was he mandating that those in attendance follow his example. This was not a direct order, an official policy or a command dictate. He was merely sharing his personal experience in the hopes that it may assist others as they wage their own internal battles from the hidden wounds of combat trauma. Would it have been much different if he had suggested that listening to music helped him, or quiet meditation, or seeing a counselor, or any number of possible interventions? I think not.

CPCF-IGWTred.blue.blonde-STAR_4x4-300_ft1 (1)On an entirely different battlefront, a New Jersey judge recently threw out a lawsuit against a school district seeking to remove the words, “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance, which is recited daily by students. This case also resulted in a positive outcome in the fight for religious liberty. In Tinker v. Des Moines independent School District, an oft cited case, the Supreme Court ruled in 1969 that students do not, “shed their free speech rights at the school house gate.” During the Clinton Administration, then Secretary of Education, Richard Riley issued a “statement of principles” that outlined permissible religious expression in public schools. Every American—without exception—should be able to follow his or her conscience without fear of consequences, including the young and defenseless who need advocates.

Members of Congress have previously defended this phrase in the Pledge as constitutional, including the submission of an amicus curiae brief before the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts by 38 Representatives during another attempt to have it eliminated. At the state level, Texas legislators passed the Religious Viewpoints Anti-discrimination Act in 2007 mandating that public schools are to treat a student’s voluntary expression of a religious viewpoint, if any, on an otherwise permissible subject, in the same manner as they treat a student’s voluntary expression of a secular or other viewpoint on an otherwise permissible subject and may not discriminate against the student based on a religious viewpoint. This includes the expression of religious beliefs in classroom and homework assignments, as well as organizing and participating in religious student gatherings to the same extent as secular non-curricular groups. Since then, at least five other states have successfully followed suit.

The truth is that those who oppose religious liberty are counting on you and I to be intimidated, passive, unorganized, underfunded and lacking the resolve and determination to engage in the public arena. They know that human nature often creates a, “someone else will do it” mindset, while they aggressively take the higher ground. We must not, cannot and will not allow that to happen!

Hundreds of national and state leaders are working to protect our Judeo-Christian heritage, freedom of conscience, religious liberty and the right for citizens to adhere to their moral convictions. We may be facing challenges as nation, however, a commitment to prayer is also on the rise and leaders and citizens all across America are working together to accomplish these goals.

Now, more than ever, we are asking you to join hands. Pray for us. Pray with us.  Your gifts and donations enable the CPCF to advance the cause of religious freedom. The lessons of history remind us all too well there is no guarantee the windows of opportunity remain open indefinitely. United we must stand. Together with God, we will win.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Illinois was a success!

Last Thursday, February 5th, was a historic day in Illinois as a bipartisan and bicameral group of over 30 legislators established the Illinois Legislative Prayer Caucus. While the House recessed early due to weather conditions, preventing some from participating in the event, several senators and representatives remained and helped create an inspiring and memorable gathering. Legislators were joined by passionate citizens in the Rotunda of the State Capitol as they added Illinois as the fifteenth state to the growing network of like-minded government leaders.

The event was hosted by the members of the Illinois Legislative Prayer Caucus and emceed by its Chairman, Senator Sam McCann. Throughout the program, the Rotunda was filled with spontaneous applause as citizens expressed their enthusiastic support. During the reading of the actual Proclamation, it was  evident that those in attendance believed God can and will change America.

This was especially true when 2 Chronicles 7:14 was read aloud, “If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and heal their land.” The video and images of the launch will be available soon at www.IllinoisPrayerCaucus.com.

Our team was deeply touched by the warm welcome from legislators and citizens alike. We left feeling as if we had connected with family and are committed to their ongoing need for encouragement and support. The announcement of the In God We Trust. Put It Up! Campaign, a movement created in response to the victorious 2011 Congressional vote to re-affirm this phrase as our national motto, caused overwhelming cheers from the attendees. Many were inquiring about how they can put up our motto in schools, government buildings, local businesses, etc.

We are grateful for the citizens who recognized this is an opportunity that could not be passed up that could not be passed up and came out to show their strong backing! At all Call To Prayer events, legislators and citizens seal their commitment by signing the Call to Prayer Proclamation for their state. In doing so, they are publicly declaring their commitment to pray and take action to protect our Judeo-Christian heritage and religious liberties. Read the text of the Call to Prayer for America here; it embodies the inspiration for all the State Legislative Prayer Caucus Proclamations. Our goal is to have a formed, fully operational and effective legislative prayer caucus in every state.

The Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation represents a tangible and powerful mobilization effort that will shape the future our nation. Please pray for and stand with the members of these Legislative Prayer Caucuses as they rise with a unified voice to keep God as the lifeblood of our nation. Several of the important victories won by the Congressional Prayer Caucus can be found here.     
    
Your prayers and ongoing financial support are greatly appreciated.

Together, we are making a difference.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Coming to a City Near You?

Atlanta Fire Chief dismissed over Christian beliefs expressed outside of his job!

With every news story like this hitting media outlets, people of faith need to sound the alarm on yet another disingenuous act of political correctness that has overstepped its bounds and seeks to punish matters of conscience and religious liberty. If we fail to express our opposition and do not intervene with strong conviction—pushing back these ongoing attempts at censorship through intimidation, threats of job loss and public reprimand—we may eventually lose the window of opportunity for our voices to be heard.

Kelvin Cochran, the Chief who was released, was a decorated firefighter and served in the department with distinction for seven years. Cochran had recently authored a book for his church’s Bible study group on questions of morality and included a short comment (less than half a page) on what Scripture has to say about sexual purity. Atlanta Mayor, Kasim Reed, indicated that he did not make his decision based on Cochran’s religious beliefs and that he was, “disturbed by the sentiments expressed in the paperback regarding the LGBT community.”

Here’s the problem with this kind of egregious thinking—the Bible, which happens to be a book of religious beliefs and values, has some definitive things to say about contemporary cultural issues that often hold center stage in the national conversation. This includes topics such as the definition of marriage, fornication, adultery, abortion, the sanctity of life and same sex attraction or behavior. In fact the world’s three major religions, Christianity, Judaism and Islam, all take similar positions regarding the subject of homosexuality.

So when a citizen like Cochran—completely and legally within the practice of his faith tradition—simply says that his spiritual value system describes certain standards of morality, how is this not about religious beliefs and guaranteed First Amendment rights? It should be noted that there has never been a claim of discrimination against Cochran toward the LGBT community in his role as the Fire Chief.

An editorial by the New York Times attempted to falsely argue that because Cochran worked within the public arena, the Mayor’s action was justified. This story is not about the separation of church and state, but about state censorship and a power grab over religious beliefs and practice. Listen to the words of our first President, George Washington, in writing to his troops at Valley Forge in 1778, “While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to laud the more distinguished character of Christian.”

Since Washington read and observed the same Bible that Cochran was referencing in his paperback, perhaps the New York Times would call for Washington’s impeachment at such public commentary, or Mayor Reed would fire him as Supreme Commander of the Continental Army should he have the authority to do so. Mayor Reed and the editors at the Times need look no further than the mirror to see the real bullies here and even though they proclaim to care about discrimination and intolerance, yet are the ones who model it in their actions.

The questions we should all be concerned about are: Where does this kind of censorship end? When will it touch an area of my life that matters personally? When is this going to happen in my own city or town? At what point will I feel compelled to stand up? Speak up? Take action?

Kudos to folks like Franklin Graham of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Todd Starnes, host of Fox News & Commentary, who are supporting Cochran. These kinds of concerns (see also religious schools having to fight the federal government and the Houston Mayor’s ongoing harassment of local pastors) are the very issues we are fighting for on your behalf here at the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation.

 Freedom came with our Founding Fathers, but it came with a price. Men and women willingly laid down their fortunes and even their lives to boldly stand up and be counted faithful to their core values and principles. Today in America, too many have succumbed to pressure tactics by anti-faith entities and are afraid to challenge the rolling tide of postmodern rhetoric.

 The first three words to the United States Constitution are, “We the people,” not “We the newspaper editors” or “We the Atlanta Mayor’s administration.” This country was founded by godly men and on Judeo-Christian principles. It’s time to reclaim our heritage and fight back. Won’t you join us? Please pray for discernment, wisdom, boldness and the necessary resources to make a difference.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Something Truly Worth Celebrating

For many of us, the Christmas decorations have only recently been boxed up and taken to the attic. Perhaps we’re still thinking about what the New Year will bring or our latest resolutions. Yet sometimes, it is the lesser known days of national reflection and celebration that represent the greatest moments and deserve the deepest appreciation.

 

In what Thomas Jefferson would describe as one of his greatest accomplishments, even rivaling the Declaration of Independence, he was instrumental in passing the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom in 1786, “that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.” This landmark legislation was a forerunner document and later influenced the federal Bill of Rights and the First Amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing religious freedom for all citizens. 

 

Beginning in 1993, January 16th of each year has been set aside to recognize and celebrate one of the most sacred rights in our nation’s history. In declaring this to be Religious Freedom Day, the President calls upon all Americans to, “observe this day through appropriate events and activities in homes, schools and places of worship.” May we each stop, give pause and never take for granted that which our founders and forebears have fought and died for with such determination. Gateways for a Better Education created this helpful guidebook to help enlighten those in the education system about this important day.

 

This past Sunday, January 11th, we celebrated Religious Freedom Sunday, a day for clergy to remind their congregations all across the country that students—from preschool through twelfth grade—have clearly prescribed rights to express their faith at school. Three times since 1995, the U.S. Department of Education (under both the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations) has released specific guidelines defining a student’s religious freedoms; however, these constitutionally protected liberties have never been fully communicated and shared within most school environments. In fact, confused and frequently hostile secularists have hijacked the separation of church and state argument and fiercely attempt to impose a freedom from religion, rather than a freedom of religion.

 

Many would be surprised to know that students are free to pray, read their Bibles or other religious materials, discuss their beliefs at school, and organize prayer groups and religious clubs, as well as to express their faith in school assignments and at graduation ceremonies. Not only do our young people urgently need a civics lesson on this important issue, but so do most educators and school administrators. Religious Freedom Sunday is a joint initiative of Gateways to Better Education and the Alliance Defending Freedom, and typically precedes the nationwide recognition of Religious Freedom Day.

 

Why, you may ask, should Americans even have their attention called to the notion of Religious Freedom; after all, isn’t this the United States, “Land of the free and home of the brave?” We need look no further then local, national and international news and other media outlets. People, especially Christians, are being harassed, arrested, persecuted and even executed all across the world, simply for their public profession of faith.

 

Impossible in America you say? No…the sober truth is that history is replete with too many examples not to know better. We must continue to passionately raise our voices, fight for a seat within the public arena and the marketplace of ideas, vigorously defend our freedoms and never be ashamed of our faith.

 

From the beloved song, My Country Tis of Thee, penned in 1832 by Dr. Samuel Smith, comes the joyous words, “Let Freedom Ring!” The Pennsylvania State House bell, often referred to as the Liberty Bell, bears the timeless message: “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof.” Thousands of years earlier in man’s history, God Himself proclaimed this same message to Moses (Lev. 25:10 NIV), and so we shall. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Monumental rulings are wins for religious freedom

Thanksgiving is not only a special time of year to gather with family and friends, it is a time to reflect and recount the many blessings and answered prayers that each of us have experienced; individually, as families and as nation. We’d like to take a moment to thank the Lord for the tremendous victories in the area of prayer and religious freedom that have occurred over the last couple of weeks. As we have hoped and prayed, taken stands and taken action, the Lord has been faithful to answer. 

In Forsyth County, NC, the courts have reaffirmed the God-given rights of residents to Praying handspray in Jesus’ name at public meetings due to the lifting of a federal court order on Thursday. In contradiction to our rich history of prayer and faith, the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a lawsuit in 2007 in that challenged the county’s freedom to allow opening invocations by volunteers who wish to pray according to the dictates of their own consciences. This sets a precedent that could be good news for proponents of prayer in similar cases across the country.   

National Day of Prayer 1Also, just this week, we learned that the Colorado Supreme Court upheld the right of Colorado Governors to issue proclamations calling for state days of prayer, upholding an earlier ruling by the Colorado District Court, and overturning a subsequent ruling by the Colorado Court of Appeals. John Bornschein, vice-chairman for the National Day of Prayer (NDP) Task Force commented, This is definitely a victory for the free exercise of religion that our Founding Fathers sought to ensure, and we are thankful for the outcome. I can’t think of a time in recent memory when it has been more important to pray for wisdom and direction for our state and its leaders.”  

These are monumental victories that will help promote prayer, preserve our Judeo-Christian foundation and protect religious freedom for all. 

 Many of America’s Presidents understood the importance of setting time apart for focused thanksgiving and praise. Presidents Washington, Lincoln and Roosevelt have all issued Proclamations of Thanksgiving and Praise to enumerate the blessings of the American people.

 In the spirit of our great leaders, the CPCF is thankful to God for our great Country, for freedom and for you.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

National Leaders Engage To Protect Our Heroes In Uniform

Members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus recently participated in a hearing on religious accommodations within the U. S. military. The hearing was chaired by Rep. Joe Wilson (SC), who was also joined by Reps. Fleming (LA), Forbes (VA), Hartzler (MO), Huelskamp (KS), Jones (NC) and Lamborn (CO). 

 

This important meeting had an unusually high attendance, specifically from Prayer Caucus members who have taken a special interest in protecting the rights of our men and women in uniform. These soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and National Guard personnel are the heroes who risk their lives every day for the very freedoms we consider so sacred.

 

Indeed, the words of Father Dennis O’Brien, a Marine Corps chaplain from the freedombloodstained battlefields of World War II, echo loudly: “It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the organizer, who gave us the freedom to demonstrate. It is the soldier, who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag.” 

 

Rep. Lamborn, the Congressman representing Colorado’s fifth district where the Air Force Academy is located in Colorado Springs, spearheaded an amendment to upgrade the National Defense Authorization Act, enhancing religious freedom protections for all service members. Representatives supporting the legislation clearly acknowledge the intent of the amendment is not focused on defending efforts to proselytize or coerce other service members, but to help ensure our dedicated military are not forced to violate or compromise their moral convictions at work or in their personal lives. 

 

The full video of the hearing can be watched here. The Founder and Co-Chair of the Prayer Caucus, Congressman Forbes, made some particularly meaningful statements around the 53:45 minute mark.

 

The need for such action has been precipitated by a relentless assault from individuals like Mikey Weinstein and his Military Religious Freedom Foundation, seeking to systematically eradicate almost every vestige of our Judeo-Christian heritage among the military community. Sadly, these attacks—often made in the name of liberty—in fact, are tangible steps that actually attempt to strip away real choices. This process results not in a freedom “of” religion, but a restriction “from” religion.

 

LincolnEven a casual review of history gives rise to hundreds of examples where government legislators, presidents, battle-tested generals and many others have staunchly expressed a profound dependence upon God and His providence during times of war and global conflict. Abraham Lincoln, who guided a war torn nation through some its darkest hours, expressed the following in a telegram, “Enough is known of army operations within the last five days to claim our especial gratitude to God; while what remains undone demands our most sincere prayers to, and reliance upon, Him, without whom, all human effort is vain.” 

 

Again, General George Patton, just prior to a campaign, looked heavenward and prayed, “God of our fathers, who by land and sea have ever led us to victory, please continue Your inspiring guidance in this the greatest of all conflicts. Grant to our armed forces that disciplined valor and mutual confidence which insures success in war. Let me not mourn for the men who have died fighting, but rather let me be glad that such heroes have lived. If it be my lot to die, let me do so with courage and honor in a manner which will bring the greatest harm to the enemy, and please, oh Lord, protect and guide those I shall leave behind. Give us the victory, Lord.

 

Statements such as these speak to the reality of men and women in combat when putting their lives on the line, are confronted with their own mortality and the potential of eternity before them, offering humble confession to a God they passionately believe in. This is not government “establishing” religion or compelling worship. What nonsense! This is a freedom of expression. A right guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution. 

 

The CPCF is on a mission to recruit an army of prayer warriors and collectively deploy our time, efforts and resources to safeguard America’s legacy as a Christian nation, including her core tenets of freedom. It is a voluntary enlistment, but we need your help. Won’t you join us today? Together we must go on the offensive and take back ground from the determined few who want to hijack the freedoms for which so many have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Air Force upgrades policy to include religious freedom protections

Last week the Air Force took a positive step toward protecting the cherished religious 2013-10-27 17.50.25-2freedom of Airmen.  By updating current policies, the Air Force under the direction of General Welsh, renewed their commitment to protecting the religious rights of military personnel.  The changes came as a result of a Religious Freedom “Focus Day” held earlier this year when Air Force chaplains met to discuss the unclear policies. The following positive changes have been made:

  • The language now prioritizes protections for free exercise of religion and religious expression, consistent with the First Amendment and the conscience protections passed by Congress.
  • The word “neutrality” has been dropped, freeing commanders from the misleading and inappropriate inference that in order to be neutral, a commanding officer must never reference faith.
  • The language now references well-established standards for religious freedom found in the First Amendment and in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The Liberty Institute, a nonprofit organization that supports religious freedom, made this statement about the change:

“This is an important step in the right direction for people of faith serving in the Air Force,” said Mike Berry, the Liberty Institute’s senior counsel and director of military affairs. “Before these changes, the Air Force had the most problematic policy regarding religious accommodation for its members. Now they have a policy that, in writing, protects religious freedom to a greater degree than previously. But only time will tell if this written policy is put into practice.” 

The press release is here and the revised instruction is here. Below is a joint press release issued by Reps. Lamborn and Forbes.

_____________________________________________________________

Forbes, Lamborn Praise Revision of Air Force Policy

Washington, DC- Representatives J. Randy Forbes (VA-04) and Doug Lamborn (CO-05) issued the following statement in response to an announcement from the United States Air Force that they have revised Air Force Instruction 1-1:

ReligiousFreedom“The Air Force’s new policy more clearly reflects the priority of religious freedom in our Constitution and in the conscience protections for servicemembers and chaplains that Congress passed in the National Defense Authorization Act. Whereas the old language was misleading and confusing for Commanders to apply, these revisions point to well-established standards for protecting religious expression. We are grateful to General Welsh and Chaplain Stendahl for their leadership in revising this policy, and hope that this new language will better aid commanders in maintaining the high standard that our Nation has always had for protecting freedom of religion for our men and women in uniform.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment