All Articles For VanEngen, Brian

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In the United States, the law protects individuals from being discriminated against in employment based on religion. At the same time, believers enjoy a great deal of freedom in operating and governing churches and schools free from government interference. These institutions are subject to many of the laws of the land regarding employment, including certain laws prohibiting discrimination. Often there is confusion as to whether or how a law applies to a church or school. Sometimes believers mistakenly believe that a church or school is subject to laws that it is not, or that it is exempt from laws that...

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Mr. VanEngen, a member of the Protestant Reformed Church of Hull, Iowa, is a practicing attorney. Several past articles under this Church and State rubric have addressed the subject of homosexuality and the trend in the law to protect the practice of the sin of homosexuality. This author’s home state of Iowa recently made national news when the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that homosexual “couples” could not be denied marriage licenses.¹ Believers would do well to pay close attention to the progression of the law in this regard. The trends that are being established today may very well have serious...

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Mr. VanEngen, a member of the Protestant Reformed Church of Hull, Iowa, is a practicing attorney. Throughout the history of the United States, citizens have often referred to the “wall of separation between church and state.” The concept is usually referred to when questions arise either because of government limitation on the activity of churches, or when the institutions of the state include religious practices or symbols, such as the old controversy over prayer in public schools. In recent years, different individuals and groups have increasingly challenged the role of religion in public life, often challenging practices that have been...

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Mr. VanEngen, a member of the Protestant Reformed Church in Hull, Iowa, is a practicing attorney. The cultural war around us continues to rage, especially on the issue of homosexual rights. We have just witnessed a national election in which these issues were brought to the forefront. Eleven states had measures on the ballot to define marriage as being between one man and one woman. Many political pundits commented on the “values voters” who turned out at the polls in large numbers due to concern over moral issues. An overview of recent developments and trends in the United States demonstrates...

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Mr. VanEngen, a member of the Protestant Reformed Church of Hull, Iowa, is a practicing attorney. In December of 2005, the Federal District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania issued its decision in the case of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.¹ The case received national attention as one of the first challenges to the teaching of “Intelligent Design” as an alternative to the theory of Evolution. The district court’s opinion was not appealed, and therefore the decision is not binding precedent for other districts. However, the decision and the rationale behind it have already been relied on by others...

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Mr. VanEngen, a member of the Protestant Reformed Church of Hull, Iowa, is a practicing attorney. Reformed parents have always cherished the ability to train up their children in the covenant. In the United States, parents have always enjoyed broad control over the upbringing of their children. A recent decision by the Ninth Circuit, however, has ruled that parents do not have the exclusive right to determine what their children are taught. The case, Fields v. Palmdale School District,¹ involved the distribution of information of a sexual nature in the public school setting, but the case could have drastic implications for...

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Mr. VanEngen, a member of the Protestant Reformed Church of Hull, Iowa, is a practicing attorney. Although the issue of the separation of church and state has long been debated in American society, recent years have seen a noticeable increase in legal challenges to previously accepted practices. For instance, the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance has been under attack because of the inclusion of the phrase “under God,” although that phrase has been in the Pledge for over 50 years. Similarly, many public buildings and courthouses have displayed the Ten Commandments for decades, but in recent years groups such...

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Many readers have heard of the Westboro Baptist Church and its picketing and protests against homosexuality using signs and language that are intentionally offensive. Recently the United States Supreme Court handed down its decision in the case of Snyder v. Phelps. The defendants were the Westboro Baptist Church itself and the Phelps, who are members of the church. The church is known for its activities in protesting and picketing against homosexuality, usually with provocative signs and slogans. The church and its members were sued for their picketing and protesting, but the suit was dismissed because their speech was Constitutionally protected....

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Mr. VanEngen, a member of the Protestant Reformed Church of Hull, Iowa, is a practicing attorney. The First Amendment addresses the constitutional limitations on government power in matters of religion. The First Amendment provides simply that the government may not: 1) make any laws establishing a religion, or 2) limit the free exercise of religion. Several of the articles appearing under the “Church and State” rubric in recent years have discussed the First Amendment in terms of the first clause, known as the “Establishment Clause.” Establishment Clause cases typically deal with the issue of whether the government is directly or...

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On March 11, 2010, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals filed opinions in two separate cases that considered whether government-sponsored references to God violated the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution. One was a challenge to the use of the phrase “In God We Trust” on United States currency. The other was a challenge to the inclusion of the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. In both cases, the court found that the references to God did not violate the Establishment Clause. These rulings are interesting in a couple of different respects. First, the Ninth Circuit, headquartered...

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