All Articles For Church and State

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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. Lanting, a member of Cornerstone Protestant Reformed Church of Dyer, Indiana, is a practicing attorney. Under tort law principles, a person who consents to another’s conduct cannot bring a tort claim for the harm that follows from that conduct. This is because no wrong is done to one who consents. Because the plaintiff consented to the church’s practices, and his active engagement with the church indicated his continuing consent, the church’s actions disciplining the plaintiff were not unlawful. Smith v. Calvary Christian Church, Michigan Supreme Court (2000).May a disgruntled former member bring suit against his church which publicly announced...

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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 The district court’s opinion was not appealed, and therefore the decision is not binding precedent for other districts.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. Lanting, a member of Cornerstone Protestant Reformed Church of Dyer, Indiana, is a practicing attorney. In light of the school’s history of regular delivery of student-led prayers at athletic events, it is reasonable to infer that the specific purpose of the policy was to preserve a popular state-sponsored religious practice. The delivery of such a message—over the school’s public address system, by a speaker representing the student body, under the supervision of school faculty, and pursuant to a school policy that explicitly and implicitly encourages prayer—is not properly characterized as “private speech.” The common purpose of the Religion Clauses...

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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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Mr. Lanting, a member of South Holland Protestant Reformed Church, is a practicing attorney. Having determined that the Boy Scouts is an expressive association and that the forced inclusion of James Dale [an avowed homosexual] would significantly affect its expression, we inquire whether the application of New Jersey’s [anti-discrimination] law to require that the Boy Scouts accept Dale as an assistant scoutmaster runs afoul of the Scouts freedom of expressive association. We conclude that it does. The Boy Scouts assert that it “teaches that homosexuality is not morally straight” and that it does “not want to promote homosexual conduct as...

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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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