Our "guerilla band of lawyers" continues to wage war against those seeking to strip any semblance of religion from the public square. Our fight led to many legal victories this past year; however the coming year brings a new challenge, along with a new realization:our war is now on two fronts.
For most of the last 14 years, we have been fighting radical secularism and those who are trying to remove any mention of God from public life. But now we must fight equally hard against radical Islam and others who are bent on imposing their religion on the rest of us. These two attacks on religious freedom feed off of each other and together fuel the drive to run faith underground.
Our fight against the radical secularists continues. One of the most important cases on our docket is still Newdow v. Carey, which is round two of the secularists' attack on the Pledge of Allegiance. Atheist Michael Newdow is at it again in his quest to obliterate the words "under God" from our nation's Pledge of Allegiance, and he has once again convinced a federal trial court to strike down the Pledge. On December 4th, I argued the case before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of parents of other children in California schools who want their children to pledge allegiance to a government that does not claim to be the source of people's rights, but rather a nation that recognizes that rights come from the Creator Himself, as well as on behalf of the Knights of Columbus – who urged Congress to add the words "under God" in the first place.
On December 3, we filed our opening brief in the Ninth Circuit on behalf of Redwood Christian Schools, who would like to be able to open a Christian school right next door to a public school. On December 4, we filed a brief in the European Court of Human Rights against the Republic of Azerbaijan. On December 13, filed a reply brief in the Eighth Circuit challenging the South Dakota Blaine Amendments. And on December 17, we filed a brief that the First Circuit invited us to file in an appeal involving religious rights in prison. Finally, by December 26 we'll be filing an appeal brief for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptists. That's just in the month of December.
Meanwhile, while we are fending off the radical secularists on one end, radical Islamists are mounting a challenge on the other extreme, seeking to impose their religion on all.
You may have heard of the case of the "Flying Imams," where six Muslim clerics who were ordered off a flight in Minnesota for behaving suspiciously, sued not only the airlines and the government, but also their fellow passengers, whom they identified only as "John Does."
This was an outrageous attempt not only to intimidate future passengers into not reporting their suspicions; it was also an insult to the whole idea of religious freedom.
We stepped forward, offered to represent the John Does for free, and filed a brief in court urging the dismissal of the case against them. After that, and several weeks of brow -beating them in the press, they backed down and dismissed the complaint against the passengers.
The defeat of the Flying Imams was a great victory for those with valid religious freedom claims. However, there are many more such challenges ahead. And it's important that we fight the power grab without sacrificing our principles about religious freedom for all.
Such instances are not limited to radical Islam, and are far more frequent outside our nation's borders. Overseas, it's literally a life-and-death struggle. The owner of the only Christian bookstore left in Gaza was gunned down a short while ago and his shop burned. Buddhist extremists in Sri Lanka have succeeded in making Buddhism the official religion and persecuting religious minorities, particularly Christians. In fact, in the past 4 years they have violently attacked or burned over 300 churches, according to State Department reports. We are fighting them in various forums, ranging from the Sri Lankan government to international bodies. Here in the United States, the fight is less violent, at least for the time being, but no less pressing.
I can't emphasize enough how grateful we are that you have helped make all of this possible. Everything we achieve, we achieve together. Now as the battle moves to two fronts – we need your help more than ever. Please consider a special year-end contribution to the Becket Fund.
If religion isn't free, nothing is.
All the best,
Kevin J. "Seamus" Hasson