Theodore's World: Court Challenged To Allow Christians Right To Pray

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March 14, 2008

Court Challenged To Allow Christians Right To Pray

Rev. Hashmel Turner

Appeal seeks to overturn decision eliminating 'Jesus'


A court hearing is coming in which the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will be asked to restore to Christians the rights that political correctness in the United States today grants other religions, including the right to pray to their God.

The case involves Rev. Hashmel Turner and the city of Fredericksburg, Va., and is being handled by the constitutional experts at The Rutherford Institute.

Turner, a member of the city council in Fredericksburg, was part of a rotation of council members who would take turns bringing a prayer at the council meetings, and he ended his prayers "in Jesus name."

That offended a listener, who promptly brought several heavyweight activist groups into the picture with their threat of a lawsuit if the elected Christian council member wasn't censored, so the city adopted a policy requiring "nondenominational" prayers, effectively eliminating any reference to "Jesus."

John Whitehead, the founder and chief of The Rutherford Institute, told WND it's an issue of freedom of speech and freedom of religion, burdened with the politically correct atmosphere in the United States that appears to endorse or at least allow any sort of religious acknowledgement, such as the University of Michigan building footbaths for Muslims, but allows no similar acknowledgement of Christianity.

He said the Fredericksburg case is one of the first to be battled through the courts, and is being watched closely by city councils and state legislatures across the country.

WND has reported several times on various religious leaders, including one high-profile Hindu from Arizona, who have been asked to say prayers at various state legislatures and in the U.S. Senate. Meanwhile, leaders in the Senate specifically rejected permission for a Christian leader, former Navy Chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt, permission to do the same.

The arguments in the Turner case will be March 19, and will focus on the circumstances that led the city to tell Turner, "You can't refer to your God," said Whitehead.
"The city passed this regulation telling people how to pray!" he said. The penalty for violating would be a citation for "disorderly conduct."

A lower court dismissed the First Amendment complaint, despite arguments that the restriction "violates Turner's constitutional rights to free speech, to freely exercise his religious beliefs and to equal protection of the law."

"The essential question in this case is whether the government can provide an opportunity to pray to a select group of individuals, all the while dictating the content of the prayers and excluding anyone who refuses to go along with their dictates," Whitehead said.
"The answer, as the Supreme Court has ruled in the past, is in the negative – the government simply cannot prescribe or proscribe the content of any 'official' prayer without violating the Establishment Clause, and it cannot discriminate against any person based on his or her religious viewpoint without violating that person's rights to free speech and free religious expression," he said.

Turner joined the council in 2002, but since the 1950s the council called on members on a rotating basis to open in prayer. He prayed both for himself individually that he might have wisdom and guidance in carrying out his duties and likewise for the council, officials said, ending "in Jesus name."

The result was a threat of a lawsuit from the ACLU, which later was joined by other similarly situated advocacy organizations.

The council buckled, adopting a policy of "nondenominational" prayers only. The district court opined that the councilman's prayers were "government speech," an argument Whitehead challenged.

"Government cannot itself pray, thus prayer cannot be government speech," the appeal noted. Moreover, the standing definition of "government speech" generally has applied when the government controls the content, not during an individual council member's prayer.
Whitehead, in an opinion column on the case, which already has been in the courts for two years, said the people of Fredericksburg "should be grateful for a representative who knows how to stand his ground and fight for the things that matter."
"There are some things in life that cannot be compromised," he continued. "For Hashmel Turner, his faith, his integrity and his civil liberties are three things worth fighting for."

He noted Turner was the oldest of 10 children and served in the Army in Southeast Asia from 1969-1972, then returned to help each of his nine younger siblings get a start in life.

He and his wife Alice have been married more than three decades. He's served as an interim pastor and works as a motor vehicle operator and safety training instructor.

"In the state where Thomas Jefferson penned the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom to protect the likes of three Baptist preachers jailed for uttering unlicensed prayers, it may seem strange that ending a prayer with three small words could ignite a legal brushfire," Whitehead said. "Yet it has.
"Other members of the city council are able to pray in the manner they choose and describe God in their own words. Apart from three small words, the other council members' prayers are not much different from Turner's," he said.

Whitehead told WND the case is just a symptom of the total secularization of America intended by groups like the ACLU and one of the newer organizations to join in trying to censor Turner, People for the American Way.

He cited another case his firm has handled: A student in Las Vegas who wanted to "mention" Jesus during her valedictory speech at graduation. School officials told her no, and when she did, turned off her microphone during her speech.

"There's a political correctness," he said. "Here's what I'm seeing nationwide. People don't want to offend anybody, so if one person is disturbed by the name 'Jesus" they want to eliminate it."

Yet at the same time the public is making accommodation for Muslim prayer rooms, footbaths and other special provisions for members of that faith.

"There seems to be very much of a tolerance for other religions, but not for Christianity," he said.

Wild Thing's comment........

Our country has been making exceptions for the Muslim needs, their prayer rooms and foot baths etc. When we give in to Muslims and say NO to Christianity and the Jewish faith it must be causing our Founding fathers to spin in their graves.

If a person is offended by the name Jesus they ban it? And yet if a person is offended by caving in to Islam it is OK? Something is terribly wrong and God help us all. Islam the so called religion that teaches hate for the people of the book which are the Christians and Jews. That alone if we knew nothing else about this cult of Islam should be enough for us to have sirens going off of danger to our country.

....Thank you Mark for this article.

Posted by Wild Thing at March 14, 2008 02:48 AM


I cannot believe this crap! Especially the person who said, "you can't refer to your God." Excuse me?
Who else am I to pray to? Ralph, the porcelain God?
This PC crap is getting way, way out of hand.
My feeling is--If I can't pray to my God, then the others can't pray to theirs--plain and simple.
Just because we don't need a special place to pray doesn't mean Christianity and Judaism are less worthy of praise.
At least we don't throw our children out the window or kill them when they disappoint us--we learn to make due with what's happened.

Posted by: Lynn at March 14, 2008 05:04 AM

There has to be a way to destroy the ACLU. It is successfuly destroying America's centuries old moral culture. Liberal and idiotic courts don't help the situation. Why some people want to trade our highly successful Christian based culture for others I don't understand.

Posted by: TomR at March 14, 2008 12:11 PM

Thank God for people like Rev. Hashmel and The Rutherford Insitute!!!!!!!! And thank God also that this isn't being heard by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.....we know how they would vote!!!! Is Fredericksburg a clone of Berkeley?

How do idiots like those on Fredericksburg's city council get elected? Are there no more conservatives left to run against these asswipes? We need a lot more of these reverse discrimination lawsuits to be filed and tell the ACLU to shove up there self-righteous butts!!! It has to stop folks!!!!!!!!!

I'm afraid that if the true Americans and conservatives don't start getting organized and fight back against this BS, we aren't going to have a "Land of the Free and Home of the Brave" anymore!!! What is it going to take before those of us that believe in this Country and the Consitution it was built on say we've had enough and fight back???? Is this PC garbage what WE want to leave our kids and grandkids as our legacy to them??? I truly hope and pray not!!!!

How can we help this Rev. Hashmel and let America know we aren't taking it up the butt anymore?!?!?!?

Posted by: John at March 14, 2008 12:12 PM

Chrissie, your blog inspires me daily. This was forwarded to all my friends and relatives in Virginia, where I lived for 30 years and where my wife and children were born. The following is my introduction to the video.

Has any state fallen as far as Virginia has from its founders' hopes for it? The Reverend Hashmel is another great black preacher trying to offset the insanity of Barack Obama's so-called pastor. See also my email of the video of the black preacher James Manning who calls Obama a "Mack daddy pimp." Now that the Coral Gables preacher James Kennedy has passed I don't think there are any white preachers left worth listening to. Gutless bunch--all of them. They are merely fund raisers--not prophets. HWS (Note--of course the men in the pews are even more gutless as measured by the total lack of response I expect to get from this mailing. It's probably too late to save this country with what passes for citizens these days and as the Army General said, "The church has become irrelevant".) If you don't agree, feel free to say so. You still have a smattering of free speech left, but it is shrinking from being unused.

Posted by: Horace at March 14, 2008 12:47 PM

'How can we help this Rev. Hashmel' -- John

Donate to the Rutherford institute, and others like them. In my home state, there is a state family council that lobies for family friendly legislation (christain too) and orginizes rallies, talks and teaches how to get involved to make a change.

Posted by: Odin at March 14, 2008 01:10 PM

Our Democrats and their packed supreme court are still relying on their secular constitutional article 52 where it clearly states a separation of church and state shall exist. Our RINO's go along with them on the premis of the verbage of the phrase "separation of church and state" that is derived from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson in 1802 to a group identifying themselves as the Danbury Baptists. In that letter, referencing the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, Jefferson writes: "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State." All Jefferson did was reiterate the United States Constitution's 1st Amendment, Earl Warren was responsible for bastardizing the context.
Where, pray tell, has Obama been hiding his crescent and star and the mark of the beast?

Posted by: Jack at March 14, 2008 01:17 PM

While Rev Turner fights the good fight, white liberals in the blogosphere are defending Jeremiah Wright's Black Liberation Theology. Liberalism is a death wish.

Posted by: Rhod at March 14, 2008 03:07 PM

Lynn....."Ralph, the porcelain God".....LOL good one!

People like the aclu etc. only seem to care about their own list of beliefs and the heck with Christianity.

Posted by: Wild Thing at March 14, 2008 07:52 PM

Tom,I will never understand. I do konw they have an agenda the ACLU and it is against the Christian beliefs but how they can get away with all the things they do I will never understand it.

Posted by: Wild Thing at March 14, 2008 07:55 PM

John it is a vicious circle. We fight back, send emails, fax and phone calls. And the liberals do the same and also have the media and big groups like the ACLU etc. ANSWER and Soros groups to do tons more work getting their agenda accompolished.

Posted by: Wild Thing at March 14, 2008 07:58 PM

Horace, thank you so much, that means a lot to me. I am so glad and honored that you are a part of this blog, your commments are always so good.

Thatis a good idea to send it out to let people know too the information of what is going on.

Posted by: Wild Thing at March 14, 2008 08:00 PM

Odin those are all good ideas of things we can do.

Posted by: Wild Thing at March 14, 2008 08:01 PM

Jack. good one!

"Where, pray tell, has Obama been hiding his crescent and star and the mark of the beast?"

Posted by: Wild Thing at March 14, 2008 08:02 PM

Rhod, that is exactly what is happening you are so right.

Posted by: Wild Thing at March 14, 2008 08:03 PM

The same in this blue state of secualar socialism! Our local Senior Center told the 'Greatest Generation' they could no longer say JESUS or JESUS CHRIST when they said grace out loud before their meals. I contacted WALLBUILDERSLIVE and our local conservative talk radio host did the same. (Rick Green & David Barton) and .... Yeah they're TEXANS! This baby ain't over by a longshot.

Posted by: darthcrUSAderworldtour07 at March 15, 2008 12:22 AM

Darth, wow I am so proud of you and all you do. Good for you!!!!!

Posted by: Wild Thing at March 15, 2008 07:48 PM