David Cortman

How exactly do we move from a nation whose founders and first public servants included many Christians, to a place where Christians are no longer fit to participate in public life? Because if the “Freedom From Religion Foundation” (FFRF) has their way, that’s exactly what our country will look like.

Let’s take a recent example. A school district in Texas implements a “character initiative” program for its students and decides to include an assembly on that same topic. Sounds pretty good so far, so what is the problem? Of all the people that it could possibly invite to speak, whom does it choose? A Christian group called “The Seven Project.”

This is nothing less than a constitutional crisis, according to the FFRF.

How could Christians possibly have anything relevant to say about character? And by the way, this objection is not even about the assembly itself being religious, the school district ensured that it would not be. The objection, as expressed in FFRF’s own words, is: “regardless of the motives of the presenters, allowing a Christian organization access to your student body gives the appearance that Northwest IDS endorses the program’s message.” But if the program has a secular message of character development, where is the objection?

Ok, let’s try again. The FFRF goes on to say that “it would have taken only a cursory glance at the Seven Project’s website to verify its religious agenda.” Now we got it. Because the group is Christian, they should be automatically disqualified from ever presenting at any school. After all, if they identify as a Christian organization, and have a Christian agenda, it must be unconstitutional to allow them to speak.

Or is the FFRF turning the constitution on its head? Is it permissible to disqualify someone from public service simply because of their faith? Not a chance. This idea is so radical, so distorted, that there have been few cases that even discuss the concept. One was heard by the Supreme Court several decades ago.

You see, in Tennessee there was a law that prohibited ministers of the Gospel from serving as delegates. Sound like a familiar theme? The Court had no problem striking down the law as unconstitutional and stating that the prohibition “effectively penalizes the free exercise of constitutional liberties.” So too does FFRF’s request.

David Cortman

David Cortman serves as senior legal counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund at its Atlanta Regional Service Center in Georgia, where he heads litigation efforts to defend and reclaim the First Amendment rights of public school students across the nation. Cortman joined ADF in 2005, and is admitted to the bar in Georgia, Florida, and the District of Columbia. He has practiced law since 1996 and graduated magna cum laude from the Regent University School of Law, where he earned his J.D.