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Charges Dismissed Against Street Preachers in Washington State

Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) was able to get all criminal charges dropped against a group of five street preachers in Washington State after explaining the unconstitutionality of the ordinance to the prosecutor. The group had originally been cited for violating a noise ordinance while standing on a public sidewalk outside Washougal High School and holding signs and speaking to students after classes had ended in November 2017. Even though the group of evangelists had obtained approval for their activities from a code enforcement officer prior to the incident, they were still charged with disturbing the peace. PJI was able to argue that the city’s ordinance violated free speech. “We cannot afford to lose our most basic First Amendment freedoms in America,” said Kevin Snider of PJI. “It is sobering that what our clients experienced in this case reminded them of experiences in the former Soviet Union. In the last six months, PJI has represented numerous public evangelists against criminal charges in California, Nevada, Washington, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Michigan.

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Washington State Considers Non-Binary Designation on Birth Certificates

The Washington Department of Health held a public hearing this week on a proposed rule change that would allow a person to change the designation on his or her birth certificate from male or female to the non-binary designation of “X.” The rule already allows someone to change the sex designation from “male” to “female” or “female” to “male.” The proposed rule would only apply to the amendment of current birth certificates and could be adopted as early as December 19. It is unclear when it would then take effect.

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After-School Satan Club Flops

An After-School Satan Club, which was started by the Satanic Temple in response to a Christian after-school program called Good News Clubs, isn’t fairing well. The atheist group behind the Satan Clubs approached nine school districts in 2016 that already had Good News Clubs to set up the programs. The After-School Satan Club in Tacoma, Wash., was set up in 2016, but since the club only brought one student, it has been shut down.

In contrast, the Good News Clubs are going strong. Says Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver, “[T]he Good News Clubs teach morals, character development, patriotism, and respect from a Christian viewpoint. Public schools welcome these clubs because they improve the behavior of the students and the Supreme Court has sided with these clubs.”

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Can Washington, D.C., Help ‘Tennessee Thrive’?

The extent to which then-candidate Donald Trump swamped the field of presidential contenders in the Republican Primary and then swamped Hillary Clinton should be an indication that a majority of Tennesseans rejects the liberal political values inside the D.C. Beltway. But some businesses in Tennessee don’t get it. They think we need the values of liberal political groups in D.C. in order for our state to “thrive.”

I’m referring to a new advocacy organization called Tennessee Thrives. It is composed of a number of businesses like First Tennessee; Pinnacle Financial Partners, a banking/investment business primarily in Middle Tennessee but expanding; Regal Entertainment Group, the theater chain; Jack Daniels; Auto Zone; and Saint Thomas Health. The group’s name sounds very pro-Tennessee, but it is actually an arm or an offshoot of an organization based in Washington, D.C., called Freedom for All Americans. Freedom for everybody sounds good. But what you “hear” is not what you get! It’s about less freedom and, ironically, less freedom for businesses.

Tennessee Thrives Is All About the LGBT Agenda

Freedom for All Americans and, consequently, Tennessee Thrives and its business members, are all about making sure the only voice that is heard in Tennessee politics is that of the radical politicos within the LGBT lobby and community. Yes, you heard that right. Your voice doesn’t matter unless you agree with the LGBT agenda. Let me explain.

The website for Tennessee Thrives and its business partners says that “Tennesseans must support policies of inclusivity and nondiscrimination.” That means you and me. And what are these policies?

Again they are very clear—you must support a policy that adds “gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity” to our state laws. Those words are not found in our state’s laws, but we are not alone in that regard. The laws in 31 other states don’t, either.

Yet these businesses now think we must impose on all business owners a requirement that their personnel policies must give special protection to people because of who they want to have sex with and whether their psyche tells them that their biological sex is not their real sex.

They think imposing those laws on all business owners is necessary for our state to thrive, which is ironic since the group’s website touts how Tennessee’s economy has been thriving in recent years without such laws.

Since not having sexual orientation and gender identity laws has not been a problem in relation to our state thriving, what is the real problem?

Show Me the Money

Their leaders have expressly said they don’t want any new laws that would be “harmful to the state’s economy.” So what new law, other than the one they happened to like, would be harmful to the state’s economy?

The answer is found in some of the initial stories heralding the group’s formation. One story noted the boycott in North Carolina over the law to keep men out of bathrooms and locker rooms for women. It said the boycott produced “a series of revenue losses that a group of more than 350 Tennessee businesses don’t want to see their state repeat.” Another story was about the “horrible” law Tennessee passed last year that allowed a professional counselor to make a referral if a client was asking the counselor to provide counsel contrary to their own beliefs as to what was good for the client.

In other words, they don’t want the Legislature to pass any new laws that the LGBT activists don’t like and that might cause them to threaten a boycott of the state.

What This Means and What You Can Do

With that as background, let me interpret for you what I hear these businesses saying to you and me:

We don’t care if LGBT advocates would have judges violate the separation of powers by asking them to reinterpret our laws and Constitution to suit their agenda. We don’t care about the rule of law. We don’t care about religious liberty. And we for sure don’t care like North Carolina did about the safety of women and children when men invade their bathrooms and locker rooms. The voices of all you who care about these things, even though you are the majority in Tennessee, don’t matter to us. We just want to make sure the LGBT community is happy and doesn’t boycott Tennessee, because all we care about is money, period. Yes, our Constitution, the rule of law, religious liberty, and our children’s safety are all for sale to the most organized consumer group.

These short-sighted businesses have essentially told these economic terrorists, “We’ll do whatever you want, just please don’t mention the ‘boycott’ word.” I hope our legislators are not so easily intimidated and their values are not so readily for sale.

Find out who these businesses are and then avoid patronizing them when you can. After all, they don’t think you matter anyway.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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Barronelle Stutzman

Religious Liberty As We’ve Experienced It Is Dead

Last week the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that a florist, Barronelle Stutzman, could be forced by her state to provide floral arrangements for a same-sex “wedding” ceremony in violation of her religious beliefs. What’s surprising to me is that her loss is surprising to so many Christians.

At issue in Ms. Stutzman’s case was a statute that prohibited those engaged in public commerce from not providing services to someone because of their sexual orientation. Several technical, legal arguments were made as to whether the statute should be construed to apply to her, but when you’re fighting for religious liberty on technical grounds related to the wording of the statute, then your “win,” if you win, is short lived. A liberal state will just amend the statute to close the “loophole.” That kind of fight for religious liberty, while helpful in the moment, is, as I said last week, a “useless effort” from a long-term perspective.

The real issue for those who care about religious liberty is found in the fact that the state Supreme Court rejected Ms. Stutzman’s argument that the court had “to balance her right to religious free exercise against [the customer’s] right to equal service.”

Ms. Stutzman’s Claim Actually Lost Nearly a Century Ago

Ms. Stutzman’s legal argument was before the U.S. Supreme Court 98 years ago and “religious free exercise” lost. Ironically, it was even a case about marriage! The case was Reynolds v. United States.

The question was whether Mr. Reynolds could be punished for polygamy under the U.S. laws then applicable to the Utah territory. Read carefully what the Supreme Court said of his claim that to punish him for polygamy would violate his right to the free exercise of religion:

The only question which remains is, whether those who make polygamy a part of their religion are excepted from the operation of the statute. . . . Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices. Suppose one believed that human sacrifices were a necessary part of religious worship, would it be seriously contended that the civil government under which he lived could not interfere to prevent a sacrifice? Or if a wife religiously believed it was her duty to burn herself upon the funeral pile of her dead husband, would it be beyond the power of the civil government to prevent her carrying her belief into practice? . . . Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious belief?

To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself. Government could exist only in name under such circumstances.

The law punishing polygamy was upheld.

It was upheld because the religious views of the time reflected in the common law and in the history of Western Civilization held that polygamous marriages were “odious” and an “offense against society.” Thus, the Court reasoned, the Framers of the Constitution could not have intended for the free exercise of religion to be an excuse to violate laws founded on the country’s moral beliefs.

Why the Stutzmans of America Will Continue to Lose

To understand why Reynolds lost and why Ms. Stutzman had to lose, we must understand the belief system that undergirded the Reynolds Court’s decision. It was a belief that a legal structure (not just a particular law) rests upon some moral code, and religious freedom can’t be used to violate the moral code found in the law. That was true then, and it is true now.

What has changed—and it explains why polygamy could be banned in 1879 and why it will not be able to be banned in the coming years—is the religious beliefs that informed our laws back then. We no longer believe that God has imposed any laws on the social order that all must recognize, including those who make our civil laws.

For example, today our moral code is increasingly finding nothing wrong with same-sex “marriage.” Therefore, a religiously grounded right not to participate in a same-sex “marriage” (unless perhaps one is a church or a minister) is not acceptable. An exception would violate today’s prevailing religious orthodoxy. The same will be true for polygamy.

Put another way, in the language of the Reynolds case, same-sex “marriage” is now “okay” not “odious.” It is more “acceptable” to society, not an “offense” against it. Therefore, Ms. Stutzman cannot make her “religious beliefs superior to the law of the land.”

Sadly, over the last century, the Christian Church became complicit in this cultural change in the religious underpinnings of our legal structure by making Christianity a matter of strictly personal behavior and by not wanting our ministers to discuss the issues of our day from the pulpit.

The vacuum the Christian Church left has been filled by another religion, secular humanism. Religious liberty for those whose beliefs are consistent with secular humanism is alive; it’s just not alive for those who, like Stutzman, hold to biblical beliefs.

The Church is now reaping the fruit of the pietism and cultural silence it has sown. Thus, conservative Christians shouldn’t be surprised anymore when courts uphold laws that force them to violate their beliefs.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

FACT-RSS-Blog-Icon-small Get David Fowler’s Blog as a feed.

Invite David Fowler to speak at your event