The first case occurred in Washington DC where the city's Office of Human Rights confirmed it is investigating allegations that the rights of Muslim students are being violated by the presence of Christian symbols in classrooms at Catholic University. The students are also complaining that the school is not allowing them to form a Muslim student group and is denying them rooms in which they can pray without the presence of Christian symbols.
According to Fox News, the investigation alleges that Muslim students “must perform their prayers surrounded by symbols of Catholicism – e.g., a wooden crucifix, paintings of Jesus, pictures of priests and theologians which many Muslim students find inappropriate.”
A spokesperson for the Office of Human Rights told Fox they had received a 60-page complaint against the private university. The investigation, they said, could take as long as six months.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, Vatican Insider is reporting that the Foundation for Religious Freedom is contesting the presence of a large statue of Jesus that has been overlooking the Whitefish Mountain Resort in Montana for over fifty years. Erected in 1953 in honor of World War II veterans, the Foundation claims that because the statue is on public land, it is in violation of the separation of church and state.
"It is a religious symbol and as such, it violates the principle according to which the federal government must not favour or promote any religion," the Foundation said. "It must be moved to a private property.”
The Foundation, an atheist group based in Madison, Wisconsin, became involved in the issue when one of its members, who lives in the area, complained about the statue.
The Forest Service, which owns the land, referred the matter to the local Knights of Columbus who claim the fragile nature of the statue could result in irreparable damage if it is moved.
Republican Congressman Deny Rehberg is calling for the matter to be opened to public comment and is checking into the possibility that the statue has enough historical significance to be placed on the list of national heritage sites, which would forbid its being moved.
Local residents want the statue to stay put. KAJ18.com is reporting that Kyle Allred and Zachary, residents of nearby Kalispell, have designed a Facebook page about the controversy to create awareness of the issue and solicit support for keeping the statue where it is.
"People need to take an active role, and when there's community forums or town halls and the community or forest service is going to take comment, then we need to actually show up and be active," said Zachary Pitts. "Because if we don't act, we're going to be acted upon--and probably in a way that we don't like."
A third incident involving persecution of Christians occurred in Upton, Massachusetts where a resident was refused permission to host a rosary rally on the town common.
According to the Boston Herald, Upton resident Michael Casey, 50, was told by the town's selectmen that he could not hold the rally as it would violate the separation of church and state.
“It was quite troubling,” said Casey, a father of two who owns a hardwood floor business. “They felt that if we were there praying, we would offend people. It was just a peaceful prayer rally. Why we were denied to have that, I don’t know.”
For their part, the two selectmen who denied Casey's request to hold the rosary rally, said they were "uncomfortable” with the idea of people praying on the town common.
“I thought the decision that I made, along with the board members, was in the best interest of the town,” said Selectman Jim Brochu. “If we said yes to this request, we would potentially be setting a precedent of allowing any and all similar religious organizations to hold an event on town property.”
However, local constitutional attorneys disagree.
“The state cannot sponsor religious celebrations or events or services — but that doesn’t mean that religious events or celebrations or speeches cannot take place in the public sphere. They can,” said Harvey Silverglate, a First Amendment attorney. “And the same venues or facilities have to be made available to other groups — religious, anti-religious and nonreligious.”
Chester Darling, another constitutional attorney, was even more adamant. “The free expression of religion cannot be suppressed by any town council,” Darling told the Herald. “Those selectmen belong in federal court. They should be permanently enjoined from doing that ever again.”
Attacks against Christianity such as these can only be expected to increase in the days ahead as the holiday season approaches and sparks a new round of anti-Christmas bias. When we encounter these assaults on our faith, let us pray that God will give us the grace to fight back in the same peaceful and courageous manner as the individuals involved in these three cases!
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