Peter and Hazelmary Bull had asked the Supreme Court to decide whether their decision not to let Martyn Hall and his civil partner Steven Preddy stay in a double room constituted sex discrimination under equality legislation. … They argued their decision was founded on a “religiously-informed judgment of conscience” and that earlier judgements against them were a breach of their human rights to freedom of religion.
Christian British B&B Owners Who Illegally Turned Away Gay Couple Claim to Want Only ‘Freedom and Tolerance’
This is what really happened at Fayette High School in Missouri:
Gwen Pope, a math teacher at the school, led Christian devotional prayers in her classroom every Friday morning. These prayer sessions were announced over the loudspeaker for students, in effect, encouraging them to attend. Both of those things are illegal.
There’s more: The prayer sessions weren’t part of an extracurricular club. Pope’s husband Michael would attend the meetings. Furthermore, she told her math students that “God will punish them if they are not good” and had religious literature on her desk during the school day:
Last April, students at Northwest Rankin High School in Mississippi attended a mandatory assembly featuring representatives from nearby Pinelake Baptist Church who told the students that they needed to accept Jesus in their lives. They even showed a video:
In the video, two young men were interviewed who had once led “troubled” lives. To find hope, the men described various behaviors such as turning to drugs, sex, cutting, suicide, and the like. They then explained how turning to Jesus Christ solved their problems and recommended that other people turn to Jesus Christ as well.
The American Humanist Association said at the time that when students tried to leave the Performing Arts Building so they wouldn’t have to listen to the preaching, they “were harassed by a principal and told to sit down.”
The Appignani Humanist Legal Center of the AHA immediately sent the school a complaint letter (PDF). After not hearing back from the administration, they filed a lawsuit (PDF) against the school in which the extensive and jaw-dropping details about the assembly were listed in full.
But why read that when you can just watch a video of the assembly taken by students?
For years now, the Freedom From Religion Foundation has been in a legal battle to end the “parish exemption” that allows ministers to deduct the cost of rent for their church-owned houses from their taxable income. FFRF believes that this shows preferential treatment for religious leaders.
FFRF’s own board has even paid its co-presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor $15,000 each as part of their housing allowance, but because they don’t qualify as “ministers of the gospel,” the law doesn’t apply to them. That’s one of the ways they’ve tried to prove the law is illegal.
A few months ago, the U.S. Department of Justice ridiculously argued that the exemption was legal and that FFRF’s leaders were eligible for the tax breaks… because atheism, they said, was a religion:
Non-theistic beliefs, including atheism, may qualify as “religious” beliefs in various contexts because they pertain to religion and fulfill a similar role in a person’s life:
Because [FFRF] can show no facts to suggest that the IRS will apply terms like “minister” and “religious organization” as if they turn on adherence to some theistic belief or other content, this Court should not presume that the IRS would act inconsistently with the governing law regarding whether atheism a religion for purposes of an atheist’s claim…
No thanks, says Gaylor.
“We are not ministers,” she said. “We are having to tell the government the obvious — we are not a church.”
Yesterday, in a very surprising (but legally sound) decision, U.S. District Judge Barbara B. Crabb ruled in favor of the FFRF, writing that the “parish exemption” was indeed unconstitutional: