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A Loss For Liberals = A Win For The US Constitution

An appeals court ruled the state of Montana violated a church's First Amendment rights to encourage its members to support traditional marriage.

The ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the state's determination that the church was an "incidental political committee" because members promoted and signed petitions supporting traditional marriage, and the pastor also encouraged it.

The complaint against Ferry Road Baptist Church of East Helena was sparked by a complaint from a homosexual activist group, the court ruling noted. The Alliance Defense Fund took up the fight for the church by filing a lawsuit in 2004 after the state issued its ruling against the church.

"Churches shouldn't be penalized for expressing their beliefs. They should never be forced to forfeit their free speech rights just because the government decides to enact unconstitutional laws requiring them to remain silent on social issues," said ADF Legal Counsel Dale Schowengerdt, who litigated the case with co-counsel Tim Fox of the Helena law firm of Gough, Shanahan, Johnson & Waterman.

"Churches have the right to speak about the moral issues of our time. That is what churches do," said Fox. "This ruling affirms that churches are free to disagree and to participate in public debate."

The appeals court also determined the state's political practices law is vague.

"An unregulated, unregistered press is important to our democracy. So are unregulated, unregistered churches. Churches have played an important – no, an essential – part in the democratic life of the United States," wrote Judge John T. Noonan.

"Is it necessary to evoke these historic struggles and the great constitutional benefits won for the country by its churches in order to decide this case of petty bureaucratic harassment? It is necessary," he continued.

"The memory of the memorable battles grows cold. The liberals who applaud their outcomes and live in their light forget the motivation that drove the champions of freedom. They approve religious intervention in the political process selectively: it's great when it's on their side. In a secular age, Freedom of Speech is more talismanic than Freedom of Religion. But the latter is the first freedom in our Bill of Rights. It is in terms of this first freedom that this case should be decided," the judge said.

When the district court ruling went against the church in 2006, ADF lawyers appealed to the 9th Circuit, arguing the Constitution should never be construed to demand cumbersome reporting requirements for churches to discuss moral issues.

The church had been cited for not submitting to a series of reporting requirements under the state's campaign finance law when a member made copies on a church copy machine of a petition in support of a 2004 state ballot initiative supporting traditional marriage.

Church leaders, including Pastor Berthold Stumberg III, supported the petition, which was signed by members, actions that were cited as violations by the Montana commissioner of political practices.

The marriage proposal ultimately was adopted 67 percent to 33 percent in the state, and the church's involvement triggered a complaint from "Montanans for Families and Fairness." Montana is one of dozens of states in which voters have adopted constitutional provisions limiting marriage to one man and one woman.

The court opinion said, "The Church argues that it cannot constitutionally be subjected to the disclosure and reporting requirements applicable to 'incidental political committees' under Montana law on the sole basis of its activities of de minimis economic effect in connection with the Battle for Marriage event and related petition – signing efforts in support of CI-96. It argues, inter alia, that, as applied to its activities, the Montana statute is impermissibly vague. We agree in part with the Church's vagueness claim and hold that, as applied to (1) the placement of the petition in its foyer and (2) Stumberg's exhortation to sign the petition in support of CI-96 during a regularly scheduled Sunday service, the Commission's interpretation of 'inkind Expenditures' is unconstitutionally vague. We also agree that the designation of the Church as an 'incidental Committee' because of its one-time, in-kind 'expenditures' of de minimis economic effect violates the Church's First Amendment free speech rights."

The judge said broadcast stations, newspapers, magazines and other operations are exempt from such reporting requirements, and so should a church.

"The media are free to promote political opinions without registering as independent political committees and without disclosing the identity of those owning the facilities used to promote the opinions. The most likely sources of potent political input into an election are removed from the statute's scope. The generality of the statute is destroyed. The neutrality of the statute is preserved as to the media while all religious expressions on a ballot measure are swept within its requirements. The disparity between the treatment of the media and the treatment of churches is great and gross," he said.


Click to view image: 'ec7a08b05c44-springchurch.jpg'

Added: Mar-3-2009 
By: MarkusMarone
In:
News
Tags: 1st Amendment, Free speech is only free if it is liberal free speech
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  • Great. I really do mean it. Get the State out of The Church's business. Now it's time to get the Church out of the State's business.

    Posted Mar-3-2009 By 

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    • Agreed

      Posted Mar-3-2009 By 

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    • A church's minister has the OBLIGATION to steer his "flock" in the direction that his church teachings dictate.

      The govt is BANNED by the Constitution from interfering in CHURCH matters - but NOT vice versa.

      The First Amendment (you progressive socialist liberals will ignore this in plain English) states:

      Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof

      If you cannot understand this, then you ARE an ignorant leftis More..

      Posted Mar-3-2009 By 

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    • Yep, the minister can steer his "flock". Even tell them which way to vote. That's free speech. However, advocating for an issue is one thing, advocating for a candidate is another, and the IRS will tax the organization as a political, not religious entity.

      And you conveniently miss the first part of the first amendment, as many others do: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion".

      Establishment does not only imply the physical manifestation of a More..

      Posted Mar-3-2009 By 

      (1) | Report

  • Take that, bitches.

    Posted Mar-3-2009 By 

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    • Are we to be provoked by your sign? You make it plain in your argument that you are not a believer of any faith. And that is fine. Many of us believe differently. That is why the US is so great. But you will argue 'tolerance' and have none for those of faith. Oh well.

      Posted Mar-3-2009 By 

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    • I don't think it's about those of us with no faith not 'tolerating' those that have it, we are simply returning the favor for thousands of years of violence and 'tolerance' by religious people simply for not believing in your magical allegory.

      I love how you are supporting the truncation of rights of a group based on YOUR faith, which goes against everything you claim makes this country great, then act like you are the victim.

      The freedom of choice is just that, a choice. You don't have to l More..

      Posted Mar-3-2009 By 

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    • comet you ruined your whole statement by saying that we should stop "fundamentalist bigots". But do those people not have the same right as you to say what they feel? Your being just like the people you don't like, intollerant and hateful of something you don't agree with.

      Posted Mar-3-2009 By 

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    • huh? My whole point was that while I don't like or agree with them, I am not out there making sure that their christian children can't marry other christian children just because my magic book doesnt say it is ok, thats all. They try to limit what others do based on THEIR belief, but we just want people to have a choice to NOT be forced to do what they believe is right.

      Atheists only want equal rights, that means if you are a christian thats fine just don't expect the govt. to use tax money t More..

      Posted Mar-4-2009 By 

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  • One for the good guys!

    Posted Mar-3-2009 By 

    (2) | Report

  • its funny that the radicals have to shop out their cases to the 9th circuit, because all the other courts will tell them to get their trash the fuck out of their court.

    Posted Mar-3-2009 By 

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  • I am beginning to think that if the true Democrats don't wake up the Socialists will control their party if they don't already.

    Posted Mar-3-2009 By 

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  • This isn't a loss for liberals, this is a loss for those people that want to spend their lives together regardless of their sexual orientation and receive the same benefits as same sex couples.

    Posted Mar-3-2009 By 

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  • One thing I noticed, it seems like most people who associate or consider themselves liberals are defending to their death's other religions in the world, but when it comes to Christianity, its suddenly bad. I think its just because they are surrounded by it, but since all the other religions are new to them, they think they are hip and cool. Well Jesus is the coolest, so give him a chance too!

    Posted Mar-3-2009 By 

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  • Who cares about equal rights! Right Cons?

    Posted Mar-3-2009 By 

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    • Dude, church wants to keep marriage as a church thing. You can get "married" in court you know. Its a civil union, just not in a church.
      You want to make it seem as if they are taking rights away.

      Posted Mar-3-2009 By 

      (3) | Report

    • I don't think I've ever read a half way coherent/intelligent response from you ever.

      It's always, LMAO @ libs, f**k you libs, commies, other name calling. Are you really that incapable of making any points without resorting to childish behavior?

      Posted Mar-3-2009 By 

      (0) | Report