The ACLJ Needed Now More Than Ever: Our Agenda for the Future, Protecting Victories and Battling the Dangers Ahead – Education
The following is the first installment of a six-part series focusing on why the ACLJ is needed now more than ever to protect the victories we’ve achieved and beat back the ominous challenges we will face under a Biden Administration. Wisely, the American people continue to demand adherence to the United States Constitution, the rule of law, and accountable leaders. Representing our members and the American people, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has always been vigilant and forward-looking to advance our goals and mission. Now more than ever, the ACLJ remains especially vigilant. We have already mobilized to fight because the fate of the nation is at stake. After all, we live in an era where leading figures within the United States and throughout the world have warned us that revolutionary forces are afoot that would compromise our freedom, our liberty. Radical forces seek to trigger what is known as the “Great Reset” in order to challenge family, love of country, respect for human life, religious liberty, the rule of law, and the sovereignty of America’s greatest ally in the Middle East, Israel. Our nation has gone through another transition, one that poses grave dangers for everyone who believes in freedom and liberty under God. The ACLJ presents its Agenda for the Future fully aware that the Obama-Biden Administration of 2009-2017 was one of the most lawless and most ethically challenged in the history of the republic despite the willingness of some courts to curtail this corrupt pattern. Our Agenda for the Future concentrates on two distinct time periods: (1) ACLJ victories during the Trump Administration and (2) probable challenges surfacing during the first 100 days of a Biden Administration. Some of which we’ve already seen taking shape. First, the ACLJ has consistently scored victories and taken action on behalf of the American people and for our members during the Trump Administration. Consider the following: Education Consistent with the spirit and goals of the launch of our new School Choice Initiative , the ACLJ has scored numerous victories for families. For example, the ACLJ has gone to bat for parents and kids across the country during the struggle to ensure that children do not fall behind because of school closures and virtual-learning mandated during the Coronavirus pandemic. More than 1,900 families contacted us; and in many instances, we were able to address the families’ unique problems. For example, we sent letters on behalf of parents of children with special needs in North Carolina, California, Michigan, Georgia, Nevada, Nebraska, and numerous other states. In addition to our work helping families of students facing difficulties due to COVID-related school closures, we also continue to defend students facing religious discrimination and free speech issues in school. For instance, as a result of our involvement in a Nebraska case, a high school student was allowed to exercise her free speech rights with respect to her decision to wear a sweatshirt that represented a church youth group program. In addition, after this past summer’s launch of the ACLJ’s School Choice Initiative—an endeavor which signifies our current and future efforts to ensure that every American family receives educational justice—we continue to focus on school choice cases at the Supreme Court. This focus is exemplified by the amicus brief the ACLJ filed in Espinoza v. Montana . This year the Supreme Court held that the state of Montana’s “no-aid” to religious schools provision in its statute discriminated against religious schools and the families whose children attend or hope to attend them. Hence this provision constituted a violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the federal Constitution. In addition to the Espinoza victory, the Supreme Court delivered major victories for religious schools in two other cases in which we participated . These two cases, Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru and St. James School v. Biel , involved the important religious liberty principle called “the ministerial exception.” The ministerial exception protects churches and other religious organizations from government interference in decisions about who leads worship or teaches religion. In a 7-2 decision , the Supreme Court held that the ministerial exception to federal employment discrimination laws applies to teachers at religious schools who teach the faith to students. The Court rejected arguments that its earlier decision in Hosanna-Tabor required that teachers must be given a certain title or have formal religious training to qualify for the ministerial exception. The Court repeatedly emphasized the importance of deference to religious schools’ assessments of which teachers or administrators should qualify. The Court’s emphasis on deference to the schools echoed points we made in our amicus brief, which argued that the lower court’s: Second-guessing of the schools’ assessments about whether the teachers were ministers was wrong because it violated the religious autonomy principle. If religious autonomy is to be safeguarded, courts must defer to the schools’ good faith judgment that a teacher who teaches religious values and precepts qualifies for the ministerial exception. The government may not interfere in religious schools’ decisions either to hire or to terminate its teachers. This is a significant win for religious school autonomy and religious liberty. The ACLJ will continue its efforts in this important arena – an arena in which our critical legal work is needed now more than ever. Dangers Ahead in Education Dangers for Christian schools and colleges are now on the horizon. A grave danger is rising that Christian schools and colleges will be placed under a direct and mortal threat by authoritarianism tied to both the Coronavirus pandemic and the Human Rights Campaign’s insistence that accreditation be taken away from such institutions if they continue to adhere to doctrinal independence under the Biden presidency. Consider the threat that unchecked government power poses for Christian schools. In reality, a number of private religious schools throughout the United States have been fighting to stay open during the pandemic. Whether such schools should stay open or not during a pandemic is an important issue, but equally true, the ACLJ believes that religious liberty is protected by the Constitution and hence our eternal vigilance is necessary. Turning to the increasingly vexed issues surrounding the accreditation of Christian schools, distinguished Christian educator Albert Mohler observes that the accreditation of Christian colleges and schools has just been directly targeted by the Human Rights Campaign in its recently issued document, Blueprint for Positive Change . This document is directed at the incoming Administration and “demands that President-elect Biden adopt a legislative agenda and enact specific executive orders.” This document offers detailed policy positions and recommendations, department by department, for the Biden Administration. “From the Department of Agriculture to the Department of Health and Human Services, the Human Rights Campaign demands the enactment of policies to prohibit what is identified as discrimination.” This document demands that the Biden Administration ensure that “non-discrimination policies and science-based curriculum are not undermined by religious exemptions to accreditation standards.” Consistent with its past record of defending religious liberty against all opponents, foreign or domestic, the ACLJ is prepared to advocate against efforts that would endeavor to make religious colleges, schools, and traditional families, second-class citizens by abrogating religious schools and families’ constitutional rights. We will defend the free exercise of religion against all comers. The ACLJ will continue to fight for educational justice for all through our School Choice Initiative. In the next installment , I’ll discuss major victories and challenges ahead in our fight to protect innocent unborn babies .