By Victor Cornell
Austin Regional Coordinator
Every year around this time, we, at the ACLU of Texas, get messages asking why we oppose Christianity. Because the ACLU is often better known for its work preventing the government from promoting and funding religion, it is sometimes wrongly assumed that we do not zealously defend the rights of all religious believers to practice their faith. But the truth is we’ve done an awful lot of work on behalf of self-identified Christians.
In 2010, we joined with the national ACLU to file a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in support of a Texas prisoner who sued after prison officials denied him the opportunity to participate in Christian worship services.
We also filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of a Christian pastor and his faith-based rehabilitation facility in Sinton, Texas. The ACLU of Texas urged the court to reverse a decision that had prohibited the pastor from operating his rehabilitation program near his church and also had sharply limited the reach of the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act (TRFRA). In June 2009, the Texas Supreme Court agreed with us and ruled in favor of the pastor.
My personal favorite happened just this year. In April, we filed an amicus brief in support of students in the Plano school district who wanted to include pencils with religious messages (like ‘Jesus is the reason for the season’) in holiday gift bags.
So remember, when we say we’re fighting for your religious freedom, we really mean it! We are defending the rights of all Texans to practice their faiths freely and pushing back against government intrusion into matters of faith. Up next we’ll clarify some of the rules surrounding Christmas displays in the public square.