Congressman Forbes Recounts 2014 Battles For Family & Religious Liberty

Jan 15th, 2015 | By | Category: News Posts
General George Washington kneeling in prayer.

General George Washington kneeling in prayer.

Congressman Randy Forbes (R-VA) is co-chair of the Congressional Prayer Caucus. Forbes recently published a summary of the 2014 accomplishments of the Prayer Caucus in defending family values and the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty. We are reprinting his summary below:

As we look forward to 2015 and the opportunity that a new Congress brings, I wanted to update you briefly on some of the ways I have been working this past year to protect family values and our religious freedom:

  • Worked to defend religious freedom in the military. This year, I was able to lead Members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus in successfully working with the Air Force to strengthen religious protections for Airmen by actively advocating for a change in Air Force regulations governing religious expression. By placing a disproportionate emphasis on religious neutrality, the old language was inconsistent with the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment and with the conscience protections for servicemembers and chaplains that were passed by Congress in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The Air Force has released a revised version of the religious expression language, which is a significant improvement and now references well-established standards for religious freedom found in the First Amendment and in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
  • Advocated for public prayer. After the U.S. Court of Appeals overturned the highly inclusive practice of public prayer before meetings in the town of Greece, New York, I, along with Rep. Scalise, led 85 Members of Congress in an amicus curiae brief supporting the town’s tradition of prayer before meetings. On May 5, 2014, the Court issued a landmark decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway, stating, “These ceremonial prayers strive for the idea that people of many faiths may be united in a community of tolerance and devotion. Even those who disagree as to religious doctrine may find common ground in the desire to show respect for the divine in all aspects of their lives and being. Our tradition assumes that adult citizens, firm in their own beliefs, can tolerate and perhaps appreciate a ceremonial prayer delivered by a person of a different faith.”
  • Worked to promote family values, traditional marriage, and the protection of life. Family is the most basic, foundational unit of society.  Throughout my time in Congress, I have continued to be a staunch supporter of legislation to strengthen families and to protect the lives of the most vulnerable among us.  In the 113th Congress, some of the many initiatives I supported include:
  • No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 7). This bill would establish a government-wide, permanent prohibition on the funding of abortion and passed the House on January 28, 2014 by a vote of 227 to 188.
  • Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act​(H.R. 1797). This bill would prohibit abortions nationwide on unborn children that are beyond twenty weeks gestation on the basis that children at this stage of development can feel pain and passed the House on June 18, 2013 by a vote of 228 to 196.
  • State Marriage Defense Act (H.R. 3829). The Supreme Court has left the definition of marriage to the states, and this bill would require the federal government to respect each state’s definition of marriage when applying federal laws and regulations. 
  • Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act (H.R. 5285). This bill would ensure that all child welfare service providers have the equal opportunity to serve children and families by prohibiting discrimination by the government against any provider because of the organization’s religious beliefs or moral convictions.
  • Health Care Conscience Rights Act (H.R. 940). This bill, which includes the full text of the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA), would ensure that religious organizations, private businesses, institutions of higher education, health care providers, and insurance companies are not required to sponsor insurance coverage that violates their moral or religious beliefs.
  • Parental Rights Amendment (H.J.Res. 50). This bill would amend the Constitution to protect a parent’s fundamental right to direct the upbringing, education, and care of their children.
  • Relentlessly advocated for the release of Pastor Saeed Abedini. I repeatedly advocated for Pastor Abedini’s release, and joined Members of the House and Senate in calling for Saeed’s release on the two year anniversary of his unjust imprisonment.  It is essential that the American people know their country will defend fundamental human rights, and we must continue to be vocal in demanding Pastor Abedini’s immediate release.
  • Continued to defend expressions of religion in the public square.  I lead Members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus in filing an amicus curiae brief defending the inclusion of our national motto, “In God We Trust,” on U.S. currency.  The case was dismissed by a federal district court in September, 2013—a decision which was affirmed by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in May, 2014. Additionally, I joined an amicus curiae brief defending the inclusion of “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.  On May 9, 2014, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts upheld the constitutionality of the phrase. We also worked to defend war memorials featuring crosses or other religious symbols.

Looking towards 2015, it is my hope that we will be able to accomplish even greater things for the cause of religious freedom in this country. I will keep you posted along the way.

 

 

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