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    Letters to the Editor
    COMMUNITY VIEW: Are you worshiping right now?

    So our local “civil liberties” attorney has decided that he doesn’t like churches renting out schools for worship services.

    Fair enough. But why? And why now? Well, it turns out that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has sided against a church who wanted to rent out a school for Sunday worship services in New York City.

    The only problem is that this activist attorney, in taking the side of the Second Circuit’s rather strange opinion, is treading on ground that simply will not hold.

    The shaky ground is partly an ideological one. The “civil liberties” attorney (religion not making his list of liberties) is a stalwart defender of an absence of religion. To be sure, though, if the local Association of Humanists wanted to rent out a local elementary school every weekend and chant quotes from Chris Hitchens books, I doubt that his anti-worshiping crowd would have a problem with it.

    Speaking of worship, it appears it has been decided that the government can determine what constitutes worship and what does not. If that is even possible, then this simply means, a) religions that involve “worship” are restricted, and those that do not are given free reign, resulting in a clear establishment of accepted and not accepted religions, and b) “worship,” the actual exercise of belief in a higher power, becomes the only form of speech or expression not permitted on public property.

    Why? Apparently, because even though it would be discriminatory to not allow a religious club to rent out the space for a fundraiser, or a “meeting,” that discrimination becomes null and void if the meeting in question involves any kind of worship. Because, to allow someone to worship on public property, even though they’re renting the space, while the government is not using it, is “establishment” of that religion.

    So, while Grace Baptist Church worships over at Harmony Middle School, they are establishing the Baptist religion on the unsuspecting citizens of Loudoun County; and it that’s not enough, just a few miles away, hundreds of Hindus are gathered establishing Hinduism. We should suppose that if Hinduism was established at one school on Saturday, and a Unitarian Church rented out the same space on Sunday, then come Monday all those Loudouners who thought they were in a Baptist regime the week before would be confused.

    So you can see why there is cause for concern. I thought being a Protestant boy marrying a Catholic girl was bad enough. The school system should at least create a simple website to keep us apprised of which religion is currently established on a real-time basis.

    It’s worth noting that even the Freedom from Religion Foundation has accepted the fact (though they certainly are not happy about it) that the Constitution allows for churches renting schools as long as they are all treated equally. But those siding with the Second Circuit ― who are more than comfortable having their special blend of secular humanism and Gaiaism inculcated into the minds of our youth by government workers during regular school hours ― would likely have the government form a team of observers to spy on all of our religious organizations that use public property to make sure that the opening prayers don’t go on too long, lest waves of “establishment” pillow out into the streets.

    Perhaps, though, we shouldn’t give them any ideas.

    Butch Porter

    Loudoun County

    The free exercise of religion

    Prominent Democrat John Flannery let slip one part of the Democrats’ transformational agenda for Virginia and the rest of the U.S.: perverting the concept of freedom OF religion into freedom FROM religion.

    As reported in last week’s lead article “Learn. Play. Pray?” (Loudoun Times-Mirror 10 December 2014) Flannery, a lawyer, former chairman of the Loudoun County Democratic Committee and former Democrat candidate (against Rep. Frank Wolf 1984) clearly states his opposition to allowing churches to rent space from Loudoun County Public Schools for worship services.

    In staking out this hostile position toward the free exercise of religion, Flannery, and like-minded Democrats, ignore the rational behind the Equal Access Act of 1984, which was passed to protect free religious speech in public schools and was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1990 in Westside Community Schools vs. Mergens.

    More directly addressing the Democrat’s specific complaint that allowing worship services in public schools is unconstitutional, in 2001 Supreme Court Associate Justice Thomas wrote, in part, for a 6 to 3 majority in Good News Club vs. Milford Central School that “By denying the [Good News] Club access to the school’s limited public forum on the ground that the Club was religious in nature, Milford discriminated against the Club because of its religious viewpoint in violation of the Free Speech Clause.“

    Yet that is exactly what Flannery and company want the Loudoun County Public Schools to do. The article devotes four paragraphs to explaining Flannery’s citation of the Bronx Household of Faith vs. New York Board of Education court case, but fails to mention is it currently under appeal to the Supreme Court.

    Under the Good News Club ruling, in order to constitutionally keep churches and other religious organizations from renting public school space during non-school hours, the school system would have to discontinue renting to non-religious organizations.

    Who would benefit from that policy change? Only the extreme freedom from religion crowd the Liberal/Progressives are now pandering to.

    Who would be hurt? Church members as well as non-sectarian organizations, of course would be hurt, but also the Loudoun County Public Schools and the taxpayers that would have to make up for the loss of rent. And I submit that our communities would also be the poorer, by making it more difficult for small religious congregations to serve the people of Loudoun.

    Chris Phillips


    Services in schools are reasonable

    A recent article above the fold on Page One of your paper reported on a local attorney’s inquiries to the Loudoun County Board of Education regarding the rental of school facilities to churches on the weekends. The estimable John Flannery has broadly, and in this case too broadly, defined the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment.

    Mr. Flannery is not alone in this definition. He cited the U.S. Court of Appeals’ decision in Bronx Household of Faith vs. Board of Education of the City of New York in support of his position. The more moderate courts and public opinion seem to believe that this is an extreme interpretation of the Establishment Clause and separation of church and state.

    The court’s majority opinion stated in part, “When worship services are performed in a place, the nature of the site changes. The site is no longer simply a room in a school being used temporarily for some activity. The church has made the school the place where it performs its rites, and might well appear to have established itself there. The place has, at least for a time, become the church.”

    It would be a hard sell for folks to subscribe to the concept that the gymnasium at Harmony Middle School morphs into church just because of who is renting the space. If a prayer group meets in a Bob Evans, the restaurant does not become a church.

    Many faiths have established very emphatically that a church is not a building, but its people. The word “church” comes from the Greek word “ekklesia” which is defined as “an assembly” or “called-out ones.” The root meaning of “church” is not that of a building, but of people.

    The U.S. Supreme Court in Town of Greece vs. Galloway ruled that prayers at public meetings were constitutional. Following this to its logical conclusion: Prayer at a town council meeting does not change the town hall into a church, neither does meeting in a middle school gym change the building into a church.

    Renting an unused school gymnasium to a paying religious customer does not constitute the Board of Education’s endorsement of any specific religion. It’s not a problem in far-left Montgomery County, Md. or moderately liberal Fairfax County, nor should it be in conservative Loudoun County.

    Frank McDonough


    Exemption for political nonprofit warrants probe

    I hope the Times-Mirror will investigate further how Chairman Scott York and several cohorts on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors rammed through a tax exemption for a local business that supposedly is a nonprofit (“Political nonprofit gets tax exemption,” Dec. 10).

    Landmark Legal, the corporate name for conservative talk-show radio host Mark Levine’s program, had even withdrawn its application for nonprofit status after Supervisor Ken Reid and others questioned the company’s direct benefit to Loudoun County. And yet York recently put the application back on the agenda at a recent board meeting and got the exemption approved. That’s more than $8,000 in property taxes that the county just kissed goodbye.

    The board also approved an exemption for Integrated Justice Information Systems Institute, which defines its mission as bringing together industry and government in an effort to improve national and homeland security by promoting information sharing. Its members are companies. This is a trade association – not a nonprofit!

    I don’t understand how purely political organizations are classified as nonprofits. Believe me, the mission of Landmark Legal is not to help people better understand the voting process or democracy and become better citizens (that’s the flimsy legal bar for nonprofit advocacy groups). The mission is purely political – to advance the ultra-conservative agenda and win elections for tea party/Republican candidates.

    The IRS was right to begin examining the nonprofit status of these advocacy groups a couple years ago. Unfortunately, IRS officials should have handled the situation much better. They probably made mistakes in implementing new procedures on how to examine the legitimacy of these groups, and may have violated some of their rights in the process. But, that doesn’t undermine the central goal of trying to end a loophole that is costing American taxpayers millions of dollars. And, the IRS should apply the same standard to liberal groups, too.

    There are plenty of worthy nonprofits that need support. Political groups should not get the same status, especially after the Citizens United case that allows unlimited amounts of money from donors to go to political campaigns. These groups should get their money from those kinds of donors, not by asking the taxpayers to support their political agendas.

    Supervisors should have applied the “local benefit” test to Landmark Legal and IJISI. Unless I’m missing something, I don’t see these companies helping raise the fortunes of the underprivileged in Loudoun.

    We need to learn more about the political ties between both groups and the Loudoun County board.

    Eric Kulisch


    Sustainability? Or conspicuous consumption?

    Ben Hancock’s feature story about the upscale Willowsford project (“Welcome to the Agrihood,” 12/10/14) suggests that the community is purposed to combine luxury and sustainability: “Live simply but live well, in nice large homes with plenty of amenities.”

    There is an inherent contradiction here. Million dollar-plus homes with all the amenities is not sustainable development; rather, it is conspicuous consumption.

    Let’s not delude ourselves that setting aside acreage for conservation is sufficient to off-set the waste that comes with building too-big lodging for the self-absorbed.

    Oakley Winters


    Growth’s unhappy legacy
    COMMUNITY VIEW: Kaine to Congress: Do the job
    In Northern Virginia and beyond, domestic violence shatters lives
    The private school option
    The need to support local family farms
    A parent’s plea for stronger gun laws
    COMMUNITY VIEW: Why price education?
    Faith, not violence, is the path
    Virginia and Loudoun should abandon fossil fuel projects
    COMMUNITY VIEW: Co-parenting tips for the holidays
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