Monday, March 2, 2009
Montana church wins free speech case.
According to OneNewsNow.com, "The Canyon Ferry Baptist Church in East Helena, Montana, ran into trouble with a state commissioner when it showed a video supporting traditional marriage in an evening service and urged members to support a constitutional marriage amendment on an upcoming ballot. Based on a complaint from a homosexual activist group, the commissioner said the church should register as an "incidental political committee," according to an Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) press release. After the state launched an aggressive probe, ADF filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the church in June 2004, but the court ruled against the church. ADF attorney Gary McCaleb tells OneNewsNow he appealed the case in 2006 and finally received a favorable ruling earlier this week. "The Ninth Circuit reversed the lower court [ruling], saying it was unconstitutional for the state to regulate a church when all it was doing was engaging in free-speech activities," he contends. "It had made no financial contribution and yet was being treated exactly the same as a political committee in Montana." McCaleb is thankful the judge ruled the church was within constitutional safeguards. "It's a very important decision that sends a clear message, as Judge Noonan did writing on his concurrence, that churches have an essential part in the democratic life of the United States," he adds. "And the freedom of religion is the first freedom in our Bill of Rights."