Friday, April 30, 2010

Religious Liberty Restoration Amendment Moves Forward


April 30, 2010

Religious Liberty Restoration Amendment Moves Forward

Secretary of State approves petition for circulation

Fargo, ND

A coalition including civic leaders and representatives of different religious traditions have launched an effort to pass an amendment to the state constitution that will restore religious liberties in North Dakota. On Friday Secretary of State Al Jaeger approved the ‘Religious Liberty Restoration Amendment’ initiated constitutional measure, enabling the petition process to proceed.

“We are excited to begin gathering signatures, and the overall educational process. We believe the people in North Dakota will be very receptive to the measure”, states Tom Freier, executive director of North Dakota Family Alliance. Supporters must turn in total of 25,688 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office by August 4th for the initiative to qualify for the November ballot.

The proposed measure states “government may not burden a person’s or religious organization’s religious liberty”. A 1990 U.S. Supreme Court decision greatly diminished this protection. “This amendment restores the level of religious protection everyone had prior to Supreme Court decision. The federal government and many others states have acted to restore that protection,” states Christopher Dodson, executive director of the North Dakota Catholic Conference, a coalition partner. “This amendment would extend the same protection to North Dakotans”.

The sponsoring committee of the initiative indicates broad support for the amendment. The committee includes Protestant and Catholic clergy, legislators from both parties, mayors, and citizens from one end of the state to the other. “We are so appreciative of this support, and believe it be reflective of the state” offers Freier. “We believe the people support the freedoms put in place by the framers of the constitution, and want them restored and preserved.”

Freier says the signature gathering will begin in early May, with much of the effort being initiated in the churches working with clergy and church members. He believes the internet and technology will greatly aid in the process. Freier is hopeful the bulk of the signatures will be gathered by July 1st.

To log on directly to download a petition or view related information and To learn more about the initiative, including the official amendment language, log on to, or you may call the North Dakota Family Alliance at 701-364-0676, or email You may also contact the North Dakota Catholic Conference at 701-223-2519, 1-888-419-1237, or by emailing


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Religious Liberty Wins One

Religious Liberty Wins One

Those battling to preserve a cross commemorating the service and sacrifices of veterans from World War I have won a victory. Members of the VFW placed the cross in a remote part of the Mojave desert in 1934 to honor their fallen friends and fellow soldiers. In recent years, efforts have been relentless in attempting to remove this symbol of honor. See the story posted today, relating the US Supreme Court ruling.


The Supreme Court said a federal court went too far in ordering the removal of a memorial known as the 'Mojave Cross,' on an outcrop in the Mojave National Preserve, in Calif.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court's conservative majority signaled a greater willingness to allow religious symbols on public land Wednesday, a stance that could have important implications for future church-state disputes.

By a 5-4 vote, the court refused to order the removal of a congressionally endorsed war memorial cross from its longtime home atop a remote rocky outcropping in California's Mohave Desert.

The court directed a federal judge to look again at Congress' plan to transfer the patch of U.S. land beneath the 7-foot-tall cross made of metal pipe to private ownership.

Federal courts had rejected the land transfer as insufficient to eliminate constitutional concern about a religious symbol on public land — in this case in the Mojave National Preserve.

While the holding Wednesday was narrow, the language of the justices in the majority, and particularly the opinion of Anthony Kennedy, suggested a more permissive view of religious symbols on public land in future cases.

Federal courts currently are weighing at least two other cross cases, a 29-foot cross and war memorial on Mt. Soledad in San Diego and Utah's use of 12-foot-high crosses on roadside memorials honoring fallen highway patrol troopers.

"The Constitution does not oblige government to avoid any public acknowledgment of religion's role in society," wrote Kennedy, who usually is in the court's center on church-state issues.

Speaking of the Christian cross in particular, Kennedy said it is wrong to view it merely as a religious symbol. "Here one Latin cross in the desert evokes far more than religion. It evokes thousands of small crosses in foreign fields marking the graves of Americans who fell in battles, battles whose tragedies are compounded if the fallen are forgotten," he said.

In dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens agreed that soldiers who died in battle deserve a memorial to their service. But the government "cannot lawfully do so by continued endorsement of a starkly sectarian message," Stevens said.

The cross has stood on Sunrise Rock in the 1.6 million-acre Mojave preserve since 1934, put there by the Veterans of Foreign Wars as a memorial to World War I dead. It has been covered with plywood for the past several years following the court rulings.

Justice Samuel Alito, part of Wednesday's majority, noted the remoteness of the location. "At least until this litigation, it is likely that the cross was seen by more rattlesnakes than humans," Alito said, although he also pointed out that Easter services have long been held there.

The controversy began when a retired National Park Service employee, Frank Buono, filed a lawsuit complaining about the cross on public land. Federal courts sided with Buono and ordered the cross' removal.

In 2003, Congress stepped in and transferred the land where the cross stands to private hands to address the court rulings. But the courts said the land transfer was, in effect, an unacceptable end run around the constitutional problem.

In Wednesday's case, six justices wrote separate opinions and none spoke for a majority of the court.

But supporters of the cross memorials were pleased with Kennedy's language, especially because Alito and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas would have gone further. Chief Justice John Roberts signed onto Kennedy's opinion.

"We know this is just the beginning. Until that box comes off that veterans' memorial, the veterans consider that a disgrace," said Kelly Shackelford, chief counsel at the conservative Liberty Legal Institute in Plano, Texas. He wrote a brief for several veterans' groups.

"We hope that some of the statements of Justice Kennedy go to the bigger issue, attacks on any veterans memorial that has any sort of religious imagery," Shackelford said.

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, called the court's reasoning "bogus."

"It's alarming that the high court continues to undermine the separation of church and state. Nothing good can come from this trend," Lynn said. "The court majority seems to think the cross is not always a Christian symbol. I think all Americans know better than that."

Muslim and Jewish war veteran groups complained in court papers that they view the Mojave cross as a religious symbol that excludes them. The Jewish War Veterans called the cross "a powerful Christian symbol" and "not a symbol of any other religion."

Stevens largely agreed. He called the Mojave cross a "dramatically inadequate and inappropriate tribute." Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor joined his opinion, while Justice Stephen Breyer also dissented.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Religious Liberty under Siege

Religious Liberty Under Siege.

It seems wherever we look our religious liberty is under attack. Yes, under attack. Yes, in this land we call America. It seems as though not a single day goes by that not yet another volley is hurled at our religious freedoms. While we might expect these attacks to come from those who despise our religious liberties, it is especially disconcerting when they come from those entrusted with protecting our freedoms--the judiciary. District Court Judge Crabb's ruling of the National Day of Prayer as unconstitutional--is a ruling of 'freedom from religion', not 'freedom of religion'. Not only is religious liberty under siege, our constitution is.

See the story of Judge Crabb's ruling below, and then see a commentary from Tony Perkins with FRC.

Judge: Natl Day Of Prayer Unconstitutional
April 15, 2010 - 4:49 PM | by: Mike Levine

The National Day of Prayer, honored in the United States for more than a half-century, is unconstitutional, a federal judge in Wisconsin has ruled.

In a 66-page opinion issued Thursday, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb said the holiday violates the "establishment clause" of the First Amendment, which creates a separation of church and state.

"I understand that many may disagree with that conclusion and some may even view it as a criticism of prayer or those who pray," Crabb said in her opinion. "That is unfortunate. A determination that the government may not endorse a religious message is not a determination that the message itself is harmful, unimportant or undeserving of dissemination."

The opinion comes in a case filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based group of self-described "atheists" and "agnostics."

Crabb said her ruling is based on "relevant case law," and it does not prevent religious groups from organizing prayer services or prevent the President from discussing his views on prayer.

"The only issue decided in this case is that the federal government may not endorse prayer in a statute," Crabb said.

The Justice Department would not say whether it expects to appeal Crabb's ruling.

"We are reviewing the court's decision," a Justice Department spokesman said.

Within hours of the ruling, the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee urged the Justice Department to "immediately" file an appeal.

"The decision undermines the values of religious freedom that America was founded upon," Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Tex., said in a statement. "What’s next? Declaring the federal holiday for Christmas unconstitutional?"

Crabb said the ruling would not have any effect until any appeals are exhausted.

She insisted her ruling was not a judgment on the value of prayer.

"No one can doubt the important role that prayer plays in the spiritual life of a believer," Crabb said in her opinion. "In the best of times, people may pray as a way of expressing joy and thanks; during times of grief, many find that prayer provides comfort. Others may pray to give praise, seek forgiveness, ask for guidance or find the truth. ... However, recognizing the importance of prayer to many people does not mean that the government may enact a statute in support of it, any more than the government may encourage citizens to fast during the month of Ramadan, attend a synagogue, purify themselves in a sweat lodge or practice rune magic."

The National Day of Prayer was first established by Congress in 1952, with a more specific date for the holiday set in 1988. It is now observed on the first Thursday in May.

Smith said he can "assure" Americans that "Congress will do everything in its power to protect the National Day of Prayer."

On the holiday last year, President Obama issued a statement saying Americans have always "come together in moments of great challenge and uncertainty to humble themselves in prayer."

"In 1775, as the Continental Congress began the task of forging a new Nation, colonists were asked to observe a day of quiet humiliation and prayer," the statement said. "Almost a century later, as the flames of the Civil War burned from north to south, President Lincoln and the Congress once again asked the American people to pray as the fate of their Nation hung in the balance."

So Help Us God
Tony Perkins, FRC

Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, [we] must fall with them (Jedediah Morse, 1799). Yesterday, 223 years to the day after patriots ratified an end the Revolutionary War, a judge in Wisconsin ruled to reintroduce tyranny in America--this time, from the bench. In a decision that is rocking our nation to its very core, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb determined that a national day of prayer--a tradition as old as the country itself--is unconstitutional. "...[R]ecognizing the importance of prayer to many people does not mean that the government may enact a statute in support of it..." With all due respect, the government may do exactly that under the very documents that established it. "[The] sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments, or musty records," Alexander Hamilton insisted. "They are written, as with a sun beam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of divinity itself; and can never be erased by mortal power."

Had Judge Crabb consulted the Constitution she was sworn to uphold, she might notice that Americans enjoy religious freedom--not by virtue of the courts, but in spite of them. Furthermore, setting aside a day of corporate prayer is more than compatible with our nation's heritage; it is a responsibility assigned to every American by George Washington himself. "It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God... and humbly implore His protection and favor; and whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer" (Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1789).

Contrary to Judge Crabb's opinion, this ruling does not promote freedom, it crushes it. Americans pray voluntarily. And exercising that right together, as a willing nation, is exactly what the Founding Fathers intended. To imply otherwise is to suggest that the Constitution is unconstitutional! Religion cannot be banned in America because it was never imposed--not by the Founding Fathers, and certainly not by the National Day of Prayer.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Standing for Life

Standing for Life

Standing for Life is a new feature on our website, a new service for you. Its purpose is to unite the efforts of North Dakotans who defend life from conception to natural death, and work to end abortion. The passion of those standing for life is more vibrant today, than ever. It is as persistent and persevering as it is vibrant. And to reward this persevering, vibrant passion with success--unity in the life community is a necessity.

There is no better testament to the vibrancy of the life cause than visiting with Lydia Benton. She is young, and her passion for the unborn is absolutely astounding. Lydia represents a generation that is becoming more and more prolife. She and so many like her give us great cause for hope.

Lydia has agreed to take on the development and enhancement of the "Standing for Life" program. Lydia will continue to add to the list of North Dakota prolife organizations. By checking in on these sites periodically, you can keep yourself updated on all that is happening. To view these sites, just click in the "Standing for Life" box.

Lydia will monitor events and news from our many life partners, and post articles of interest and informational value. We hope these articles will not only serve to inform us, but to unite us in purpose.

We are excited about offering this service. We are excited about promoting unity and the benefits we believe will result for the unborn. Please share your stories, your comments.

Lydia Benton works with the NDFA on a part time basis, focusing on the life issue, church and pastor relations, and friendraising. She can be reached at


Late term abortion ban passed in Nebraska

Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act

Nebraska has passed a late term abortion ban. Many in the prolife community will applaud the effort, some will be concerned about certain legal ramifications. Nebraska is to be commended for boldly speaking and acting for the unborn.

New Abortion Law in Nebraska on Fetal Pain Could Weaken Roe v. Wade Further

by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 13, 2010

Lincoln, NE ( -- The Nebraska legislature has signed off on a bill that Governor Dave Heineman will sign today that could head to the courts and ultimately weaken further the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that has resulted in 52 million abortions. The bill bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the well-established concept of fetal pain.

By a vote of 44-5, the Nebraska unicameral legislature this morning gave final passage to the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act introduced by Speaker Mike Flood.

The legislation has been hailed by pro-life advocates across the country for its innovative approach and focusing the public's attention on unborn babies who have been medically documented as pain capable at 20 weeks gestation.

National Right to Life attorney Mary Spaulding Balch told that the bill could make its way to the Supreme Court to alter national abortion law further and set a wide-ranging precedent.

"Although it will be a case of first impression, there are strong grounds to believe that five members of the current U.S. Supreme Court would give serious consideration to Nebraska’s assertion of a compelling state interest in preserving the life of an unborn child whom substantial medical evidence indicates is capable of feeling pain during an abortion," she said.

The ban on partial-birth abortions that made its way to the Supreme Court twice brought home the pro-life message that abortion kills an unborn child and was responsible for shifting public opinion on abortion squarely into the pro-life category.

It also paved the way for states to, for the first time since Roe, ban at least some abortions.

The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act could see the same group of five members of the Supreme Court uphold it as constitutional and allow more abortions to be prohibited.

Balch says the genius of the measure is the scientific fact that unborn children can feel pain.

"By 20 weeks after fertilization, unborn children have pain receptors throughout their body, and nerves link these to the brain," she told "These unborn children recoil from painful stimulation, which also dramatically increases their release of stress hormones. Doctors performing fetal surgery at and after 20 weeks now routinely use fetal anesthesia."

The pro-life attorney rebutted the response from pro-abortion groups that unborn children cannot feel pain until later in pregnancy when nerves reach the cerebral cortex.

“Since 2007, medical research, triggered by the identification of consciousness in children lacking a cortex from birth, has indicated that nerve connection to the cortex is not essential to experience pain. In fact, informed specialists have concluded that the subcortical plate, to which nerves from the pain receptors are linking at 20 weeks, fulfills that function," she explained.

A first of its kind in the United States, the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act prohibits abortion after 20 weeks gestation except when the mother "has a condition which so complicates her medical condition as to necessitate the abortion of her pregnancy to avert death or to avert serious risk of substantial or irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function is necessary to preserve the life of an unborn child."

Ironically, Nebraska's partial-birth abortion ban led to the first Supreme Court case, in 2000, that declared the ban unconstitutional.

The high court, after member changes, came back recently and overturned that decision in a new case concerning a national partial-birth abortion ban Congress passed.

When looking at abortion case law, NRLC says it hopes a new analysis can be established that would ultimately lead to overturning Roe.

Balch says the pro-life group wants the Supreme Court to redraw the line away from the viability standard about when abortions can be prohibited.

“What I would like to bring to the attention of the court is, there is another line,” Balch said. “This new knowledge is something the court has not looked at before and should look at.”

Fetal pain is not a new concept and the leading national expert on the topic confirms unborn children definitely have the capacity to feel intense pain during an abortion.

Dr. Kanwaljeet Anand of the University of Arkansas Medical Center has said he and other specialists in development of unborn children have shown that babies feel pain before birth as early as 20 weeks into the pregnancy.

Anand said many medical studies conclude that unborn babies are "very likely" to be "extremely sensitive to pain during the gestation of 20 to 30 weeks."

"This is based on multiple lines of evidence," Dr. Anand said. "Not just the lack of descending inhibitory fibers, but also the number of receptors in the skin, the level of expression of various chemicals, neurotransmitters, receptors, and things like that."

Anand explained that later-term abortion procedures, such as a partial-birth abortion "would be likely to cause severe pain."

Dr. Jean Wright, an anesthesiologist specializing in Pediatric Critical Care Medicine, has also confirmed the existence of fetal pain during Congressional testimony.

“[A]n unborn fetus after 20 weeks of gestation, has all the prerequisite anatomy, physiology, hormones, neurotransmitters, and electrical current to close the loop and create the conditions needed to perceive pain. In a fashion similar to explaining the electrical wiring to a new house, we would explain that the circuit is complete from skin to brain and back," she said.

And Dr. Richard T.F. Schmidt, past President of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, confirms, “It can be clearly demonstrated that fetuses seek to evade certain stimuli in a manner which an infant or an adult would be interpreted as a reaction to pain.”

An April 2004 Zogby poll shows that 77% of Americans back "laws requiring that women who are 20 weeks or more along in their pregnancy be given information about fetal pain before having an abortion."

Only 16 percent disagreed with such a proposal, according to the poll, commissioned by the National Right to Life Committee.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

National Day of Prayer

"The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him" Nahum 1:7

On May 6th the 59th annual National Day of Prayer will be observed around the country, and here in North Dakota. To learn more about the national event go to . While at the NDP site you will be able to find sites where a National Day of Prayer event will be held, including those in North Dakota (also below).

Let us encourage you to take part in one of these planned events. If you live in an area where an event has not yet been planned, please consider doing so. While it may be difficult to complete the process (between now & May 6th) of officially linking to the national organization, you can organize an unofficial event. Let your prayers be lifted, and immediately after your event start the process of linking your next event to the 2011 National Day of Prayer site. Let us know and we will put you in contact with the North Dakota state NDP coordinators. Also if you are planning a prayer event this year, but not linked to the national event—let us know, and we will send out a notice via email and post on our website.

The power of prayer is awesome and undeniable. It is more powerful than any earthquake, flood, hurricane, or tsunami—or all those combined from the beginning of time. It is more powerful than any army, or navy, or all the nuclear warheads in the world. We serve a mighty God, a God of justice, the Almighty. And yet, He responds to the call of His people with love and compassion—reminiscent of the purity and beauty we would see in the face of a newborn baby. If we will only call on Him, He will heal our land. For He is good. On May 6th, and every day, let us fall on our knees and call on Him.


Start: 05/06/2010 at 07:00 PM
End: 05/06/2010 at 08:30 PM
Location: 1829 SW 8 St, Minot, ND 58701
First Presbyterian Church, 1000 3rd Street NE - Minot, ND
Contact: Zona Grubb at (701) 839-8022 or email


Start: 05/06/2010 at 12:00 pm
End: 05/06/2010 at 13:00 pm
Location: 1007 Alder Avenue, Harvey, North Dakota 58341
Contact: Pastor Fred E. Westerhold at (701) 324-2548 or email


Start: 05/06/2010 at 12:00 pm
End: 05/06/2010 at 12:55 pm
Location: 2215 East Main Avenue St.4, Bismarck, ND 58501
Memorial Hall of the State Capital, Bismarck, ND
Contact: Kari Bitz at (701) 214-8402 or email

Valley City

Start: 05/06/2010 at 12:10 pm
End: 05/06/2010 at 12:30 pm
Location: 493 Central Ave N, Valley City, ND 58072
In the lobby of the Hi-Liner Activity Center
Contact: Lucas Aufenkamp at (701) 490-1358 or email


Start: 05/06/2010 at 06:30 PM
End: 05/06/2010 at 08:00 PM
Location: 3803 13th Ave S, Fargo, ND 58103
Holiday Inn of Fargo, Harvest Room
Contact: kathy Spriggs at (701) 239-4621 or email


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