For years, Coach Kennedy would pray quietly on the 50-yard line following his games. Then, one day, the school fired him simply for praying by himself.
Now, his case is headed to the Supreme Court, where our friends at First Liberty Institute will be defending his God-given right to pray.
This case isn’t just about Coach Kennedy, though. It’s about the right of Americans across the country – especially teachers and coaches – to be able to simply pray.
Want to show your support for Coach Kennedy and the right to pray? Here’s what you can do:
- Join us in a national day of prayer for Coach and his case.
Coach Kennedy was fired for praying on the 50-yard line. So, on Sunday April 24th, we’re calling on Americans around the country to gather on school 50-yard lines (or wherever you can) to pray for Coach, for his case, and for the freedom to pray in our country.
Invite your friends and family to join you! It’s easy with the information and free flyers at #Pray50, a joint project of Family Policy Alliance and Focus on the Family.
Plus, when you gather, be sure to share on social media by using #Pray50. Let’s show Coach Kennedy how many people are praying for him – and show the power of prayer!
- Meet Coach Kennedy!
Hear straight from Coach Kennedy and one of his lawyers at First Liberty. Learn how Coach got started praying after games (hint: he was inspired by a movie), how he got fired, what he’s learned in this process and why he’s standing up for the right to pray across the country. Plus, learn what this case could mean for you and what you can do to help protect religious freedom.
Prayer is a God-given right. No one should be fired simply for praying by themselves.
Will you join us in praying for Coach Kennedy and showing him our support?
Hope to see you soon!
Director of Strategy
It’s been a busy few months here at Family Policy Alliance of New Mexico and things are beginning to roll. Over the last few months, we have been gaining momentum that is now propelling us into what comes next, and we are excited; but we need your help!
What have we been up to?
2021 was met with many challenges as the search for an Executive Director was underway and ground that had once been gained in legislation was sadly lost as the left attacked our victories with repeals and bad policy in the 2021 legislative session. As we relaunched our New Mexico efforts in November, we set out to reconnect with many of you as well as establish new support for our vision of a New Mexico where God is honored, religious freedom flourishes, families thrive, and life is cherished.
As the year kicked off with a new legislative session, we advocated for good policy, challenged bad policy, supported allied legislators and activated like-minded New Mexicans all over our state. As the session closed, we kept moving full-steam ahead in calling out the progressive agenda of the PED’s new Social Studies curricula – and putting a plan in motion to introduce positive legislation that will protect parents’ rights in the classroom.
From a broader perspective, we know that when things happen at a federal level it sets a precedent for the states. We have, therefore, joined with many other state allies in filing an Amicus Brief with the Supreme Court of the United States to fight the Biden Vaccine Mandate, from a religious freedom standpoint, in which the court ruled in our favor.
Most recently, we have joined with many allied states again in filing an Amicus Brief with SCOTUS to support Coach Joe Kennedy and his speech and religious rights. Here’s what American Family News had to say about our brief:
Family Policy Alliance of New Mexico also filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of Kennedy.
“We all suffer when our First Amendment freedoms are violated,” said Jodi Hendricks, executive director for Family Policy Alliance of New Mexico in a statement to AFN. “A free society should not single out a person’s religious speech for unfavorable treatment.”
American Family News, “Huddle for praying coach enlarges, encourages”, March 3, 2022
We’re also seeing exciting new developments for our organization. With the full support of the national Family Policy Alliance team, we have developed a new Board of Directors and have begun the process of filing with the state as an independent non-profit New Mexico organization. This process brings us one step closer to becoming a New Mexico home-grown, operated and 100% New Mexican supported family policy group, no longer dependent on our national allies.
Where are we now and where are we going?
When we said we were here to stand strong and make a difference, we meant it! And now we need you! In order to continue to stand strong in New Mexico and for New Mexico, we need to raise the necessary funds to support our needs for what lies ahead.
In the coming months we will:
- Work diligently to become independent from national financial support
- Build our local New Mexico team
- Educate and activate New Mexicans in the coming election
- Prepare our Transparency in Education Act for the 2023 legislative session
It’s time for New Mexico to stand strong and show the Left that we will not sit back and watch as they mock our God, threaten our religious freedoms, attack the family, and devalue life. It’s time to stand, united, and kindle a movement of hope and strength for the future of the Land of Enchantment. Will you join the movement?
This week, Family Policy Alliance of New Mexico filed a Supreme Court brief in support of Coach Joseph Kennedy – because religious speech should not be singled-out for punishment in a free and diverse society.
Joe Kennedy coached football at the Bremerton School District in Washington State. At the end of each game, he would briefly pray, on his own, at the 50-yard line. Curious about what he was doing, a couple of students came to him and when they learned that he was praying, they asked if they could join. Kennedy responded, “It’s a free country, you can do what you want.” Without the coach’s prompting, more students joined in the post-game prayer and eventually students and coaches from other teams joined in as well.
Nearly half of the team had joined Coach Kennedy when the school suddenly told him that he could no longer pray publicly. Despite initially obeying the order, Kennedy believed it violated his freedoms of speech and religion and therefore, chose to return to his post-game prayer tradition – a decision that eventually cost him his job.
The school claimed that they needed to fire Coach Kennedy so that they would not be in violation of the Establishment Clause, a clause in the First Amendment that prohibits the government from “establishing” a religion. That’s the same clause twisted by the Supreme Court to rule that prayer in schools is “unconstitutional”.
The Supreme Court’s modern interpretation of the Establishment Clause has been based on the idea that religious pluralism requires neutrality. But in reality, the effect at schools like Bremerton School District has not been neutrality, but rather a singling out of only religious speech as the only speech worthy of punishment.
A school should not punish a coach for a brief prayer at the end of a football game. Our constitution does not require us to abandon our religious traditions, and the Establishment Clause does not require schools to fire a coach like Joe Kennedy. But if Coach Kennedy can be silenced, do any of us really have freedom?
We must do better! The brief that we have filed with the Supreme Court calls to question whether the Establishment Clause, created to protect our religious freedom from government involvement, trumps Coach Kennedy’s speech and religious rights to pray briefly at the 50-yard line.
Will you pray with us? Pray that the United States Supreme Court will recognize the encroachment of freedoms of both religion and speech in this case. Pray that their decision will honor the freedoms that our Founding Fathers established and that so many have given their lives to protect. Pray that religious speech will no longer be singled-out as the only speech worthy of punishment.
|“Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge,” -Acts 4:19|
The freedom of religion is a human right so fundamental that our founders preserved it as our first freedom in the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. It gives us the ability to express, act upon and honor what we believe to be spiritual truth.
As we continue to examine each aspect of the vision of Family Policy Alliance of New Mexico, we must return to an understanding of this guaranteed right and consider what happens when it is threatened. Only then can we grasp the fullness of the vision of a New Mexico where religious freedom flourishes.
In 2006, Elaine Huguenin, an Albuquerque wedding photographer, respectfully declined a request to photograph a same-sex ceremony on the basis that her participation would violate her deeply held religious beliefs regarding marriage. Although the same-sex couple was able to find another photographer, they nonetheless filed a complaint against Elaine with the Human Rights Commission, commencing years of legal action that would ultimately make it to the New Mexico Supreme Court.
In August 2013, the New Mexico Supreme Court unanimously ruled against Elaine in one of the most unusual and unprecedented rejections of religious freedom to date. In a special concurring opinion, Supreme Court Justice Richard Bosson conceded that the Court’s decision would have sobering results for people of faith, noting that Elaine and her husband were now “compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives.” Even so, Justice Bosson concurred with the Court’s decision, concluding that this compulsory compromise was “the price of citizenship” in New Mexico.
As Christians, we should be outraged by this blatant attack against the religious freedoms guaranteed to us by our U.S. and State Constitutions. A New Mexico where religious freedom flourishes would hold valuable the truth that “Nothing in the New Mexico Religious Freedom Restoration Act authorizes a government agency to burden a person’s free exercise of religion” (§ 28-22-5. Construction of Act). A person’s “free exercise of religion” “means an act or a refusal to act that is substantially motivated by religious belief” (§ 28-22-2. Definitions). Yet, the Court’s ruling in Elaine’s case did the opposite. Elaine was not afforded the fundamental right to freely exercise her beliefs.
Yes, this is happening, and, yes, we must do something about it!
At Family Policy Alliance of New Mexico, we are dedicated to preserving our freedom to believe and live out our faith. We do this by promoting public policy that protects and enhances this freedom for individuals, families, churches, organizations, and companies. At the same time, we defend against policies that would erode constitutional protections for people of faith and the entities they operate.
Friends, we need your help in protecting our freedom to believe, as well as the freedom to freely exercise our beliefs. Will you join us in preserving this fundamental right?
If so, please continue to pray for us and spread the word about our ministry. You can help spread the word right now by forwarding this message to 5 friends and asking them to subscribe to our email list.
Picture this – a New Mexico where God is honored and religious freedom flourishes. Together, let’s “unleash citizenship” and not settle for Justice Bosson’s “price of citizenship” in New Mexico.
Standing for Religious Freedom and the Family of Believers,
Tell me if you’ve heard of any of these organizations.
- Alliance Defending Freedom
- Family Research Institute
- Family Research Council
- D. James Kennedy Ministries
- American College of Pediatricians
I imagine at least one or two of these are very familiar. In fact, you may receive their publications and have perhaps donated to some of the ministries. However, they all have something in common, something far more “ominous”.
Each of these organizations has been classified as hate group. That’s right, they are grouped right alongside Westboro Baptist Church, Aryan Nations, and the Ku Klux Klan.
Southern Poverty Law Center has classified the aforementioned organizations as hate groups because they support a biblical interpretation of marriage (SPLC Hate Groups). You might ask, “who cares?” The U.S. government, that’s who. Government entities such as the military are using this list to identify potential problem groups to watch!
I find it sad to admit that it was only a matter of time. The cry for tolerance by a group can easily matriculate into intolerance by them for those who disagree with their agenda. What is even more worrisome is that others will accept these types of hate labels without critical analysis.
So, how can you be classified as part of a hate group? Apparently, all it takes is standing for your deeply held biblical values. I, my family, and many of you have been yelled at, verbally abused, and called “bigots” and “homophobes” for standing for our key biblical beliefs.
What can you do? First, love those who treat you this way. Christ loved those who hated, abused, and ultimately killed him; we can only try our best to mirror His love. Make no mistake, we have no choice in this matter.
Second, calmly try to explain that you don’t hate anyone, but simply want to be permitted to exercise your religious beliefs. After all, religious freedom was central to the founding of our country. Whether this dialogue takes place face-to-face, in letter to the editor, perhaps in a committee meeting during testimony, or in some other situation, it makes no difference. The message is the same: we don’t hate, but are also not willing to give up our religious liberties.
Finally, pray for tolerance. This is not the same as advocating for values counter to Scripture, but is telling the truth in love, while recognizing that others are entitled to their own personal beliefs.
Are these things easy? Not a chance. Are you really part of a hate group? No, but some will define you that way because you stand for your beliefs.
Christ and his followers over the centuries have endured much. If we are labeled a hate group for standing on biblical principles and if we cannot change that label through our best efforts, it’s a small price to pay for following him and standing for our deeply held beliefs.
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10
It’s not often that we hear of government bodies agreeing on a decision. But yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a UNANIMOUS judgement in favor of children and religious freedom.
What happened? Here are the facts.
The case: Fulton v. City of Philadelphia
Catholic Social Services (CSS) is a longstanding faith-based nonprofit that serves the foster children of Philadelphia. They exist to help children in need, particularly hard-to-place children, find forever homes. They have many guidelines for the families who are receiving children in their homes – including that there be a married mom and dad in the home.
Their beliefs are essential to their identity and cannot be separated from their work. But the city of Philadelphia thought otherwise.
When the city discovered CSS’s beliefs about marriage, they forced the organization to make a decision: change your beliefs, or the city will stop contracting with you.
CSS chose a third option: seek legal help.
The organization rightly recognized that this was a violation of their constitutionally protected religious freedom, and – represented by our friends at Becket Law – they took that argument to court.
After years of litigation, Catholic Social Services ultimately got their day in court before the U.S. Supreme Court last year. And today, the Justices issued their verdict: Philadelphia violated CSS’s religious freedom.
The implications: good news for children and religious freedom
This decision is good news not only for CSS, but for the many children they serve. When CSS is allowed to participate in Philadelphia’s foster care system, it not only offers a distinctly Christian option, but also increases the sheer number of foster providers – and that matters greatly.
In the U.S., more than 400,000 children in the foster system are waiting for homes. Around 4% of children are adopted within a year of entering foster care, and 85% of children in foster care have at least two placements in their first 12 months. In fact, the foster crisis is so extreme that some states are hosting foster children in hotels and office buildings because there is nowhere else to place them.
Today’s decision is a strong affirmation that foster homes like Catholic Social Services should be able to place children in loving homes while abiding by their religious convictions. Religious freedom is a precious gift afforded to all Americans. The belief that children should be in homes with a married mother and father should not be punished — and the Court affirmed that today.
The decision also reminds us of why the federal Equality Act – which could be up for a vote anytime in the Senate – is unworkable and inadvisable. The Act would redefine “sex” to include a person’s self-declared “sexual orientation and gender identity” throughout federal civil rights law. By doing that, the Act could be used to force foster and adoption agencies into similar dilemmas to Catholic Social Services – something that that the entire Supreme Court rejected today. The Equality Act would threaten religious freedom and the wellbeing of children and must be rejected.
We applaud today’s Supreme Court decision and are thankful for the work of Becket Law representing Catholic Social Services!
Policy and Communications Strategist
P.S. Want to speak out against the Equality Act? Send a message to your Senator now.
“So come, let’s attack him with our tongues and pay no attention to anything he says.” – Jeremiah 18:18b
Jeremiah, known as the weeping prophet, dared to tell the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, the hard uncomfortable truths that disrupted their echo chamber. Something was wrong – very wrong – but they did not want to hear it. A mild form of totalitarianism leveraged all their collective power against him. The priests, the prophets, the king, and his officials colluded to slander and silence the prophet. Only their words would be allowed in the marketplace of ideas. His prophecies were de-platformed for being incompatible with the approved narrative the mainstream wanted to hear. In other words, he was cancelled.
Tragically, New Jersey legislative committees are sometimes prime examples of disinterested politicians refusing to hear all sides of a policy issue. Committee hearings regularly start late, and therefore, voices registered to testify in opposition to a bill are limited to two minutes though the normal committee rules allow five minutes.
Less than two months ago, New Jersey State Senator Michael Doherty had his microphone shut off because the Chair of the Committee, Senator Teresa Ruiz, was infuriated by his defense of parents. He believed parents were motivated by love in protecting children from learning about transgenderism in kindergarten. The Chairwoman instructed the Education Committee staff to, “Mute his microphone.” It was a modern paraphrase of the biblical verse found in Jeremiah, ‘pay no attention to anything he says.’
Cancel culture, in its current form, has been gaining ground for years. First, it was academia banning conservative speakers. Then it was the mainstream media refusing to give equal time to conservative elected officials. Now it is Big Tech banning any person, organization, or ministry from stating a fact not approved by the Totalitarian state. Our friends at Focus on the Family were blocked on Twitter just last week, leading our national allies to ask – “Are We Next?”
Thankfully, there are New Jersey legislators who recognize the threat unchecked social media companies have to silence speech. Assemblyman Bob Auth, along with five co-sponsors, introduced the “Stop Social Media Censorship Act” over a year ago! The Act predated Big Tech’s flurry of bans and blocks. It creates a private right of action for users of social media websites whose political or religious speech has been deleted or censored by social media websites.
What does that mean for us? I want to encourage you to share our weekly communications through text or emails. Don’t give up on using social media to spread our message but don’t depend on it either. Analytics show that for every person who shares our post, on average 8-10 of their friends might see it. You must be proactive to use all methods of communication.
Help us each week to spread the word!
“Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance. It must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation. . .”
Ronald Reagan, Gubernatorial Inaugural Address, 1967
Religious Freedom Wins of 2020
As today is National Religious Freedom Day, we thought it would be a good idea to look back at some recent wins for religious freedom in the United States. National Religious Freedom Day is an annual observance that serves as a reminder of how important religious freedom is.
Last year, and even the beginning of 2021, have highlighted, without a doubt, how fragile our freedoms are. If you have been actively engaged, you know first-hand how Ronald Reagan’s words could not be truer. Every year, people across our nation must fight the progressive agenda to protect our religious freedoms.
2020 was no different – but it yielded many hard-fought victories from our Supreme Court.
Here are some of the highlights.
In Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the Supreme Court protected the right of private faith-based schools to receive public benefits. Espinoza struck down anti-religious Blaine Amendments that forbid tax-credits from going to private religious schools. The Court wrote religious organizations cannot be treated as second class citizens by being denied rights that apply equally to other groups. If a public benefit is widely shared, religious institutions cannot be prohibited from benefiting just because of their faith. As we continue to fight for school choice, Espinoza will ensure states cannot enact rules that discriminate against religious schools.
In Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morissey-Berru, the Court protected the right of private faith-based schools to make decisions regarding teacher employment, without government interference. Our Lady held the “ministerial exception,” (a legal principle that bars employees from suing religious employers regarding most employment decisions) also applied to teaching positions in private faith-based schools. The government must stay out of employment disputes of important positions in churches and religious institutions to preserve their religious freedoms. Justice Alito wrote that the First Amendment protects the right of religious institutions “to decide for themselves, free from state interference, matters of church government as well as those of faith and doctrine.”
Little Sisters of the Poor Sts. Peter & Paul Home v. Pennsylvania upheld the right of religious employers (like the nuns of Little Sisters) to object to the contraceptive mandate under the Affordable Care Act. This ruling ensures faith-based business owners aren’t forced to provide contraceptive coverage if it violates their religious beliefs. This victory was a direct result of the Department of Health, under the Trump Administration, explicitly passing rules to make sure religious employers maintained their religious freedom under the burdensome Affordable Care Act mandates.
Finally, Tanzin v. Tanvir made it clear religious discrimination by government officials would not be tolerated. If an individual can prove a government official discriminated (such as a federal agent placing a Muslim on the No-Fly list because they refuse to be an informant against their religious community) that individual can seek monetary damages from the government official that they might have to pay out of their personal bank account. This decision was only possible because of our legislatures passing religious freedom restoration acts (RFRA), which was the law the Supreme Court used to protect injured parties in this case. This Supreme Court decision should be a powerful deterrent for religious discrimination and make sure government officials think twice before they target an American because of their faith.
The battle to preserve our religious freedom for the next generation is being fought on a daily basis by organizations like Family Policy Alliance® who believe our constitutional freedoms are the bedrock of free society.
Though we have experienced great wins, we know a Biden Administration will work hard to roll-back some of these hard-fought freedoms. In addition to following our emails, please take a moment to check out Under God, One Nation. our new prayer initiative, where you can sign up to seek the Lord’s intervention on behalf of our nation, along with hundreds of others.
We can keep our freedoms from going extinct and preserving them for the next generation by first starting on our knees and imploring the One who granted our freedoms from the beginning.
Sign up today! Thank you for joining the fight!
“Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” -1 Peter 2:16
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett has only been on the high bench for a month and half; and yet, she has already made her mark on history by voting to uphold the religious freedom in America.
On the eve of Thanksgiving, Justice Barrett was the deciding vote in a narrow 5-4 decision which temporarily blocked New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s attendance limits in houses of worship. In the majority opinion, Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett ruled that limiting churches, synagogues, and mosques to just 10 to 25 worshippers violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.
“Members of this Court are not public health experts, and we should respect the judgment of those with special expertise and responsibility in this area. But even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten. The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty.”
In a concurring opinion, Justice Gorsuch strongly denounced the disparate treatment between houses of worship and other “essential businesses,” noting that while a large New York synagogue in the red zone would be capped at just 10 people, a small liquor store or bicycle shop in the same red zone would have no such restriction. Justice Gorsuch concluded:
“It is time—past time—to make plain that, while the pandemic poses many grave challenges, there is no world in which the Constitution tolerates color-coded executive edicts that reopen liquor stores and bike shops but shutter churches, synagogues, and mosques.”
The impact of Judge Barrett’s deciding vote and the high court’s decision in this case quickly rippled from one coast to another – from New York to California. On December 3rd, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated a federal judge’s ruling that allowed the State of California to impose harsher restrictions on worship services than comparable secular activities. The restrictions in California remain in place. However, they may not stand when the federal judge applies the new precedent.
Though questions remain about the government’s power to limit constitutional rights during a pandemic, the U.S. Supreme Court has now sent a clear message to our nation’s governors. Though the state may burden the free exercise of religion to further a compelling government interest (e.g. mitigating the spread of COVID), the state may only do so using the least restrictive means available. And under no circumstance should houses of worship be slapped with more severe restrictions than secular businesses, gatherings, and/or activities.
To all the pastors, ministry leaders, and volunteers working faithfully each week to prepare and offer a safe worship environment for your congregants – thank you! As my pastor recently shared, “It is our job to minister to the things that a vaccine cannot help…and to point people to the truth and hope we have in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
To that end, we press on!
Pastor Vince Torres
President & Executive Director
P.S. Our $25,000 year-end challenge grant is well underway, and thanks to the generosity of ministry partners like you, we are very close to meeting our goal. As of today, we have raised $20,827.
If you have not yet given, would you please consider helping us raise the remaining $4,173 today by sending a gift of $50, $100, $250, or $500?
Thank you for your faithful prayers and support!
People of faith were given something extra special to be thankful for late Thanksgiving Eve.
With Justice Barrett casting the deciding vote, the Supreme Court issued a decision stopping New York Governor Andrew Cuomo from enforcing strict 10-person or 25-person limitations for attending religious services.
Noting that the New York regulations single out houses of worship for harsher punishment, the Court gave an equally harsh rebuke to the state and Governor Cuomo:
“But even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten. The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty.”
In other words, the Court reminded New York that the Constitution still matters.
As you celebrate this Thanksgiving, we know that as believers, we have much to be thankful for—even during a difficult year. Please join us in adding President Trump’s nomination and the Senate’s confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to our prayers of thanksgiving this year—as well as this strong decision from the Court reminding politicians that religious freedom is not “optional” under the Constitution.
Vice President, Strategy