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February 26, 2009

Court Sides with Montana Church over Free Speech

The free speech rights of a Montana church were violated when it was told to register as a political committee after hosting an anti-gay marriage event in 2004, an appeals court ruled Wednesday.

The decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals about Canyon Ferry Road Baptist Church in East Helena, Mont., overturned a lower court decision.

The church participated in a "Battle for Marriage" satellite simulcast in 2004 and distributed petitions in support of a successful initiative to define marriage as a union of one man and one woman in Montana's constitution.

"We conclude that, by applying its disclosure provisions to the church's (minor) in-kind contributions in the context of a state ballot initiative, the commission violated the church's First Amendment rights," wrote Judge William C. Canby Jr.

In a concurring opinion, Judge John T. Noonan wrote that "An unregulated, unregistered press is important to our democracy. So are unregulated, unregistered churches."

Dale Schowengerdt, a lawyer with the Alliance Defense Fund who
represented the church, welcomed the decision.

"Churches shouldn't be penalized for expressing their beliefs," he said.

Comments

I would like to take this marriage issue a step further. Bearing in mind the so-called 'Separation of Church and State,' the government has no right to perform what is absolutely a prerogative of the Church. Marriage is an institution of God, ordained and sanctioned by Him. He performed the very first marriage.

Marriage is God's design and plan, not the state's. Therefore justices of the peace and others have no right to perform marriages for anyone. Neither do they have the right to make laws about marriage. For too long the states have interfered in what is a function of the Church. It is only the hypocrisy of some, and the lack of action by Christians that this problem continues.