- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 13, 2013

Standing up for personal religious views is leading to trouble with authorities, several Christians said Saturday at a conference on faith and family values.

Audrey Jarvis, a student at Sonoma State University in California, said she was asked by a teacher to take off her cross necklace when she was working at a student orientation event.

When she declined, the teacher asked her to at least hide it.

The requests, which were made publicly, were “very demeaning and embarrassing,” Ms. Jarvis said this weekend in Washington at the Values Voter Summit, sponsored by several organizations including the Family Research Council.

Ms. Jarvis said she “refused to sit down or be quiet” and, with the help of the Liberty Institute in Texas, she received an apology from the university.

These kinds of violations of First Amendment protections and religious liberties are not isolated, said Jeff Mateer, general counsel of the Liberty Institute.

In another Texas town, he said, school officials who had received a letter from a Wisconsin group called Freedom From Religion Foundation told cheerleaders to stop using banners with words from Bible verses.

The Kountze High School cheerleaders sued, saying they had rights to free speech and religious liberty, and a judge ruled in their favor, Mr. Mateer said. But school officials have “dug in” and are appealing the ruling.

The Survey of Religious Hostility in America has found about 1,200 current incidents of religious persecution — about twice as many as last year, the Liberty Institute and the Family Research Council said in a report.

The survey tallies challenges to public prayer in schools and in public events, efforts to remove crosses on veterans memorials, and rejection of public displays of Nativity scenes and the Ten Commandments. It also includes cases in which companies with religious convictions are forced to abide by health care rules that require coverage for “abortion-inducing” products.

Former Fox football analyst Craig James, who has been outspoken about his Christian faith, told the annual summit that he was dropped from his job suddenly because “corporate” leaders didn’t like some words he said more than a year ago while campaigning for a public office.

Mr. James recalled that he said he believed marriage between one man and one woman is ordained by God, and they “held it against me.”

On a separate panel on religion and the military, U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Phillip Monk, who spoke as a private citizen, said he was improperly sanctioned over the gay-marriage issue.

In earlier sessions, speakers urged Americans to stand up for traditional values of life, freedom and personal responsibility.

If tea party Republicans and Christians would just give up their God, give up their guns and, of course, give up their disapproval of gays, “then maybe, just maybe, the national comedians will stop mocking you and the national news will just ignore you rather than try to destroy you,” said Star Parker, founder of the Center for Urban Renewal and Education.

But these are just “lies of the left,” she said, adding that liberal welfare policies that devalue fathers, marriage and work have caused decades of harm to families and communities.

Lila Rose, president of Live Action, told the audience of nearly 2,000 to not stop fighting for the protection of the unborn.

“The culture of life is the most important human rights issue of our day,” and young people are getting that message, she said.

• Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.

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