Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) wanted to leave no doubt about his position when the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) asked him to stop putting Bible verses on his official Facebook page.
“The Freedom from Religion Foundation has demanded that I stop sharing Bible verses with you. The Left won’t bully me into canceling Christianity. Their request is denied,” Cassidy wrote in a tweet on Sept. 1.
“Our constitution says we have freedom of religion, not freedom from religion,” Cassidy said during a telephone interview with The Epoch Times from Louisiana on Sept. 2. “They want for themselves freedom from religion and therefore, cancel everybody else’s freedom of religion.”
He pointed to what he described as “the cancel culture” as a negative influence on the country’s daily political discourse.
“One thing I think we have got to cancel is the cancel culture,” Cassidy said. “The idea that our fellow Americans cannot live freely because somebody is triggered by whatever, it’s just too much.”
The Louisiana Republican, who’s a medical doctor, was responding to an Aug. 14 letter he received from FFRF’s co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor.
“A concerned Louisiana resident contacted FFRF to report that every Sunday, bible verses are posted to your official government Facebook page. Please see the enclosed screenshots,” the letter states.
“We write to request that you refrain from posting messages that proselytize or endorse religion on your official government social media accounts. When a government official uses his elected office, including governmental platforms such as an official Facebook page, to promote his personal religious beliefs, he violates the spirit of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”
Barker and Gaylor head a nonprofit foundation that claims to have 32,000 members. The foundation’s purpose is “to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to non-theism,” the two said in their letter.
“The Supreme Court has long held that the Establishment Clause ‘mandates government neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion.’ Your office violates this constitutional mandate when it proselytizes the Christian faith to all constituents, such as directing them to ‘Trust in the Lord.’”
But a top official with a Texas-based legal institute that specializes in First Amendment litigation disagreed.
“Once again, the FFRF is wrong on the law,” First Liberty Institute General Counsel Mike Berry told The Epoch Times on Sept. 2.
“Americans do not give up their religious freedom just because they are elected to office. But what is truly outrageous is that the FFRF would choose to target Senator Cassidy for expressing a message of peace and hope,” Berry said. “This proves that the FFRF is not interested in anything other than erasing the freedoms we enjoy as Americans.”
The Plano, Texas-based institute currently has dozens of active cases at all levels of government in which its attorneys are arguing on behalf of churches, private schools, individual public employees, and private individuals whose First Amendment right to freedom of religious practice is threatened or has been compromised.
The institute won a 7–2 Supreme Court decision in June 2019 protecting the Bladensburg Peace Cross erected in Bladensburg, Maryland, as a memorial to 49 local men who as members of the U.S. military died during World War I.
“This is a landmark victory for religious freedom. The days of illegitimately weaponizing the Establishment Clause and attacking religious symbols in public are over,” the institute’s president, Kelly Shackelford, said in a statement when the decision was announced.
“Our Founders would have been appalled at this attempt to make the government hostile to our religious heritage, history, and symbols. The attempted perversion of our Constitution is now over, and every American now has more freedom than they have had in decades, with a government no longer hostile to people or expressions of faith.”
Earlier this year, the institute also gained a major victory when U.S. Navy officials revised a controversial policy that barred active service members from attending in-service religious services. The change was prompted by the institute’s efforts on behalf of a group of active-duty Navy officers.
“This is a major victory for the Constitution and for religious freedom within our military. This means tens of thousands of our brave service members will be able to safely and freely exercise their religious beliefs,” Berry said in a statement about the Navy’s change in policy.
Contact Mark Tapscott at Mark.Tapscott@epochtimes.nyc