Wyoming the Latest Battleground in the Fight for Freedom of Conscience
The Honorable Ruth Neely, a municipal judge in Pinedale, Wyo., is yet another target of the ever-sweeping movement to violate the consciences of Christians.
Neely has served as a municipal judge for 21 years, hearing cases that involve traffic and parking violations, animal-control issues and miscellaneous criminal misdemeanors. For about 14 years, she has also served as a part-time circuit court magistrate. In her magistrate role, she has the authority to administer oaths and to issue subpoenas and warrants. She also is allowed—but not legally obligated—to solemnize marriages.
In December 2014—shortly after the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals declared Wyoming marriage laws unconstitutional—Neely was asked by a reporter if she was “excited” to perform same-sex marriages. She explained to the reporter that her religious convictions compel her to support only marriages between one man and one woman. She also added that if a same-sex couple were to approach her about performing a wedding ceremony, she would refer them to another officiant.
Several months later, the Wyoming Commission on Judicial Conduct and Ethics filed a complaint. This complaint alleged that Neely—apparently by stating her religious beliefs about marriage—was guilty of misconduct. The complaint also called for her removal from both judicial posts.
In response, Neely filed a petition with the Wyoming Supreme Court, opposing the commission’s proposal to remove her from either judicial post. She also filed a brief that outlines how her removal would violate the United States and Wyoming Constitutions.
In fact, the Wyoming State Constitution states clearly: “The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship without discrimination or preference shall be forever guaranteed in this state, and no person shall be rendered incompetent to hold any office of trust or profit, or to serve as a witness or juror, because of his opinion on any matter of religious belief whatever.”
Attorney James Campbell of the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom law firm, which specializes in religious freedom cases, spoke for Neely at an Aug. 17 hearing.
“This case presents significant First Amendment issues,” said Campbell to the five judges at the hearing. “In 21 years on the bench, Judge Neely has never faced allegations that she’s been unfair to anyone.”
One same-sex couple in Pinedale has spoken out against the commission’s attempt to remove Neely. “It would be obscene and offensive to discipline Judge Neely for her statement … about her religious beliefs regarding marriage,” the couple said.
A statement on the Alliance Defending Freedom website reads: “We are defending her freedom to live consistent with her deeply held religious beliefs about marriage. It is a true honor and privilege to stand beside Judge Neely and defend her constitutional freedoms.”
As of press time, a ruling on the case was pending.
Passings: John Wesley White Served BGEA 40 Years
John Wesley White, who served for 40 years as an Associate Evangelist with BGEA, passed away Sept. 4 in Toronto, Ontario. He was 87.
White, a native of Canada, was a brilliant scholar who earned a doctorate in philosophy from Oxford University. He served as a researcher for Billy Graham’s sermons, was an eloquent preacher in his own right and was instrumental in encouraging Franklin Graham to preach the Gospel.
White was convinced that Franklin had the gift of evangelism, and in 1989 he persuaded Franklin to join him in preaching at a Crusade in Juneau, Alaska. In the ensuing years, White and Franklin would hold several joint Crusades, splitting the preaching
duties in each city.
A high point for White came in 1995 when he delivered the Gospel to 65,000 men at a Promise Keepers event in Minneapolis. Some 9,000 people responded to the invitation that night.
On April 28, 1996, shortly after preaching the first meeting of a Crusade in Greeneville, Tenn., White suffered a stroke that ended his preaching days. For nine months, he could speak only one word: Jesus.
He worked tirelessly to regain more speech, and eventually he was able to speak again, though with a slight pause between each word. However, when he would quote one of the hundreds of Scripture verses he had memorized, or when he would sing a hymn, the words came freely.
To the end, he continued writing a monthly letter that recalled how God had worked in various ministry opportunities through the years and that looked at current news events through the lens of Scripture and prophecy.
White wrote more than 20 books, many of which focused on the hope of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ—the Savior he served to his final breath.
NCAA Pulls Events From N.C. Due to Bathroom Safety Law
The NCAA is trying to play hardball with North Carolina. The college athletics giant said Sept. 12 it was pulling seven championship events scheduled this year from the state due to HB2, a law aimed at preventing cities and counties from forcing businesses to offer public use of restrooms and changing facilities based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The pullout includes NCAA men’s basketball tournament games scheduled for Greensboro next March.
In July, the NBA announced it was moving its 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte to New Orleans.
The law has been dubbed the “bathroom bill” because it requires adherence to a state law that recognizes only biological gender, not gender identity, in the use of public access restrooms and locker rooms.
NCAA President Mark Emmert said the group’s aim is “a safe and respectful environment” for athletes and those attending its events.
The North Carolina Values Coalition responded: “The NCAA is guilty of extreme hypocrisy—while it bullies the people of North Carolina to allow boys in the girls’ locker rooms, showers and bathrooms, it prohibits boys from playing on the girls’ sports teams. Twenty-four states have sued the federal government over the very mandate that the NCAA is now trying to force on the people of North Carolina.”