(Photo: REUTERS/Jim Bourg)
A group of conservative leaders have sent a letter to a congressman demanding an apology for an apparent effort to silence religious liberty concerns.
The letter, sent on Tuesday to the office of Congressman Robert E. Andrews (D-NJ, 1st District), was in regards to remarks the representative made during a subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, Sept. 12. During the joint hearing, which involved issues of religious liberty in higher education, Rep. Andrews called the proceedings "premature" and "counterproductive."
"During a September 12th subcommittee hearing on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and higher education, you displayed great insensitivity to the serious concerns of Christians and other people of faith," reads the letter.
"On behalf of our constituents and all people of faith, we ask for your apology and for a clarification of your position on the NLRB's violations of the First Amendment and harassment of religious educators."
William J. Murray, chairman of the Religious Freedom Coalition and son of the infamous atheist activist Madalyn Murray O'Hair, was one of the signatories.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Murray explained that he believed there was a hypocrisy regarding religious sensitivity at the federal level.
"The president of the United States is currently paying for advertisements running on Pakistani TV apologizing for the alleged insult to Muhammad by an American citizen," said Murray.
"Yet it appears that anyone can use just about any reference or phrase that may be insulting to Christians or even anti-Semitic with no concern for a rebuke from either our government or the media. I signed this letter to Andrews because it is time those who offend Christians are notified of it."
On Sept. 12, the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions and the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training held a joint hearing on issues pertaining to the efforts of the National Labor Relations Board to expand unionization at the higher education level, including graduate student assistants and faculty at religious colleges.
According to Peter Schmidt of the Chronicle of Higher Education, during the heated meeting the NLRB was denounced by some congressmen over their refusing to grant three Catholic colleges exemption from their oversight efforts.
The three academic institutes were Duquesne University of Pennsylvania, Manhattan College of New York, and Saint Xavier University of Illinois. The NLRB, which was tried in absentia at the joint hearing, had previously reasoned that the three colleges while Catholic in orientation did not fit the definition of a religious college as outlined in NLRB v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago, 440 U.S. 490 (1979).
"The NRLB has taken it upon itself to define religion and what is and what is or is not a religious practice," said Murray.
"Is it right or proper for the NRLB to decide if an organization loses its religious character when it prints Christmas cards for sale to the public? Looking closely at the NRLB's practices and definitions this is not farfetched."
In his remarks, Rep. Andrews reasoned that since the NLRB had yet to act upon the decisions being debated at the joint hearing, the joint hearing was "premature" and agenda-driven.
In addition to Murray, those who signed the letter included Gary Bauer, president of Americans Values; John F. Kippley, president of Natural Family Planning International; Dr. William A. Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights; and Tom McClusky, senior vice president of Family Research Council Action.
Neither the office of Congressman Robert Andrews nor the National Labor Relations Board returned comment by press time.