Legal fights unfold over taxes, a bench, and right to pray

Monday, December 19, 2016
Charlie Butts, Billy Davis (

gavel with Bible 2Atheist groups are up in arms over a park bench in Pennsylvania and an inner-city preacher in Chicago.

Bishop Ed Peecher of Chicago Embassy Church ministers in the crime-ridden and gang-infested South Side of Chicago.

He also lives in a nearby town and receives a housing allowance, which is being challenged by atheist group Freedom from Religion Foundation.

Peecher and Embassy Church are represented by Becket Fund attorney Hannah Smith.

A review of the Peecher lawsuit, by a tax expert writing at, reports the atheist group is fighting a tax code in which there is no cap limit for anyone identified as a "minister of the gospel." That allows both wealthy televangelists and inner-city preachers to escape a portion of their income taxes.

According to Smith, "it just makes sense that if your employer needs an employee to live close by, the government shouldn't penalize you for getting that housing allowance." 

In Oil City, Pennsylvania, a park bench that's part of a Veterans of Foreign Wars memorial has raised the ire of a second atheist group, American Atheists.

The bench is inscribed with a quote from William Penn, the famous 16th century Quaker and founder of present-day Pennsylvania. "Men must be governed by God or they will be ruled by tyrants," reads the bench, which was donated by the VFW to the city in 2003 for use in its Justus Park.

Liberty Counsel attorney Mat Staver tells OneNewsNow he has written to Oil City's mayor, William Moon, to explain that a historic quote on a bench doesn't violate the Establishment Clause as the atheists claim.  

"We're not going to rewrite American history and the foundation of this country," Staver complains, "just to satisfy this American Atheist organization."

 But the city government, fearing a lawsuit, seems to have caved. TV news station KDKA reported Dec. 2 that the city agreed to remove the bench at the request of the atheist group, which stated it will suggest an appropriate quote for the VFW that meets its non-Establishment-Clause-violating standards.

The head of the VFW vowed in November to fight the atheist group, calling its written demand to remove the bench "insane."

A third legal fight is unfolding in Kansas, where First Liberty Institute is representing a woman who claims police violated her constitutional right to pray when they entered her home.

Louisburg police entered the home of Mary Anne Sause in 2013 after receiving a complaint about loud music. Sause claims police officers ordered her to stop praying and cruelly told her the First Amendment allows her only to choose a religion, not express her faith. 

Sause represented herself in her initial claim, World Net Daily reported, and now First Liberty is appealing the case to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.  

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