Faithandthelaw's Blog

The law as it relates to Christians and their free exercise of religion

City of Houston demands pastors turn over sermons

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on October 15, 2014

Annise-ParkerThe city of Houston has issued subpoenas demanding a group of pastors turn over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the city’s first openly lesbian mayor. And those ministers who fail to comply could be held in contempt of court.

“The city’s subpoena of sermons and other pastoral communications is both needless and unprecedented,” Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Christina Holcomb said in a statement. “The city council and its attorneys are engaging in an inquisition designed to stifle any critique of its actions.”

ADF, a nationally-known law firm specializing in religious liberty cases, is representing five Houston pastors. They filed a motion in Harris County court to stop the subpoenas arguing they are “overbroad, unduly burdensome, harassing, and vexatious.”

“Political and social commentary is not a crime,” Holcomb said. “It is protected by the First Amendment.”

The subpoenas are just the latest twist in an ongoing saga over the Houston’s new non-discrimination ordinance. The law, among other things, would allow men to use the ladies room and vice versa. The city council approved the law in June.

The Houston Chronicle reported opponents of the ordinance launched a petition drive that generated more than 50,000 signatures – far more than the 17,269 needed to put a referendum on the ballot.

However, the city threw out the petition in August over alleged irregularities.

After opponents of the bathroom bill filed a lawsuit the city’s attorneys responded by issuing the subpoenas against the pastors.

The pastors were not part of the lawsuit. However, they were part of a coalition of some 400 Houston-area churches that opposed the ordinance. The churches represent a number of faith groups – from Southern Baptist to non-denominational.

“City council members are supposed to be public servants, not ‘Big Brother’ overlords who will tolerate no dissent or challenge,” said ADF attorney Erik Stanley. “This is designed to intimidate pastors.”

Mayor Parker will not explain why she wants to inspect the sermons. I contacted City Hall for a comment and received a terse reply from the mayor’s director of communications.

“We don’t comment on litigation,” said Janice Evans.

However, ADF attorney Stanley suspects the mayor wants to publicly shame the ministers. He said he anticipates they will hold up their sermons for public scrutiny. In other words – the city is rummaging for evidence to “out” the pastors as anti-gay bigots.

Among those slapped with a subpoena is Steve Riggle, the senior pastor of Grace Community Church. He was ordered to produce all speeches and sermons related to Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality and gender identity.

The mega-church pastor was also ordered to hand over “all communications with members of your congregation” regarding the non-discrimination law.

“This is an attempt to chill pastors from speaking to the cultural issues of the day,” Riggle told me. “The mayor would like to silence our voice. She’s a bully.”

Rev. Dave Welch, executive director of the Texas Pastor Council, also received a subpoena. He said he will not be intimidated by the mayor.

“We’re not afraid of this bully,” he said. “We’re not intimidated at all.”

He accused the city of violating the law with the subpoenas and vowed to stand firm in the faith.

“We are not going to yield our First Amendment rights,” Welch told me. ‘This is absolutely a complete abuse of authority.”

Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council, said pastors around the nation should rally around the Houston ministers.

“The state is breaching the wall of separation between church and state,” Perkins told me. ‘Pastors need to step forward and challenge this across the country. I’d like to see literally thousands of pastors after they read this story begin to challenge government authorities – to dare them to come into their churches and demand their sermons.”

Perkins called the actions by Houston’s mayor “obscene” and said they “should not be tolerated.”

“This is a shot across the bow of the church,” he said.

This is the moment I wrote about in my book, “God Less America.” I predicted that the government would one day try to silence American pastors. I warned that under the guise of “tolerance and diversity” elected officials would attempt to deconstruct religious liberty.

Sadly, that day arrived sooner than even I expected.

Tony Perkins is absolutely right. Now is the time for pastors and people of faith to take a stand. We must rise up and reject this despicable strong-arm attack on religious liberty. We cannot allow ministers to be intimidated by government thugs.

The pastors I spoke to tell me they will not comply with the subpoena – putting them at risk for a “fine or confinement, or both.”

Heaven forbid that should happen. But if it does, Christians across America should be willing to descend en masse upon Houston and join these brave men of God behind bars.

Pastor Welch compared the culture war skirmish to the 1836 Battle of San Jacinto, fought in present-day Harris County, Texas. It was a decisive battle of the Texas Revolution.

“This is the San Jacinto moment for traditional family,” Welch told me. “This is the place where we stop the LGBT assault on the freedom to practice our faith.”

We can no longer remain silent. We must stand together – because one day – the government might come for your pastor.

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University of South Alabama Restricts Freedom of Speech

Posted by faithandthelaw on August 25, 2014

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MOBILE, Ala. — Alliance Defending Freedom filed an amended complaint Friday in a pro-life student organization’s lawsuit against the University of South Alabama.

The university relegated the group’s pro-life display to a small speech zone on campus because it deemed the nature of the event “controversial.” Under the university’s policies, students must also obtain a permit 72 hours in advance in order to use the speech zone.

“Universities are supposed to be the marketplace of ideas,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Hacker. “Free speech should not be censored or limited to a ridiculously small area on campus, nor should students need permission to exercise their constitutionally protected freedom of speech. The First Amendment protects speech for all students in the outdoor areas of campus, regardless of their religious or political beliefs.”

Last October, Students for Life USA requested permission to a hold a “Cemetery of the Innocents” event, which consists of students placing small crosses in the ground to represent the innocent lives lost to abortion. University officials denied the request and said it would need to be held in the campus’s speech zone, even though other groups have exercised free speech on other portions of the campus. At the time, the speech zone was restricted to the Student Center, which was less than one percent of the college’s main campus. Although the university has since expanded its speech zone, it still restricts speech throughout the campus.

The lawsuit, Students for Life USA v. Waldrop, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, explains that the university’s speech policy violates the First Amendment and gives university officials “unbridled discretionary power to limit student speech in advance of such expression on campus and to do so based on the content and viewpoint of the speech.”

“Free, spontaneous discourse on college campuses is supposed to be a hallmark of higher education rather than the exception to the rule,” added ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “We hope that the University of South Alabama will revise its policy so that its students can exercise their constitutionally protected freedoms.”

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The Greater Need for Spiritual Liberty: Freedom From Every Form of Captivity

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on July 4, 2014

By Tim Rowe

Our country is in desperate need for the spiritual sons and daughters of liberty to once again rise up in the spirit of sacrifice and bravery that this country was founded upon and move forward for God with a relentless passion to bring spiritual liberty to our land. We are called of God to go forth to a dying world and open their eyes, turning them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God and offer them a place of honor among the sanctified.

The clarion call that heralded forth the ministry of Jesus Christ should ring loudly in our soul.

Luke 4:18 (Message Bible)

God’s Spirit is on me; he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor, Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, To set the burdened and battered free, to announce, “This is God’s year to act!”

The times are desperate. The times are urgent. The times are perilous. The sons and daughter of liberty must act now and go forth led by their glorious Lord into the valley of human need and set the captive soul free and bring His salvation, power and glory into every town, city and state. We must crush the idols of the heart and shine as lights in the darkness of this world as we hold forth the Word of Life. We all have a sphere of influence that we live in and thus we should begin our work as ambassadors for Christ in our homes, our families, our neighborhood, our jobs, and our communities and then branch out from there.

In the 1760’s, during the years right before the Revolutionary War, a group of brave men formed the Sons of Liberty to resist the unjust actions of the British Empire and move toward independence. They were bold in the face of impossible odds and spoke out of a heart that had a deep passion for liberty as a God given right. They were often just ordinary men, but the energy of their conviction gave them a great position of importance in the founding of this country.

Ray Steadman-Spiritual Warfare

God has issued to each of us a bugle call to intelligent combat. It is a call to us to be men and women of God, to fight the good fight, to stand fast in the faith, to be strong in the Lord in the midst of the battle, in the midst of this dark and evil world.Those who ignore this call and the battle that rages around them are doomed to be casualties. We cannot remain neutral. We must choose sides. We must align ourselves with the forces of God, the forces of good. We must answer the bugle call, we must put on our armor and stand our ground or the battle will roll over us and in our defenseless, bewildered state, the forces of evil will trample us into the dust of the battlefield.

It comes as a shock to the new believer that the Christian life is a battleground and not a playground. We are at war.

The truth is that very few Christians grasp the value and necessity of spiritual combat.

“The Lord is a warrior” (Exodus 15:3):

The Lord will go forth like a warrior,

He will arouse His zeal like a man of war.

He will utter a shout, yes, He will raise a war cry.

He will prevail against His enemies. (Isaiah 42:13)

Warrior, hear the Lord’s marching orders for your life: “Prepare a war; rouse the mighty men! Let all the soldiers draw near, let them come up! Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, ‘I am a mighty man’ “(Joel 3:9-10).

We must approach our service as sons and daughters of spiritual liberty and our position on the front lines of battle with great zeal, passion, fervor and excitement. How exciting to be called into the service of our God!

Romans 12:11 (NIV): Never be lacking in zeal. Keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

Amplified: Never lag in zeal and earnest endeavor; be aglow and burning with the Spirit, serving the Lord.

When 56 brave men stood forth with great passion and committed an act of high treason by signing the Declaration of Independence, they were signing their own death warrant.

Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons in the Revolutionary Army, another had two sons captured. Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or the hardships of the Revolutionary War.

What kind of men were they? Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners, men of means, well educated. But they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured.

They signed and they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.

Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.

Vandals or soldiers or both, looted the properties of Ellery, Clymer, Hall, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton.

At the Battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson Jr., noted that the British General Cornwallis, had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. The owner quietly urged General George Washington to open fire, which was done. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.

Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months.

John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his grist mill were laid waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home after the war to find his wife dead, his children vanished. A few weeks later he died from exhaustion and a broken heart.

Norris and Livingston suffered similar fates.

Such were the stories and sacrifices of the American Revolution. These were not wild-eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians. There were soft-spoken men of means and education. They had security, but they valued liberty more. Standing tall, straight, and unwavering, they pledged: “For the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of the Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

What has the gospel cost you? Has our level of sacrifice for the gospel even come close to the sacrifice of these 56 signers who we celebrate today for without their incredible act of courage, there would be no United States of America.

52 of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence were devout, committed Christians and the other four believed the Bible to be divine truth and believed in the God of Scripture. Immediately after the Declaration was signed, Continental Congress ordered 20,000 Bible for the people of this nation.

As the 56 signers of Declaration were critical to the founding of the United States of America, we are critical to the healing of our land which is full of idols and whose heart has turned away from God on so many levels.

II Chronicles 7:14 (NIV) if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

We must first call upon God, humble ourselves, turn from all wicked ways or sins in our heart, pray and seek God’s face, then He can move in the great task of healing our land.

I Timothy 2:1-4 (NIV): I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 2for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

A spiritual warrior must first establish his heart toward God. Beloved, hear the heart of our Lord beckoning you to union with Him in every corner of your soul This is a commitment that must charge out of our hearts and mouth at the dawn of every new day. Joshua, at the end of his long life of faithful service to God, still renewed this commitment, “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). In Nehemiah 12, we read of the walls of Jerusalem being dedicated with gladness and hymns of thanksgiving. The warrior must joyfully dedicate all that he is to all that God is. Before we count ourselves as warriors, let us check our foundation for the marks of true dedication. These marks are gladness, thanksgiving and zeal to follow the Lord of Hosts wherever He may lead.

“WHEN YOU GO OUT TO BATTLE”

DEUTERONOMY 20:1

The Deuteronomy passage is clear. Before we can be warriors for God, we must be established as lovers of God. “So take diligent heed to yourselves to love the Lord your God” (Joshua 23:11). Purpose in your soul right now to draw your heart to God before you draw your sword for Him.

We can sleep when we get to heaven. We should move, push and go forward with great devotion like an athlete to point of agony. That is the commitment required to live as a Christian. When are you going to pull out all the stops and burn for God and the Lord Jesus Christ? When is God going to be your love, your passion, when is he going to be the excitement of your being. When is He going to be your living experience?

Don’t just play it safe your whole life. Look at Matthew 25 and the parable of the talents. Do you think Jesus was trying to tell us something?

Bolt out of every oppressive circumstance and draw strength from your God by desperate prayer and fierce devotion. Don’t be weighed down by yesterday’s failures or tomorrow’s burdens.

So often our heart cries out: I AM NOT THE ONE, THIS IS NOT THE PLACE, NOW IS NOT THE TIME. Yet this is not true, as you are the one, this is the place, now is the time. God needs you desperately on the battlefield. We should take to the heart the words of God uttered by the King David:

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,

My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge;

My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. . . .

For by Thee I can run upon a troop;

And by my God I can leap over a wall…. He trains my hands for battle,

So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze…. I pursued my enemies and overtook them,

And I did not turn back until they were consumed.

I shattered them, so that they were not able to rise; They fell under my feet.

For thou hast girded me with strength for battle;

Thou hast subdued under me those who rose up against me.

(Psalm 18:2, 29, 34, 37-39)

This July Fourth let’s take more to heart then simply fireworks, food, and time off of work. Our heart and soul should take strong note of the words of a son of liberty and patriot at one of the most trying times at the dawning of America. Imagine these words bursting forth from the pulpit at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia on March 23, 1775.

They tell us, sir, that we are weak — unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance, by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot?

Sir, we are not weak, if we make a proper use of the means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us.

The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable — and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come!

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, “Peace! Peace!” — but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!

Patrick Henry – March 23, 1775

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Colleges and Evangelicals Collide on Bias Policy

Posted by faithandthelaw on June 10, 2014

BRUNSWICK, Me. — For 40 years, evangelicals at Bowdoin College have gathered periodically to study the Bible together, to pray and to worship. They are a tiny minority on the liberal arts college campus, but they have been a part of the school’s community, gathering in the chapel, the dining center, the dorms.

After this summer, the Bowdoin Christian Fellowship will no longer be recognized by the college. Already, the college has disabled the electronic key cards of the group’s longtime volunteer advisers.

In a collision between religious freedom and antidiscrimination policies, the student group, and its advisers, have refused to agree to the college’s demand that any student, regardless of his or her religious beliefs, should be able to run for election as a leader of any group, including the Christian association.

Similar conflicts are playing out on a handful of campuses around the country, driven by the universities’ desire to rid their campuses of bias, particularly against gay men and lesbians, but also, in the eyes of evangelicals, fueled by a discomfort in academia with conservative forms of Christianity. The universities have been emboldened to regulate religious groups by a Supreme Court ruling in 2010 that found it was constitutional for a public law school in California to deny recognition to a Christian student group that excluded gays.

Reid Wilson, left, and Zackary Suhr, who have graduated, were part of the group.CreditKatherine Taylor for The New York Times

At Cal State, the nation’s largest university system with nearly 450,000 students on 23 campuses, the chancellor is preparing this summer to withdraw official recognition from evangelical groups that are refusing to pledge not to discriminate on the basis of religion in the selection of their leaders. And at Vanderbilt, more than a dozen groups, most of them evangelical but one of them Catholic, have already lost their official standing over the same issue; one Christian group balked after a university official asked the students to cut the words “personal commitment to Jesus Christ” from their list of qualifications for leadership.

At most universities that have begun requiring religious groups to sign nondiscrimination policies, Jewish, Muslim, Catholic and mainline Protestant groups have agreed, saying they do not discriminate and do not anticipate that the new policies will cause problems. Hillel, the largest Jewish student organization, says some chapters have even elected non-Jews to student boards.

The evangelical groups say they, too, welcome anyone to participate in their activities, including gay men and lesbians, as well as nonbelievers, seekers and adherents of other faiths. But they insist that, in choosing leaders, who often oversee Bible study and prayer services, it is only reasonable that they be allowed to require some basic Christian faith — in most cases, an explicit agreement that Jesus was divine and rose from the dead, and often an implicit expectation that unmarried student leaders, gay or straight, will abstain from sex.

“It would compromise our ability to be who we are as Christians if we can’t hold our leaders to some sort of doctrinal standard,” said Zackary Suhr, 23, who has just graduated from Bowdoin, where he was a leader of the Bowdoin Christian Fellowship.

The consequences for evangelical groups that refuse to agree to the nondiscrimination policies, and therefore lose their official standing, vary by campus. The students can still meet informally on campus, but in most cases their groups lose access to student activity fee money as well as first claim to low-cost or free university spaces for meetings and worship; they also lose access to standard on-campus recruiting tools, such as activities fairs and bulletin boards, and may lose the right to use the universities’ names.

“It’s absurd,” said Alec Hill, the president of InterVarsity, a national association of evangelical student groups, including the Bowdoin Christian Fellowship. “The genius of American culture is that we allow voluntary, self-identified organizations to form, and that’s what our student groups are.”

Some institutions, including the University of Florida, the University of Houston, the University of Minnesota and the University of Texas, have opted to exempt religious groups from nondiscrimination policies, according to the Christian Legal Society. But evangelical groups have lost official status at Tufts University, the State University of New York at Buffalo and Rollins College in Florida, among others, and their advocates are worried that Cal State could be a tipping point.

The Bowdoin group has about 45 people on its mailing list, including 25 regular participants, on a campus of 1,800 students. The group notes that its participants, young people still figuring out where they stand on many subjects, have varying views on issues like same-sex marriage.

Around the country, a number of colleges and universities are asking all student groups to agree they won’t discriminate, on any basis, in the selection of their members or leaders. Evangelical groups are balking, saying they have to be able to demand Christian faith of their leaders.CreditKatherine Taylor for The New York Times

A few weeks ago, the Bowdoin group gathered for a final dinner at the Center for Multicultural and Spiritual Life at the college, thanking not only the graduating seniors, but also Robert and Sim Gregory, who volunteered with Bowdoin for a decade but are no longer recognized as advisers.

The students, who plan to meet informally in the fall and may seek an off-campus site for worship, are bewildered by the turn of events. “We can’t discriminate on religion, and we’re a religious group!” exclaimed Olivia Cannon, 18, a Bowdoin student.

Reid Wilson, 23, a leader of the group who has since graduated, rued the turn of events. “It’s hard socially to find people on this campus who make faith a strong part of their identity — people who really understand me and who I can really be open with,” he said. “This group has been a tremendous resource for me.”

Bowdoin officials say they, too, are disappointed.

“I want them on campus, because it’s a sanctuary for many of our conservative evangelical students — Bowdoin has accepted these students, and they need a place, and they need to have their faith challenged,” said the Rev. Robert Ives, a United Church of Christ minister who is the director ofreligious and spiritual life at Bowdoin. “But every organization has to be open to every student, and every position of leadership has to be open to any individual, without discrimination.”

At Cal State, evangelicals are facing a similar conundrum. “We’re not willing to water down our beliefs in order to be accepted,” said Austin Weatherby, 20, a Cal State Chico student. He sometimes leads Bible study, and said he had to agree that he believes in the Holy Trinity and the Resurrection to do so. “Anyone can join, but if you want to lead a Bible study, you need to believe these things,” he said.

Cal State officials insist that they welcome evangelicals, but want them to agree to the same policies as everyone else. “Lots of evangelical groups are thriving on our campuses,” said Susan Westover, a lawyer for the California State University System. However, she said, there will be no exceptions from the antidiscrimination requirements. “Our mission is education, not exclusivity,” she said.

At Vanderbilt, the decision to push groups to sign antidiscrimination policies was prompted by a Christian fraternity’s expulsion of a member who came out as gay. About one-third of the 35 religious groups on campus have refused to sign and are no longer recognized by the school; they can still meet and recruit informally, and the campus Hillel has even opened its building for meetings of one of the Christian groups.

“I am hopeful for a better future, but I’m not naïve, there are some issues that are irresolvable,” said the Vanderbilt chaplain, the Rev. Mark Forrester, who is a United Methodist minister. “This is a larger social and ethical struggle that we as a society are engaged in.”

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Where is the Churchill of our Generation?

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on May 9, 2014

Last week, the British Press reported that fast food giant Subway has removed ham and bacon from 200 outlets, and switched to preparing meat according to halal (Muslim) rules, to please its Muslim customers.  This means that after the butcher shouts “Allah Akbar,” he slaughters the animal by slitting its throat and windpipe causing it to bleed to death.

How would Winston Churchill have reacted to the news?
Winston Churchill referring to Islam, in 1889, wrote, “No stronger retrograde force exists in the world.”  And at the 1921 Cairo Conference, commented:  “They hold it as an article of duty, as well as of faith, to kill all who do not share their opinions and to make slaves of their wives and children … Austere, intolerant, well armed, and bloodthirsty.”

The Ottoman Empire aligned itself with Germany in WWI and declared jihad against France and Great Britain.   Just a few decades later, Muslims of the Middle East again aligned with Germany against the West.  The Grand Mufti of Arab Palestine al-Husseini served as a Nazi propagandist, encouraging Muslims in Europe to lead armed revolts and attacks on Allied interests.

Churchill took the lead in warning about Nazi Germany. His steadfast refusal to surrender inspired the British resistance to Hitler during the difficult early days of the War when Britain stood alone.  For his wisdom and courage as a defender of freedom, Churchill was the first person to be made an honorary citizen of the United States.

Fortunately, in WWI and WWII our military might defeated German and Muslim alliances.

However—TODAY— dominance over the West is once again the focus of Radical Islam. The tactics are subtler than all-out military conflict, and appear to be more successful.  It is a stealth jihad waged within our borders that takes advantage of the dominance of political correctness in a sea of indifference to the dangers radical Islam poses:

  • Last month, a UK politician was arrested for and charged with a racially aggravated crime after quoting Churchill’s criticism of Islam in a speech;
  • Britain’s the Law Society released guidelines for drafting Sharia compliant legal contracts.
  • In 2011, a report documented the rise of Europe’s “no-go” zones, many of which “function as microstates governed by Islamic Sharia law.” Included in the report were the 751 sensitive urban zones across France where the French government has completely lost control. “No-go” zones are also present in Germany, Norway, Sweden, Italy, Belgium, and the Netherlands.
But, bowing to Islam isn’t just confined to Europe. It’s occurring here in the US as well.

For instance, through the continuous capitulation to the demands of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and other pro- Islamic groups, any criticism of Islam is deemed offensive and banned:

  • The University of Michigan cancelled a screening of a documentary entitled “Honor Diaries”(video) which details the truth about the brutal violence against women perpetrated in the name of Islam.
  • Brandies University withdrew an honorary degree from Ayaan Hirsi Ali (video) because her work to protect and defend the rights of women and girls includes truthful criticism of Islamic law’s justification for rape and beatings.
  • A Colorado high school led students in the recitation of the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance in Arabic, saying, “one nation under Allah.” (Allah is not the same as the Judeo-Christian God.)
  • Numerous Islamic terrorism experts are now banned from speaking at government counter-terrorism classes and conferences.
  • The FBI has purged 876 pages and 329 presentations that were deemed offensive to Islam, and the Pentagon ordered all training material used by military professional colleges and combat units scrubbed of any content offensive to Islam.
  • And the list goes on…
In 1998, at an Ohio youth conference, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi said, “We will conquer Europe, we will conquer America.”  As al-Qaradawi’s conquest continues to creep across Europe and into the US, we must ask ourselves, what would Churchill do?

How would Churchill react to American Universities forfeiting their identities as centers of free speech and open discussion to the pressures of organizations like CAIR?  What would he say abut government agencies unable to identify the enemy because of political correctness?

Would Churchill have allowed his country to ignore the evidence of the murderous ideology of Radical Islam because of political correctness or because some Islamists asked him to?

What would Churchill do?

By Richard Thompson
Sir Thomas More Society
Courtesy of

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Churches and Government Facilities: A Battleground for the Gospel

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on April 28, 2014

BronxRally120811Photo1

Two cases in Hawaii and New York City threaten the long tradition of churches using public school facilities. From the very beginning of the United States, churches have used government facilities for worship services. In 1795, a church used the United States Capitol building just two years after the cornerstone was laid and before Congress officially began meeting in the building. In fact, worship services were held in the Capitol building until around the time of the Civil War.

In the pioneer era, it was commonplace for church worship services to be held in public school buildings and for public schools to be held in church buildings. Indeed, it makes a great deal of sense for churches and schools to occupy the same physical space given that churches generally operate at times when schools are not in session and vice versa.

Despite this long history and the fact that church use of governmental buildings has not led our country any closer to establishing a national religion, there are forces that do not want churches to use school buildings for religious worship.

In one case, Alliance Defending Freedom has been representing the Bronx Household of Faith in New York City for close to 20 years. The New York City public schools established a policy that allows community groups to use school facilities but prohibits using them for religious worship. The case has bounced back and forth between the trial court and the appeals court in New York several times. In the most recent ruling, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the school’s policy excluding religious worship was constitutional. Alliance Defending Freedom appealed that ruling to the full Court of Appeals and will continue to fight for the ability of churches to use school facilities equally. Churches should not be discriminated against simply because they are religious.

In another case, Alliance Defending Freedom represents two Hawaii churches who were sued by atheists, claiming that the churches knowingly underpaid rental fees to the schools they were using. The lawsuit filed was brought under the state’s False Claims Act, which allows insiders who possess confidential information of fraud to file a whistleblower lawsuit to recover the money on behalf of the state and to assess triple damages. If successful, the atheists get to keep a portion of the money they recovered, and they are asking for an award of several million dollars. But the churches paid all the rent they were charged, and the Department of Education knew about the charges and payments by the churches. Alliance Defending Freedom asked the trial court to dismiss this lawsuit. Churches should not be bullied into giving up their right to equal use of government buildings.

These lawsuits are just a few of the attacks against churches using school facilities. So how should a church respond? Should they abandon any attempts to use school facilities for worship services?

No. This approach disregards the many startup churches who can only afford to rent government school facilities. It also ignores that in places like Hawaii and New York City, property is at a premium with frequently nowhere for churches to meet other than public buildings. And it overlooks the rich history of complementary use of government buildings by churches since the very beginning of this country.

Churches should not be pushed out of public spaces simply because some find the message of the Gospel “offensive.” Nor should churches themselves voluntarily abandon the public square where the proclamation of the Gospel message is sorely needed.

Alliance Defending Freedom has attorneys willing to defend a church’s right to have equal access to government facilities and not be subject to intimidation tactics seeking to forcibly remove churches. If you or your church are facing threats or encountering problems regarding use of governmental facilities, please contact us so an attorney can review your situation.

Courtesy of http://blog.speakupmovement.org/church/uncategorized/churches-and-government-facilities-a-battleground-for-the-gospel/

Posted in Attack on Christianity, Faith Issues in Our Times, Religious Freedom | Leave a Comment »

No honor in his hometown: Jesus not welcome in Nazareth school

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on April 8, 2014

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Alliance Defending Freedom filed a federal lawsuit Monday against a Pennsylvania school district on behalf of a 1st grade student and his parents. In February, Nazareth Area School District unconstitutionally prohibited the student from distributing St. Valentine’s Day cards to his classmates because the cards contained a note that mentioned God and included the Bible verse John 3:16 after a sentence about the history of St. Valentine’s Day.

“Public schools ought to encourage, not suppress, the free exchange of ideas, including those communicated through Valentine’s Day cards. A Bible verse and a reference to God does not make such a card unconstitutional,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Sharp. “Religious expression is just as protected by the First Amendment as other messages that students communicate.”

“To single out a faith-based message for censorship is exactly the type of hostility to religion that the First Amendment forbids,” added ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “We hope the school district will revise its policies to respect the constitutionally protected free speech of its students and make ongoing litigation unnecessary.”

In February, the parents of the 1st grader helped him assemble the cards for “Friendship Day,” the politically correct name the school district uses for St. Valentine’s Day. The cards included a note that stated, “Happy Valentine’s Day! St. Valentine was imprisoned and martyred for presiding over marriages and for spreading the news of God’s love. In honor of St. Valentine’s Day, I want you to know that God loves you!!! ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but have eternal life.’ John 3:16.”

When the student arrived with his cards at Floyd R. Shafer Elementary School in Nazareth, his teacher noticed the faith-based notes and brought them to the attention of the school’s principal, William Mudlock. Mudlock ordered them removed because of their religious nature and because they contained a Bible verse, telling the student’s parents that they could be “offensive” to others.

At a meeting with the student’s parents, Mudlock explained that the child’s note sought to “establish the supremacy” of his faith over others as prohibited by school district policy. He pointed to NASD Policy 220 on “Unprotected Student Expression,” which states that the school officials can prohibit student expression that seeks “to establish the supremacy of a particular religious denomination, sect or point of view.”

The complaint filed in J.A. v. Nazareth Area School District with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania explains that the same federal court struck down an identically worded policy at another Pennsylvania school district in 2008, saying that such policies “restrict what effectively amounts to all religious speech, which is clearly not permissible under the First Amendment.”

Ted Hoppe, one of nearly 2,300 attorneys allied with Alliance Defending Freedom, is serving as local counsel in the case.

Posted in Attack on Christianity, Faith Issues in Our Times, Hot Legal News, Religious Freedom | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Officials In Laos Tell Christians To Renounce Faith In Jesus Christ Or Be Deported

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on April 2, 2014

Laos-Map-Christian-PersecutionImagine being told that if you did not give up your faith in Jesus Christ that you would be forced out of your town and lose all of your property. That is precisely what a group of Christian families in three villages in the nation of Laos were told by their government officials after it was discovered that they were meeting regularly for home Bible study and worship.

According to reports:

Local authorities in Laos are threatening Christians in three villages with expulsion unless they renounce their faith, with residents in one village calling the converts “pigs and dogs,” according to an advocacy organization.
In a public meeting of Christians and others in Huay village of Atsaphangthong District, Savannakhet Province, local officials on Saturday (Sept. 21) ruled that Christians will be expelled for converting away from indigenous beliefs and practices, a representative from Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF) told Morning Star News.
“The Christians shared with us that they were called ‘pigs and dogs’ by those who attended the village meeting,” said the representative, who requested anonymity. “The Christians met among themselves and made a decision to reject the authorities’ decision.” (source).

 

The conflict with local authorites started in the Nongdaeng village in Borikan District, Borikhamsai Province. A Christian told the HRWLRF representative that on August 30th, local officials threatened 11 families with eviction if they did not renounce Christ. “They charged these Lao Christians with believing the religion of a foreign Western power, which is considered destructive to the Lao nation,” the representative said in a press statement. “Officials expressed their intention that no Christian faith can be adhered to or practiced in Nongdaeng.”

Despite the threats from their local chiefs, the 11 families continued to meet for house worship. On September 14th, the local official called a meeting for all residents and announced: “You Christians should stop believing in the Christian faith. If you want to lose your homes and your properties and be deported [evicted], then you go ahead and continue with your Christian faith.”

In Savannakhet Province, in the village of Nonsung in Phin District a similar meeting was called by the local official. At the meeting the Christians were ordered to participate in pagan rituals such as taking an oath to animist spirits and drinking water that had been “cleansed” by a medium who called on spirits to purify it. They refused and were also threatened with deportation.

“The tactic is however being used against Christians elsewhere. In Allowmai, which is just eight kilometers away from Vongseekaew, six Christian families, along with their pastor, Bounlert, were ordered on 18 October to take an oath with sacred water in order to be allowed to remain in the village.”

Christians in Laos told to renounce faith | Watchlist persecution no media coverage

The group went on to say that Pastor Bounlert was detained in September along with four other Christian leaders; two of them were released after two days. The provincial authorities subsequently ordered the release of Bounlert, Adang and Onkaew, saying that their arrest by the district police was unjustified. But the police have kept the pastors in custody and threatened to imprison them for two to three more years if Christians in Allowmai do not perform the rituals.
Christian leaders in Savannakhet province believe that the police are trying to force Christians to recant their faith through taking part in the spirit rituals because they were unsuccessful in pursuing legal action against the pastors. (source).

Pray For The Church in Laos

Christians in Laos told to renounce faith | Watchlist persecution no media coverage

 

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. – Matthew 5:10-12.

It may seem hard to believe that this level of persecution is taking place, but it is just one example in an alarming trend of Christian persecution worldwide. Laos, with a population of approximately 6 million, is 1.5% Christian (the majority of the country is Buddhist or follows a mix of Buddhism and animist religions). As a very small minority, the door is open wide for Christians to be oppressed, beaten, jailed and even killed for their faith. Open Doors USA, an international Christian aid group lists Laos as the 18th worst country in the world for Christian persecution.

Pray for the Christians in Laos – for their safety, that they can remain in their homes and most importantly for their faith. They are living a Christian life that puts their livelihood and life on the line every day. Pray that God will sustain them and strengthen them in the face of persecution, and that they will continue to proclaim the name of Jesus Christ and share His Gospel. And pray for your own faith and other Christians to show the same resolve and boldness in the face of far less opposition. Lord willing, those who were once enemies of God, will come to know and receive free forgiveness and eternal life in the name of Jesus Christ.

Courtesy of http://beginningandend.com/officials-in-laos-tell-christians-to-renounce-faith-in-jesus-christ-or-be-deported/

Posted in Attack on Christianity, Religious Freedom | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

US Supreme Court Argument Preview: Religion, Rights, and the Workplace

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on March 20, 2014

us-supreme-court (1) 

At 10 a.m. next Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hold ninety minutes of oral argument on the government’s authority to require private businesses to provide birth control and other pregnancy-related services to their employees under the Affordable Care Act.  Arguing for the challengers to the so-called “contraceptive mandate” will be Paul D. Clement, of the Washington, D.C., law firm of Bancroft PLLC.  Defending the mandate will be U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr.   Each will have forty-five minutes of time, under an order issued Thursday expanding the time beyond the normal amount.  The consolidated cases areSebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius.

Background

For the first time since the broad new federal health care law partially survived its most sweeping constitutional challenge in the Supreme Court nearly two years ago, the Affordable Care Act comes up for a new test before the Justices.  This time, the Court will be examining whether the government may enforce against private businesses owned by religiously devout owners the requirement that employee health plans provide no-cost coverage for women’s pregnancy-related services, including birth control.

These services, required under the so-called “contraceptive mandate” in the Act and in government regulations, are not themselves in legal trouble:  the only issue before the Court at this point is which businesses can be ordered to provide the services to their female workers at no cost to them.

That issue will be debated by two of the legal gladiators who met in the last test at the Court of the Affordable Care Act:  Washington attorney Paul D. Clement, a former U.S. Solicitor General, and the current Solicitor General, Donald B. Verrilli, Jr.

There probably would be a significant loophole in the contraceptive mandate’s reach if the challengers win.  Some women’s rights groups have estimated that millions of women would be affected.  Female workers of the two companies involved and those of other religiously oriented companies would have to cover personally the cost of at least some of the birth-control services — unless the government were to set up a new program on its own to do so, which is a very unlikely prospect.

Thus, the two cases that the Court has combined for review set up a direct conflict between the interests of some employers against those of their female workers of child-bearing age.  The federal government is clearly on the workers’ side, but the lower federal courts have been divided on who should win.

The dispute only involves private businesses because religious groups, as such, are given an exemption by regulations the government has issued.  Even some businesses get exemptions, too, because their employee health plans have been “grandfathered,” but before long those, too, will actually have to provide the benefits at issue, or face heavy financial penalties.

At the level of their greatest potential, the two cases raise the profound cultural question of whether a private, profit-making business organized as a corporation can “exercise” religion and, if it can, how far that is protected from government interference.  The question can arise — and does, in these cases — under either the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause or under a federal law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed by Congress in 1993.

In a manner of speaking, these issues pose the question — a topic of energetic debate in current American political and social discourse — of whether corporations are “people.”  The First Amendment protects the rights “of the people,” and the 1993 law protects the religious rights of “persons.”  Do profit-making companies qualify as either?

Aside from whether corporations do have any religious rights, as such, the cases also raise the question whether the religious rights of their owners — real people, who undeniably can act according to their faith — are violated by the requirement that their companies obey the contraceptive mandate.  Ordinarily, in business law, corporations are separate from their owners, but the owners in these cases resist that notion, at least so far as the owners’ religious views actually shape the business of their companies.

No one doubts that the owners of the two companies have sincere religious objections to some forms of birth control or that their beliefs do counsel them to avoid any role in providing those services to their employees.  The companies and their owners do not have to convince the Court that that is what they believe — only whether that belief controls enforcement, or not, of the mandate.

One company is Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., and a related company, Mardel, Inc.  Headquartered in Oklahoma City, the two companies are owned — through a trust — by members of the Green family.   Hobby Lobby is a chain of more than 500 arts-and-crafts stores across the country, with more than 13,000 employees.  Mardel is a chain of Christian book stores, with 35 outlets and about 400 employees.

The Green family members signed a formal commitment to run the two chains according to Christian religious principles — closing on Sunday, advertising their religious orientation, and playing religious music in the stores.   The owners and their stores do not object to every part of the contraceptive mandate, but they do object to the use of any drugs or intrauterine devices that — in the words of their lawyers — “end human life after conception.”

They have estimated that, if they follow their faith and violate the mandate, they face fines of about $1.3 million a day, or almost $475 million a year.  They believe that cancelling their health plan to avoid obeying the mandate would put them at a competitive disadvantage with other employers.   They do not believe that the government can force them to make such choices.

The other company is Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., a company based in East Earl, Pennsylvania, that also has operations in other states, making wooden cabinets and wood specialty products.  It has about 950 employees.

The company is owned by members of the Hahn family, who are Mennonite Christians.  Their faith teaches them that it is wrong to take a human life and to prevent its creation through drugs and intrauterine devices  If the company or its owners were to violate the mandate to adhere to their beliefs, they estimate that they would face financial penalties of about $35 million a year.

Federal appeals courts ruled in conflicting ways.  The U.S. Court of Appeals f0r the Tenth Circuit decided that Hobby Lobby was likely to win its challenge because, even though it is a profit-making business, it can, indeed, act according to faith principles.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit decided that neither the company, Conestoga Wood Specialties, nor its owners could claim First Amendment religious rights — because, it found, the corporation is incapable of doing so, and because the owners had chosen the corporate form for their business and it stands apart from their personal interests.

Petitions for certiorari

The federal government asked the Supreme Court to review the Hobby Lobby case, while the Hahn family and their woodworking company did the same in their case.  As offered to the Justices, the two cases together raise both the First Amendment religious rights question and the RFRA statutory issue, as to both the companies and their owners.

The First Amendment provides that no law may be passed, at any level of government, that prohibits “the free exercise of religion.”  RFRA provides that government agencies (only at the federal level, since the Act no longer applies at the state and local levels) may not impose a “substantial burden” on the religious exercise of “a person,” even if the law is one that everyone ordinarily must obey, unless the government can justify the burden to satisfy a “compelling government interest,” and only if it is the “least restrictive means” of doing so.  It does not specifically define “person.”

On November 26, the Court agreed to review both cases and consolidated them for review.

Briefs on the merits

Hobby Lobby Stores — whose name will probably provide the label for the case in history – argued aggressively in its merits brief that the federal government was pursuing “a misguided shell game” in which only the Green family has rights and the corporation suffers alone the burden of the mandate.   That, it contended, was a move to ”drive a wedge” between the family and its corporation.

The brief insisted that, if the Court uses the definition of “person” that is in the federal Dictionary Act, it would refer not only to natural persons, but to corporations, too.  And, under the ACA regulations at issue, the filing said, the government is seeking to force employers to provide specific contraceptives, not just “an exchange of money.”  It is the contraceptives, not their cost, that burdens the Green family’s faith and the principles of Hobby Lobby Stores and the related bookstore chain, the brief argued.

Saying that the Court must apply “strict scrutiny,” the most demanding test for the validity of a government mandate or program, the Hobby Lobby brief said that the government has “not come close” to satisfying that standard.  The official claims that the mandates support public health and women’s equality are so broad that they could never meet that test, the brief said.

The retail chains’ filing said that the government has come up at the last minute with another attempted justification — that is, that the mandate is part of a comprehensive scheme of providing health benefits to all.  But that notion, the brief said, is belied by all the exemptions the government has allowed.

Because the question that the government raised in its petition in the Hobby Lobby case was restricted to the scope of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the retail chains’ merits brief is confined to that issue.

The merits brief for Conestoga Wood Specialties and its owners deals with its claims under both RFRA and the First Amendment.  The filing begins with a defense of the Hahn family’s claim that its members choose to practice their faith through business activity, as well as in their personal lives.  “The corporate formality of a business is not determinative of whether religious exercise occurs in that business,” it contended.

But, if the family’s religious interests could be separated from the company, the brief went on, the company itself “exercises religion, too.”  Under state law, the corporate form may be used “to pursue all lawful purposes, without excluding religion,” Conestoga’s lawyers told the Court.  The Supreme Court, they added, “has never limited religious freedom to natural persons.”

Aside from arguing that the contraceptive mandate substantially burdens the religious rights of the Hahns and of their company, the brief said that Congress in passing the Affordable Care Act did not require that contraceptive services be included in employee health plans; that was added by the federal government in ACA regulations.

And, like Hobby Lobby, the Conestoga filing asserted that “strict scrutiny” is the only valid test to apply and that the government cannot show that it has a compelling interest in enforcing the birth-control mandate against religious objectors.  If the government is intent on assuring access to birth control, the brief said, it could either expand existing programs which provide that service or create new ones.

The Obama administration’s merits brief in Hobby Lobby focused on the RFRA claim, and its separate brief in the Conestoga case sought to answer claims under both RFRA and the First Amendment.

In each filing, the government made the same basic points:  profit-making businesses do not “exercise” religion at all, for purposes of either federal law or the Constitution; the mandate only applies to corporations and not to their owners and, in any event, corporations law treats the business separate from the owner; and, even if the mandate did have to satisfy a compelling government interest, it does so by assuring that female workers have access to an important health benefit as part of a comprehensive health insurance scheme.

The contraceptive coverage requirement, according to the government, is a neutral obligation that applies to profit-making businesses in general, and does not target any religious exercise.  The exemptions that have been provided for other businesses — those whose plans are “grandfathered” and thus do not immediately have to obey the mandate — will only exist in a phased sequence, and that alone is not enough to deprive the mandate of its neutral character, the U.S. brief said.

In passing RFRA, the brief contended, Congress did not intend to “uniquely disable the government by working a dramatic expansion” of the claims for exemption based on religious liberty.  Besides, it added, there has not been a single decision by the Supreme Court that struck down a federal law — or required an exemption to it — on the theory that that was necessary “to protect the rights of a for-profit corporation or of the owners, managers, or directors of the corporation.”

The government brief also made a religious liberty argument of its own.  It said that giving for-profit businesses the chance to obtain an exemption from federal laws based on religion would threaten “the special place of religious institutions in our society.”  Congress has often given religious bodies exemptions from laws, but it has always “drawn the line at for-profit corporations,” the brief said.

If Hobby Lobby and Conestoga are legally entitled to exemptions, Congress would be discouraged from providing exemptions for non-profit religious organizations “for fear that doing so would automatically entitle for-profit corporations to the same accommodation,” according to the government’s argument.

The briefs for the government also asserted that there actually is no burden on any religious exercise by owners or corporations, because the choice to use a birth-control pill or device would be made independently by the female workers covered by a health insurance plan.   The connection between those choices and the interests of the employer who finances the plan, the brief went on, is “too indirect” to make a legal difference.

The amicus briefs

If numbers of amici were to make a difference, there is no contest in these cases:  the government drew two dozen briefs in support, while Hobby Lobby and Conestoga are backed by five dozen filings.  There are two briefs that do not take a position on how these specific cases should be decided, but they take opposite positions:  a brief by professors of history and law argues that the Court has always treated corporations differently from natural persons, while a brief by a group of traditional religious organizations urges the Court to adopt an expansive view of the right to religious exemptions from public laws.

The boldest brief in support of the government takes a position that the government did not, urging the Supreme Court to strike down RFRA as an unconstitutional attempt by Congress to scuttle a Supreme Court decision requiring religious organizations to obey laws that apply generally.  That is a brief by a disparate group of advocacy organizations, including non-believers and survivors of clergy sexual abuse of children.

There is, on the corporations’ side, a brief by constitutional law scholars seeking to answer that constitutional challenge.  That brief contends that RFRA is a valid exercise of Congress’s legislative powers, and that nullifying the law “would threaten thousands of statutes that protect religious minorities.”

There are predictable allies on each side:  civil rights and women’s rights groups, liberal organizations, professors of various disciplines, and liberal lawmakers on the side of the federal government and the ACA, and traditional religious organizations and advocacy groups, conservative and libertarian entities, professors of various disciplines, and conservative lawmakers on the side of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga.

Analysis

If the legal territory the Court enters in these cases is not entirely new, it is also not well traveled.  The Court has sort of assumed since 1886 — without ever ruling flatly — that corporations are “persons” in a constitutional sense.  And, over time, it has filled in some of the gaps on what rights corporations are to have under the Constitution.  But it has never said, explicitly, that they are endowed with the right to freely exercise a religious faith.

These two cases give it the chance to do just that, if it is so inclined, and that would be a profound constitutional shift, with deeply uncertain implications.  It would, at a minimum, pave the way for businesses to choose whom they serve according to the identities of the customers and how those square with the religious preferences of the company.

But the Court need not go that far, even if it should lean toward ruling in favor of an exemption within the business world from the ACA’s contraceptive mandate.  It could decide that the Green family and the Hahn family have a right to exercise their religious beliefs in the way they run their business firms, and that this mandate intrudes on those rights.

Along the way, of course, the Justices would have to find a way around the conventional business law notion that corporations stand apart from their owners.  But they could do that with a very narrow definition of the rights of the owners of a company that is so closely held that it is essentially not a public corporation, except in name.  Again, though, that would grow out of the rights of the owners, not of the corporate entity itself.

The problem in anticipating a victory for religious owners, though, is that the focus in that analysis may fall too heavily on the owner’s interests, and insufficiently on the interests of the employees.  What is at stake on that side of the legal controversy is the interest of female employees in managing their personal lives and their reproductive health, with obvious implications for their ability to carry on their work lives and careers.

Just as there are Justices now on the Court who would, indeed, view this controversy through sympathetic eyes for business management, there also are Justices now serving who would certainly view sympathetically the claims of female workers of child-bearing age.

In these two cases, those two perspectives seem distinctly at odds, and the chances of finding common ground between them seem remote, indeed.

For example, the easiest way to rule for a religious exemption for businesses or their owners in this case would be to interpret the Affordable Care Act as not even authorizing the government to include birth control in the requirements for employee health plans.  That is an argument that the lawyers for the businesses here actually make.  But to rule that way would be to read the purposes of the statute’s coverage of preventive health services so narrowly as to ignore the realities of the health of women who work in offices, factories, and shops.

In terms of the legal foundations for a ruling, the Court might well go into this case hoping to avoid making new constitutional law, on the institutional premise that it should not decide a constitutional question unless it has no way to avoid it.

But it would be hard to base a ruling in this case solely on the scope of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, because that Act is essentially designed to protect constitutional rights of religious liberty.  To know what that law does protect requires knowing what the Constitution embraces — either as to corporations, or as to their owners, or both.

Only one thing, perhaps, is certain as the argument in this case approaches: whatever the Court decides, it will not decide the fate of the Affordable Care Act.  The nation’s politics, and many of its legislatures (including Congress), are absorbed with debates over whether to keep the law, to amend it, to render it unenforceable, or to repeal it altogether.  None of that depends upon the outcome of this case.

The Court has not been asked to strike down any part of the law, and it almost certainly won’t volunteer to do so.  All that is at issue is who must obey the contraceptive mandate.

Posted in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby StoresConestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius,AnalysisFeaturedHealth CareMerits Cases

Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, Argument preview: Religion, rights, and the workplace, SCOTUSblog (Mar. 20, 2014, 3:30 PM), http://www.scotusblog.com/2014/03/argument-preview-religion-rights-and-the-workplace/

Posted in Faith Issues in Our Times, Hot Legal News | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Ross Raises The White Flag On Gay Marriage

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on March 3, 2014

FAVS_0627_GayMarriage2-240x240

 

By Rod Dreher

All that’s left to decide is the terms of surrender that will be dictated to conservatives, says Ross Douthat. He says there were two scenarios that might have played out. In the first, after same-sex marriage was achieved, the culture would have settled down, and gays would have gone about their business getting married and divorced like everybody else, and things would have returned to normal. In the second, gay partisans and their supporters would have put constant pressure on any holdouts or pockets of resistance, attempting to crush any opposition. Excerpt:

In the past, this constant-pressure scenario has seemed the less-likely one, since Americans are better at agreeing to disagree than the culture war would suggest. But it feels a little bit more likely after last week’s “debate” in Arizona, over a bill that was designed to clarify whether existing religious freedom protections can be invoked by defendants like the florist or the photographer.

If you don’t recognize my description of the bill, then you probably followed the press coverage, which was mendacious and hysterical — evincing no familiarity with the legal issues, and endlessly parroting the line that the bill would institute “Jim Crow” for gays. (Never mind that in Arizona it’s currently legal to discriminate based on sexual orientation — and mass discrimination isn’t exactly breaking out.) Allegedly sensible centrists compared the bill’s supporters to segregationist politicians, liberals invoked the Bob Jones precedent to dismiss religious-liberty concerns, and Republican politicians behaved as though the law had been written by David Duke.

What makes this response particularly instructive is that such bills have been seen, in the past, as a way for religious conservatives to negotiate surrender — to accept same-sex marriage’s inevitability while carving out protections for dissent. But now, apparently, the official line is that you bigots don’t get to negotiate anymore.

Of course. We will hear how all of this would have been different if only SSM opponents had done this, that, or the other thing in the past. Don’t believe it. Had the country embraced civil unions in 2004, for example, gay activists would have done exactly what they did in California, which did embrace civil unions: sue for full marriage recognition. This was always how it was going to end. I’ve been saying for at least five years that we conservatives had better focus on trying to carve out some religious liberty protections for ourselves, but that was a futile task too, amid the hysteria of this cultural climate. Now that the goal of legal same-sex marriage from coast to coast is clearly in sight, the fight will turn to demonizing any remaining resistance from religious dissenters, who must not be allowed any quarter. You can bet on it. Douthat concludes:

Christians had plenty of opportunities — thousands of years’ worth — to treat gay people with real charity, and far too often chose intolerance. (And still do, in many instances and places.) So being marginalized, being sued, losing tax-exempt status — this will be uncomfortable, but we should keep perspective and remember our sins, and nobody should call it persecution.

I disagree. It is certainly true that Christian conservatives should not rush to embrace the “persecution” label, which rightly applies to what is happening to Christians in Egypt, Syria, and elsewhere. However, I think Douthat is being too quick to buy into the narrative of our opponents here — a narrative one often hears from pro-SSM readers of this blog: that unless you Christians are being rounded up, beaten, or killed, it’s not persecution, so quit complaining. The same rhetorical strategy could be used against gays, of course, and it would also be unfair, because many gay people have certainly been persecuted. If only pogroms count as persecution, then very few non-black Americans in our time have ever been “persecuted.”

Anyway, if it comes to pass in the next few years that religious institutions and churches begin to lose their tax-exempt status because they do not accept the status quo on homosexuality, many of these churches and institutions will have to close, or radically scale back their operations. They operate on such a close margin as it stands now. Do you think for one minute that activists will allow any breathing room to institutions that refuse to bend to their will? Of course not. In short order, Christians in America will be forced to decide how much their institutions mean to them, and how deep in their pockets they are willing to dig to keep them going.

When Christians cannot enter into certain professions because they cannot in good conscience sign statements required by licensing guilds, that will feel like persecution. When Christians are publicly vilified, and their children are taught that holding firm to their faith makes them social pariahs, that will feel like persecution. And Christians who hold to the traditions of our faith, and refuse to sell out to the Zeitgeist, will be instructed that we deserve everything coming our way — this, even though we were all told, and told, and told, that all the other side was seeking was fairness.

The Law Of Merited Impossibility: It won’t happen, and when it does, you people will deserve it.

I think it is impossible to overestimate the power of the media in bringing about what is and what is to come. I think it is also impossible to overstate the hostility within media circles to Christianity on this issue. Over the years, I’ve often found myself telling fellow conservatives that their idea of media bias and what the media are like is exaggerated. On this one, though, it’s as bad or worse than they imagine. Mollie Hemingway writes about media coverage of the Arizona law. Excerpt:

There are countless more examples (from the Washington Post to local papers) of how poorly reporters have handled this topic and how quickly they’ve joined the mob of activism against civil or rational discourse.

Religious liberty is a deeply radical concept. It was at this country’s founding and it hasn’t become less so. Preserving it has always been a full-time battle. But it’s important, because religion is at the core of people’s identity. A government that tramples religious liberty is not a government that protects economic freedom. It’s certainly not a government that protects conscience rights. A government that tramples religious liberty does not have expansive press freedoms. Can you think of one country with a narrow view of religious liberty but an expansive view of economic freedom, freedom of association, press freedoms or free speech rights? One?

A media less hostile to religious liberty would think less about scoring cheap political points, creating uncivil political climates and disparaging institutions that help humans flourish. A media with a higher regard for truth would, it turns out, have a higher regard for religious liberty.

Sadly, we seem to have left the world of reason and tolerance. Could our media climate demonstrate that any better? And what lies ahead, if left uncorrected, is illogical and tyrannical. Freedom of religion was the central principle in the moral case of our country. Once that’s gone, how long can the Republic stand? Does anyone even care?

When you have a prominent ESPN personality likening the Arizona bill to Nazi Germany’s making Jews wear yellow stars, and this is considered reasonable mainstream discourse, I think the answer, Mrs. Hemingway, is no, not in our media class. Watch Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon discuss this. Hysterics, both of them:

American Christians are about to learn what it means to live in a country where being a faithful Christian is going to exact significant costs. It may not be persecution, but it’s still going to hurt, and in ways most Christians scarcely understand. Maybe this will be good for us. Maybe. We’ll see.

Courtesy of http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/ross-raises-the-white-flag-on-gay-marriage/

Posted in Attack on Christianity, Faith Issues in Our Times, Religious Freedom | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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