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Archive for December, 2010

New York Times Whitewashes Baby Jesus in Christmas Day Editorial

Posted by faithandthelaw on December 29, 2010

Typically Typically we discuss how the mainstream media handles religious news. Occasionally we look at treatment of religion outside of news pages. A former GetReligion contributor alerted us to the New York Times house editorial for Christmas Day. It’s short, but here’s the first paragraph:

What are your Christmases made of? A tree full of ornaments as old as you are? A customary feast, if not of roast beast? Perhaps they’re composed of wassail and yule, nog and Noel, Scrooge, “Scrooged,” Pickwick and Charlie Brown. Or Handel and Berlioz, Garland, Cole, Crosby and Clooney, the Rockettes and the dance of a Sugar Plum Fairy, even Bedford Falls and “The Bishop’s Wife.” To Christians everywhere, Christmas comprises, above all, a decree from Caesar Augustus and in the same country shepherds abiding.

Quite lyrical prose, eh? But did you notice anything missing?

It really is impressive to write a Christmas editorial that steadfastly refuses to mention either the name of Jesus or the fact of his birth. And yet the remaining paragraphs — all beautifully written as well — fail to mention these things. Now, maybe the New York Times editorial page members know so few Christians that they actually believe that Christmas is — above all — mostly about a decree from Caesar Augustus and shepherds abiding. I don’t know. I’m on record pooh-poohing the Christmas wars, but have things really gotten to the point where you can’t mention Jesus’ birth in a Christmas editorial?

Over at Commonweal, longtime religion writer Peter Steinfels comes to the paper’s defense. He says that each department at the Times has its own culture, that it does many things that are egregious, but that it does many awesome things “entailing rare skills, unusual dedication, exhausting work, sacrifice of corporate profits, not infrequently even risk of life.” He mentions the horrific “Vows” column in a recent Sunday Style Section:

But the Christmas editorial discussed below is something else. It is not the editorial I might have written had I ever been invited (or accepted) to join the editorial page. There are many Christmas editorials, including some redolent with explicit celebration of Christ’s birth, that I might not have written. But they don’t stir my ire or sense of victimization either. Here we have four paragraphs of admirable, if somewhat bland, Christmas-related sentiments. It could have been written, for all I know, by an editor who was at Midnight Mass. But he or she consciously wrote it from a religiously neutral standpoint, except perhaps for the final endorsement of “prayer.” And it was written for a readership about whose religious convictions no assumptions could or would be made. This is, it seems to me, not the only possible but nonetheless a very plausible and respectful reflection of our contemporary pluralism. There really are many people who are not out to get us but who sincerely and thoughtfully don’t believe in Christ or Christianity. Are we shocked, shocked, by that? I think we should get used to it.

So what do you think? Is it really offensive to say that to Christians, Christmas is about the birth of Jesus? How is that not “religiously neutral” since it’s just a statement of fact? A brief editorial doesn’t need a dissertation on the birth of Christ, of course. But how about a brief mention?

And isn’t the biggest problem with the editorial the confusion about what — “above all” — Christmas is about for Christians? A decree and shepherds? Is it ignorant, silly or religiously neutral? One commenter wrote:

This is not a question of being “religiously neutral,” but of political correctness carried to absurdity. Do you really think any religious or secular sensibilities would have been offended had the center of the Nativity triptych been mentioned? The image that comes to mind is of a painting with a Roman Emperor on the right and shepherds on the left — and a huge empty spot in the middle of the canvas.

Steinfels says that he thinks that, if anything, the editorial writer assumed too much religious literacy. The editorialist later references the “liturgical calendar” which supports Steinfels’ view.

So what do you think? Was the piece just purposely “oblique and breezy,” overly pluralistic or just fine?

Courtesy of http://www.getreligion.org/2010/12/a-picture-without-its-central-image/

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The Cross vs. the Court in Europe

Posted by faithandthelaw on December 28, 2010

In Lautsi v. Italy, a chamber of the European Court on Human Rights (ECHR) banned the display of the cross in school classrooms, arguing that such a display was a violation of religious freedom and of a parent’s right to educate his children. In addition, the court awarded the petitioner 5,000 euros in nonpecuniary damages. Whether the unusual verdict was motivated by animus or disdain toward religion in general, or against the Catholic Church in particular, is uncertain. The decision did, however, imply an obligation to impose strict secularism in Europe.

The Lautsi v. Italy decision caused a worldwide stir for several reasons. First, the court inexplicably departed from its previous case law on the “margin of appreciation” doctrine, according to which such complex and delicate matters, closely related to culture and history, fall into the member states’ domestic jurisdiction. For instance, under this doctrine, the court previously refused to intervene in France‘s ban of the Muslim head scarf, even when it had a clear discriminatory impact on Muslim girls and women. Nevertheless, as Neil Addison of the Thomas More Legal Center pointed out, the court in Lautsi seems to indicate that the “margin of appreciation” doctrine only works in one direction, namely allowing governments to ban religious symbols, but not allowing the freedom to display them.

Second, the verdict reinterpreted the European Convention to mandate forced secularization in the entire European Union, even though the convention is silent on church-state relations and European states greatly vary in their cultural religious practices. Moreover, the court imposed a strict model of secularism, antagonistic to any manifestation of religion in the public sphere. The court inevitably supported the idea that neutrality consists of supporting the secular as opposed to the religious and excessively emphasized freedom from religion rather than freedom of religion.

During the hearings before the court in July, New York University professor Joseph Weiler‘s brilliant argument pointed out that Lautsi wrongfully sends European states the message that democracy requires them to shed their religious identity. Professor Weiler, an Orthodox Jew who coined the term “christophobia,” designating anti-Christian bias among European intellectual elites, held that neutrality does not consist of supporting the secular as opposed to the religious. An anti-religious attitude undermines the very pluralism, diversity and tolerance the convention is meant to guarantee and that is the hallmark of Europe, he pointed out.

Many local authorities in Italy reacted with defiance, refusing to comply with the court‘s decision and ordering public schools to display crosses. In early January, the Italian Constitutional Court issued a ruling asserting the supremacy of Italian law and custom over the orders of the European Court on Human Rights.

In addition, the ECHR ruling received negative responses from Greece and Poland, with Polish President Lech Kaczynski and the leadership of the Greek Orthodox Church both warning that there would be no removal of crucifixes or other religious symbols in their countries.

In February, the Council of Europe voted to adopt a declaration that the court had no right to rule on questions of the cultural and national traditions of member states.

In March, the court‘s Grand Chamber accepted the appeal lodged by the Italian government. The number of supporting European countries in amicus curiae before the court grew from 10 to 20: Armenia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Lithuania, Malta, Monaco, Romania, the Russian Federation, San Marino, Albania, Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine.

International religious leaders, including the Dalai Lama, and legal scholars publicly expressed their support for the Italian government. Recently, the court authorized the intervention of several nongovernmental organizations as amicus curiae, including the European Center for Law and Justice, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and the Alliance Defense Fund.

Should the European court’s Grand Chamber affirm the verdict in Lautsi, the cross and other religious symbols probably would be banned from public schools and perhaps other public institutions in Europe. Christmas decorations and Nativity plays similarly would be banned from public schools.

The decision is not expected for a few months. In the meantime, it has become evident that the power of the cross on collective spirituality continues to be too great for some to bear.

Ligia M. De Jesus is an assistant professor of law at Ave Maria School of Law.

Courtesy of http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/dec/23/the-cross-v-the-court/?page=2

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Colleges warned of liability for free-speech violations

Posted by faithandthelaw on December 28, 2010

By Bob Unruh
© 2010 WorldNetDaily


Valdosta State

A civil-rights organization says it has put hundreds of college presidents and attorneys who serve as legal counsel for the institutions on notice that their hefty personal payment packages could be hit – and hit hard – if they violate the free speech rights of students on their campuses.

‘Administrators may be held personally liable for continuing to maintain unconstitutional speech codes in violation of students’ First Amendment Rights,” according to a new letter from The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

Certified letters containing the warning were dispatched to nearly 300 public colleges and universities across the nation suggesting that those education executives “should be ready to pay out of their own pockets if they continue to violate their students’ free speech rights.”

“For too long, public college administrators have been intentionally violating the free speech rights of their students, secure in the knowledge that they won’t personally lose a dime should a court rule against them,” said Robert Shibley, a senior vice president for FIRE. “This has given administrators the opportunity to censor whatever opinions they dislike and make all of us pay for it.

But thanks in large part to FIRE, the excuse that makes this possible – that they ‘didn’t know’ that students had free speech rights – is quickly vanishing,” he said.In fact, WND reported recently when U.S. District Judge Charles Pannell Jr. ruled in the case of Valdosta State student Thomas Hayden Barnes. He was expelled in 2007 after he peacefully protested plans by then-President Ronald Zaccari to use $30 million in student activity fees to build a parking garage.

The court found Zaccari was not shielded from personal liability for violating Barnes’ rights.

“This is a major finding against a former university president, and if upheld (on appeal), it will serve as important federal precedent for holding future administrative malefactors personally responsible for their abuses of student rights,” FIRE documented.

FIRE reported its letter was dispatched to 296 of the biggest and most prestigious public colleges across the nation.

“FIRE’s mailing warns these top administrators that with the state of the law on campus speech codes clearer now than ever before, they and their employees violate the speech rights of students at their own financial peril, as they can no longer count on ‘qualified immunity’ to shield them,” the organization said.

“The legal doctrine of qualified immunity protects government officials from personal liability for monetary damages for violating constitutional rights if their actions do not violate ‘clearly established law’ of which a reasonable person in their position would have known. For years, public universities have argued that their speech codes did not violate clearly established law regarding students’ First Amendment rights, despite one legal decision after another striking down these codes,” the organization reported.

That’s over now, “thanks to a continuing stream of federal court decisions.”

Among the newest precedents in support of the warnings was the McCauley v. University of the Virgin Islands case, where the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down policies banning “offensive” or “unauthorized” signs as violations.

“FIRE’s certified mailing this week makes it that much more difficult for administrators at those universities to argue that they did not have reason to know they were violating students’ rights,” said Azhar Majeed, FIRE’s associate director of legal and public advocacy. “However, FIRE stands ready to help any institution that wishes to ensure that its policies respect the First Amendment, and we hope for a positive response to our letter.”

A sampling of the mailing, a letter to Gordon Gee at Ohio State, said FIRE was recommending “strongly” that the institution’s policies be reformed.

It cited:

  • McCauley v. University of the Virgin Islands, where the courts found the ban on “offensive” signs unsustainable;
  • DeJohn v. Temple University, where the court invalidated a university sexual harassment policy for being overbroad;
  • Dambrot v. Central Michigan University, where a court declared a university discriminatory harassment policy facially unconstitutional;
  • College Republicans at San Francisco State University v. Reed, where the court enjoined enforcement of university civility policy;
  • Corry v. Leland Stanford Junior University, where a court ruled an anti-harassment by personal vilification policy was unconstitutional; and others

“Taken together, [the cases] send an unequivocal message: Public universities cannot restrict protected speech, whether by harassment policies, free speech zones, civility policies, or other regulatory contrivances. Indeed, the Supreme Court has long recognized that the First Amendment is of special importance on college campuses,” the organization reported.

“The court has made clear that the ‘college classroom with its surrounding environs is peculiarly the ‘marketplace of ideas,’ and that its precedents ‘leave no doubt that the First Amendment rights of speech and association extend to the campuses of state universities,'” it said.

And it offers online suggestions for the 67 percent of the 286 public universities that have at least one policy that “clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech, in contravention of legal precedent,” FIRE reported.

“You must be aware that maintaining university policies that prohibit constitutionally protected expression is an unlawful deprivation of constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983 for which university administrators may be sued in their individual capacities for punitive damages,” the letter warns. “Given the sparkling clarity of the case law with regard to the unconstitutionality of speech codes at public universities, please be advised that claims of immunity from personal liability put forth by individual university administrators will likely be unsuccessful.”

Courtesy of http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=244689

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The Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Posted by faithandthelaw on December 28, 2010

The Senate has repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’ Tell”-the ultimate victory of political correctness over the protection of human life.

Senator John McCain valiantly opposed the repeal. But he was a good soldier when he lost. Referring to the members of our armed services, McCain said “They will do what is asked of them.” But then he paused and gave an ominous warning: “But don’t think there won’t be a great cost.”

He’s right. The Senate’s action flies in the face of polls showing that Marine and Army combat units strongly oppose the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’-these are filled with men, by the way, whose lives are in danger day in and day out.

And speaking of danger, I nominate for “Profiles in Courage” Marine Corps Commandant General Amos, who alone among the Pentagon brass publicly opposed the repeal. His career may be broken, but his integrity is intact.

Legal scholar Phillip Johnson said some years ago that the entire cultural war is being fought over the issue of sex, and he was right. Sexual liberty has become the ultimate virtue in American life.

But think of the implications of this. When I was in the Marines I felt perfectly secure taking a shower in the presence of other Marines. If there had been women in that shower area, there would have been chaos. And If I had thought for a moment that one of my fellow Marines was lusting after my body, I would have fled.

Where is our sense of modesty? Or of shame? What are we going to do with the military, provide private bathrooms out on the front lines? Or are we going to allow open homosexual conduct within a military combat unit?

The inevitable consequence of that is clear: People will die. Anybody who has served in an infantry platoon will tell you, as I know well, the vital importance of unit cohesion. You work together; you love one another as brothers because your lives are going to depend on it. There can be no favoritism-it’s one for all and all for one. If a couple of men were to ‘hook up’ in that platoon, it would destroy that bond.

Well, if gender or so-called sexual preferences don’t matter in the military (and please, don’t give me that hogwash hatched in academia that we simply “choose” our gender), then it shouldn’t matter anywhere else. If we’re forcing our troops to live with no distinction, why should we back home continue to enjoy the nicety of separate toilet facilities for men and women? We’re hypocrites.

Here is another tragic case in which ignoring the biblical worldview leads to irrational, unsustainable decisions. The biblical worldview is clear: God made man and woman. He joined them together in marriage. He tells us that fornication, whether it’s between two men, two women, or a man and a woman, is wrong.

The military used to consider extramarital sex as conduct unbefitting an officer. Now we openly sanction it. We have placed lives at risk, all to appease perhaps 2 to 4 percent of the population.

And McCain is right. There will be a cost: ugly incidents, good men turning away from the military.

OK, sadly the U.S. Senate has repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” but let’s keep the pressure on. Maybe another Congress will see the light and restore it. We’ve got to be relentless.

Yes, we respect the dignity of all human beings. But the homosexual agenda is about changing our moral order.

And as half a million signers of the Manhattan Declaration have declared, we will never compromise our convictions.

Courtesy of http://www.christianpost.com/article/20101222/the-repeal-of-dont-ask-dont-tell/ 

From BreakPoint, December 21, 2010, Copyright 2010, Prison Fellowship Ministries

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EDITORIAL: Crucifying Christians on Christmas

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on December 28, 2010

On Saturday, the world’s Christians will join in prayer and celebration of the birth of Jesus. For too many of them, this worshipful act will take place under the threat of imprisonment, torture or execution.

“Christians are the religious group which suffers most from persecution on account of its faith,” Pope Benedict XVI wrote in the Vatican’s annual Peace Day message. The pontiff chose not to single out the most notable perpetrators of this persecution, but previous Vatican statements and numerous human rights surveys point the finger at Muslim-majority countries. In most of them, Islam is the official state religion and source of law. In those places, there is no appreciation for the Western practice of freedom of worship. Indeed, free exercise is the very thing that can lead to violence.

The case of Asia Bibi – a 45-year-old Pakistani Christian mother of five sentenced to death in November for allegedly blaspheming against Muhammad – has gained wide press attention. Less noticed is the case of the Rev. Wilson Augustine, a 25-year-old Pakistani Christian evangelist who was beaten with clubs and belts and set on fire for preaching the Gospel in villages near the town of Sargodha. In Egypt, there is rising violence against members of the ancient Coptic Christian community, which existed in the country centuries before Islam was founded. In January, six Christians were killed when three Muslim gunmen opened fire on worshippers attending a Coptic Christmas Mass. In another case, a Christian named Farouk Attallah was killed by four Muslim men who were outraged that his son was romantically involved with a Muslim girl. They were arrested, but the case was thrown out for “lack of evidence.”

In many Muslim countries, Christians face institutional discrimination regarding marriage and inheritance laws, taxes, government employment, and time, place and manner of permitted worship. Conversion to Christianity is frequently a capital offense, and in Saudi Arabia, Christian worship of any kind is banned. Those carrying Bibles or other religious materials are subjected to police harassment and confiscation of the dangerous devotional items. Dissenters from these Shariah-based violations of religious freedom face charges of blasphemy and stringent punishments. According to an October study by Freedom House, such blasphemy laws reach well beyond their purported purpose of protecting religious dogma and are used to stifle all manner of expression and political dissent.

Christians have found few vocal defenders in U.S. official circles. The State Department’s annual International Religious Freedom report offers a compendium of the types of oppression Christians around the world face, but even given this wealth of official information, President Obama has refused to highlight Christian suffering, even while being widely outspoken about much less compelling cases of purported discrimination against Muslims. Among the cases noted in the State Department report is that of Maher el-Gohary, an Egyptian Christian convert from Islam who is being persecuted for his beliefs. More than a year ago, his then-15-year-old daughter, Dina, wrote an emotional appeal to Mr. Obama asking him to use his influence to save her father. There was no response.

Another Christian convert from Islam, Ashraf Thabet, faces charges of “defamation” and has lost his wife, children and business because of his newfound beliefs. For these tortured believers and other Christians around the world, it will be best to keep this holy night a silent night. For these persecuted souls, there is no room at the inn.

© Copyright 2010 The Washington Times, LLC.

Courtesy of http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/dec/22/crucifying-christians-on-christmas/

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A Possible Endorsement Test Case for the Supreme Court?

Posted by faithandthelaw on December 27, 2010

By Eugene Volokh

Yesterday, the Tenth Circuit voted 5–4 not to rehear the Utah roadside cross memorial case, American Atheists, Inc. v. Duncan. The result, and the forceful dissents from denial of rehearing en banc, make it likely that the Supreme Court will agree to hear the case, and perhaps overturn the Establishment Clause endorsement test. I blogged about this in August, when the panel opinion was handed down, but I thought I’d repeat that post, with a few elaborations.

The case involves Utah Highway Patrol’s practice of allowing twelve-foot-high crosses as roadside memorials for fallen troopers (see the picture above). The practice, the panel held, violated the Establishment Clause because it had the effect of endorsing Christianity.

But five of the U.S. Supreme Court’s nine members seem likely to disapprove of the endorsement test — Justices Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas are on the record as opposing the test, and Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito seem likely to take the same view. What’s more, Justice Kennedy, who has long been on the record as opposing the endorsement test, wrote in Salazar (in an opinion joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito) that

The goal of avoiding governmental endorsementdoes not require eradication of all religious symbols in the public realm. A cross by the side of a public highway marking, for instance, the place where a state trooper perished need not be taken as a statement of governmental support for sectarian beliefs. The Constitution does not oblige government to avoid any public acknowledgment of religion’s role in society. Rather, it leaves room to accommodate divergent values within a constitutionally permissible framework. 

Both dissenting opinions (including one by Judge Neil Gorsuch, who worked part-time in Justice Kennedy’s chambers when he was a law clerk for retired Justice White) mentioned this passage. So I suspect the Justices are likely to take the case, which doesn’t have the procedural complexities of this year’s Mojave cross case (Salazar v. Buono).

One possible complication is that Justice Scalia’s latest extended critique of the endorsement test (in McCreary County v. ACLU (2005)) suggested that symbols that appear to favor Christianity might be unconstitutional even under his view, given his understanding of American traditions from the Framing on (recall that Justice Scalia generally thinks that historical practice is controlling in interpreting ambiguous constitutional provisions):

Besides appealing to the demonstrably false principle that the government cannot favor religion over irreligion, today’s opinion suggests that the posting of the Ten Commandments violates the principle that the government cannot favor one religion over another. That is indeed a valid principle where public aid or assistance to religion is concerned, or where the free exercise of religion is at issue, but it necessarily applies in a more limited sense to public acknowledgment of the Creator. If religion in the public forum had to be entirely nondenominational, there could be no religion in the public forum at all. One cannot say the word “God,” or “the Almighty,” one cannot offer public supplication or thanksgiving, without contradicting the beliefs of some people that there are many gods, or that God or the gods pay no attention to human affairs. With respect to public acknowledgment of religious belief, it is entirely clear from our Nation’s historical practices that the Establishment Clause permits this disregard of polytheists and believers in unconcerned deities, just as it permits the disregard of devout atheists. The Thanksgiving Proclamation issued by George Washington at the instance of the First Congress was scrupulously nondenominational — but it was monotheistic. In Marsh v. Chambers, we said that the fact the particular prayers offered in the Nebraska Legislature were “in the Judeo-Christian tradition” posed no additional problem, because “there is no indication that the prayer opportunity has been exploited to proselytize or advance any one, or to disparage any other, faith or belief.”Historical practices thus demonstrate that there is a distance between the acknowledgment of a single Creator and the establishment of a religion. The former is, as Marsh v. Chambers put it, “a tolerable acknowledgment of beliefs widely held among the people of this country.” The three most popular religions in the United States, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam — which combined account for 97.7% of all believers — are monotheistic. All of them, moreover (Islam included), believe that the Ten Commandments were given by God to Moses, and are divine prescriptions for a virtuous life. Publicly honoring the Ten Commandments is thus indistinguishable, insofar as discriminating against other religions is concerned, from publicly honoring God. Both practices are recognized across such a broad and diverse range of the population — from Christians to Muslims — that they cannot be reasonably understood as a government endorsement of a particular religious viewpoint.

I suspect Justice Scalia might conclude that this does not make the crosses unconstitutional, because in context the crosses would be seen as memorial symbols and not endorsements of Christianity as such. (See here for an earlier discussion of the subject.) But his McCreary County analysis does make this a more difficult matter, especially since one of the arguments for jettisoning the endorsement test is that the inquiry into whether a reasonable observer would perceive something as endorsement is so vague; replacing it with an inquiry into whether a reasonable observer would perceive that something as endorsement of Christianity (as opposed to Judeo-Christian-Muslim monotheism) wouldn’t do much to avoid the problem. So this might lead him and some of the other conservative Justices to view this case as a less-than-optimal vehicle for revisiting the endorsement test. Still, on balance I think it’s pretty likely that the Court will take the case, reverse the Tenth Circuit, and use the opportunity to reject the endorsement test that a majority of the Justices dislike.

By the way, for whatever it’s worth, the panel consisted of 3 Republican appointees, two of whom were in active service. The vote on the en banc court was 4 Republican appointees in favor, 3 Republican appointees plus 2 Democratic appointees against, and one Democratic appointee (Chief Judge Briscoe) recused. So while I suspect that the Supreme Court Justices will split among Republican appointee / Democratic appointee lines — a suspicion based on their past votes on such cases, coupled with my guess of where Justice Kagan is likely to stand — the Tenth Circuit votes can’t be described that way.

Thanks to How Appealing for the pointer. Note that Mayer Brown colleagues Evan Tager, David Gossett, and Brian Willen filed an amicus brief in this case on the plaintiffs’ side, but I wasn’t involved with the brief, and didn’t even know of it until shortly after the panel opinion.

Courtesy of http://volokh.com/2010/12/21/a-possible-endorsement-test-case-for-the-u-s-supreme-court-2/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+volokh/mainfeed+(The+Volokh+Conspiracy)&utm_content=Twitter

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God and the Republic

Posted by faithandthelaw on December 27, 2010

By Ron Hunnicutt
 
Progressives delight in proclaiming that God is not mentioned in the Constitution.  But the Declaration of Independence does mention our Creator in the first two paragraphs along with the last.  Our Declaration is the why of what our Founding Fathers did.  The Constitution is the how.  The Declaration is the foundation, and the Constitution is the structure or framework of our government.  The Declaration is act one, and the Constitution is act two.  Both acts make for a viable construct.  Leave one or the other out, and the whole becomes incoherent.
What is the purpose of the Constitution?  To set up a government that acknowledges our equality in God’s eyes (and yes, the equality stops right there, except for the idea that all men should have equality before the law in a courtroom) and allows us to exercise our “unalienable rights,” among other things.  The Declaration states our independence from tyranny, and so the obvious need for the Constitution is at hand.
If progressives wish to discount our Declaration or discount God’s presence in the Declaration, then the purpose of our very existence as a nation becomes somewhat confused.  The Founders created a constitutional republic, but why?  For what purpose?  The Declaration gives the why and purpose.  A part of the Founders’ justification for declaring independence was that King George III “broke covenant” with the colonists for many reasons, and “covenant” is a sober biblical concept.
Just so that we are clear about all of these matters, most Christians do not advocate a theocracy, although progressives delight in announcing otherwise.  It’s just that the liberal construct of “separation of church and state” has mutated into state-enforced atheism.  The First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof[.]”  It is about Congress!  Not the people!  It does not say that Christians cannot influence or be involved in government.  It does not say that God has to be removed from anything government has its tentacles in.  It does not say that the ACLU can remove a Christian symbol at will or with the threat of litigation.  Progressives have used the ruse of “separation of church and state,” which is not in the Constitution, to rabidly attack everything Christian.  Christians should have as much influence in our culture and on our government as anyone else.  Behind every law is some sort of value, and the source of that value is vital.
Now, here is another item of galactic importance in our Declaration.  Here is what it says: that men are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights[.]”  Those rights, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” are from God Himself, not from governments or government leaders.  So the Declaration is a most vital statement by the Founders.  The importance of this cannot be overemphasized.  To an atheist leader like Stalin, Lenin, Mao or Hitler, people have no God-given rights at all.
So now we are at a vital point: most of the time, when someone removes God from an equation, the result is confusion, dysfunction, and incoherency.  Liberalism does this routinely and with reckless abandon.  It is incoherent to suggest that abortion does not snuff out a life.  It is incoherent to suggest that there is virtue in deficit spending.  It is incoherent to suggest that there is no God, and Hitler just died and that’s the end of it.
But for most progressives, that incoherence is preferable to the difficulty of having God in the equation.  If God is in the equation, then maybe He has something to say about how I live and what I do.  He might very well have some sort of claim on my very existence.
The Founding Fathers were an enlightened bunch, and they afforded God his proper place.  In the beginning…
 

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Town taxes Christians for listening to sermons

Posted by faithandthelaw on December 24, 2010

By Bob Unruh
© 2010 WorldNetDaily


First Baptist in Mission, Kan.

Christians who attend worshipservices in a suburb of Kansas City will have to ante up for new thousand-dollar city “fees” that are being assessed against their churches based on the number of seats in their sanctuaries.

That’s if the scheme announced recently by officials in Mission, Kan., survives a court challenge that has been filed by the Alliance Defense Fund.

“No one should be taxing church attendance, but that’s what this tax does: It punishes churches based on their attendance,” said Erik Stanley, a senior legal counsel for the organization.

“Cleverly disguising a tax as a fee is just another way to penalize churches and other nonprofit organizations and charities by subverting their tax exemptions so the government can collect more money,” he said. “This driveway tax is simply outrageous. Will we soon be seeing a ‘sidewalk tax’ based on the number of people who walk to church?”

It was in August when the city council in Mission created Ordinance 1332 for a “Transportation Utility Fee.” The law requiress that owners of all property within city limits with improvements such as buildings or landscaping pay a fee, “which functions as an additional property tax.”

According to ADF, the ordinance itself specifies that owners of properties that are tax exempt under state law, such as churches, charities and nonprofit ministries, still must pay.

For churches, the tax is based on an assumption about the number of vehicle trips.

“Single family homes are assessed a fixed rate of $72 per year while 5.8 total weekly vehicle trips are estimated per worship facility seat to calculate the tax amount for churches,” ADF said.

Its lawsuit, filed Monday in district court in Johnson County, is on behalf of First Baptist Church of Mission and the Archdiocese of Kansas City.


St. Pius Catholic Church

The Baptist church, billed nearly $1,000, and the Catholic diocese, billed some $1,700, agreed to take the lead in the battle over the new assessments on behalf of the town’s churches.

City officials declined to respond to a WND request for comment.

But ADF said the “driveway tax” is the same as other assessments that were imposed in Idaho and Florida but struck down by the supreme courts in those states.

“The government should not attempt to disguise taxes as ‘fees’ in order to eliminate property tax exemptions, when that money could be better spent by churches in caring for the poor. It makes little sense to extract greater tribute from churches and charities when lost services mean a shift of the burden to the government anyway. Not only is this scheme unlawful, it’s fiscally nonsensical,” Stanley said.

According to ADF, “Churches are exempt from taxes for good reason. First, they provide essential services to the poor and disadvantaged in the community. If they did not provide these services, the government would be left to provide them. Second, churches are active in shaping virtuous citizens who contribute positively and help maintain a healthy society. Without the work of the churches, the government is unable to benefit from this intangible, but important spiritual work that churches perform. The government should view churches as an essential partner in society and not tax them, thereby removing funds from them that can be better used in fulfilling the religious mission of the church.”

Mission is a suburban area near Kansas City.

Courtesy of http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=242657

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Christmas according to Marx and Lenin by Ronald Reagan

Posted by faithandthelaw on December 24, 2010

www.LC.org

Orlando, FL – Between his campaign against President Gerald Ford in 1975-76 and his race against Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan delivered more than 1,000 radio broadcasts, running about three minutes each, writing nearly all of them himself. In one broadcast during the Christmas season, Mr. Reagan told a story about Christmas in the Ukraine before and after Communism.

In an effort to resist Christians, Communist leaders secularized a favorite Ukrainian Christmas carol, “Nova Radist Stala” (Joyous News Has Come to Us). The original song began with these words: “The joyous news has come which never was before. Over a cave above a manger a bright star has lit the world, where Jesus was born from a virgin maiden, …” Communists feared the public outcry that would follow a complete ban on Christmas, so they began to slowly secularize the holiday. The first rewrite of the song began: “The joyous news has come which never was before, a red star with five tails has brightly lit the world.” The second rewrite went further: “The joyous news has come which never was before. Long-awaited star of freedom lit the skies in October [the month of the Revolution]. Where formerly lived the kings and had the roots their nobles, there today with simple folks, Lenin’s glory hovers.”

The former Soviet Union eventually began banning Christmas commemorations. St. Nicholas was replaced with “Did Moroz,” or Grandfather Frost. This Stalinist creation wears a red cap and long white beard of Santa Claus, but he delivers gifts to children on New Year’s Eve. Christmas trees were also banned, but people continued to trim their New Year’s trees. Communism folded all Christmas celebrations into a New Year celebration.

Christians in the former Soviet Union exhibited bravery and courage in confronting Communism’s anti-Christmas campaign. One person recalled how the young people would go out in the streets and sing Christmas carols, knowing that if police heard them, they would be arrested. In Communist Romania, Rev. Geza Palffy, a Roman Catholic priest, delivered a sermon in 1983, protesting against the fact that December 25th had been declared a work day instead of a holiday. The next day he was arrested by secret police, beaten, imprisoned and died. Inside and outside the Iron Curtain, Ukrainians never stopped singing: “We beg you our Lord, we pray to you today. Grant us freedom, return glory to our Mother Ukraine.” Mr. Reagan ended his broadcast: “I guess we all hope their prayer is answered.” Indeed it was.

The secularization of Christmas is nothing new. Christianity Today in 2002 reported that in the Vietnamese province of Dak Lak, children’s choirs were forbidden to sing “Silent Night.” From 1969 to 1997, Christmas was banned in Cuba. Such examples are endless.

Mathew Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented: “The war against Christmas is nothing new. Repressive forces have always had the same goal – to first secularize and then to eliminate Christmas. We must never take our freedom for granted.”

Here is the text of Ronald Reagan’ s speech:

Ronald Reagan’s Radio Program on Christmas under Communism

“Someone sent me a Christmas item – yes, a Christmas item. It is ‘The Nativity According to Marx & Lenin.’ I’ll be right back.

In these few months since the holidays, I’ve told a couple of Christmas stories on these broadcasts and, as a result, received one in return. Or possibly it was because of a broadcast about the Ukraine. Whatever the reason, I’m grateful for it.

When the Ukraine was free and not under Soviet bondage, Christmas was, of course, the religious event that it is in the Western world. A favorite Ukrainian carol was ‘Nova Radist Stala’ — ‘The Joyous News Has Come To Us.’ A Ukrainian now teaching at the University of Utah has written an article about the evolution of Christmas under Communism, at least as it applies to this carol. In the good days of freedom, the people of the Ukraine sang these verses:

The joyous news has come which never was before. Over a cave above a manger a bright star has lit the world, where Jesus was born from a virgin maiden, clad in raiment poor like a peasant baby, the shepherds with the lambs surrounded the child, and on flected knees they Him glorified. We beg you our King, we pray to you today, grant happiness and joy to this family.

Now, of course, this was neither fitting nor permitted under Communism. Still the commissars were a little leery about an outright ban. They chose to allow the song after some rewriting. In fact, they provided the Ukrainians with two versions, neither of which could be expected to have made the Ukrainian Hit Parade. Here’s the first version:

‘The joyous news has come which never was before, a red star with five tails has brightly lit the world.” See they only changed one line in that verse, but wait —

The altars have crumbled and all the kings have fallen, glory to the working people, to shepherds and the plowmen, glory to our host and to his fair hostess. May their friendly household know only happiness. May all their family, especially the children, grow up to be strong and happy so as to fight the rich men.

You know, our own kids could probably get away with singing that one in the classroom. The second version is a little meatier, even though they got the Christmas story down to two verses instead of four.

‘The Joyous News has come which never was before. Long-awaited star of freedom lit the skies in October.'(If you’re wondering about what happened on the date, the revolution took place in October.) ‘Where formerly lived the kings and had the roots their nobles, there today with simple folks, Lenin’s glory hovers.’

The people of the Ukraine, both in and outside the Iron Curtain, were so carried away by these verses, they added one of their own. They sing it, but carefully refrain from putting it in the songbooks. It goes: ‘We beg you our Lord, we pray to you today. Grant us freedom, return glory to our Mother Ukraine.’ I guess we all hope their prayer is answered.

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ACLU plays Grinch in Davey Crockett’s backyard

Posted by faithandthelaw on December 22, 2010

It’s Christmastime, so the ACLU is doing what it does best — hounding public officials to turn observance of this Christian (and federal) holiday into a winter solstice thingy — or else.
 
On December 7, Pearl Harbor Day, the ACLU of Tennessee dropped a letter bomb on all public school superintendents in the home state of freedom fighter Davey Crockett, warning them not to celebrate Christmas. 

The group’s website explains it this way:

“The letter reminded school officials that holiday celebrations focusing primarily on one religious holiday amount to a school’s unconstitutional endorsement of religion.”

Translation: Ditch Christmas — or else we’ll pester you with nuisance lawsuits.
 
The ACLU’s letter says they “welcome holiday celebrations that teach children about a variety of holidays. We believe, however, that holiday celebrations that focus primarily on one religious holiday can result in indoctrination as well as a sense within students who do not share that religion of being outsiders to the school.”
 
Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU-Tennessee, said, “The founders of the United States believed in the significance of religion. But they also understood that decisions about when and how to practice religion are best left to individuals, families and religious institutions.”
 
Well, yes, but that did not make them hostile to public observances of America’s majority religion. Christian church services were conducted in the House of Representatives chamber (attended for several years by Thomas Jefferson), and presidents from Washington on down have issued Christmas greetings — so the ACLU’s historic understanding is a bit flawed. Maybe they’ve dusted off their Soviet history books and gotten mixed up.
 
Here’s more from the Tennessee Grinches: “The ACLU-TN letter cites several U.S. Supreme Court decisions, explaining that ‘While public schools can teach about religion and religious holidays, public schools may not engage in indoctrination. Thus comparative religion courses can be taught but endorsing religious doctrine or sponsoring religious activities is unconstitutional.'”
 
Lynchburg, Virginia-based Liberty Counsel sent a memo on December 10 to Tennessee school superintendents correcting the nonsense: “The ACLU suggests that any Christmas concert, decoration, or party is a religious activity prohibited by the U.S. Constitution. The ACLU letter leaves the wrong impression with school administrators and omits key solutions to common concerns about public school Christmas activities.”
 
The legal rule of thumb, based on court rulings, is that religious songs and symbols are fine if accompanied by at least some secular fare. So, singing the great Christmas music that has blessed the nation for more than 200 years is out unless the kids also sing “Frosty the Snowman” or perhaps “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Litigator.”
 
A recent Rasmussen survey shows that 92 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas and most prefer saying “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.” Most Americans, it seems, have not gotten the ACLU memo on resisting “indoctrination.”
 
This isn’t the first time that the ACLU of Tennessee has attempted to bully the state’s schools. In 2009, the ACLU sent a threatening letter to the Volunteer State’s schools warning them to make gay propaganda on the Internet available to impressionable kids — or else. No worries about indoctrination there.
 
In closing, and in the spirit of the ACLU’s cracked version of Christmas, let’s wish everyone “happy holidays — or else.”

Courtesy of http://www.onenewsnow.com/Perspectives/Default.aspx?id=1259314

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