How our government thinks of religion

Joseph Knippenberg at First Thoughts finds a telling quotation from Leondra Kruger, Assistant to the Solicitor General, arguing at the Supreme Court in the Hosanna-Tabor case:

The government’s interest extends in this case beyond the fact that this is a retaliation to the fact that this is not a church operating internally to promulgate and express religious belief internally. It is a church that has decided to open its doors to the public to provide the service, socially beneficial service, of educating children for a fee, in compliance with State compulsory education laws.

Mr. Knippenberg points out that this mindset helps explain why the government is requiring religious institutions except for churches to provide their employees free Morning After pills and birth control devices, even if doing so violates their religious beliefs:

The reasoning here is perfectly consistent with the thought animating the narrowly-drawn exemption to the widely reviled contraceptive mandate. Whenever a church or house of worship ceases to be simply inward-looking, when it in any way engages or serves the wider public, it becomes subject to much the same sort of government regulation as any secular entity. Relgious freedom is a purely private freedom. The moment you enter the public sphere, you’re subject to regulation. The public sphere is by definition secular, not pluralistic, with its tone, terms, and limits set by governmental authority. . . .

The logic of its argument in these two cases is that any religious institution that is public-serving has to behave in many instances (those determined by the state) like every other public-serving organization. The religious presence in the public square can’t be distinctive except in ways the government permits.

Pursued consistently across the board (and the Obama Administration hasn’t yet done this), this approach would gravely threaten religious freedom. It’s one thing to say (as some have, though I disagree with them), that if you take public dollars, you have to be thoroughly secular in your operation. Anyone can escape the secularizing effect of public money by refusing to accept it. It’s quite another to say that if you serve the public, your religiosity can’t permeate your efforts and your organization. This would require almost every religious organization I know of to choose between reaching out as a bearer of good news and a helper of widows and orphans and remaining faithful to the very understanding that inspired its outreach. Under these circumstances, a church can’t remain a church.

via The Obama Admininstration’s Crabbed Vision of Religious Liberty » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

Declaring war on religion

Michael Gerson on the Obama administration’s mandate that Roman Catholic institutions, as well as those of other churches and pro-life organizations, must provide employees health insurance that will give them free birth control, sterilization, and abortifacients:

The religious exemption granted by Obamacare is narrower than anywhere else in federal law — essentially covering the delivery of homilies and the distribution of sacraments. Serving the poor and healing the sick are regarded as secular pursuits — a determination that would have surprised Christianity’s founder.

Both radicalism and maliciousness are at work in Obama’s decision — an edict delivered with a sneer. It is the most transparently anti-Catholic maneuver by the federal government since the Blaine Amendment was proposed in 1875 — a measure designed to diminish public tolerance of Romanism, then regarded as foreign, authoritarian and illiberal. Modern liberalism has progressed to the point of adopting the attitudes and methods of 19th-century Republican nativists. . . .

The implications of Obama’s power grab go further than contraception and will provoke opposition beyond Catholicism. Christian colleges and universities of various denominations will resist providing insurance coverage for abortifacients. And the astounding ambition of this federal precedent will soon be apparent to every religious institution. Obama is claiming the executive authority to determine which missions of believers are religious and which are not — and then to aggressively regulate institutions the government declares to be secular. It is a view of religious liberty so narrow and privatized that it barely covers the space between a believer’s ears.

Obama’s decision also reflects a certain view of liberalism. Classical liberalism was concerned with the freedom to hold and practice beliefs at odds with a public consensus. Modern liberalism uses the power of the state to impose liberal values on institutions it regards as backward. It is the difference between pluralism and anti-­clericalism.

The administration’s ultimate motivation is uncertain. Has it adopted a radical secularism out of conviction, or is it cynically appealing to radical secularists? In either case, the war on religion is now formally declared.

via Obama’s radical power grab on health care – The Washington Post.

Anti-fetal cannibalism bill

Oklahoma has a history of passing laws against things that don’t exist–such as Shari’a law being used in Oklahoma courts–a habit that can get ridiculous.  In this case, I think the key provision is the one dealing with “research & development.”

An Oklahoma bill that would ban the sale of food containing aborted human fetuses has some people wondering: What food currently contains aborted human fetuses?

The bill, introduced Jan. 18 by State Sen. Ralph Shortey, prohibits the manufacture or sale of “food or any other product intended for human consumption which contains aborted human fetuses in the ingredients or which used aborted human fetuses in the research or development of any of the ingredients.”

Shortey declined to give specific examples but said some food manufacturers used stem cells in the research and development process.

“There is a potential that there are companies that are using aborted human babies in their research and development of basically enhancing flavor for artificial flavors,” he told KRMG Radio. “I don’t know if it is happening in Oklahoma, it may be, it may not be. What I am saying is that if it does happen then we are not going to allow it to manufacture here.”

Shortey may be acting on claims that the San Diego-based company Semonyx used proteins derived from human embryonic kidney cells to test artificial sweeteners, NPR reported. The cell line, known as HEK 293, was created from a human embryo in 1970 and has become a staple in biochemistry labs around the world.

via Bill Would Ban Aborted Fetuses in Food – Yahoo! News.

Might such a law  be needed someday?  Are there embryonic experiments being proposed that might come close to cannibalism?  Or is this just a Swiftian proposal to wake people up to the dehumanizing of human embryos and other fetuses that is already taking place?

HT:  Mary

Death as a solution to life vs. life as a solution to death

Last Sunday was Life Sunday, with Scripture readings about Jonah and the calling of the first Disciples.  See what Pastor Douthwaite did with all of this, how he turned the pro-life message into being not just about Law (abortion is terrible) but about the Gospel.  A sample:

Death is sin made visible. Death is horrible, death is grizzly, death is sad, death is separation because sin is all those things. We die because sin robs us of life. We were not created to die. Sin and death are intrusions into life. And so if death is to be defeated, then sin must be defeated. That’s why science will never be able to defeat death. It can prolong and extend life, but only the One who defeats sin can defeat death. And that is what Jesus has come to do. .  . .

And so Simon and Andrew, James and John, follow Jesus. They had no idea what they were in for. They would see the unimaginable, hear a teaching with an authority not of this earth, and become convinced that Jesus of Nazareth is God in the flesh . . . and then see God die for His creation. The sin of the world all counted against Him on the cross and its price paid, and so death be dealt with once and for all. That no longer would death end life, but life end death. And when Jesus rose from death, that’s exactly what we see – a life that ends death.

“Follow me,” Jesus says, and see this. Follow me and hear that I forgive you all your sins; all your grisly, horrible, unthinkable sins. I know them all for I took them all upon myself on the cross. I was declared guilty for you so that you would be declared not guilty because of me. And so follow me and no longer die a death that ends your life, but receive a life that will end your death. . . .

To be sure, abortion is a problem. 54 million in the United States alone these past 39 years, and the number is still growing. And the problem is moving from the clinic to the pharmacy, where abortions may soon be as easy to get as buying and taking aspirin. But it’s not just abortion, but also mercy killing, suicide, withholding treatment from those who need it, making decision about how to spend health care dollars not based on need but who will provide the greatest return on investment. The problem is how many are seduced into seeing death as the answer and solution to their problems, to their suffering, to their sin? Even Christians. Even you and I. For the same fears, the same greed, the same lusts, the same selfishness all live in our hearts too. Christians have abortions. Christians commit suicide. Christians lash out and kill in thought, word, deed, and desire.

And so to you and to all, the message this Life Sunday is . . . welcome. Welcome here with the rest of us sinners, with the rest of us who have followed the wrong path. Welcome and receive the washing of Jesus’ forgiveness for your sins, for all your sins, whatever and how many they may be. There is no sin and no sinner too big. If there were, then you can be sure God would not have sent Jonah to Nineveh! Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, and the Assyrians were some of the meanest, vilest, orneriest, stubbornest, evilest people ever. That’s why Jonah didn’t want to go. But God would not let him not go. For even for them Jesus died. For their sin, that they may live. 

And so for you. For every life is valuable to God, whether you live in a house or in a womb; whether you’re up and walking around or confined to a wheelchair; whether you are out making a name for yourself or no longer able to remember anyone’s name; whether you’re from Israel or Nineveh or the United States. You are valuable to God. You may not be valuable to anyone else, but you are to God. You are worth the life of His Son, who died that you may live.

via St. Athanasius Lutheran Church.

Church organizations must provide free contraception & abortifacients

Obamacare will force church-affiliated institutions to have insurance policies that will give employees free contraceptives (without even the usual co-pay!).  There will be no exemption for Roman Catholics who disapprove of birth control as a matter of doctrine:

Many church-affiliated institutions will have to cover free birth control for employees, the Obama administration announced Friday in an election-year move that outraged religious groups, fueling a national debate about the reach of government.

In a concession, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said nonprofit institutions such as church-affiliated hospitals, colleges and social service agencies will have one additional year to comply with the requirement, issued in regulations under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

“I believe this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services,” Sebelius said in a statement.

Yet the concession was unlikely to stop a determined effort by opponents to block or overturn the rule. If they fail, some predicted that religious employers would simply drop coverage for their workers, opting instead to pay fines to the federal government under the health care law.

“Never before has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience,” said New York Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “This shouldn’t happen in a land where free exercise of religion ranks first in the Bill of Rights.”

via Birth control: Feds say many church-affiliated employers must cover but grant 1-year extension – The Washington Post.

Churches construed narrowly as houses of worship would be exempt, but not hospitals, schools, universities, and ministries.

Here is the kicker for Christians who may not oppose birth control but who do oppose abortion:  The government is classifying the Morning After pill, which prevents the fertilized egg from implanting thus killing the embryo, as a contraceptive! From the same article:

Workplace health plans will have to cover all forms of contraception approved by the Food and Drug Administration, ranging from the pill to implantable devices to sterilization. Also covered is the morning-after pill, which can prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex and is considered as tantamount to an abortion drug by some religious conservatives.

This means that Christian organizations that oppose abortion as a matter of  religious conviction will be required by law to pay for abortifacients and thus violate their religious convictions.

Choosing death vs. choosing life

Sunday was the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision in 1973.  Today is the March for Life in Washington, D. C.

Those who believe in abortion call themselves “pro-choice.”  Women indeed do have the “choice” of whether to get an abortion or let the child live.  Rev. James Lamb, director of Lutherans for Life, has some provocative reflections on “choice”:

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

Just saying, “Choose life!” can stir things up because it is associated with abortion. But this verse is not about abortion. It is about what we as God’s people base our choices upon. We base our choices upon who has chosen us. . . .

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). We are special because we have been chosen. God in Christ rescued us from the slavery of sin and set us on the path to the Promised Land of heaven. . . .

Death is the god of choice in our culture today. We choose death through abortion to rescue us from a crisis pregnancy. We choose death through the destruction of human embryos to rescue us from disease. We choose death through assisted suicide to rescue us from pain and suffering. Luther says in the Large Catechism that whatever we turn to for more “good and help than God” becomes our god (Tappert, 368, 28). But the god of death only seems to offer “good and help.” In reality, “evil and curses” follow in its wake. . . .

The choice of death as our rescuer-god always leads to “evil and curses.” There has never been a choice of death that rescues us from our problems and leads to life. Well, there was that one time! “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:14-15). Jesus chose death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10b). Jesus chose death to rescue us. We never have to!

That is our assurance that we can trust Him. That is our assurance we can choose life. We can trust God because He loves us and has proven that love in the death and resurrection of Jesus. We can trust God because He “sets His love upon us” every time we come to His holy meal to receive the very price paid for our rescue.

Talking about life issues in our churches is more than just speaking against something going on in our culture. It is speaking for those who face these issues and are being tempted to choose death. What a message we have to share with one another. We belong to God. We can choose life. We can choose life and defend the life of the vulnerable. We can choose life and care for those who are weary and burdened. We can choose life and share the forgiveness of Christ when mistakes are made.

via Lutherans For Life | Chosen People Choose Life.


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