LCMS before the Supreme Court

The case of Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran School vs. the EEOC is being argued before the Supreme Court.   J. Christian Adams sees the Justice Department’s case as being a major assault on religious liberty.  Here is his take:

Like so much from this Justice Department, Holder’s radical legal positions are at odds with long American traditions. This latest species of Holder’s radicalism is a frontal attack on faith communities.

In the case of Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Holder’s DOJ argued that a church cannot fire an employee for acting contrary to church teaching, and contrary to an employment contract that incorporates that teaching. A teacher filed a complaint to the government about how the school handled her narcolepsy, which presumably would involve sleeping at work. The church school then fired the teacher because the church forbids lawsuits among believers based on 1 Corinthians 6:1-8. (“But instead, one brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers!”)

This particular Lutheran church had well established dispute resolution mechanisms within the church, and based on church teaching. Instead, the teacher went to the government, contrary to church teaching.

Holder’s Justice Department believes that religious schools should not be able to enjoy a longstanding exemption to various employment laws which conflict with church teaching, or, the “ministerial exception.”

Assistant to the Solicitor General Leondra R. Kruger argued that the religious school could not fire the teacher for filing a complaint to the government even if church teaching forbids it.  At oral argument, Kruger advocated positions so extreme that even Justice Elena Kagan appeared to reject them.

It’s not hard to see where this slippery slope slides. What if a teacher in a Catholic school does something directly contrary to Catholic teaching? Or, consider this possibility offered by American Catholic:

“Then, too, what also about Catholic women using this principle to sue the Catholic Church in the United States because they are excluded from the priesthood? There’s absolutely no doubt that when it comes to ordination, the Catholic Church discriminates in favor of males. Should SCOTUS be able to tell the Catholic Church in the United States that it must redress the imbalance?

Yes…if, as an organization, the Catholic Church is bound by federal employment discrimination statutes.

No…if, as an organization, the U.S. Catholic Church is exempt from federal employment discrimination statutes.”

Far fetched? Not to Kruger.

At oral argument, she wouldn’t categorically preclude the possibility. Instead, she told the Court that the government interest isn’t currently sufficient to justify an assault on the male priesthood. Kruger said “the government does have a compelling and indeed overriding interest in ensuring that individuals are not prevented from coming to the government with information about illegal conduct.” In other words, even if church doctrine prohibits you from settling disputes with the church through the government, the Obama administration cares not. Holder wants informants, or as the DOJ prefers to call them, complainants.

via Rule of Law » Holder’s Quiet Court Attack on Religious Freedom.

Here are some of the blow-by-blow arguments:

Hosanna-Tabor was represented by religious-law Professor Douglas Laycock. He began by saying that EEOC violated a bedrock constitutional principle that churches do not select government leaders and government does not select church leaders.

But he had problems during oral argument. One came from Justice Anthony Kennedy (who is likely the swing vote in this case), concerned that someone suffering retaliation from a church employer couldn’t present his or her claims in court.

Laycock rebutted that substantial church interests should bar civil trials, and Kennedy objected that you can’t know if substantial interests are at stake unless someone presents them in court.

Justice Antonin Scalia came to Laycock’s rescue, saying, “I think your point is that it’s none of the business of the government to decide what the substantial interest of a church is.”

The justices then rejected the argument of Leondra Kruger, Obama’s lawyer for the EEOC, who argued that there’s no ministerial exception in the Constitution, only the same rights that secular organizations possess to choose their own affiliations.

At this, Scalia exploded. “That’s extraordinary! There, black on white in the text of the Constitution, are special protections for religion. And you say it makes no difference?”

Kagan agreed with Scalia’s rejection of the argument that the First Amendment doesn’t protect churches from government ordering who they should hire as pastor or priest.

Justice Samuel Alito (a Catholic) made a critical point, asking if a Catholic priest married and the church removed him from ministry for violating Catholic doctrine, could the EEOC order him reinstated.

When Kruger answered no, Alito replied that EEOC was making a judgment that certain teachings — such as the Catholic belief that priests must be celibate — are more important than the Lutheran doctrine that ministers cannot sue the church.

Chief Justice John Roberts (also Catholic) agreed, saying, “You’re making a judgment about how important a particular religious belief is to a church.” Government cannot make such theological judgments.

I’ve had questions about this case, but the key element is that the teacher refused to go through the church dispute resolution process and went straight to a lawsuit, despite 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 and despite what her contract said.  I can see the religious liberty issues at stake, and they are important indeed.

UPDATE:  The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of the Lutheran school!  The ruling was also broadly written so as to protect churches from other usurpations on the part of the government.  Read this analysis, which hails the ruling as a landmark decision  in the protection of religious liberty.

Romney wins New Hampshire; Paul is 2nd

M. Romney 39.4%

R. Paul 22.8%

J. Huntsman 16.9%

N. Gingrich 9.4%

R. Santorum 9.3%

R. Perry 0.7%

B. Roemer 0.4%

M. Bachmann 0.1%

G. Johnson 0.1%

H. Cain 0.1%

via Politics, Political News – POLITICO.com.

You be the analyst.

Do we need a manager rather than an ideologue?

Some Republicans, resigning themselves to what looks like an inevitable Mitt Romney nomination, are growing philosophical.  Yes, Romney falls short ideologically.  But maybe we don’t need an ideologue.  Maybe a management consultant as president is exactly what we need.  From Michael Gerson:

Maybe, at this moment, the Republican Party doesn’t need a clear decision on its identity (which might not be possible anyway). Romney has this advantage: In supporting him, no Republican is called upon to surrender his or her deepest ideological convictions. Romney is temperamentally conservative but not particularly ideological. He reserves his enthusiasm for quantitative analysis and organizational discipline. He seems to view the cultural and philosophic debates that drive others as distractions from the real task of governing — making systems work.

His competitors have attempted to portray Romney’s ideological inconsistency over time as a character failure. It hasn’t worked, mainly because Romney is a man of exemplary character — deeply loyal to his faith, his family and his country. But he clearly places political ideology in a different category of fidelity. Like Dwight Eisenhower, Romney is a man of vague ideology and deep values. In political matters, he is empirical and pragmatic. He studies problems, assesses risks, calculates likely outcomes. Those expecting Romney to be a philosophic leader will be disappointed. He is a management consultant, and a good one.

Has the moment of the management consultant arrived in American politics?

via Mitt Romney’s improbable achievement – The Washington Post.

I would just like to remind the public that pragmatism is an ideology.  And that just doing “what works” begs the question of “works to do what?”  The answer to the “what” question will be determined by another ideology that lies just below the surface.

Information’s dependence on advertising

Ezra Klein points out that in the 19th century the different newspapers were tied to and funded by political parties.  The news was slanted accordingly.  But then newspaper revenue switched to advertising. This led to a greater degree of objectivity–as well as blandness–since newspapers didn’t want to alienate any particular audience, the advertisers wanting to sell to everybody.

After that interesting discussion, Klein segues into a larger discussion based on this observation:

One of the most mind-bending facts of our information culture is that almost every major medium of information supports itself by advertising.

Radio? Advertisers. Magazines? Advertisers. Television? Advertisers. Google? Advertisers. Facebook? Advertisers. Twitter? Advertisers. Perhaps the only major exceptions to this rule are books, which are supported by sales, and Wikipedia, which is supported largely through donations.

From an economic standpoint, most information is simply a vehicle for advertising. We see the advertising as a distraction. But so far as the media company’s bottom line goes, the advertising is the point. Without the advertising, the information wouldn’t exist. So the history of information, in the United States at least, is the history of platforms that could support advertising.

via Human knowledge, brought to you by . . . – The Washington Post.

Thus free market capitalism shapes the online world and makes it available for nothing!  Of course, in exchange it gets information about us, so as to make marketing to us more effective.

Do you see anything nefarious or potentially nefarious in this?

Our new military era

At the Pentagon last week President Obama announced the new defense budget, which will include some cuts and will also herald a new military strategy.  Briefly, the president declared that the last decade’s wars against Islamic radicals are over.  And we will be pulling troops out of Europe and re-positioning them to face China.   David Ignatius gives details:

It was easy to miss the impact of Obama’s words: He was declaring that the era that began on Sept. 11, 2001, is over. Al-Qaeda’s top leader is dead, and most of its cadres are on the run; secret peace talks are under way with the Taliban. And across the Arab world, the United States is talking with Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist organizations that a few years ago might have been on terror lists. It’s a process that’s similar to the way Britain ended its long war with Irish terrorists, by engaging in negotiations with the IRA’s “political” wing.

What else will the shift mean? The Pacific focus inescapably means fewer resources for the traditional Atlantic partnership, symbolized by NATO. U.S. troops will be coming home from Europe, probably in larger numbers than expected. And given its recent economic jitters, Europe may feel abandoned. Will the Germans respond by drawing closer to Russia? Watch that space.

Obama’s pivot turns U.S. power toward China, and Beijing is understandably nervous. U.S. officials keep repeating that this won’t mean a policy of “containment” and that the United States accepts a rising China as a 21st-century inevitability. An Obama emissary was in Beijing last week, delivering that message of reassurance. But the Chinese aren’t stupid; they know that America is moving forces their way.

A period of rivalry and tension is ahead in the Pacific. One early test is whether the United States can expand on its recent opening to Burma. Another will be the delicate leadership transition in North Korea, which should be an area for Sino-American cooperation but might be the opposite. A third area will involve trade relations: Obama is pushing a ­“Trans-Pacific Partnership” that would create NAFTA-style links across the Pacific. But how realistic is this for an America that already has trade jitters?

As the United States changes its defense priorities, the wild cards are Pakistan and Iran, two countries powered by a seemingly inexhaustible supply of anti-Americanism. Pakistan, after years of chafing against U.S. tutelage, seems serious about reevaluating its ties, with its top general making a symbolic “we don’t need you” visit last week to the other superpower, China. For once, the United States wasn’t chasing after the Pakistanis trying to lecture and plead our way back to the status quo. That’s good, but Washington still needs a cooperative relationship with Islamabad, especially in settling the Afghanistan conflict.

As for the Iranians, they seem for the first time in years to be genuinely nervous — not because of U.S. or Israeli saber-rattling but because economic sanctions are causing a run on their currency and the beginnings of a financial panic in Tehran. And more sanctions are on the way this year. At some point, the Iranian regime will actually be in jeopardy — and it will punch back. That’s the scenario the White House must think through carefully with its allies. If the current course continues, a collision with Iran is ahead.

via Obama closes the book on the 9/11 era – The Washington Post.

On what grounds, I wonder, are we making China the enemy du jour?  Is this wise, this show of belligerence against the country to which we owe the most money?  Does this whole plan seem wise?

A new kind of environmentalism

Classic environmentalism wants to restore things to their pristine condition, untouched by man.  But a new kind of environmentalism thinks that man should actively take the lead in steering “spaceship earth.”

More and more environmentalists and scientists talk about the planet as a complex system, one that human beings must aggressively monitor, manage and sometimes reengineer. Kind of like a spaceship.

This is a sharp departure from traditional “green” philosophy. The more orthodox way of viewing nature is as something that must be protected from human beings — not managed by them. And many environmentalists have reservations about possible unintended consequences of well-meaning efforts. No one wants a world that requires constant intervention to fix problems caused by previous interventions.

At the same time, “we’re in a position where we have to take a more interventionist role and a more managerial role,” says Emma Marris, author of “Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World.” “The easy answer used to be to turn back time and make it look like it used to. Before was always better. Before is no longer an option.”

Although Marris is speaking about restoration ecology — how to manage forests and other natural systems — this interventionist approach can be applied to the planet more broadly. In his book “The God Species: Saving the Planet in the Age of Humans,” environmental activist Mark Lynas writes, “Nature no longer runs the Earth. We do. It is our choice what happens from here.”

via Spaceship Earth: A new view of environmentalism – The Washington Post.

Read the whole article for examples of this “ecopragmatism,” which depends on technology to give us a better environment.

How is this different from not being an environmentalist?  Doesn’t this describe the “dominion” over nature that the Bible describes and that human beings have been carrying out for millennia?  It seems different mainly in its utopian trust in human capabilities, which nature has been humbling for a long time.


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