America is Breaking Apart Over the Polarizing Worship of Little g gods

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by New Life Church Collingwood https://www.flickr.com/photos/nlcwood/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by New Life Church Collingwood https://www.flickr.com/photos/nlcwood/

America is breaking apart over the polarizing worship of little g gods.

We the People have become idiots and fools who follow one banner or the other blindly, without thought. To do this, we lie. We lie about the factual world around us. We lie about those who disagree with us. We lie about ourselves. And we lie about the nature of Jesus Christ.

We have becoming willing to attack anyone — even the Pope — if that person disagrees with the ever-changing teachings of our little g gods. We claim with a straight face that we are the arbiters of holiness, and we posit holiness in blindly following one little g god or the other.

From where I stand, there is no moral difference between those who worship the little g gods of the left, or the little g gods of the right. They are both idol worshippers, and they are both living in a self-made cage of self-imposed delusion.

Sad to say, most Christians have abandoned following Christ to follow their political gods. They trim their faith to fit their politics and denounce anyone and everyone who tries to tell them that this is not faith at all. It is delusion. It is madness. It is turning away from the sanity of following Christ.

Those who say they are Christians do not denounce Christ directly. Rather, they denounce everything He said. They cut the Sermon on the Mount and His clear teachings about the Judgement down to nothing. They attack the Holy Father. They pick and choose among the clergy, reviling those who disagree with their politics and making new little g gods out of those who agree with it.

It does not matter if one has given their soul to a little g god of the right or of the left, they have given themselves over to a nihilistic anti-Christ who plunges them into a constant bath of rageful self-righteousness, irrationality and lies.

People are making themselves into self-righteous, hate-filled, irrational wretches by following these false gods of politics. All they have to do is all they ever had to do, which is turn back to the real Christ, the real Cross, the real Jesus.

I know that I’m getting a bit boring by saying this over and over. But it needs to be said. I would not want to not say it over and over, because it is the only Way.

We need to turn back to Christ. By that I mean the real Christ, not the political christ of our own devising. Stop following political gods, which you made yourself of your own worst impulses, and follow Him.

If you do that, you will take your first look in a long time at humility. You will be like someone waking up from a drugged state to look at the mental and moral shambles you have made of your internal self, and you will wonder, “What was I thinking?”

I am asking you to exorcise yourself from the demonic little g gods of this age and follow Jesus. It is an urgent plea based on a deep love for you that can only come from Jesus. Do not continue to throw yourselves away by following the little g gods of this age. Follow Jesus Who died on the Cross, Who preached the Sermon on the Mount, Who gave us this good man for this time as His Vicar.

I wrote about this for the National Catholic Register. Here is part of what I said.

Most Christians want a comfortable enough, get-out-of-jail-free kind of faith.

They want to go to heaven, but not now. Heaven is for the distant future, when they are very old and die in their sleep after having dozed off in front of the television.

The best of them go to Mass on Sundays and drop a twenty in the collection plate as it passes. They may even read their Bibles and say a quick prayer before grace.

But Jesus, the radical revolutionary who overturned tables and cast the money changers out of the Temple, who called the Pharisees “blind guides, leading the blind,” that Jesus is more than they want.

They are both afraid of and unwilling to follow the history-changing Jesus who moves societies by moving individual human beings.

They resist and even denounce the Jesus Who radicalizes His followers’ minds with counter-intuitive teachings such as “Blessed are the poor,” and “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” They don’t like the Jesus who said “You cannot serve two masters. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

That Jesus, the Christ, the God made human who calls us to be more than the petty greed and selfishness that is humankind’s pit in which we all wallow, is not at all to their liking. He is, at best, uncomfortable. At worst, He is convicting in ways they refuse to be convicted.

There are sins we readily denounce, and sins we love so much we are willing to denounce the priest who preaches on them and deny the Christ who judges us for them.

We don’t much want the Jesus of the Book. We want the comfortable, easy, other-people’s-sins-are-the-only-sins-that-matter Jesus that we can trim and shape to fit our lives and our politics so that we never feel a twinge of personal remorse or regret for any of our pet sins.

We do not want and will not accept the real Jesus who told the power brokering priests of His day that prostitutes and tax collectors would enter into the Kingdom of Heaven before they did. We want no part of the Jesus Who told the rich young man to sell all he had, give it to the poor and then come and follow Him.

The truth is, we want to walk past Lazarus. We want to do it because walking past suffering is a whole lot easier than stopping and stooping to care.

Following Jesus has a price that very few Christians are willing to pay. Following Jesus means going against the zeitgeist, stepping out of the parade and being different. It means not doing the popular thing, but choosing to do the right thing, instead. It means being inconvenient, both to yourself and to those around you.

At the very least, truly following Jesus means standing up in front of the gods of this world instead of kneeling down before them. It means walking away from the worship of the false idols of politics, wealth, power and fame and following Him. It means being an outlier in a society that demands absolute conformity with one viewpoint, one way of living and thinking, or the other. (Read the rest here.)

 

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Can You Do This?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Long Thien https://www.flickr.com/photos/136682034@N03/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Long Thien https://www.flickr.com/photos/136682034@N03/

I read that anti-Pope Francis posters have appeared around Rome. I have one question for those responsible:

Can you do this?

This is a video of the Holy Father, performing an off-the-cuff exorcism while going down a receiving line. The Church has real power over satan, and that power flows through the Pope.

I can put up posters. I have put up posters. Many times.

But I can’t do this.

Can you?

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Timothy Putnam and the Weightiness of Becoming Catholic

Photo Source: Timothy Putnam, all rights reserved by Timothy Putnam.

Timothy Putnam and his wife, becoming Catholic. Photo Source: Timothy Putnam, all rights reserved by Timothy Putnam.

There is something weighty in the decision to become Catholic. Timothy Putnam

There is something weighty in the decision to become Catholic. Indeed there is. Sing it, say it, live it, my brother in Christ.

Timothy Putnam has “it.” That “it” is a genuine searching willingness to follow Jesus, even when — not if, but when — He leads us down pathways we would never have chosen on our own. It takes a bit more honesty and a lot more faith than most people are willing to commit to Jesus to stand up in front of the little g gods of this world, turn your back on them and walk away.

Faith, real faith, in the Living Christ is the key to following Him. If you don’t believe — really, truly, absolutely believe — that He is God, then you will not follow Him in this costly, unquestioning way of the Way.

Timothy Putnam follows.

He’s the best kind of follower, the only kind, that, when the bills are toted up, up yonder, matters. He’s the kind of follower who does not trim his faith to fit the world. He bases his activities in the world on his faith.

That is, indeed, a “weighty” thing. When it is coupled with the 2,000 year old teachings of the Church that Jesus founded and Peter first governed, the “weight” is the weight of a peaceful certainty that you don’t have to figure it out yourself. All you have to do is follow the path that is laid out for you in the Catechism, and that is explicated for you by the Pope.

Timothy Putnam has, like so many converts, a fresh and unalloyed love of the Church that comes from having been without it. Doing without the Catholic Church while you try to wend your way through the world can be hard going. It is the heavy slog of someone who has to make each and every decision for themselves.

Is it a sin to do this, or that, or whatnot?

We Catholics have that part easy. We can just put our foot down and slide to heaven by simply staying on the highway to heaven that is the Catholic Church.

But everything has a price. The free gift of eternal life was purchased for us by the ignominious crime of Calvary. We did our worst and God did His best and the result was our everlasting good.

The gift of following Christ has the continuous and ongoing price of being out of step with the world. There is no safe harbor for someone who does their best to follow Jesus and Him alone, no group of buddies, no political safe house where you can just do what your gang does and still follow Him.

If you try to follow Jesus, you are always going to end up an outlier. That’s just a fact.

For some folks like Timothy Putnam, it becomes even more fraught. Jesus calls a few people to step out on the ice of life and follow Him on a path the leads away from safe incomes and guaranteed benefits.

If you are single and He calls you to step out in faith into the shifting uncertainties of a ministry, then you risk a little. At most, you risk your own comfort. You alone suffer the loss of income. You alone must step through the chop of starting up, the long hours, the set-backs and the simple fact that faithful ministry does not and never will be a source of wealth.

But if you are the parents of what Timothy calls a “brood” of seven children, then stepping out is “weighty” for real.

I’ve met Tim’s family, and they are beautiful. His wife is as faithful and committed to Christ as he is. His children are intelligent, bright, inquisitive, fearless and good. Of all the things I know about Timothy Putnam, this is the best. He does not fail in his first vocation, which is to be a faithful father and husband.

He is a manly man in the for-real Christian way of being a manly man, which is to say that he loves, cherishes and cares for his family. This genuine manliness is a far cry from the tinfoil manliness of abusiveness and swaggering braggadocio that is being sold right now. One is the basis for civilization. The other is one of the roots of evil and destruction.

When Timothy Putnam and his wife made the decision to give up a job as the Director of Family and Pro Life for the Diocese of Tulsa and take up full-time ministry, it was a weighty decision. It meant giving up the benefits and security of steady employment and just following.

The result was the thoughtful, teachful blog here on Patheos, A Belief Observed. If you haven’t read it, you should give it a look. The “belief” it observes is that of a faithful Catholic father, husband and growing voice in Catholic media.

In addition to this blog and other activities, Tim hosts a great radio program called Outside the Walls.

Outside the Walls airs Saturdays at 4 pm central time, and on Sundays at 11 am central time. It’s on Breadbox Media, which has been endorsed by its local bishop for its fidelity to the Church. You can download it on iTunes, follow it on Facebook, and Twitter,  or just tune in on your computer or radio. You can also book Timothy as a speaker.

Outside the Walls  is a compendium of Church teaching, Bible study and thoughtful discussion about living Catholic in the world today. All this is put together and presented by an actual, faithful, Catholic husband and father who walks the walk.

I believe with all my heart that faithful Catholics need to support and uphold one another. Tune in and give it a listen. Then, tell you friends about it. You’ll be glad you did.

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Misunderstood Rattlesnakes? Count Me as One of the Misunderstanders.

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons by https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Jacopo_Werther

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons by https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Jacopo_Werther

Now here’s something you don’t want to see.

Young Isac McFadden of Abilene Texas saw a “clump” in the toliet. Fortunately, he went to his mother about it rather than investigating himself.

His mother found what looks to be a healthy diamond back rattlesnake in the toilet, which, I guess, puts an end to the old story that rattlers don’t much like water. Isac’s mother killed the snake with a shovel (my grandmother always used a hoe,) and called Big Country Snake Removal.

It turns out that her house was infested. Twenty-three more rattlers were calling the McFadden’s place home. Thirteen of them were hiding out in the cellar and another 10, including six baby snakes, were under the house.

I’ve always been wary of going underground in tornado season. I shine a light and look it over before I venture in. The reason? I know snakes like places like that to … er … hole up. They also like close quarters in the winter.

The snake removal company cleared the snakes out of the house and cellar. From the way the story reads, they were a lot more careful than I would have been about not killing the things. They are quick to remind us that rattlesnakes are “amazing creatures that are really misunderstood.”

You can count me among the misunderstanders.

From Yahoo!:

rattlesnake in toilet(Who forgot to flush?Courtesy Big Country Snake Removal)

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Trump, a Racist Sexist? Well … Duh.

Rep Beth Fukumoto, in Chamber. Photo Source: File Photo, Hawaii Legislature

Rep Beth Fukumoto, in Chamber. Photo Source: File Photo, Hawaii Legislature

I feel your pain sister.

Been there. Done that. Got the press clippings, the extra 20 pounds from stress eating and the bloomin’ t-shirt.

Representative Beth Fukumoto, a Republican member of the Hawaii House of Representatives, is under fire from her fellow Republican legislators. Why? Well, it seems that she participated in the local Women’s March and made a speech calling President Trump “a racist and a sexist.” She even went so far — erroneously it seems — as saying that he had no place in the Republican Party.

Punishment from her colleagues was swift and nasty. She was removed from her position in the House Republican leadership, because, she says, she refused to stop criticizing President Trump.

That’s not so different from what happened to me as a pro life Democrat in Oklahoma. It’s the same group-think, my-way-or-the-highway bullying that makes surprising martyrs of people for simply following their consciences.

It is the opposite of rational thought and leads to very bad government.

According to one of her colleagues, Representative Bob McDermott, “She said our president is a sexist, is a racist, and that we have a bully in the White House.”

Well … duh … Representative McDermott.

Our race-baiting, sexual-assaulting, woman-hating, name-calling president is all that and more. He can’t even control his bullying in conversations with other heads of state. He’s called women pigs and dogs. He’s bragged about committing sexual assault, and had something like 11 women come forward to say he assaulted them. He put his own wife in a porn photo shoot and has talked about how he wants to “date” his own daughter.

He’s the kind of sleaze who gives sleazes a bad name. Of course he’s a racist. Of course he’s a sexist.

He got elected doing all this. He’s the prez. And, as a Democrat, I’m happy to say that he’s a Republican. I will also say that there are quite a few Rs out there who feel as I do and who have said so. That alone supports their party’s brand as the party of values.

As for Representative Fukumoto, she’s considering a switch to Independent.

I wish her luck, whether she stays an R or switches. We need more people of principle who will stand up for basic decency instead of going along with the party line.

From the Honolulu Star Advertiser:

Republicans in the state House of Representatives have ousted their minority leader Rep. Beth Fukumoto over her criticism of President Donald Trump, including recent comments that she made at the Women’s March in Honolulu last month.

Fukumoto, 33, said today that she is now considering switching over to the Democratic Party following this week’s actions by her Republican colleagues, which would further deplete the party of young leadership. She had been described as a rising star in Hawaii’s Republican Party, which holds only six seats in the 76-member Legislature.

Fukumoto (R, Mililani-Mililani Mauka-Waipio Acres) said that she had been told by a faction of her Republican colleagues that if she didn’t commit to not criticizing Trump for the rest of his term, they would oust her as minority leader.

She said she refused.

“I believe it is our job as Americans and as leaders of this body to criticize power when power is wrong,” she said during today’s House floor session.

On Tuesday, during a closed door session, House Republicans voted 3-2 to remove her from leadership. Voting in favor of the leadership reorganization were Reps. Gene Ward, Bob McDermott and Andria Tupola. Reps. Cynthia Thielen and Fukumoto voted against it and Rep. Lauren Matsumoto abstained.

The leadership changes were made official during today’s House floor session.

Replacing Fukumoto as minority leader is Tupola. Ward takes the place of minority floor leader.

Fukumoto sent out a letter to constituents in her district prior to today’s floor session telling them that she would like to leave the Republican Party, but said she wanted to get their feedback first.

Fukumoto spoke at the Jan. 21 Women’s March in Honolulu in opposition of Trump, including calling the president a bully.

“In the last couple years, I’ve watched leaders in the Republican Party become less and less tolerant of diverse opinions and dissenting voices,” Fukumoto said today in a news release. “Today, I’m facing demands for my resignation from leadership and possible censure because I raised concerns about our President’s treatment of women and minorities. I’ve been asked by both my party and my caucus to commit to not criticizing the president for the remainder of his term and to take a more partisan approach to working in the Legislature. That is not a commitment I can make. As a representative of my community, it is my job to hold leaders accountable and to work with anyone, regardless of party, to make Hawaii a better place for our families.” (Read the rest here.)

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Did America Discriminate Against Christian Refugees Under Obama?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Harrison Staab https://www.flickr.com/photos/harrystaab/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Harrison Staab https://www.flickr.com/photos/harrystaab/

I have no first-hand knowledge of this. However, I have read repeatedly in publications which seek to support Christians who are subjected to discrimination, that President Obama’s administration discriminated against Christians who were seeking asylum in this country.

President Trump evidently repeated that charge in front of an Evangelical group. The BBC then shot back by saying that President Trump was wrong when he said that the Obama administration favored Muslim immigrants over Christians who were seeking asylum in this country.

Now, Barnabas Aid has issued repeated demands that the BBC retract this statement, which they say is inaccurate.

I have often cited Barnabas Aid in stories about Christian persecution. I have also read the same charges about discrimination against Christian refugees under President Obama from other sources. I always believed them, and, to be honest, I believe them now.

I think President Trump is suffering from what happens when someone lies over and over. People just stop believing them, and when they say something, even if it’s true, it carries no weight with those who view them as compulsive liars. This is sad and a bit scary, considering that what President Trump says on the world stage affects our nation’s future and overall credibility.

If people all over the globe tend to dismiss whatever he says as a lie, then that means that they also dismiss American positions and policy statements as lies. That weakens our position worldwide. It can destroy our credibility as a nation.

In this instance of “who you gonna believe,” there will probably be knee-jerk reactions based entirely on which side of the Trump question the reader happens to fall. Trump rejecters will believe the BBC. Trump followers will believe President Trump.

That’s what’s happening on many questions of public policy these days. Very little rational thought is going into what people decide to believe, and even less rational thought is going into who they decide to follow. This is a dangerous thing in a democracy. I, for one, am doing all I can to encourage people to pull back from it and think for themselves.

In this instance, I am, personally, more inclined to believe Barnabas Aid than the BBC. I have, as I said, no personal knowledge of how things have worked for refugees coming into this country in the last year or so. But over the years, I’ve talked to quite a number of Christians who have suffered persecution, including losing family members to Christian persecution, around the globe. In each instance, our government had, at best, ignored the situation which allowed such persecution to exist.

I hope that you will start looking at each of these “who you gonna believes?” on a case-by-case basis, and stop knee-jerking. Neither side of this tells the truth all the time. Both sides lie. Our president appears to be a compulsive liar. But sometimes, he says something that is true.

Try to form your followership and support based on more than one source, including sources that disagree with your viewpoint. Our country is worth a lot more than any passing political position or political party. We are the American people. We truly can make a difference.

From Barnabas Aid:

Barnabas Aid has challenged the BBC to correct a wholly false claim made last Sunday on prime time TV news about Christian refugees in the USA. In an interview with a Christian TV network President Trump defended the executive order he issued on 27 January by saying that the policy was about prioritising religious minorities. When specifically asked if persecuted Christians would be a priority he replied:

“Yes, they have been horribly treated. Do you know if you were a Christian in Syria it was impossible, at least very, very tough to get into the United States. If you were a Muslim you could come in, but if you were a Christian it was almost impossible.”

BBC office

BBC office
CC BY-SA 2.0 by Christine Matthews

On Sunday evening at the start of the 10pm television news, the BBC broadcast the following comment on this by their New York correspondent, Nick Bryant:

“In an interview with an evangelical television network [President Trump] claimed without any factual basis the old Obama policy favoured Muslims over Christians” (emphasis added).

A few minutes later the BBC also posted online a video of the actual statement they had claimed was “without any factual basis”. This sweeping assertion broadcast by the BBC was not only wholly untrue, it was also potentially damaging to tens of thousands of Syrian Christian refugees.

Barnabas Aid has for many months been highlighting the massive institutional discrimination faced by Syrian Christian refugees – with only one half of one percent of Syrian refugees resettled in the USA last year being Christians. This is despite them constituting up to 10% of the pre-war population and US Secretary of State John Kerry declaring in March that they were facing genocide.

It is not just Barnabas Aid that has been saying this. For nearly a year major US news networks such as Fox News and CNS have also reported it. The simple fact is that of 10,801 Syrian refugees admitted to the USA last year only 56 were Christians (there were also only 20 Shi’a and 17 Yazidis – the other two groups that John Kerry said were facing genocide), while 99% were Sunni Muslims. A 30 second google search by the BBC would have revealed this.

There have been claims that the previous administration could not have been discriminating against Christians as the total numbers of Christian (44%) and Muslim refugees (46%) admitted to the USA were similar. However, this is a misuse of statistics because these totals primarily reflect which countries have crises causing refugee movements. It is therefore almost impossible, using that kind of raw data, to say anything meaningful about whether Christians/Muslims are being discriminated against. However, where Christians are BOTH being specifically targeted as they are in Syria AND very significantly underrepresented in the number given entry to the USA then it is almost certain that they are facing significant discrimination.  It can be taken for granted that Syrian Christians are not averse to resettling in the USA, which is a number one goal for so many refugees and already has a large Arab Christian population which would make the newcomers feel at home.

Whatever one thinks of President Trump, it was wholly wrong for the BBC to make the sweeping claim that suggesting the previous administration’s policy disadvantaged Christians was “without any factual basis”.

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Bishops “Troubled.” Evangelicals Ecstatic. Trump’s Religious Roundup for the Week.

Photo Source: Flickr creative commons by Gage Skidmore, https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/

Photo Source: Flickr creative commons by Gage Skidmore, https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/

It appears that Evangelicals are the darling of the new administration, but the Catholics, not quite so much. Or maybe the Catholics will do better as events unfold. We’ll have to watch and see.

As of now, the USCCB is “concerned” because President Trump has decided to retain an Obama executive order which, “prohibits federal government contractors from sexual orientation and gender-identity discrimination and forbids gender-identity discrimination in the employment of federal employees.”

The USCCB wants religious exemptions to the order.

This action on the part of President Trump does seem to run contrary to his “I’ve got your back” promise to the bishops concerning matters of religious freedom. But it is probably smart politics, as it could split homosexuals out of the opposition to the Trump Administration.

From the National Catholic Register: 

WASHINGTON — The U.S. bishops are concerned by the Trump administration’s decision to maintain a “troubling” Obama-era executive order that could demand federal contractors violate their religious beliefs on marriage and gender ideology.

“In seeking to remedy instances of discrimination, it creates new forms of discrimination against people of faith. Keeping the executive order intact is not the answer,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said Feb. 1.

“The Church steadfastly opposes all unjust discrimination, and we need to continue to advance justice and fairness in the workplace,” the bishops added. “Executive Order 13672, however, creates problems rather than solves them.”

The executive order is “deeply flawed” with “many problems,” they said, voicing hope the administration would be open to ways to advance conscience rights.

Signed by President Barack Obama, the order prohibits federal government contractors from sexual orientation and gender-identity discrimination and forbids gender-identity discrimination in the employment of federal employees.

The executive order immediately drew criticism for its lack of religious exemptions. Religious groups voiced concern that they could be disqualified from federal contracts if their faith forbids them to affirm same-sex unions as marriages or to pay for employees’ transgender “transition” surgeries.

On Jan. 31, the Trump White House affirmed its support for Obama’s order.

“The executive order signed in 2014, which protects employees from anti-LGBTQ workplace discrimination while working for federal contractors, will remain intact at the direction of President Donald J. Trump,” it said.

It added that President Trump is “proud” to have been the first Republican presidential nominee “to mention the LGBTQ community in his nomination acceptance speech, pledging then to protect the community from violence and oppression.” It said the president is “determined to protect the rights of all Americans, including the LGBTQ community.”

In other news, I got an urgent email from the USCCB yesterday, asking me to “urge President Trump (to) sign executive order respecting religious freedom.”

I am going to send off a request that President Trump sign an executive order respecting religious freedom. I urge you to do the same.

From the USCCB:

Urge President Trump to Sign Executive Order Respecting Religious Freedom

Religious freedom in America has suffered years of unprecedented erosion.  President Trump can correct some of this within the executive branch.  He can restore the federal government’s respect for the religious freedom of individuals and organizations by signing an Executive Order that establishes a government-wide initiative to respect religious freedom.

Elements of such an Order should include:

  • Relief from the mandate of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that forces the Little Sisters of the Poor and others to facilitate the provision of contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs and devices in their health plans.
  • Preservation of tax-exempt status for nonprofits that hold beliefs based on marriage, human sexuality, and the protection of human life at all stages.
  • The ability of religious organizations that partner with the federal government to act according to their beliefs regarding marriage, human sexuality, and the protection of human life at all stages.
  • A broad religious exemption to Executive Order 13672 so that faith-based organizations can continue to partner with the federal government to provide much-needed services here at home and abroad.
  • The ability of religiously affiliated child welfare providers to provide adoption, foster, or family support services for children in accordance with their religious beliefs.
  • Protection of accreditation for religious schools based on their beliefs.
  • Conscience protections regarding abortion in the individual health insurance market.

Any Executive Order should make it clear that religious freedom entails more than the freedom to worship but also includes the ability of act on one’s beliefs.  It should also protect individuals and families who run closely-held businesses in accordance with their faith to the greatest extent possible

In other areas, President Trump has evidently promised to “destroy” the Johnson Amendment to the 1964 Civil Rights Act which prohibits religious entities from preaching politics from the pulpit. Doing this will require passing an actual law through Congress, since the Johnson Amendment is statutory. It hails from those times when Congress actually passed laws.

The bishops might consider that executive orders change with presidents, but laws abide. Religious freedom should be enshrined in law.

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Trump’s Nominee to the Supreme Court: Who is Neil Gorsuch?

Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump's nominee to the United States Supeme Court. Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons, 10th Circuit file photo.

Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s nominee to the United States Supeme Court. Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons, 10th Circuit file photo.

President Trump has nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch, who is currently on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, for the Supreme Court.

Judge Gorsuch, an Episcopalian, has written a book in opposition to assisted suicide entitled, The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia. In the book, he said “Human life is fundamentally and inherently valuable and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.”

Note the caveat he put in that statement, “by private persons.” I interpret that to mean that he supports the death penalty.

I think it is important that he wrote this book in 2006, which means he was not writing it to promote himself vs a vs this nomination.

He is married to his college sweetheart and only wife, Marie Louise. Mrs Gorsuch is originally from Britain. Judge Gorsuch referred to his wife as “Louise” in both his book and during the announcement of his nomination. The couple has two daughters.

I am particularly glad that Judge Gorsuch is a solid family man who has two daughters. I’m hopeful that this will give him an understanding of issues that pertain to violence against women and women’s human rights, in particular sexual assault and rape.

Judge Gorsuch has been roundly endorsed by such heavyweights as Robert P George, who has this to say:

Gorsuch and I have worked together on academic projects, most notably when I was the editor of the Princeton University Press book series for which he wrote “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia” — an impressive, deeply scholarly book that was praised by bioethicists (including the liberal Daniel Callahan and the conservative John Keown) as well as academic lawyers — in 2006. The book critically engages the work of scholars (including myself) across a range of disciplines and representing a spectrum of viewpoints. Gorsuch went the extra mile in ensuring that his treatment of the work of other writers — especially those with whom he disagrees — was sympathetic and impeccably accurate. His sheer fair-mindedness was the thing I found most striking about working with him.

In selecting Gorsuch, President Trump has without question fulfilled his pledge to appoint a justice in the mold of Antonin Scalia — a conservative intellectual leader. Even those of us who refused to get on the Trump train after his nomination have to acknowledge that. But one respect in which Gorsuch is unlike Scalia is that he is not fiery or pugnacious. Rather, his demeanor is scholarly — one might even say bookish. He is not a fierce debater. I recall being with him at an academic conference at which a graduate student contradicted and challenged a comment he had made. Far from bristling or even returning fire, he encouraged the student to develop her argument further, graciously acknowledging merit in the point she had made.

The one blot on his record that I have found is not his blot, but his mother’s. His mother, Anne Gorsuch, was the first woman appointed to head the EPA. She was appointed by President Ronald Reagan. During her tenure, she evidently ignored the agency’s statutory mandate by refusing to hear cases, and limiting regulations on toxic waste disposal.

She was later cited for Contempt of Congress for her refusal to submit documents. She resigned her position as head of the EPA.

This concerns me because of the heavy concentration of oil industry advocates in President Trump’s cabinet appointees. Oil independence is a matter of national security. But we must develop our oil resources with the common good as our goal, which means we must balance the demands of the oil industry with public needs and the public good. That will not happen if the industry has too much control of governance.

I haven’t written about this yet, and now is not the time. But I wanted to add that caveat to this round-up of praise for Judge Gorsuch’s nomination as a bit of a warning. When it comes to people, all our idols have clay feet of one sort or the other.

Having said that, I, for one, intend to get behind Judge Gorsuch’s nomination. Hopefully, the Senate will conduct reasonable and intelligent hearings on his fitness without the usual craziness.

 

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Read it Yourself. Here’s the Full Text of Trump’s Immigration Order.

Photo Source: White House web site file photo.

Photo Source: White House web site file photo.

This is the full text of President Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration. In my opinion, it is poorly drafted and incomplete. It is also getting into areas that would be better handled by legislative action. It is not enough to just say that the people who oppose what you do are all evil and bad. You need to do a good job yourself. I am putting it here so you can read it, and decide for yourself. How could it have been worded to avoid the unintended consequences that have cropped up in its wake.

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Executive Order: Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements

EXECUTIVE ORDER

– – – – – – –

BORDER SECURITY AND IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT IMPROVEMENTS

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101 et seq.) (INA), the Secure Fence Act of 2006 (Public Law 109 367) (Secure Fence Act), and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (Public Law 104 208 Div. C) (IIRIRA), and in order to ensure the safety and territorial integrity of the United States as well as to ensure that the Nation’s immigration laws are faithfully executed, I hereby order as follows:

Section 1.  Purpose.  Border security is critically important to the national security of the United States.  Aliens who illegally enter the United States without inspection or admission present a significant threat to national security and public safety.  Such aliens have not been identified or inspected by Federal immigration officers to determine their admissibility to the United States.  The recent surge of illegal immigration at the southern border with Mexico has placed a significant strain on Federal resources and overwhelmed agencies charged with border security and immigration enforcement, as well as the local communities into which many of the aliens are placed.

Transnational criminal organizations operate sophisticated drug- and human-trafficking networks and smuggling operations on both sides of the southern border, contributing to a significant increase in violent crime and United States deaths from dangerous drugs.  Among those who illegally enter are those who seek to harm Americans through acts of terror or criminal conduct.  Continued illegal immigration presents a clear and present danger to the interests of the United States.

Federal immigration law both imposes the responsibility and provides the means for the Federal Government, in cooperation with border States, to secure the Nation’s southern border.  Although Federal immigration law provides a robust framework for Federal-State partnership in enforcing our immigration laws    and the Congress has authorized and provided appropriations to secure our borders    the Federal Government has failed to discharge this basic sovereign responsibility.  The purpose of this order is to direct executive departments and agencies (agencies) to deploy all lawful means to secure the Nation’s southern border, to prevent further illegal immigration into the United States, and to repatriate illegal aliens swiftly, consistently, and humanely.

Sec. 2.  Policy.  It is the policy of the executive branch to:

(a)  secure the southern border of the United States through the immediate construction of a physical wall on the southern border, monitored and supported by adequate personnel so as to prevent illegal immigration, drug and human trafficking, and acts of terrorism;

(b)  detain individuals apprehended on suspicion of violating Federal or State law, including Federal immigration law, pending further proceedings regarding those violations;

(c)  expedite determinations of apprehended individuals’ claims of eligibility to remain in the United States;

(d)  remove promptly those individuals whose legal claims to remain in the United States have been lawfully rejected, after any appropriate civil or criminal sanctions have been imposed; and

(e)  cooperate fully with States and local law enforcement in enacting Federal-State partnerships to enforce Federal immigration priorities, as well as State monitoring and detention programs that are consistent with Federal law and do not undermine Federal immigration priorities.

Sec. 3.  Definitions.  (a)  “Asylum officer” has the meaning given the term in section 235(b)(1)(E) of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1225(b)(1)).

(b)  “Southern border” shall mean the contiguous land border between the United States and Mexico, including all points of entry.

(c)  “Border States” shall mean the States of the United States immediately adjacent to the contiguous land border between the United States and Mexico.

(d)  Except as otherwise noted, “the Secretary” shall refer to the Secretary of Homeland Security.

(e)  “Wall” shall mean a contiguous, physical wall or other similarly secure, contiguous, and impassable physical barrier.

(f)  “Executive department” shall have the meaning given in section 101 of title 5, United States Code.

(g)  “Regulations” shall mean any and all Federal rules, regulations, and directives lawfully promulgated by agencies.

(h)  “Operational control” shall mean the prevention of all unlawful entries into the United States, including entries by terrorists, other unlawful aliens, instruments of terrorism, narcotics, and other contraband.

Sec. 4.  Physical Security of the Southern Border of the United States.  The Secretary shall immediately take the following steps to obtain complete operational control, as determined by the Secretary, of the southern border:

(a)  In accordance with existing law, including the Secure Fence Act and IIRIRA, take all appropriate steps to immediately plan, design, and construct a physical wall along the southern border, using appropriate materials and technology to most effectively achieve complete operational control of the southern border;

(b)  Identify and, to the extent permitted by law, allocate all sources of Federal funds for the planning, designing, and constructing of a physical wall along the southern border;

(c)  Project and develop long-term funding requirements for the wall, including preparing Congressional budget requests for the current and upcoming fiscal years; and

(d)  Produce a comprehensive study of the security of the southern border, to be completed within 180 days of this order, that shall include the current state of southern border security, all geophysical and topographical aspects of the southern border, the availability of Federal and State resources necessary to achieve complete operational control of the southern border, and a strategy to obtain and maintain complete operational control of the southern border.

Sec. 5.  Detention Facilities.  (a)  The Secretary shall take all appropriate action and allocate all legally available resources to immediately construct, operate, control, or establish contracts to construct, operate, or control facilities to detain aliens at or near the land border with Mexico.

(b)  The Secretary shall take all appropriate action and allocate all legally available resources to immediately assign asylum officers to immigration detention facilities for the purpose of accepting asylum referrals and conducting credible fear determinations pursuant to section 235(b)(1) of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1225(b)(1)) and applicable regulations and reasonable fear determinations pursuant to applicable regulations.

(c)  The Attorney General shall take all appropriate action and allocate all legally available resources to immediately assign immigration judges to immigration detention facilities operated or controlled by the Secretary, or operated or controlled pursuant to contract by the Secretary, for the purpose of conducting proceedings authorized under title 8, chapter 12, subchapter II, United States Code.

Sec. 6.  Detention for Illegal Entry.  The Secretary shall immediately take all appropriate actions to ensure the detention of aliens apprehended for violations of immigration law pending the outcome of their removal proceedings or their removal from the country to the extent permitted by law.  The Secretary shall issue new policy guidance to all Department of Homeland Security personnel regarding the appropriate and consistent use of lawful detention authority under the INA, including the termination of the practice commonly known as “catch and release,” whereby aliens are routinely released in the United States shortly after their apprehension for violations of immigration law.

Sec. 7.  Return to Territory.  The Secretary shall take appropriate action, consistent with the requirements of section 1232 of title 8, United States Code, to ensure that aliens described in section 235(b)(2)(C) of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1225(b)(2)(C)) are returned to the territory from which they came pending a formal removal proceeding.

Sec. 8.  Additional Border Patrol Agents.  Subject to available appropriations, the Secretary, through the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, shall take all appropriate action to hire 5,000 additional Border Patrol agents, and all appropriate action to ensure that such agents enter on duty and are assigned to duty stations as soon as is practicable.

Sec. 9.  Foreign Aid Reporting Requirements.  The head of each executive department and agency shall identify and quantify all sources of direct and indirect Federal aid or assistance to the Government of Mexico on an annual basis over the past five years, including all bilateral and multilateral development aid, economic assistance, humanitarian aid, and military aid.  Within 30 days of the date of this order, the head of each executive department and agency shall submit this information to the Secretary of State.  Within 60 days of the date of this order, the Secretary shall submit to the President a consolidated report reflecting the levels of such aid and assistance that has been provided annually, over each of the past five years.

Sec. 10.  Federal-State Agreements.  It is the policy of the executive branch to empower State and local law enforcement agencies across the country to perform the functions of an immigration officer in the interior of the United States to the maximum extent permitted by law.

(a)  In furtherance of this policy, the Secretary shall immediately take appropriate action to engage with the Governors of the States, as well as local officials, for the purpose of preparing to enter into agreements under section 287(g) of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1357(g)).

(b)  To the extent permitted by law, and with the consent of State or local officials, as appropriate, the Secretary shall take appropriate action, through agreements under section 287(g) of the INA, or otherwise, to authorize State and local law enforcement officials, as the Secretary determines are qualified and appropriate, to perform the functions of immigration officers in relation to the investigation, apprehension, or detention of aliens in the United States under the direction and the supervision of the Secretary.  Such authorization shall be in addition to, rather than in place of, Federal performance of these duties.

(c)  To the extent permitted by law, the Secretary may structure each agreement under section 287(g) of the INA in the manner that provides the most effective model for enforcing Federal immigration laws and obtaining operational control over the border for that jurisdiction.

Sec. 11.  Parole, Asylum, and Removal.  It is the policy of the executive branch to end the abuse of parole and asylum provisions currently used to prevent the lawful removal of removable aliens.

(a)  The Secretary shall immediately take all appropriate action to ensure that the parole and asylum provisions of Federal immigration law are not illegally exploited to prevent the removal of otherwise removable aliens.

(b)  The Secretary shall take all appropriate action, including by promulgating any appropriate regulations, to ensure that asylum referrals and credible fear determinations pursuant to section 235(b)(1) of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1125(b)(1)) and 8 CFR 208.30, and reasonable fear determinations pursuant to 8 CFR 208.31, are conducted in a manner consistent with the plain language of those provisions.

(c)  Pursuant to section 235(b)(1)(A)(iii)(I) of the INA, the Secretary shall take appropriate action to apply, in his sole and unreviewable discretion, the provisions of section 235(b)(1)(A)(i) and (ii) of the INA to the aliens designated under section 235(b)(1)(A)(iii)(II).

(d)  The Secretary shall take appropriate action to ensure that parole authority under section 212(d)(5) of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1182(d)(5)) is exercised only on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the plain language of the statute, and in all circumstances only when an individual demonstrates urgent humanitarian reasons or a significant public benefit derived from such parole.

(e)  The Secretary shall take appropriate action to require that all Department of Homeland Security personnel are properly trained on the proper application of section 235 of the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (8 U.S.C. 1232) and section 462(g)(2) of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (6 U.S.C. 279(g)(2)), to ensure that unaccompanied alien children are properly processed, receive appropriate care and placement while in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security, and, when appropriate, are safely repatriated in accordance with law.

Sec. 12.  Authorization to Enter Federal Lands.  The Secretary, in conjunction with the Secretary of the Interior and any other heads of agencies as necessary, shall take all appropriate action to:

(a)  permit all officers and employees of the United States, as well as all State and local officers as authorized by the Secretary, to have access to all Federal lands as necessary and appropriate to implement this order; and

(b)  enable those officers and employees of the United States, as well as all State and local officers as authorized by the Secretary, to perform such actions on Federal lands as the Secretary deems necessary and appropriate to implement this order.

Sec. 13.  Priority Enforcement.  The Attorney General shall take all appropriate steps to establish prosecution guidelines and allocate appropriate resources to ensure that Federal prosecutors accord a high priority to prosecutions of offenses having a nexus to the southern border.

Sec. 14.  Government Transparency.  The Secretary shall, on a monthly basis and in a publicly available way, report statistical data on aliens apprehended at or near the southern border using a uniform method of reporting by all Department of Homeland Security components, in a format that is easily understandable by the public.

Sec. 15.  Reporting.  Except as otherwise provided in this order, the Secretary, within 90 days of the date of this order, and the Attorney General, within 180 days, shall each submit to the President a report on the progress of the directives contained in this order.

Sec. 16.  Hiring.  The Office of Personnel Management shall take appropriate action as may be necessary to facilitate hiring personnel to implement this order.

Sec. 17.  General Provisions.  (a)  Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i)   the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii)  the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b)  This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c)  This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

DONALD J. TRUMP

THE WHITE HOUSE,
January 25, 2017.

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Pope Francis Highlights the Role of Mary in 2017

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by thierry ehrmann https://www.flickr.com/photos/home_of_chaos/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by thierry ehrmann https://www.flickr.com/photos/home_of_chaos/

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