Haters Gonna Hate: Christian Ministers Forced to Perform Gay Marriage or Face Jail Time

Donald and Evelyn Knapp at the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel in Coeur dAlene Idaho Photo courtesy of Alliance Defending Freedom CNA 10 20 14

Photo Source: Catholic News Agency

Remember the lies?

Gay marriage would not lead to polygamy, they said. But before gay marriage is even fully out of the gate, the court movement to legalize polygamy is afoot. 

Gay marriage will never lead to ministers being forced to perform gay marriage wedding services, they told us. Well, so much for that one, too.

David and Evelyn Knapp, ordained ministers of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, have been told by Coeur d’Alene’s city officials that, due to their refusal to perform a gay wedding, they may face up to 180 days in jail and $1,000 in fines for each day they do not perform gay wedding services.

A lawsuit filed on the minister’s behalf by the Alliance Defending Freedom, says in part:

If the Knapps refuse to perform one same-sex ceremony for one week, they risk going to jail for over three years and being fined $7,000. If the Knapps refuse to perform one same-sex ceremony for 30 days, they risk going to jail for over 14 years and being fined $30,000. If the Knapps refuse to perform one same-sex ceremony for a year, they risk going to jail for 180 years and being fined $365,000.

The city is taking the legal position that the couple’s wedding chapel, which is called the Hitching Post Lakeside Chapel, is a “place of accommodation” that would is subject to the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance.

That’s kind of rich since the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel is a denomination going with over 8,000,000 members worldwide. There are 1,875 Foursquare Gospel churches here in the United States alone.

The legal basis for this contention seems to hang on the thread that the Hitching Post Chapel is incorporated as a “religious corporation limited to performing one-man-one-woman marriages as defined by the Holy Bible.” According to Fox News Radio, the Hitching Post Chapel is a for-profit corporation.

I do not know if Idaho law has a discreet entity called a “religious corporation” in its statutes, or, if it does, what that means. I do know that the City of Coeur d’Alene called these two ministers. Again, according to Fox News Radio, the city attorney claims that even ordained ministers whose church teachings do not allow gay marriage will be required to perform gay marriages.

I think it’s telling that two days after the Ninth Circuit issued an order allowing same-sex marriages, in Idaho, Pastors David and Evelyn Knapp received a phone call from the city advising them they had to perform gay marriages.

David and Evelyn Knapp are ministers who were ordained by a legitimate denomination.

According to the Gay Christian Movement Watch, here is the International Church of the Four Square Gospel’s teaching on the matter:

The Biblical record shows that sexual union was established exclusively within the context of male-female relationship and formalized in the ordinance of marriage. In the New Testament, the oneness of male and female in marriage pictures the relationship between Christ and His Church. . . . The Scriptures identify the practice of homosexuality as a sin that, if persisted in, brings grave consequences in this life and excludes one from the Kingdom of God.

The facade of lies in support of gay marriage is falling down, and it’s doing it quickly.

From The Daily Signal:

For years, those in favor of same-sex marriage have argued that all Americans should be free to live as they choose. And yet in countless cases, the government has coerced those who simply wish to be free to live in accordance with their belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman.

Ministers face a 180-day jail term and $1,000 fine for each day they decline to celebrate the same-sex wedding.

Just this weekend, a case has arisen in Idaho, where city officials have told ordained ministers they have to celebrate same-sex weddings or face fines and jail time.

The Idaho case involves Donald and Evelyn Knapp, both ordained ministers, who run Hitching Post Wedding Chapel. Officials from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, told the couple that because the city has a non-discrimination statute that includes sexual orientation and gender identity, and because the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Idaho’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman, the couple would have to officiate at same-sex weddings in their own chapel.

The non-discrimination statute applies to all “public accommodations,” and the city views the chapel as a public accommodation.

On Friday, a same-sex couple asked to be married by the Knapps, and the Knapps politely declined. The Knapps now face a 180-day jail term and $1,000 fine for each day they decline to celebrate the same-sex wedding.

A week of honoring their faith and declining to perform the ceremony could cost the couple three and a half years in jail and $7,000 in fines.

Government Coercion

The Knapps have been married to each other for 47 years and are both ordained ministers of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. They are “evangelical Christians who hold to historic Christian beliefs” that “God created two distinct genders in His image” and “that God ordained marriage to be between one man and one woman.”

But as a result of the courts redefining marriage and a city ordinance that creates special privileges based on sexual orientation and gender identity, the Knapps are facing government coercion.

If You’re a Christian and They Know it, Hire Your Lawyer

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On the one hand, we have the Freedom From Religion Boors, sending off lawyer letters like a Gatling gun with the purpose of intimidating Christians — their target always seems to be Christians — into silence about their faith in public places. And on the other hand, we have that same FFRF, suing the federal government to force the IRS to “monitor” pastors for possible violations of the law in their sermons.

Enter Mayor Anise Parker of Houston, stage left.

Mayor Parker is embroiled in a fight with Houston residents over an ordinance the city council passed last spring. The ordinance is reputed to provide rather extensive legal “protection” to homosexuals and transgendereds.

That’s all well and good. Mayor Parker is Houston’s first lesbian mayor. Houstonians evidently like the job she’s done up until now. She was re-elected to her third and final term a year ago. Maybe she wanted to do something splendiferous for her mayoral swan song, and this new ordinance is it.

Politicians on the way out can become extraordinarily touchy about their “legacy.” I would guess that the first lesbian mayor of a large city would find no better legacy for herself than passing a land-mark gay rights act.

The trouble is political life is never a gimme. It’s always rough and tumble and, if you’re in office, you have to accept that. From the moment you report to work, the fight is on. Nothing ever comes easy in governing a democracy. Which is part of why it’s the best form of government there is; because elected officials do not get their way by proclamation. They’ve got to earn their victories in the political trenches of getting the votes and then defending the decisions to the pubic.

It appears that Mayor Parker forgot all that when she passed her legacy ordinance. She evidently shut down her ordinary thinking capacities where this ordinance was concerned and went into full-blown this-is-my-precious-legacy mode. I say that because it appears that she thought she could pass what was bound to be a controversial ordinance and there would be no flashback. How a three-term mayor could be so silly, I do not know.

So far, all this falls into the category of a seasoned mayor tossing everything she should have learned about governance aside and deciding to go all simple-minded and addle-pated over her pet mayoral victory. It looks for all the world like Mayor Parker entered the political arena over this ordinance — which was unavoidably going to draw serious push back — like a private citizen holding a dinner party in her own home. If the guests displeased her, she reserved the right to ask them to leave.

Here’s how it played out.

Opponents of the ordinance responded to its passage with a referendum petition to put the ordinance on the ballot and allow the citizens of Houston to vote on it. The petition garnered 50,000 signatures, which is a lot more than the needed 17,269. However the city threw it out, based on claims that it was “invalid.”

The petition’s backers responded to this with plans to take the city to court. 

The city responded to that with subpoenas, demanding to see the all sermons and speeches given by pastors who had opposed the ordinance that mention Mayor anise Parker, homosexuality or gender identity.

Now, the pastors’ attorneys are seeking to quash the subpoenas on the grounds that, among other things, they request material relating to activities protected by the First Amendment.

“Political and social commentary is not a crime,” their attorney, Christina Holcomb said.

“We don’t comment on litigation,” the city’s spokesperson responded.

There is a problem here that goes a lot deeper than one mayor who’s let her office go to her head. Regardless of the overweening ego delusions elected officials held in the past, no elected official before, say, 2005, would have even considered stepping all over the First Amendment and America’s most cherished freedoms to criticize our government like this.

Now, it’s become a palm-slapping, fist-bumping coup in certain circles to use the law to harass and bully Christians. The underlying problem here is the permission that Christian bashers give themselves to use the law to harass, badger, bully and deliberately try to limit the freedoms of American citizens who happen to be Christian.

Mayor Parker is mis-using her powers big-time on this. She’s also directly violating the Constitutional right of all American citizens to criticize their elected officials and public policy in public forums.

Are these subpoenas an attempt to use governmental power to quash pubic debate about this ordinance?

Or course they are.

Has Mayor Parker abandoned her responsibilities as Houston’s chief governing officer to play gay rights advocate? Perhaps. She certainly appears to have lost every last bit of her political and governing smarts over this issue. She has embroiled the city in a needless lawsuit by refusing to allow citizens the use of their rightful tool, the referendum. She followed that with a ham-handed attempt to silence her critics through government intimidation in the form of outrageous subpoenas.

She has also created another avenue to use government power to attack Christians. Now that the subpoena box has been opened, you can bet that other goodies are going to come out of it.

“Political and social commentary is not a crime,” the pastors’ attorney tells us. I would go a step further and say that political and social commentary are one of America’s greatest gifts to the world. Our forefathers created a government that ran right in the face of those that had preceded it. They grew up in a world where people could be hanged for criticizing the king or his policies, and they turned that on its head.

Americans have the right to criticize their government, their elected officials and public policy pretty much however they wish. There are a few caveats concerning elected officials, but the limits to redress through the courts for slander are so extreme that it’s close to impossible to do it. So far as I know, it is truly impossible to slander a policy or an idea.

The mayor of Houston, whatever her overwrought feelings about a particular ordinance, does not have the right to use her office to intimidate and bully her critics into silence. She can not, as Queen Elizabeth I is reputed to have done, sit in a pew of the church of offending pastors and yell out “By God sir, I will not have this!”

Or rather, I suppose she could do that, but if she did, the pastor would be more likely to fall down laughing than to shake and shiver with fear.

We fought a whole war over this stuff.

And we won.

Now, American Christians are having to fight that war again, this time in the courts. To paraphrase the children’s song, If you’re Christian and they know it, hire your lawyer. You’re probably going to need one.

 

James Foley’s Home Parish Celebrates His Life with a Memorial Mass

dt.common.streams.StreamServer.cls_.jpegJames Foley’s family and friends celebrated a memorial mass for his life in the family’s home parish this weekend. His funeral mass will be in October, on his birthday. His parents said in an interview I posted earlier that they did not expect ISIS to return Mr Foley’s body.

Watching these videos makes me proud to be an American, and a Catholic.

For more details about the memorial mass, check out Deacon Greg Kandra.

This video starts with a small bit from James Foley’s Memorial Mass and moves to a longer discussion about the British Jihadists, one of whom is thought to be the James Foley’s murderer.

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James Foley’s Memorial Mass

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James Foley’s parents speak of praying for other hostages.

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Censoring the Truth about ISIS Dishonors James Foley’s Life and Death

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We entered the age of run-away self-righteousness a long time ago.

No matter how dastardly a thing is, the perpetrator of that thing will justify it by claiming that they are not, as common sense would lead you to believe, the scum of the earth, but they are in fact noble actors on the great stage of life who are doing this dastardly thing for what they claim is a greater good.

Thus, in the James Foley video, we have the scum of the earth ISIS member giving out with all his justifications, including, odd as this sounds that President Obama is in fact doing the deed, before he beheads an unarmed, bound man who is his helpless prisoner.

No matter the ugliness of the deed, the deed doer will claim that they are the best of us all, that they are, if truth be told, acting heroically.

Silence is the best friend of scums of the earth. What they need most is darkness and deeper darkness in which to commit their crimes against humanity. Those who call for us to turn our heads and refuse to allow the bitter truths of their brutal behavior to be known are, whether they realize it or not, their collaborators and defenders.

I’ve come across a smattering of articles calling for self-censorship in the press concerning ISIS. These people, who I am going to assume are well-meaning rather than villainous, are calling for the world media to stop telling us about the crimes that ISIS is committing. They are doing this on the dubious grounds that publishing ISIS’ crimes is “what ISIS wants.”

My response to this is simple and direct: Get real.

I don’t care what ISIS wants. I do care that people know the truth, even if the truth reeks, as the truth about ISIS certainly does.

We need to know that these butchers are committing genocide, that they are committing crimes so horrible that we cannot fathom them. We need to know who is funding them and who is backing them. And if it is Americans, we need to lock these people up and keep them there. We need to know because evil in all its forms flourishes in darkness and hides behind lies.

A news blackout on ISIS would be an unintended collaboration with ISIS. It would allow them to continue with their bestial behavior uninterrupted. It would abandon their victims in the most profound way possible; by pretending that they don’t exist.

It would also dishonor the memory of James Foley as nothing else could. James Foley gave his life in the telling of hard truths to a Western world that didn’t want to hear them. He, and his incredibly brave colleagues, are our eyes and ears in hell.

The idea of using his death as an opportunity to lobby for shutting down media coverage of the carnage ISIS is wreaking on innocent people profanes James Foley’s life, work and death.

James Foley is an American hero. He died for an American value, which is freedom of the press. He was a man of a faith, a practicing Catholic and, by the accounts of those who knew him, “a good, good person.”

His courage awes me.

If you get the chance to see the video of his ignoble execution, focus on that. Focus on the awesome courage of this American and contrast it with the cowardice of his braggart executioner. The man who killed James Foley did not have the courage to take him on man to man. He tied him hand and foot and put him on his knees. Then, the filthy ISIS coward had to hide himself behind a mask and clothes that would hide both his face and his physique.

I had trouble watching the video. But I have no problem whatsoever with saying that we the people need to know the truth of these things.

The truth is James Foley is an American hero; a man’s man in the best and most courageous sense of the word; someone who watched horrors with compassion and tried to give the rest of us the truth.

The sniveling little coward who killed him is the human scum of the earth.

That truth is plain to see in the video.

Another truth is that the American people deserve to know these things. The press has no business “self-censoring” the facts.

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Free Speech is a Civil Right: IRS and the Freedom from Religion Foundation Disagree

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So … we’ve got an organization whose sole purpose is to drive religious expression from the public sphere by the use of threats of legal action and harassment.

This organization files a lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service and demands that the IRS join them in their harassment of religious people by “monitoring” churches for possible violations of IRS rules. In this instance, what they were suing about was the so-called “Johnson Amendment” to the IRS code.

The Johnson Amendment is the basis for the IRS rule that preachers may not endorse candidates from the pulpit if they are to receive tax-free status. The IRS rule itself is quite specific and narrow. Neither it nor the Johnson Amendment were intended to become the dreadnought by which churches are harassed and bullied in order to keep them from speaking out on moral issues. But that is exactly what has happened.

Groups such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation routinely conflate the Johnson Amendment with a limitation on First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and religion, including freedom of speech in religion. They harass, bully and intimidate Christians all over the country with threats of lawsuits.  I say Christians because I am not aware of them doing this to other faiths.

It seems obvious to me that they are using the Johnson Amendment as a lever to try to destroy the moral and prophetic voice of Christianity, not only in the public sphere, but from the pulpit, as well.

The Internal Revenue Service of the United States government settled this latest lawsuit by agreeing to become the FFRF’s hammer to beat down on free speech in the pulpit. They didn’t say this in so many words. What they agreed to do was to single out groups based on whether or not they are faith (read that Christian) organizations and “monitor” what their pastors preach for possible violations of the IRS code. If that is not a deliberately chilling government surveillance for the purpose of limiting free speech, what is?

It is particularly salient that the Freedom From Religion Foundation is not just trying to stop churches from endorsing candidates for political office; it is also claiming that they violate the Johnson Amendment when they discuss legislation or political issues. Abortion is a political issue. Gay marriage is a political issue. The genocide in the Middle East is a political issue. Corporatism, the environment, divorce, pornography, sex trafficking, prostitution, taxes, jobs and most everything else in America is a political issue.

We are Americans, which means that we are political people. We have what is purported to be a government of, by and for the people, which means at its root that governmental matters belong to us to cuss, discuss, slice and dice however we choose. That should include every segment of our society, including the pulpit.

If we are also Christians, then our faith guides us in everything we do. Jesus Christ is the Lord of our lives. We try to follow the Gospels in everything. Our faith leaders have not just a right, they have a responsibility to lead us in the Gospel paths of living.

There is no line for Americans between themselves and their politics for the simple reason that our politics, and our government, are us. Our beliefs are legitimately pertinent to political debate because we are the government.

What this lawsuit by the FFRF — and other actions to censor and stifle religious discussion, opinions and activism —  amount to is an attempt to censor and silence a whole set of ideas. This lawsuit is a blatant push to silence people that the FFRF disagrees with by the use of government surveillance of selected groups, coupled with the threat of government action against those groups, and the government is going along with it. 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is using the IRS to censor speech in the pulpit. This is not an attempt to drive Christianity from the pubic square through bullying. It is a direct mis-use of government power to silence free speech among a whole class of citizens because another group of citizens does not like what they are saying.

The IRS is going to “monitor” churches to see if the clergy talks about anything more pertinent to our daily lives than, say, Isaac blessing Jacob instead of Esau, for the purpose of hauling them up before the Man. It is as simple as that.

From New American:

The Internal Revenue Service continues to extend its already vast overreach, this time by agreeing to monitor church sermons as part of an agreement the government made on July 17 with the aggressively atheistic Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Freedom Outpost reported, “The Internal Revenue Service settled a lawsuit brought by the Freedom from Religion Foundation. The 2012 lawsuit was settled after the IRS agreed to monitor what is said in houses of worship, something that is a clear violation of the First Amendment, since no law can be written by Congress to this effect.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Wisconsin, brought the suit against the IRS, asserting that the group had been ignoring complaints that churches were violating their tax-exempt statuses. According to the group’s suit, churches promote political issues, legislation, and candidates from the pulpit.

FFRF asserted, “Pulpit Freedom Sunday … has become an annual occasion for churches to violate the law with impunity. The IRS, meanwhile, admittedly was not enforcing the restrictions against churches.”

FFRF claims that the churches are acting in violation of the 1954 Johnson Amendment, which states that non-profits cannot endorse candidates.

A 2009 court ruling determined that the IRS must staff someone to monitor church politicking, but the Freedom From Religion Foundation claims that the IRS has not been adhering to the ruling.

Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom and head of the Pulpit Initiative, told LifeSiteNews that “the IRS has no business censoring what a pastor preaches from the pulpit.” Stanley states that his organization is currently “attempting to bring the era of IRS censorship and intimidation to an end by challenging the Johnson Amendment, which imposes unconstitutional restrictions on clergy speech.”

He contends that churches should not have to choose between tax-exempt status and freedom of speech. “No one would suggest a pastor give up his church’s tax-exempt status if he wants to keep his constitutional protection against illegal search and seizure or cruel and unusual punishment,” he said.

Stanley insists that not only would it be unfair for churches to have to choose between one or the other, but that “churches are automatically tax exempt out of recognition that the surest way to destroy the free exercise of religion is to begin taxing it.” “Churches are constitutionally entitled to a tax exemption and that exemption cannot be conditioned on the surrender of constitutional rights.”

In celebration of its victory with the IRS, the Freedom From Religion Foundation issued a press release wherein it outlined its win:

The IRS has now resolved the signature authority issue necessary to initiate church examinations. The IRS also has adopted procedures for reviewing, evaluating and determining whether to initiate church investigations. While the IRS retains “prosecutorial” discretion with regard to any individual case, the IRS no longer has a blanket policy or practice of non-enforcement of political activity restrictions as to churches.

The press release also acknowledges, however, that the judge in the case could not order immediate action since a moratorium has been placed on the investigations by the IRS of tax exempt groups after the 2013 scandal in which the IRS was found to have been targeting Christian and conservative groups.

St Michael the Archangel, Defend Us in Battle

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HHS Mandate: NOW Obama Says He Wants to Compromise

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Talk about giving the last drop of political blood.

President Obama defended the HHS Mandate until it got swacked at the Supreme Court, then he and his supporters in the United States Senate tried to kill the court decision with statutes. Now, after all that, the White House announces that it will come up with an “opt-out alternative for Catholic and other religious employers.”

I am guessing this is in advance of what he sees as a catastrophic (at least to him) spanking from the Supremes over the Little Sisters of the Poor.

From CatholicPhilly.com:

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The Obama administration has filed a brief with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver indicating it plans to develop an alternative for Catholic and other religious nonprofit employers to opt out of providing federally mandated contraceptives they object to including in their employee health care coverage.

Several media outlets, including AP, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, reported July 23 that the administration said it would come up with a “work-around” that would be different than the accommodation it currently has available to such employers.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as part of the health care law, requires nearly all employers to cover contraceptives, sterilizations and some abortion-inducing drugs for all employees in their company health plan. It includes a narrow exemption for some religious employers that fit certain criteria.

Currently, there is an accommodation for those employers who don’t fit the exemption but who are morally opposed to providing the coverage. They must fill out a self-certification form — known as EBSA Form 700 — to direct a third party, usually the manager of an employer’s health plan, to provide the contested coverage.

Many religious employers who have sued over the mandate argue that even filling out Form 700 makes them complicit in providing coverage they find objectionable.

According to an AP story, the alternative the Obama administration said it plans to draft would allow these employers to opt out of the coverage they oppose without having to submit the form.

Will Obama’s One Man ENDA End Up in Court?

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One of my Facebook friends called him “the great divider.” 

Even though I am both aware and horrified by the endless hatred directed at whoever sits behind the desk in the Oval Office, I think that’s a fair thing to say about President Obama. His penchant for one man sledgehammer legislating against the First Amendment is a particular case in point. 

So far as I am concerned, the HHS Mandate is a permanent blot on his presidency.

I’ve spent the morning, sifting through the product of our President’s mighty pen from yesterday. I’ve been sitting in front of my computer with the screens littered with copies of the executive orders he amended, wondering, where, exactly, is this one man show pointing us? 

My best guess, based on what I see, is that it’s pointing us toward court. The reason is the lack of a specific religious exemption in President Obama’s verbiage. 

What he has done with this executive order is to amend two previous executive orders from the 1960s. These 1960s executive orders provided direction to the Department of Labor on the question of discrimination in employment. The orders dealt with employment discrimination because of “race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap or age.” President Obama’s executive order adds “sexual orientation, gender identity” to that list.

Executive Order 11478 deals with direct federal employment by direct government agencies. I think it will stand and basically have no big problem with the order as I understand it now. I may change my opinion when I see the rules promulgated by the Department of Labor. 

However, Executive Order 11246 deals with federal contractors. This could be construed to include grantees and, if you want to stretch it, any entity that receives federal money for anything. 

President Obama did not address a third executive order by President Bush, Executive Order 13279. President Bush’s order was designed to protect the religious freedom of entities that receive grants, contract with the government or otherwise receive government monies. It contains a laundry list of sorts of the types of services which it covers. It also specifically addresses the entities covered by Executive Order 11246, which applies to federal contractors. Executive Order 11246 is one of the orders President Obama amended yesterday. 

The assumption being made in various press outlets that I have read is that President Bush’s executive order provides the religious exemptions needed to keep President Obama’s ENDA order from turning into another HHS Mandate.

Is that true?

Only somewhat, and, depending on the regs the Department of Labor comes up with, maybe not at all. 

The reason I say that is two-fold. First, and scariest, President Obama’s order calls on the Department of Labor to promulgate rules. This is normal and necessary. What makes it scary is the big time precedent of this administration using rules and regs to attack religious freedom.

The disastrous HHS Mandate is a rule, not a law. Of course, if the president sincerely wants to avoid another HHS Mandate, he can use his powers to encourage sensible regulations that ensure religious liberty. He also has the power to deep-six any reg or rule by not signing it. 

I’m taking a wait and see position on how those rules are going to look and what this president signs. He lied about religious freedom to get the votes to pass the Affordable Health Care Act and he’s consistently lied about the impact of the HHS Mandate. So, I don’t trust him. 

The second reason I think this may end up in court is that court cases and various agency rulings have already attacked Catholic institutions and successfully stripped them of federal grants because of the Church’s adherence to 2,000 year-old consistent teachings. There is also a lawsuit in the courts attacking the Catholic bishops for teaching Catholic teaching concerning abortion in regards to Catholic hospitals. 

Both Robert George, Vice President at United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, and the Catholic Bishops have issued statements opposing President Obama’s ENDA order precisely because it lacks a religious exemption. I think they are on solid ground. 

Based on that litigious impulse to attack Catholic teaching through the courts, I think the chances of ENDA ending up in court are quite good. What we will probably have at that point is adjudication based on dueling executive orders. President Obama could have stopped this before it got out of the gate by simply adding a religious exemption to his orders yesterday. 

I going to let you read both Robert George’s complete statement and the complete statement from the USCCB without edits. 

From the USCCB:

USCCB Chairmen Respond To ‘Unprecedented And Extreme’ Executive Order

 
July 21, 2014

WASHINGTON–The bishop-Chairmen of two USCCB Committees responded with great concern to President Obama’s July 21 executive order to prohibit federal government contractors from what the Administration deems “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” discrimination and to forbid “gender identity” discrimination in the employment of federal employees. The problems the bishops identify in the order relate both to the flaws in its core prohibitions, and to its lack of religious freedom protection.

Two USCCB Chairmen – Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty and Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, Chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth – together issued the following statement.  

Today’s executive order is unprecedented and extreme and should be opposed.  

In the name of forbidding discrimination, this order implements discrimination. With the stroke of a pen, it lends the economic power of the federal government to a deeply flawed understanding of human sexuality, to which faithful Catholics and many other people of faith will not assent. As a result, the order will exclude federal contractors precisely on the basis of their religious beliefs.  

More specifically, the Church strongly opposes both unjust discrimination against those who experience a homosexual inclination and sexual conduct outside of marriage, which is the union of one man and one woman. But the executive order, as it regards federal government contractors, ignores the inclination/conduct distinction in the undefined term “sexual orientation.” As a result, even contractors that disregard sexual inclination in employment face the possibility of exclusion from federal contracting if their employment policies or practices reflect religious or moral objections to extramarital sexual conduct.

The executive order prohibits “gender identity” discrimination, a prohibition that is previously unknown at the federal level, and that is predicated on the false idea that “gender” is nothing more than a social construct or psychological reality that can be chosen at variance from one’s biological sex. This is a problem not only of principle but of practice, as it will jeopardize the privacy and associational rights of both federal contractor employees and federal employees. For example, a biological male employee may be allowed to use the women’s restroom or locker room provided by the employer because the male employee identifies as a female.  

In an attempt to avoid these needless conflicts, states that have passed “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” prohibitions have overwhelmingly included protections for religious employers. When the U.S. Senate, which is controlled by the President’s own party, passed the similar Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) last year, it included religious liberty protections as well. Indeed, all prior versions of ENDA had at least some religious liberty protections. But the executive order is an anomaly in this regard, containing no religious liberty protections. In this way, the order, which is fundamentally flawed in itself, also needlessly prefers conflict and exclusion over coexistence and cooperation. 

Regarding federal contractors, the Executive Order will take effect after rules to be promulgated by the Department of Labor implementing the Executive Order become final. Regarding federal employment, the Executive Order is effective immediately.

Keywords: Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ENDA, Archbishop William E. Lori, Bishop Richard Malone, gender identity, sexual identity
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From Robert George’s Facebook page:

I have, up till now, avoided the “war on this,” “war on that,” rhetoric. But now there is no avoiding it. Today Barack Obama declared war on the Catholic Church and people of other faiths who hold to traditional beliefs about marriage and sexual morality. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops explains the situation in a statement responding to the executive order the President issued today. There is no way for religious people to defend themselves against being reduced to the status of second-class citizens except by electing to office, first in 2014 and then in 2016, men and women who will repeal this executive order and other governmental acts that undermine their religious freedom and rights of conscience. But that is only part of the picture. The reason that Catholics and other people of faith seek government contracts is to carry our their mission of serving people in need, orphans, the poor, refugees and the dispossessed, persons suffering from afflictions and addictions. It is the people who are served who are secondary victims of this war on conscience when faith-based providers are forced out—as Catholic Charities was forced out of providing adoption services in Massachusetts, Illinois, and the District of Columbia. We must defeat the enemies of conscience—at the ballot box—not only to protect our own freedom and that of our fellow citizens, but also to protect the interests of those served so well by faith-based institutions. This is a war we must win for their sake as well as our own. 

http://www.usccb.org/news/2014/14-126.cfm

 

 

President Obama Signs ENDA Executive Order

President Obama issued his much-ballyhooed executive order on employment discrimination concerning sexual orientation (ENDA) today.

I need to think this through before I write about it. In them meantime, here are my first thoughts:

1. The order is a not a statute. That means it is limited in scope to federal situations.

2. It certainly applies to direct, federal employees. It almost certainly also applies to federal contractors. Does it apply as well to federal grantees? I’m guessing yes. Does it apply to anyone who takes federal money for any purpose? That’s the sticking point, and the limits may have to be adjudicated before we know.

3. Does this executive order rescind earlier executive orders by other presidents, that included religious exemptions? That’s a critical question, and one reason why I want time to sort this out.

You can find the exact wording of the order here. It’s mainly references to other orders, so it’s not easy to understand without copies of those other orders in front of you.

Here is President Obama’s complete statement on issuing this order, without edits.

 

Remarks by the President at Signing of Executive Order on LGBT Workplace Discrimination

East Room

10:39 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Welcome to the White House, everybody.  I know I’m a little late.  But that’s okay because we’ve got some big business to do here.

Many of you have worked for a long time to see this day coming.  You organized, you spoke up, you signed petitions, you sent letters — I know because I got a lot of them.  (Laughter.) And now, thanks to your passionate advocacy and the irrefutable rightness of your cause, our government — government of the people, by the people, and for the people — will become just a little bit fairer.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Amen.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  It doesn’t make much sense, but today in America, millions of our fellow citizens wake up and go to work with the awareness that they could lose their job, not because of anything they do or fail to do, but because of who they are –  lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender.  And that’s wrong.  We’re here to do what we can to make it right — to bend that arc of justice just a little bit in a better direction.

In a few moments, I will sign an executive order that does two things.  First, the federal government already prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  Once I sign this order, the same will be explicitly true for gender identity.  (Applause.)

And second, we’re going to prohibit all companies that receive a contract from the federal government from discriminating against their LGBT employees.  (Applause.)    America’s federal contracts should not subsidize discrimination against the American people.

Now, this executive order is part of a long bipartisan tradition.  President Roosevelt signed an order prohibiting racial discrimination in the national defense industry.  President Eisenhower strengthened it.  President Johnson expanded it.  Today, I’m going to expand it again.

Currently, 18 states have already banned workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  And over 200 cities and localities have done the same.  Governor Terry McAuliffe is here; his first act as governor was to prohibit discrimination against LGBT employees of the Commonwealth of Virginia.  (Applause.)  Where did Terry go?  Right back here.

I’ve appointed a record number of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender public servants to positions across my administration.  They are ambassadors and federal judges, special assistants, senior advisors from the Pentagon to the Labor Department.  Every day, their talent is put to work on behalf of the American people.

Equality in the workplace is not only the right thing to do, it turns out to be good business.  That’s why a majority of Fortune 500 companies already have nondiscrimination policies in place.  It is not just about doing the right thing — it’s also about attracting and retaining the best talent.  And there are several business leaders who are here today who will attest to that.

And yet, despite all that, in too many states and in too many workplaces, simply being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender can still be a fireable offense.  There are people here today who’ve lost their jobs for that reason.  This is not speculative, this is not a matter of political correctness — people lose their jobs as a consequence of this.  Their livelihoods are threatened, their families are threatened.  In fact, more states now allow same-sex marriage than prohibit discrimination against LGBT workers.  So I firmly believe that it’s time to address this injustice for every American.

Now, Congress has spent 40 years — four decades — considering legislation that would help solve the problem.  That’s a long time.  And yet they still haven’t gotten it done.  Senators Terry [Tammy] Baldwin and Jeff Merkley are here.  They have been champions of this issue for a long, long time.  We are very proud of them.  I know they will not stop fighting until fair treatment for all workers is the federal law of the land.  Everyone thanks them for that.  (Applause.)

But I’m going to do what I can, with the authority I have, to act.  The rest of you, of course, need to keep putting pressure on Congress to pass federal legislation that resolves this problem once and for all.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Amen!

THE PRESIDENT:  Amen.  Amen.  (Applause.)  Got the “amen” corner here.  (Laughter.)  Well — (sings) — (laughter.)  You don’t want to get me preaching, now.  (Laughter.)

For more than two centuries, we have strived, often at great cost, to form “a more perfect union” — to make sure that “we, the people” applies to all the people.  Many of us are only here because others fought to secure rights and opportunities for us. And we’ve got a responsibility to do the same for future generations.  We’ve got an obligation to make sure that the country we love remains a place where no matter who you are, or what you look like, or where you come from, or how you started out, or what your last name is, or who you love — no matter what, you can make it in this country.

That’s the story of America.  That’s the story of this movement.  I want to thank all of you for doing your part.  We’ve got a long way to go, but I hope as everybody looks around this room, you are reminded of the extraordinary progress that we have made not just in our lifetimes, but in the last five years.  In the last two years.  (Applause.)  In the last one year.  (Applause.)  We’re on the right side of history.

I’m going to sign this executive order.  Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)

(The executive order is signed.)

END
10:47 A.M. EDT

The Catholic Bishops Aren’t ‘In Bed’ with President Obama. They’re In Court with Him.

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I hate it when I have to spend my good time sweeping up the refuse from idiotic, politically-motivated attacks on our Catholic religious leaders.

Today, I’m going to address attacks from the right side of unreason, and to be honest, I’d rather not. Have to, that is. I’d much rather I didn’t have to keep doing this.

I’m not so pleased when I have to do the same thing for with the left side of unreason, either.

But … duty calls.

There have been a smattering of articles and combox vitriol floating around the internet accusing the Catholic bishops of all sorts of nasty things because they don’t/won’t/aren’t-going-to hate on Mexicans. After all, we’re deep into our bi-election brown-skin hate-off right now and every red blooded American is called to abandon all reason and blindly join in.

The cable news networks are discussing (they never report, they only discuss) the issue of large numbers of children coming over the Rio Grande. I watched a brief thingy on one of them Saturday night. They were proclaiming that one in four of these kids are “criminals” and that “gangs” are meeting them at the border to recruit them.

I know lots of people who’ve come over that border. Some of them are bad dudes. True. But most of them fall into the salt of the earth category of family-loving, deeply-religious goodness. You can hate me for saying it, but it’s just a fact.

To get back to the talking heads and their endless talk-talk on this border situation, I have one main point, and that point is …

They do this every single bi-election year.

I’m not saying that the problem with people flooding our Southern borders isn’t real. I am also not saying that this country should not control its borders. Far from it. A country that can’t control its borders is in big trouble.

What I am saying is that the this wall to wall reporting that has you so whipped up and miserable right now is politically-motivated. The cable news does this every bi-election The constant drumbeat of hysterical talk-talk-talking about “illegals” will stop like turning off a tap as soon as the votes are counted in November.

In the meantime, the good people of this country will have been ripped around and worked up into an emotional pitch for nothing. Again.

Because, you see, nothing is going to happen that will stop the flood of illegal immigrants coming over the border. Think about it. This big outrage has been whipped up every bi-election since the turn of the century. What good has come of it? Republican President/Democratic President/Republican Congress/Democratic Congress it doesn’t matter. Nothing changes.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishops are doing their Jesus thing and insisting that these children are people and must be treated as people. If you will read the Bishops’ statements on this issue, they plainly support efforts to control the country’s borders. But they can’t very well drop kick the Gospels just to make the right wing side of unreason like them.

So … they get hit with the usual claptrap from the vicious pharisees to the right. I won’t go through the whole tired litany of hate talk. I’m going to focus on one bizarro statement that I’ve seen repeated enough to know it has traction in certain internet nut bins. That statement is the ludicrous claim that the Catholic bishops are “in bed” with President Obama.

That is so stupid that it deserves a trophy of some sort or other.

Have any of the little hive minds that are passing that around totally forgotten the dozens upon dozens of lawsuits filed against the HHS Mandate? How about the bishops’ requests for religious exemptions to ENDA and the fight brewing there? Who do you think was working against the Hobby Lobby vote last week?

The bishops are in bed with President Obama? Puleez.

What the bishops are doing with their support of the human rights of immigrants and their refusal to join in with the great bi-election immigration hate-off, is following Jesus.

You know, the Jesus Simeon said would be a “sign of contradiction.”

What Simeon didn’t prophesy, but which Christ the Lord promised when he said If they persecute me, they will persecute you, is that people who follow the Gospels, especially in a a post-Christian society such as ours, are also going to be signs of contradiction. In fact, I’ll go a step further and say that our vocation as Christians in this post-Christian culture is to be signs of contradictions.

The bishops are succeeding in that vocation in a grand fashion. They are, for instance, being sued directly for their teaching that abortion is wrong. That’s from the left side of unreason.

Now, they’re being accused of pandering to our anti-Catholic president by insisting that people are people, no matter their legal status. That’s from the right side of of unreason.

What we are dealing with here is two sides of the same God-is-Made-in-My-Image coin. When people cut the Gospels down to fit their politics, they stop being a sign of contradiction to the sins of the world and become the sin’s enablers. They are salt that has lost its savor.

The followers of the politically-trimmed Gospel that does not allow for the sanctity of human life or marriage on the one side, and that tries to enforce economics as a morality-free zone on the other, are both examples of fallen and useless Christians. When I say “useless” I mean they are useless to God in His great work of Kingdom building.

Is there anything worse I can say about a Christian than that they are useless to God?

Jesus told us cannot follow two masters, and I think He meant it. When we trim our faith to suit our politics, we are running away from the cross, just like Peter, Andrew, James, James, Matthew, Philip, Thomas, Nathaniel, Simon the Zealot and Thaddaeus.

The Apostles repented of their shameful running away. They gave their lives for the same Jesus they had abandoned.

We can too.

I am not saying that we should not be concerned about the flood of illegal immigrants that have been coming over our borders for the past decades. This country needs to secure its borders. Period.

I am saying that we should stop letting ourselves be jerked around by the bi-election carrying on that happens so predictably that you could set your calendar by it.

This isn’t about shutting down our borders. In fact, the same corporatists who own the news outlets that are pushing this hysteria are themselves ardently opposed to shutting down the borders. They like and employ the cheap, off-the-books labor. I’ll write more on that in a day or so.

What this reporting and whipping Americans into a xenophobic hysteria are about is the universal goal of power politics: Getting power and keeping power.

Nobody is going to fix this problem, come November. The day after the elections, the talking heads will start talking about something else. Just like they do every bi-election.

In the meantime, the right-wing-of-unreason crowd will have scarred and defamed the name of Christ with their claims to be Christian while they say things that come straight from the pit.

The bishops are right about this, just as they are right about marriage and abortion and human trafficking and a whole host of other things.

They are being attacked because they are the sign of contradiction in American public discourse.

They get attacked from the left and right because they are not acolytes to either the right or left. Their job isn’t to give moral support to the immorality of power politics. Their job is to proclaim the Gospels and teach us what living for Christ means in this world.

When they tell us to treat immigrants as people, they are teaching us how the Gospels apply directly to us, in our current world. They are setting the cross before us and asking us to take up the unpopular position and lift the cross onto our shoulders and follow Him.

The Catholic bishops are in bed with President Obama? The plain facts of recent history make that charge ridiculous.

The fact that otherwise intelligent folks are bandying it about simply points to how nutty following the gods of this world can make people.

I am writing this with one goal, and it’s not to call in the lightning on my own head, although I will probably get a bit of that. I am writing it to urge you to regain your reason.

Think straight. Look at the simple fact that this happens every bi-election. Consider what that means in real life.

Look also at the fact that the bishops are hated on by both the right and left of the political spectrum. Consider for a moment that perhaps this is because they are actually being the “sign of contradiction” that we all should be.

If you follow Jesus, you’ll be treated the same way He was. That’s what’s happening to the bishops. It’s also what should be happening to you and me.

Use your minds and think people. Do not be whipped around by talking heads with a political agenda. Think. Connect the dots.

And support our bishops.


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