Fortnight for Freedom: Defending Religious Liberty on Wednesday, June 25, 2014

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The jury’s out on our religious freedoms.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

We’re all waiting to see what the Supreme Court does to us or for us in their decision on Sebelius v Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. 

The Supremes are going to hand down a decision on this case soon, and the stakes are enormous.

What will the First Amendment mean next month, after they’ve spoken? How much freedom will we have to practice our faith? Will we be forced to make choices between shucking our faith when we step out the door of our churches? Is the Supreme Court going to take a giant step toward pushing faith out of the public square? Or will it uphold the First Amendment rights of Americans to practice their faith in public?

At issue is the question of whether or not the infamous HHS Mandate will be allowed to force Christian employers to provide funds, either directly or indirectly, for abortifacients and abortion. In other words, can the government force people to participate in murder?

On this day, Wednesday, June 25, 2014, I am going to suggest that you participate in the Fortnight for Freedom by following the links here to read about the case and then say a prayer.

From the Christian Post:

healthcare contraceptive mandate birth control obamacare(PHOTO: REUTERS/LARRY DOWNING)

Protesters pray at the steps of the Supreme Court as arguments begin today to challenge the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers provide coverage for contraception as part of an employee’s health care, in Washington March 25, 2014. The U.S. Supreme Court convened on Tuesday to consider whether business owners can object on religious grounds to a provision of President Barack Obama’s healthcare law requiring employers to provide health insurance that covers birth control.

An attorney involved in a Supreme Court case that will determine to what extent privately owned businesses can opt-out of providing certain types of birth control for religious reasons believes there are “‘high stakes” involved in the outcome.

Matt Bowman, senior counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom, has served as an attorney for Conestoga Woods Specialties, who alongside Hobby Lobby, have sued the federal government to be exempt from the Health and Human Services’ “preventive services mandate” that requires businesses to cover birth control that can lead to the early termination of a pregnancy.

“The stakes are very high in the Conestoga and Hobby Lobby case,” explained Bowman regarding the First Amendment implications in the lawsuit. “It involves fundamental issues of whether or not religious freedom belongs to every American, and whether the government can redefine freedom to force citizens to buy abortion pills for other people.”

Freedom Isn’t Just about Fireworks

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Today is the 5th of July and everyone in my family is back at work.

I asked my husband and sons why they weren’t taking today off and got explanations that amounted to one thing: Habit. They go to work. Every day.

It wasn’t until I got up this morning, and started … um … working … that I realized I’m just like them.

However, less habitual people all over this country are enjoying the second day of a four day weekend. It’s baseball, apple pie an hot dogs all around.

The questing arises: What are we celebrating? Is it freedom from the tyranny of foreign powers? Or is it freedom from the tyranny of our own government? When the signers put their names to the Declaration of Independence, they didn’t have an argument with the Czar of Russia who was trying to invade these shores. Their argument was with the government that had planted them here and that had governed them for over two-hundred years since.

They, every single one of them, was born under the English flag, had grown up under the rule of the English king, and had, until very recently, regarded themselves as English.

What changed? Distance and time had given them the freedom to think for themselves. They were inspired by the Gospels that taught that all human beings matter, that ever hair on our heads are numbered. This ethos of human dignity which began when the Son of God had chosen to be born in a stable rather than a palace had been the mustard seed of the Kingdom that was growing and expanding throughout the world.

Paine

Thomas Paine

The times were right, of course. Political philosophers had moved on from the cynical practicality of The Prince to the cynical idealism of Common Sense. If you haven’t read these two documents, I encourage you to do so, and then to compare them. The change in outlook of a few hundred years and one ocean is striking.

There is a whole world of difference between “If an injury is done to a man, it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be considered,” and “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the sufferings of supporting it.”

The difference between these two outlooks is the experience of living free. Distance from England and the rigors of the frontier had worked a kind of magic on these American colonists. They had learned the power of thinking for themselves. While no one would ever claim Thomas Paine as a devout Christian, he lived in a Christian society, breathed Christian air and was influenced deeply by the Christian call to the value of each individual human person.

Machiavelli

Machiavelli

Machiavelli, on the other hand, while an observant Christian, lived in a Christian world that was half-caught between the call to human dignity that the Gospels demanded and the entrenched and cynical society in which he lived. Despite living in a faith-filled world, he was unable to realize the true meaning of Christian faith, which is human freedom.

The question I have, is which direction are we going?

Does Thomas Paine’s statement:

“I have always strenuously supported the right of a man to his own opinion, however different that might be from mine.”

Or Machiavelli’s claim:

“Men are so simple of mind, and so much dominated by their immediate needs, that a deceitful man will always find plenty who are ready to be deceived.”

Reflect our current way of thinking and living?

Are our minds and hearts governed by the singing phrases of our founding documents, or have we sunk into a mire so deep that Machiavelli would abhor it?

Machiavelli was not nearly as Machiavellian as those who’ve never read him would lead you to believe. His treatise was common sense politics of his day and in many ways of any day, including ours. On the other hand, Thomas Paine was a young revolutionary with a young revolutionary’s hot-blooded fervor.

This country was birthed by thinkers who believed in the power of the individual to think for himself. But I wonder if it is not more and more being governed and educated by thinkers who have gone past Machiavelli and into some new dark realm of governance by means of lies and propaganda that was an impossibility in yesterday’s pre-tech times.

Thomas Paine said, “A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody.”

I do him the honor of holding my own opinion, including disagreeing with quite a few of the things he said. However, in this, as with a lot of his thinking, Thomas Paine was exactly right.

 

Marriage is a Mess and Homosexuals Didn’t Do It Redux

Marriage

I think we need to look to ourselves first when we consider the post Christian society we are entering.

The move to create a system of discrimination against Christians in this country is well under way in the Western world, including America. Christian business owners are being penalized and forced out of the public square by laws that do not allow any exemptions for their faith. Universities and colleges increasingly demand that Christian groups leave campus. Public figures are scolded and harassed if they mention the name Jesus.

We are going to have to chose who we will serve, and we’re going to have to do more than talk about it or make it into a political issue. If we want to follow Christ, we are going to have to follow Christ in the way we live and what we do in our own lives and families.

Before we begin to deal with the mess we are facing in the larger culture, we need to consider our own contributions to how we got here. One of those contributions is the way we have treated our own marriages and our own families. I am going to write a post soon talking about the way we have abandoned our children to the public schools and the larger culture and allowed that culture to shape their values, thinking and beliefs.

But for this day of fasting and prayer for marriage and religious freedom, I will just use a old post of mine to revisit the question of why marriage is such a mess and who is responsible. Hint: It isn’t homosexuals.

Family

I support traditional marriage. I have a public track record and the scars to prove it.

I voted to put an amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution on the ballot that defined marriage as between one man and one woman. I also authored and passed a resolution memorializing Congress to begin hearings on an amendment to the United StatesConstitution doing the same thing. That is as much as I can do to support traditional marriage from my elected position.

It’s not a complicated issue to me, and it has almost nothing to do with what marriage is not. It’s about what marriage is. What marriage is begins with the law. Marriage under the law is and should continue to be a union freely entered into by one man and one woman. But legal definitions are just the scaffolding we use to support the social structures of how we order our lives. The actual edifice, the reality of marriage as it is lived, is something much more complex and important than that legal definition can impart.

We focus our national attention on the definition of marriage under the law. We wear out our keyboards writing about it and revile one another over our positions on it. But despite the accusations and counter-accusations that season our debate, we ignore the home truths of marriage in this country today. The truth is, marriage has been a mess for quite some time. And homosexuals weren’t the ones who messed it up.

Homosexuals didn’t set off the epidemic of divorce in this country. Homosexuals didn’t create the millions of feral children who spend most of their time alone, raising themselves on video games, drugs and interactions with their peers. Homosexuals don’t cheat on our spouses. Homosexuals don’t break into our homes and yell and curse at our families. They aren’t the cause of the rising number of unwed births and the global pandemic of abortion. We did these things. Marriage is a mess and it was heterosexuals who messed it up.

We insist that the legal definition of marriage should be a union between one man and one woman. But we behave as if it says that marriage is a union between one man and one woman at a time.

I know that is tender for many people. I know that divorce cuts people in half and leaves them with broken hearts and shattered lives. I know that some marriages are so bitter, destructive and even violent that they have to end. I know that even if you want to hold the marriage together, sometimes your spouse won’t. I know all this, and it gives me pause writing about these things. I don’t want to pick at half-healed wounds and start them bleeding again.

But the truth is that serial monogamy is NOT monogamy. Serial marriage is not marriage between one man and one woman. And heterosexuals, especially Christian heterosexuals, have a responsibility before God to care for and raise their children, cherish their spouses and build enduring stable homes which can nurture a true family. Heterosexuals who have failed to do this are the root cause of most of the social problems we face today. They, not homosexuals, are the ones who have brought marriage to the sorry state it is in now.

I have a public track record of supporting traditional marriage. I’ve got the scars to prove it. But I think that supporting traditional marriage, especially traditional marriage in the Christian sense, means more than being against same-sex marriage. I think that as Christians we are required to look past what we’re against and find what we are for. It isn’t enough for Christians to be against same-sex marriage. It certainly isn’t enough to do as some have done and whip people up into a rage and then cash in on that rage to advance your political career. That is just cheap demagoguery.

Leadership, especially true Christian leadership, mandates that we don’t just get people worked up against something. We have to lead them forward to something. In the case of marriage, we should be for true Christian marriage and we should live that kind of marriage in our own lives. Christians must be FOR marriage as a loving, giving, living institution that cocoons young children in a world of stability, positive discipline and love so that they can grow up and create loving homes of their own.

The bond between husband and wife, as the Bible says, makes them “one flesh.” This doesn’t refer just, or even primarily, to the physical union of marriage. Sex, apart from this bond of love, is a physical act. But true marriage is a spiritual bond. The deep, life bond of trust and mutual dependence that is marriage nurtures everyone within its reach. Marriage creates not just family, but home. I  do not mean a building where you sleep. Christian marriage creates home that is a refuge from the coldness of modern life.

This isn’t a hypothetical for me. My home and my husband are the living sanctuaries of my life. I could not endure the pressures of being a Public Catholic and all the controversy and criticism that engenders if I wasn’t able to go to my house, shut the door, and be Home.

Marriage is the progenitor of life, family, emotional safety and abiding peace in this life. It is a sacrament, given by Our Lord, to enable us to walk through life together and not alone.

If we are going to “save marriage” in this country, we certainly do need to resist efforts to alter its legal definition. But we also need to begin living the sacramental love and fidelity of marriage with our spouses and within our homes. We need to do this because it is what God intended for us. Marriage is His blessing on our lives and through it we can become blessings to our whole society.

Frank Weathers has another take on this question here.

Pray for Marriage

We are called to a day of fasting and prayer today for marriage and religious freedom. 

I think this is an excellent way for us to clear our minds and settle down into this new post Christian reality in which we live. We can no longer look to the larger culture to teach our children our values. We can no longer look to the society around us to give us courage and sustain us in our Christian walk. 

In this new reality, Christians are going to have to look to one another for their support in this life. We all must rely more on God and less on the government and our larger society to be our strength and our guide. 

I don’t think this has sunk in on most of us yet. Prayer and fasting, repentance and asking, are the best ways for us to begin to face this new reality. 

Here is a prayer from the USCCB. I plan to pray it several times today, along with the Divine Mercy Chaplet. 

Prayer In Defense Of Marriage

 

God our Father, we give you thanks
for the gift of marriage: the bond of life and love,
and the font of the family. 

The love of husband and wife enriches your Church with children,
fills the world with a multitude of spiritual fruitfulness and service,
and is the sign of the love of your Son, Jesus Christ, for his Church.

The grace of Jesus flowed forth at Cana at the
request of the Blessed Mother. May your Son,
through the intercession of Mary, pour out upon us
a new measure of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit
as we join with all people of good will
to promote and protect the unique beauty of marriage.

May your Holy Spirit enlighten our society
to treasure the heroic love of husband and wife,
and guide our leaders to sustain and protect
the singular place of mothers and fathers
in the lives of their children.

Father, we ask that our prayers
be joined to those of the Virgin Mary,
that your Word may transform our service
so as to safeguard the incomparable splendor of marriage.
We ask all these things through Christ our Lord,
Amen.

Saints Joachim and Anne, pray for us.


 


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USCCB: Tomorrow is a Day of Fasting and Prayer for Marriage and Religious Liberty

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Bride and groom, praying before their wedding.

I think we’ve exhausted the emotional discussion about Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision.

Now is a good time to turn to prayer. Propitiously, it is still the Fortnight for Freedom and tomorrow is Friday. The American bishops have called us all to a day of prayer and fasting tomorrow for the intention of marriage and religious liberty. For you Protestants out there, “intention,” when it’s used in this context simply means that what you are fasting and praying for is marriage and religious liberty.

Fasting does not mean that you go without food and water. It means that you abstain from eating meat. You can eat fish. You can eat cheese, eggs and other sources of protein. The whole purpose is to exercise a bodily discipline as a form of prayer and penitence.

That word “penitence” brings me to something I think we should all consider, and that is how we have failed personally in our fidelity to Christ. I am going to concentrate to my failings in terms of marriage and religious freedom. I haven’t divorced anyone, and since my religious conversion I have moved ever steadily toward a Jesus orientation on these things. The Catholic Church and its teachings have been both a guide and a source of strength in this regard.

However, I did a lot of things back in my anti-religion period that contributed to the mess we are in now. I’ve repented, gone to confession, been forgiven. But the knowledge that I did them has given me a slightly more generous take on those who are making the same mistakes now that I did then. I know that if God can convert me, he can convert anyone. I also understand that you can’t know what motivates another person to do the things they do.

All you can do is pray for them. That, based on the reaction to a post I wrote earlier this week, is something I think we should all try to do more of. We cannot change the world for Christ by destroying those who do things we see as sinful. We have to convert them. The only way to do that is to remember, always, that they are people in need of God’s love and that the only Jesus some of them may ever see is one of us.

I am asking each of you to join the bishops tomorrow in a day of prayer and fasting for marriage and religious freedom. You might also consider asking God to use you in the battle that lies ahead. But remember: He can not and will not do that unless you yield it all to Him, including your pride and anger. This kind of yielding is not a once for all thing. You have to go back and do it again over and over almost every day you live.

We’ve got work ahead of us, people. It’s not a matter of changing laws so much as it is winning hearts. The best way to do that is to begin by letting God change our own hearts.

Friday Fast for Life, Marriage
& Religious Liberty 
June 28, 2013
St. Irenaeus
Greetings!

Thank you for participating in the Bishops’ Call to Prayer for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty! 

 

This week was a big one for marriage. Today’s reflection is on St. John the Baptist, a witness to marriage – to the death.

We’re still in the Fortnight for Freedom, coming into the second week. Remember to visitwww.fortnight4freedom.org for latest news!

  Gray

Intention

For the courage to keep witnessing to the truth and beauty of marriage, the lifelong, fruitful union of one man and one woman.

Reflection

  

St. John the Baptist, whose birth we celebrated on Monday June 24, was a martyr for truth and justice, particularly the truth about marriage. He was put in jail, and ultimately executed, because he rebuked Herod for marrying his brother’s wife, Herodias (see Mt 14:3-12 and Mk 6:17-29). St. John the Baptist’s defense of marriage cost him his head.

In his Angelus address on Sunday, June 23, Pope Francis said of the saint, “He died for the sake of the truth, when he denounced the adultery of King Herod and Herodias. How many people pay dearly for their commitment to truth!”

Today, standing up for the counter-cultural truth of marriage as the lifelong, fruitful union of a man and a woman can be difficult and lonely. But Christ is always with us and asks us to be witnesses of His loving truth, which is worth defending, no matter what the cost. As our Holy Father exhorted the crowd, “Forward, be brave and go against the tide! And be proud of doing so.”

St. John the Baptist, pray for us.

Did you know?

On Wednesday of this week, the Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and refused to rule on the merits of a challenge to California’s Proposition 8. In a statement, Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone called Wednesday “a tragic day for marriage and our nation.” They said, “Now is the time to redouble our efforts” in witnessing to the truth of marriage.

Learn more about Proposition 8 and DOMA from this backgrounder.

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Why are the Bishops Doing This?

Fortnight 4 freedom logo montage

In honor of the Fortnight for Freedom, I am going to limit today’s quick picks on Christian persecution to the United States.

The list below comes from the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. None of these examples involves burning down churches or mass murders of Christians. They do, however, show a huge change in the way that religious liberty is viewed by the government from just a few years ago.

I believe that this change has come about primarily through the almost non-stop Christian bashing that takes place in our media, academia and on websites. Christian bashing has become so popular that those who practice it as a profession, such as certain authors, speakers and bloggers, are not only able to continue their practice of Christian bashing without facing objections, they make an excellent living at it.

The rise of professional Christian bashers and the aggressive way that they ply their trade has certainly contributed to a cultural situation in which Christians must constantly be on the defensive. I think it has also fueled the attitudes which have led to the discriminatory practices listed below.

I’ve said a number of times that discrimination is a continuum. People do not move to violent persecution in one step. They work themselves into it by moving along a progression of prejudice and hatred. I believe that America is, as a nation, moving rather rapidly along that progression where Christians are concerned.

From the USCCB:

Current Threats To Religious Liberty

An Overview of Specific Examples

Pope Benedict XVI spoke last year about his worry that religious liberty in the United States is being weakened.  He called religious liberty the “most cherished of American freedoms.”  However, unfortunately, our most cherished freedom is under threat.  Consider the following:

  • HHS mandate for contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs.  The mandate of the Department of Health and Human Services forces religious institutions to facilitate and fund a product contrary to their own moral teaching.  Further, the federal government tries to define which religious institutions are “religious enough” to merit protection of their religious liberty. 

  • Catholic foster care and adoption services.  Boston, San Francisco, the District of Columbia, and the State of Illinois have driven local Catholic Charities out of the business of providing adoption or foster care services—by revoking their licenses, by ending their government contracts, or both—because those Charities refused to place children with same-sex couples or unmarried opposite-sex couples who cohabit. 

  • State immigration laws.  Several states have recently passed laws that forbid what they deem as “harboring” of undocumented immigrants—and what the Church deems Christian charity and pastoral care to these immigrants.

  • Discrimination against small church congregations.  New York City adopted a policy that barred the Bronx Household of Faith and other churches from renting public schools on weekends for worship services, even though non-religious groups could rent the same schools for many other uses.  Litigation in this case continues. 

  • Discrimination against Catholic humanitarian services.  After years of excellent performance by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) in administering contract services for victims of human trafficking, the federal government changed its contract specifications to require MRS to provide or refer for contraceptive and abortion services in violation of Catholic teaching. 

  • Christian students on campus.  In its over-100-year history, the University of California Hastings College of Law has denied student organization status to only one group, the Christian Legal Society, because it required its leaders to be Christian and to abstain from sexual activity outside of marriage.

  • Forcing religious groups to host same-sex “marriage” or civil union ceremonies.  A New Jersey judge recently found that a Methodist ministry violated state law when the ministry declined to allow two women to hold a “civil union” ceremony on its private property.  Further, a civil rights complaint has been filed against the Catholic Church in Hawaii by a person requesting to use a chapel to hold a same-sex “marriage” ceremony.

Is our most cherished freedom truly under threat?  Yes, Pope Benedict XVI recognized just last year that various attempts to limit the freedom of religion in the U.S. are particularly concerning.  The threat to religious freedom is larger than any single case or issue and has its roots in secularism in our culture.  The Holy Father has asked for the laity to have courage to counter secularism that would “delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society.”

Fortnight for Freedom 2013: Meatless Fridays and Prayer for our First Freedom

Today is the first day of Fortnight for Freedom 2013.

The American bishops have asked Catholics to refrain from eating meat on Fridays during the fortnight as a fast for religious freedom.

I would suggest that we also pray the Rosary for the intention of religious freedom on Fridays during the fortnight.

You can sign up for text alerts on religious freedom from the USCCB here.

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We are Catholics

We are Catholics. And we will be heard.

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Gay Marriage, HHS Mandate and The Fortnight for Freedom 2013

Prayer, study and peaceful action.

What are you going to do for the Fortnight for Freedom 2013?

Bishop Francis Malooly of Maryland gives one of the most clear and easily understood outlines of the issues the Church and all Christians are facing in America today.

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Fortnight for Freedom 2013

Fortnight for Freedom 2013  is around the corner!

The Fortnight, which begins June 21 and ends July 4 is a call for both prayer and activity on behalf of our first American Freedom — Freedom of Religion.

From the USCCB website:

The Fortnight for Freedom, which we celebrated for the first time last year, takes place from June 21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to July 4, Independence Day.  Last year, we saw a great diversity of events promoting religious freedom across the country.  In 2013, we face many challenges to religious liberty, including the August 1, 2013 deadline for religious organizations to comply with the HHS mandate; potential Supreme Court rulings that could redefine marriage in June, causing serious religious liberty issues for Catholic adoption agencies and many others; and religious liberty concerns in other areas, such as immigration and humanitarian services.

During the Fortnight, our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power—St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome, St. John Fisher, and St. Thomas More.Through prayerstudy, and peaceful public action during the Fortnight for Freedom, we hope to remind ourselves and others all throughout the United States about the importance of preserving the fundamental right of religious freedom.

Please join our Facebook Page so you can stay up to date on the latest Fortnight for Freedom 2013 news!

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