ISIS Demanded $132 M for James Foley. When They Didn’t Get It, They Beheaded Him.

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If you’ve seen the video of James Foley’s beheading, you witnessed a speech from his heavily disguised murderer giving political reasons for the crime.

It turns out that the real reason was probably mostly about money. ISIS has been receiving large amounts of money as payment for freeing ransomed Western captives. If the claims that they wanted $132 million in exchange for James Foley’s life are true, then it may well be that one of the ways in which this killing machine is being funded is through ransom.

It also makes it even more apparent that James Foley is an American hero who was murdered for his country.

America does not pay ransoms to terrorists, for the reason that I gave above. Ransom money that is paid to terrorists finances terrorism, and it leads to more innocents being taken hostage. Despite this, I want to emphasize that the work of journalists like James Foley is both heroic and necessary. They are heroes, every one of them.

James Foley’s death was murdered because he was an American. That much is absolutely certain. His murderer plainly stated that he was being killed as a reprisal for American air strikes.

It appears now that he was actually murdered because America does not pay ransom to terrorists. In this way, and only a bit indirectly, he died to prevent other people from being taken hostage and to prevent additional funding from falling into ISIS’ hands, which would have then been used to perpetrate more crimes against humanity. In short, his death saved lives.

Stories are swirling around that France has been paying these enormous ransoms. I understand the emotions behind this, but it seems clear that the money is being used to finance a genocidal army that is bent on destroying civilization.

Notice, I did not say a genocidal army that is bent on destroying civilization in the Middle East. ISIS has made continuous direct threats against Europe. They have explicitly said that they intend to wage the same kind of war there that they are waging in Iraq and Syria. They have also made similar threats against America.

How many of the immigrants from the Middle East are in fact carriers of the violent terrorism virus? We don’t know. What is clear is that ISIS is making threats that are in many ways a veiled claim that they have people on the ground in both Europe and America.

ISIS has been actively recruiting “soldiers” from among Muslim immigrant communities, which probably explains why James Foley’s murderer had what sounded like an undertone of a British accent.

From USA Today:

… if thousands of fighters with Western passports return home, terrorism analysts warn.

“Right now, they have plenty of other things to worry about and bigger fish to fry,” says Mia Bloom, an expert on suicide terrorism. But “everybody’s worried about what happens when these guys come back” – especially after the U.S. bombing.

The Islamic State, which emerged from the Syrian civil war, has conquered a swath of Iraq and Syria and governs the region under an extreme form of Islamic law. Thursday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called its threat “beyond anything we’ve seen.”

Many Americans have been troubled by the Islamic group’s military victories, outraged by its atrocities and startled by its ability to recruit fighters from Western nations. The video-recorded beheading this week of journalist James Foley has made some wonder whether the jihad that swept from Syria into Iraq could reach America.

An attack could come later from returning fighters, experts say, or sooner from Americans who’ve never been to the Middle East but are inspired by Islamic State propaganda.

But the thrust of the Islamic State’s polished online recruiting pitch is to come on over and join the fight, not to stay home and plot terrorism.

In videos featuring fighters such as Canadian Andre Poulin, the recruitment message is clear, says John Horgan, a UMass-Lowell expert on terrorist groups: “There’s a role here for everybody.’

Deacon Greg Kandra wrote a post today taken from an interview of a former hostage of ISIS, French journalist, Didier Francois.

Mr Francois was held captive along with Mr Foley. He said that Mr Foley was subjected to beatings and psychological torture, including mock executions. Among other things, his captors made him stand against a wall and pose as if he had been crucified.

According to Francois, “… Foley never cracked, even under the most difficult situations … (he) was one of the pillars of the group.”

Nicholas Henin, another former ISIS hostage, said that Mr Foley escaped briefly, but was recaptured.

Mr Henin’s reaction to the video of James Foley’s murder is exactly the same as mine:

“That is someone, I mean, a real man … Many people would’ve freaked out and (would have been) terrified because he knew very well what was going to happen to him … but he was still standing up, looking forward and speaking with a clear voice.”

At the end of the video of James Foley’s murder, his carefully disguised murderer drug another bound American. Steven Sotloff, into the camera view as if he was a sack of potatoes.

“The life of this American, Obama, depends on your next decision,” he said while he held his helpless captive in front of the camera.

In the context of the speech this murderer was making, it sounds as if he was threatening to also kill Steven Sotloff is America did not stop bombing in Iraq. However, taken in the larger context of what we now know, it sounds as if this was a ransom demand; pay up or we’ll kill this one too.

This is the press conference James Foley’s parents gave after his death. They beautiful, Godly people, an antidote of American goodness to ISIS evil.

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President Obama’s Statement Regarding the Murder of James Foley

One cops violent facebook rant about obama earned him a suspension

This is the strongest statement I can remember from President Obama.

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Supremes Put Gay Marriage on Hold in Virginia.

Supreme Court US 2010

Maybe the Supremes meant it when they said that marriage was a state issue.

If they did, a lot of federal judges around the country didn’t get the memo. It’s old hat by now, the steady click, click, click of dominoes falling as one federal judge after another overturns state laws defining marriage as between one man and one woman. This action has long seemed to turn statements made by the Supreme Court that marriage should be defined by the states and that the feds should stay out of it on their head.

The Supreme Court took the position that marriage is a state rather than a federal issue as part of their reasoning for overturning DOMA.

Whenever a lower court rules on something, the Supremes have a number of options. By far the simplest course of action in the case of the Virginia ruling would have been to let it stand. However, they have granted a stay. This is the third time they’ve done this.

What does it mean?

I wish I could tell you, but I don’t know. Maybe the Court meant it when it said that marriage was a state matter. If they did, these federal judges are overstepping. On the other hand, maybe they will use the occasion to rule in favor of gay marriage. Or, perhaps, they are taking small exceptions to parts of particular rulings. The Virginia case in particular may have been given a stay because of the high-handed way that the judicial panel tried to do an end run around the right to appeal.

Whatever comes of this, my feeling about the fight to defend traditional marriage is much the same as my attitude about defending the sanctity of human life: Don’t quit.

In case you didn’t know, that’s how all tough fights are eventually won.

From the Christian Science Monitor:

The US Supreme Court issued a stay Wednesday that keeps in place a ban on same-sex marriages in Virginia until after the high court has had an opportunity to consider the issue.

The high court action maintains the status quo in Virginia until the case is ultimately resolved by the justices. In addition, it sends a clear signal to other appeals courts and federal judges across the country that the Supreme Court expects them to issue similar stays in future cases.

… In the Virginia case, the action means the state’s requirement that marriage be limited to a union between one man and one woman will remain in place while the court considers whether to take up legal challenges to same-sex marriage bans in Virginia and other states.

The Supreme Court has twice before issued orders that federal appeals court decisions concerning same-sex marriages must be put on hold pending high court review. Wednesday’s action is consistent with those earlier moves.

The latest stay order came in response to a July 28 decision by the Fourth US Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond. The appeals court panel voted 2 to 1 to strike down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage. The court then refused to postpone its ruling to allow time for an appeal to the Supreme Court.

 

Oklahoma Archbishop Files Suit Over Stolen Host that Satanists Have Slotted for Desecration

Bishop formal

Archbishop Paul Coakley filed suit today against the group which has said it will conduct a “black mass” at the Oklahoma City Civic Center.

The basis for the lawsuit is that the group has illegally obtained property belonging to the Roman Catholic Church, i.e., a Consecrated Host.

There are a number of statutes which might apply to this situation. According to an article in National Catholic Reporter, a “black mass” involves a naked woman lying on the “altar,” which has a certain symmetry since their “priest” is a convicted sex offender. Since Oklahoma has laws against public nudity, the Satanists claim they are going to forego that, along with using excrement and urine.

Here is a sampling of other statutes which might apply to the situation. These are all from Title 21,  criminal law. I’m sure there are many others under tort law.

Oklahoma Criminal Statutes:

1. Receiving property obtained under false pretenses:”§21-1713.  Receiving stolen property – Presumption.

A.  Every person who buys or receives, in any manner, upon any consideration, any personal property of any value whatsoever that has been stolen, embezzled, obtained by false pretense or robbery, knowing or having reasonable cause to believe the same to have been stolen, embezzled, obtained by false pretense, or robbery, or who conceals, withholds, or aids in concealing or withholding such property from the owner, shall be guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment in the State Penitentiary not to exceed five (5) years, or in the county jail not to exceed one (1) year, or by a fine not to exceed Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00) or by both such fine and imprisonment.

2. Larceny:
“§211701.  Larceny defined.
Larceny is the taking of personal property accomplished by fraud or stealth, and with intent to deprive another thereof.”
3. Crime against a house of worship (as an Accessory to the crime).
“§21-1765.  House of worship or contents, injuring.
Any person who willfully breaks, defaces, or otherwise injures any house of worship, or any part thereof, or any appurtenance thereto, or any book, furniture, ornament, musical instrument, article of silver or plated ware, or other chattel kept therein for use in connection with religious worship, shall be guilty of a felony.”
§21173.  Accessories defined.
All persons who, after the commission of any felony, conceal or aid the offender, with knowledge that he has committed a felony, and with intent that he may avoid or escape from arrest, trial, conviction, or punishment, are accessories.
§21901.  Blasphemy defined.Blasphemy consists in wantonly uttering or publishing words, casting contumelious reproach or profane ridicule upon God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost, the Holy Scriptures or the Christian or any other religion.
 
§21902.  Serious discussion not blasphemy.If it appears beyond reasonable doubt that the words complained of were used in the course of serious discussion, and with intent to make known or recommend opinions entertained by the accused, such words are not blasphemy.

This is the press release Archbishop Coakley put out about the lawsuit:

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Texas Governor Perry Indicted in Texas-Sized Partisan Shoot-Out

Partisan politics

Texas Governor Rick Perry has been indicted by a grand jury for “abuse of power.”

His crime? He vetoed funding for the Travis County District Attorney’s office after District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg refused to resign after she was convicted of a DWI.

Governor Perry was indicted on two felonies: Abuse of Official Capacity, and Coercion of Public Servant.

District Attorney Lehmberg was arrested for drunk driving in April of 2013. She was fined and sentenced to 45 days in jail. She actually served 21 of those 45 days. She has not resigned.

What has followed appears to be partisan politics from both sides of the argument. There were the usual outraged calls from Texas Republican legislators that District Attorney Lehmberg resign. This always happens when a political figure is in disgrace. Members of the opposite political party call for their resignation.

But, she didn’t resign.

She was subsequently investigated by a grand jury that decided she should be allowed to say in office. An Austin attorney brought a civil suit for the purposes of removing her from office under Texas statute. She won this case in court, which again left her in office legally.

This year, Governor Perry vetoed funding for the Travis County District Attorney’s office. A group called Texans for Public Justice filed an ethics complaint accusing the governor of coercion for attempting to use his veto to force District Attorney Lehmberg to quit.

It appears to me that what we have here is a case of partisan politics running out of control on both sides of this debate. If District Attorney Lehmberg holds her office legally, Governor Perry has no business vetoing funding because he, personally, finds her behavior inappropriate. It does, on the surface, have the appearance of an attempt to coerce her to leave an office that she legally holds.

Indicting Governor Perry for two felonies in a game of partisan gotcha is destructive to the max, as well.

This whole business of trying to remove people from office or end their careers by using felony indictments to destroy them because they are of the opposite party is outrageous. I don’t have any doubt that this is exactly what is going on here.

I can guarantee that if Attorney General Lehmberg had been a Republican instead of a Democrat, the “outraged” politicians at the state capitol would have all switched sides. The Ds would have been outraged and Rs, not so much.

If Attorney General Lehmberg was a Republican, would Governor Perry have vetoed funding for the Travis County DA’s office? I doubt it. I think that if she had been an R, he would have said “the law is the law, and she’s in office legally, my hands are tied” and signed the funding without debate.

If Governor Perry was a Democrat, would Texans for Public Justice have filed the lawsuit that resulted in this indictment? Would a Republican version of the same thing would have filed one instead?

My point is that if the people involved switched their party affiliations, everybody else would switch sides right along with them. That’s because this is not a legitimate deal on anybody’s part. It’s all politics. Dirty. Nasty. Destructive politics.

The fact that we are talking about trying to force someone out of office for partisan reasons is outrageous.

It is also a terrible thing to drag anyone into our courts of law under felony charges. It doesn’t matter if they are a governor or a paper boy. No one should ever be put through that hell for any reason except legitimate ones.

This DWI conviction of a local politician is small political potatoes. She did the crime. She did the time. Let the people of Travis County Texas sort it out. That is, after all, their right.

It should have stopped there.

It would have stopped there except for the vicious insanity of take-no-prisoners partisan politics.

I would go on, except that this is Texas we’re talking about. They do everything big down there; including their partisan shoot-outs. Let’s just watch and see what happens next.

From ABC13 Eyewitness News:

AUSTIN, TX (KTRK) –A grand jury indicted Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Friday for allegedly abusing the powers of his office by carrying out a threat to veto funding for state prosecutors investigating public corruption – making the possible 2016 presidential hopeful his state’s first indicted governor in nearly a century.

A special prosecutor spent months calling witnesses and presenting evidence that Perry broke the law when he promised publicly to nix $7.5 million over two years for the public integrity unit, which is run by Travis County Democratic District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg’s office. It’s the same office that indicted U.S. Rep. Tom Delay as part of a finance probe.

Several top aides to the Republican governor appeared before grand jurors in Austin, including his deputy chief of staff, legislative director and general counsel. Perry himself did not testify, though.

READ ITRICK PERRY INDICTMENT

Grand jurors indicted Perry on abuse of official capacity, a first-degree felony with potential punishments of five to 99 years in prison, and coercion of a public servant, a third-degree felony that carries a punishment of two to 10 years.

No one disputes that Perry is allowed to veto measures approved by the Legislature, including part or all of the state budget. But the left-leaning Texans for Public Justice government watchdog group filed an ethics complaint accusing the governor of coercion because he threatened to use his veto before actually doing so in an attempt to pressure Lehmberg to quit.

“I took into account the fact that we’re talking about a governor of a state – and a governor of the state of Texas, which we all love,” said Michael McCrum, the San Antonio-based special prosecutor. “Obviously that carries a lot of importance. But when it gets down to it, the law is the law.”

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From Xyklon B to Machetes: Our Lady in the Age of Genocide

I wrote this a couple of years ago. Since I was too busy to write anything yesterday, I’ve decided to post it again today. It’s in serious need of updating in light  of recent events, (which I may do on Monday) but I think it’s still worth a look, as it is. 

Genocide was the 20th Century’s iconic crime. It was, for much of the world, a 100-year bloodbath.

Murderous governments used killers armed with everything from Xyklon B to machetes to wage war against civilians with the aim of wiping entire tribes and populations of people from the earth. It began with the Armenian Genocide and kept on rolling through to the Sudan. Other eras were guilty of genocidal war. But when it came to efficiency and numbers, nobody did it better than the genocidal warriors of the 20th Century.

Our hope, as we left the old century behind, was that we had somehow contrived to leave these impulses for organized murder behind us. We thought they belonged in the forgotten junk drawer of that era, beside the vacuum tubes and eight track tapes. Unfortunately, genocide trailed us into the 21st Century and is already making a real name for itself here.

Not so long ago, within living memory, we stood beside the mass graves and crematoriums of the Third Reich and vowed “never again.” But, as my grandmother used to tell me, “Never say never.”

Genocide led us on a blood-drenched march through the last half of the 20th Century. In 50 short years of history, it drug us from the Nazi death camps to the Killing Fields of Cambodia, through the slaughter in Rwanda, and on to the Sudan.
 Today, it is the Christians who are being targeted for extermination.

Each day brings a new and horrific story of Christians murdered because they are Christians in many places around globe, but particularly the Middle East and parts of Africa. Deacon Greg Kandra, over at The Deacon’s Bench, posted Monday on the plight of Christians in Syria.

In his post, Can Syria’s Christians Survive? Deacon Greg quotes a Wall Street Journal article that says in part:

“… Syria’s Christian communities are being severely tested by the uprising that has racked the country for more than a year. They think back to 636, when the Christian Byzantine emperor Heraclius saw his army defeated by Muslim forces south of present-day Damascus. “Peace be with you Syria. What a beautiful land you will be for our enemies,” he lamented before fleeing north to Antioch. In the 8th century, a famed Damascus church was razed to make way for the Umayyad Mosque—today one of Islam’s holiest sites.

Not a few Christians in modern-day Syria worry that the current crisis could end the same way for them if Bashar al-Assad and his regime are defeated by the rebel insurgency … ” Read more here:  Can Syria’s Christians Survive?

This is especially poignant today, on the Feast of the Assumption, since this feast honors Mary, Our Lord’s mother. Our Lady spent her last years in what is modern day Turkey. Her last home is believed to have been high on a hillside not far from the city of Ephesus.

When I visited this site last year, I was impressed by the long lines of believers who had traveled from all over the world to stand in the cool shade of this hillside. It was equally striking to see Muslims and Christians in line together, waiting their turn to enter the tiny rooms of the reconstructed ruin of Our Lady’s home.

You can touch the stones that formed the lower portion of her original house, hear the breeze riffling through the trees, and drink from a spring that may have supplied her water. It’s easy to imagine how peaceful this home would have been for her, especially after visiting the stone metropolis of Ephesus not far away. Her empty grave must lie a short distance from this place. She was assumed into heaven from here.

I wanted to attend mass at this spot, but we got there too late in the day. What I did instead was break the “no entry” rule posted beside the ropes surrounding the little outdoor chapel and take a seat in one of the chairs. I wanted to be alone, to feel the Presence in that place and to pray. The guard eyed me quietly and then respectfully backed away, his rifle hanging limp at his side.

When I had told one of my Muslim companions that I wanted to be alone to pray, he said, “Pray for me too,” and I did.

It was easy here, in this quiet bubble of grace next to the long lines of pilgrims chattering in their many languages, to believe that we could put it all aside. We could give up the things that divide us and remember the things that make us one.

We are all born of woman. We will all die. We are children of the same One God Who loves us the way any parent loves his children.

That should be enough. It should be more than enough to make us think long and hard about this nasty habit we have of killing one another.

What are we going to say when we stand before God and try to explain ourselves?

It was unfathomable to me, sitting in that holy place, that there are people so demented and lost that they honestly believe that God will reward them for the wanton killing of His children. But I know that such people exist. I’ve witnessed first-hand the carnage that terrorists cause.

If there is one message in this Feast of the Assumption, it’s that we not only have One Father; we have One Mother, as well.

I saw Muslims and Christians, standing in line together to honor her. A hardened Turkish guard respectfully backed away to let me pray my Christian prayers. From The Deacon’s Bench, to the bleached stones of Ephesus and on uphill to the riffling breezes of her last home, Our Lady does what mothers always do.

She makes us family.

Mary truly is the Mother of God. Jesus gave her to humanity when He told the Apostle John, “This is your mother.” She is mother to us all, Muslim and Christian alike.

I think her love is the bridge that will one day bring us together.

Update! Before We Go All Twittery Over the Muslim Denunciations of ISIS, a Couple of Questions

I published a post yesterday listing various denunciations of ISIS barbarity from Muslim political leaders.

As I was assembling that list, I noticed that the denouncers were Shia. Based on what I’ve read, I believe that ISIS is Sunni.

I don’t have much knowledge of Shia vs Sunni, but I think, from what I’ve read, that this is a blood feud that is largely tribal and historic.

After I published that post, I could almost hear the massive sigh from readers. At last, a few of them said, the Muslims are joining us in combating the genocide.

I don’t want to put a pin in that balloon. Not yet. Because I’m not sure of anything.

But I do have these niggling questions that I think we need to consider before we go all twittery and weak-headed. It is critical to not allow ourselves to believe what we want to believe because we want to believe it. Let’s think a bit and chew on it a while first.

Here are the questions:

20140724 isis mod

1. How did ISIS get all that American heavy armor from the Iraqi army? Press reports have said variously that they “took it in battle,” or that it was “abandoned.” That is too simplistic and too facile to mean anything.

What an Okie would say, is “that don’t add up.” And this Okie agrees.

I find it a little hard to believe that those pristine armored vehicles were “lost in battle.” I also find it hard to believe that a military with those armaments would be so easily overpowered. Frankly, that equipment would give the Iraqi army quite an edge in a battle.

As for those things being “abandoned,” give me a break. I think that Sunni members of the Iraqi army gave that American armament to ISIS. I may be wrong. But that’s what I think.

Shiavssunni

2. Are we being played by the Shias to use us against the Sunnis? If the only Muslims speaking out against the genocide are Shias, and ISIS is Sunni, and these people are at war with one another, well then, that sounds like politics to me.

I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing for any Muslims to speak out against the genocide, for whatever motivations. I’m also not saying that we should not welcome their help. The point here is to stop the barbarity. I sincerely welcome anyone whose actions add to that fight.

But that doesn’t mean I trust them like they were blood kin and just blindly assume that their motivations are the same as mine and that their future actions will be what I would do.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend. In this case the outraged American public is the unwitting enemy of the Sunnis, simply because the Sunnis are slaughtering innocents. That makes us the (temporary) friends of the Shias.

There’s a saying in Okieland — I don’t have a dog in that fight. We don’t have a dog in the Sunni-Shia fight. Our objective is to end the genocide.

Let’s remember that and not go all politically-correct gaga and attribute our motives to other people we know very little about.

These are my questions. These ideas of mine are conjecture. What do you think?

The videos below are a couple of months old. I don’t agree with everything said in either analysis, but they highlight a bit of how this situation developed and give us information about American arms falling in ISIS’ hands.

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UPDATE: Hind Makki, of the Patheos Muslim Channel shared this information with me.  I am very glad to hear that both Sunnis and Shias have denounced the barbarity in Iraq.

Dear Rebecca Hamilton, the denunciations against ISIS have been given by 
both Sunni and Shia leadership and lay people. Looking at piece you 
wrote yesterday, I would like to share some information with you. I hope
you will update your piece reflecting this information: Ayatollah 
Sistani – Shia. Indonesian Ulema Council – comprises all Muslim groups 
in Indonesia, Sunni, Shia and everything else. Grand Mufti Shawqi Allam -
Sunni. Lebanese Muslim Association – Sunni. International Union of 
Muslim Scholars – comprises all Muslim groups in the world and one of 
it’s missions is to counter sectarianism. Yusuf Qaradawi – Sunni. 
Organization of Islamic Cooperation – non-religious political group of 
all countries with large Muslim populations. Iyad Ameen Madani – Sunni. 
Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate – Sunni. Where did you get the 
information that they are all Shia?

 

Sign the Petition On Behalf of Victims of ISIS/ISIL Barbarism in Iraq

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Several Public Catholic readers pointed me to this petition on behalf of victims of ISIS barbarism in Iraq.

The petition, which bears the signatures of prominent American academicians of many faith traditions, can be found here.

I’ve signed the petition.

Here from IraqRescue.org is the verbiage of the petition, and the primary authors/signatories:

A Plea on Behalf of Victims of ISIS/ISIL  Barbarism in Iraq

The so-called Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS/ISIL) is conducting a campaign of genocide against Christians, Yazidis, and others in Iraq.  In its fanatical effort to establish a caliphate, ISIS/ISIL has engaged in crimes against humanity by deliberately causing mass starvation and dehydration, and by committing unconscionable acts of barbarism against noncombatants, including defenseless women, children, and elderly persons.

It is imperative that the United States and the international community act immediately and decisively to stop the ISIS/ISIL genocide and prevent the further victimization of religious minorities. This goal cannot be achieved apart from the use of military force to degrade and disable ISIS/ISIL forces. President Obama was right to order airstrikes against ISIS/ISIL to stop its advance on key cities, as well as to provide humanitarian assistance to people fleeing their assaults. Much more needs to be done, however, and there is no time to waste.

We, the undersigned, are Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.  We are conservatives, liberals, and moderates.  We represent various religious traditions and shades of belief.  None of us glorifies war or underestimates the risks entailed by the use of military force. Where non-military means of resolving disputes and protecting human rights are available, we always and strongly favor those means. However, the evidence is overwhelming that such means will not be capable of protecting the victims of the genocide already unfolding at the hands of ISIS/ISIL.  That is why Iraq’s Chaldean Patriarch Sako has requested military intervention.

Therefore we call upon the United States and the international community to do everything necessary to empower local forces fighting ISIS/ISIL in Iraq to protect their people. No options that are consistent with the principles of just war doctrine should be off the table.  We further believe that the United States’ goal must be more comprehensive than simply clamping a short-term lid on the boiling violence that is threatening so many innocents in ISIS/ISIL’s path.  Nothing short of the destruction of ISIS/ISIL as a fighting force will provide long-term protection of victims.

We call upon President Obama and the Congress of the United States to expand airstrikes against ISIS/ISIL with a view to eroding its military power, and to provide full air support for Kurdish and other forces fighting against ISIS/ISIL.  Further, we endorse the Washington Post’s call for the United States to provide arms, ammunition, and equipment to Kurdish forces, Sunni tribesmen, and others who are currently hampered in their ability to fight ISIS/ISIL by a lack of sophisticated weapons and other resources.  The U.S. should also assist with intelligence. We are hopeful that local forces, with adequate support and assistance from the U.S. and the international community, can defeat ISIS/ISIL.

The expansion of humanitarian aid to the displaced and fleeing is also urgent. Local churches and aid agencies are overwhelmed, and we have grave concerns about how these victims of violent religious persecution will be cared for this winter. The U.S. can and should take the lead in providing food, water, medicine, and other essential supplies.

We must be mindful that in addition to stopping the genocide, the U.S. and Europe have very concrete interests in disabling ISIS/ISIL.  As theWashington Post has warned:

“The Islamic State forces, which have captured large numbers of U.S.-supplied heavy weapons, threaten not only the Iraqi and Kurdish governments, but also Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. With hundreds of Western recruits, they have the ambition and capability to launch attacks against targets in Europe and the United States.”

It is also worth bearing in mind that our own nation is not without responsibility for the plight of victims of ISIS/ISIL genocide.  What is happening to these people now, and the further threats they face, would not be happening but for errors and failures of our nation’s own in Iraq.  This can and should be acknowledged by all, despite disagreements we may have among ourselves as to precisely what these errors and failures were, and which political and military leaders are mainly responsible for them. The point is not to point fingers or apportion blame, but to recognize that justice as well as compassion demands that we take the steps necessary to end the ISIL/ISIS campaign of genocide and protect those who are its victims.

Signers

Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University

Russell Moore, Ph.D., President, The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention

Benjamin S Carson Sr MD, Emeritus Professor of Neurosurgery,Oncology,Plastic Surgery and Pediatrics, Johns Hopkins Medicine, President and CEO American Business Collaborative, LLC

James R. Stoner, Jr., Professor of Political Science, Louisiana State University

Gerard V. Bradley, Professor of Law, Notre Dame Univesity

Edward Whelan, President, Ethics and Public Policy Center

Matthew J. Franck, Witherspoon Institute

William Happer, Professor of Physics Emeritus, Princeton University

Prof. Dan Robinson, Philosophy Faculty, Oxford University and Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Georgetown University

David Mills

Micah J. Watson, Ph.D, Director, Center for Politics & Religion; Associate Professor, Political Science, Union University

Alan Charles Kors, Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania

Anthony M. Esolen, Professor of English, Providence College

John Londregan, Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University

Fr. John Cassar

Thomas Kelly, Professor of Philosophy, Princeton University

Rabbi Eliezer Bercuson, Princeton University

Eric Metaxas, author of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

C. Ben Mitchell, PhD, Interim Provost & Vice President for Academic Affairs, Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy, Union University

Thomas F. Farr, Director, Religious Freedom Project, Visiting Associate Professor, Georgetown University

Lauren Weiner

Ben Cohen, Writer and Political Analyst, New York City

Robert J. Lieber, Georgetown University

Michael Stokes Paulsen, University Chair & Professor of Lae, The University of St. Thomas

Katherine Kersten, Center of the American Experiment in Minneapolis, MN

Patrick Lee, Franciscan University of Steubenville

Sol Stern, Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute

Jonathan Brent

Josh Block, Chief Executive Officer & President, The Israel Project

Richard Weissman, Associate Professor Emeritus, University of Colorado at Denver; Adjunct Professor, Portland Community College

Martin Peretz, Editor-in-Chief, The New Republic, 1974-2012;Lecturer in Social Studies, Harvard University, 1971-2008

Fred Litwin, President, Free Thinking Film Society

Leon Wieseltier

Abigail Thernstrom, Adjunct Scholar, American Enterprise Institute

Stephan Thernstrom, Winthrop Professor of History Emeritus, Harvard University

Jeffrey Herf, Distinguished University Professor, Department of History, University of Maryland, College Park

John B. Sprung, Lt. Col., USAF (Ret.)

Vladimir Tismaneanu, Professor of Politics, University of Maryland (College Park)

Susannah Heschel, Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College

Harvey Klehr, Emory University

Russell A. Berman, Walter A. Haas Professor in the Humanities at Stanford University

Richard Landes, Professor of History, Boston University

Alfred Kentigern Siewers, Associate Professor in English, Bucknell University

Melissa Moschella, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Catholic University of America

Leila Beckwith, Professor Emeritus, Department of Pediatrics, University of California at Los Angeles

Ralph (Benjamin) Stell, Mother of God Joy of All Who Sorrow Orthodox Church

Victoria F. Gibson

Nina Shea, Director of Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom

James Kirchick, Foreign Policy Initiative

Louis Menashe, Professor Emeritus, Polytechnic Institute of NYU

Sally Muravchik

Dulany Gibson, Princeton, NJ

Mitch Pearlstein, Ph.D. , Founder & President, Center of the American Experiment, Minneapolis

David A. Michelson, Assistant Prof. of the History of Christianity, Vanderbilt University

Affiliations are for purposes of identification only and do not imply institutional endorsement

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

Free speech is a civil right bumper sticker

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.

Governor Mary Fallin Condemns Black Mass

Governor Mary Fallin

Oklahoma’s Governor Mary Fallin condemned black mass that is scheduled for Oklahoma City next month.

From the Governor’s website:

Gov. Fallin Condemns Black Mass Scheduled for Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today condemned a scheduled performance of a satanic black mass next month in Oklahoma City.

“This ‘Black Mass’ is a disgusting mockery of the Catholic faith, and it should be equally repellent to Catholics and non-Catholics alike,” said Fallin. “It may be protected by the First Amendment, but that doesn’t mean we can’t condemn it in the strongest terms possible for the moral outrage which it is. It is shocking and disgusting that a group of New York City ‘satanists’ would travel all the way to Oklahoma to peddle their filth here. I pray they realize how hurtful their actions are and cancel this event.”

Fallin joins Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul Coakley in criticizing the event, scheduled for Sept. 21 at the Oklahoma City Civic Center. The archbishop said the black mass “is a satanic inversion and distortion of the most sacred beliefs not only of Catholics, but of all Christians.”

Oklahoma City officials have said the Civic Center is a public building and the city must abide by the First Amendment and allow it to be leased to any group that agrees to abide by all laws and city ordinances.

The black mass in Oklahoma City reportedly is being organized by the Satanic Temple of New York City, which last year submitted plans for a public monument of a seated Satan on the state Capitol grounds to counter a monument of the Ten Commandments.


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