HHS Mandate Loses Another Round with the Supremes

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. By Ed Uthman. https://www.flickr.com/photos/euthman/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. By Ed Uthman. https://www.flickr.com/photos/euthman/

The United States Supreme Court issued an order yesterday that will block the federal government from enforcing the HHS Mandate against a whole range of religious organizations. This follows similar injunctions granted to the Little Sister of the Poor, Hobby Lobby, Wheaton College and Notre Dame.

It is important to remember that this is not a Supreme Court ruling. It is a court order. It requires the government to file a brief with the court defending its position that these organization should be forced to obey the Mandate.

The Obama administration has taken the idiotic position that Catholic Charities and the Little Sisters of the Poor are not “religious employers.” This is a clear attempt to restrict First Amendment Protections to clergy and behind church sanctuary doors. It is in line with the thinking of atheists and militant secularists who have stated that their purpose is to destroy religious influence and religious voices in the larger culture.

I believe that the HHS Mandate could very well become the legacy of the Obama Administration. Whatever else he does, he will always be remembered as the president who waged war on religious freedom.

From LifeNews.com:

The Supreme Court issued an order today preventing the Obama administration from forcing religious groups in Pennsylvania to obey the HHS mandate that requires them to pay for abortion-causing drugs for their employees. This is the fifth time the Supreme Court has rebuked the Obama administration and prevented it from making such a mandate.

In an order issued last night, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito prevented the federal government from enforcing its contraceptive mandate against a range of Pennsylvania-based religious organizations including Catholic Charities and other Catholic schools and social service organizations connected with the Diocese of Erie and the Diocese of Pittsburgh. The Supreme Court has previously protected the Little Sisters of the Poor, Hobby Lobby, Wheaton College, and the University of Notre Dame.

According to the Becket Fund,  Justice Alito’s order is similar to the preliminary order Justice Sotomayor provided to the Little Sisters of the Poor on New Year’s Eve in 2013. The group said order requires the government to brief the Supreme Court next week on why it should be allowed to fine these organizations for refusing to distribute abortion-inducing drugs and devices and other contraceptives.

Lori Windham, Senior Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, told LifeNews: “How many times must the government lose in court before it gets the message? For years now the government has been claiming that places like Catholic Charities and the Little Sisters of the Poor are not “religious employers” worthy of an exemption.”

Pope Francis Describes the Massacre of Armenians as ‘Genocide.’ Turkey Recalls Its Ambassador.

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

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

In his morning homily today, Pope Francis described the courage to proclaim the Gospel as grace born of the Holy Spirit.

He exercised a bit of that grace in the mass described in the video below in which he called the massacre of Armenians early in the 20th century what it was: Genocide.

Turkey responded by recalling its ambassador to the Holy See.

There’s no surprise in this. No one likes to face the realization that there is a monster in themselves or in their national history. But this realization is the first step toward true conversion. Without the truth, we are forever stuck in our sins and inside the pitiable excuses we give ourselves for having committed them.

Pope Francis did the only right thing by saying that truth about the Armenian Genocide. Hopefully, the day will come when Turkey can acknowledge the truth of its past and begin the process of healing itself and its heritage of this crime against humanity.

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Are Gay Marriage Activists Too Needy to Take Yes for an Answer?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Kreg Steppe https://www.flickr.com/photos/spyndle/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Kreg Steppe https://www.flickr.com/photos/spyndle/

They’re going to keep going until they lose this war they’ve won.

Gay marriage is knocking over barriers everywhere. After a long, hard fight, it appears that gay marriage proponents are winning. If they were smart, they’d take “yes” for an answer and pick up their winning marbles before people start changing their minds.

But gay marriage proponents may be among the worst winners in political history. I’m beginning to think that, for whatever reason, they are just too dumb to take “yes” for an answer.

Maybe the reason is that it was never about marriage in the first place. It was always about affirmation.

It’s beginning to look like this whole debate over marriage was and is about forcing everyone, everywhere, to affirm to gay people that they are ok human beings. The trouble with that is that people who are that hungry for approval and affirmation from other people are also usually shot through with emotional holes that no amount of affirmation and acceptance will ever fill.

You can’t love people like this enough for them to feel lovable. You can’t accept them enough for them to feel good about themselves deep down where nobody’s looking. And you can’t affirm them enough to satisfy the gnawing empty spot in their souls.

The serious part of this is when, as so often happens in America, people with holes in their souls try to fill those holes with political action. That is one solution that, believe me, ain’t never gonna work.

Politics is never the place to go for affirmation, love or spiritual healing. Politics is the cold, cold world of power and more power. People who go into that world with some cockamamie need for affirmation hanging out are going to get used and abused and left in the dumpster when the users are through with them.

That’s as true of big-name preachers as it is of gay rights advocates. Politics is no place to find yourself. It is, rather, one of the deepest pits in which to lose yourself.

Gay rights advocates have played a mean, hard game, winning this fight to change the legal definition of marriage. They’ve enlisted many of the power players in our society, including the media and much of the corporate world in their column. They’ve resorted to personal attacks, public vendettas and character assassination. It has worked for them because they got the backing of the power players in the media in doing it.

But it would be a mistake bigger than Texas to think that these power players share an agenda with anyone based on touchy feely things like human rights, much less hungers for affirmation and acceptance. Those things are opportunities for manipulation and exploitation to power players. Nothing more.

They have their own agendas and those agendas are always about power and money. This current fight to restrict and entomb the First Amendment freedom of religion in a behind-church-doors coffin is at base about power and money and eliminating opposition to the agendas of those who hold power and money.

So long as the gay rights people, or the nitwit atheists, or any other group, serves the purposes of the power brokers — in this case weakening the one remaining societal force with the voice to challenge their hegemony — they will be bestest friends. But friends like that will leave you alone on a dirt road with a storm coming anytime it suits their purposes to do so.

Gay rights leaders need to consider carefully what they are doing by broadening and continuing this fight for what they said all along they never wanted, which was to force people to violate their religious beliefs and participate in gay marriage against their wills.

They need to consider it, because it does not advance their cause of gaining public support. In the long run, this kind of behavior will raise up an opposition against them that is unlike anything they have ever encountered before.

They also need to consider that the freedoms they are attacking keep them free as well as everyone else. They are seeking affirmation by attacking the basic freedoms on which they have been able to advance their own cause.

It would be a mistake of mammoth proportions to assume that the same power brokers who have aided them in this fight and who are gleefully using them to attack the one institution that speaks with force against the evils of corporatism are their friends. Gay rights leaders and these power brokers have been using one another.

But if gay rights leaders think the power in question is actually theirs, they are mistaken. If they also believe that this same power will not turn on them when it suits, they are naive to the bone.

When that day comes, these freedoms which they are now attacking may very well be the only thing that stands between them and whatever evil their erstwhile allies seek to visit on them. Tyranny is not the way to achieve freedom. Violating other people’s human rights is not the way to ensure your own human rights.

Crushing a few small business owners under the government heel will not assuage the gnawing hunger for affirmation that drives gay people in this fight. It will instead weaken the ability of all the people, everywhere, to defend themselves against the increasing hegemony of power brokers that seek to use all of us.

When gay rights no longer is useful to those in power, they will turn on gay rights. They’ll do it because corporate interests do not and will never act in moral ways. They are amoral and nihilistic to the core, and they always follow the money.

My advice to gay people is to take yes for an answer and be happy. Live your lives and try to heal those wounds inside you that won’t be filled. Find your solace in living and loving, not hating and attacking.

Politics based on coercing other people will not heal you. It will only wound you further. It also stands a very good chance of raising up a long-term and principled opposition that will reverse the things you have accomplished.

 

 

Religious Freedom is the Right of Every American. Sincerity Doesn’t Enter Into It.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Ed Uthman https://www.flickr.com/photos/euthman/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Ed Uthman https://www.flickr.com/photos/euthman/

Indiana passed a law a couple of weeks ago with the purpose of allowing religious freedom.

I’m going to write several posts this week dealing with the many questions surrounding this law. The drama its passage has created brings all the pigs to the trough.

On the one hand, we have Christian bashing by a biased and bigoted media. On the other hand, we have corporatism, flexing its muscle and openly demanding that government pass laws to suit its true masters.

We have social Christians who are doing their usual drop kick of Christian teaching in favor of what’s happening’ now by coming out in full force against religious freedom. Sandwiched between these groups we have the uncomfortable Christians who are trying to parse the debate to the satisfaction of everybody concerned, twisting and turning like atonal wind chimes, blowing in a gale.

Meanwhile, most people, including most Christians, are going about their daily lives, pretty much ignoring the whole thing. They don’t know that this little drama is about them, their freedoms and whether or not they will be able in the future to practice their faith without government bullying.

Today’s post on the Indiana law will be a simple one. I want to address the stupidest argument in favor of doing away with First Amendment protections of the free exercise of religion that I’ve heard in all my long life.

This argument, which has come from some surprisingly intelligent people, is based on the fact that human beings, no matter their beliefs, are inconsistent. Let me repeat that: People are inconsistent.

We are not mathematical formulas that always perform in a set pattern. We are, whether we will admit it or not, random. No human being, not one, is consistent.

However, the argument is being leveled at Christians that they must be absolutely consistent in how they live their faith. Otherwise, they should forfeit their First Amendment rights as American citizens and allow the government to coerce them into violating the 2,000-year old constant teaching of their faith concerning marriage.

The application of this bogus line of reasoning goes something like this:  If a baker bakes a cake for a wedding in which one or both of the participants has been divorced, then they are being inconsistent when they say they will not bake a cake for a gay wedding. Thus, they have no right to First Amendment protections of their religious liberty.

The things I’ve read don’t put it quite that crudely, but that is their reasoning.

Let’s take that argument and look at it in all its absurdity.

Constitutional Rights are not based on things like sincerity and consistency. No one asks, even in this age of gun control, if a gun buyer sincerely believes in the right to bear arms. There is no requirement for those who write letters to their elected officials or who seek redress in the courts to be consistent and sincere in how they live their convictions.

The idea that the First Amendment right of the free exercise of religion should be subjected to a consistency and sincerity test designed in parlor discussions by those who oppose these rights is obvious — absolutely obvious – twaddle. It makes me wonder what people are smoking that anyone takes this stupidity seriously.

I could easily raise serious questions about the underlying theology of the argument being advanced, based on teaching that even I, with my total lack of theological training, “get.” But I’m not going to muddy the water with that discussion.

The point here is simple. It is straight forward. It is, as I said, obvious.

Constitutional Rights are not predicated on ephemeral personal attacks about whether or not an American citizen is “sincere” or consistent in how they use that right. The First Amendment is the right of every American citizen. They may use it, or not, as they chose.

If Americans want to lobby their government, they can. If they don’t want to do that, they don’t have to.

If Americans want to speak freely about the issues of the day, no one can stop them. If they don’t want to do that, they can stay silent.

If Americans do not think it violates their religious faith to bake a cake for a gay wedding, they can bake cakes until their oven melts down. But if their faith has taught for 2,000 years that marriage is between one man and one woman and it violates their deepest conscience and the straightforward, well-known teachings of their faith for them to participate in a gay wedding, they are — or they should be — free to not participate in a gay wedding.

Attempts to create false parallels between gay marriage and the black Civil Rights movement do not hold. There is not and never has been a 2,000-year teaching in favor of segregation. In fact, there is a considerable body of Scripture that speaks against such practices. Civil Rights laws did not violate religious freedom for the simple reason that, no matter how strongly individual segregationists might have tried to deify their sins, segregation was not a religious practice. It was a matter of secular law.

Marriage, on the other hand, is defined as between one man and one woman in the first chapters of the Bible and was specifically sanctified as between one man and one woman by Our Lord.

That has been the constant teaching of Christianity for 2,000 years. It is the teaching of the vast majority of Christian religious leaders today.

Americans do not have to accept this teaching for themselves or believe in Christ to know that the First Amendment guarantee of the free exercise of religion should allow Christians to follow this teaching in their own practices. It is tyranny of the first order to use government to coerce people on penalty of losing their livelihoods to violate their faith in order to bake cakes and make floral arrangements.

The business owners in question do not turn away any group of people, including gay people. They simply do not want to participate in one type of ceremony because that particular ceremony violates their faith. The sheer hubris involved in bringing this kind of massive force against them in order to break them down and force them to violate their faith commitments is mind boggling. It is evil.

For years now, advocates of gay marriage have used the slogan “If you oppose gay marriage, don’t get gay married.”

They have legitimately exercised their First Amendment rights to lobby for gay marriage, to participate in the electoral process to work for gay marriage, and to petition the government through the courts to gain the legal changes to allow gay marriage. All of this, I might add, was based on their personal moral beliefs.

Now, they want to take the same rights that they used away from those who disagree with them. Even worse, they seem determined to use government force to bend everyone in the nation to their will.

They appear to be willing, even eager, to destroy the same First Amendment freedoms that empowered their cause in order to achieve the Pyrrhic victory of forcing people who do not want to participate in their weddings to do so against their will and in violation of their deeply felt religious beliefs.

This activity makes that slogan I quoted into a sham.

Was it a lie all along?

I don’t know. All I know is that it has become a lie today.

I also know, and I will repeat one last time, that Constitutional Rights are not subject to a sincerity or consistency test.

If someone advances this inane argument to you, tell them that.

 

 

Indiana’s Religious Freedom Law and Holy Week

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Waiting for the Lord https://www.flickr.com/photos/waitingfortheword/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Waiting for the Lord https://www.flickr.com/photos/waitingfortheword/

Indiana’s governor is at the center of a firestorm because he signed a religious freedom law.

I am aware that any Catholic blogger, especially a Catholic blogger who writes about politics, should be all over this.

But I’m not going to do it. Not this week.

This is Holy Week, and I need the time with Christ. I think a lot of other people do, too. Sad to say, this issue, and its many ramifications, is not going to go away. Religious freedom is under attack in this country.

I could easily write a strong post about this, as well as the outrageous attempt at intrusion into Church governance that is occurring in San Francisco.

However, this is Holy Week.

I write this blog for one reason: To contribute to the work of equipping Christians to stand for Christ at the intersection of public life and faith. However, I understand something that I’ve seen a lot of Christian culture warriors forget: This is not about changing the culture to our viewpoint. It is about faithfulness to Christ.

We must take time to be with Jesus. That means, among other things, deep prayer on a daily basis, reading the Scriptures every day, and mass as often as you can get there. It also means relaxing a bit and trusting Him.

I’ll say this again: This is Holy Week.

This is the week when God showed all the world for all time the depth, width and breadth of His love for us.

We are in a serious struggle to retain religious freedom in this country. The reason we are in this struggle is not because we have failed at power politics — although by every objective criteria, we have failed.

We are in the situation of fighting for religious freedom in a culture that engages in Christian bashing because we have failed in our mission to be the light. While we were blasting away at our enemies with the full-tilt ugliness of power politics, we forgot that our first call is to bring people to Christ.

Redemption is not won at the ballot box. Redemption was won once and for all by Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ at the cross.

This is Holy Week, when each of us should be thinking on that Cross. We should consider, for at least one week, the miracle of our salvation. We need to ponder and appreciate the unfathomable mercy of a God who poured out His life’s blood in an agony of public shame, humiliation and torture that we might be washed clean by that blood and given eternal life.

It is no accident that this final Passover on Calvary took place at the time of year when the first Passover is celebrated. In Egypt, the Israelites slaughtered a perfect lamb and then marked their doorways with the blood of the lamb so that the angel of death might pass them by. Scripture tells us that it was “the Lord’s Passover.”

When Jesus approached John the Baptist at the Jordan, John announced Him by saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” This was a clear prophecy of Jesus’ Passion. It was also a public testimony that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God.

Jesus is our Passover from death to life. He is the perfect lamb whose blood redeems all humanity with one perfect atoning sacrifice. If we are marked with His blood, the angel of death will pass us by.

Jesus died that we might have eternal life. That is how much He loves us. It demonstrates as nothing else can the depth of His mercy towards us.

This is Holy Week. We need to think on these things, to take time apart from the yelling and carrying on of political fighting and pray for guidance and strength in how we proceed in the days ahead. Because we are not called to leadership in the broader world. We can called to followership in the Kingdom of God.

We need to go to the cross and kneel there in the dirt and blood of our own sinfulness and be converted to an ever deepening life of following Him, wherever that leads, whatever it costs.

We are going to be called to much more than ballot box Christianity. We have a harder task before us than political activism. We must convert the culture for Christ, and we must do it one person at a time.

This is Holy Week.

Take time to worship, pray, meditate and recommit to the fight ahead. Consider the viciousness of the attacks the Governor of Indiana is suffering and understand who is behind them. You are not part of that dark army. Turn your back on replying with equal viciousness.

Go to the cross and fit yourself for this battle by believing that this Jesus who is dying there is Lord of all creation. Understand that even though He is God, the God, He will not force us to follow Him. We, like Mary when the Angel Gabriel stood before her, must give our fiat to His grace and His dominion over our lives.

Give Him your will. Decide to do what He wants from now on instead of following your own understanding. Do the holy thing, even when it’s not the smart thing as the world reckons smartness. Enlist in the Lord’s army for real.

We need to be far more holy than any of us have been up to now. We need to become true disciples.

We can only do that if we follow Him without question. Trust and obey, the old hymns says. There is only one way to be happy in Jesus, and that is to trust and obey.

Scripture tells us that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us.

Draw near to God this week. Therein is our strength and our power. We will not win this fight if we battle for our own selves and our goals. Forty years of political fighting that has left us with dust and ashes is proof of that.

We will only succeed in our call to convert the culture if we yield up ourselves and become part of that great army of the cross. Our message is salvation paid for by the incomprehensible price of the death of God.

That is our faith. It is who we are. It is who we must be if we are to be pleasing to Him. Before we convert the culture, we must first be converted ourselves.

Church Turns to Congress for Relief from Attacks on Religious Freedom

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Ed Uthman https://www.flickr.com/photos/euthman/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Ed Uthman https://www.flickr.com/photos/euthman/

The city of Washington, DC has passed two laws that directly attack religious freedom.

The first is the ironically titled Human Rights Amendment of 2014. According to Catholic News Agency,

… the Human Rights Amendment of 2014, forces religious schools to recognize persons and groups who might conflict with their stated mission and allow them use of their facilities and benefits. For example, a Catholic school would be forced to officially recognize an openly-gay student group and could not deny them use of its facilities.

The second is the equally mis-titled Reproductive Health Non-Discrmination Act of 2014. Again, according to Catholic News Agency,

… the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act of 2014, prohibits all employers from discriminating against employees over their “reproductive health decision making.” Thus, a Catholic or pro-life group could not make employment decisions based on their employees’ decision to act contrary to the mission – such as procuring an abortion, for example.

Both of these two laws are direct attacks on both religious liberty and First Amendment freedoms. That is why I say that their titles are ironic. They do not guarantee human rights and freedom from discrimination. These laws themselves are attacks on the basic human right of religious liberty and freedom from discrimination of religious believers.

To read a fact sheet on the two laws, go here.

There are two resolutions in the United States Senate which would overturn these laws. Congress has 30 days to review the bills, which are slated to become law on April 17. As noted in the Catholic News Agency article,

The Archdiocese of Washington supports these two resolutions, which, they say, “subjugate the Church’s moral teaching to the moral views of the government” and “result in discrimination against religious believers.”

The Knights of Columbus, the United States bishops’ conference, the Catholic University of America, the National Association of Evangelicals, and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention have joined the Archdiocese of Washington in the call to pass the resolutions.

I do not know if Georgetown University has joined the opposition to these laws. If they have not, I would like to know why.

Congress clearly has the power to overturn these laws. The question, as always with Congress, is will they use their power for the purpose it was given to them, or will they set this up as another partisan fight in order to align voters for the ’16 elections?

Congress needs to hear from their constituents as to why they are not doing any of the things that got them elected in the first place.

The Archdiocese of Washington issued the followed press release concerning the resolutions in Congress on March 18:

Religious Freedom at Stake

U.S. Senate Must Stand for Religious Freedom in Nation’s Capital

March 18, 2015

WASHINGTON – Today the Archdiocese of Washington, along with a large and growing coalition of religious institutions, faith-based organizations, and pro-life advocacy organizations within the District of Columbia, welcomes the introduction of two resolutions disapproving the unprecedented attack on religious freedom, freedom of speech and freedom of association in the nation’s capital through the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act (RHNDA) and the Human Rights Amendment Act (HRAA).

HRAA, by removing conscience protections in the law, would prevent religious educational institutions from operating according to the tenets of their own faith with regard to human sexuality, and RHNDA would force religious institutions and other organizations to hire or retain employees who publicly act in defiance of the mission of their employer. Both laws subjugate the Church’s moral teaching to the moral views of the government, violating the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and result in discrimination against religious believers.

The Archdiocese of Washington has long respected home rule for the District of Columbia and, therefore, advocated for our religious rights with the D.C. Council throughout the legislative process. Despite this, the Council passed these acts. The archdiocese’s appeal to Congress to restore these constitutional rights is the only legislative recourse that remains. The Council of the District of Columbia transmitted the new measures to Congress on March 6, initiating a thirty-day congressional review period.

The archdiocese is grateful for the resolutions introduced today in the U.S. Senate and is hopeful for swift action in both chambers of Congress within the remaining days of the congressional review period.

###

 

 

 

Purple Prose Aside, Oklahoma Did Not Limit Marriage to People of Faith

Rep Todd Russ, Oklahoma House File Photo

Rep Todd Russ, Oklahoma House File Photo

My former colleague, Representative Todd Russ, recently passed a piece of legislation, HB 1125 that would move issuance of Oklahoma marriage licenses from court clerks to clergy or judges.

Under Oklahoma law as it presently stands, court clerks, who are elected officials, issue marriage licenses.

I think that the bill is a response to lawsuits against court clerks around the country who have not issued marriage licenses for gay marriage due to their religious belief. It appears to be an attempt to remove that pressure from court clerks. According to both the author and representatives who opposed the bill, court clerks have not objected to the legislation.

During floor debate, Democratic Leader Scott Inman raised the question of whether or not the bill would, as an unintended consequence, open the door for “marriage” of any type, including group marriage, polygamy, marriage between humans and animals, etc. Rep Russ answered that HB 1125 does not change regulations as to what constitutes legal marriage.

I think that Representative Russ made an attempt to deal with a problem. I don’t think that this piece of legislation does what he hopes. It has huge holes in it. It also transfers the potential for court challenges and judicial pressure from court clerks to the clergy.

There is no definition of clergy in the bill. This piece of legislation, by creating a whole new legal responsibility for clergy, needs a definition for what constitutes clergy that is specific to the legislation.

As it stands now, the only requirement in the law is that the clergy be “ordained.” That leaves the definition of what constitutes clergy for the purposes of performing this government function entirely in the hands of the religious body of which they are a part.

Since “ordained” is not defined in the bill either, any person could, for the purposes of this law, “ordain” themselves. I am aware that there are definitions in other places in the statutes. But since this creates a new kind of clergy that is part government functionary and part religious leader, a new definition is called for.

Another serious problem with the legislation is that it does not define what relationship the clergy would hold vis a vis the government. Are they now government officials, rather than clergy? That is a legitimate question, since they are now charged with enforcing state law concerning marriage so far as it pertains to the issuance of marriage licenses.

America has kept the issuance of marriage licenses and the definition of marriage as a legal construct entirely under the auspices of the government for over 200 years. The idea of transferring this to clergy is a radical change with many unintended consequences.

One unintended consequence would be the massive impact that this change would have on arguments concerning religious freedom. I believe strongly that clergy should not be government officials by virtue of their ordination. If we make them that, we also make them subject to the same oversight and control as any other government functionary.

Statutes that make all ordained clergy function as government opens clergy and faith to government regulation. It transfer the court challenges and pressure being brought against court clerks to clergy. It pierces the protected legal status that clergy holds now.

This legislation, which I think is a good-faith attempt to deal with a serious problem, will, in a few years, create other problems concerning attempts to limit religious freedom that will be exceedingly grave. It has the potential to create a religious freedom train wreck.

HB 1125 has been the object of quite a bit of purple prose, both in the mainstream press and in the blogosphere. This includes claims that Oklahoma has done away with marriage licenses, or that the bill would limit marriage to people of faith. 

These claims are not accurate. The bill changes how marriage licenses are issued. It does not do away with them. Any one who wants to get legally married in Oklahoma today would be able to get legally married under this bill if it becomes law.

I’m not sure how to handle the problems we are now facing as a result of the nihilism that is being applied to family law in this country. If I was still a legislator, I would have voted against this particular bill for the reasons I give above.

My greatest concern about the bill is that it would change the legal status of clergy and that would create the means for successfully attacking religious freedom in the future. It does not matter if the bill labels clergy government functionaries or not. If this bill becomes law, that is the function they will be performing.

I have no doubt that future civil challenges would use this law to seek to define clergy as government functionaries through the courts. This law creates a means by which clergy can be subjected to government regulation as civil authorities.

In today’s political climate, that would be a disaster for religious freedom in this country. Groups have been attempting to control what clergy preaches for decades. This law hands them the means to do that. It would also open the doorway for legitimate court challenges requiring clergy to perform gay marriages (and other inventive forms of “marriage”) even if it violates the teachings of their faith.

You can read the version of the bill that passed the House here.

 

Are Wealthy US Foundations Paying to Suppress Religious Freedom?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by US Embassy The Hague https://www.flickr.com/photos/usembassythehague/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by US Embassy The Hague https://www.flickr.com/photos/usembassythehague/

Are wealthy US foundations paying to suppress religious freedom?

John Lomperis of the Institute for Religion and Democracy says that so far as the Ford Foundation and the Arcus Foundation are concerned, the answer may be yes.

From Catholic News Agency:

“The agenda of such groups in opposing basic conscience protections could hardly be more diametrically opposed to our nation’s great traditions of freedom of conscience and of religion,” Lomperis, who serves as United Methodist Director for the institute, told CNA Feb. 10.

He contended that the pattern of grants “serves a fundamentally totalitarian vision these foundations and their allied politicians have of ‘religious liberty.’” This vision is especially opposed to those who value traditional sexual morality and respect for unborn human life, he noted.

“Our society is now facing serious questions about to what extent Christians (as well as, to a lesser extent, followers of other faiths) will be allowed to have the same degree to live in accordance with our values without facing new and powerful coercions,” Lomperis said.

The Arcus Foundation’s website lists a 2014 grant of $100,000 to the American Civil Liberties Foundation supporting “communications strategies to convince conservative Americans that religious exemptions are ‘un-American.’” A two-year Arcus grant to the ACLU in 2013 gave $600,000 to support the ACLU’s Campaign to End the Use of Religion to Discriminate. Arcus Foundation tax forms describe this as a “multi-pronged” effort to combat “the growing trend of institutions and individuals claiming exemptions from anti-discrimination laws because of religious objections.”

 

300 Pakistani Muslims Attack Christian Boys School in Retaliation Against Charlie Hebdo

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by J. James Tissot Waiting for the Word https://www.flickr.com/photos/waitingfortheword/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by J. James Tissot Waiting for the Word https://www.flickr.com/photos/waitingfortheword/

Now this makes sense.

A publication in France published a cartoon that at least some Muslims find offensive. So, 300 Muslims in Pakistan attack a Christian boys’ school, injuring a bunch of unarmed Christian students.

Shouting idiotic slogans such as “We martyr for the prophet’s sanctity,” the mob attacked Panel High School in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

This attacks follows another, more deadly one in Niger, where Muslim mobs, also “protesting” Charlie Hebdo,  burned down a number of churches and Christian pastor’s homes, killing at least 10 people.

I don’t know if the leaders of these attacks are aware that Charlie Hebdo mocks Christians, the Catholic Church in particular, far more than it does Muslims. I also don’t know if they are aware that the Christian response has been to argue back. I doubt it.

There is a pervasive air of ignorance hanging over behavior like this; ignorance, cowardice and sadism.

From The Christian Post:

Close to 300 Muslim students armed with iron bars and sticks attacked a Christian boys’ school in northern Pakistan, reportedly in retaliation to French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo’s controversial drawings of the Muslim prophet Muhammad. The attack left four Christians injured.

“It is very sad that Islamic radicals attack Pakistani Christians because of Charlie Hebdo. Christians condemn the blasphemous cartoons. It is a shame that even after 67 years since the birth of Pakistan, Christians have not yet been considered Pakistani citizens, but are seen as ‘Western allies,’” Nasir Saeed, director of the NGO Center for Legal Aid Assistance & Settlement, told Fides News Agency.

The attack occurred on Panel High School in the city of Bannu, in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The Muslim students apparently were able to jump over the outer walls of the school and open the gates before attacking the Christians.

The school has been closed down at least for two days, with additional security measures being considered to protect the students.

Last weekend, Muslim mobs burned down a number of churches and pastors’ homes in Niger, also in protest of Charlie Hebdo’s drawings. At least 10 people were killed in the clashes, with pastors in the capital Niamey revealing that almost anyone associated with churches was targeted.

Oklahoma Legislators Take Aim at Gay Marriage

 

Representative Sally Kern. Photo Source: Oklahoma House of Representatives.

Representative Sally Kern. Photo Source: Oklahoma House of Representatives. Official file photo.

Oklahoma legislators have introduced 4 bills concerning gay marriage and civil rights for homosexuals and transsexuals.

Representative Sally Kern has introduced 3 bills:

HB 1599, which is designated the Preservation of Sovereignty  and Marriage Act, is a broad piece of legislation that seeks to dictate future findings by the courts, activities by state employees and expenditures of state monies in regards to same-sex marriage.

HB 1597 is another far-reaching bill. It does not address same-sex marriage, but instead says that no business can be forced to offer service to “any lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender person, group or association.”

HB 1598 allows mental health providers to engage in conversion therapy. As I understand it, conversion therapy seeks to change homosexual orientation to heterosexual by means of talk therapy.

I doubt that any of these bills will get a hearing in committee. If they should happen to make it out of committee, their chances of coming to a vote on the House Floor are even more dim. If, by a combination of legislative pressures, they do come to a vote of the full House, they are almost certainly DOA in the Senate. A lot of times, whether or not these things come to a vote depends on the determination and skill of the individual legislator and the amount of support he or she has in the body.

Having said that, I can tell you that the legislation as drafted oversteps all sorts of legal bounds. They would not stand, even if they managed to become law.

HB 1599 overreaches in a lot of ways, but the obvious ones are that it seeks to tell judges ahead of time what they may rule. This is outside the province of a legislative body. The legislature certainly does have the power to determine how state monies are spent, so the part of the bill that would limit state appropriations for activities concerning same-sex marriage would have a good chance of withstanding a court challenge, at least in principle.

The fact that it is not an appropriations bill and does not address appropriations per se might lead to its being overturned because of vagueness. However, by putting these two unrelated matters together in one bill, Representative Kern has created a piece of legislation with two topics in two areas of law. This is called log-rolling, and is in violation of the Oklahoma Constitution.

HB 1597 is clearly a violation of the civil rights of homosexuals and transsexuals. The law seeks to set up a system of discrimination in service regarding a specific class or group of people. It does not address legitimate First Amendment concerns regarding religious beliefs. It allows service providers to refuse service to a group of people because they are members of that group and for no other reason.

HB 1598 is the only one of the three bills that has legal merit. The question of whether or not therapists may use a particular therapy has become loaded when it concerns “conversion therapy” as it is used with homosexuals. A few states have made “conversion therapy” illegal. However, the real question is whether or not legislative bodies should be passing laws dictating which therapeutic approach is the correct one for health care providers to use. Dictating medical procedures and therapies is outside the province of legislative bodies, or it should be.

The whole discussion revolves around political correctness, with both sides slinging statistics and accusations, but the real issue is legislative bodies overstepping their bounds.

Senator Corey Brooks. Photo Source: Oklahoma State Senate. Official file photo.

Senator Corey Brooks. Photo Source: Oklahoma State Senate. Official file photo.

Senator Corey Brooks has authored SB 478. This is a good bill, which I hope will pass. It protects people from prosecution and civil liability if their religious beliefs require them to abstain from participation in a same-sex marriage ceremony.

In truth, I do not expect Senator Brooks’ bill to get very far, either. The reason is simple:  I expect that the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce will oppose it, and the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce controls both the legislative and executive branches of Oklahoma’s government.

Their control is close to being dictatorial, and, as I said in another post, they are not all that nice about how they use it. Threats, which are not idle threats, are their standard way of dealing with legislators who do not do what they are told. Most Republican legislators are afraid of them, and with good reason.


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