Breaking: Federal Court Forces Notre Dame to Follow HHS Mandate

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Scott Gulbransen https://www.flickr.com/photos/sdunlvrebel/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Scott Gulbransen https://www.flickr.com/photos/sdunlvrebel/

The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the University of Notre Dame’s appeal against the HHS Mandate today.

In a brazen disregard for the First Amendment, the Court argued that the “burden” on the government to re-write the HHS Mandate to allow the Catholic University of Notre Dame to follow the dictates of its faith was too high. The court also said that the “burden” on Notre Dame of being forced to violate its faith and abandon the free exercise of religion which is the guarantee of every American was just not all that important.

They didn’t put it in those words, and I am deliberately writing it in purple prose. But that is the essential meaning.

The court ruled that an agency rule written by a back-room committee of abortion industry insiders trumps the First Amendment guarantee of the free exercise of religion. It based this ruling on the bizarre opinion that abiding by the Constitution of the United States placed an undue burden on the government of the United States.

Here is what they said, without my interpretation and in their own little words:

“The very word ‘accommodation’ implies a balance of competing interests,” the court noted.

“And when we compare the burden on the government or third parties of having to establish some entirely new method of providing contraceptive coverage with the burden on Notre Dame of simply notifying the government that the ball is now in the government’s court, we cannot conclude that Notre Dame has yet established its right to the injunctive relief that it is seeking before trial,” the court said.

 

Hypocritical Clergy Shut the Door of the Kingdom of Heaven in People’s Faces

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Kristian Bjornard https://www.flickr.com/photos/bjornmeansbear/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Kristian Bjornard https://www.flickr.com/photos/bjornmeansbear/

My colleague, Linda LaScola writes a blog over on the Atheist Channel. The focus of her blog is fallen clergy, specifically, Christian clergy who have become atheist.

Quite a number of the posts she writes are about clergy who have become atheist, but continue to keep their jobs as Christian clergy. Ms LaScola and her fellow atheists like this sort of thing, because these guys and gals are worms, eating into the wood of Christianity from the inside.

They are also liars, phonies and charlatans.

This is how Ms LaScola summarized the situation in a promo line she put on one of her recent blog posts:

“…there are clergy who are purposely or inadvertently discouraging their parishioners from holding some of the foundational beliefs of their religion. They no longer believe themselves, so are not very convincing when conveying religious beliefs. In some cases they are not even trying.” 

Odd as this may sound, my response to Ms LaScola’s comment, as well as her headline “Clergy Fuel Flight From Religion,” is Amen sister. You are telling the truth.

Of course, Ms LaScola supports these phoney baloney lying preachers, as, so far as I can see, do the rest of her fellow Atheist bloggers. A good bit of atheist carrying on is based on flat-out lying. The rash of atheists going in to Catholic Churches and pretending to be worshippers in order to gain access to a consecrated Host that they then filmed themselves desecrating is a case in point.

Clergy who lie to their parishioners and misrepresent themselves in order to gain a trust and followership they do not deserve take this lying to a whole new level. They use their position to lead trusting people away from where the people themselves expect to be led. The only place where these folks and their pathological behavior are heroes is among those who hate Christianity.

However, the fact remains that a good number of our clergy do a number on the faith. They are one of the reasons that so many people are leaving the Church.

First, they don’t preach Christ. They don’t share Christ. They don’t even believe in Christ. The Christ-less-Cross-less Christianity they offer is not Christianity at all.

Second, they actively attack the consistent, and up until about a decade ago, universal teachings of Christianity. They work against the faith and try — with success — to scatter the flock. They align themselves publicly with people who have repeatedly stated in public and in writing that their goal is the destruction of Christianity. They support limitations on the First Amendment as a means of attacking their fellow Christians. They join in with the mockery, ridicule, hazing and bashing of their fellow Christians.

Some of these people are just weak-minded thought-bots who suffer from an overdose of narcissism and hubris. They are often highly educated in that they possess many earned degrees. But they are people who do not have a center. They behave like baby ducks imprinting on whatever is the new intellectual trendy. They are spiteful and sarcastic, but there’s no spine. They are weak all through.

A good number of the others are in fact the venal liars that they appear to be. They “come out” to atheists blog sites such as Ms LaScola’s and receive praise, support and sympathy for their “plight” of being an atheist who is supposedly trapped inside the clergy.

This claim is, of course, another of their lies. They are not “trapped” in the clergy.

Nothing and nobody is making these folks stay in their cushy jobs. They could stop lying, leave the clergy and live lives consistent with their true beliefs any time they wanted. They hang on because they like the unearned respect that people give clergy and, if they are part of one of the major denominations, they also like the easy pay, free housing, health insurance and retirement.

It’s a good life, being a lying, two-faced phoney preacher. You can be treated like a cult hero by Christian bashers; their very own boy. At the same time, you get to be a pretend man or woman of God with all the kudos that go with that.

Sweet.

The Catholic Church is not immune to this problem of phoney clergy. We’ve got quite a few of them. Here are a few cases in point:

Priests are bucking the Catholic Church leadership to support gay marriage in Ireland. 

Archbishop Orders Minnesota Priests to Support or Stay Silent on Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment

Father Bob Pierson, Gay Priest, on Why Catholics Should Support Gay Marriage

Md Catholic Priest Defends Gay Marriage Before Congregation Despite Opposition

Georgetown University Caves to HHS Mandate

I could go on, but it gets repetitive. The point I’m making is the same one I made in an earlier post. There are reasons for the decline of affiliation with Christian denominations and the rise of nones that we’ve seen in recent polls.

Christian bashing is one of those reasons. I’ve written quite a few posts talking about that. Now, I think it’s time we talk about fallen clergy. I absolutely do not mean the stalwart souls who preach the Gospel, care for their parishioners and do all they can to follow Christ. I do not want to pick these good men apart or criticize them. I’m grateful to them.

I have been blessed with true pastors with a genuine heart for God ever since I converted to the Catholic Church. The one phoney pastor I had in my entire life was years ago when I was an Episcopalian. This guy actually bragged about destroying people’s faith.

I also do not want to talk about the honest doubters who are struggling with their faith, or the equally honest men and women who leave the clergy because they no longer believe what the Church teaches.

This discussion is about those who wear the collar under false pretenses and actively work to undermine the body of Christ by leading God’s people away from the Way. I have nothing good to say about these people.

They are today’s version of the people Jesus was talking about when He said,

What sorrow awaits you, teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! You shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter, either. 

 

Christianity Declines Sharply in America. Here’s the One, Two Three of It.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Woodlouse https://www.flickr.com/photos/woodlouse/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Woodlouse https://www.flickr.com/photos/woodlouse/

Recent polls show a seven percent drop in the past eight years in the number of Americans who identify themselves as Christians.

This is due to a number of influences. Here is a short list of things I think have contributed to this situation.

First, and absolutely foremost, the incessant Christian bashing and hazing of Christians has to be at the top of the list. Christianity is attacked from every quarter, every single day. Christians have become the new hate group and Christianity is the new hate faith. This is done by lies, slander, half-truths, mockery and flat-out hate. Being a Christian who stands for Christ means that you will be ridiculed, reviled and attacked.

Second, the political heresy by much of the clergy. These men — and it’s nearly all men — have abandoned Jesus Christ to go off after a political, little g god who — Surprise! — thinks like them. They have drop-kicked the Beatitudes and much of what Christ and the prophets taught to preach and teach the gospel of Ayn Rand and Arthur Laffer. They seriously claim that there is no moral requirement to policies and behavior where economics and moneymaking are concerned.

They have deified corporatism and war and claim a moral imperative for policies that impoverish the people of this country. They have become so identified with the Republican Party that they might as well take the cross down off the altars in their churches and put the elephant up there, instead.

Third, the other side of the political heresy by much of the clergy. These men and women — a good number of these are women — have drop-kicked the calls to justice and personal morality. There is no moral innovation or personal death-dealing philosophy that they do not support. Many of them have gone so far as to align themselves with militant atheists who openly state that they intend to destroy Christianity.

They have attempted to create a moral imperative for murder of the unborn, the elderly, the sick and the helpless. They support the limitation of religious freedom and join in with critics of the Gospels. They are so identified with the Democratic Party that, like their fellow wing-nut brethren on the right, they might as well remove the cross off their altars and replace it with the Democratic donkey.

Fourth, we have far too many preachers who eschew any controversy, including the controversy of the Cross. They are so namby-pamby and feel-good that you can’t tell by listening to them if they really believe in anything or not. This kind of preacher does well in wealthy parishes. All they have to do is mumble a few platitudes over the vicissitudes of life that their parishioners encounter and preach well-written sermons that are like soft pillows of reassurance to people whose problems are always wrapped in the comfort middle-class ease.

These pastors don’t convert anybody. In fact, they’re proud of not proselytizing, as if trying to save people from eternal hell was too gauche for them. You won’t find any mention of the R and D in their churches. And, except for the annual Christmas Eve candlelight service and the gauzy Easter service, you won’t find much mention of Jesus, either. They, and their churches are what Jesus called “neither hot nor cold.”

Item four is a good bit of why item one has been allowed to flourish. Their indifference to Christ makes defending Christ an impolitic overreaction for them.

Items two and three are what created the monster in the first place. It does not matter if they are aligned to the left or the right, clergy who practice the political heresy do not preach Christ. It is easy to caricatureize Christianity when you focus on fallen and false shepherds such as these. The Holy Spirit will not honor the preaching of heretics who preach a false gospel of political redemption and who lead people to political alliances rather than to the cross.

Yes, we need to take a stand against the Christian bashing that is going on in this country. We need to do it, not just as Christians, but as Americans. This vitriolic bigotry is a lethal poison in the body politic. No group of people in America should be subjected to the vicious and destructive hazing that has become normal for Christians.

Yes, those of us who are called to the political world need to stand up for the civil and Constitutional rights of Christians. We certainly should vote for an end to abortion and to save the family. No Christian can vote for murder, which means you cannot vote for abortion, euthanasia, or embryonic stem cell research. You may not kill people.

But by the same token, no Christian should vote for corporatism and corporate welfare that impoverishes the people of this country. Economically, this country has been at war since 1941. That, and not social security, is why we have a deficit. History is replete with the economic meltdowns that occur when wars go on too long.

Too many of our wars are fought for corporate greed rather than to protect the people of this country. Too much of our money is going to build a defense that is not even useful to the defense of this country.

Do you realize what I have just done to you? I have basically told you that you can not support either one of our political parties. That isn’t an accident.

We need to take the elephant and the donkey off the altars of our churches and put the cross back up there.

People need to hear the true Gospel of Christ in all its fullness. This generation needs the saving power of Calvary as much as the pagan world of the first century.

Our priests and preachers need to stop preaching politics and start preaching Christ. They need to preach Christ and Him crucified without shame or dissembling, with the full power of belief. We need to convert this culture, one person at a time.

We will not do that with politics. We will do it by the power of the Holy Spirit. We will change the world when we start trying to change the world for Christ and Him alone.

Our clergy need to preach Christ. You and I need to preach Christ as well; with our lives, with our words, with our daily witness. But none of us — not clergy, not laity — can do this without the power of the Holy Spirit. That begins on our knees.

Pray. Pray every day. Pray for real. Then be a living witness to your salvation.

As for our clergy, stop thinking it’s about you. It’s not. You weren’t called to do well. You were called to do good. Your vocation is meant to make a gift of you to God’s people. All vocations do that. They make us a gift to others.

We need shepherds.

Far too often, we’ve had wolves.

From the USA Today:

WASHINGTON — The United States is a significantly less Christian country than it was seven years ago.

That’s the top finding — one that will ricochet through American faith, culture and politics — in the Pew Research Center’s newest report, “America’s Changing Religious Landscape,” released Tuesday.

This trend “is big, it’s broad and it’s everywhere,” said Alan Cooperman, Pew’s director of religion research.

Christianity still dominates American religious identity (70%), but the survey shows dramatic shifts as more people move out the doors of denominations, shedding spiritual connections along the way.

Atheists and agnostics have nearly doubled their share of the religious marketplace, and overall indifference to religion of any sort is rising as well. Only the historically black Protestant churches have held a steady grip through the years of change.

 

 

Apple Watch Review: Do NOT Buy

Apple Watch: $349 to $17,000. Religious Freedom: Priceless. Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Shinya Suzuki https://www.flickr.com/photos/shinyasuzuki/

Apple Watch: $349 to $17,000. Religious Freedom: Priceless. Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Shinya Suzuki https://www.flickr.com/photos/shinyasuzuki/

I’m not buying an Apple Watch.

In fact, as Apple obsoletes the many Apple products I own, I plan to replace them with products from another company. When Apple obsoletes my Mac Pro, my sons and I are going to build a computer. I’ll probably do another post on that decision at another time.

Until Tim Cook took off after my First Amendment rights, I was a fanatic Apple fan girl. I’ve got a desktop, laptops, a phone and a tablet to replace over time. I assume Apple will help me with this with their new Tim Cook method of forcing Apple owners to buy new products by obsoleting the ones they have.

I already have an old Mac Pro and a Gen 1 iPad that ain’t doin’ nothin’ because Apple obsoleted them. I gave the iPad to one of my kids and he tells me it’s unusable because it will no longer run Safari. I also have an obsoleted iPhone out there, somewhere. I donated that, so I don’t know what’s happening with it.

So I know without doubt that every single Apple product I own will take a dirt bath due to Apple obsoleting it, and that will probably happen fairly soon. That alone is reason enough to look elsewhere for replacements. But I’ve been such a fan girl that I allowed the company to do this to me.

Until now. I’ll put up with them ripping me off by maliciously obsoleting my expensive tech stuff. I’ll tolerate Apple Maps, which still sends me on long trips to nowhere when all I want to do is cross the street. I’ve accepted the many different plugs necessary to charge my laptops, and I work around the inconvenience of no cd player on my Mackbook Air. I’ll even tolerate the bizarre and unfixed bug in their operating system that keeps telling me that my computer can’t sync with iCloud and inviting me to open iCloud preferences and fix this.

But using my money to go after my First Amendment rights is a bridge too far. Because you see, it is my money. And yours. All those billions Apple has? That market share that keeps growing? That bounding stock price?

Your money and mine filled those coffers and pushed that stock price.

If you want to spend your money to finance attacks on your First Amendment rights, then go for it. This is America. People can be as politically suicidal as they want. But me and my $$ are going elsewhere.

To begin with, I’m skipping the Apple Watch. If I decide I must have a smart watch, Pebble Watch is ready when I am. Actually, I think Pebble Watch is the cool buy, anyway. Pebble is the number one seller of smart watches. They are the innovators who created the entire smart watch market. They are, in many ways, what Apple once was; a cool, founder-run company innovating itself into our hearts.

If you want to be a herd-follower and donate your dollars to attacks on your First Amendment freedoms, buy the Apple Watch. But if you want to be uber cool, buy the Pebble Watch. Just go to Amazon, type in Pebble Watch, and you’ll see a long list of great choices, all for a lot less $$ than the Apple Watch.

When I first said that I was leaving Apple, a few commenters on other sites said that they “don’t do boycotts.” If that’s true, they’re safe.

This is not a boycott. What I am suggesting is that you make an individual decision as the individual that you are that you will not spend your money in ways that support those who attack religious freedom. That is exactly what I’m doing. This is my decision. It is about me and my $$ and my personal loyalty to the things I believe.

I am capable of taking a stand all by myself.

Are you?

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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.

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