The March for Marriage will be March 26, 2013 in Washington DC. Go here for more details. If you can’t go, maybe you can contribute to the airfare for someone else to go.
Colorado’s legislature has passed a civil unions bills. All that’s necessary for the bill to become is for the governor — who as already said he would do so — to sign it.
The bill passed without religious liberty protections that would protect religious organizations from such as adoption agencies from being forced to violate their beliefs.
Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver issued the following statement concerning passage of this bill.
STATEMENT: Archbishop of Denver responds to civil unions bill
Regrettably, the Colorado Legislature has approved a civil unions bill today which harms families, civil liberties, and the natural rights of all Colorado’s children.
Senate Bill 11 is the beginning of an effort to redefine the family in Colorado and to undermine the right of all children to have a mother and a father. Civil unions are not about equality, tolerance or fairness. They create an alternate reality in which all institutions can be self-defined. Make no mistake: Civil unions are the first step to redefining marriage and to radically redefining the concept of civil rights. Civil rights are about protecting individuals and institutions from tyranny or oppression, not providing legal endorsement to all conceivable social arrangements and constructs.
The Church recognizes and affirms the dignity of every human person—but she does not see all relationships as equal. Marriage is a unique social relationship between a man and a woman which exists for the good of children and as the foundation of all human communities. Marriage has been uniquely protected in law for millennia in order to preserve and promote the foundations of all social stability.
Senate Bill 11 is particularly troubling because the religious liberty of all Coloradans has been discarded under the guise of equality. The ability for religious-based institutions to provide foster care and adoption services for Colorado’s children is now dangerously imperiled. Faced with the reasonable request for religious liberty and conscience accommodations, state Sen. Pat Steadman offered the following: “So, what to say to those who claim that religion requires them to discriminate? I’ll tell you what I’d say. Get thee to a nunnery and live there then. Go live a monastic life away from modern society, away from the people you can’t see as equal to yourself.” These comments are woefully antagonistic to Catholics, to Christians and to all people of faith and good will.
Marriage is a stabilizing institution at the foundation of civil society. Religious liberty is a civil rights issue. Today both have been grievously harmed. Today our state and federal Constitutions have been dealt a troubling blow.
Most Reverend Samuel J. Aquila, S.T.L.
Archbishop of Denver
How would the repeal of DOMA and the legalization affect military chaplains?
When you consider this president’s previous attacks on religious freedom, that is a sobering question.
This video from the Marriage Anti-Defamation Alliance discusses these questions.
Militant secularism is on the march throughout the Western world.
It began with court cases concerning what were clearly government entities in nature. The first court cases focused on things that were problematic.
It didn’t take long for these court cases to move past the clearly problematic to a frontal assault on any mention of faith in any guise in even the most quasi of public situations anywhere in the country. In a few years, it broadened to include attacks on Christian public officials, which I have experienced myself. Verbal hazing and hectoring became such a commonplace that many public Christians began to self-censor their remarks to avoid it.
The reason for this is that public life is difficult and insecure enough without adding extra problems to it. Public officials and other public figures get worn out from the constant harassment and misery of being attacked 24/7. Also, the use of slander and mockery, can, over time, destroy their reputations and make it impossible for them to do their jobs.
So, they backed down. They self-censored Jesus out of their vocabularies. It was easier to keep quiet about their faith than to take it on the chin, especially since most of the American Christian world was cocooned in a rock-a-bye world of their own and largely indifferent to what was happening.
However, public figures are not the only targets these days. More and more, the courts have become a means of harassment and oppression of Christians who are private citizens simply trying to live their faith in their private world. Thus we have bans on student-initiated prayers in school, censorship of religious viewpoints from valedictory speeches and, lately, the banning of Christian groups from college campuses.
It was and is the Martin Niemoller poem, coming to life again.
I wrote a post yesterday, Atheist Governments: Failed Experiments in Godless Goodness which referred to this situation. This post is an extension of that.
One of the more interesting examples of forced removal of Christian art from public grounds is the Soledad Cross. This cross was designed by architect Donald Campbell and is part of a memorial for war veterans.
Americans were outraged when Al Queda blasted ancient Buddhas in Afghanistan because they offended their religious sensibilities. But they do not see the parallel in the forced removal of religious art from public places in our own country at the behest of a well-organized movement of militant secularists.
You can find a list, of the cases the Freedom From Religion group in Wisconsin is involved in now on their website. I would guess that this list is relatively small compared to the numbers of threatening letters concerning Christian art, speech and actives that it churns out on what appears to be a continuous basis. The Supreme Court has ruled that historic monuments may be preserved, but there are no guidelines as to what constitutes a historic monument.
The deluge of court cases that are brought by a couple of groups and dumped on public entities, coupled with the threat of costly litigation, usually results in people backing down without a fight. This is using the courts as a club to bully and intimidate ordinary citizens into giving up their rights.
The ACLU has joined with the Freedom From Religion Foundation in some of these lawsuits. They have also filed suits of their own. They claim, like the Freedom From Religion Foundation, that they are “defending” the Constitution and the American people from the dangers of statues in parks, plaques, and commentary in graduation speeches.
Both these groups often file lawsuits that are aimed, not so much at government policy, but the individual expressions of faith by government employees. They have worked assiduously to drive religion in general and Christianity in particular from the public square. In case after case they have filed suit against city parks, state governments, and courthouses all over the country. They have forced them to remove statues, and ban celebrations that smacked in any way of a Christian viewpoint.
You would think the mere sight of the Ten Commandments on a plaque was a threat to our liberty equal to say, banning prayer in schools, even when they are student-led, censoring personal religious comments out of student speeches or requiring college faith-based student groups to put atheists in charge.
Of course, that is exactly what has been happening in more and more places around the country. Here a few examples that I found of censoring student speech and attempting to force student religious organizations to admit unbelievers as members and leaders of their groups. I found these with a simple google search that took about 10 seconds.
Censorship of Christian’s Free Speech in Schools Christian’s Valedictorian Speech Censored by Principal District Pulls Plug on Speech Attorneys Win Settlement in Cases Involving Censorship of Religious References from Valedictory Speeches Student Says Testimony About God Censored From Speech
There are a number of cases of Christian student groups being kicked off college campuses because they refuse to put non-believers in positions of leadership in their organizations, or because they require that members be people of faith. There are many of these incidents. Some of them involve numerous press releases with denials and counter charges that go back and forth. However, I doubt that there would be any back and forth if the initial discrimnatory actions by the universities in question had not been taken.
Discrimination on College Campuses University of Michigan Kicks Christian Club Off Campus Campus Crackdown: Restricting Religious Freedom Vanderbilt Christian Groups, Citing Religious Freedom, Follow Catholics Off Campus Rollins College Boots Student Religious Group Off Campus College Forces Christian Group Off Campus Christian Groups Face Hostility on Campus Universities Across Nation Kick Christian Groups Off Campus Christian Group Kicked Off Campus at Brown University
If you don’t believe in abortion, don’t have one. That’s one of the nifty little sayings pro-abortion advocates are fond of tossing around. However, in real life, they are using political clout with the president to create an abortion hegemony in which organizations, including the Church are forced to refer for abortions or be severely penalized.
The same kind of thing is at work with gay marriage. If you don’t believe in gay marriage, don’t get gay married, the slogan goes. But Christian groups on college campuses are being penalized for following their faith concerning what is rapidly becoming a gay hegemony. At the same time, Catholic adoption agencies in many states have been forced to close because they will not place children with anyone except a married man and woman.
This is militant secularism run amuck. It not only violates the religious freedom of American citizens, it deprives orphan children of loving homes and trafficked women of the help they need to get out of that life and move forward. Here are a few examples I found, again, with a quick google search.
Direct Discrimination Against Churches and Church Ministries Illinois Catholic Charities Closes Adoption Over Rule Same-Sex Law Forces Catholic Charities to Close Adoption Program Bishops Say Rules on Gay Parents Limit Religious Freedom Discrimination Against Catholic Adoption Services Oregon Catholic Charities Loses Grant Because It Will Not Refer for Abortion Kentucky Catholic Charities Shutters Aid to Traffickers Over Refusal to Refer for Abortion
I could go on with this, but I think I’ve made my point. The increasing harassment and move toward overt legal discrimination of Christians is so widespread and has been in the news so often that I honestly believe it is public knowledge. Anyone can find all the cites they want about it in a matter of a few seconds. I’m sure that what I’ve given here are not the best examples. I didn’t aim for that. I literally just took the ones at the top of the many pages of hits I got when I googled. They are also not meant to be comprehensive.
They are indicative. They indicate what is happening and why the concerns of Christians about the rise in overt anti-Christian activity on an official as well as a social level is well-founded. They also indicate a growing problem with how ideas like “inclusion,” “tolerance” and “equality” are being codified and used to create enforcement that produces exclusion, intolerance and inequality for Christians.
Persecution is an ugly word. According to my online dictionary, it means “hostility or maltreatment, esp because of race or political or religious beliefs.”
That sounds simple enough. But, as usual, when you add politics and questions of power to the discussion, simplicity flies away. Political definitions, especially when they are trying to obscure reality, quickly become something too complicated for ordinary mortals to either understand or take action against.
Persecution, in the hands of politicians, becomes a tiny target that almost no one except the few that the politicians have decided (usually for reasons other than the persecution itself) they want to help. The reason for this is that slippery words like persecution are problems for politicians who hold the responsibility for nations and organizations in their hands.
If the definition of persecution is too easy, then they will find themselves faced with a moral responsibility to act, and actions from political units always mean committing the resources, and sometimes the lives, of their citizenry. Any good government takes care of its own people first. No head of state, either secular or religious, wants his or her options for governance directed by open-ended definitions of words like “persecution.”
This isn’t hubris. It’s necessity. Heads of state have been entrusted with the lives and well-being of their citizens. They cannot commit them wily-nily to the righting of every wrong there is. In the first place, righting every wrong is a practical impossibility. There too many wrongs for any one entity to right, even if that entity is a government. Also, evil and cruelty are hydra-headed. Chop off one evil and two more grow in its place.
Governments are very careful about what they chose to call persecution because persecution is a loaded word that demands a morale response and moral responses lead to demands for action. Actions by government, any government, are big moves that result in endless ripples of effect that can not be either controlled or predicted.
Governments shy away from easy access to their power through words like “persecution.” They create nuances and artificial qualifications in their definitions of the word that force almost all the people who suffer real-life persecution, sometimes even to the death, outside of its meaning.
In this way, they can excuse themselves from becoming ensnared in demands for action against the hydra-headed monster of persecution of innocent people that flares continuously around the globe.
What becomes problematic in this is that they also can try to stop the rest of us from acknowledging the truth of what’s happening, as well. A lot of governments are more afraid of their own people than anything else. The more oppressive a government is, the more this is true.
They do not want their citizens going off and naming persecution as what it is because they fear what might happen if this catches on in the popular imagination. They are afraid of having to act and they fear that people who call things for what they are might involve enough other citizens in their concerns that the demands for action will get out of hand.
This critical balance between necessary government conservatism about committing itself and its citizens to causes, fights, wars and troubles that are not its own, and the clear-cut facts of merciless situations leads to almost laughable twisting and turning of language. People use the tools at their disposal, and government has legal definitions of things at its disposal.
Government can create any definition of any thing that it wants. It can call the mass murder of millions a “final solution.” It can define medical murder as “death with dignity.” It can write definitions with such pinpoint specificity that no one except those it wants to let in will fall under those definitions.
I believe that is what has happened to the word “persecution.” So many people are suffering and dying all around the globe that no government, no entity, can hope to respond to it. If any one government tries, it will end up exhausting its resources and accomplishing nothing.
This is not evil. It is necessity. It is responsible care-taking of the people whose lives are in a specific government’s hands.
However, that does not oblige you and me to go along with these pin-point definitions of persecution which defy common sense and rational thought. We are free to look at reality as it is, without the varnish of legalese. We do not have to accede our personal vision to the blinders that government wears. We can look at things as they are.
Is there Christian persecution in India? Unless a lot of sources from a lot of places are all colluding in a massive confabulation, the answer is yes.
Here are two videos I found on YouTube. The second one is an actual video of an attack on Christians which resulted in their deaths. So be warned, it’s hard to watch and not for everyone, especially children.
Years ago, I had a conversation with a nice woman who held a responsible position in the Episcopalian (or Anglican, as it is called in most countries) missions agency. She kindly agreed to introduce me to several African Anglican bishops. In the course of our conversation, she told me that none of the Christians in the countries where these bishops presided were suffering “pure” persecution, since what they were going through did not come by direct government order. Her contention was that “persecution” could only happen if a government ordered it.
She introduced me to a number of bishops, despite the fact that I did not agree with her on this. They gave me an entirely different story. They had no doubt that what they and their people were undergoing was persecution, many times to the death, for their Christian faith.
One bishop from Northern Nigeria told me that five of his churches had been burned to the ground, that his daughter had been seized, and that a member of one of his parishes was murdered by a mob that put the man over a sawhorse and cut off his head. I can still hear the pain and horror in his voice as he described this to me.
Yet, by the definition I had heard none of this would qualify as persecution.
I had an interesting conversation earlier today with a sophisticated and knowledgeable Catholic who holds the same view. If I understood him correctly, the only persecution that can be officially accepted as such is that which comes as an official action by an official government of the type that occurs in North Korea, Saudi Arabia and China.
I’ve been chewing on this all afternoon. I understand — or at least I think I do — the difference between government-enforced persecution and that which comes from groups of people in a society. There are few things more draconian that government-enforced persecution. However, to label everything that is not government-enforced as “not persecution” just doesn’t jibe with me; not if the horror stories I’ve read and been told are true.
I’ve spent a fair lifetime in the world of political jargoneering, and I have an admittedly cynical view of it. When people parse the meanings of words to avoid the obvious fact that other people are being murdered, it triggers enormous emotional and mental resistance in me.
I tried to find the United Nations definition of persecution by looking online, and all I found were definitions related to refugees. I’ll quote the salient parts as I discuss them.
The first definition, which is a definition of persecution itself, says:
51. … From Article 33 of the 1951 Convention, it may be inferred that a threat to life or freedom on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group is always persecution. Other serious violations of human rights – for the same reasons – would also constitute persecution. (Emphasis mine.)
I’m not versed in International law, but taken on its face, that seems to say that what the bishop from Nigeria described to me, as well as most of the other things I’ve heard and read, fit this definition of persecution.
The second part of the definition goes to what both the two people who think persecution only occurs at the behest of a government are probably referring to:
65. Persecution is normally related to action by the authorities of a country.
However, the same definition goes on to say:
It may also emanate from sections of the population that do not respect the standards established by the laws of the country concerned. A case in point may be religious intolerance, amounting to persecution, in a country otherwise secular, but where sizeable fractions of the population do not respect the religious beliefs of their neighbours. Where serious discriminatory or other offensive acts are committed by the local populace, they can be considered as persecution if they are knowingly tolerated by the authorities, or if the authorities refuse, or prove unable, to offer effective protection.
The violent persecution I’ve described on this blog and heard about in my discussions with people from these countries seems to fit this definition to me.
All this came from a Google search. I may have the wrong definitions. However, it does show that at least part of the United Nations definitions of persecution include situations such as those I have been writing about.
The reason I’m going over this is because I believe that people are being murdered, imprisoned and otherwise mistreated in large parts of the world today because they are Christians. If I am wrong about this, I want to know it.
If, on the other hand, I am right, I intend to persist in calling it out so long as it continues and I am able to say anything about it.
I am trying to understand how we can work around the intractability of legal definitions which narrow the meaning of persecution to the point that it allows things like these and does not call them by name.
Christian persecution in our world today seems to occur at junctures where competing ideas meet.
In the Middle East, the juncture is mostly between Islam and Christianity. In India, it is mostly between Hinduism and Christianity.
Atheists often claim that if we would just do away with faith, these types of bloody conflicts would end. But the juncture of competing ideas between Atheism and Christianity has proven just as bloody and even more oppressive in every government that has been dominated by atheists and atheist philosophy. Also, the people saying this ignore that they are themselves engaging in hazing, hate speech and other forms of attacks against Christians of a type that always leads to violent persecution if it goes unchecked.
Militant secularism in the West has become just as much a competing idea with Christianity as Islam and Hinduism is in the East. Militant secularists in America and Europe are quite aggressive in their verbal attacks against Christianity and Christians. They also have managed to pass laws which interfere with the practice of Christianity and the freedom of Christian churches to function. This move toward discriminatory laws appears to be gaining momentum as each new law is passed.
The specific junctures where Christianity runs into the most aggressive attacks varies from culture to culture. In the West, the movement right now is to strip Christianity and Christians of legal protections concerning their right to practice their faith, while at the same time creating ever-broadening restrictions on any expression of Christian thinking in public life.
We have prayer bans, attempts to either deface or destroy public monuments that mention God and constant threats and demands aimed at public Christians to refrain from mentioning God in conversation, debate or speeches. By far the most draconian expression of this move to destroy Christian influence in Western society is the HHS Mandate. This is an all-out government attack on the rights of religious institutions to follow the teachings of their faith.
This kind of secularism is distinct from the healthy secular society that most people, including me, support. Healthy secularism keeps government out of faith and allows people space to believe and practice their faith in peace and harmony. Militant secularism, is the antithesis to this.
Its practitioners use the tools of unjust discrimination to further their aims, including hate speech, verbal harassment, shunning, social isolation and legal discrimination to further their goal of driving those who don’t share their ideas from the public sphere. They also show up at religious discussions and try to take over the discussion and hijack the debate, thus making it impossible to religious people to interact in a positive manner. This is especially widespread in on-line discussions such as this blog.
All this tawdry behavior is done in the name of a utopian claim that if only religion were driven from the world, evil would go away along with it. One of the many debating tricks these people use is to hold God (who they say does not exist) guilty for human depravity. Thus, if children die of starvation, they ask why a “god” would allow this. If five men rape and torture a young girl, they condemn god for allowing it, not the five men for doing it.
Underlying this logic is an extreme disrespect for human freedom. This disrespect for human freedom manifests in their attempts to use the law, shunning, slander, and verbal hijacking to silence anyone who speaks about faith. They don’t believe that other ideas should be heard, and they use every tool available to them to stop this from happening. The things they try to blame on God are results of human freedom, used to sinful aims.
The question arises, what if they win? What if they succeed in driving faith and people of faith into intellectual and actual ghettos of silence and subservience? What kind of society will we have where the only people who can hold responsible jobs, ranging from government officials to medical personnel to court typists and clerks, are those who are willing to violate their faith and bend their knee to the secular god of license?
Will our society be better when the Churches either close their hospitals and schools and do away with their charitable organizations or recast those organizations to follow whatever the latest anti-Christian fashion dictates? Will our society improve when religious leaders are silenced and afraid to say one word about what they believe outside their sanctuaries?
Is the key to world peace, prosperity and endless harmony, simply a matter of destroying the civil and human rights of people of faith? That is the basic claim of militant secularists and atheists. Do away with religion and we will do away with sin.
What sort of world will we have if they succeed in their goals? Sadly, we already have a number of examples of what happens when religion is driven to ground in a society. All we have to do is consider the bloodbath of the 20th century. From Stalin to Pol Pot, we have a wide swath of godless governments to chose from in our consideration. If what they offer is utopia, I do not understand the word.
There are two ways of bringing religious faith under the government heel. The first is to suppress it, as the Communists, or those on the left, do. The other is to co-opt it as the Nazis and those on the right do.
If you want to see a fine example of government co-opting Christianity, look no further than the Third Reich. Hitler overtook and controlled Christianity, first by claims of phony fealty, and later by brute force. He didn’t shut down the churches, he twisted them to his own propaganda ends. This is a form of militant secularism that we ignore at our peril. I call it militant secularism because it puts government in control of the churches and destroys them just as surely as the secularism which seeks to end religion.
With either form of militant secularism, we end up with a tyranny of the mind which leads to human beings reduced to chattel which their government may dispose of as they wish. The end result of militant secularism appears to be slavery, misery and mass murder of millions.
Atheist governments are failed experiments in godless goodness. Rather than leading us to a utopia where freedom reigns, they inevitably take us to the pit, where freedom is abolished and murder becomes arbitrary.
Militant secularists promise us a brave new world with lots of drugs, sex and rock and roll. They teach us the moral value of killing and degrading with impunity with their support of abortion, euthanasia and medical experimentation on embryos, “designer” children, farming women for eggs to sell, drive to legalize prostitution and support of pornography. They trample the building blocks of society with their attacks on family and home.
They seek to gain power by selling us on the fun of participating in our own cultural suicide.
But what, when they gain power, do they actually give? A world in which people are without self-discipline is a world that requires severe government discipline. A world in which people do not value any life but their own becomes a world in which no life is safe. A world that admits of no power higher than brute force is a world in which the biggest and the meanest get to make all the rules.
Instead of freedom, the governments we find at the end of this yellow brick road of license are totalitarian and cruel. Instead of being expressions of our liberty, the abortion clinics and on-line sites where women are bought and sold are harbingers of our universal future in this world of godless goodness.
Atheist governments have been tried. Many millions of people have died in their goodness. Millions more have lived their lives as chattel slaves of the state.
It is time we exposed the lies at the core of these promises of a utopia for all of us if we just oppress religious people into silent subservience to the state. They are lies told by liars who are pied pipers of people who want what they want and do not care what or who they destroy to get it.
Representative Diane Black (R-TN), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and John Fleming, MD (R-LA) announced that they will introduce the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (HCCRA.)
It is bill number HR 940.
According to Rep Black’s website, HR 940, “offers reprieve from ongoing violations of our First Amendment, including full exemption from the Obama Administration’s Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate and conscience protection for individuals and health care entities that refuse to provide, pay for, or refer patients to abortion providers because of their deeply-held, reasoned beliefs. HCCRA has 50 original co-sponsors.”
Representative Black allowed individuals who have been harmed by the government’s attacks on freedom of religion to speak at the press conference announcing this bill. They were:
Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo, RN – New York State nurse who filed suit after her freedom to serve patients according to her conscience was violated. For more information, click here.
· Susan Elliott, PhD, Director and Professor at Biola University Nursing Department. For more information, click here.
· Christine Ketterhagen, Co-Owner/Board Member of Hercules Industries, Inc.; Andy Newland, President of Hercules Industries; Bill Newland, Chairman of the Board of Hercules Industries. For more information, click here
· Sister Jane Marie Klein, OSF, Chairperson of the Board of Franciscan Alliance, Inc. (in Mishawaka, IN). Franciscan Alliance is a co-plaintiff with the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
Representative Black’s website included the following provisions in the Health Care Conscience Act:
Under the health care coverage mandate issued on August 3, 2011, widely known as the HHS mandate, organizations and their managers are now facing potentially ruinous financial penalties for exercising their First Amendment rights, as protected by law. Hobby Lobby, a family business that was denied injunctive relief from the mandate and faces fines of up to $1.3 million dollars a day, unless its owners agree to fund potentially abortion-inducing drugs. If Hobby Lobby is forced to close its doors, some 25,000 jobs nationwide may disappear. The Obama Administration’s HHS mandate exemption only includes houses of worship and does not account for the thousands of religious and non-religious affiliated employers that find it a moral hazard to cover sterilization, contraception and potentially abortion-inducing drugs on their employer-based health insurance. Ultimately, the so-called “accommodation” does not protect anyone’s religious rights, because all companies and organizations will still be forced to provide insurance coverage that includes services which conflict with their religious convictions. The HCCRA would address this violation of our First Amendment rights by providing a full exemption for all those whose religious beliefs run counter to the Administration’s HHS mandate.
The HCCRA also protects institutions and individuals from forced or coerced participation in abortion. In recent years there have been several examples of nurses being told they must participate in abortions. There have also been efforts to require Catholic Hospitals to do abortions, and a Catholic social service provider was denied a grant to assist victims of human trafficking on the basis of their pro-life convictions. The HCCRA codifies and clarifies the appropriations provision known as the Hyde‐Weldon conscience clause. This is accomplished by adding the protections for health care entities that refuse to provide, pay for, or refer for abortion to the section of the Public Health Service Act known as the Coats Amendment. It also adds the option of judicial recourse for victims whose rights have been violated under the HCCRA, Coats, or the conscience clauses known as the Church amendments.
You can call your Congresspeople at 202-224-3121. Or you can find their email addresses here.