Supreme Court Oks Prayers Before Public Meetings

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In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled today that prayers said before the town council meetings in Greece, NY do not violate the Constitution.

Justice Kennedy wrote the majority decision which said in part that there is a historical precedent for opening legislative meetings with a prayer that the even though the prayers offered at the New York town’s council meetings were predominantly Christian in nature, they were not coercive but rather “evoked universal themes” such as “calling for a spirit of cooperation.”

From Today’s Catholic News:

Kennedy wrote that the “inclusion of a brief, ceremonial prayer as part of a larger exercise in civic recognition suggests that its purpose and effect are to acknowledge religious leaders and the institutions they represent, rather than to exclude or coerce nonbelievers.”

He said that unless the prayers “over time denigrate, proselytize or betray an impermissible government purpose” they will “not likely establish a constitutional violation.” He also wrote that because the town had followed a policy of nondiscrimination it was not required by the Constitution to search beyond its borders for those who could offer non-Christian prayers in an attempt to provide balance.

Martyred Priest: I Can’t Leave My People

Fr. Frans van der Lugt. Courtesy: Wael Salibi.

Fr Frans van der Lugt. Photo Source: Wael Salibi

The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. Jesus Christ

Father Frans van der Lugt, SJ refused to abandon his parish and people in the face of danger. He was the only priest who stayed when the area in Syria where he lived was overrun during the Syrian civil war.

“I can’t leave my people,” he said, “I can’t leave my church. I am director of this church, how can I leave them?”

Days before Father Lugt’s 76th birthday, an unknown gunman entered his church, beat him and shot him in the head.

From Catholic News Agency:

Days after Dutch priest Fr. Frans van der Lugt S.J. was murdered in Syria, a close young friend recalled his saintly life, noting both his personal holiness and extraordinary advances in Christian-Muslim relations.Wael Salibi, 26, recalled how when the Christian area in Homs was taken over by rebels, 66,000 of the faithful “left their home, and just few of them stayed there. He was the only priest, he stayed in his church.”

“Just months before he died, he said ‘I can’t leave my people, I can’t leave my church, I am director of this church, how can I leave them?’” Salibi told CNA on April 11.Salibi, who hails from the now-ravished city of Homs, grew up as a close friend and pupil of Fr. Frans, who was brutally killed on April 7.  Days before his 76th birthday, an unknown gunman entered his church, beat him and shot him in the head.For the past three years Syria has been embroiled in conflict which sprang up after citizens protested the rule of Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s president and leader the country’s Ba’ath Party

ABC News Apologizes after ‘Inadvertently’ Conflating Ex-Mozilla CEO with Westboro Baptist Church

Good Afternoon America

Do you believe this was “inadvertent?”

ABC News evidently ran a video of Westboro Baptist Church — complete with inflammatory signs about homosexuals — as they were reporting the story of Brendan Eich, former CEO of Mozilla.

Mr Eich resigned from his position with Mozilla, a company he founded, after being attacked for a $1,000 donation he had made to the Prop 8 campaign in 2008.

ABC later apologized, labeling the stunt, which appeared on Good Morning America, “inadvertent.”

I am not convinced by the “inadvertent” claim. The entire piece is smirky and biased, even without the video. I don’t know, of course, but I think the use of the video was deliberate.

I do know that if something like this happens again, the “inadvertent” excuse will be gone.

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From The Blaze:

Newsbusters’ Scott Whitlock has more background on the ABC story:Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich was fired earlier this month when it was revealed that he donated $1000 in 2008 to Proposition 8.

As Good Morning America reporter Linzie Janis explained the story on April 4, footage of the completely unrelated Westboro protesters holding “soldiers died 4 f*g marriage” signs appeared onscreen.

ABC News later posted the following editor’s note at the bottom of a story about Eich:The segment as originally aired on Good Morning America on April 4, 2014, and included on this page, has been updated to correct an error. Video of a demonstration by the Westboro Baptist Church, which is not connected to this story, was inadvertently used in the original segment. We apologize for the error and have removed that video.Instead of the Westboro protesters, the ABCNews.com video now features supporters of Proposition 8.

The network reportedly told the website that similar footage will not be used again in the future.Watch the video as it originally aired on ABC via Newsbusters here.

Chinese Christians Form Human Shield to Protect Church from Government Destruction

Chinese Christians form human shield for protect their church. Photo source: The Telegraph

Officials in China’s Communist government are denying that they are engaging in a campaign of systematic destruction of Christian churches.

They make this claim despite the fact that they have ordered the destruction of approximately a dozen churches. Churches in the Zhejiang province are reportedly facing either destruction or government-ordered removal of their crosses.

Christians who live in the province have responded courageously. They have formed human chains around the churches to prevent their destruction.

Even though officials deny a demolition campaign, the Communist Party’s provincial official in charge of religious affairs said publicly that the growth of Christianity was “too excessive and too haphazard.”

The interesting thing to me is how completely these government officials misunderstand the mustard seed of faith that is Christianity. It’s not now and never has been about church buildings. Christ grows in people’s hearts, not buildings.

They can tear down every church, and it will only serve to spread the Gospel further and faster.

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From The Telegraph:

Communist officials in China have denied waging a “demolition campaign” against churches in the country’s most Christian regions, after reportedly ordering a dozen to be destroyed.

The churches – in the eastern province of Zhejiang – are currently facing demolition or having their crosses removed, activists claim. Other churches are said to have been ordered to make themselves “less conspicuous” by turning their lights off at night.

Local preachers accuse Party officials in Zhejiang, a wealthy coastal province, of “gross interference” in Church affairs and have urged them to abandon what they believe is an orchestrated campaign.

Last week, Christians flocked to the Sanjiang church in Wenzhou – a rich port city known as the “Jerusalem of the East” because of its large Christian community – after its demolition was announced.

Officials denied launching a church demolition movement.

Christian Professor Awarded Back Pay, Promotion for Violation of His First Amendment Rights

“No individual loses his ability to speak as a private citizen by virtue of his public employment.”

That comes from a 2011 opinion of the 4th Circuit US Court of Appeals decision on a lawsuit filed by Dr Mike Adams. Dr Adams is a professor in criminology at the University of North Caroline-Wilmington.

He filed suit when university officials refused him a promotion to a full professorship. The suit claimed that this was due to his change of personal beliefs after conversion from atheism to Christianity.

When the university hired Dr Adams in 1993, he was an atheist. He received accolades from his colleagues and was promoted to associate professor 1998.

Dr Adams converted to Christianity in 2000, which affected his views on political and social issues. According to CharismaNews, “the university subjected Adams to a campaign of academic persecution that culminated in the denial of his promotion to full professorship, despite an award-winning record of teaching, research and service.”

Now a federal court has ordered the University of North Caroline-Wilmington to promote Dr Adams to the rank of full professor and pay him $50,000 in back pay.

Christian converts who come from more politicized environments often experience painful changes in the way they are treated by colleagues. Christian conversion can lead to the loss of old friendships and promotions, even here in the USA.

The court’s decision is an important one that hopefully will curb the harassment of people in public life who express opinions that run contrary to politically correct cant.

Now, if we can only develop First Amendment protections for those in the corporate environment.

Note: Public Catholic reader Peggy-O found this link to Dr Adams’ personal response to a bit of what he was subjected to. It’s well worth a read.

Resisting the New Blacklist

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There’s a new blacklist.

Its members are anyone who dares to oppose gay marriage, or gay behavior of any sort. The punishment, even for icons of the tech industry, is to have their careers deep-sixed; all in the name of “inclusiveness” and “tolerance.”

We have reached the point that these very fine words, inclusiveness and tolerance, have become the tools of a new totalitarianism that strikes at freedom of expression, freedom of political action and freedom of religion for every American.

This blacklist is the opposite of freedom. It is absolute intolerance. It is the apogee of exclusiveness.

It is bigoted, biased, hate-filled, discriminatory and totalitarian.

It is the ghost of Jim Crow, the shade of McCarthy, walking alive again among us today.

It has no place in a free society.

I’ve written numerous blog posts decrying it, including this one yesterday. Elizabeth Scalia wrote a post yesterday, calling on the gay community to speak out in support of freedom. Hopefully, at least a few people in that community will have the courage to break ranks and do so.

I deleted Mozilla Firefox from my computer.

I am going to get a lot more active in working for the First Amendment rights of Christians, but I need to pray and think before I decide exactly how. I will do this after session adjourns this year. It will almost certainly mean that I take a few days off from blogging.

I made a small donation to the National Organization for Marriage. It’s the first of a recurring donation.

I urge you to consider how you can take a stand against the blacklisting of people for their religious beliefs and completely legal, private and peaceful political activities. At the very least, take Firefox off your computers and donate a few dollars to the National Organization for Marriage. Even a $10 donation helps, especially if you give it every month.

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Mozilla CEO Steps Down Over Donating $1,000 for Prop 8

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Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich resigned from his position with Mozilla. He also resigned from his position as board member of the corporate foundation.

The crime which forced his resignation? He donated $1,000 to the 2008 campaign to pass Proposition 8.

Can you imagine if the shoe was on the other foot?

What if, say, a Vice President at a Catholic school was asked to resign because he had “married” his male partner in direct violation of the contract he had signed with the school; a school he presumably knew was Catholic when he went to work there?

These “haters,” meaning the Catholic school, would be lambasted, excoriated, picketed, petitioned and, of course sued.

But a private citizen who is the CEO of a publicly held corporation who exercises his free right to participate in a public election by making a legal donation of what, for him, is the minuscule sum of $1,000?

Nope.

Huh-uh.

Not having it.

As Mozilla put it in its pretentious little press release,

Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn’t live up to it. We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: it’s because we haven’t stayed true to ourselves.

We didn’t act like you’d expect Mozilla to act. We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry. We must do better.

Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech. Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard.

Our organizational culture reflects diversity and inclusiveness. We welcome contributions from everyone regardless of age, culture, ethnicity, gender, gender-identity, language, race, sexual orientation, geographical location and religious views.

Mozilla supports equality for all.

Yeah Mozilla, you support inclusiveness. And the Titanic sails into New York Harbor tomorrow morning.

The Mozilla in question is Mozilla Firefox.

You know.

The web browser that can be replaced by a whole host of other browsers.

The web browser I’ve deleted from my computer in the name of free elections.

This isn’t about gay marriage, per se. The computer I’m typing on is made by Apple, and they came out against Prop 8 on their web site. I never considered switching to another computer because of it. I didn’t agree with them about Prop 8, but it was their right to disagree with me and I knew it.

The issue here is the First Amendment right of Americans to petition their government, including by means of making donations to causes and issues they believe in, without fear of organized reprisals from a bunch of — here comes the word folks — haters.

This whole thing is getting awfully close to pressuring, bullying and threatening people about how they vote in an election. In fact, I’m pretty sure that if it wasn’t for the secret ballot, that’s exactly what the “equality” for us, “inclusiveness” for us, but not for anyone else crowd would be doing right now.

I am making a donation to the National Organization for Marriage after I publish this post. It’s a matter of protest in one of the two ways that I can protest. I’ve already done the other by removing Firefox from my computer.

If you want to harass me about it, you can find me at this blog, or just look for my name at the Oklahoma House of Representatives. If you do decide to harass me, you won’t get much for your time. You see, I don’t care.

Meet the President They Said …

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Source: Photobucket

 

This was Pope Francis’ tweet a couple of days after meeting President Obama. I wonder if there’s any connection?

We live in a society that leaves no room for God; day by day this numbs our hearts.

 

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Source: Photobucket

It turns out, that the Pope backed the US Bishops in his discussions with our president. Hopefully, something got through.

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Is Religious Freedom Threatened? Duhhh … Is This a Trick Question?

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When the roll is called down yonder, we’ll all line up according to our politics.

At least that appears to be the situation regarding the answers to the question of whether or not religious freedom is threatened.

There’s a lot of gas expended on this question, and most of it falls so predictably into political camps that the answers look more like responses to a roll call than genuine thinking.

Liberal Democrats, say no, of course not; only ignorant fools think so. Liberal Protestants, who are also almost entirely liberal Democrats, say no; only bigots who want to cling to their bigotry say yes. Conservative Republicans say yes; only liberal flat-liners who’ve sold this country out doubt it. Conservative Protestants, who are becoming more and more a solidified conservative Republican front, say yes; only weak Christians think otherwise.

Catholics? As the religious group that is Liberal Democrats, Conservative Republicans and every single thing in between, all sitting around the same table, we answer, yes/no/what did you say? and whatever.

So what do I, a decidedly liberal Democrat who is also a decidedly devout Catholic, say?

Before I answer that, I’m going to narrow that question to whether or not religious freedom is threatened in United States of America. I think the answer for much of the rest of the world is so obviously yes that those who doubt it fall into the same intellectual space as holocaust deniers.

Even when I narrow the question to the United States, I am tempted to reply … Duhhhh … Is this a trick question?

Rather than go for the golden one-word/one-off, you’ve-got-to-be-kidding answer, let’s review the obvious, public and undeniable facts.

What did the Supreme Court do this week?

It heard three cases brought before it by people who feel so strongly that their religious freedom is being violated that they are willing to risk their businesses and life’s work to stand against it. These are not rabble rousers. They are stable, quiet, pillars-of-the-community types, who normally eschew both litigation and the spotlight. They are the people who are the foundations of this country.

These people didn’t want to be part of a Supreme Court case. They were backed into this position by an overweening government that is so bent on enforcing an agency regulation that infringes on religious liberty that it is willing to precipitate a Constitutional crisis to do it.

What is happening in court rooms all over this country? We have mom and pop businesspeople — again quiet, apolitical, non-litigious, pillars of the community types — who are being forced to risk their livelihoods rather than violate their religious beliefs. This is happening because of overweening government force.

Not one of these people wanted to do this. Not one of them is the type who loves standing in front of microphones and sounding off. Every single one of them is putting their livelihoods on the line to stand for what they believe against a government that has taken hubris as its operating standard.

According to court testimony by administration attorneys, the fiction that is driving these government attacks on religious liberty is a deliberate narrowing of the First Amendment. Instead of religious freedom that applies to every man, woman and child in this great nation, the Obama Administration is seeking to shoe-horn it into the box of a narrow “freedom of worship.” In other words, keep your faith behind the closed doors of church sanctuaries, or suffer government-mandated penalties.

The standard argument against all this is either a stubborn sophistry which simply denies the obvious, or an insulting version of the hayseed argument. The hayseed argument goes like this: We sophisticates in the know understand that these hayseeds out in the hustings are deluded fools for thinking that their rights are being violated. We morally superior denizens of right-thinking also know that the hayseeds in the hustings are so blighted morally that their outdated ideas of religious fealty need to be shut down for a greater good that is defined by — you guessed it — us.

The hayseed argument, stupid and arrogant as it is, is actually the driving argument behind all these initiatives against individual freedom. It is the insider’s view of what they think is outsider foolishness for opposing the obviously higher morality and wisdom of their betters.

A slightly different version of the hayseed argument is the moral ingrate argument. It goes something like this: Moral imperatives which have been discovered in the last five years require that the moral ingrates of this country abandon their claims to religious freedom in order to serve the higher morality that we sophisticates have fashioned for ourselves and which we are going to use government force to enforce on everyone else.

The hayseed and moral ingrate arguments often overlap in actual practice. Sometimes they merge. The subtle difference between them is that one appeals to the pretension of moral superiority on the part of those who purvey it, and the other feeds their pretensions of intellectual superiority. Both arguments are at base a pose and a sham that have far more to do with bell-jar/echo-chamber thinking than anything approaching reality.

There is one other argument that surfaces in these discussions. That is the every-kid-in-China argument. This one is familiar to mothers of previous generations who were faced with recalcitrant children who wouldn’t eat their veggies. You know: The every kid in China would love to have that spinach on your plate, so you’d better eat it argument.

Applied to the question of attacks on religious freedom in America today, it goes something like this. Christians in other parts of the world are suffering real persecution. They are being burnt, beheaded, raped, imprisoned and tortured. So how dare you complain about government oppression of your little rights?

The irony is that this particular argument is usually advanced by someone who, in other contexts, does everything they can to deny and minimize the horror of Christian persecution.

I’m going to circle back here and take another look at the original question: Is religious freedom threatened in America today?

The answer is, of course. That’s obvious. The parsing — and that’s all it is — runs along lines of party affiliation and prejudice.

 

Note: This post is my reply to the discussion about Patheos’ Public Square Question: Is Religious Freedom Threatened? 

Hobby Lobby Founders Discuss the Supreme Court Arguments on the HHS Mandate

I’m not going to do a post mortem on the arguments the Supreme Court heard on the Hobby Lobby/HHS Mandate case.

I won’t give you a run-down of which justice twitched, which one pulled his or her earlobe and who coughed. Trying to divine how the Court will rule by studying the questions justices asked and the expressions on their faces has become a kind of sport, like handicapping a horserace. Only it’s not nearly so accurate.

I think we would know just as much about what they’re going to do if we slaughtered a goat and studied its entrails.

Besides, I’m too nervous about this one to do that. The Court hasn’t exactly been a friend to people with traditional Christian values for a long time now. In fact, the Court has made itself the architect of this brave new baby-killing, marriage-is-meaningless world we inhabit. To a great extent the whole social mess is of the Supreme Court’s devising.

But this decision is one of the really big ones. Will we be free after this ruling?

It depends.

On how they rule.

The Court can destroy religious freedom with this ruling. It can also do as it did with the gay marriage ruling last summer and just put out a row of dominoes for others to knock over and destroy it in succeeding months.

What are the chances that the Supreme Court will actually rule in favor of religious freedom?

Will we be free after this ruling?

It depends.

On them.

 

The owners of Hobby Lobby spoke about yesterday’s arguments before the Supreme Court. Here is what they said.

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