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.

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

Rep Todd Russ, Oklahoma House File Photo

Rep Todd Russ, Oklahoma House File Photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 1

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Duncan Harris https://www.flickr.com/photos/duncanh1/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Duncan Harris https://www.flickr.com/photos/duncanh1/

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Rev 12: 17 – 18

A Novena is a nine-day prayer. The idea behind a nine-day prayer comes from the prayers of the Disciples, along with Our Lady, before Pentecost. It is also based on the Jesus’ many admonitions in the Gospels to pray to God the Father for our needs without ceasing.

It sometimes sounds in the Scriptures as if Jesus is telling us to nag God. His parables about the man who will not stop asking his neighbor to get up and give him bread and the reluctant judge tell us frankly that God responds to our repeated requests.

Another example in Scripture is Abraham, interceding for Sodom and Gomorra. He repeatedly asked God to spare the city if a certain number of righteous people were found there. Each time, God granted Abraham’s request, and each time Abraham asked again, this time with a lower number of righteous people. He finally received the promise that God would spare the cities if only 10 righteous people were found in them.

Sadly, there were not even that many.

However, the principle of praying repeatedly is well established in scripture.

The position that St Michael the Archangel occupies in the heavenly host is also well established. He is God’s warrior, the defender against Satan. I quoted one scripture about Michael above. But there are others scattered throughout scripture. Daniel refers to him several times in ways that show quite clearly that St Michael is our defender against the devil, as well as heaven’s.

Pope Leo XIII composed a powerful prayer to St Michael the Archangel that begins St Michael the Archangel, defend us in the day of battle after he was given a vision of the evils to come in the 20th Century.

It appears that these 20th Century evils have taken root in human society and are expanding and bearing much evil fruit after their kind in the 21st Century, as well. Among these are the increasing and widespread violent persecution of Christians. Our brothers and sisters in Christ suffer every indignity possible in this life, including martyrdom.

This is happening today, right now.

In this Lenten season, let’s commit ourselves to a Nine Day Novena for our brothers and sisters in Christ who suffering and dying for His name. It seems the least we can do.

I chose the Novena to St Michael the Archangel because he is our protector against the devil. These attacks against Christians and Christianity are coming straight from Satan. As usually happens, he is not sending an army of demonic creatures to do his bidding. His army on this earth is almost always sin-sick human beings who are following the darkness rather than the light.

Most of these people don’t know who they are following. It is not necessary to give knowing assent to follow Satan. All you have to do to follow him is do his work and speak for his desires in this world.

The prayer that Pope Leo XIII composed has always seemed like a kind of exorcism to me; an exorcism that we all can access by simply asking St Michael to do the exorcising for us.

The Novena I’ve chosen for us to pray is the Novena to St Michael. It is almost eerie in the way it fits the persecution Christians are facing today.

I will post it every morning, beginning today, for nine days. Please pray it with the rest of us faithfully.

I took the liberty of choosing an intention for all of us. I pray for the conversion of the world, that from pole to pole, dateline to dateline, all with call out Jesus’ name.

Here is the Novena to St Michael.

Glorious Saint Michael,
guardian and defender
of the Church of Jesus Christ,
come to the assistance of His followers,
against whom the powers of hell are unchained.
Guard with special care our Holy Father,
the Pope, and our bishops, priests,
all our religious and lay people,
and especially the children.

Saint Michael,
watch over us during life,
defend us against the assaults of the demon,
and assist us especially at the hour of death.
Help us achieve the happiness
of beholding God face to face
for all eternity.

Amen.

Saint Michael,
intercede for me with God
in all my necessities,
especially

for the conversion of the world, 
that from pole to pole, 
dateline to dateline, 
all will call out Jesus' name. 

Obtain for me a favourable outcome
in the matter I recommend to you.
Mighty prince of the heavenly host,
and victor over rebellious spirits,
remember me for I am weak and sinful
and so prone to pride and ambition.
Be for me, I pray,
my powerful aid in temptation and difficulty,
and above all do not forsake me
in my last struggle with the powers of evil.

Amen.
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Are Wealthy US Foundations Paying to Suppress Religious Freedom?

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

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

Are wealthy US foundations paying to suppress religious freedom?

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

From Catholic News Agency:

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Now this makes sense.

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

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

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

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

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

From The Christian Post:

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

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

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

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

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

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Oklahoma Legislators Take Aim at Gay Marriage

 

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

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

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

Representative Sally Kern has introduced 3 bills:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bromance Aside, Obama Speaks for Religious Freedom, Women, in India

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. Official White House Photo.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. Official White House Photo.

President Obama made some tough comments in a speech he gave during his visit to India. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had previous pulled out all the stops by greeting President Obama with a hug when he first arrived, and then issuing gushy statements about the “chemistry” between himself and our president.

President Obama has promised 4 billion in investment and aid to India. But along with that came a speech in which he stated that India needs religious freedom and that an Indian woman should “be able to go about her day — to walk the street or ride a bus — and be safe and treated with the respect and dignity she deserves.”

From Quartz India:

“Nowhere is it going to be more necessary to uphold religious faith than in India. India will succeed so long as it is not splintered on religious lines,” Obama said.

“Your Article 25 (of the Constitution) says that all people are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion. Every person has the right to practice their religion and beliefs and not practice it if they choose so without any persecution,” he added.

 In his 2010 town hall address, the US president had spoken of religion mainly in reply to a question on jihad and the distortion of Islam by extremists.

Obama was also much more vocal on women’s issues, unlike last time.

“A measure of a country’s success depends on how it treats its women. Nations are more successful when their women are successful. Every woman should be able to go about her day—to walk the street or ride the bus—and be safe and be treated with the respect and dignity that she deserves,” Obama said on Jan. 27.

The allusion to the brutal Dec. 2012 gang rape of a 23-year-old girl in New Delhi was clear.

“Our nations are strongest when we uphold the equality of all our people and that includes our women,” he added.

 

 

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Bromance Between President Obama and Indian Prime Minister: Why?

It appears that there’s a budding bromance between India’s Prime Minister and President Barack Obama.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted our president at the airport with a big bear hug and then went on to describe the “chemistry” and “strong friendship” between himself and President Obama.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. Image Courtesy Neandra Modi. https://www.flickr.com/photos/narendramodiofficial/9039861979/in/photolist-eLPE2i-npscG7-f59eLP-njjvAJ-eUqUhS-ff5PKT-nuoKVb-f15Avt-fmY7xF-fSkW72-k6ASGB-hs71mQ-njDeos-njhpNL-nwt6rU-npsk9J-gbmW19-k6CUY4-f15AtR-hs7fwx-hs78Tn-grtCo1-nyi7Wm-k6Cog2-nKWo5c-grtBYU-hs66Ne-mnReJy-nwsXwW-nps7Cj-nuoGnE-neWQkv-nwsSVm-neWG6B-nwsWeA-nDU3tj-kMqWZd-kMpEHY-nwrnvx-ffk5sj-f9TX9T-gksSwt-f9TYQk-hs7qfR-f9TWWa-f5otXh-fa9bvU-ntrLmW-eUewjB-kMobUx

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. Image Courtesy Neandra Modi.

Prime Minister Modi is leader of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is described as the Hindu nationalist party. His election raised fears that he would  undermine religious freedom in India.

He was banned from entry to the United States for several years because of his connection to religious-based, sectarian violence, in particular the Gujarat riots of 2002. He was also the subject of a Congressional resolution asking the president to continue the ban on his entry into the United States.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. Official White House Photo.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. Official White House Photo.

As always with politics, it’s wise to look at these displays of affection between two people who do not know one another and who carry the power of heads of state with a critical eye. How does Prime Minister Modi stand to benefit from his bromance with our president?

I’m not in any way criticizing President Obama for making this trip to India. World leaders need to talk, and for better or worse, Narendra Modi is now a world leader.

But I want Public Catholic readers to think past the superficial headlines to the real political reasons underneath them.

 

Update: President Obama ended his visit to India by pledging 4 billion dollars in investments and loans to help “tap” India’s “potential.”

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ISIS and the Braggadocio of Serial Killers

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons, by Aia Fernandez, https://www.flickr.com/photos/99566311@N06/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons, by Aia Fernandez, https://www.flickr.com/photos/99566311@N06/

ISIS is organized murder’s answer to every lone serial killer who yearns for recognition.

Just like Ted Bundy who famously claimed that when he killed someone he “felt like God,” and John Wayne Gacy who denied wrongdoing by saying “I didn’t kill anybody, I just took out the trash,” ISIS is proud of what they do and will tell anybody that there’s nothing wrong with it.

ISIS connects its murderous behavior with Islam and makes the claim that ISIS is the sole arbiter of what is Islam. They are just as eager to kill other Muslims who don’t bend the knee to their satanic interpretation of faith as they are to kill Christians and members of other faiths.

ISIS is satanic. They are organized, well-funded serial killers, and like all serial killers, they style themselves as something much different from the measly little nothings that they really are. Also like most serial killers, they love the spotlight. They want to be recognized for the monsters they are. Like their master, they enjoy the terror, horror and rage they cause. That’s a big part of the pay-back for sending themselves to hell.

Not content with horrifying the West, ISIS has now released a tape of themselves, murdering a bound and helpless Japanese prisoner named Haruna Yukawa. As usual, they displayed another Japanese prisoner, Kenji Goto, who they say they will kill next. This is undoubtedly an attempt to extort money from the Japanese government to buy the remaining prisoner’s release.

I know that many Muslims are shamed and outraged by ISIS. I hope that all good people of every faith can unite in putting them down, hard. We need to end ISIS, and there should be no legal amnesty for those who have aligned themselves with them. I think we should hunt those who have supported ISIS with their money, and who have journeyed to join them in their killing, to the ground. If it takes decades, we should track them down, every one of them, and put them before the bar.

ISIS is serial killing on an international scale. The whole world needs to unite in ending it.

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