Fortnight for Freedom: Defending Religious Liberty on Wednesday, June 25, 2014

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The jury’s out on our religious freedoms.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

We’re all waiting to see what the Supreme Court does to us or for us in their decision on Sebelius v Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. 

The Supremes are going to hand down a decision on this case soon, and the stakes are enormous.

What will the First Amendment mean next month, after they’ve spoken? How much freedom will we have to practice our faith? Will we be forced to make choices between shucking our faith when we step out the door of our churches? Is the Supreme Court going to take a giant step toward pushing faith out of the public square? Or will it uphold the First Amendment rights of Americans to practice their faith in public?

At issue is the question of whether or not the infamous HHS Mandate will be allowed to force Christian employers to provide funds, either directly or indirectly, for abortifacients and abortion. In other words, can the government force people to participate in murder?

On this day, Wednesday, June 25, 2014, I am going to suggest that you participate in the Fortnight for Freedom by following the links here to read about the case and then say a prayer.

From the Christian Post:

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Protesters pray at the steps of the Supreme Court as arguments begin today to challenge the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers provide coverage for contraception as part of an employee’s health care, in Washington March 25, 2014. The U.S. Supreme Court convened on Tuesday to consider whether business owners can object on religious grounds to a provision of President Barack Obama’s healthcare law requiring employers to provide health insurance that covers birth control.

An attorney involved in a Supreme Court case that will determine to what extent privately owned businesses can opt-out of providing certain types of birth control for religious reasons believes there are “‘high stakes” involved in the outcome.

Matt Bowman, senior counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom, has served as an attorney for Conestoga Woods Specialties, who alongside Hobby Lobby, have sued the federal government to be exempt from the Health and Human Services’ “preventive services mandate” that requires businesses to cover birth control that can lead to the early termination of a pregnancy.

“The stakes are very high in the Conestoga and Hobby Lobby case,” explained Bowman regarding the First Amendment implications in the lawsuit. “It involves fundamental issues of whether or not religious freedom belongs to every American, and whether the government can redefine freedom to force citizens to buy abortion pills for other people.”

Fortnight for Freedom: Defending Religious Liberty on Tuesday, June 24, 2014

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We are in the Fortnight for Freedom.

This annual event is sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. It’s purpose is to promote an awareness of the threats to religious liberty in America today, and to encourage Catholics in every walk of life to stand up for our precious freedom of religion.

Freedom of religion is one of the cornerstones in the great American experiment in government of, by and for the people. Without religious freedom, all other freedoms are meaningless.

So.

What one thing can you and I do today, Tuesday, June 24, 2014, to stand for religious liberty?

You are already doing something important by reading this blog post and informing yourself about the issue.

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For today’s action on behalf religious freedom, I’m going to suggest that we turn our attention overseas, to a part of the world where religious freedom is considered anathema. In particular, I am asking you to contact the Sudanese Embassy in Washington DC on behalf of Meriam Ibrahim.

Mrs Ibrahim was sentenced to death for the crime of marrying a Christian. She was 8 months pregnant at the time. The Sudanese court freed her yesterday. She and her family were re-arrested the airport today.

Email, call or write the Sudanese Embassy and tell them that you support Mrs Ibrahim and request that the Sudanese government release both her and her family.

You can contact the Sudanese Embassy by email here.

You can contact the Sudanese Embassy by phone or letter here:

Embassy Of The Republic Of Sudan
2210 Massachusetts Ave
Washington DC,20008,
Ph: 202.338.8565
Fax: 202.667.2406

From Deacon Greg: Meriam Ibrahim has Been Arrested Again

Deacon Greg has the story.

Meriam Ibrahim has been arrested again, one day after being freed by the Sudanese courts.

Mrs Ibrahim was sentenced to death for apostasy because she married a Christian. Her father is Muslim, but she was raised by her Christian mother. She and her husband have been married for a number of years and have two children, including the baby Mrs Ibrahim was carrying when she received the death sentence.

Her attorney, Elshareef Ali Mohammed, said that he was at the airport with Mrs Ibrahim and her family when a group of 50 security forces arrested both her and her family.

If you would like to protest this action, you can contact the Sudanese embassy at this phone number and address.

Embassy Of The Republic Of Sudan
2210 Massachusetts Ave
Washington DC,20008,
Ph: 202.338.8565
Fax: 202.667.2406

Sudanese Court Orders Release of Meriam Ibrahim, Who was Sentenced to Death for Her Christian Faith

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SUNA, Sudan’s official news agency, says that the Court of Cassation in Khartoum has canceled the death sentence against Meriam Ibrahim. The court has also ordered her release.

Miss Ibrahim, who has a Muslim father, was raised by her Christian mother. She was convicted of apostasy for marrying a Christian and given a death sentence. She was 8 months pregnant at the time.

For more details, go to Fox News.

Salutorian Puts Jesus in His Graduation Speech, In Spite of School Censorship

Photo Source: Desert News

Brooks Hamby’s high school graduation speech got kicked back three times. The reason? He persisted in talking about his faith.

Evidently, Mr Hamby eventually submitted a draft that was approved. But it turned out the censorship was all for naught. When I watched the video below, it sounded to me like Mr Hamby gave the first couple of lines from his approved speech, then shifted to remarks the administration knew nothing about.

“I presented three drafts of my speech,” he said, “all of them denied on account of my desire to share with you my personal thoughts and inspiration to you: My faith in Jesus Christ.”

You can hear a murmur from the crowd and sense consternation on the dais behind him as he continued.

Rumors have evidently circulated that the school denied Mr Hamby his diploma, but according to an interview he gave the Desert News, this is not true. But he did say that the school and their attorney’s told him they would shut off the microphone if he gave a speech mentioning Jesus.

Here is the text of the letter the school district sent him before he gave his speech. This letter is a lot of force to bring down on a graduating high school senior. I think Mr Hamby showed remarkable courage. How many of us would have the guts to do the same?

Based on District legal counsel opinion referencing two 9th Circuit Appellate Court cases, any aspect of a graduation speech that makes reference to Jesus and prayer is inappropriate and violates prevailing legal standards. The first and second draft speeches proposed oppose government case law and are a violation of the constitution. The District is advising you that reference to religious content is inappropriate and that the two drafts provided will not be allowed. If you choose to move forward with a differentiated speech that interjects religious content, the sound will be cut off, and a disclaimer to the entire audience must be made explaining the District’s position.

For more details, check out the Desert News.

Here is the video:

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For 2,000 Years, Catholics have Risked Their Lives Just to be at Mass

I have nothing to add to this video. Watch it and be blessed.

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If You Want to Read the Commission’s Order to the Colorado Baker, Here It Is

This post concerning the egregious violation of the First Amendment rights of Colorado baker Jack Phillips has garnered quite a few comments.

A number of those comments have contained partial quotes from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s order requiring Mr Phillips to undergo court-ordered brain-washing, ie, “staff training.” The order also included demands that he re-write his business’ policy and file quarterly reports.

Here, for those who are interested, is a photo of the original order in its entirety.

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Sensitivity Training for Supporters of Traditional Marriage vs Chairman Mao’s Re-education Camps. How Do They Differ?

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Americans have long deplored “thought police” and “re-education camps” in Communist regimes.

We have thumped our chests and demanded human rights for those in other climes. We have been appalled by the violations of the basic civil rights of their citizens by totalitarian states; rights that we took for granted. These governments seemed and actually were hell bent on enforcing emotional/moral/social conformity at the price of individual liberty, religious freedom and the rights of free speech and thought.

Americans have practically written the book on condemnation of such actions by other governments against their hapless citizens.

So, why are we doing the same thing to our citizens?

I’ll be first to admit that sensitivity training is less violent and draconian than marching people through the streets in front of jeering crowds and then consigning them to re-education camps for years. But the difference is a matter of degree. The underlying principle of government-enforced mind control is the same.

In fact, the re-education meetings in which people denounce one another and confess to their lack of revolutionary fervor that are conducted by these same regimes seem eerily close to sensitivity training as it’s currently being used by our courts and various “civil rights commissions.”

I started thinking about this because of the court-ordered abuse of the civil rights of Jack Phillips. Mr Phillips is the owner of what must be the only bakery in Colorado. He is also a new social and economic Christian martyr.

As so often happens with the people who turn out to be the real heroes, Mr Phillips seems an unlikely candidate for the title. He’s a small businessman, a baker by trade, just trying to make an honest living. He didn’t go out looking for trouble. He’s no grenade-throwing political activist with a vast talk-show following. He doesn’t wear $1,000 suits and he probably hasn’t had a single voice lesson to prepare him for his new life in the public sphere.

He’s a baker. He owns a bakery. He makes donuts and apple fritters and stuff.

So how did Jack Phillips the baker become a Christian martyr?

It’s simple. He refused to violate his faith.

He didn’t, mind you, bother or even try to engage anyone else. He simply followed his own beliefs by living them in his own life with his own actions. These beliefs led him to refuse to bake a cake for a gay wedding. And that made him the target of the culture cops.

Because, you see, wedding cakes are a human right. Religious freedom, not so much.

That is the question here, not wedding cakes, but religious freedom. I am not advocating for a particular position by Christians on the great cake-baking question. I am advocating for the right of free Americans to follow their faith without being forced into re-education (brain-washing) as punishment for doing so.

The cake-baking issue is distinct by virtue of the pettiness of the demands of those who want to coerce others on the one hand and the enormity of the principle involved in the actions of those who resist on the other. The extra issue of forcing people into re-education for practicing their faith is also enormous. And chilling.

I can only surmise that the offended parties couldn’t find any other baker in the whole state of Colorado to bake their cake. Why else would they drop all the lovey-dovey premarital stuff and spend their time dragging Mr Phillips into court? It’s not like he refused them service. They could have bought all the donuts and cupcakes they wanted. He refused to bake a cake for this one specific purpose, which was against his religious beliefs.

But in the brave new world of government-enforced political correctness, acting on religious beliefs by living them is not allowed. No one is allowed to believe and adhere to a morality except the group morality of the almighty politically-correct zeitgeist. It appears that violation of this bit of absolute totalitarianism is a new kind of crime, and by that I mean a literal, criminal act.

After going through all the good times that everyone who has ever been in a courtroom knows all too well, Mr Phillips found himself guilty as charged of being publicly Christian. I believe the specific legal verbiage was a tad different from that, but that’s what it amounted to.

He has been court-ordered to bake the blasted cake and — get ready for this — go to “sensitivity training,” and send his entire staff to the same training, where, presumably, they will get their brains washed out and cleaned of any remaining individual thinking. He’s also supposed to re-write his company policies to reflect the values he’s been ordered to learn to believe.

On top of that, he has to submit quarterly reports to Colorado’s “Civil Rights Commission” (which seems an odd name for this group) to prove that he’s baking up a storm for gay weddings everywhere.

How does this differ from Chairman Mao’s re-education camps? By degree. How does it differ from governments forcing people to attend re-education groups? You got me.

And, since this sort of government bullying of private citizens was unthinkable not so very long ago, I tend to regard that matter of degree as a moving dot on the line toward totalitarianism.

Mr Phillips, for his part, says he’s not going to change his company policies. “My God is bigger than any bullies they’ve got,” he said.

As for the sensitivity training designed to rehabilitate Mr Phillips into believing what the government demands he believe, that may not work out, either. “My 87-year-old mom works here, and she says she’s not going to be rehabilitated,” he said.

When quizzed about how he would respond if the Supreme Court of the United States orders him to bake the cake and get his brain washed out, he said, “There’s civil disobedience. We’ll see what happens. I’m not giving up my faith. Too many people have died for this faith to give it up that easily.”

This is left-wing-nut totalitarianism. But we can’t get away from it by a blind flight to the right. There’s plenty of right-wing-nut totalitarianism, too. Blindly empowering either one of them is going to do us in.

The real answer is up to his elbows in flour in a bakery in Colorado. Ordinary people who will not compromise their faith and are willing to take the hits involved in standing for Jesus are the answer. We have to say “no.” And by “we” I mean all of us pew-sitting Christians who’ve been going along to get along.

Because extraordinary ordinary people like Jack Phillips are the only real heroes there are.

 

The video below discusses the way that Christians are being blocked from certain professions for holding traditional Christian beliefs. It also gives us the example of another brave person who is standing for her beliefs in the face of enormous government pressure; in this case from a government-funded university.

 

Benham Brothers: “If Our Faith Cost Us the Show, So Be It.”

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The Benham brothers have issued a statement concerning the cancellation of their show by HGTV.

HGTV has joined the line of corporations and other enterprises which is limiting employment according to the dictates of the politically correct police. There is a tendency to label the people on the two sides of this debate as either “liberal” or “conservative” or, sometimes, as “right-wing” or “left-wing.” But in truth, these liberals are no more liberals than today’s neo-cons are conservatives.

It would be far better to use correct language to talk about them. The extreme sides of the political divide are both totalitarian liars and bullies. They are both, each in their own way, the enemies of human freedom and human dignity. They have a lot more in common with one another than they do with the rest of us.

However, the Benham brothers, who were fired for holding political and social viewpoints that run afoul of the received wisdom of a group called “Right Wing Watch,” have reacted to the situation with courage, grace and a dignity of their own.

Here is their statement (emphasis mine):

“The first and last thought on our minds as we begin and end each day is; have we shined Christ’s light today? Our faith is the fundamental calling in our lives, and the centerpiece of who we are. As Christians we are called to love our fellow man. Anyone who suggests that we hate homosexuals or people of other faiths is either misinformed or lying. Over the last decade, we’ve sold thousands of homes with the guiding principle of producing value and breathing life into each family that has crossed our path, and we do not, nor will we ever discriminate against people who do not share our views.” 

“We were saddened to hear HGTV’s decision. With all of the grotesque things that can be seen and heard on television today you would think there would be room for two twin brothers who are faithful to our families, committed to biblical principles, and dedicated professionals. If our faith costs us a television show then so be it.”

I am heartened by the Benham brother’s reaction to the unjust way in which they lost their job. McCarthyism is back and we have a new blacklist. It looks like this thing is just gathering steam. Christians in all walks of life may end up being blacklisted by the politically correct cops as time rolls forward.

For myself, I’ve now had a week with no HGTV. That’s a change for me. I’ve spent a lot of time, watching HGTV. It’s an easy channel to flip on when I have a few minutes and need to unwind. Because of the nature of its programming, I can enjoy it without committing a large block of time to it.

And, I am interested in homey stuff like what color to paint a wall.

In fact, one of my sons is going to paint a room in my house as my Mother’s Day present. So, I’ve been perusing paint colors online in my spare moments. I started out looking at Sherwin Williams. But, alas, they have a (very nice) selection of colors from HGTV.

I may be a Christian, but my money is still green. And I’m not going to spend any of my green stuff in places that partner up with HGTV. I did before. It didn’t bother me a bit that they had openly gay people doing design work. I wasn’t turned away by shows with gay couples buying houses for themselves. I don’t agree with gay marriage, but that doesn’t mean I have a hate on for gay people.

However, when HGTV gets a hate on for people like me, who don’t agree with gay marriage, my money is going someplace else.

So, bye, bye, Sherwin Williams. Hello Benjamin Moore.

Chaplet of St Michael

In these times, we probably should pray this more often.

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