ACLU Won’t Pursue Legal Action Against Idaho Wedding Chapel, Says It Provides Religious Services

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The ACLU has declined to pursue legal action against The Hitching Post wedding chapel in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho because the chapel only provides religious services.

Donald and Evelyn Knapp, owners of the Hitching Post Lakeside Chapel, were facing possible jail time and enormous fines that would have put them out of business because they do not offer same sex wedding services at their facility. The Knapps are ordained ministers in the International Church of the Four Square Gospel. The denomination’s teaching holds that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Leo Morales, ACLU Idaho’s interim director said Thursday that the organization would reconsider the decision not to sue “if the chapel were to offer secular services, such as providing flowers or cakes, or holding nonreligious ceremonies.”

While I am glad that the ACLU has decided not to pursue this case, Mr Morales’ caveats constitute an attempt to impose an undue limitation of First Amendment rights by threat of lawsuit. Are churches going to be forced to forgo all sales on their premises or the use of their facilities for “non-religious” purposes or face lawsuits trying to shut them down?

Does this mean that churches who open their buildings for AA meetings or hold bake sales to raise money for a new gym are running the risk of being drug into court?

For that matter, what about allowing church buildings to be used as polling places? Do you want to raise your taxes to build government facilities for elections in every precinct in this country? Or maybe, in small towns, we could just put the voting booths out in a field. I am quite certain that a failure to provide sufficient and accessible polling places constitutes a violation of the core Constitutional right of this nation: To engage in free elections.

I’m glad that the ACLU actually did something that appears to be in support of the First Amendment, but I’m extremely leery of them or any other organization using the threat of lawsuit to limit First Amendment rights in the way Mr Morales seemed to be attempting to do.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Tedesco, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, the legal firm defending the Knapps, says that the ACLU is “terrified … that the ordinance has been used in exactly the way we said it would be. The ACLU wants nothing to do with the worst possible set of facts that could result from one of these ordinances.” The ordinance Mr Tedesco is referring to is the non-discrimination ordinance by which the Knapps were being threatened.

From The Blaze:

The American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho announced Thursday that it will not wage a legal challenge against Hitching Post Wedding Chapel, the for-profit business in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, that could be in violation of a local non-discrimination ordinance for its ardent refusal to marry same-sex couples.

Leo Morales, the ACLU’s interim executive director, said that chapel owners Donald and Evelyn Knapp — both ordained ministers — recently changed their business status to become a “religious corporation,” according to the Associated Press.

Morales made these comments during a press conference Thursday, noting that the newdesignation would likely exempt the family from performing gay marriage ceremonies so long as Hitching Post — which will remain a for-profit business — exclusively performs faith-based weddings.

“As long as a entity is conducting a religious activity, that is accepted. That should be accepted under the nondiscrimination law in Coeur d’Alene,” Morales told TheBlaze Friday. “Once that entity begins to offer other services that are secular services, we believe it then falls under the category of public accommodation.”

Free Speech is a Civil Right: IRS and the Freedom from Religion Foundation Disagree

Free speech is a civil right bumper sticker

So … we’ve got an organization whose sole purpose is to drive religious expression from the public sphere by the use of threats of legal action and harassment.

This organization files a lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service and demands that the IRS join them in their harassment of religious people by “monitoring” churches for possible violations of IRS rules. In this instance, what they were suing about was the so-called “Johnson Amendment” to the IRS code.

The Johnson Amendment is the basis for the IRS rule that preachers may not endorse candidates from the pulpit if they are to receive tax-free status. The IRS rule itself is quite specific and narrow. Neither it nor the Johnson Amendment were intended to become the dreadnought by which churches are harassed and bullied in order to keep them from speaking out on moral issues. But that is exactly what has happened.

Groups such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation routinely conflate the Johnson Amendment with a limitation on First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and religion, including freedom of speech in religion. They harass, bully and intimidate Christians all over the country with threats of lawsuits.  I say Christians because I am not aware of them doing this to other faiths.

It seems obvious to me that they are using the Johnson Amendment as a lever to try to destroy the moral and prophetic voice of Christianity, not only in the public sphere, but from the pulpit, as well.

The Internal Revenue Service of the United States government settled this latest lawsuit by agreeing to become the FFRF’s hammer to beat down on free speech in the pulpit. They didn’t say this in so many words. What they agreed to do was to single out groups based on whether or not they are faith (read that Christian) organizations and “monitor” what their pastors preach for possible violations of the IRS code. If that is not a deliberately chilling government surveillance for the purpose of limiting free speech, what is?

It is particularly salient that the Freedom From Religion Foundation is not just trying to stop churches from endorsing candidates for political office; it is also claiming that they violate the Johnson Amendment when they discuss legislation or political issues. Abortion is a political issue. Gay marriage is a political issue. The genocide in the Middle East is a political issue. Corporatism, the environment, divorce, pornography, sex trafficking, prostitution, taxes, jobs and most everything else in America is a political issue.

We are Americans, which means that we are political people. We have what is purported to be a government of, by and for the people, which means at its root that governmental matters belong to us to cuss, discuss, slice and dice however we choose. That should include every segment of our society, including the pulpit.

If we are also Christians, then our faith guides us in everything we do. Jesus Christ is the Lord of our lives. We try to follow the Gospels in everything. Our faith leaders have not just a right, they have a responsibility to lead us in the Gospel paths of living.

There is no line for Americans between themselves and their politics for the simple reason that our politics, and our government, are us. Our beliefs are legitimately pertinent to political debate because we are the government.

What this lawsuit by the FFRF — and other actions to censor and stifle religious discussion, opinions and activism —  amount to is an attempt to censor and silence a whole set of ideas. This lawsuit is a blatant push to silence people that the FFRF disagrees with by the use of government surveillance of selected groups, coupled with the threat of government action against those groups, and the government is going along with it. 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is using the IRS to censor speech in the pulpit. This is not an attempt to drive Christianity from the pubic square through bullying. It is a direct mis-use of government power to silence free speech among a whole class of citizens because another group of citizens does not like what they are saying.

The IRS is going to “monitor” churches to see if the clergy talks about anything more pertinent to our daily lives than, say, Isaac blessing Jacob instead of Esau, for the purpose of hauling them up before the Man. It is as simple as that.

From New American:

The Internal Revenue Service continues to extend its already vast overreach, this time by agreeing to monitor church sermons as part of an agreement the government made on July 17 with the aggressively atheistic Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Freedom Outpost reported, “The Internal Revenue Service settled a lawsuit brought by the Freedom from Religion Foundation. The 2012 lawsuit was settled after the IRS agreed to monitor what is said in houses of worship, something that is a clear violation of the First Amendment, since no law can be written by Congress to this effect.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Wisconsin, brought the suit against the IRS, asserting that the group had been ignoring complaints that churches were violating their tax-exempt statuses. According to the group’s suit, churches promote political issues, legislation, and candidates from the pulpit.

FFRF asserted, “Pulpit Freedom Sunday … has become an annual occasion for churches to violate the law with impunity. The IRS, meanwhile, admittedly was not enforcing the restrictions against churches.”

FFRF claims that the churches are acting in violation of the 1954 Johnson Amendment, which states that non-profits cannot endorse candidates.

A 2009 court ruling determined that the IRS must staff someone to monitor church politicking, but the Freedom From Religion Foundation claims that the IRS has not been adhering to the ruling.

Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom and head of the Pulpit Initiative, told LifeSiteNews that “the IRS has no business censoring what a pastor preaches from the pulpit.” Stanley states that his organization is currently “attempting to bring the era of IRS censorship and intimidation to an end by challenging the Johnson Amendment, which imposes unconstitutional restrictions on clergy speech.”

He contends that churches should not have to choose between tax-exempt status and freedom of speech. “No one would suggest a pastor give up his church’s tax-exempt status if he wants to keep his constitutional protection against illegal search and seizure or cruel and unusual punishment,” he said.

Stanley insists that not only would it be unfair for churches to have to choose between one or the other, but that “churches are automatically tax exempt out of recognition that the surest way to destroy the free exercise of religion is to begin taxing it.” “Churches are constitutionally entitled to a tax exemption and that exemption cannot be conditioned on the surrender of constitutional rights.”

In celebration of its victory with the IRS, the Freedom From Religion Foundation issued a press release wherein it outlined its win:

The IRS has now resolved the signature authority issue necessary to initiate church examinations. The IRS also has adopted procedures for reviewing, evaluating and determining whether to initiate church investigations. While the IRS retains “prosecutorial” discretion with regard to any individual case, the IRS no longer has a blanket policy or practice of non-enforcement of political activity restrictions as to churches.

The press release also acknowledges, however, that the judge in the case could not order immediate action since a moratorium has been placed on the investigations by the IRS of tax exempt groups after the 2013 scandal in which the IRS was found to have been targeting Christian and conservative groups.

Obama to Issue Special Protection Order to Gays, Transexuals; No Religious Exemption Allowed

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I stole this headline from the place where I first found the story: New Advent. I couldn’t think of a better way to say it.

According to a Washington Post article, President Obama plans to legislate with his pen by passing his own version of ENDA with an executive order. According to the Washington Post, “the White House” said that this executive order will not include a religious exemption.

It seems that everybody wants to do the work of Congress these days except Congress itself. We have courts legislating from the bench and our president rolls out one agency rule and executive order after another, passing laws all by his little self. Meanwhile, Congress is doing the only two things it actually does: engaging with itself in a perpetual partisan spitting contest and running for re-election.

This president is unambiguously at war with religious freedom in this country. I say that with sorrow and reluctance. But the facts are the facts and his actions speak for themselves.

He is continually doing things that stir up rage and resentment in the electorate. He’s damaging this country with his blind hubris. I don’t understand what he, as the sworn defender of the Constitution thinks he’s doing by repeatedly attacking the First Amendment.

But he’s consistent. He does these things, signs these agency rules, issues these executive orders. Then he lies about them later.

That’s the long-standing, repeated pattern of behavior.

I could go on and on here. I’m disgusted enough to really roll. But I have to leave for church in less than an hour and then begin my Sabbath. I think I’ll pray about it and hold my tongue until I have a chance to calm down.

In the meantime, here’s the story. From the Washington Post:

President Obama, resisting calls from several prominent faith leaders, will not include a new exemption for religiously affiliated government contractors when he issues an executive order Monday barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, the White House said Friday.

Obama announced last month that he would sign such an order after concluding that Congress was not going to act on a broader measure prohibiting discrimination based on sexual discrimination or gender identity by companies.

Since then, faith leaders have urged him to include an exemption for government contractors with a religious affiliation, such as some social service agencies.

White House officials said Friday that the new executive order would not include such an exception. But Obama will preserve an exemption put in place by former president George W. Bush that allows religiously affiliated contractors to favor employees of a certain religion in making hiring decisions.

Gay rights organizations have criticized that earlier exemption, and they celebrated news Friday that Obama would not be broadening it.

“With the strokes of a pen, the president will have a very real and immediate impact on the lives of millions of LGBT people across the country,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group.

Get Real Fellas.

Senators Joe Manchin and Bob Casey are generally pro life. 

I accept that.

But when they voted against the Hobby Lobby decision, they dribbled enough sewage on their pro life stands — not to mention the good names of every completely pro life Democrat in this country — to raise a stink that blots that out.  

They voted with their caucus in favor of overturning the Hobby Lobby decision and by doing that voted against religious freedom and in support of President Obama’s on-going war with the Catholic Church. 

Why?

I’m not believing for a minute that they actually buy their own spin. This was a political vote, a go along to get along and have somebody to pal around with at work vote.  

But what political score keeping went into their belief that they could get away with it? Did they believe the things the other Dems told them in caucus? Were they swayed by the advice on how they could “spin” this vote to slide past it? 

All I know is that, as a pro life Democrat, I am almost certainly more unhappy by this party-line vote against religious freedom than any Republican. I feel personally slimed by it.

I am disgusted beyond the meaning of the word disgust with Senator Manchin and Senator Casey and every other “pro life” Democrat who doesn’t “get” that being pro life means you have to cross your party’s bow on these tough votes. 

Get real fellas. 

I’m going to put the statements concerning this vote from both Senator Munchin and Senator Casey below. Taken together, they’re like a compendium of anti-religious freedom Hobby Lobby spin. 

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Senator Manchin’s Statement on the Hobby Lobby vote:

“Today, I voted in support of overturning the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision that ruled for-profit companies can opt out of providing contraceptives to their employees because of religious beliefs. As Governor and U.S. Senator, I have always fought to protect the sincerely-held religious views of non-profit organizations, like soup kitchens, colleges, hospitals and similar non-profit organizations. However, for-profit corporations do not have the same legal privileges as non-profits, and therefore they should not have the same protections as non-profits recognized by law as being a religious organization. This legislation strikes a balance between allowing non-profit organizations to hold onto their religious views while ensuring that Americans have access to safe, affordable and reliable preventative health benefits.”

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Bob Casey official Senate photo portrait c2008

Senator Bob Casey’s statement on the Hobby Lobby vote:

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) released the following statement on his co-sponsorship of the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act, aka the Not My Boss’ Business Act:

“As a cosponsor of S. 2578, the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act, I was disappointed that the Senate voted against the measure.  The bill is a common-sense step to ensure that for-profit CEOs cannot interfere in their employees’ decisions about contraception and other health services.

It is an important protection that will help ensure that women working for for-profit corporations can make health care decisions based on their own consciences and religious beliefs, not those of their CEOs.

This is consistent with my long-standing strong support for greater access to contraceptives.

The bill affects for-profit employers but maintains the pre-Hobby Lobby accommodation for religiously-affiliated, non-profit organizations – an accommodation that I aggressively pushed the Administration to include – by specifically stating that the regulation continues to be in effect for plans affected by the bill.

As Justice Ginsburg stated in her dissent: ‘The First Amendment’s free exercise protections, the Court has indeed recognized, shelter churches and other nonprofit religion-based organizations. The Court’s “special solicitude to the rights of religious organizations”…however, is just that.’

The assertion by five of the justices on the Court that a for-profit corporation is a ‘person’ for the purposes of religious objection is simply a bridge too far.  

The ruling essentially empowers CEOs of for-profit corporations to deny vital health benefits to women based on their own religious beliefs. As Justice Ginsburg stated ‘until today, religious exemptions had never been extended to any entity operating in the commercial, profit-making world.’ For-profit companies receive significant benefits that come with incorporation, including certain tax advantages and limited liability for owners. In turn, they are subject to a number of federal regulations, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII, and the Fair Labor Standards Act, which are enacted to preserve the health, safety and welfare of employees.   

Thirty million women have gained access to contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act.  This is an important health service and has critical implications for economic security.  The data shows us that access to contraceptives reduces the number of abortions. A recent study demonstrated that providing no-cost contraception can decrease abortion rates by up to 78 percent. I will continue to work to protect religious liberty for the American people while fighting to ensure that more women have access to affordable contraceptives.” 

Senator Casey’s record on family planning can be found here: link.

Supremes Nix Abortion Clinic Buffer Zones

Members of the Supreme Court seem to be thinking alike.

Yesterday, they handed down a unanimous decision requiring search warrants before law enforcement can go through cell phones. Today, they handed down another unanimous decision overturning a Massachusetts law that requires protestors at abortion clinics to stand back 35 feet from the clinic. The Court ruled that the 35-foot protest-free zone violates the First Amendment.

I don’t know if this is a harbinger of a court that is reconsidering the long-term narrowing of individual American’s rights under the Bill of Rights or not. Hopefully, it is. And hopefully, we’ll see another ruling in support of First Amendment rights when they hand down their decision on Sebelius vs Hobby Lobby on Monday.

In the meantime, today’s ruling is a hopeful sign.

The most important ruling will be Monday when they hand down their opinion on the Hobby Lobby/HHS Mandate. I hope, for many reasons, but most especially for the sake of my country, that the Court limits the HHS Mandate and allows the First Amendment to work. It will be a tragedy if it doesn’t.

From CBS News:

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Thursday that a Massachusetts law setting a 35-foot protest-free zone outside abortion clinics violates the First Amendment.

The court in the past has allowed for buffer zones around facilities like health clinics, but Chief Justice John Roberts noted that the Massachusetts law restricts access to sidewalks and other public space. “Such areas occupy a ‘special position in terms of First Amendment protec­tion’ because of their historic role as sites for discussion and debate,” Roberts wrote.

The government is allowed to limit speech in public spaces, so long as there is a significant interest in doing so, and as long as the limits are narrowly tailored and leave open alternative channels for speech. The Massachusetts law did not meet the latter part of those standards, Roberts wrote.

“The buffer zones serve the Commonwealth’s legitimate interests in maintaining public safety on streets and sidewalks and in preserving access to adjacent reproductive healthcare facilities,” the summary of the ruling says. “At the same time, however, they impose serious burdens on petitioners’ speech, depriving them of their two primary methods of communicating with arriving patients: close, personal conversations and distribution of literature.”

Moreover, Roberts wrote, the state could have enacted other laws that protect abortion clinic patients without restricting freedom of speech to that extent. “The Commonwealth has not shown that it seriously undertook to address the problem with less intrusive tools readily available to it,” the justice wrote.

While the ruling was unanimous, Roberts and the court’s four liberal justices struck down the Massachusetts law on narrow grounds. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a separate, concurring opinion that Justices Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas signed onto. Justice Samuel Alito also wrote a separate, concurring opinion.

The case was brought forward by Eleanor McCullen, a woman in her mid-70s, and a group of other anti-abortion rights activists who stand outside of clinics to try to dissuade women from getting abortions.

March for Marriage 2014: What I Believe

This video promoting the March for Marriage 2014 deals with the issue of religious freedom as it pertains to the overall issue of supporting traditional marriage.

I have written about these same things many times, including here, here, here and here.

Because of the issues raised in Public Catholic’s com boxes, I want to clarify where I stand.

I support civil and human rights for gay people, including legal provision for gay couples in areas such as inheritance, property and next of kin issues, among others. Gay people are human beings and American citizens. They have every right to engage in electoral politics, petition the courts or use any other legitimate means to achieve their ends, even when I do not agree with those ends.

One area where I disagree  is that I do not support the redefinition of marriage. I also unilaterally oppose the enormous designer-baby, baby-selling, egg harvesting/surrogacy industry. I am not talking about private arrangements between two people that do not involve money.  I have no interest in making that illegal. I would leave it under the same regulations as other medical procedures such as the voluntary donation of organs for transplant.

Egg harvesting and surrogacy for money, on the other hand, is predatory medical malpractice on its face. It should be illegal and doctors who do it should have their licenses to practice medicine permanently revoked. There should also be strong provisions for civil actions — with no limit on judgements — against these doctors. Egg harvesting should — and if it wasn’t for misogyny it would — fall under the same legal definitions and protections as the donation of bodily organs.

In my opinion, Medical Associations that support egg harvesting and surrogacy render any claims they make about protecting the public a sham by that action. Corporatists who support it — and they all seem to — are just being their evil money-is-everything/people-are-nothing selves.

I also am opposed to “tolerance education” the leads to confusion in young children and the infringement of the civil liberties and human rights of those who oppose gay marriage.

I am appalled by the use of bullying, job termination and labeling of those who oppose gay marriage. This is being used as a political tactic and it is destructive to everyone involved, as well as our nation as a whole.

I further believe that the letters from prominent elected officials demanding that Archbishop Cordileone not attend the 2014 March for Marriage were part of a coordinated effort to drive down the numbers of those who attend the march. The use of defamation of those sponsoring the March, as well as the plethora of name-calling that I have seen on this blog has led me to the conclusion that this is an attempt to keep people from attending the March by using intimidation.

If I had the money to go, I would be there. I am determined that I will be there next year, precisely because of this intimidation. I will not be intimidated and bullied in this manner. No one else should allow themselves to be bullied and intimidated like this, either.

I urge everyone who lives within driving distance to go to Washington today — there’s still time to participate in some of the events — and make yourself heard.

You can also donate to the National Organization for Marriage here.  I began monthly donations after Brendan Eich was fired for making a donation to Proposition 8. You can see the receipt for my donation here.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but this bullying and name-calling are not intimidating me. They are leading me to a stronger commitment.

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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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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.

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.

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? 


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