Court Says Priests Must Pay Income Tax on the Rectory

My priest makes a salary.

It qualifies him for food stamps, medicaid and government housing.

Thanks to a lawsuit brought by our friends at the Freedom From Religion Foundation and a legislating-from-the-bench judge, the courts are now going to have to decide if priests and other clergy should pay income taxes on the privilege of living in the Church rectory. Judge Barbara Crabb issued a ruling that would require clergy of every type and denomination to have their stay in church rectories taxed as income.

That means my priest would have to pay income taxes on the rectory.

Of course, since Father’s grandiose salary qualifies him for free government housing, we could always just move him in there. It’s not too cushy, but there is an exciting mix of truly needy people, drug dealers, ex-offenders and pimps. He’ll have to learn how to sleep through the nightly gunfire and the screams and shouts from daily assaults, but he did a tour in Viet Nam before he entered the priesthood, so he’s trained for it.

Maybe Father can stop wasting his time saying mass and funerals, hearing confessions and administering our parish and turn his attention to the mission field of his new neighborhood. That will leave the parish somewhat forsaken. But it’s all about Freedom From Religion anyway, so what’s the beef?

My parish will now be free from our religion.

Nifty.

If this ruling is upheld in higher courts, I am wondering if the next move will be to make members of religious orders pay income tax for the privilege of living in their convents and monasteries. How about those military chaplains who live in base housing? This ruling doesn’t just apply to Catholics. It takes in protestant ministers, rabbis, imams, Native American shamans, and probably witches, as well.

The last time I checked, deciding who gets tax exemptions is the business of legislative bodies. Not only did this judge, who has ruled previously that the National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional, set off across the uncharted seas of lawmaking by judicial fiat, she is attempting to shift the taxing powers of the elected representatives of the people to the judiciary.

There is a reason that the framers of the Constitution placed taxing power and budget matters squarely in the hands of elected representatives. The reason is simple. The people can retire their elected representatives to private life at the next election.

But we’re stuck with judges. The trouble is that a lot of judges aren’t judges anymore. They seem to view themselves as appointed monarchs who can use their position to make anyone they don’t like, in the words of Henry VIII, “shorter by a head.” Or, as in this case, they can make them shorter by a rectory.

These judges have left the bench behind and taken on judicial dictatorship. They rule according to their personal prejudices in order to make law with a rap of the gavel. This has become so widespread that it is, in itself, something of a challenge to our democracy.

One of the problems is that judges stay on the bench too long. The purpose of giving judges a life-long sinecure was to create a judiciary that was free of political pressures. It was a balance of power. The elected representatives would appoint judges and the judges themselves would not have to stand for election, but would be able to rule without the pressure to heed passing public moods.

It worked quite well until the 20th Century when the Supreme Court woke up and realized, hey, we can do anything we want.

There has been a considerable (if you will pardon the phrase) trickle down from the Supreme Court to lower courts of this understanding that the judiciary is not required to follow the laws of anyone and can, in fact, make law according to its whim, prejudices and personal vendettas. If a judge gets a hate-on going for a particular part of the populace, like, say, religious people, then you’d better get back Loretta. Those nutty, individualistic and flat-out discriminatory rulings will start popping up like popcorn in the microwave.

We’re having trouble in this country with the second-rate people we’ve got at the top. Whether it’s elected officials (of both parties), the judiciary (appointees of both parties), or the people who are running our finance, media and corporate wings, they appear to be all about changing the face of this country into something that serves their greed, prejudices and various venalities.

How should we respond to these challenges?

Pope Francis is showing us the way. We should respond with love, faithfulness to the whole Gospel of Christ and by walking the Christian walk without being afraid of our critics or changing our message to suit them.

If Father has to move to government housing, we won’t despair. We’ll just say mass there and do what we should have been doing anyway, which is to work to convert the drug dealers and pimps to follow Him, along with us.

From Huff Post:

(RNS) A federal judge has ruled that an Internal Revenue Service exemption that allows clergy to shield a portion of their salary from federal income taxes is unconstitutional.

The clergy housing exemption applies to an estimated 44,000 ministers, priests, rabbis, imams and others. If the ruling stands, some clergy members could experience an estimated 5 to 10 percent cut in take-home pay.

The suit was filed by the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation on grounds that the housing allowance violates the separation of church and state and the constitutional guarantee of equal protection. The group’s founders have said that if tax-exempt religious groups are allowed a housing subsidy, other tax-exempt groups, such as FFRF, should get one, too.

U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb on Friday (Nov. 22) ruled in their favor, saying the exemption “provides a benefit to religious persons and no one else, even though doing so is not necessary to alleviate a special burden on religious exercise.”

The case, decided in the District Court for the Western District Of Wisconsin, will likely be appealed to the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers the states of Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.

The housing allowances of pastors in Wisconsin remain unaffected after Crabb stayed the ruling until all appeals are exhausted. Crabb also ruled in 2010 that the National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional; that ruling was overturned the following year.

Religious Freedom and Gay Marriage: Are They Intrinsically Inimical?

Does the First Amendment apply to individual people or only to the institutional church, inside its church building?

This question would have been unthinkable even a decade ago. But that was before President Obama used Obamacare as a method to coerce churches and private citizens in areas where it had never gone before.

The HHS Mandate was the brainchild of a star chamber committee at the Department of Health and Human Services. It was signed by the president. It has the force of law, but it is not a law. It is a regulation, that was not written by elected officeholders who are answerable to the people. In fact, it is in direct violation of public promises that President Obama made to elected officials in order to get the votes to pass Obamacare.

As such, the HHS Mandate was, from its beginning, an end-run around Democracy.

It was and is an autocratic attack on religious freedom by a few people with a vested interest in the outcome.

It also ushered in an era of direct attacks on religious freedom by government such as has never been seen in America since its founding.

One manifestation of this is the demand by gay marriage advocates that the government force one-person business owners to provide services such as cake-baking, flowers and wedding photography for their “wedding” services. They have managed to successfully use the government to coerce people, even in states where same-sex marriage is not legal.

I recently wrote a post asking the if it was possible to have personal freedom of conscience and gay marriage. In other words, is it possible to find a compromise between gay marriage advocates and traditional Christians that would allow both to exist without government coercion? If the response to that post is in any way indicative of the larger culture, the answer is no.

Gay marriage advocates swarmed the post. Most of them got deleted, but there weren’t any serious attempts to even address the issue of how to balance rights. Instead, the combox response to the post devolved down to the question of homosexuals’ “rights” in this matter trumping everything else.

Rather than give up, I’m going to ask the question again. Are religious freedom and gay marriage intrinsically inimical?

To put it another way, are we bound to decades of warfare over this issue in much the same way that we’ve suffered through the abortion debacle? The salient point is that this gay marriage debate comes after forty years of bad blood. This country is already divided in a dangerous manner. Can the government maintain its authority if those who seriously profess Christ come to believe that they have to chose between obeying their government and following their Lord?

The games that certain people in insulated thought communities are playing with these matters are far more dangerous than they allow themselves to understand.

The Supreme Court needs to turn back the HHS Mandate with a clear-cut decision that leaves no questions. Anything less will precipitate a Constitutional crises of generational proportions. Elected officials need to refuse to accede to demands from gay marriage advocates that they use the power of government to force people to participate in gay marriages against their will. We are talking about one-person or small family businesspeople who are being faced with losing their livelihoods if they do not violate their faith. There is no legitimate reason for this.

The questions at hand are not, as some like to claim, questions of civil rights such as that engendered by segregation. They do not pertain to basic matters of accommodation for a group of people who are forced to drink at separate drinking fountains, attend separate schools, sleep in separate hotels and watch movies in separate rooms. We are talking about isolated instances of one baker out of many or one photographer out of many saying they will not participate in a specific event based on their religious belief.

The businesses in question that I’ve read about have routinely served homosexual people. They just do not want to participate in this one specific event because it violates their religious teaching.

In this instance, the shoe of persecution and discrimination is on the other foot. Using the government to force people to violate their faith so that you feel validated is not only coercive, it is bigoted.

Gay marriage advocates have every right to advocate for their position by petitioning their government and working through the courts. But elected officials have a responsibility to honor the Constitutional freedom of religion of all citizens, including Christians.

No government can successfully enforce any law if a committed minority of people refuse to accede to it. That is a fact. The two political parties have manipulated and exacerbated the culture wars in order to get campaign donations and win elections until they have seriously damaged this country and all but destroyed themselves.

The political parties, for all their power and destructive force, are nothing. They do not care about this country or its people. Their silo mentality has contributed to this situation we now face in so many ways I cannot enumerate them all.

Given all this, it takes a person of stubborn hopefulness to ask the question: Can we reach a compromise?

I’ve never thought of myself that way, at least not the hopefulness part. But I’ve always had stubbornness aplenty. It would be easy to say that stubbornness is what drives me to put this question out there again.

However, that’s not true.

I am motivated by the stakes. I know which side I will come down on if I must choose.

I choose Christ.

But as an American, I do not believe that I should have to make that kind of choice. I believe that it is my right — my Constitutional right — to follow the dictates of my faith without government interference.

Which leads me back to the question with which I began: Are religious freedom and gay marriage intrinsically inimical?

Are gay marriage advocates and their allies in government seriously going to force me, and every other committed Christian, to chose between our country and following the Lord Jesus Christ?

 

 

What Are You Gonna Do? Arrest Me for Praying?

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The Supreme Court heard arguments this week on whether or not the town of Greece NY had violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The reason?  Most of the prayers that opened its city council meetings were given by Christians. 

From what I’ve read, Greece opened its city council meetings with prayers from many faiths through the years, including Jewish and pagans. The argument is that most of the prayers were offered by Christians, which means …

What?

Evidently it means that Americans United for Separation of Church and State found a couple of people to say that this offended them and were who willing to be plaintiffs in a court case. This Court case has ended up at the United States Supreme Court. 

The issue in Town of Greece v Galloway, as described on the Supreme Court Blog, is …

Issue: Whether the court of appeals erred in holding that a legislative prayer practice violates the Establishment Clause notwithstanding the absence of discrimination in the selection of prayer-givers or forbidden exploitation of the prayer opportunity.

What is the establishment clause that gives the federal government the right to intrude into small-town city council meetings and censure the speech of citizens who address those meetings? Just this: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.

That clause, (which, by the way is an accurate description of it, it is a clause and not a sentence) is the pry bar that those who hate religion in general and Christianity in particular have used for decades to attack the presence of religious speech in the public sphere.

Of course, the clause is not a sentence. Here the entire sentence in which this clause rests: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. 

Those of you who read the comments on this blog might have noticed that there is a group that decries the fact that these rights — all of them, by the way — apply to Christians as well as other citizens. 

“Christians can believe whatever they want,” they say, “but I don’t want them trying to force their beliefs on me.”

They are not talking about mobs of Christians showing up on their front yard carrying torches and demanding that they get baptized. 

No.

What they are talking about and speaking against and trying to stop is the exercise of these free rights by American citizens who happen to also be Christians. What they are objecting to is that there are people, some of whom are  motived by their Christian faith, who vote according to their conscience and petition their government either by contacting their elected officials or through the courts.

They steadfastly refuse to admit this, even as they maintain the position, but what they are objecting to is the freedoms of other Americans to disagree with them and to act on that disagreement. 

In other words, what they object to is the fact that Christians have and exercise the same rights that they do. They try to frame political involvement by Christians as somehow or another a violation of “separation of church and state” or, failing that, an attempt to “force other people” to do something or other. 

But it is not. All Americans, including Christians, have these rights. That is called democracy. 

This one-sided application of American rights and freedoms shows up with boring repetition in the com boxes and public debate. It also shows up in court cases. The establishment clause, it would seem, is the only part of the First Amendment that those who want to limit religious expression in the public sphere believe should apply to Christians. 

All that stuff about the government not interfering with the free exercise of religion, or everyone having free speech and the right to petition the government, including Christians, is nixed right out of their conversations and their court cases. These same people will make self-righteous statements about how they support the Constitution, but what they mean is they support their own interpretation of the Constitution and want to use that interpretation as a hammer to beat those who disagree with them into silence. 

For the past few decades, the Supreme Court has been playing catch to their throw. Every case that gets tossed to the Court ends up limiting religious expression in public situations. The Town of Greece v Galloway is particularly galling because it is aimed directly at one religious group, and that group is Christians. 

I don’t know what the Supreme Court is going to do with this case. But I do know that I, for one, will feel no compunction to obey any ruling limiting my right to pray in public. I say that as an elected official and an American citizen who has the right to free speech.

I’ll pray if I want. 

What are they going to do? Arrest me for praying? 

From Fox News:

The Supreme Court is wrestling with the appropriate role for religion in government in a case involving prayers at the start of a New York town’s council meetings.

The justices engaged in a lively give-and-take Wednesday that highlighted the sensitive nature of offering religious invocations in public proceedings that don’t appeal to everyone and of governments’ efforts to police the practice.

The court is weighing a federal appeals court ruling that said the Rochester suburb of Greece, N.Y., violated the Constitution because nearly every prayer in an 11-year span was overtly Christian.

The tenor of the argument indicated the justices would not agree with the appellate ruling. But it was not clear what decision they might come to instead.

Justice Elena Kagan summed up the difficult task before the court when she noted that some people believe that “every time the court gets involved, things get worse instead of better.”

Greece is being backed by the Obama administration and many social and religious conservative groups in arguing that the court settled this issue 30 years ago when it held that an opening prayer is part of the nation’s fabric and not a violation of the First Amendment. Some of those groups want the court to go further and get rid of legal rules that tend to rein in religious expression in the public sphere.

On the other side are the two town residents who sued over the prayers and the liberal interest groups that support them. Greece residents Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens say they and others who attend the meetings are a captive audience and should not be subjected to sectarian prayers.

At its broadest, the outcome could extend well beyond prayer and also affect holiday displays, aid to religious schools, Ten Commandments markers and memorial crosses. More narrowly, the case could serve as a test of the viability of the decision in Marsh v. Chambers, the 1983 case that said prayer in the Nebraska Legislature did not violate the First Amendment’s clause barring laws “respecting an establishment of religion,” known as the Establishment Clause.

ENDA and Bully Politics

GAY RIGHTS march

The United States Senate is quietly passing a law, known by the acronym ENDA, (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) that will place homosexuals in the same protected class as African Americans.

Personally, I am in favor of civil rights for gay people. They have the right to live their lives as they chose and to love whomever they want. They definitely should not be subjected to unjust discrimination. Homosexuals are human beings and American citizens.

However, I want the laws we pass to be just for everyone. Laws that seek to create a super category of citizen whose rights trump those of other citizens are, on their face, unjust laws. I am particularly concerned about issues of religious freedom.

I am also concerned about the way that Congress approaches legislation these days. I would wager that there are two incentives behind this particular bill. One is to pass a “hero deal” for the gay rights community. The motive for his is to pull gay activists and their dollars even closer to the Democratic Party. The other is to force the Republican House to either pass the bill and thus enrage a large part of their own base, or to kill and it and thus motivate the Democratic base.

One thing I’m reasonably sure is not under serious consideration is the impact ENDA would have on the lives and freedoms of ordinary Americans. I doubt if the question as to whether or not this is a good piece of legislation has been seriously discussed in the halls of Congress by either side of the debate.

According to a letter that the United States Conference of Bishops sent to members of the United States Senate, this proposed law would threaten religious liberty, support the redefinition of marriage, and reject the biological definition of gender. Those are serious charges, which should open the legislation for debate and amendment.

In the current climate, it is a stand-up action for the bishops to speak against this legislation. They, the Church, and faithful Catholics along with them, will be excoriated and called bigots and worse for having the temerity to suggest that the language of this legislation is flawed and too one-sided.

All this raises a couple of questions. First, is every piece of legislation that the gay rights community supports, by definition, good legislation that should not be debated, amended or critiqued for its content? Second, is expressing concern about bad language and specific components of a piece of legislation that is supported by gay rights advocates automatically, and by definition, an act of bigotry?

Have we reached the point where people of good will are unable to discuss legislation on its merits because of the mindless rhetoric and name-calling that is used to promote it?

I have the impression that Congress has moved past being a deliberative body and entered the arena of bully politics and don’t-read-the-bill-it-will-only-make-it-harder-to-vote-for-it.

I’ve done some of this myself, so I know a little bit about the emotions that push it. When a powerful special interest group wants something, every law-maker knows that the political price of opposing it will be terrible. If the special interest — in this case, gay rights advocates — wants something, and they are known for being a group that can turn on a dime and attack with intent to destroy in a personal way anyone who opposes them, the stakes grow higher.

If the special interest in question is also one that a law-maker has supported and been supported by in the past, the hill to climb to vote against or even amend a piece of legislation the special interest wants becomes a job-losing mountain.

Hence, the motivation to not read the bill. It’s easier to vote for a bad bill if you don’t read it or think about it or let yourself listen to requests to revise it.

I imagine the bishops would be happy to support a piece of legislation that addressed genuine discrimination against any group of people, and certainly something that addressed genuine discrimination against homosexuals.

It is truly a shame that Congress no longer deliberates about the legislation it passes, but just lines up the votes according to political consideration and then rams things through to see if they will hurt the opposing party in the next election.

I miss Congress. Congress matters.

Here is a copy of the letter issued by the USCCB concerning this law.

 

Bishop s end letter

Bishop s letter 2

NM Supreme Court Rules that the Last Living Wedding Photographer in the State Must Photograph Gay Weddings

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In a move that should surprise no one, the New Mexico Supreme Court has ruled that Elaine Hugenin and her husband Jon must do wedding photos for same-sex marriages.

The couple, who own Elane Photography, declined to do wedding photos for a two-woman commitment ceremony in 2006, saying that their Christian beliefs conflicted with the message of the ceremony. The state’s supreme court ruled earlier this month that New Mexico’s non-discrimination laws trump the couple’s right to freedom of conscience.

This, once again, tosses the slogan bandied about by gay marriage supporters, If You Don’t Favor Gay Marriage, Don’t Get Gay Married in the ash can, alongside, the Who Does It Harm? canard.

In truth, forcing people to do things that are against their faith is not a benign action. Using the law to coerce people to violate their deepest moral beliefs — beliefs which have been standard throughout the Western world for 2,000 years — based on what is essentially a social fashion, should be repugnant to anyone who believes in the dignity of the individual human being and their right to free will.

The only other explanation I can think of for going to such extremes to compel this couple to violate their faith is that the Hugenin’s must be the last living wedding photographers in the state of New Mexico.

According to Catholic News Agency:

Scholar Ryan T. Anderson, writing in National Review Online, said the Aug. 22 decision “highlights the increasing concern many have that anti-discrimination laws and the pressure for same-sex marriage will run roughshod over the rights of conscience and religious liberty.”

“If marriage is redefined, then believing what virtually every human society once believed about marriage — that it is the union of a man and a woman ordered to procreation and family life — would be seen increasingly as an irrational prejudice that ought to be driven to the margins of culture. The consequences for religious believers are becoming apparent.”

Read the whole story here.

Edward Snowden, Michael Hastings’ Too-Convenient Death and British Tyranny — What is Happening Here?

It began with a young man who decided that the American people had the right to know that their government had them under surveillance.

Not, mind you, that the government had possible criminals under court-ordered surveillance by virtue of having produced evidence of probable cause. Our government has been sweeping all of our emails and cell phone convos into a big database and sifting through it looking for crimes, potential crimes, or anything it deems “suspicious.”

In the brave new world of Fourth-Amendment?-What-Fourth-Amendment?-Patriot-Act-land, we’re all potential criminals and we’re all under government surveillance.

The amount of data that our government has swept into its intelligence gathering maw has become so vast (remember these are electronic 1 and 0s, not piles of space-consuming paper) that the NSA is building a gi-normous file cabinet in the Utah desert to warehouse it all.

The minute that this young man stepped up and made this information available to the general public, the government smear machine and its trusty operatives in the press (perhaps I should say, it’s trusty operative, the press) swung into action, claiming and proclaiming that this young man, Edward Snowden is his name, was the worst American traitor since Benedict Arnold.

There were, of course, outliers in the press who didn’t buy it. MichaelHastings was one of this hardy band of actual journalists who didn’t write his stories straight from White House press releases.

Shortly after giving this interview:

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Michael Hastings died in this car crash:

 

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The public was interested in Mr Hastings’ too convenient death until the same press that pushes the government line on us distracted the public with a trial about a shooting in Florida. This trial so transfixed the public that it completely forgot that Uncle Sam was watching its every move.

Unfortunately for the government, Mr Snowden decided to run rather than take his chances in a kangaroo court.

The president of the United States brought out all his big bully artillery and fired it off at every nation that might give Mr Snowden sanctuary. He huffed and he puffed and one by one the various nations put up the No Vacancy sign in front of Mr Snowden.

Russia finally took the wandering whistle-blower in, and President Obama promptly cancelled a scheduled G4 Summit talk with President Putin. I don’t know if President Putin cried himself to sleep that night or not. But I do know that the world is balanced on a razor’s edge. It might be nice if these two guys talked things over, even if President Putin is sheltering that dreadnought Snowden.

But then, that would presume that somebody involved in the government end of this mess actually cared about this country. It seems safe to say that they only care about covering their own backsides.

Meanwhile, our ally, the United Kingdom, decided to get into the act. Rather than huff and puff, they picked up their guns and clubs and went a-huntin’ and a-smashin’ in the offices of the British publication, The Guardian.

The Guardian had actually had the temerity to behave like a — I know this is hard to believe — member of the free press, and report Mr Snowden’s revelations about the work our governments were doing to put all of us on both sides of the Atlantic in the surveillance crosshairs.

The Brits, who are not troubled by niceties like First and Fourth Amendments, evidently took advantage of their government’s relative freedom to oppress its citizens and barged into The Guardian’s offices like Elliott Ness raiding a gin mill. They smashed computers and generally, as we say in these parts, tore up jack.

Of course, these tyrannical nitwits forgot (as tyrannical nitwits often do) the very essence of what they were dealing with. Evidently, nobody told them about backups.

I doubt that The Guardian lost a lot of data in this raid. But the British people lost a tremendous amount of freedom.

The question on this side of the Atlantic, not to even try to put it nicely, is did members of our government use the computer in Michael Hastings car to murder him because he was a danger to their careers?

It’s not even a question on the other side of the Atlantic. The answer is yes, the UK is in the bag for Obama and his spying on the populace of this country and probably theirs, as well. They don’t need a whistle blower to come forward and release evidence that their government has become a danger to the freedom of its citizens.

They went over to The Guardian’s offices and demonstrated that fact for all the world to see.

What is happening here?

Are we going to sit around and watch trashy televised trials and allow ourselves to be flim-flammed out of all our freedoms? Does anybody see how outrageous it is that the government has the entire American populace under surveillance?

I’ve run posts showing just how dishonest President Obama has been with the American people. Why, exactly, are they believing him now?

He’s got the whole world in his files.

That means you.

What happened in Britain isn’t a fluke. It’s a harbinger.

Ding! Ding! Ding! And We Have a Winner!

 

The Christian Bashers Defense team has pretty much taken over the comboxes on my recent post Constitutional Rights for Me, But Not for Thee. 

They are as predictable as mosquitoes. Just say something really true about their behavior, and they show up, armed to buzz bomb you until you go inside and close the door.

In this instance, I asked the simple question: Do Constitutional rights apply to Christians the same as everybody else?

The answer should seem obvious. But of course it’s not. The reason it’s not is the bullies who want to limit other people’s rights always get mad and deny what they are doing when someone calls them on it. They do it every single time.

We’re all supposed to join them in their pretense that there’s nothing discriminatory or offensive in their attempts to drive Christians from the public square. No one is supposed to challenge their idiotic pretense that using government controls to limit the free exercise of religion in this country is actually a push for freedom, instead of the tyranny that it is. 

If we can’t be agree with them, they want us to sit down and be quiet and stop contradicting them. If we don’t, well then, they’ll scream and shout until everybody gives up and lets them have the day.

It has always been thus. People who do things like this always deny it, and they always get mean when someone calls them on their facile denials.

That’s why this particular post ended up being dive-bombed by a whole troupe of angry combox mosquitoes. Even though the readership of this blog is heavily — and I mean heavily – Christian, the Christian defenders were outnumbered. In fact, only three stalwart souls tried to stand up for Christ in these arguments. In the end, it got down mostly to one stubborn Christian, who is hanging in there to this very moment.

For all that, this lone fellow managed to push the whole mosquito assault into a slow unwinding of their lies until, one of them just came out with it.

And I quote:

No one is forcing anyone to do anything. And no one is driving anyone out. But if it does not believe it can conscientiously comply with the law, the Catholic Church can sell its hospitals, schools, universities and charity organizations. And the church and its members have the right to protest and encourage that the law be changed.

Of course, that would dramatically change the face of the church in the United States.

And then the commenter goes on, blah, blah, blahing with a lot of stats (which may or may not be accurate. I haven’t checked.) about the Church’s holdings.

How about that? Not, mind you, that forcing the largest denomination in the country to “sell its hospitals, school, universities and charity organizations” if it won’t violate its 2,000 year-old religious teachings due to government demands that it do so might be …  ummm …. a slight violation of the principles of that fictional “wall of separation between church and state” of which militant atheist are so proud. Also, not that it might be an outright dismissal and abrogation of religious freedom as defined in the Bill of Rights. Nor that it might be just a wee bit of outright tyranny.

Nope.

It’s just deserts for those who have the temerity to think that their individual rights as free Americans amount to a hill of beans to the post Christian, militant secularist demands for moral conformity (with moral being defined by them and them alone) that must govern us all.

I want to remind you that this is about birth control and abortifacients. Nowhere that I know of is there a Constitutional right to free birth control and free abortifacients. Also, nowhere that I know of is there a Constitutional right to force other people to pay for your birth control and abortifacients, even, or in this case, especially if it violates their religious beliefs to do so.

There is, however, a pretty strong Constitutional right to the free exercise of religion. Not even President Obama is debating that. What he’s trying to do is re-define this Constitutional Right to the free exercise of religion along the lines of how it is defined in Communist dictatorships. He wants to say that freedom of religion is actually just freedom of worship and that only in governmentally prescribed “houses of worship.” And, oh yes, behind the closed doors of your own house.

FireSale

It takes a combox firebrand to just come out and say what all this truly means and where it leads. It is leading to stripping the Church of all its “hospitals, schools, universities, and charity organizations” in what would certainly amount to a fire sale. It means driving the Church out of public life, totally and absolutely.

There’s nothing dishonest about what this person said. In fact what’s powerful about it is that it is the truth of where we are heading. It is exactly where we are going if this tyrannical abuse of the freedoms of Christians as citizens of the United States is allowed to continue.

If the Obama administration succeeds in redefining religious freedom in these terms, it will  have destroyed the First Freedom of the American people.

And all this so that it could bend this country over and bow it down to the little g gods of abortion and death.

I want to thank the strong-hearted Christians who have hung in there during this debate. I encourage some of the rest of you to get in the game along with them. Standing up for Jesus is not a spectator sport. We all need to do it.

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Christians’ Dual Citizenship and Engaging the Culture for Christ


In the video below, Cardinal Wuerl discusses what he calls the “subtle” loss of religious liberty in America.

From my viewpoint, the loss of religious liberty is only subtle to those who do not want to see what is happening. In truth, it has been snowballing for quite a while.

The sign of hope is that for the first time, there is real pushback. I’m not talking about angry speechifying and partisan political demagoguery, but actual pushback in the form of court cases, marches and a public engagement in favor of religious liberty by whole groups of people who heretofore opted out of the battle.

The HHS Mandate was a watershed moment in American history in this regard. By attempting to force the Church itself to violate its own teachings in a federalized, all-fifty-states manner, the Mandate forced the war upon religious leaders who had been committed to a policy of negotiation and compromise. The Mandate pushed things past compromise and into choosing this day whom you would serve.

The administration has since backed off parts of the mandate, but the essential core of its position on religious liberty: That the First Amendment guarantee of free exercise of religion pertains only to churches and direct church institutions, has not budged. The question that this forces on thinking people is whether or not they will support our Constitutional guarantee of free exercise of religion without government interference or not.

Far too often, people allow their partisan political loyalties to make their decision in this matter for them. This is such a strong trend that I am fairly certain that if the party who was being criticized for attacking religious liberty changed from, as it is in this case, the Ds, to the (as it has been and will be again in other cases, the Rs) many people would switch their positions on the issues to follow their party.


I do not know how to get people to stop looking at the world through partisan-tinted glasses. But I know that this is essential — essential — if you want to be effective for Christ in our country’s political discussions.

One way that America is unique is that every citizen is a de facto politician. No American citizen is exempt from responsibility for the directions our government takes. Because of the great freedoms and the many powerful options to seek redress against our government that every American citizen possesses, we are all called to have opinions and engage the political world for change, at least on some level.

Our government and both political parties have become corrupted by the control of special interests and overweening government bureaucracies. I don’t know how else to say it. We, as American citizens, have a responsibility to stand back from that corruption and think for ourselves. As Christians we have an eternal responsibility to put the Gospels first in our considerations.


American Christians are citizens of two kingdoms simultaneously. We are American citizens and we are also citizens of the Kingdom of God. One of the great things about America is that is has not, up until very recently, required its citizens to chose between these two kingdoms.

America has always honored the demands of conscience of its individual citizens. Those whose faith demands it are not required to fight in our wars and no one challenges their patriotism. We have never forced anyone to undergo a religious test to hold public office in this nation.

But now, there are groups which seek to push their ideas on other people to the point of abrogating their right of personal conscience. Rather than follow the time-honored American tradition of allowing those whose faith compels them to forego certain activities to do so, they are using the law and courts to force religious people to participate in everything from abortions to gay marriages. They base this on nebulous claims to their “right” to these activities which, they say, trumps the rights of other citizens not to participate in them.


The HHS Mandate is a sinister, tyrannical abuse of government power that attempts to shear the First Amendment loose from its time-honored moorings in the rights of individual American citizens to act and live according to their faith without government penalties, intervention or discrimination. It thrusts the United States government into areas where it has never gone before and into which it should not go now.

Other laws, such as those Cardinal Wuerl mentions in this video, have been bubbling up all over the country, which, at least in their local applications, set aside First Amendment guarantees of religious liberty almost entirely in favor of other new goals of government meddling in American’s private lives and religious institutions in order to force private citizens to participate in culture war objectives such as abortion and gay marriage against their will.

I am aware that a good number of the readers of this blog comfort themselves with the fiction that all they have to do to support religious liberty is to vote Republican. I am also aware of the fact that most people don’t have my experience dealing with these issues from inside government and seeing first hand what a shallow and ultimately bogus hope that is.

I can only tell you that I have seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears, not once but many times, how completely craven both political parties truly are in these matters. I am not saying that many of the people in the Republican party are not wonderful, committed Christians. I am saying that when push comes to shove, they allow their party to tell them to back off, back down and shut up about everything from pro life to religious liberty. I have seen it happen.

In this respect, they aren’t all that different from the Democrats. There are devout Christians in the Democratic Party, as well. But they can’t withstand the pressure from their party.

The big difference is that Democratic party structure itself has become overtly hostile to traditional Christian morality as it applies to human sexuality, while the Republican party gives a lot of lip service to supporting it. The Rs do not attack Christian morality concerning human sexuality with legislation designed to undermine it. The Ds will and do.

But the Rs (again, I refer to the party structure, not individual Republicans) only take stands with words, or when they see a political advantage. In fact, in many instances, (I’m specifically thinking about the HHS Mandate here) the Rs take stands only with words and do not use their clout in Congress to effect change.

The point I am making, is that if you are a Republican, you should not stand for this. You need to stop buying the manipulative nonsense your party is pushing and demand they go at the HHS Mandate by making it a sticking point in their negotiations on budget issues or wherever else they can gain traction. People get what they want. If the Republicans wanted to stop this mandate rather than just use it for campaigning purposes, they could make a big difference.

On the other hand, Democrats like me are so isolated and besieged within our parties that only the most determined of us can stay the course at all. It is impossible to describe to someone on the outside the kind of pressures that Democratic lawmakers are under to compromise matters of faith concerning issues such as abortion, marriage and religious freedom.

If you are a Democrat, you need to step up to the plate and demand that your party stop attacking the pro-life, pro-religious freedom lawmakers in their midst. You also need to consider running for party offices, beginning at the precinct level, to replace some of these nuts who are running our party and get the thing back on track.

Americans do not have the luxury of sitting around and saying “what can you do?”

The truth is, any American, all Americans, can do a lot.

My father was a mechanic with an 8th grade education. I went to the worst schools in the poor part of town. I am a woman, from an era when women didn’t have the options we have today. And I have spent 18 years in elective office.

Why? Because I am an American citizen and I have Constitutionally guaranteed right to engage the larger culture about the things I believe.

The rest of you should try it. Politics can be both honorable and holy work. All you have to do is put Jesus first and let the chips fall.

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Same Judge Who Turned Hobby Lobby Down, Now Grants Them a Stay on HHS Mandate

 

Hobby lobby zps8425ff5aI’ve read the news reports on several outlets, and I’m not exactly sure what the judge did, except that it’s clear that he stopped the government from dropping the guillotine on Hobby Lobby next month.

The draconian HHS Mandate, which is scheduled to go into effect in August, would probably, in the judge’s own words, “cut the legs from under” any “individual or corporation” who is so bold as to say “no” to it. Judge Joe Heaton ruled that Hobby Lobby is exempt from compliance with the HHS Mandate, at least until higher courts rule in the matter. He also put the case on hold until October 1 to give the Obama administration time to respond. 

What does this mean?

Well, it means that the government can’t start putting Hobby Lobby out of business because it won’t pay for abortifacients for its employees, at least not next month. 

It also gives the Obama administration a bloody nose. The administration originally contended that First Amendment protections of the free exercise of religion only applied to churches. Then, when it began losing in court, the administration widened that out to include direct affiliates of churches. The administration has not budged in its position that the First Amendment protection of the free exercise of religion does not apply to you, me or any other individual. 

I think this latest ruling puts other judges on the hot seat. Are they going to allow corporations and individuals to go down the tubes next month, or are they going to step up and grant similar stays for everyone?

One interesting fact: Judge Joe Heaton is the same judge who denied a somewhat similar request by Hobby Lobby in November 2012. His reasoning then read like Obama administration boilerplate. 

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What has happened to change his mind? 

It may be that the reasoning of other justices who did not agree with him made him re-think the issue. It may also be that he finally wised up to the fact that the HHS Mandate is a challenge to the Constitution itself. It may also be that he came to understand what I saw when I first read about the nascent HHS Mandate months before it was promulgated: This thing has the makings of a Constitutional crisis of a magnitude not seen in this country since the Civil War. 

There has been a huge overstepping of individual liberties in the culture wars lately. Whether the issue is abortion or gay marriage, those who promote these positions are not satisfied with laws that allow them to do what they want. They are pushing hard for laws that force other people to participate in doing it with them. 

The HHS Mandate, by directly targeting the Church itself, along with its many ministries, stepped up the fight and made it something that was impossible to ignore. The days of going along to get along ended for believers in religious liberty and freedom of conscience when President Obama signed that thing. 

It’s possible Judge Heaton got his wits together and realized the magnitude of what he was dealing with. It’s also possible that Hobby Lobby’s lawyers wrote a better brief this time around. 

I don’t know. 

I do know that this ruling today is a good and hopeful one for all of us who hold our Constitutional liberties dear. 

Conscience Rights and the Obama Administration

Standing Against Christian Persecution

The USCCB released a new video today discussing the war on the right of conscience in America.

I think it’s a powerful video that expresses the issues far better than anything I could say. All Americans should be upset about what the Obama administration is doing to our First Amendment liberties.

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