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.

Will Obama’s One Man ENDA End Up in Court?

Obama signing

One of my Facebook friends called him “the great divider.” 

Even though I am both aware and horrified by the endless hatred directed at whoever sits behind the desk in the Oval Office, I think that’s a fair thing to say about President Obama. His penchant for one man sledgehammer legislating against the First Amendment is a particular case in point. 

So far as I am concerned, the HHS Mandate is a permanent blot on his presidency.

I’ve spent the morning, sifting through the product of our President’s mighty pen from yesterday. I’ve been sitting in front of my computer with the screens littered with copies of the executive orders he amended, wondering, where, exactly, is this one man show pointing us? 

My best guess, based on what I see, is that it’s pointing us toward court. The reason is the lack of a specific religious exemption in President Obama’s verbiage. 

What he has done with this executive order is to amend two previous executive orders from the 1960s. These 1960s executive orders provided direction to the Department of Labor on the question of discrimination in employment. The orders dealt with employment discrimination because of “race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap or age.” President Obama’s executive order adds “sexual orientation, gender identity” to that list.

Executive Order 11478 deals with direct federal employment by direct government agencies. I think it will stand and basically have no big problem with the order as I understand it now. I may change my opinion when I see the rules promulgated by the Department of Labor. 

However, Executive Order 11246 deals with federal contractors. This could be construed to include grantees and, if you want to stretch it, any entity that receives federal money for anything. 

President Obama did not address a third executive order by President Bush, Executive Order 13279. President Bush’s order was designed to protect the religious freedom of entities that receive grants, contract with the government or otherwise receive government monies. It contains a laundry list of sorts of the types of services which it covers. It also specifically addresses the entities covered by Executive Order 11246, which applies to federal contractors. Executive Order 11246 is one of the orders President Obama amended yesterday. 

The assumption being made in various press outlets that I have read is that President Bush’s executive order provides the religious exemptions needed to keep President Obama’s ENDA order from turning into another HHS Mandate.

Is that true?

Only somewhat, and, depending on the regs the Department of Labor comes up with, maybe not at all. 

The reason I say that is two-fold. First, and scariest, President Obama’s order calls on the Department of Labor to promulgate rules. This is normal and necessary. What makes it scary is the big time precedent of this administration using rules and regs to attack religious freedom.

The disastrous HHS Mandate is a rule, not a law. Of course, if the president sincerely wants to avoid another HHS Mandate, he can use his powers to encourage sensible regulations that ensure religious liberty. He also has the power to deep-six any reg or rule by not signing it. 

I’m taking a wait and see position on how those rules are going to look and what this president signs. He lied about religious freedom to get the votes to pass the Affordable Health Care Act and he’s consistently lied about the impact of the HHS Mandate. So, I don’t trust him. 

The second reason I think this may end up in court is that court cases and various agency rulings have already attacked Catholic institutions and successfully stripped them of federal grants because of the Church’s adherence to 2,000 year-old consistent teachings. There is also a lawsuit in the courts attacking the Catholic bishops for teaching Catholic teaching concerning abortion in regards to Catholic hospitals. 

Both Robert George, Vice President at United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, and the Catholic Bishops have issued statements opposing President Obama’s ENDA order precisely because it lacks a religious exemption. I think they are on solid ground. 

Based on that litigious impulse to attack Catholic teaching through the courts, I think the chances of ENDA ending up in court are quite good. What we will probably have at that point is adjudication based on dueling executive orders. President Obama could have stopped this before it got out of the gate by simply adding a religious exemption to his orders yesterday. 

I going to let you read both Robert George’s complete statement and the complete statement from the USCCB without edits. 

From the USCCB:

USCCB Chairmen Respond To ‘Unprecedented And Extreme’ Executive Order

 
July 21, 2014

WASHINGTON–The bishop-Chairmen of two USCCB Committees responded with great concern to President Obama’s July 21 executive order to prohibit federal government contractors from what the Administration deems “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” discrimination and to forbid “gender identity” discrimination in the employment of federal employees. The problems the bishops identify in the order relate both to the flaws in its core prohibitions, and to its lack of religious freedom protection.

Two USCCB Chairmen – Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty and Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, Chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth – together issued the following statement.  

Today’s executive order is unprecedented and extreme and should be opposed.  

In the name of forbidding discrimination, this order implements discrimination. With the stroke of a pen, it lends the economic power of the federal government to a deeply flawed understanding of human sexuality, to which faithful Catholics and many other people of faith will not assent. As a result, the order will exclude federal contractors precisely on the basis of their religious beliefs.  

More specifically, the Church strongly opposes both unjust discrimination against those who experience a homosexual inclination and sexual conduct outside of marriage, which is the union of one man and one woman. But the executive order, as it regards federal government contractors, ignores the inclination/conduct distinction in the undefined term “sexual orientation.” As a result, even contractors that disregard sexual inclination in employment face the possibility of exclusion from federal contracting if their employment policies or practices reflect religious or moral objections to extramarital sexual conduct.

The executive order prohibits “gender identity” discrimination, a prohibition that is previously unknown at the federal level, and that is predicated on the false idea that “gender” is nothing more than a social construct or psychological reality that can be chosen at variance from one’s biological sex. This is a problem not only of principle but of practice, as it will jeopardize the privacy and associational rights of both federal contractor employees and federal employees. For example, a biological male employee may be allowed to use the women’s restroom or locker room provided by the employer because the male employee identifies as a female.  

In an attempt to avoid these needless conflicts, states that have passed “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” prohibitions have overwhelmingly included protections for religious employers. When the U.S. Senate, which is controlled by the President’s own party, passed the similar Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) last year, it included religious liberty protections as well. Indeed, all prior versions of ENDA had at least some religious liberty protections. But the executive order is an anomaly in this regard, containing no religious liberty protections. In this way, the order, which is fundamentally flawed in itself, also needlessly prefers conflict and exclusion over coexistence and cooperation. 

Regarding federal contractors, the Executive Order will take effect after rules to be promulgated by the Department of Labor implementing the Executive Order become final. Regarding federal employment, the Executive Order is effective immediately.

Keywords: Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ENDA, Archbishop William E. Lori, Bishop Richard Malone, gender identity, sexual identity
# # # # #

MEDIA CONTACT ONLY
Sister Mary Ann Walsh
O: 202-541-321
Email

From Robert George’s Facebook page:

I have, up till now, avoided the “war on this,” “war on that,” rhetoric. But now there is no avoiding it. Today Barack Obama declared war on the Catholic Church and people of other faiths who hold to traditional beliefs about marriage and sexual morality. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops explains the situation in a statement responding to the executive order the President issued today. There is no way for religious people to defend themselves against being reduced to the status of second-class citizens except by electing to office, first in 2014 and then in 2016, men and women who will repeal this executive order and other governmental acts that undermine their religious freedom and rights of conscience. But that is only part of the picture. The reason that Catholics and other people of faith seek government contracts is to carry our their mission of serving people in need, orphans, the poor, refugees and the dispossessed, persons suffering from afflictions and addictions. It is the people who are served who are secondary victims of this war on conscience when faith-based providers are forced out—as Catholic Charities was forced out of providing adoption services in Massachusetts, Illinois, and the District of Columbia. We must defeat the enemies of conscience—at the ballot box—not only to protect our own freedom and that of our fellow citizens, but also to protect the interests of those served so well by faith-based institutions. This is a war we must win for their sake as well as our own. 

http://www.usccb.org/news/2014/14-126.cfm

 

 

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.

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

Fortnight for freedom logo color

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

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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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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Jack phillips order 3

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

First Amendment on scroll1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What did the Supreme Court do this week?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It depends.

On how they rule.

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

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

Will we be free after this ruling?

It depends.

On them.

 

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

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Join the Religious Freedom Tweet Storm

Standwithhobbylobby

Join tomorrow’s Religious Freedom Tweet Storm.

From Stand Up For Religious Freedom:

Tomorrow is the big day. The Supreme Court will hear the Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood v. Sebelius cases challenging Obama’s HHS Mandate.

Now more than ever, we need to make people aware of these historic cases and the threat the mandate poses.

You can help by joining in the Tweet Storm for Religious Freedomtomorrow, Tuesday, March 25, from 9:00 a.m. to 12 noon eastern time.

Help set the record straight on the Mandate by tweeting during that time and using the hashtag #ReligiousFreedomForAllto draw national attention to our side and the opposition’s hashtag #NotMyBossBusinessto join their conversation and accurately explain the facts of the case.

In addition to tweeting from 9 a.m. to noon eastern time tomorrow, you can also change your avatarto this great “I Stand with Hobby Lobby” graphic, blog about the casesexplaining how the HHS mandate is forcing family businesses to violate their beliefs or face devastating government penalties, and share the newsby linking to positive news coverage on your Facebook and Twitter so that our story spread far and wide.

- See more at: http://standupforreligiousfreedom.com/2014/tweetstorm/#sthash.BViEw050.dpuf


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