2013 Favs: President Obama, Religious Liberty and Lying in Plain Sight

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I’m close to a breaking point vis a vis our President and his deliberate disingenuous obfuscations about the first amendment in general and religious freedom, in particular. I need to take a deep breath.

So, this will be brief.

President Obama’s statement on the Supreme Court’s decision yesterday contained this paragraph:

On an issue as sensitive as this, knowing that Americans hold a wide range of views based on deeply held beliefs, maintaining our nation’s commitment to religious freedom is also vital.  How religious institutions define and consecrate marriage has always been up to those institutions.  Nothing about this decision – which applies only to civil marriages – changes that.  

Read that carefully. Read it three times. What is says is consistent with the drive to push religious freedom into the churches and our homes; behind closed doors, in other words, and limit it to that. It is entirely consistent with the actions this administration has taken up to now to limit the First Amendment guarantee of the Constitutional right to free exercise of religion to the institutional church, and for them only behind church doors.

He says nothing about the right to religious freedom of individual citizens or small businesses or religious groups that range from the Knights of Columbus to campus social organizations. This is in keeping with his consistent use of the phrase “freedom of worship” when he speaks of the First Amendment.

I think he’s being coy. I don’t think “Freedom of Worship” is just a pretty phrase which he uses as a synonym for religious freedom. I think he means it literally. The First Amendment, according to President Obama, seems to mean the freedom to worship in a church. Period. I think the reason why is because President Obama intends to use the power of his office to limit religious freedom for individuals and groups.

His administration has already argued that religious exemptions should only apply to ministerial staff — which is a much higher bar than just saying they only apply to the institutional church — in more than one court case.  It seems that religion, according to Obama, is a private activity that should be conducted behind closed doors.

Oddly enough, that isn’t what made me so angry. It’s the deliberate, disingenuous obfuscation. To put a different word on it, I think he’s lying, in plain sight.

I published a list of attacks on religious liberty from the USCCB here.

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Proposition 8 Supporters Re-Open the Case

Proposition 8 supporters have filed a case in court claiming that the vote of the people which passed the law should stand.

From what I’ve read, I believe that what they are basically saying is that since the Supreme Court failed to rule on Proposition 8 by tossing the whole case out, that the law itself stands.

When the Supreme Court refuses to review a lower court ruling, that means that the lower court ruling is allowed to stand. I believe that the lower court ruling in question overturned Prop 8. However, the Supreme Court took the Prop 8 case under consideration, and then tossed it out by saying that the law’s defendants did not have standing.

Does that mean that the entire case was thrown out of court and has no merit? I think that is what the opponents of Prop 8 are saying in the case they have filed.

It’s an interesting argument that, at least on its face, does seem to have merit.

I have no idea where this will go. The whole thing might wind its way back to the Supreme Court again. The basic point for now is that the proponents of traditional marriage are not rolling over. That, in itself, is very good news.

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What Will the Supremes Do with Gay Marriage?

Tomorrow is the day that the Supreme Court is scheduled to hand down rulings that will affect how America deals with the definition of marriage for decades to come.

The legislation in question is the Federal Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8.

The Court can do anything. It can remand the whole question back to the states. Or, it can issue a ruling of sweeping proportions similar to Roe v Wade. It can even announce that it isn’t going to rule at all.

People on both sides of the question studied the Justices’ every twitch and cough when the cases were presented earlier this year. We all wanted a crystal ball so that we wouldn’t have to endure the suspense of months of waiting before we found out which way and how far the Court was going to jump on this issue.

Tomorrow, the waiting and guessing will be over. The Court will make its ruling.

After that will come the dissecting and rejecting of whatever they rule. I am reasonably certain that no matter what the Court does on this issue, a large segment of the American population is going to be unhappy and angry about it. I am equally certain that no matter what the Court does, the debate about how we will define marriage under the law will continue.

Which leads me to the question of how we should behave tomorrow and on into the months and years ahead. Much of the debate concerning this issue has devolved into slander of people who hold opposing views. I think part of the reason why this happens is that both sides of the argument believe that their position is a moral imperative. Another part of why we behave so terribly when we discuss how to define marriage is that the temper of our times has taught us that bullying, slander, smear tactics and mud-slinging are legitimate tactics.

Instead of dealing with the issues at hand and talking about the arguments being made, we tend to try to discredit the people making the arguments.

My feeling about this is that if you are a Christian, you have a moral responsibility to forgo this kind of behavior. It does not matter what they call you, you may not slander them back. Let the other side have the low road.

We are defending home, family, life. We are defending the core institution on which Western civilization is built. We do not need to attack anyone to do that.

Also, we need to remember that homosexuals are just people. More importantly, they are children of the same God whose teachings we are trying to defend. No matter what they say or do, they are our brothers and sisters in creation. We should try to convert them, not destroy them.

The other side of public debates involving Christian values of any sort always seems to try to base their arguments on Christian bashing and degrading our faith. It can be hard to take; especially when they defame the name of Jesus. But do not reply by degrading or defaming them. Do not do it.

That does not mean that we should back away from saying the truth of things. It just means that we should forgo attacking people. We can talk about issues and even bad behavior all we want. Just don’t attack a person while we do it.

I believe that no matter how the Court rules tomorrow, the fight will go on. I also believe that no matter how the Court rules or what detours or setbacks we suffer, the victory will ultimately be ours. All we have to do is our part, and do it in a way that lets everyone who observes us know that we serve a Risen Lord.

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