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

Why are the Bishops Doing This?

Fortnight 4 freedom logo montage

In honor of the Fortnight for Freedom, I am going to limit today’s quick picks on Christian persecution to the United States.

The list below comes from the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. None of these examples involves burning down churches or mass murders of Christians. They do, however, show a huge change in the way that religious liberty is viewed by the government from just a few years ago.

I believe that this change has come about primarily through the almost non-stop Christian bashing that takes place in our media, academia and on websites. Christian bashing has become so popular that those who practice it as a profession, such as certain authors, speakers and bloggers, are not only able to continue their practice of Christian bashing without facing objections, they make an excellent living at it.

The rise of professional Christian bashers and the aggressive way that they ply their trade has certainly contributed to a cultural situation in which Christians must constantly be on the defensive. I think it has also fueled the attitudes which have led to the discriminatory practices listed below.

I’ve said a number of times that discrimination is a continuum. People do not move to violent persecution in one step. They work themselves into it by moving along a progression of prejudice and hatred. I believe that America is, as a nation, moving rather rapidly along that progression where Christians are concerned.

From the USCCB:

Current Threats To Religious Liberty

An Overview of Specific Examples

Pope Benedict XVI spoke last year about his worry that religious liberty in the United States is being weakened.  He called religious liberty the “most cherished of American freedoms.”  However, unfortunately, our most cherished freedom is under threat.  Consider the following:

  • HHS mandate for contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs.  The mandate of the Department of Health and Human Services forces religious institutions to facilitate and fund a product contrary to their own moral teaching.  Further, the federal government tries to define which religious institutions are “religious enough” to merit protection of their religious liberty. 

  • Catholic foster care and adoption services.  Boston, San Francisco, the District of Columbia, and the State of Illinois have driven local Catholic Charities out of the business of providing adoption or foster care services—by revoking their licenses, by ending their government contracts, or both—because those Charities refused to place children with same-sex couples or unmarried opposite-sex couples who cohabit. 

  • State immigration laws.  Several states have recently passed laws that forbid what they deem as “harboring” of undocumented immigrants—and what the Church deems Christian charity and pastoral care to these immigrants.

  • Discrimination against small church congregations.  New York City adopted a policy that barred the Bronx Household of Faith and other churches from renting public schools on weekends for worship services, even though non-religious groups could rent the same schools for many other uses.  Litigation in this case continues. 

  • Discrimination against Catholic humanitarian services.  After years of excellent performance by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) in administering contract services for victims of human trafficking, the federal government changed its contract specifications to require MRS to provide or refer for contraceptive and abortion services in violation of Catholic teaching. 

  • Christian students on campus.  In its over-100-year history, the University of California Hastings College of Law has denied student organization status to only one group, the Christian Legal Society, because it required its leaders to be Christian and to abstain from sexual activity outside of marriage.

  • Forcing religious groups to host same-sex “marriage” or civil union ceremonies.  A New Jersey judge recently found that a Methodist ministry violated state law when the ministry declined to allow two women to hold a “civil union” ceremony on its private property.  Further, a civil rights complaint has been filed against the Catholic Church in Hawaii by a person requesting to use a chapel to hold a same-sex “marriage” ceremony.

Is our most cherished freedom truly under threat?  Yes, Pope Benedict XVI recognized just last year that various attempts to limit the freedom of religion in the U.S. are particularly concerning.  The threat to religious freedom is larger than any single case or issue and has its roots in secularism in our culture.  The Holy Father has asked for the laity to have courage to counter secularism that would “delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society.”

Pope Backs Reforms of US Sisters’ Leadership Conference

So far as I’m concerned this settles it. Cq5dam web 1280 1280

According to Archbishop Gerhard Muller, prefect for the Vatican’s doctrine congregation, the Holy Father has reaffirmed the Vatican’s assessment of the American Leadership Conference of Women Religious. The assessment found “serious doctrinal problems” and the findings also said that the Conference needed to be reformed.

This action resulted in public controversy and bitter comments that the bishops were a just a bunch of men attacking women for supporting the poor. I think quite a bit of the backlash could have been avoided if the bishops had done a better job of explaining what their concerns with the Leadership Conference for Women Religious were.

The situation was complicated by partisan electoral politics and the fact that the bishops were forced to take a stand against the HHS Mandate at the same time the assessment came down.

Us catholic bishops

It was poor timing, that played into the hand of secular politicians, to say the least. 

What followed is what has happened far too often. Supporters and attackers of the assessment inside the Church went right past the issues in question and headed straight on into name-calling and slander of both the bishops and the sisters. If you listened too long to either side in this debate, you would come away convinced that the other side was evil incarnate.

Nuns on the bus AP12061819474 fullwidth 620x350

We really need to stop this kind of behavior if we are going to continue calling ourselves Christians. I am not talking here about private conversations with your closely-held friends, family and clerical advisers. I am talking about the sorry practice of Catholics trashing Catholics in public discussion.

So far as the issue of reform in the Leadership Conference of Women Religious is concerned, the Pope has spoken and that settles it. At least it does for me. I support my Church in its struggle to conform itself in all its members to the Gospels of Christ.

At the same time, there is no way that I am going to engage in an attack on the sisters. I was the Oklahoma contact for their legislative alerts for a couple of years and I can say they never once asked me to support or oppose any piece of legislation where I thought their position was contrary to Church teaching. I think they do a lot of good.

However, if the Holy Father has reviewed the report and says that he supports its findings, including the need for reform of the Conference, then I believe it, trust it and am not going to give it one more thought.

I will however, pray that this whole situation will be resolved in a manner that leads to the greater glory of the Kingdom and the increased holiness of all involved. 

From Catholic News Agency:

.- Pope Francis has reaffirmed the Vatican’s assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which found it had “serious doctrinal problems” and needed to be reformed.

Archbishop Gerhard L. Müller, the prefect for the Vatican’s doctrine congregation, met in Rome with conference president Sister Florence Deacon on April 15, along with Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle, who was named to carry out the reform of the group.

Archbishop Müller told Sr. Deacon that he “recently discussed the Doctrinal Assessment with Pope Francis, who reaffirmed the findings of the Assessment and the program of reform for this Conference of Major Superiors,” an April 15 statement from the congregation said.

“It is the sincere desire of the Holy See that this meeting may help to promote the integral witness of women Religious,” the communiqué stated, and this requires “a firm foundation of faith and Christian love, so as to preserve and strengthen it for the enrichment of the Church and society for generations to come.”

Since it was his first time meeting with the leadership of the group, Archbishop Müller thanked the sisters for their “great contribution” to the Church in the United States, “as seen particularly in the many schools, hospitals, and institutions of support for the poor” that have been founded and staffed by religious.

He also “emphasized that a Conference of Major Superiors, such as the LCWR, exists in order to promote common efforts among its member institutes as well as cooperation with the local Conference of Bishops and with individual Bishops.

“For this reason, such Conferences are constituted by and remain under the direction of the Holy See,” he stated, citing canons 708-709. (Read more here.) 


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