Category: Religious Liberty

Allowing people to think what they want about God and religious beliefs is a considered a cornerstone of a liberal society. But religious toleration hasn’t historically been considered a prized virtue. In fact, as Larry Schweikart says, it’s a historical aberration—an ideological revolution created by the Puritans and pre-1776 Americans.

little-sistersEarlier today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled that the Little Sisters must comply with the government’s mandate to provide contraceptives for employees. The district court ruled the Little Sisters cannot receive a full exemption from the law’s contraception rules because they “do not substantially burden plaintiffs’ religious exercise or violate the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights.”

The nuns disagree. “As Little Sisters of the Poor, we simply cannot choose between our care for the elderly poor and our faith,” says Sr. Loraine Marie Maguire, Mother Provincial of the Little Sisters of the Poor. “And we should not have to make that choice, because it violates our nation’s commitment to ensuring that people from diverse faiths can freely follow God’s calling in their lives.”

“For over 175 years, we have served the neediest in society with love and dignity,” added Sr. Maguire. “All we ask is to be able to continue our religious vocation free from government intrusion.”
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Hands On Originals is a small printing company in Lexington, Kentucky, that, up until recently, had very few problems when they declined to print a certain message.

Last year, however, the owner, Blaine Adamson, was found guilty of discrimination by a Lexington human rights commission for refusing to print T-shirts for a local gay pride festival. The commissioners ordered that Adamson must violate his conscience, and further, must participate in diversity training to be conducted by the commission.

Fortunately, this story has a happier ending than that of the baker and florist, as the Fayette Circuit Court ended up reversing the commission’s decision. “It is their constitutional right to hold dearly and to not be compelled to be part of an advocacy message opposed to their sincerely held Christian beliefs,” Judge James Ishmael wrote in his decision.

Watch below for more of Blaine’s testimony:

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sbbIn response to the Supreme Court’s ruling on the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, Governor Sam Brownback issued a new executive order to ensure religious freedom protections for Kansas clergy and religious organizations.

In the majority opinion of Obergefell, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that, despite this newly invented “right” for same-sex couples to marry, religions and their adherents “may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned,” and further, that “the First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection.”

And yet, given the otherwise broad and blurry language of Kennedy’s opinion and the corresponding concerns of the dissenting justices, religious persons continue to worry.

As Chief Justice John Roberts wrote: “People of faith can take no comfort in the treatment they receive from the majority today.” (more…)

rockwell religionChuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship and BreakPoint, spoke in a 2009 Breakpoint broadcast about religious liberty. His words apply even more today.

Allow me to make a very direct statement. I believe it is time for the Church in this country to stand up for religious freedom.

Especially over the course of the last few years, we have seen repeated efforts — in the courts, in state legislatures, in Congress and on Pennsylvania Avenue — to erode what has been called the first freedom: religious liberty. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, July 1, 2015
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hist-ff-first-amendment-7195911“The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to make same-sex marriage a constitutional right under the Fourteenth Amendment,” says Zack Pruitt in today’s Acton Commentary, “will generate huge conflicts—in some cases unforeseen—with the First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion.” Fortunately, some legislators are already attempting to do something to prevent such conflicts.

Even before the recent Supreme Court ruling, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID) introduced legislation to clarify and strengthen religious liberty protections in federal law, by “safeguarding those individuals and institutions who promote traditional marriage from government retaliation.” The First Amendment Defense Act (S. 1598, H.R. 2802) would prevent any federal agency from denying a tax exemption, grant, contract, license, or certification to an individual, association, or business based on their belief that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. For example, the bill would prohibit the IRS from stripping a church of its tax exemption for refusing to officiate same-sex weddings.
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The U.S. Supreme Court decided today that it is unconstitutional for a state to declare that marriage is only between one man and one woman. There is nothing in the Constitution that requires states to redefine marriage, but the Court decided that the Due Process Clause prohibits defining marriage as it has been defined for millennia just as it found a right to an abortion in the same Due Process Clause over 40 years ago.

The role of the Court is to rule on the merits of a case based on prior case law and the Constitution. The Court is not to legislate or find ways to make something legal that they personally believe is better for society. When the Court removes an issue from the realm of democracy and imposes its will based on what it perceives as the best public policy, there is a natural resentment that occurs from the people and states opposed to the ruling, particularly when such a ruling has no real basis in constitutional law.

“Five lawyers have closed the debate and enacted their own vision of marriage as a matter of constitutional law,” writes Chief Justice John Roberts in his dissent. “Stealing this issue from the people will for many cast a cloud over same-sex marriage, making a dramatic social change that much more difficult to accept.”

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Tejdeep_Singh_Rattan-e1434375046148If the Army can make an exception to its regulations for a vampire Mickey Mouse tattoo, why can it not do the same for a turban?

That was part of a federal court’s thinking in a ruling ordering the Army to allow a Sikh college student to join his college’s NROTC unit without having to shave his beard, cut his hair, or remove his turban.

Iknoor Singh, a junior at Hofstra University and an observant Sikh, has “long dreamed of serving his country.” He hopes to serve in Military Intelligence, and he speaks Urdu, Hindi, and Punjabi, as well as English. He attempted to enroll in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program and was told he’d have to shave his beard and cut his hair. But like other Sikhs, Singh believes that for a man to cut his hair, shave his beard, or abandon his turban would be “dishonoring and offending God.”

Singh requested a religious accommodation that would permit him to enroll with his articles of faith intact, but was denied by the Army. The Army said that he’d need to cut his beard and hair and only then would the organization consider his request for an accommodation. In other words, the Army’s position was that Singh would need to violate his sincerely held religious beliefs before he could even be considered for an accommodation of his sincerely held religious beliefs.
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adoptionEvery year about 400,000 children spend time in our nation’s foster care system, with roughly 100,000 eligible for adoption. Yet despite this urgent need for parents, note Sarah Torre and Ryan T. Anderson, “various states have adopted policies that would require faith-based providers to place children with same-sex couples, in violation of some agencies’ deeply held beliefs that children deserve a mom and a dad—effectively forcing these agencies out of adoption and foster care service.”

In a refreshing change from this trend against religious providers, the Michigan Legislature has approved legislation that would allow faith-based adoption agencies with state contracts the right to refuse to participate in referrals that violate their beliefs:
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new-york-cityLarge cities in the northeast like Boston, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, and so on, are often caricatured as wastelands of non-religious, unchurched, overtly secular theaters. Caricatures of this type seem odd given the fact that many of America’s oldest religious institutions are actively operating in those regions. One of my friends is quick to point out that every week people sit on church pews in northeastern churches that older than many states out west. For example, by looking at the Christian presence in the New York City area alone, research shows that the northeast might not be as religiously barren as many believe.

I recently contacted Tony Carnes, editor and publisher of A Journey through NYC Religions, to set the record straight on the New York City area. Since 2010, Carnes and his team have visited thousands of religious houses of worship, from all religious traditions cataloging the religious activity in New York City. In light of what he and his team have seen on the ground, Carnes has come to the conclusion that the best description of New York City is that it is a “post secular” city—a condition somewhere between a secular and sacred.
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