Category: Religious Liberty

anniseparkerEarlier this month the city of Houston sent out a subpoena to five area pastors demanding to see:

All speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.

Houston mayor Annise Parker even appeared to support the measure, saying on her Twitter account, “If the 5 pastors used pulpits for politics, their sermons are fair game. Were instructions given on filling out anti-HERO petition?”

But after a national outcry — that included hundreds of Bibles being sent to her office — the mayor has decided to change her position. Today she announced she’s withdrawing the subpoenas:
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abortion-is-not-healthcareRemember the Hobby Lobby case when the Supreme Court ruled that an employer could not be required to provide employees with certain types of abortifacients if it was against their religious beliefs? Remember also how some people complained that such exemptions in health care plans should be allowed only for churches and religious ministries?

Apparently, the state government of California thinks that both of those claims are absurd. They think that every employer — including churches — should be required to pay for elective surgical abortions.

In August, California’s Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) began sending notices to health insurance companies notifying them that they were required to cover the cost of abortions. The only exception allowed was that a health plan is not required to pay for abortions of a “viable fetus,” i.e., if there is a “reasonable likelihood of the fetus’ sustained survival outside the uterus without the application of extraordinary medical measures.” There were no exemptions for organizations that might have a religious belief that forbids them from even indirectly paying for abortions. Even a pro-life group dedicated to opposing abortion would be required to cover abortions in the healthcare policies provided to their employees.
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R&LSpring2014coverIn a 2013 commencement address at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, Makoto Fujimura told the graduating class, “We are to rise above the darkened realities, the confounding problems of our time.” A tall order for any age, but one God has decisively overcome in Jesus Christ. Fujimura uses his talent to connect beauty with the truth of the Gospel in a culture that has largely forgotten its religious tradition and history. He makes those things fresh and visible again. With works like “Walking on Water,” and the “Four Holy Gospels,” Fujimura is illuminating God’s Word to a culture that is mostly inward looking and mired in the self. Our interview with Fujimura leads this new issue of Religion & Liberty.

Also in this issue, I contribute a column on the dangers of state religion. Secularism, now thriving as the state religion, has the potential to unleash a new kind of religious persecution in America. (more…)

Subpoena1After hearing the news that the city of Houston had ordered several pastors to submit their sermons for legal review, many people had the same reaction as Brian Lee: “My response? So what? Sermons are public proclamation, aren’t they?”

Sermons are indeed proclamations intended for the public, and most pastors would be eager for anyone — including public officials — to hear them. So what is the reason for the current objection?

Mollie Hemingway explains that the true “governing authorities” in America aren’t people, but laws:
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The System Has a Soul: Essays on Christianity, Liberty, and Political LifeHunter Baker’s latest book, The System Has a Soul: Essays on Christianity, Liberty, and Political Life, is now available from Christian’s Library Press, and has received praise from the likes of Robert George, Russell Moore, and David Dockery, among others.

Now, in his Book of the Month review for October, the inimitable Douglas Wilson adds his voice to the chorus, noting that, amid the chaos of secularism and its counterparts, “Baker reminds us that Christians in a society must learn to embrace their high calling”:

Secularism is completely bankrupt, and the more people we can get to talk regularly about this useful fact in public, the better I like it. People used to believe that secularization was part of the inevitable march of evolution. Now the ground has shifted, and people are just acquiescing to certain practical realities brought about by the mere fact of pluralism. But, as Baker points out, “There is nothing about that situation that guarantees a secular future” (p. 54). What the future will look like is always an idea, and unless there is divine inspiration for your eschatology, you need to be a little bit careful about your pronouncements. There is no historical inevitability to secularism at all. Baker is one of the few writers today who is willing to point that fact out.

The subtitle of this book is Essays on Christianity, Liberty, and Political Life, and his work ranges between a number of related themes. He talks about the crisis that higher education faces, he addresses whether social conservatives and libertarians can find any common ground, and what relevance the resurrection might have for political theory. Baker is an intelligent observer of the emperor’s parade, and he has the courage to comment on the emperor’s lack of suitable apparel.

Read the full review.

Purchase The System Has a Soul: Essays on Christianity, Liberty, and Political Life.

CA-transgender-bathroomThis summer Houston Mayor Annise Parker championed a so-called Equal Rights Ordinance which, among other changes, would force businesses to allow transgender residents’ to use whatever restroom they want, regardless of their biological sex.

In response, a citizen initiative was launched to have the council either repeal the bill or place it on the ballot for voters to decide. The mayor and city attorney defied the law and rejected the certification, so the initiative filed a lawsuit. In return, the city’s attorneys subpoenaed a number of area pastors.

According to Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the city demanded to see what these pastors were preaching from the pulpit and wanted to examine their communications with their church members and others concerning the city council’s actions.
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LittleSistersofthePoorIt seems such a subtle distinction: “freedom to worship” as opposed to “religious freedom.” The phrase, “freedom to worship,” started appearing in 2010, and in 2013, President Obama made the following remarks in his address for the annual Proclamation for Religious Freedom Day:

Foremost among the rights Americans hold sacred is the freedom to worship as we choose.” He then refers to the history of this right. “Because of this protection by our Constitution, each of us has the right to practice our faith openly and as we choose.”

It seems as if the president is equating the two, doesn’t it? But Sarah Torre says there are not the same, and equating the two is dangerous. In fact, it’s a lie. (more…)

One of the most profound ironies in our current debates over religious liberty is the Left’s persistent decrying of business as short-sighted and materialistic even as it attempts to prevent the Hobby Lobbys of the world from heeding their consciences and convictions.

Business is about far more than some materialistic bottom line, but this is precisely why we need the protection for religious liberty. If we fail to promote religious liberty for businesses, how can we ever expect the marketplace to contribute to widespread human flourishing — economic, social, spiritual, and otherwise?

In a marvelous talk at AEI’s recent Evangelical Leadership Summit, hosted by Values and Capitalism, Dr. Russell Moore points to precisely this, arguing that we need to cultivate churches, businesses, institutions, and governments whose consciences “are not so malleable that they can be directed simply by the whims of the marketplace or…by government edict.”

Watch the full thing here, which is followed by other insightful speakers, including Brian Grim, whose research on business and religious liberty aptly complements Moore’s thoughts.

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“Prison is a hopeless place.” That’s how one former inmate describes it. What can give hope? The freedom to practice one’s faith, even behind bars and barbed wire.

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In the United States, we’ve only begun to see how impediments to religious liberty can harm and hinder certain businesses and entrepreneurial efforts. Elsewhere, however, particularly in the developing world, religious restrictions and hostilities have long been a barrier to economic growth.

To identify these realities, Brian Grim of Georgetown University and Greg Clark and Robert Edward Snyder of Brigham Young University conducted an extensive study, “Is Religious Freedom Good for Business?,” which concludes that “religious freedom contributes to better economic and business outcomes.”

Katrina Lantos Swett and Daniel Mark summarize the key findings at Investor’s Business Daily:

Reviewing the GDP growth of 173 countries while controlling for 23 financial, social and regulatory factors, [Clark and Snyder] found that religious freedom not only is associated with global economic growth, but also is one of only three factors carrying that association.

As the study found, 20% of countries with low levels of religious hostilities and 20% nations with low levels of government restrictions on religion were economic innovators, while the figures for nations with high levels of hostilities and restrictions were only 8% and 7%, respectively.

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