Category: Religious Liberty

john-oliver-churchIn 2004, Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show, famously appeared on CNN’s Crossfire and accused the hosts of “hurting America.” He excoriated the show’s hosts for being “partisan hacks” who suck up to politicians and spin the news for partisan ends. Stewart then spent the next ten years hurting America by being a partisan hack that sucked up to politicians and spun the news for partisan ends.

That so many Americans get their news from opinion shows on cable news like Crossfire has always been depressing. But even more disturbing is the fact that for years a relatively small number (about 12 percent) cited Stewart’s The Daily Show as a place they learned about what was going on in the world.

When Stewart and his show retired earlier this month, many of us sighed with relief. Finally, we thought, thirtysomething, college-educated liberals will be forced to turn somewhere else besides a third-rate comedy show to get their information about current events. Alas, that was not to be. Stewart passed the baton to his former correspondent John Oliver who has his own current events show on HBO called Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

If you’ve been on social media in the past year you’ve likely seen one of your liberal friends post a clip from Oliver’s show. There’s nothing particularly insightful about Oliver, but he has a British accent which leads Americans to assume he’s intelligent and profound.

Earlier this month, Oliver did a segment on televangelists. He can be forgiven for being late to the topic since he was still a teenager in England when America got bored of talking about predatory preachers on television. The “prosperity gospel” frauds are still a problem, of course, and should be called out for it. But Oliver (or whoever writes for his teleprompter) isn’t really concerned about televangelists. The real goal of the segment is to promote the idea that the IRS should determine what is and is not a legitimate church.

To show how easy it is to form a “false” church, Oliver created his own church, Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption, and asked for donations. As a comedy bit it’s pretty lame; as a critique of government oversight of religion it’s downright idiotic.
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chickfilaIf you want to sell chicken sandwiches as the Denver Airport you need to check your First Amendment rights at the gate.

That seems to be the message sent by the Denver City Council to Chick-fil-A, a fast-food chain that is seeking to open a store at the Denver International Airport. The Council is considering turning away the popular franchise because the company promotes a Christian ethic in their business dealings. This offends the Council who is worried about how it will affect LGBT rights.

No one is really concerned that Chick-fil-A will flout the city’s nondiscrimination laws and refuse to hire or serve the LGBT community. Chick-fil-A has never in the past discriminated against gays or lesbians and is certainly unlikely to start doing so now. So what is the council’s concern? That Chick-fil-A executives may express their religious beliefs or that the company may use their profits in ways the council member’s find inappropriate:
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Last week, I was pleased to attend the ERLC’s 2015 National Conference on Gospel and Politics, of which the Acton Institute was a proud co-sponsor. The speaker line-up was strikingly rich and diverse, ranging from pastors to writers to politicos to professors, but among them all, Russell Moore’s morning address was the clear stand-out.

Moore began by asking, “How do we as Christians engage in issues that sometimes are political without becoming co-opted by politics and losing the gospel and the mission at the same time?”

Starting from the story of Paul and Silas’ imprisonment in Philippi (Acts 16:25-40), and continuing with a rich perspective on Christian exile and a needed critique of American civil religion, Moore reminds us of how the Gospel has the power to cultivate a community that is equipped to “naturally and organically” bear witness to the outside world — through love, conscience, word, and action.

You can watch and listen here:

I encourage you to watch the whole thing, but for those without the time or in need of a teaser, I’ve highlighted some key excerpts below.

(Also, for those paying attention, Moore’s perspective serves as a fine complement to Acton’s latest film series, For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles, particularly the episodes on Exile and the Economy of Order. He also has a new book on cultural engagement that is quite good.) (more…)

WheatonCollege_Vertical_2c_logoOver the past couple of years the Obama administration has made it clear that when religious freedom conflicts with their political agenda, religious believers are the ones that will have to set aside their conscientious objections. And to be honest, I suspected that would be what happened more often than not.

Sure, you’d have some brave holdouts, like the owners of Hobby Lobby and the dedicated nuns of the Little Sisters of the Poor. But for the most part, I expected Christian organizations would find a way to defend a “principled compromise.” For instance, I assumed Christian colleges would be the first to cave on issues like the contraceptive-abortifacient mandate. After all, what are they going to do, stop providing health insurance for their students?

Well, yes, they will. At least that’s what Wheaton College has done:
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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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