Category: Religious Liberty

Blog author: jcouretas
Saturday, November 21, 2015

Syrian children, from the June 2013 issue of The Word Magazine (Antiochian Orthodox Church)

Syrian children, from the June 2013 issue of The Word Magazine (Antiochian Orthodox Church)

We’re having an intense, often heated, debate about the reception of Syrian refugees in the United States. How do Eastern Christians see it? The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, an Archdiocese of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, has issued a balanced and unflinchingly critical statement on the crisis. This is a church that traces its history to apostolic times in Syria and other parts of the Middle East. Many North American Antiochians are themselves immigrants or can trace their family history back just a generation or two to the villages and parishes that are being destroyed by the Syrian war. The statement follows in full. Also see my April podcast with Mark Ohanian, director of programs for International Orthodox Christian Charities, who talked about the Syria relief effort, and the massive flow of refugees into neighboring countries such as Lebanon.

Statement from the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America on the Reception of Refugees in the United States in Light of Recent Terrorist Actions around the World

Since the tragic terrorist actions in Paris, Beirut, Mali and elsewhere in the past two weeks, there have been polarized reactions to the reception of refugees, mainly of Syrian nationality, worldwide: an understandable reaction of concern on the one hand, but a sad overreaction of fear on the other. We are all concerned first and foremost for the safety of the citizens of the United States which must be continually addressed and assessed. At the same time, the humanitarian disaster caused by the war in Syria to which the U.S. government has contributed by calling for the removal of the established Syrian leadership – as it did in Egypt, Iraq and Libya – requires a moral response from the people and government of our great country. Misguided U.S. foreign policy helped create the so-called “Arab Spring” which has been a “tornado” that has destroyed Arab countries, leaving power vacuums that have fostered the soaring, vicious activity of terrorist groups including ISIS, al-Nusra, and others in the Middle East and around the world. All of this has resulted in an unprecedented number of deaths of innocent people and lack of basic services like healthcare and sanitation, healthy food and drinking water, safe and dignified housing, and so forth.

We must us not be guided by fear or bigotry, but rather let us work to heal the wounds of the injured, clothing the naked and feeding the poor as our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ has taught us (Matthew 25:35-36).

persecuted-in-iraqThe Obama administration is moving to designate the Islamic State’s persecution of the Yazidi in Iraq an act of “genocide.” For the past few years the Yazidi, a tiny religious minority in the Kurdish region of the country, have been forced to flee the killings, rapes, and enslavement by Islamic State (the terrorist group formerly known as ISIS).

There is no doubt that what is happening to the Yazidi should be considered genocide. But what about the Christians who are suffering under Islamic State? According to some reports, Christian groups might not be included.

Nina Shea, a former commissioner on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, explains the significance of the exclusion:


lsofpThe Supreme Court recently agreed to hear a challenge from religious nonprofit groups to federal government’s contraceptive mandate. Here are some answers to questions you may have about that case.

What is this case and what’s it about?

The case the Supreme Court will hear, Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged v. Burwell, combines seven challenges to the Health and Human Services’ (HHS) contraceptive mandate.

To fulfill the requirements of the Affordable Healthcare Act (aka ObamaCare) the federal government passed a regulation (often called the “HHS Mandate”) that attempts to force groups into providing insurance coverage for contraceptives, sterilization, and abortifacients. Some religious groups, such as the Little Sisters of the Poor, objected on the ground that the requirement violates their religious liberty as protected by the First Amendment and the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). HHS offered an accommodation which the Little Sisters found to be insufficient.

The Supreme Court will decide, as SCOTUS Blog explains, whether the government has offered nonprofit religious employers a means to comply and whether the whether HHS satisfies RFRA’s test for overriding sincerely held religious objections in circumstances where HHS itself insists that overriding the religious objection will not fulfill HHS’s regulatory objective—namely, the provision of no-cost contraceptives to the objector’s employees.

What was the accommodation and why was it rejected?

Last weekend was the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, an annual day to put special emphasis on praying for the persecuted Church. Remembering the persecuted church around the globe, though, should be a continual effort for all Christians. We need to continually remind ourselves that our brothers and sisters are beaten, jailed, or even killed for their faith.

One group in particular that we need to remember to pray for is the underground church in China. In this brief video by Deidox Films, Li Yang provides a glimpse into an underground home church.

In this short addendum, Li Yang answers the question, “Is Christianity legal or illegal in China?” He explains why the question is difficult to answer and how the Chinese government protects its Communist ideology from the threat of Christianity.

On October 21st, the Acton Institute celebrated its 25th Anniversary with a dinner at DeVos Place Convention Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The keynote address for the evening was delivered by Acton President and Co-Founder Rev. Robert A. Sirico, who reflected on how the world has changed in the quarter century since he and Kris Mauren founded the Institute, and on what challenges those of us committed to a free and virtuous society face as Acton embarks upon its next twenty-five years. We’re pleased to present the video of Rev. Sirico’s address below.

US-commission-intl-religious-freedom-294x300Yesterday the State Department released its International Religious Freedom Report for 2014. A wide range of U.S. government agencies and offices use the reports for such efforts as shaping policy and conducting diplomacy. The Secretary of State also uses the reports to help determine which countries have engaged in or tolerated “particularly severe violations” of religious freedom in order to designate “countries of particular concern.”

A major concern addressed in this year’s report is the violent opposition to religious freedom by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). David Saperstein, Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom (IRF) is quoted in the report’s introduction saying,

There is an absolute and unequivocal need to give voice to the religiously oppressed in every land afraid to speak of what they believe in; who face death and live in fear, who worship in underground churches, mosques or temples, who feel so desperate that they flee their homes to avoid killing and persecution simply because they love God in their own way or question the existence of God.

The report highlights numerous examples of state-sponsored persecution of Christians, including those in Iran and China:

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, September 8, 2015

davis_mugshot-800x430Should Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who is jail for refusing to issue marriage license, have resigned?

Over the past week many people, including many Christians sympathetic to her cause, have said Davis should resigned from her elected position as Rowan County Clerk if her conscience won’t allow her to do the job as required. While I understand the reasoning, and am even partially sympathetic to that view, I think it misses the reason Davis acted as she did and how her choice does not necessarily conflict with the rule of law.

For at least fifty years it has not been a requirement that you must do every aspect of your job, despite your beliefs, or automatically resign. As Ryan Anderson wrote in a recent New York Times op-ed:

We have a rich history of accommodating conscientious objectors in a variety of settings, including government employees. Do we really want to say that an otherwise competent employee must quit or go to jail if there is another alternative?

I don’t believe we do want to say that. In fact, I believe one of the quickest ways to government tyranny is to require every religious believer with conscientious objections to immoral laws and government overreach to resign from government positions. (more…)