Category: Religious Liberty

Blog author: dpahman
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
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City Summer 2014In the most recent issue of The City, I have an essay on Orthodoxy and ordered liberty. I argue that Orthodox theological anthropology, which distinguishes between the image and likeness of God and two forms of freedom corresponding to them, fits well with the classical understanding of ordered liberty.

In particular, I examine these freedoms with regards to the family, religious liberty, political liberty, and economic liberty, arguing that the Orthodox ascetic tradition has much to offer to modern Christian social thought with regards to how best to order the freedom we have by virtue of being created after the image of God toward that freedom from passion and sin that finds its fulfillment in the likeness of Jesus Christ.

Of interest to our readers here, with regards to economic liberty, I write,

We are created with a capacity for freedom, autexousio, to be used for the purpose of the moral freedom of theosis: eleutheria. Thus, just as we ought to offer up our bodies as living sacrifices to God (cf. Romans 12:1), so also we are to offer up God’s creation to him through our labor. God has given us the earth in order “to tend and keep it” in a paradis[ai]cal state (Genesis 2:15). Thus, acknowledging … our propensity for failure, we nevertheless have a duty to make of God’s creation what we can, imitating the creativity of God and exercising the dominion he gave us (Genesis 1:26).

We must, then, have liberty in society to freely cultivate the resources of the earth for the sake of the higher good of self-sacrificing love. Helen Rhee affirms in Loving the Poor, Saving the Rich, her study of wealth and poverty in the early Church, the consistent patristic teaching of both the affirmation of private property rights and our moral duties to use our property for the good of others (what is known in the West as the “universal destination of goods”)….

You can read the full article online here.

And while you’re at it, take the time to subscribe to The City. It’s free and published in print and online three times a year. Subscribe here.

contraceptive-mandateToday the Department of Health and Human Services issued yet another revision regarding its contraception mandate. Details on the new regulations should be announced within a month. According to the Wall Street Journal:

Justice Department lawyers said in a brief filed Tuesday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit that the federal government would issue new regulations in the next month that will apply to all nonprofit institutions that say the faith with which they are affiliated is opposed to the use of most forms of contraception.

“The Wheaton College injunction does not reflect a final Supreme Court determination,” the brief said. “Nevertheless, the Departments responsible for implementing the accommodations have informed us that they have determined to augment the regulatory accommodation process in light of the Wheaton College injunction and that they plan to issue interim final rules within a month. We will inform the Court when the rules are issued.”

A senior administration official said the details of the rules are still being worked out. But it is likely that the Supreme Court’s order will shape the new compromise arrangement, and that nonprofit institutions will be able to write a letter stating their objections, rather than filing a form. That would leave the federal government to work out how those employers get access to contraception coverage.

In reply to this news, Lori Windham, Senior Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, says:

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140819_BarnWedding (1)First it was bakers, florists, and photographers. Now you can add farmers to the list of occupations that people are compelled by law to serve ends they deem unethical and in violation of their consciences. New York State has fined Cynthia and Robert Gifford $13,000 for acting on their belief that marriage is the union of a man and woman and thus declining to rent out their family farm for a same-sex wedding celebration.

As Leslie Ford and Ryan Anderson explain,
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Muslim-PersecutionRonald S. Lauder is the president of the World Jewish Congress. He wants his fellow Jews to speak out and stand up against the persecution of Christians, especially at the hands of ISIS. He calls the current situation in Iraq “Nazi-like,” and that the situation has failed to garner attention from political leaders, aging rock stars, and the world in general.

He maintains that ISIS is not a loosely organized group of rag-tag jihadists, but

…a real military force that has managed to take over much of Iraq with a successful business model that rivals its coldblooded spearhead of death. It uses money from banks and gold shops it has captured, along with control of oil resources and old-fashioned extortion, to finance its killing machine, making it perhaps the wealthiest Islamist terrorist group in the world. But where it truly excels is in its carnage, rivaling the death orgies of the Middle Ages. It has ruthlessly targeted Shiites, Kurds and Christians.

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Rendering of the new Church of the Assumption

Rendering of the new Church of the Assumption

When Fidel Castro took over the island nation of Cuba, it officially become a nation of atheists. However, the Catholic community in Cuba continued to worship – privately, where necessary – and attempted to maintain existing churches. Castro’s regime would not allow the building of any new churches.

Now, there are plans to build a new church for the first time in fifty wars in Santiago, a city that suffered great damage from Hurricane Sandy two years ago. Santiago is home to one of Cuba’s great Catholic shrines, Our Lady of El Cobre, but the church there (riddled with termites and long-neglected) was destroyed in the hurricane.

There remains great poverty among many residents in the area, many of whom suffered great damage to their own homes from the hurricane. However, they want a church. (more…)

foster-family-with-childrenYesterday was a great day for my family. We had recently celebrated the addition of two girls. My niece and her husband adopted them, and yesterday was the girls’ baptism. My mother was there; she and my dad fostered children and adopted two. My two daughters were there to celebrate; they are both adopted.

If the government and certain entities have their way, none of this will happen for families like ours – families for whom religious faith is paramount, and who have chosen to work with religious social service agencies in order to foster and adopt children.

Sarah Torre and Ryan T. Anderson discuss this at The Daily Signal. Some states are considering cutting off revenue to social service agencies that choose not to place children with same-sex couples. These organizations choose to do so because of religious beliefs that first, uphold that marriage can exist only between one man and one woman, and second, that affirm children are best served by having a mother and a father to raise them. Some government officials are working to make sure that these agencies continue to receive funding. Torre and Anderson:

Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., and Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., introduced the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, which would protect the right of child welfare providers, including private and faith-based adoption and foster care agencies, to continue providing valuable services to families and children. The federal government and states receiving certain federal child welfare funds would be prohibited from discriminating against a child welfare provider simply because the provider declines to provide a service that conflicts with their religious or moral convictions. (more…)

Refo5002017 will mark the 500th Anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 Theses on the door of Wittenberg Castle Church, the event that would eventually lead to what we now know as the Protestant Reformation. In anticipation of this very significant anniversary, churches, seminaries, colleges, and many other organizations have begun the process of examining the events leading up to and flowing out from the reformations of that time, and a great deal of those organizations have joined together to form Refo500, which describes itself as “the international platform for knowledge, expertise, ideas, products and events, specializing in the 500 year legacy of the Reformation.”

Dr. Herman Selderhuis – Director of Refo500 and professor at the Theological University of Apeldoorn in the Netherlands –  was recently our guest here at the Acton Institute, and he took some time to sit down with Paul Edwards and discuss the legacy of the Protestant Reformation and the work of his organization. You can listen via the audio player below.

church and flagAt RealClearReligion, Rev. Robert Sirico remarks on concerns about liberty in the U.S., spurred on by the recent Supreme Court ruling regarding Hobby Lobby and the HHS mandate. Sirico wonders why we are spending so much time legally defending what has always been a “given” in American life: religion liberty. While the Hobby Lobby ruling is seen as a victory for religious liberty, Sirico is guarded about where we stand.

Many celebrated the Supreme Court’s June 30 ruling on Hobby Lobby. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves: Plenty of other challenges are coming for churches, synagogues, mosques and, yes, businesses.

On July 21, President Obama issued an executive order that prohibits federal government contractors from “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” discrimination and forbids “gender identity” discrimination in the employment of federal employees. In a scathing response, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops decried the executive order as “unprecedented and extreme and should be opposed.” (more…)

church-sunsetThe first kind of religious freedom to appear in the Western world was “freedom of the church.” Although that freedom has been all but ignored by the Courts in the past few decades, its place in American jurisprudence is once again being recognized.

Notre Dame law professor Richard Garnett explains how we should think about and defend the liberty of religious institutions:

To embrace this idea as still-relevant is to claim that religious institutions have a distinctive place in our constitutional order—and not only a distinctively worrisome or harmful one. It is to suggest that churches are not “just like the Boy Scouts” and that, while they to a large extent function in civil society in the same way and deliver the same Tocquevillian benefits as any number of voluntary associations, they are, in the end, different.

True, it is increasingly difficult, within the boundaries of argument set down by some versions of liberal political theory, to justify, on principled grounds, special treatment for religious liberty. Still, in our history and tradition, “religious” institutions and authorities have acted, and have been regarded, as special and distinct, whether or not “religion” has been understood as neatly separate from “culture,” “conscience,” or “morality.” We live under a written Constitution that “singles out” religion and we inhabit a tradition in which “church” and “state” have, in a special way, cooperated and contended. If it is anachronistic to invoke the freedom of the church, it seems even more ahistorical to deny the distinctive (for better or worse) place and role of religious actors in that tradition, and today.

Read more . . .

hobby_lobby_protest_bible_ap_ftrBefore I try to convince you that Katha Pollitt is dangerously wrong, let me attempt to explain why her opinion is significant. Pollitt was educated at Harvard and the Columbia School of the Arts and has taught at Princeton. She has won a National Magazine Award for Columns and Commentary, an NEA grant, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a National Book Critics Circle Award.

She is, in other words, the kind of politically progressive pundit whose opinions, when originally expressed, are considered outré — and then within a few months or years, are considered mainstream in progressive circles.

However, in her latest column, “Why It’s Time to Repeal the Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” Pollitt is but a few minutes ahead of the liberal curve.

She begins with the stunningly obtuse claim that, “In the not-too-distant future, it’s entirely possible that religious freedom will be the only freedom we have left—a condition for which we can blame the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.”

Pollitt is smart enough to know that claim is nonsense. She’s also smart enough to know that there are plenty of people who are gullible enough to believe it could be true.
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