The most persecuted and victimized people in the world today are Christians in the Middle East. Middle East expert Raymond Ibrahim lays out the grim details, and wonders why this human rights tragedy of our time is largely ignored by the Western media.
Those schoolgirls captured by Boko Haram? Most are still missing. A boys’ school was bombed. Boko Haram says it wasn’t them, but the people don’t believe them.
In Nigeria, for many people, life is about staying one step ahead of Boko Haram, trying to safeguard their children from getting swept up in the claws of this evil entity.
In neighboring Adamawa state, almost 9,500 displaced people now live in a giant camp — one of five for displaced people in the area. They’ve found refuge in what was a youth center outside Yola, the state capital. The buildings are crammed full of residents. Newcomers are being housed in large green tents.
Throughout Western developed nations, there is dawning recognition that robust protections for religious liberty can no longer be taken for granted. Less understood are the ways in which infringements of other political, civil and commercial forms of freedom can subtly undermine religious liberty. Businesses and other institutions of civil society now need to consider how the restrictions of religious freedom by governments throughout the Western world is likely to affect them.
Today the Acton Institute, in conjunction with the School of Business and Economics at the Catholic University of America, will hold a conference from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Washington titled, “The Relationship between Religious & Economic Liberty in an Age of Expanding Government.” The event brings together leading clergy and scholars—theologians, philosophers, economists—to discuss this increasingly important issue, and the manner in which is affecting institutions ranging from business to church organizations.
If you’re in Grand Rapids, you can watch the event live in the Acton auditorium at 98 E. Fulton St. Details here. Or watch the live web stream beginning at noon on the video player after the page break. (more…)
On Tuesday, voters in Alabama passed a ballot measure that, among other things, forbids courts, arbitrators, and administrative agencies from applying or “enforcing a foreign law if doing so would violate any state law or a right guaranteed by the Constitution of this state or of the United States.” Such measures (other states have passed similar laws) are often dubbed “anti-Sharia” measures since preventing the encroachment of Sharia is usually their primary objective.
Sharia is the moral code and religious law of Islam that deals with topics addressed by secular law, including crime, politics, and economics, as well as personal matters such as sexual relations, hygiene, diet, and prayer. The two primary sources of Sharia law are the Quran and the example set by the founder of Islam, Muhammad. The introduction of Sharia across the globe is a longstanding goal for Islamist movements.
Opposing Sharia law may appear to be commonsensical measure. But such laws are unnecessary since state law and the Constitution already trump foreign law. They also can’t be written to oppose only Sharia (that would be religious discrimination) so they are written in a broad way that has unintended consequences.
Indeed, there is a compelling reason why Christians should be leery of joining in supporting anti-Sharia legislation: By helping to push the idea that religious beliefs should be kept private, anti-Sharia laws are a threat to all of our religious liberties. As the Catholic legal scholar Robert K. Vischer explained last year in First Things:
Earlier 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?”
Remember 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.
In 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…)
After 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?
Hunter 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.
This 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.