Category: Religious Liberty

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:

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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?
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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.
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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:
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Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, September 8, 2015
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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…)

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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