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.
Ronald 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.
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.
Yesterday 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…)
2017 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.
At 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…)
The 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.
Before 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.
“The open persecution of explicitly anti-Christian tyrants, while harder to endure, is easier to understand than the more complex attacks on the church in America today,” says Greg Forster.
What we face is different. True, many of those who control the institutions at the top of American civilization seem to be working diligently to make those institutions suppress Christianity. If things were to continue to progress as they have lately (which I do not expect to happen), even the most basic elements of life in our culture—such as holding down a job so we can put food on our families’ tables—will require Christians to compromise their consciences.
Yet these people in power are no Neros. Get to know them, or just listen carefully to what they say, and you will find that they are, humanly speaking, decent people. They don’t know God, but they know the basic rules of common morality—fair play, respecting others, treating people decently. Paul could almost have been writing about these people when he said that unbelievers’ behavior shows the law of God is written on their hearts (Rom. 2:14-15). Yet they invoke these same rules of morality as their justification for rolling back religious freedom; they even invoke tolerance to justify their intolerance. What gives?
The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter has declared today, August 1, to be a World Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians in Iraq, Syria and the Middle East. They ask that Christians use this day to pray for the perseverance of their Christian brethren in war-torn areas, and that they will be delivered from further suffering. It is fitting that all people of good faith pray for this.
At The Federalist, writer Mollie Hemingway says we need to pray, but we also need to be practical. She says we need to inform ourselves and others about what is happening in the Middle East, why it’s happening, and what we can do – practically – to help. She refers her readers to an article by Nina Shea at Fox News that bluntly tells us that only Americans can save the Christians in Iraq:
The last of Mosul’s Christians, those some 5,000 professors, doctors, lawyers, mechanics and their families that left between June 10 and July 19, find themselves suddenly destitute and homeless because of their faith. Some went to the nearest Nineveh Christian villages, temporarily sheltering in schools and churches. These villages would be vulnerable to ISIS attacks, too, but for their protection by the Kurds, who are, themselves, Sunni Muslim. Water and electricity have been cut off for some by ISIS, who told one Christian town official, “You don’t deserve to drink water,” reported Archdeacon Youkhana. The residents are desperately digging wells.
Many more have fled to Kurdistan, where there are ancestral Christian villages and big cities. (more…)