Category: Religious Liberty

Whenever Acton Director of Research Samuel Gregg and Al Kresta of Kresta in the Afternoon get together, you’re bound to be in for a great discussion. They got together this afternoon, and ended up providing a great overview of Sam’s new book, Tea Party Catholic: The Catholic Case for Limited Government, a Free Economy, and Human FlourishingYou can listen to the interview using the audio player below:

UntitledLast week the ruling party of the province of Quebec, Parti Québécois, unveiled a new charter which would prohibit public employees from wearing overt religious garb. The document states:

We propose to prohibit the wearing of overt and conspicuous religious symbols by state personnel in carrying out their duties. This restriction would reflect the state’s neutrality.

Included in their examples of “conspicuous signs would not be allowed to state personnel” is the dastar, the turban worn by Sikh men. The problem with such a prohibition, as Brandon Watson explains, is that banning the dastar makes the religious symbolism of Sikhism even more overt:
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Since they can have religious purposes, churches, charities, and parochial school all have legitimate — and legally recognized — claims to religious liberty. Why then, asks legal scholar Jonathan H. Adler, could for-profit corporations not also have religious purposes?

An individual sole proprietor — of, say, a kosher deli, to use Will’s example — would clearly be able to press a religious liberty claim, whether or not she hopes the deli will make her rich (and whether or not she commits to donate her earnings to a religious charity). Does this individual lose such rights if she incorporated? Does that somehow make her religious motivations any less sincere? Any less judicially cognizable? I can’t see how. What, then, if the deli owner formed a partnership with her equally devout brother? Would that matter? And, again, if an informal partnership would be okay, why would the adoption of a corporate form and limited liability matter?

The consequence of the “no religious liberty for corporations” position is that individuals who would like to go into business are penalized if they seek to go into business without any potential recourse, under RFRA or otherwise. The choice presented by the state is go into business or stay true to your religious beliefs. Although I suggested otherwise before, it seems to me this approach imposes a substantial burden on the exercise of religion. Whether this burden can be justified in a given case is a separate question, but the burden is there

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Boy-Scouts-of-AmericaCalifornia lawmakers are moving close to a final vote on a bill that could threaten the tax-exempt status of a variety of groups — ranging from the Boy Scouts to Little League — if their membership policies are found to differentiate on “gender identity,” “sexual orientation,” and other bases. As Alliance Defending Freedom explains, the proposed legislation also threatens religious liberties:

SB 323, which bans discrimination based on “religion” and “religious affiliation,” and which contains no exemption from these bans for religious organizations, would strip religious youth organizations of d1cir tax-exempt status if they continued to select leaders and other persons responsible for carrying out their missions based on a shared set of religious beliefs.

Like SB 323′s ban on religious discrimination, its ban on sexual orientation discrimination, which is designed to punish BSA over its membership and leadership policy, will also severely and negatively impact religious organizations. Most religious organizations, undoubtedly including many covered by SB 323, require their leaders and members to express and conduct themselves in a manner that is consistent with their religious beliefs regarding sexual conduct. Under these types of policies, individuals who approve of or engage in conduct that contradicts a group’s religious teaching regarding sexual morality may be denied membership or leadership positions. Such policies likely conflict with SB 323. Thus, if passed, the bill will require religious organizations to choose between complying with the law and abandoning their religious convictions, or defying the law and losing their tax exemptions.

Religious organizations that select members and leaders who share their religious convictions to maintain a coherent religious identity and message are not engaging in invidious discrimination. Rather, they arc engaging in d1e most basic and fundamental exercise of religious freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

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(Via: The Foundry)

syrian christians church bannerAs the civil war in Syrian continues to escalate, Christians are increasingly becoming the target of violent attacks. Catholic and Orthodox groups in Syria say the anti-government rebels have committed “awful acts” against Christians, including beheadings, rapes and murders of pregnant women.

Today, the conflict has morphed into a full-fledged civil war in which more than 100,000 people have perished. The most capable units on the rebel side — those spearheading the fight against the secular government — are composed of Islamist militants, many of whom fought U.S. forces in Iraq. The militants now accuse Christians of being supporters of Assad’s regime.

“They have threatened to cut our throats,” said Bahri, a Roman Catholic. “I love my country, but if it means having the terrorists slaughter me, my wife and our two boys, I’d rather escape to Lebanon.”

These ancient Christian communities, some of the oldest in the world, have generally been protected by successive Syrian governments, including Assad’s. But that security was lost when rebel factions began mounting increasingly ferocious attacks on them throughout the country.

On Aug. 17, rebel gunmen shot dead 11 Christians and wounded three more in central Syria, eyewitnesses and human rights activists said. In April, two bishops were abducted in rebel-held areas and an Italian Jesuit priest, Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, went missing last month while on a trip to the rebel-held northeastern city of Raqqa.

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[Thanks to RealClearReligion for linking. -- Editor]

9781433514838_p0_v4_s260x420Anthony Chute, Christopher Morgan, and Robert Peterson have delivered a real gift toward building a unified future in their newly released Why We Belong: Evangelical Unity and Denominational Diversity. This edited volume brings together Anglican (Gerald Bray), Baptist (Timothy George), Lutheran (Douglas Sweeney), Methodist (Timothy Tennent), Pentecostal (Byron Klaus), and Presbyterian (Bryan Chapell) representatives to do two things: (1) the contributors give personal narratives of how they became a part of their respective denominations and (2) each contributor highlights their respective denominational distinctives. Given the minority position that American Protestants hold in terms of Christians worldwide, the type of unity-in-diversity proposed in this book comes as a welcomed challenge to Christians of all denominations as we face an increasingly pluralistic America together.

American pluralism is not a problem per se, but the diversity of worldviews current in the country provide unique and new opportunities for unity in ways never experienced before in our nation’s history. Evangelical Protestants have had very easy lives in the American story and one could argue that they may have taken their “most favored religion” status for granted which leads to unwise cooperative efforts with government. So much so that, now politicians feel too comfortable proposing legislation that attempts to tell Christians and their organizations how they can or cannot put their beliefs into practice, as if politicians have such authority to speak into the life of the church.

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downloadOur right to religious freedom is best grounded in the universal duty to seek ultimate truth, says Joshua Schulz, and not in human autonomy.

Here we come to the fundamental paradox of modern liberalism. On the one hand, liberalism in all its stages has always treated human freedom as sacred. On the other hand, modern liberals also believe that in order to guarantee their freedom, they can in practice use the state’s coercive power to compel others to do what they believe is wrong.

This is the logical consequence of liberalism’s autonomy view of rights. Since the state is supposed to be “value-neutral” about what each party desires, in cases where human autonomy is at stake it really has no principled way to decide between competing claims. The result, more often than not, is not a fair contract between the two parties but an arbitrary exercise of political power, justified by the myth that we have a right to technological progress and convenience.

The natural law tradition avoids these problems by insisting that rights protect obligations rather than autonomy. Rights are tied to those goods objectively required by human nature for flourishing, such as life, truth, and virtue. Since we would suffer harm by neglecting to seek such goods, we have obligations to seek them.

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Blog author: jcouretas
posted by on Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Egypt: Coptic church cancels Sunday mass for 1st time in 1,600 years

“We did not hold prayers in the monastery on Sunday for the first time in 1,600 years,” Priest Selwanes Lotfy of the Virgin Mary and Priest Ibram Monastery in Degla, just south of Minya, told the al-Masry al-Youm daily. He said supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi destroyed the monastery, which includes three churches, one of which is an archaeological site. “One of the extremists wrote on the monastery’s wall, ‘donate [this] to the martyrs’ mosque,’” Lotfy added.

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Sky News talks with Bishop Angaelos, the General Bishop of Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, about the ongoing bloodshed in Egypt. (HT: Byzantine, TX)

Bishop Angaelos also issued this statement through The Coptic Orthodox Church UK media office today:

Comment on the on-going situation in Egypt by His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of The Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom – 16 August 2013

As a clergyman for over twenty years, and a Christian for the whole of my life, one thing I recognise as un-debateable is the value and sanctity of human life. We believe that God has created us all in His image and likeness and has given us a rational and reasoning spirit to be able to experience and understand Him while at the same time appreciate and value His creation.

What we have witnessed on the streets of Egypt over the past weeks, and particularly earlier this week, is nothing short of devastating. To see so many lives lost whether of victims or perpetrators is not only a loss to families and communities, but a loss to the nation and to humanity as a whole. At this point and without reservation or exception we offer our prayers for all those who mourn; those who have lost loved ones, who have been injured, or who feel more powerless than they did. (more…)

shariaIn 2010, voters in Oklahoma passed a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment that would prohibit state courts from using international law or Sharia law when making rulings. But yesterday, a federal judge ruled the amendment violated religious freedoms granted by the U.S. Constitution:

In finding the law in violation of the United States Constitution’s Establishment Clause, U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange issued a permanent injunction prohibiting the certification of the results of the state question that put the Sharia law ban into the state constitution.

“While the public has an interest in the will of the voters being carried out, the Court finds that the public has a more profound and long-term interest in upholding an individual’s constitutional rights,” the judge wrote.

You don’t have to be in favor of Sharia law to be appreciate this victory for religious freedom. 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 legal scholar Robert K. Vischer explained last year in First Things:

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