Category: Religious Liberty

media-biasWould you be surprised to hear that the mainstream media hasn’t been telling you the whole story? Probably not. The failings of the media has been a perennial story since 131 BC when the first newspaper, Acta Diurna, was published in Rome.

But sometimes the media’s biases lead them to make claims that are especially egregious and harmful to the common good. Such is the case on the reporting of an amendment relating to the free exercise of religion in Arizona. Critics of the bill described it as an anti-gay bill and claimed it would be used to deny access to public accommodations for homosexuals. As the Christian Post noted, almost every media organization in the country, including the more conservative Fox News, have taken the side of the critics by describing S.B. 1062 as a “gay discrimination” bill.

Because of this biased (bordering on fraudulent) reporting, the media was able to sway public opinion on the issue, which pressured Gov. Jan Brewer to veto the amendment.

Fortunately, we live in an age when the mainstream media is losing its stranglehold on the public’s attention. Several outlets have explained the true substance of the amendment and exposed the mendacity of the media. If you want to learn the truth, here are a few places to start:

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George-Washington-001For George Washington’s birthday, Julia Shaw reminds us that the indispensable man of the American Founding was also an important champion of religious liberty:

All Presidents can learn from Washington’s leadership in foreign policy, in upholding the rule of law, and—especially now—in the importance of religion and religious liberty. While the Obama Administration claims to be “accommodating” Americans’ religious freedom concerns regarding the Health and Human Services (HHS) Obamacare mandate, it is actually trampling religious freedom. President Washington set a tremendous example for the way that Presidents should handle such conflicts.

Washington knew that religion and morality are essential to creating the conditions for decent politics. “Where,” Washington asked, “is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice?”

Religion and morality are, Washington wrote, essential to the happiness of mankind: “A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity.”

Read more . . .

Bobby_Jindal_CPAC_2013_BLouisiana Governor Bobby Jindal delivered a speech last night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library where he made the case for why defending religious liberty is important. The Governor outlined attacks on religious liberty, including from the Obama Administration, and solutions to combat these efforts.

The following is a transcript of the speech:

Thank you…it’s an honor to speak here…I’ve been looking forward to this night.

I have spoken out aggressively in recent months about the disastrous effects of Obamacare, about our dire need to reform American education, and about the urgency for our country to re-endorse the concept of growing our economy that President Reagan so uniquely championed. These are issues of great importance, essential for the future of America.

But tonight, I’m going to talk to you about an entirely different topic, and that topic may surprise you. Tonight I want to give a speech I’ve never given before, about an issue lurking just beneath the surface – that issue is The Silent War on Religious Liberty.
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UN flagFrom the Charter of the United Nations:

The Purposes of the United Nations are:

  1. To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace;
  2. To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;
  3. To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion; and
  4. To be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.

It seems that the U.N. has lost touch with its own purpose for existence. A much-publicized U.N. report told the Catholic Church they needed to change their teaching. The report was written under the guise of caring about children and the sex abuse scandal the Church continues to deal with. However, Claudia Rosett of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies takes the U.N. to task in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece: (more…)

Hobby-Lobby-StoreLast week, over 80 amicus briefs were filed with the Supreme Court on both sides of Hobby Lobby’s challenge to the HHS contraceptive-abortifacient mandate. Here’s what you need to know about amicus briefs and their role in this case.

What is an amicus brief?

An amicus brief is a learned treatise submitted by an amicus curiae (Latin for “friend of the court”), someone who is not a party to a case who offers information that bears on the case but that has not been solicited by any of the parties to assist a court. The amicus brief is a way to introduce concerns ensuring that the possibly broad legal effects of a court decision will not depend solely on the parties directly involved in the case.

Who can submit an amicus brief?

While any interested party can contribute or sign an amicus brief, it can only be filed only by an attorney admitted to practice before the Supreme Court. After filing, the Court decides whether it will accept the brief. Supreme Court Rule 37 provides that an amicus curiae brief which brings relevant matter to the Court’s attention that has not already been brought to its attention by the parties is of considerable help to the Court. An amicus brief which does not serve this purpose burdens the staff and facilities of the Court and its filing is not favored.

Do amicus briefs have any influence on Supreme Court rulings?
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little sistersMona Charen, writing for National Review Online, notes that the image-conscious Obama Administration has not been very careful about choosing it foes in the HHS mandate fight. Wanna pick a fight? How about some Catholic sisters?

The Little Sisters of the Poor is a Catholic charity providing care to the poorest elderly in a hospice-like setting. They serve 13,000 people in 31 countries, and operate 30 homes in the United States. Their faith calls them to treat every person, no matter how old, disabled, or poor, as if he or she were “Jesus himself.” There is no religious test for admission, only that you be poor and in need of care at the end of life. Think thousands of Mother Teresas.

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200-acton-on-tapDavid Urban, an English professor at Calvin College, recently interviewed the managing editor of Religion & Liberty, Ray Nothstine about the upcoming Acton On Tap Event: The Growing Threat to Religious Liberty. Urban, writing for Grand Rapids, Mich.-based The Rapidian, began his article by quoting the First Amendment and asking, “But is religious liberty in the U.S. being eroded?”

There are several issues regarding religious liberty in the United States today, to name a few: the health and human services mandate, the New York city policy that disallows churches to use public school property for meetings, and the Colorado baker who was required, against his will, to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

“More and more the courts reflect our relativistic culture as long established rights are redefined or simply pushed aside,” Nothstine said.

Nothstine voiced concern about the Obama administration’s tendency to use the term “freedom of worship” instead of the traditional term “freedom of religion.”  Nothstine believes “freedom of worship” departs from the language of the First Amendment and implies appropriate religious activity should be relegated to within the walls of established houses of worship.

“There’s a push to move the freedom of religion into the private sphere instead of the public sphere,” Nothstine said.  “You’re free to believe what you want as long as you don’t push that into the public sphere.” (more…)

washingtonIf the American Founding got one thing right more than anything, it was its commitment to a broad and liberal religious liberty. In 1790, President George Washington told a Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, “The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy; a policy worthy of imitation.”

Currently, the country faces a number of threats to religious liberty and America seems to be squandering its profound moral authority it can offer to a world starving for its example. On the evening of February 4, I’ll address many of these challenges at Acton on Tap in Grand Rapids. The title for the event is “The Growing Threat to Religious Liberty.” If you are local to the area please join us and be prepared to share your own thoughts and insights.

The weakening of religion of course inevitably leads to more centralization and government. Thus, the American Framers clearly saw the need for a strong religious and moral fabric to guarantee liberty. “The people, who are the source of all lawful authority, are inherently independent of all but the moral law,” declared Thomas Jefferson. The framers were concerned that freedom would break down and become less about restraint and more about license.

It is undeniable that one of the gravest problems we face in this country is a misunderstood and disordered view of liberty that permeates society. Lord Acton put it well when he said liberty is “not the power of doing what we like but the right of being able to do what we ought.”

While America has dramatically changed over the centuries, I believe the founding period offers a lot of important lessons today. Religious persecution in America was an ongoing problem at that time, and would remain to degrees, but there was a deep desire to avoid the kind of devastation that fomented religious wars in Europe. I’ll address that more at Acton on Tap. One thing is certain, with all the challenges America now faces in regards to surviving as the home for a free people, it’s ludicrous to believe that is possible without a vibrant morality and a championing of religious liberty.

hosp3-e1380055370914“It was extremely unwise of Obama to take on the Little Sisters of the Poor,” says Robert P. George, “They are simply too strong an opponent. What was he thinking?”

Prof. George was commenting on the fact that on Friday the Little Sisters received a permanent injunction from the Supreme Court protecting them from the controversial HHS mandate while their case is before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals:

The injunction means that the Little Sisters will not be forced to sign and deliver the controversial government forms authorizing and instructing their benefits administrator to provide contraceptives, sterilization, and drugs and devices that may cause early abortions (see video). The Court’s order also provides protection to more than 400 other Catholic organizations that receive health benefits through the same Catholic benefits provider, Christian Brothers.

“We are delighted that the Supreme Court has issued this order protecting the Little Sisters,” said Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel for the Becket Fund. “The government has lots of ways to deliver contraceptives to people–it doesn’t need to force nuns to participate.”

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Acton Institute Director of Research and author of Tea Party Catholic Samuel Gregg joined host John Pinhiero for a discussion of his latest book and the Catholic influence on the American founding on Faith and Reason, Pinhiero’s new show on Holy Family Radio in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, Michigan. The wide-ranging discussion lasted a full broadcast hour, and can be heard using the audio player below.