Posts tagged with: freedom of religion

James Madison called religious liberty the “lustre of our country” and a guaranteed right that is free from political authority. But some politicians are trying to redefine religious freedom in America, preferring instead to call it “freedom of worship.” The implication is that you are free to say and believe what you want as long as it is confined inside the walls of the houses of worship. But how faithful is this to the First Amendment?

Only a decade ago there was strong bipartisan cooperation on the rights to secure religious freedom. What has happened and how dangerous is the current threat to religious liberty today? What does it mean for our future and for other rights in America?

On February 4, 2012, Ray Nothstine, the managing editor of Religion & Liberty at the Acton Institute, discussed the ideas and tradition that promoted a robust religious freedom in America as well as how to handle the current threat today.

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…)

Jeffersons-TombstonePerhaps it’s because we Americans are still getting over Christmas, or talking about the Super Bowl, but National Religious Freedom Day doesn’t get a lot of press. But indeed: January 16 is National Religious Freedom Day, adopted originally by the state of Virginia and now remembered annually by the White House. Penned by Thomas Jefferson, the Statute for Religious Freedom reads, in part:

Be it enacted by General Assembly that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities. And though we well know that this Assembly elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of Legislation only, have no power to restrain the acts of succeeding Assemblies constituted with powers equal to our own, and that therefore to declare this act irrevocable would be of no effect in law; yet we are free to declare, and do declare that the rights hereby asserted, are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right.

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cardinal timothy dolanThe Unites States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is meeting Nov. 11-13 for their General Assembly.  Out-going USCCB President, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, gave the opening address today, focusing on religious freedom.

He began on a somber note, stating that Christians are killed for their faith at the rate of 17 an hour, every day around the globe, and that more than a billion people live under governments that actively suppress their religious beliefs and expressions. Calling the Middle East the “epicenter” of violence against Christians, Dolan noted persecution is not restricted to that region. (more…)

lady libertyArchbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore is one of the Chairmen of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee for Religious Liberty. He recently celebrated what is known as a “Red Mass”, an annual event throughout the church for lawyers, judges, legislators and others in the legal profession, at St. Benedict Catholic Church in Richmond, Va. In his homily, he addressed issues of religious liberty pertinent to Americans today.

First, he stressed the link between sound society and morality:

In his farewell address, George Washington famously said: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports.” (more…)

On Oct. 3, the Acton Institute held its annual luncheon and lecture in Houston at the Omni Houston Hotel.

Kris Alan Mauren, co-founder and executive director of the Acton Institute, emceed the event. The Rev. Martin Nicholas, pastor of Sugar Land First United Methodist Church, gave the invocation for the afternoon and the Hon. George W. Strake gave the introduction. Rev. Robert A. Sirico, president and co-founder of Acton, gave the keynote lecture for the afternoon: “Religious Liberty and Economic Liberty: Twin Guarantees for Human Freedom.”

Rev. Sirico began the lecture by giving a background of the Christian faith and religious liberty in the Roman Empire with the story of the emperor Constantine and the coming of the Edict of Milan in A.D. 313. This edict declared religious liberty and tolerance in the empire at the moment when Christianity was on the rise and established tolerance for all religions not just Christianity. It also restored properties to the church if they had been previously confiscated by the state. (more…)

religious-freedomV2Challenges to religious freedom are not only becoming increasingly more common but are being based on a broader range of social, legal, and political arguments. The one unifying feature of these attacks, claims R.R. Reno, is the desire to limit the influence of religion over public life:

In the world envisioned by Obama administration lawyers, churches will have freedom as “houses of worship,” but unless they accept the secular consensus they can’t inspire their adherents to form institutions to educate and serve society in accordance with the principles of their faith. Under a legal regime influenced by the concept of public reason, religious people are free to speak—but when their voices contradict the secular consensus, they’re not allowed into our legislative chambers or courtrooms.

Thus our present clashes over religious liberty. The Constitution protects religious liberty in two ways. First, it prohibits laws establishing a religion. This prevents the dominant religion from using the political power of majority rule to privilege its own doctrines to the disadvantage of others. Second, it prohibits laws that limit the free exercise of religion. What we’re seeing today is a secular liberalism that wants to expand the prohibition of establishment to silence articulate religious voices and disenfranchise religiously motivated voters, and at the same time to narrow the scope of free exercise so that the new secular morality can reign over American society unimpeded.

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The Contested Public Square: The Crisis of Christianity and Politics

The Contested Public Square: The Crisis of Christianity and Politics

This book introduces the history of Christian political thought traced out in Western culture--a culture experiencing the dissolution of a long-fought-for consensus around natural law theory.

$22.00

Religious-freedom-under-assault-K1AA258-x-largeThe fight against global terrorism is a battle of ideas as much as brawn, says Robert George, and environments that promote freedom of thought and belief empower moderate ideas and voices to denounce extremist hatred and violence:

Central to this effort is understanding two things. First, extremist groups seek to capitalize on the fact that religion plays a critical role in the lives of billions. Nearly 84 percent of the world’s population has some religious affiliation. In many areas of the world, including the African continent, religion matters greatly.

Second, people across Africa (and elsewhere), Muslim and non-Muslim alike, are rejecting the hijacking of religion by these extremists. For some, this rejection has come from bitter personal experience. Wherever violent religious extremist groups have held sway, be it central Somalia or elsewhere, they have penetrated every nook and cranny of human endeavor, imposing their will on families and communities in horrific ways. In many instances, they have banned routine activities such as listening to music and watching television. They have crushed all forms of religious expression other than their own, even seeking to destroy historic Islamic religious sites. They have imposed barbaric punishments on dissenters, from floggings and stonings to beheadings and amputations.

As a result, especially in places where these forces operate, people want an alternative: They want the right to honor their own beliefs and act peacefully on them. And as a number of scholars in recent years have shown, societies where this right to religious freedom is recognized and protected are more peaceful, prosperous, and free of destabilizing terror.

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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)

spyingThe stunning news that the United States may be the most surveilled society in human history has opened a fierce debate on security, privacy, and accountability, says Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School. He says religious believers should be particularly concerned:

Persons of faith should be deeply concerned about the current surveillance flap not because privacy is an absolute end in itself but rather because it points to and safeguards something else even more basic and fundamental, namely, human dignity. According to Vatican II’s Declaration on Religious Freedom, Dignitatis Humanae, real dignity requires that human beings “should act on their own judgment, enjoying and making use of a responsible freedom, not driven by coercion but motivated by sense of duty.” Such responsible freedom is the basis for both the establishment of friendships and the maintenance of family life. Without the possibility of non-coercive self-disclosure, which is vitiated by unfettered intrusion, such relationships are fatuous.

In the same way, conscientious religious commitment also requires a personal fiducial response to the divine. Thus religious freedom presupposes the recognition of privacy as an expression of human dignity. By no means is this a strictly Catholic or even Christian issue. The Southern Baptist Convention was right to pass a resolution at its annual meeting in Houston this month defining religious liberty as “the freedom of the individual to live in accordance with his or her religiously informed values and beliefs,” and citing in support Article 18 of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance.”

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