Posts tagged with: freedom of religion

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s Annual Report has been published. The commission places countries in three “tiers”, with tier one being nations that are designated “countries of particular concern” in terms of religious freedom. In this year’s report, these nations include China, North Korea and Saudi Arabia, among twelve others.saudi-arabia2

In China for instance, the report notes the following:

The Chinese government continues to perpetrate particularly severe violations of the freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief. Religious groups and individuals considered to threaten national security or social harmony, or whose practices are deemed beyond the vague legal definition of “normal religious activities,” are illegal and face severe restrictions, harassment, detention, imprisonment, and other abuses. Religious freedom conditions for Tibetan Buddhists and Uighur Muslims remain particularly acute, as the government broadened its efforts to discredit and imprison religious leaders, control the selection of clergy, ban certain religious gatherings, and control the distribution of religious literature by members of these groups. The government also detained over a thousand unregistered Protestants in the past year, closed “illegal” meeting points, and prohibited public worship activities. Unregistered Catholic clergy remain in detention or disappeared.

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The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has been studying the steady rise of hostility towards religious expression and religious liberty worldwide. In fact, they found that restrictions on religion rose in every major area of the world, including the United States, since the study began in 2009.

Citing what the Pew Forum calls “social hostilities” (as opposed to government hostilities), the study found that Pakistan, India and Iraq were the most hostile countries to religious freedom.

The Social Hostilities Index (SHI) measures acts of religious hostility by private individuals, organizations and social groups. This includes mob or sectarian violence, harassment over attire for religious reasons and other religion-related intimidation or abuse.

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The Separation Of Church And State“What right do they have to do this, to take away our freedoms?” Mary Anne Yep, co-founder and vice president of Triune Health Group in Chicago, recently asked of the  Obama administration regarding the HHS Mandate. On Monday when the official comment period closed, thousands of individuals swamped the Department of Health and Human Services with concerns about the HHS Mandate and the effect it would have on religious liberty in the United States. The Heritage Foundation recently posted an update about HHS and the people against it:

After more than a year of public outrage, over 50 lawsuits against the anti-conscience mandate, and a federal judge’s demand that HHS fix its coercive mandate, the Administration published a “notice of proposed rule making” (NPRM) on February 6. That proposed rule neither changes the underlying mandate finalized in law and currently in effect nor provides any workable or adequate solutions to the mandate’s trampling on religious liberty.

Several organizations have published statements on the NPRM and HHS Mandate in general.  Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Catholic bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty released a statement on Monday regarding the mandate: (more…)

(March is Women’s History Month. Acton will be highlighting a number of women who have contributed significantly to the issue of liberty during this month.)

According to the religious liberties established under article 24, educational services shall be secular and, therefore, free of any religious orientation.

The educational services shall be based on scientific progress and shall fight against ignorance, ignorance’s effects, servitudes, fanaticism and prejudice.

All religious associations organized according to article 130 and its derived legislation, shall be authorized to acquire, possess or manage just the necessary assets to achieve their objectives.

The rules established at this article are guided by the historical principle according to which the State and the churches are separated entities from each other. Churches and religious congregations shall be organized under the law.

Mexico, 1917. The government under Benito Juarez constitutionalized an increasingly secular way of life, in order to “reform” Mexico and create a more modern state. A largely Catholic country, Mexico’s population found itself officially devoid of religion. The new constitution was used to criminalize religious gatherings, close churches and religious schools, arrest priests and religious for performing their duties, and essentially drove religion underground. Undeniably, the government set out to destroy the Catholic Church. (more…)

“Is there a religious way to pump gas, sell groceries, or advertise for a craft store?”

In a new paper, “God and the Profits: Is There Religious Liberty for Money-Makers?,” Mark Rienzi asks the question. (HT)

Rienzi, an assistant professor at the Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America, writes in direct response to the federal government’s HHS contraception mandate, focusing on the religious liberty challenges faced by for-profit companies. As Rienzi argues, imposing such penalties requires “singling out religion for disfavored treatment in ways forbidden by the Free Exercise Clause and federal law.”

From the abstract:

Litigation over the HHS contraceptive mandate has raised the question whether a for-profit business and its owner can engage in religious exercise under federal law. The federal government has argued, and some courts have found, that the activities of a profit-making business are ineligible for religious freedom protection.

This article offers a comprehensive look at the relationship between profit-making and religious liberty, arguing that the act of earning money does not preclude profit-making businesses and their owners from engaging in protected religious exercise.

Many religions impose, and at least some businesses follow, religious requirements for the conduct of profit-making businesses. Thus businesses can be observed to engage in actions that are obviously motivated by religious beliefs: from preparing food according to ancient Jewish religious laws, to seeking out loans that comply with Islamic legal requirements, to encouraging people to “know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.” These actions easily qualify as exercises of religion. (more…)

During his address to German students yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry offered a defense of freedom of speech and religion by saying that in the United States “you have a right to be stupid if you want to be.”

john-kerry“As a country, as a society, we live and breathe the idea of religious freedom and religious tolerance, whatever the religion, and political freedom and political tolerance, whatever the point of view,” Kerry told the students in Berlin, the second stop on his inaugural trip as secretary of state.

“People have sometimes wondered about why our Supreme Court allows one group or another to march in a parade even though it’s the most provocative thing in the world and they carry signs that are an insult to one group or another,” he added.

“The reason is, that’s freedom, freedom of speech. In America you have a right to be stupid – if you want to be,” he said, prompting laughter. “And you have a right to be disconnected to somebody else if you want to be.

“And we tolerate it. We somehow make it through that. Now, I think that’s a virtue. I think that’s something worth fighting for,” he added. “The important thing is to have the tolerance to say, you know, you can have a different point of view.”

No one familiar with John Kerry’s career should be surprised that he is snootily dismissive of Americans who hold views different from his own. And perhaps we should be grateful that a man who could have been president of the United States believes in “tolerating” those of us who stupidly oppose infringements on our religious liberties.

Still, as Ken Blackwell says, instead of talking of “tolerance” and how we “tolerate” ideas we think are stupid, Kerry might have told the young Germans about George Washington’s eloquent Letter to the Hebrew Congregation at Newport.

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Has there ever, in the history of America, been a presidential administration as dismissive of religious liberties as the Obama Administration?

contraceptive-mandateThe Administration seems to truly believe that when religious beliefs come into conflict with one of the President’s pet policies—such as employers being forced to pay for contraceptives and abortifacients—that religious liberties must be set aside. A prime example is the Administration’s idea that by forming a business entity intended to limit liability, a person loses their First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion.

As CNSNews reports, during an oral argument in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia last fall, a lawyer for the U.S. Justice Department told a federal judge that the Obama administration believed it could force the judge’s own wife—a physician—to act against her religious faith in the conduct of her medical practice.

Here is the exchange, from the official court transcript, between this Obama administration lawyer and Judge Walton:
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In 2010, Uwe and Hannelore Romeike, who lived with their five children in the German state of Baden-Württemberg, were faced with a choice: abandon their Evangelical Christian religious beliefs or lose custody of their children. The Romeikes had withdrawn their children from German public schools in 2006, after becoming concerned that the educational material employed by the school was undermining the tenets of their Christian faith. After accruing the equivalent of $10,000 worth of fines and the forcible removal of their children from the home, they chose to flee their homeland and seek asylum in the United States. They believed our government was more respectful of religious liberties.

german-banThey soon discovered that was not the case.

On January 26, 2010, a federal immigration judge granted the Romeikes political asylum, ruling they had a reasonable fear of persecution for their beliefs if they returned to their homeland. The judge also denounced the German policy, saying it was, “utterly repellent to everything we believe as Americans.” However, President Obama’s Justice Department disagreed. They argued that the family should be denied asylum based on their contention that governments may legitimately use its authority to force parents to send their kids to government-sanctioned schools.

To better understand what Attorney-General Holder and his Justice Department are supporting, let’s look at the German policy. The parent-children relationship is defined in Art. 6 § 2 as follows:
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A new study conducted by Barna Group shows millions of adults—particularly evangelicals—are worried that our religious liberties are being threatened:

First, Americans have a relatively gloomy view of religious freedom in the U.S. Many Americans express significant angst over the state of religious freedom in the U.S. Slightly more than half of adults say they are very (29%) or somewhat (22%) concerned that religious freedom in the U.S. will become more restricted in the next five years. As might be expected, those who are religious are more concerned than those who aren’t—particularly Christians more so than those adherents to other faiths. Practicing Protestants (46% very concerned) are more worried about this prospect than others; yet, 30% of practicing Catholics are also concerned. Barna-defined evangelicals, who meet a series of nine theological criteria, are among the most likely to be concerned about such restrictions (71%).

Not only are most Americans worried about the future of religious freedom, many feel the restraints have already started. One-third of adults believe religious freedoms have grown worse in the last decade. Among practicing Protestants, nearly half (48%) say they perceive freedom of religion to have grown worse in recent years. Three out of five evangelicals (60%) perceive religious freedoms to have grown worse.

Read more . . .

Laurel Broten, the Education Minister of Ontario, stated on Oct. 10 that the “province’s publicly funded Catholic schools may not teach students that abortion is wrong because such teaching amounts to ‘misogyny,’ which is prohibited in schools under a controversial anti-bullying law.” Ontario enacted Bill 13 in June and it casts a wide net against bullying in schools. It is under this law that Broten has declared that Catholic schools may not teach that abortion is wrong.

Broten noted,

Bill 13 has in it a clear indication of ensuring that our schools are safe, accepting places for all our students. That includes LGBTQ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer] students. … Bill 13 is about tackling misogyny, taking away a woman’s right to choose could arguably be one of the most misogynistic actions that one could take.

Broten is equating the Catholic Church’s pro-life stance with the hatred of women, and deems the Church’s teaching now illegal, disallowing freedom of conscience, clearly putting the state in a position of telling a church what it can and cannot teach.

Fr. Tim Boyle, a Catholic priest from Mattawa, Ontario, says this,

Minister Broten ignores … the fact that her decision also violates section 93 the Canadian Constitutional Act which enshrines the rights of Catholics in Ontario to a school system in which they can teach their children in a Catholic environment without government interference. While it may be debatable whether or not Bill 13 in its entirety might be constitutional, a matter soon to be taken up by the courts, it’s clear that prohibiting Catholic schools from teaching that abortion is wrong is a clear violation of this legal guarantee of the separation of Church and State.

Of course, one of the issues here is that Catholic schools in Canada do receive public monies. Recently, Catholic Charities of Tulsa, Okla., chose to stop all government funds, relying instead on private donations.

“What Catholic Charities of Tulsa is doing is showing the way forward for Catholics and other Christians who want to be faithful to the ancient Church’s age-old moral teachings, and who want to assist those in need without compromising the truth of the Gospel,” wrote Dr. Samuel Gregg, research director at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty…

Fr. Robert Sirico, the president of Acton, agrees. “I think we need to separate the giving from the mechanism of the state,” he said. “There’s the threat that he who drinks the king’s wine sings the king’s song.”

It remains to be seen if the Catholics of Ontario will be satisfied with the king’s song and dance.