Posts tagged with: freedom of religion

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.”

Read more . . .

In an open letter to all Americans, religious leaders as varied as Catholic Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore and Susan Taylor, the National Public Affairs Director of the Church of Scientology, have responded to the Obama religious-freedomV2administration’s “final” ruling regarding the HHS mandate that all employers carry health insurance that includes birth control, abortificients and abortion coverage. The letter, entitled “Standing Together For Religious Freedom”, acknowledges the signators have a wide range of beliefs and that many of the signators do not have a moral problem with birth control and/or abortion, but are concerned with the threat to religious freedom that the HHS mandate represents.

Many of the signatories on this letter do not hold doctrinal objections to the use of contraception. Yet we stand united in protest to this mandate, recognizing the encroachment on the conscience of our fellow citizens. Whether or not we agree with the particular conscientious objection is beside the point. HHS continues to deny many Americans the freedom to manifest their beliefs through practice and observance in their daily lives.

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From a June 22 CNA/EWTN news article on the 2013 National Religious Freedom Conference in Washington, sponsored by the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s American Religious Freedom Program.

The Very Reverend Dr. Chad Hatfield, Chancellor of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, echoed the Rabbi Cohen’s statements, telling CNA that “I think that there is a clamp-down on religious liberty in this country, but it’s so incredibly simple that we aren’t catching the signs.”

“If one religious identity’s freedoms are taken, then all suffer,” he added.

He warned, however, against over-correction, such as moves by the Russian Orthodox Church to establish Russian Orthodoxy as the official state religion. “There is a problem when the Church relies on the fist of Caesar to protect it rather than the loving hand of Jesus,” he cautioned, although he noted that “the government should guarantee us our freedom to express ourselves.”

Read “Diverse faith leaders unite over religious freedom concerns” at the Catholic News Agency.

As part of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) “Fortnight For Freedom” campaign, the USCCB has enumerated a number of threats to Americans’ religious liberty. Besides the on-going battle with the Obama Administration regarding the HHS mandate and the gutting of funding to Catholic programs that fight human trafficking, the bishops want us to be aware of these perils to religious liberty:church-state[1]

    • Catholic foster care and adoption services.  Boston, San Francisco, the District of Columbia, and the State of Illinois have driven local Catholic Charities out of the business of providing adoption or foster care services—by revoking their licenses, by ending their government contracts, or both—because those Charities refused to place children with same-sex couples or unmarried opposite-sex couples who cohabit.
    • State immigration laws.  Several states have recently passed laws that forbid what they deem as “harboring” of undocumented immigrants—and what the Church deems Christian charity and pastoral care to these immigrants.
    • Discrimination against small church congregations.  New York City adopted a policy that barred the Bronx Household of Faith and other churches from renting public schools on weekends for worship services, even though non-religious groups could rent the same schools for many other uses.  Litigation in this case continues.

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    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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