Posts tagged with: religious liberty

Mary Ann Glendon makes an excellent point about the outcry for more corporate responsibility while government is simultaneously stripping away the rights of religious conscience of businesses. In The Boston Globe, Glendon notes,

The simple truth is that if we want businesses, incorporated or not, to be responsible for their actions, they must be treated as having some moral agency. And with moral agency and accountability must go the freedom to act in accordance with conscience.

The push to ghettoize freedom of religion solely into the houses of worship is of course a disturbing trend. When the religious rights of civil society are pushed aside and made subservient to the state, we get not the church serving as conscience, but the state ruling tyrannically over man. “Once religion is reduced to nothing more than privatized conscience, the public square has only two actors in it—the state and the individual,” says Richard John Neuhaus.

Read the entire article.

usccb 2The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has issued a “special letter” regarding the Obama administration’s HHS mandate. The USCCB, meeting this month in Baltimore, passed the letter unanimously.

Calling the HHS mandate “coercive,” the bishops state that they have tried to work with the current administration, to no avail.

Beginning in March 2012, in United for Religious Freedom, we identified three basic problems with the HHS mandate: it establishes a false architecture of religious liberty that excludes our ministries and so reduces freedom of religion to freedom of worship; it compels our ministries to participate in providing employees with abortifacient drugs and devices, sterilization, and contraception, which violates our deeply-held beliefs; and it compels our faithful people in business to act against our teachings, failing to provide them any exemption at all. (more…)

2013-10-08T232005Z_1_CBRE9971STM00_RTROPTP_3_USA-FISCAL“Will the most fundamental liberty of all – freedom of conscience – survive in post-Obama America?” asks Terry Jeffrey at Townhall.com. He, along with many others,  is worried about the Obama Administration’s refusal to allow faithful Christians to live according to their conscience. He is particularly concerned about the Kennedy family, owners of Autocam, based in Kentwood, Mich. Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled that the Kennedys may not sue the director of the Health and Human Services Department, Kathleen Sebelius, because “Autocam is not a ‘person’ capable of ‘religious exercise.’” President of Autocam and Autocam Medical and an Acton board member, John Kennedy told Jeffrey that he and his family “strive to live all parts of their lives – including their business lives – in keeping with their Catholic faith.” He said that:

We’re called into different occupations, but we are supposed to respond to that call and try to basically show the teachings of Jesus Christ in everything we do… You have an obligation to treat everyone justly, and, in my mind, you are supposed to treat all people that you come across in life as part of your family.

Jeffrey discussed the HHS Mandate with Kennedy:

When I interviewed John Kennedy this week, I asked him: “Can your family-owned company, in keeping with the way you have run it in accordance with your Catholic faith, obey that regulation?”

“No,” said Kennedy. “I can’t see how we can do that.” (more…)

LittleSistersofthePoorThe Little Sisters of the Poor are an international congregation of Catholic women religious who serve the elderly poor in over 30 countries around the world. Because they provide health insurance for workers who help them in their cause, the Obama administration is forcing them to help provide their employees with free access to abortion-inducing drugs, sterilizations, and contraceptives. If they refuse, the government is threatening them with multi-million dollar fines. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty has filed a lawsuit on their behalf asking that the nuns be given the right to continue with their ministry caring for the elderly poor and providing health benefits to their employees without having to violate their consciences.

Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review Online recently talked to Sister Constance Veit, L.S.P., communications director for the Little Sisters of the Poor, about the lawsuit and religious freedom:

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Religious intolerance is increasingly common around the world, and Sudan is one country where Christians are especially vulnerable. As a minority in a nation that is 97 percent Muslim, Christians there are worried that their right to practicesudan choir their faith freely is more and more at risk. According to Fredrick Nzwili, a two-decade long civil war continues to fester.

The two regions had fought a two-decade long civil war that ended in 2005, following the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The pact granted the South Sudanese a referendum after a six-year interim period and independence six months later. In the referendum, the people of South Sudan chose separation.

But while the separation is praised as good for political reasons, several churches in Khartoum, the northern capital, have been destroyed and others closed down along with affiliated schools and orphanages.

Christians in Sudan are facing increased arrests, detention and deportation with church-associated centers being raided and foreign missionaries kicked out, according to the leaders.

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There is little doubt that America is moving further away from the kind of broad and liberal religious freedom that was championed during the founding period. In terms of intellectual thought, that period was certainly the high water mark for religious liberty around the globe. As Americans celebrate their freedoms and Independence next week, I seek to answer the question in this week’s commentary about America’s ability to remain the land of religious liberty.

Sadly, the outlook is rather bleak, and America will need a fundamental shift in thinking to secure protection for the rights of conscience and houses of worship. It’s evident the significance of spiritual freedom is waning and can’t really be articulated by the wider culture. Spiritual freedom is essential to self-government and self-control. In fact, I make the point in my commentary that the most dangerous detriment to religious liberty is the popular notion that religion and faith constricts liberty. Obviously, just winning mere court cases is not enough. That ship has sailed.

I suspect today’s Supreme Court ruling regarding the Defense of Marriage Act will only complicate matters of religious conscience for churches and dissent from culture and society becomes more dangerous. Secularization of society and the rise of centralized federal power is creating a government that seeks to operate above fundamental truths and the rights of conscience. It seeks to crowd it out and diminish its influence and limiting power upon the state. During his closing address at Acton University, Samuel Gregg explained so well how moral relativism now operates in a dictatorial fashion.

Just before the Declaration of Independence was adopted in 1776, John Adams wrote a letter to his cousin Zabdiel that I think points to our inevitable path as a nation without a rejuvenated appreciation and understanding of religious liberty. Adams declared,

The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our people in a greater measure than they have it now, They may change their rulers and the forms of government, but they will not obtain a lasting liberty. They will only exchange tyrants and tyrannies.

 

Acton’s Director of Research Samuel Gregg took to the podium on the final night of Acton University 2013 to deliver the closing plenary address for the conference. Below, Gregg closes the conference with a reflection on modern threats to religious liberty, and how the faithful can respond.

William J. Blacquiere

William J. Blacquiere

Bethany Christian Services based in Grand Rapids, Mich., is a global nonprofit organization caring for orphans and vulnerable children on five continents. Founded in 1944, they are the largest adoption agency in the United States. Their mission “is to demonstrate the love and compassion of Jesus Christ by protecting and enhancing the lives of children and families through quality social services.” Bethany cares for children and families in 20 countries and has more than 100 offices in the United States. Since 1951, Bethany Christian Services has placed more than 39,000 children in a home.

Bill Blacquiere has served as President of Bethany Christian Services since January 2006. I recently spoke with him on the issue of religious liberty and adoption. At the end of the interview I provided links to a few pertinent news stories for background that are related to this interview.

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On Tuesday June 11, Autocam Corporation went before the U.S. Court of Appeals 6th Circuit Court in Cincinnati to argue against the enforcement of the Health and Human Services birth control mandate. President and CEO of Autocam and Autocam Medical, John Kennedy, says that “the law forces some employers to participate in what they believe is intrinsic evil.” But his request for an injunction had been denied by the US District Court for the Western District of Michigan.

A spokesperson from the Thomas More Society, which is representing Autocam and several other companies in the fight for religious liberty, said that their argument went well, but there is no telling how the court will rule or when they will make a decision. If the court affirms the denial of the injunction, Autocam and the Thomas More Society will seek review from the Supreme Court.

For previous PowerBlog coverage of this story, see here and here.

For more information about the various organizations in litigation, visit the Becket Fund’s Central Information page.

Three years ago the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations have the same rights as individuals to engage in political speech. As Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the Citizens United decision, the “corporate identity” of a speaker did not justify a reduced level of free speech protection. Can that same concept about corporate identity be applied to religious liberties? Do corporations have religious liberty rights too?

Some legal scholars are claiming they do not:
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