Posts tagged with: religious liberty

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:

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

– — – — – –

(more…)

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:
(more…)

Emperor Theodosius Forbidden by St Ambrose To Enter Milan Cathedral (Anthony van Dyck, 1620)

In the latest issue of Renewing Minds, a journal of Christian thought published by Union University, I examine two different visions of religious liberty. They are roughly analogous to the two versions of the “empty shrines” of secularism described by Michael Novak and George Weigel, respectively, as well as to the visions of the American and the French Revolution. One has to do with the freedom of the church from state control, and the other has to do with freeing the public square from religion.

My piece, “Principle and Prudence: Two Shrines, Two Revolutions, and Two Traditions of Religious Liberty,” is one of the freely accessible preview articles available at the journal’s website. Check out the rest of the contents for this theme issue on religious liberty, and consider subscribing for the rest of the fine content.

After examining some of the premodern history of religious liberty, I pivot with a query about the relevance of Neuhaus’ law:

Given the developments since the sixteenth century, we might wonder if there is a secular corollary to that axiom from Richard John Neuhaus, “Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.” Neuhaus wrote this in 1997, and was talking specifically about orthodox doctrine within the context of the church. As he concluded, however, “Almost five hundred years after the sixteenth-century divisions, the realization grows that there is no via media. The realization grows that orthodoxy and catholicity can be underwritten only by Orthodoxy and Catholicism.”

As a devotee of neither Orthodoxy nor Catholicism but who is deeply concerned with orthodoxy and catholicity, I am inclined to wonder if Neuhaus’ Law, as it has come to be called, applies only to Protestantism. In fact, given the secularization that both Kuyper and Gregory point to in their own ways, it seems worthwhile to consider whether Neuhaus’ Law might be applicable outside the church, to the liberal political order as such. If so, the recognition that there is no via media might well apply to the purported neutrality of the secular state.

I conclude that these two visions of religious liberty are, in the end, irreconcilable: “We are faced then, with two competing and ultimately antithetical visions of religion and society. One is the way that leads to life and the other the way that leads to death.”

Read the whole thing at Renewing Minds.

We’ve almost all seen some of the creepy messianic videos associated with President Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. If you’re in need of a refresher there are examples here and here. It isn’t solely a problem of the political left though. Throughout history there has been varying belief in political saviors of different ideologies. There are many on the right who firmly believe that political changes alone will transform our culture and institutions.

However, as government dependency continues to grow to record levels, we are reaching new heights in state worship and adoration. I wrote more about this topic in “As Secularism Advances, Political Messianism Draws More Believers,” a commentary I published last year.

Currently, I am reading Worshipping the State: How Liberalism Became our State Religion by Benjamin Wiker. The book offers some good insights on the assaults on religious liberty, increased secularism, and political messiahs. Here’s an excerpt from his new book:

Modern political utopianism, as we shall see, is an attempt to discard the necessity of grace (and hence of the church), even while state power replaces grace as the instrument for perfecting man. Liberalism is more than the rejection of Christianity; it is the absorption and transformation of its doctrines. Before the Christian doctrine of grace, no one would have dared think about perfecting the whole human race–a few, select individuals, a small group or clan or class of society, yes, but not the whole human race. With Christianity, God’s grace is indeed open to all, and so all may share in the perfection of holiness, but this offered grace takes full effect only in the Kingdom of God, that is, only in heaven. Liberalism takes the church’s salvific mission and makes it a merely political goal, one to be achieved in this world by human power alone, a heaven brought down by force to earth, where we become the authors of our own salvation.

And finally, here is a look at the somewhat comical yet sad end result of state and leader worship in North Korea:

Increasingly, governments and private parties are arguing that there is only one appropriate view of the relationship between religion and money-making: Exercising religion is fundamentally incompatible with earning profits.

This claim has been presented recently by state governments and private parties in litigation over pharmacy rights of conscience, and by state governments enacting conscience clauses with regard to recognizing same-sex marriages (non-profits are sometimes protected, but never profit-makers). The most prominent and developed form of the argument has been made by the federal government in the HHS mandate litigation, where it is currently arguing the point in at least seventeen different cases against businesses and business owners who cannot comply with the mandate on religious grounds.

Do our religious liberty laws protect profit-making businesses and their owners? Or is the government correct that, to borrow a phrase from the Gospels, you “cannot serve both God and mammon”?

When considered in the light of religious teachings, actual business practices, and the law’s treatment of for-profit businesses in other contexts, it is clear that there is no inherent disconnect between earning profits and exercising religion. For this reason, there is no principled basis for excluding profit-making businesses and their owners from the protection of our religious liberty laws.

Read more . . .