16 Oct

Conscience Rights Protected with HHS Mandate Roll-back

On Oct. 6, the president issued a new rule replacing the coercive HHS (Health & Human Services) mandate that had required all employers, including religious charities like the Little Sisters of the Poor, to provide contraceptives, abortion inducing drugs and sterilization, which clearly denied their deeply held religious beliefs.

In 2012 when this mandate (not a law) was issued by the HHS secretary, over 100 leaders of many different religions were critical of the mandate. They understood that such an imposition by government was destructive of religious liberty for all. They stated that, “The HHS policy is coercive and puts the administration in the position of defining – or casting aside – religious doctrine. This should trouble every American.”

The new ruling states, “entities that have sincerely held religious beliefs against providing such services (contraception, abortion drugs, sterilization) would no longer be required to do so.” These same protections apply to “organizations and small businesses that have objections on the basis of moral conviction which is not based in any particular religious belief.” With this action, Americans no longer have to prove that they deserve their religious liberty. Now, any action by the federal government that would “substantially burden religious freedom” is held to an “exceptionally demanding standard.”

(hhs.gov, 10/6/17; Attorney General’s Memorandum on Religious Liberty)

Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 “does not permit the federal government to second-guess the reasonableness of a religious belief.”
09 Oct

Court Rules Against Football Coach Silent Prayer

In August, a 3-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, struck down the appeal of Washington State H.S. football coach, Joe Kennedy, who was fired for taking-a-knee on the 50-yard line after a game, bowing his head to silently thank God for a good game, and 30 seconds later – leave.
 
Judge Milan Smith wrote, “By kneeling and praying on the 50-yard line immediately after games while in view of students and parents, Kennedy was sending a message about what he values as a coach, what the District considers appropriate behavior, and what students should believe, or how they should behave.”
 
Even though students were not required to pray with him, in 2015 the Bremerton School District issued a directive that forbade Kennedy from exercising his faith in any way that would be visible to students.  The directive included anything from praying to wearing a religious icon.
 
“Think about where that leads,” said First Liberty counsel, Jeremy Dys.  “That means the Muslim teacher could not wear her hijab, the Jewish teacher couldn’t wear his yarmulka, and the Catholic teacher couldn’t wear her crucifix.”
 
“Banning all coaches from praying individually in public just because they can be seen is wrong,” said First Liberty President Shackelford. “This is not the America contemplated by our Constitution.”

 (dailycaller.com,8/23/17; latimes.com, 8/23/17; breakingchristiannews.com, 8/24/17)
 
“A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues.”     Marcus Cicero, circa 100 BC 
02 Oct

Churches Denied FEMA Disaster Relief in Texas

Three TX churches damaged by Hurricane Harvey sued the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for access to disaster relief money that churches are denied but nonreligious nonprofits are able to get.  FEMA “categorically excludes houses of worship from equal access to disaster relief grants because of their religious status,” said the Becket Fund For Religious Liberty who is asking the court to declare FEMA’s church exclusion policy unconstitutional.
 
FEMA used hundreds of churches as shelters, medical centers and distribution centers after the Hurricane.  “But their policy has made those same churches ineligible for assistance because their primary use is, by nature, religious,” Becket counsel wrote.  “Excluding churches and houses of worship from FEMA disaster relief … risks the federal government violating the constitutional rights of those who are playing an instrumental role in getting Texas back on their feet.”  “This is a time of crisis for Houston,” Becket said.  “Churches are some of the helpers. Yet they are denied the same relief other nonprofits are getting from FEMA.”
 
Museums and Zoos are eligible for relief but churches are not.  “If the Churches were to cease all religious activity in their houses of worship, those buildings would become assistance-eligible,” the lawsuit read.  “The Churches are not seeking special treatment; they are seeking a fair shake.”
 
 
In a June, 2017 Supreme Court decision that a church in Missouri could get government money to resurface its playground,  Chief Justice John Roberts wrote,
 
“The exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution and cannot stand.”
25 Sep

Supreme Court to Hear Baker’s Religious Freedom Case

The Supreme Court will rule next year on whether government may coerce Christians, Jews, and Muslims to use their creative gifts to celebrate same-sex marriage.   It will  review the case of baker, Jack Phillips, of Masterpiece Bakeshop, CO, who cites his Christian faith in declining to create a custom cake for a same-sex wedding.

“I will serve anyone who comes in,” Phillips said.  However, designing a same-sex wedding cake would cross a line for him.  “I shouldn’t be forced to create a cake that goes against my faith.”

Alliance Defending Freedom are asking the justices to rule on whether Colorado’s public accommodations law, forcing Phillips to use his artistic skills in a way that violates his conscience and sincere Christian beliefs about marriage, violates the free speech or free exercise of religion clauses of the Constitution’s First Amendment.

“Tolerance should be a two-way street,” said an ADF attorney.  “The First Amendment protects Jack’s right to create artistic expression that is consistent with his core convictions.”

In a totally opposite ruling than for the Phillip’s case, in 2015 the Colorado Civil Rights Division ruled that another CO baker did not discriminate against a Christian by refusing to make two cakes in the shape of a bible with scripture passages and imagery that the baker interpreted to be anti-gay.   

(latimes.com, 6/26/17, 9/12/17 ; dailysignal.com, 6/26/17; thedenverchannel.com, 4/3/15;

nationalreview.com, 8/14/15)

“The spirit of our age is profoundly secular.  And secularism accepts religion – if it accepts it at all – only on its own terms.  Under this view, religion is subordinated to the political interests of the secular state and it is precisely this subordination of religion to the state that the First Amendment seeks to prevent.”  Pope Benedict XVI
19 Sep

Senators Attack Judicial Nominee’s Catholic Faith

Despite the Constitution forbidding a religious litmus test, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Sen. Dick Durbin  attacked Un. of Notre Dame law professor Amy Barret, nominee for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, and a Catholic, accusing,”The dogma lives loudly within you,” and “Do you consider yourself an orthodox Catholic?”  These attacks followed  Prof. Barret already stating, “It is never appropriate for a judge to apply their personal convictions whether it derive from faith or personal conviction.”

“The Amy Barret hearing reveals a new disturbing trend: Anti-Christian sentiments which were only once whispered behind closed doors are now being proclaimed from the rooftops by the most powerful people in society,” said research fellow, Ryan Anderson.

“At a time in which the nation is badly frayed, disoriented and confused, U.S. senators abused their high office to berate, slander, and demean a woman of exceptional legal wisdom simply because they suspected that aspects of her Catholic faith would make her an unjust judge,” said a Catholic University of America professor.

Fr. James Martin, S.J., said that Feinstein’s  comments were a “Throwback  to an era when Catholics were seen as unthinking tools of the Pope.  You can be a good Catholic citizen in our country.  Ask JFK.”

 (dailywire.com,9/7/17; lifesitenews.com, 9/8/17; citizens.org, 9/8/17)

“I will die in my bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.”  A warning from Cardinal Francis George, 2014
11 Sep

International Religious Freedom

International Religious Freedom

 
Gov. Sam Brownback, KS, has been nominated as ambassador-at-large under the  International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, designed as a “champion of conscience rights, helping government officials in the U.S. and abroad recognize the link between religious freedom and peace.”  “The position is necessary to maintain American leadership in assisting millions of individuals and minorities suffering religious persecution around the world.” 

 

“Three-quarters of the world’s population live in countries with significant restrictions on religious freedom,” said Rabbi David Saperstein, recent ambassador-at-large.  As rates of religious persecution rose around the world, he pushed to get prisoners of conscience released, blasphemy laws repealed and the Islamic State’s actions in Iraq and Syria classified as genocide.  “There’s a lot of work to be done, and country by country we do make improvements.”
“Religious Freedom is the first freedom; the choice of what you do with your own soul.  I am honored to serve such an important cause,” said Gov. Brownback.
 

(nytimes.com, 7/26/17; deseretnews.com, 7/30/17; nationalreview.com, 7/27/17)

“There is no truth sure enough to justify persecution.”
                                                                  
John Milton, English Poet, Historian, Scholar

 

“The wicked have laid a snare for me, but from Your precepts I have not strayed.”                                                                                  Psalm 119:110

 

 
04 Sep

Religious Persecution – 2016 Worst Year on Record

Religious Persecution – 2016 Worst Year on Record:

Before that, the worst year was 2015 and before that, 2014, reported the Center for Studies on New Religions.  Christians killed for their faith has been in the tens of thousands and as many as 600 million were prevented from practicing their faith through “intimidation, forced conversions, bodily harm or even death.”

 

Persecution is at historic levels and getting worse.  North Korea tops the list of offenders but Islamic countries account for nearly all major persecution of Christians.  Some of the world’s oldest Christian communities are simply going extinct due to the continuing Syrian civil war and the aggression of ISIS throughout the Middle East.

 

Now Russia has been included in a new global report from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.  “Not only has Russia continually intensified its repression of religious freedom at home,” the commissioners wrote, “it has also expanded its repressive policies to territory of a neighboring country (Crimea and eastern Ukraine) where ‘religious freedom is at the whim of armed militias not beholden to any legal authority.'”

 

“The right to practice any faith, or have no faith, is a fundamental human right of all people, no matter where they live,” said Sen. James Lankford.  He is concerned that America’s hostility to religious liberty at home has led to incredible indifference abroad.

 

(state.gov, 7/19/17; worldwatchmonitor.org; opendoorsusa.org)

Proverbs 29:10
“Bloodthirsty men hate the honest man, but the upright show concern for his life.”

28 Aug

Focus on Religious Freedom

As this new school year begins, let us empower our children.

Help them learn they are  “Free to Be – Students of Faith”

Catholics For Freedom of Religion has developed a powerful  lesson to inform students, parents and teachers about “THE BIG SECRET” – that “Public Schools are not God-Free Zones!”  This lesson presents important information from the U.S. Department of Education and the First Amendment to the Constitution.  Over 2,500 have heard this lesson so far, and frequent comments are: “I didn’t know these facts.” “Every parent and student should know this!”.

There is a misperception that bringing religion into schools in any form is prohibited, resulting in students being silenced, shamed and even disciplined for protected speech and behaviors.   This perception is wrong since there are strong protections for student religious expression at many appropriate times in public schools.  For instance:

1. Students can express their faith at school, unless it’s disruptive or coercive.  They can comment about their own religious views in class or in assignments as long as it’s related to the discussion.

2.  Students can pray alone or in groups as long as the school doesn’t sponsor the event and others aren’t pressured to participate.

3.  Public schools can teach about religious holidays or religious practices and discuss their influence on our culture so long as its objective rather than devotional.

5.  Choirs can sing and orchestras can play sacred music; book lists can include religiously themed literature, and drama students can enact religious plays – all as part of the school’s academic program, especially when mixed with secular works.

6.  Students can form religious groups and clubs when the school allows non curriculum-related clubs.

Religious freedoms in our country protect, in law, the rights of children to live their faith among their peers in many appropriate school situations each day.  Learning these religious liberties will clarify to students, parents and teachers that schools are not God-free zones.

21 Aug

Warning from Pope Francis

Pope Francis Warns:
There is a “polite persecution” in America and the world that “takes away from man and woman their freedom as well as their right to conscientious objection.”

“We see every day that the powerful make laws that force people to this path (against their conscience and beliefs).”

“If you don’t do this you will be punished. You’ll lose your job and many things; or you’ll be set aside. This is the persecution of the world.”
(ncregister.com; catholicnewsagency.com; christianpost.com)

Catholics For Freedom of Religion is dedicated to educating all Americans about the facts of First Amendment religious freedom … what it is, how dearly it was purchased for us and how quickly it can be lost.

Through education, prayer, and inspiration, each American is empowered to act, according to his conscience, to preserve religious liberty. CFFR has developed the following materials and programs to assist in this goal:

Empower our Children: “Free to Be – Students of Faith”: Our lesson empowers students, parents, and teachers by revealing “THE BIG SECRET”… “Public Schools are not God-Free Zones!” Video and guide

Educational Bulletin Items: “Focus on Religious Freedom”: Emailed weekly to parishes and individuals upon request.

Rosary Meditations: For the blessing of religious liberty and the preservation of Catholic Healthcare.

Religious Freedom 101: 6 session, small group study course with materials and guide – basic facts.

“Polite persecution” is “disguised as culture, disguised as modernity, disguised as progress.” Pope Francis
14 Aug

A New Catholic Movement in the United States

“Catholics For Freedom of Religion” was privileged to be invited to:

“A New Catholic Movement in the United States”

                                     National Catholic Register, July 24, 2017

Over 100 Bishops joined 3,500 Catholic leaders, priests and religious from across the United States, as they gathered in Orlando, FL from July 1-4, for the unprecedented and invitation-only gathering of “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America.”  

“It succeeded in gathering men and women who love the Church – from all over the U.S., from various cultural backgrounds and with different roles and perspectives in the Church, …  with their bishops to pray together … and invite the Holy Spirit to lead us in going forth,” said a key organizer.  The attendees spent the days in prayer and discussion, hearing from a series of speakers on a specific theme each day.  Nationally known speakers included Cardinal Timothy Dolan, NY, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Washington, Archbishop Jose Gomez, Los Angeles, law professor Helen Alvare, and Supreme Knight Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus.

The convocation strove to equip Catholic leaders with the tools, knowledge and common purpose to meet the next challenging years with confidence and the joy of discipleship.

Catholics For Freedom of Religion was happy to provide our ideas and resources to laymen and clergy.  We shared our mission to educate and inspire, on a non-partisan basis, for First Amendment Freedom of Religion – how rare it is, how dearly it was purchased for us and how quickly it can be lost.

We were honored to be part of the Diocese of Rockville Centre delegation led by Bishop John Barres. 

“We are here at this convocation to set the course for what can be a new Catholic moment in the United States.”

Hosffman Ospino, Associate Professor, Boston College