17 Apr

Palm Sunday Attacks on Coptic Christians

“convert the hearts of the people who are sowing terror, violence and death …”    Pope Francis

Palm Sunday Attacks on Coptic Christians:

Pope Francis condemned Islamic State terror attacks on Coptic churches during Palm Sunday services.  These bombings in Cairo, Egypt, are the latest escalation by ISIS to step up its attacks against Egypt’s Christian minority which makes up 10% of the population.   (americamagazine.org, 4/9/17; catholicnewsagency.com, 4/9/17)

Are Christians in America Under Attack?

Compared to the rest of the world, the answer is “No.”  Americans don’t experience the same kind of persecution as Christians in Nigeria, Iran, Pakistan, Egypt and Syria.

What is happening in America is an increasing hostility and intolerance toward Christian beliefs and values.  Hostility toward religion in America has expanded dramatically in recent years, with florists targeted, bakers punished, nuns coerced and retail companies facing discrimination for their faith.

“This flood is engulfing ordinary citizens who simply try to live normal lives according to their faith and conscience…It has the potential to wash away the ground that supports our other rights, including freedom of speech…,” said Kelly Shackelford, chief counsel for First Liberty.   (time.com,6/29/16; christianity.com)

“God made us free, but this kind of (polite) persecution takes away freedom.”  Pope Francis

Events:

  • Sunday, April 23, 2017, 7-9PM
    Congressman Lee Zeldin
    St. Patrick’s R.C.Church
    280 E Main St., Smithtown,
    Topic: conscience rights & religious liberty and our Congress
  • Sunday, May 7, 2017
    11:00 mass, 12:00 Brunch & Presentation
    Catholic Teachers in Public Schools Communion Breakfast
    Seminary of the Immaculate Conception
    440 West Neck Road, Huntington, 11743
    For a reservation, call DRVC, Office of Faith Formation at 516-678-5800

 

 

10 Apr

The truth about “Separation of Church and State”

“For some time now, we have viewed with growing alarm the on-going erosion of religious liberty in our country.”  Archbishop William Lori

The truth about “Separation of Church and State”

Many  Americans are surprised to learn that the words, “Separation of Church and State” do not appear in the First Amendment or anywhere else in the Constitution.  This phrase is traced to a letter President Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1802 to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut in response to their concerns about their Religious Freedom.

Jefferson quoted the First Amendment:

“Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;…”  “thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.”

The metaphor of a “wall” was used to put restrictions only on the government and not on the people.  At the very heart of Jefferson’s assurance of a  “wall of separation”, is the notion that the government will not interfere with the peoples’ rights to worship God as well as to practice their beliefs.

Sadly, today many choose to reverse the real meaning of Jefferson’s words to place restrictions on people instead of on government.  (usconstitution.net; wallbuilders.com; schoolprayerinamerica.info)

“And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure if we have lost … a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God?  That they are not to be violated but with His wrath?” ~ Thomas Jefferson
03 Apr

“Freedom of Religion” vs “Freedom of Worship” – What’s the difference?

“Religion cannot be relegated to the inner sanctum of personal life, without influence on societal and national life.” Pope Francis,  Evangelic Gaudium

“Freedom of Religion” vs “Freedom of Worship” – What’s the difference?

“We in the U.S. actually have freedom of religion, not freedom of worship,” said Sen. James Lankford.  The terms, “freedom of religion” and “freedom of worship” are often used interchangeably, but there is a significant difference in meaning.

Freedom of worship “argues that faith should remain a private affair – relegated to personal activities or worship services,” said policy analyst Sarah Torre.  “Step outside the four walls of a home or house of worship and robust protection of religious freedom ends.”

Freedom of religion is the more expansive term since it includes worship but also the right of believers to evangelize, change their religion, have schools and charitable institutions.  “It’s about the right to dress according to ones religious dictates, to preach openly, to evangelize, to engage in the public square,” said a spokesman for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.  “Everyone knows that religious Jews keep kosher, religious Quakers don’t go to war, and religious Muslim women wear headscarves – yet ‘freedom of worship’ would protect none of these acts of faith.”
(ncronline.org, 8/18/16; dailysignal.com, 4/30/15; onfaith.com)

“Religious freedom is one of those unique rights that, to be fully enjoyed, other rights like association and speech must also be protected.  Words matter.”    Knox Thames, Director of U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom
27 Mar

Religious Freedom Under Attack

“Let the Torch of Faith we proudly carry continue to light the Torch of Lady Liberty.”
Bishop John O. Barres, Fifth Bishop of Rockville Centre, NY

Religious Freedom Under Attack:

Warnings from Bishop John O. Barres, 2013, Allentown, PA: 

“Threats to religious liberty, zealous efforts to hermetically seal off the witness of Christians in the public square, radical atheism at fever pitch, hedonism and a pornographic culture, the dictatorship of relativism and the continuing scandal of abortion – it can all be quite daunting and jarring.”

“Religious liberty belongs to us.  It wasn’t provided to us by government; it was given to us by God.  No government agency has any right to restrict it much less take it from us.  And when we respectfully tell our government that we will not agree to confine our religious convictions and keep them out of public view, we are acting in the very best traditions of both our Christian faith and our shared American history.”

Warnings from Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito:

“The U.S. is entering a period when its commitment to religious liberty is being tested,” warned Justice Alito in a speech sponsored by a Catholic lawyers association in March.

“A wind is picking up that is hostile to those with traditional moral values.”  Organizations seeking to change traditional beliefs will “vilify those who disagree and treat them as bigots.”

” We are likely to see pitched battles in courts and Congress, in state legislatures and town halls.  But the most important fight is for the hearts and minds of our fellow Americans.  It is up to all of us to evangelize our fellow Americans about the issue of religious freedom.”  (chicagotribune.com, 3/15/17; washingtonpost.com, 3/15/17)

God our Father, we entrust the United States of America to Your loving care.  You alone are the true source of our rights.  Reclaim this land for Your glory and dwell among Your people.  Amen

 

 

20 Mar

Facts About Religious Rights in the Workplace

If lay people don’t love their … faith enough to struggle for it in the public square, nothing the (religious leaders) do will finally matter.”
Archbishop Chaput, Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Facts About Religious Rights in the Workplace:

Lack of awareness of religious liberty in the workplace has led to violations of the lawful rights of citizens who merely want to peacefully live out their religious beliefs as they earn a living.  Attorneys at the law firm, First Liberty, have compiled the following facts:

  1.  The Supreme Court recognized, in 2014, that all Americans, including businessowners, have freedom of conscience rights to live and work according to their beliefs without the fear of government compelling them to violate their beliefs.
  2. Employers cannot discriminate on the basis of religion and have an affirmative duty to accommodate an employee’s religious practices in the workplace, unless this practice imposes undue hardship on the employer.
  3.  Employers may run their businesses in accordance with their religious beliefs.An employer does not discriminate on the basis of religion by affirming the faith of its owners in business objectives.  However, the employer may not give the perception that employees’ should acquiesce to these religious beliefs.
  4. Employers and employees may engage in religious speech in the workplace.  Both may not engage in uninvited proselytizing.  As with spoken religious speech, employers can share their religious beliefs with their employees in print form such as pamphlets, books, and newsletters.
  5. Employers and employees may have prayer meetings and bible studies in the workplace as long it is clear attendance is voluntary and not required.
  6.  Employers may have employee training based on bible principles.   However, employees cannot be required to undergo religious training, services, activities, or engage in behavior that would violate their own sincerely-held religious beliefs.

(firstliberty.org, 1/27/16)

“We will not allow Caesar to re-define our faith or banish us, our Church, or other faiths, from the public square, to the shadows of our cities, or walled gardens of our inner selves.”
Bishop William Murphy, Diocese of Rockville Centre
13 Mar

Religious Liberty Loses – Again

“Christians must beware of a polite persecution that is cloaked in a disguise of culture, modernity, and progress.” Pope Francis

Religious Liberty Loses – Again:

Four years after losing their business for declining to create a cake for a same-sex wedding, Melissa and Aaron Klein, owners of “Sweet Cakes by Melissa”, finally had a hearing with a three-judge panel of the Oregon Court of Appeals. Until March 2, 2017, the Kleins had never been granted an official day in court to appeal their case.

The saga began in 2013 when the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industry (BOLI) ordered the couple to pay $135,000 in damages and forbade them from speaking about this case. However, even before hearing the case, the BOLI Commissioner had praised an LGBTQ advocacy group on Facebook and made public comments on media interviews indicating the Kleins “disobey(ed)” the law and needed “rehabilitation”. Attorneys for the Kleins stated the Commissioner should have recused himself.

First Liberty attorneys argued the the OBLI violated the Kleins constitutional rights to religious freedom, freedom of speech, and due process. “The case centers on one vitally important question: can the government force citizens to violate their conscience or their faith? The First Amendment was written to prevent exactly that.” (cbn.com, 3/2/17; us news.com, 3/2/17)

Who’s Next? Ideas to Consider:

  • Will the state now force Muslim and Jewish butchers to prepare and serve pork to whoever demands it?
  • Will fashion designers who refused to design clothing for the First Lady be held accountable?
  • Will an architect be compelled to design a church?
  • Will a rabbi be forced to marry a Christian and a Jew?
    (oregonlive.com, 3/2/17; tfpstudent.org, 2/21/17)
06 Mar

Religious Liberty Loses Case

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.”
President Ronald Reagan

Religious Liberty Loses Case:

Washington State: Florist Barronelle Stutzman, age 72, sued by the state and the ACLU for declining to design and provide flowers for a same-sex wedding, lost her appeal at the state’s Supreme Court in February. She had declined to serve a long-time customers’ wedding because of her Christian beliefs but instead recommended 3 florists who would gladly create the floral pieces.

“What the court decided was now the government has the power to separate me from my livelihood and faith,” said Mrs. Stutzman. “They’re trying to compel me to design something that goes totally against my personal conscience.”

The Washington Supreme Court ruled she is also liable for fines and legal costs estimated at over $2 million. Mrs. Stutzman said, “It’s not just my freedom, it’s everybody’s freedom, whether you’re religious or not, that is at stake.” (CNA/EWTNnews, 2/19/17; patheos.com, 2/19/17)

USCCB urge President to protect religious liberty:

Saying “religious freedom in America has suffered years of unprecedented erosion,” the USCCB posted an online letter for citizens to send that urges Pres. Trump to sign a religious freedom executive order.

The letter, found at https://www.votervoice.net/USCCB/Campaigns/49640/Respond
says the president can “restore the federal governments respect for religious freedom of individuals and organizations” with a “government-wide initiative to respect religious freedom.” (catholicreview.org, 2/17/17; todayscatholicnews.org, 2/7/17)

“Let us preserve freedom. Let us cherish freedom. Freedom of conscience, religious freedom, the freedom of each person …” Pope Francis

Event:

Saturday, March 18, 10am-2pm, with a light lunch served. St. Bernard’s RC Church, Parish Center, 3100 Hempstead Tpke, Levittown, NY, “Comfort My People – Dignity at the End of Life”

Presenters: Lisa Honkanen, MD, Doctor of Geriatrics, Msgr. James McDonald, current Pastor, St. Aidan’s, Come and be informed!

27 Feb

Victories for Religious Freedom

“The Constitution … affirmatively mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance, of all religions, and forbids hostility towards any.”
Supreme Court, 1984, in Lynch v Donnelly

Victories for Religious Freedom:

Georgia: The state agreed to to pay $225,000 to settle a lawsuit claiming it illegally discriminated against a lay pastor who was fired by the states’ Department of Public Health (DPH) because of the content of his sermons.

In 2014, Dr. Eric Walsh, MD, accepted the job as district health director with the DPH but was soon dismissed after a DPH official asked him to submit copies of sermons he had previously preached as a lay minister with the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

“No one should be fired for simply expressing his religious beliefs,” said First Liberty senior counsel.

“I am grateful this trial has finally ended,” said Dr. Walsh. “It’s been a long difficult journey, but it’s worth it to have my name cleared and to ensure that all Georgia government employees know they have religious liberty.” (wnd.com, 2/9/17; christianindex.org, 2/10/17)

Minnesota: Veterans Memorial Park, Belle Plaine: The city has agreed to bring back a memorial showing the silhouette of a soldier with rifle kneeling in front of a cross.

A Freedom From Religion group had demanded the city remove the cross last month. Many supporters of vets responded by setting up their own crosses.

Amid the controversy, Alliance Defending Freedom proposed setting up a “limited public forum” inside the park where the original cross could stand. The newly approved plan “ensures that there is no endorsement of religion by the city because memorials that will be put up represent the citizens that put them up,” said ADF.

Cheers erupted in City Hall after the council gave the OK. (startribune.com, 2/7/17; minnesota.cbslocal.com, 2/7/17)

“Let us not become weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not give up.”
Galatians 6:9
20 Feb

Assisted Suicide and Physicians’ Conscience Rights

“I am now giving you the choice between life and death, between God’s blessing and God’s curse, and I call heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Choose life.” Deuteronomy 30:19

Assisted Suicide and Physicians’ Conscience Rights:

Opponents of Physician-Assisted-Suicide (PAS) contend that doctors have a moral responsibility to keep patients alive as reflected in the Hippocratic Oath. They argue there may be a “slippery slope” from euthanasia to murder and that PAS will unfairly target the poor and disabled and create incentives for insurance companies to terminate lives in order to save money. (euthanasia.procon.org, 12/19/16)

This “slippery slope” argument is addressed by Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, writing about ethics in the Atlantic Monthly, in which he affirms that there is a lesson to be learned from the Netherlands and Belgium, where there is widespread breach of legal safeguards leading to a sizable incidence of non-voluntary euthanasia. He fears the eventual outcome of PAS laws could be euthanasia of the demented, the mentally ill, the old, and others. (heritage.org, 3/24/15; cmda.org, 7/18/16)

A Warning from Canada:

The “Medical Assistance in Dying” report, February, 2016, recommended that all Canadian doctors have a legal duty either to provide assisted suicide or provide an “effective referral” to someone who will provide it. Recommendation 10 of the report recognizes there may be a direct conflict of rights and interests between a patient seeking suicide and a doctor with ethical and moral standards opposed to providing this option. However, Recommendation 10 subordinates the values, rights and ethical interests of the doctor to the wishes of the patient.

Many physicians in Canada warn of this “slippery slope” to the kind of social and medical ethics that corrupts and erodes the core virtues essential for survival of a free society. It would be wise to pay attention to what is happening in Canada, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Switzerland, since already six American states (CA, OR, WA, MT, NM, and VT) have recently legalized physician assisted suicide. The New York State legislature is now considering a so-called “medical aid in dying” bill. (cnsnews.com, 3/18/16; stat news.com, 1/19/17; latimes.com, 5/16/16)

“Do not abandon wisdom, and she will protect you; love her and she will keep you safe. Getting wisdom is the most important thing you can do.” Proverbs 4:6-7
13 Feb

Freedom of Faith vs. Doctor Assisted Suicide Laws

“Even in my suffering I was comforted because your promise gave me life.  Psalm 119:50

Freedom of Faith vs. Doctor Assisted Suicide Laws:

Vermont:  Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys have filed suit  in federal court against Vermont Board of Medical Practice, etc. on behalf of doctors who fear that state agencies are construing Vermont’s assisted suicide law as requiring them, regardless of their conscience or oath to “do no harm”, to counsel patients on doctor-prescribed death as an option.  According to state agencies, only doctors may refer patients to others for assisted suicide counseling.  However, these health care professionals contend it is unethical for them to counsel for, refer for, or in any way participate in suicide.

“The government shouldn’t be telling health care professionals that they must violate their medical ethics in order to practice medicine,” said ADF Senior Counsel.  “These doctors and health workers deeply believe that suffering patients need understanding and sound medical treatment, not encouragement to kill themselves.  The state has no authority to order them to act contrary to that sincere and time-honored conviction.”  (adflegal.org, 7/21/16)

California:  The insurance company for terminally ill Stephanie Parker, wife and mother of four, denied her a different chemotherapy drug after California’s End of Life Option Act was passed in 2016.  She was told that while chemotherapy was denied, suicide pills were covered under her plan.  “As soon as this law was passed … patients fighting for a longer life end up getting denied treatment, because this (suicide) will always be the cheapest option,” she said.  (washingtontimes.com, 10/20/16)

Hippocratic Oath:   “… I will use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgment, but never with a view to injury and wrong-doing.  Neither will I administer poison to anybody when asked to do so, nor will I suggest such a course.”