19 Feb

Freedom of Speech & Freedom of Thought Wins – for now:

Bakersfield, CA:  In what has become a familiar story, cake-artist, Cathy Miller, was sued by a same-sex couple when she declined to create a cake for their wedding because her faith “will not allow me to participate in things that I feel are wrong.”  And, just as other bakers have done, she offered to sell them a pre-made cake which they refused.  Also, as other bakers have done, she referred the couple to a different bakery that was willing to create this special order cake.  Instead, the couple went to the California Department of Fair Housing who then sued the baker.
 
In a surprise and welcome court ruling, Superior Court Judge David Lampe rejected the argument that personal offense trumps conscience.  “The right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment outweighs the State’s interest in ensuring a freely accessible marketplace,” Judge Lampe wrote.  “The right of freedom of thought guaranteed by the First Amendment includes the right to speak, and the right to refrain from speaking.”
 
“A wedding cake is not just a wedding cake in Free Speech analysis.  It is an artistic expression by the person making it …”
 
“The State asks this court to compel (Cathy) Miller to use her talents to design and create cake she has not yet conceived with the knowledge that her work will be displayed to celebrate a marital union her religion forbids … Such an order would be the stuff of
tyranny.”
 
This ruling by Judge Lampe is only temporary.  The full case comes to trial in CA in June.
The almost identical case of Colorado baker, Jake Phillips, is now being heard by the U.S. Supreme Court and will also be decided in June.
 
(onenewsnow.com, 2/7/18;  frc.org, 2/7/18; theblaze.com, 2/6/18) 
“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freedom of speech.”        Benjamin Franklin
 
 Action Steps:
* Pray that Americans will value liberty and practice respect/tolerance for opposing views.
* Read The 5000 Year Leap – A Miracle that Changed the World,  “The Role of Religion” 
12 Feb

Love – Life – Liberty: Part 2

Conscience and Religious Freedom Protections Restored at HHS:
The Dept. of Health and Human Services announced on Jan.18 that it has formed a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division that would “restore federal enforcement of our nation’s laws that protect the fundamental and unalienable rights of conscience and religious freedom.”  Its purpose is to protect the conscience rights of healthcare workers and hospitals that decline to perform certain procedures such as abortions, euthanasia, or sex-change surgery.
“The conscience of Catholic health care does not allow us to participate in certain procedures we feel are an assault on the dignity of human life,” said the Catholic Health Association.
“The Founding Fathers knew that a nation that respects conscience rights is more diverse and more free,” said acting HHS Secretary, Eric Hargan.
 
Social Media Blocks Roe vs Wade Movie Funding:
Facebook blocked the crowdfunding site of a pro-life movie about the Roe vs Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion across the U.S.
“Facebook has pulled down our ads, the paid ads and any mention of the unpaid ads,” said Dr. Alveda King, executive producer and niece of Martin Luther King Jr.  “They have even blocked people sharing the ads I paid for,” said Nick Loeb, actor/producer.  “Many documentaries have been made, but no one has had the courage to make an actual feature film, a theatrical movie about the true story.”
Facebook later said they would restore the ads for  Roe v Wade, the movie.
 
(christiantimes.com,1/15/18; washingtontimes.com, 1/13/18; wildhunt.org, 1/24/18; NationalCatholicReporter, 1/19/18)
 
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”    Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Action Steps:
*  Pray that Americans are receptive to different points of view on important matters.
*  Look for information on Roe vs Wade, the movie
05 Feb

Love – Life – Liberty

St. Valentine Day – February 14:
St. Valentine was a third century Roman saint and is associated with a tradition of courtly love.
 
“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way.  What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.  It will decide … what amazes you with joy and gratitude.  Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”  (Pedro Arrupe, S.J., Jesuit Superior General from 1965-1983)
 
“Love Saves Lives” – theme for 2018 March for Life:
Well over 100,000 pro-lifers descended upon Washington, D.C. on January 19th for the 45th annual March for Life.
 
“One of the highlights for me … is looking out at the sea of almost endless faces of young people who are so enthusiastic and so excited,” said Jeanne Mancini, President of March for Life.  “They are the pro-life generation and they know this is the human rights issue, the social justice issue of today.  We’re passing the work onto them and they’re ready.”
 
Archbishop William Lori said he is hopeful about the future of the pro-life movement because it is joyful and this joy is causing it to grow.  This is the pro-life movement at its best: joyful, supportive, full of hope.
“Before you were formed I knew you.  Before you were born I set you apart.”   Jeremiah 1:5
(dailysignal.com, 1/19/18; stream.org, 1/29/18; catholicnewsagency.com, 1/22/18)
 
Action Steps:
*  Pray that all Americans practice kindness and treasure life at every stage.
*  Read booklet, Religious Liberty in the American Republic, by Gerard V. Bradley
29 Jan

Punished for Religious Beliefs in the Military – Part 2

In 2017, USAF Colonel Michael Madrid’s law firm demanded that the Air Force rescind Col. Madrid’s punishment and attempt to destroy his career or face further legal action.  Col. Madrid is a decorated Air Force veteran, former Naval aviator, and a flight surgeon who has served the military for 26 years and is a Christian with traditional beliefs about marriage.
 
In 2014, an Airman who was court-martialed and found guilty of serious misconduct, accused Col. Madrid of making derogatory comments about homosexuality.  Col. Madrid denied this charge and submitted to a thorough Air Force investigation which found the allegations unsubstantiated, was cleared of all charges, and the investigation was closed.
 
However, two years later, without any new evidence or new investigation, a new commander, Maj. Gen. McCoy, decided that Madrid had lied in 2014 when he denied making derogatory comments.  As a result, he placed a Letter of Admonishment in Col. Madrid’s stellar permanent record that now guarantees he will never be promoted to Brigadier General.
 
“Colonel Madrid is the latest victim of extreme political correctness …,” said First Liberty Institute.  “We are concerned that Maj. Gen. McCoy judged and punished Madrid because he became aware of his traditional religious views.  If so, that not only harms the military, it is illegal.”
 
“As the world faces terrorist threats to freedom and America prepares a response, the U.S. military is facing challenges to its own freedom here at home.”
Barbara Samuells, President,  Catholics For Freedom of Religion
22 Jan

Disciplined For Religious Beliefs in the Air Force

Highly decorated Air Force Col. Leland Bohannon, was relieved of command, transferred, and denied promotion, after he refused to sign a certificate of appreciation for a retiring master sergeant’s same-sex spouse since it conflicted with his conscience and religious beliefs.  The certificate is traditionally given to the spouses of retiring military members but is not legally required to be given and is not an official document.
 
Col. Bohannon consulted others on the base and his command chaplain suggested he file a religious accommodation request that would excuse him from signing the certificate. That request was returned six weeks later “without action.”  Instead, an off base superior officer agreed to sign the certificate in Bohannon’s place.
 
Subsequently, the master sergeant filed a complaint alleging Bohannon discriminated against him by not signing the certificate himself.
 
“No airman … should ever have to forfeit their religious beliefs in order to serve in the military,” said a First Liberty Institute attorney. “…The accommodation should have been granted.”
 
 (military.com,10/27/17; prnnewswire.com, 3/29/17; abqjournal.com, 10/26/17)
“a wind is picking up that is hostile to those with traditional moral beliefs.”  
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito
15 Jan

Why Religious Freedom Matters

As a New Year begins, America finds itself at a tipping point, with the stakes for religious freedom at an all-time high.  Many cases are working their way through the courts while some will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.  These cases involve prayer, military religious rights, faith-based business owners, and houses of worship.  Unfortunately, many cases don’t even make it to the court system since citizens will often capitulate to intimidation out of ignorance of their First Amendment protections, fear of job or societal repercussions, or legal costs  (though many law firms defend religious freedom pro-bono.)
 
       Examples of Student Religious Expression on trial:  
  At two different Long Island, NY, public schools students were made to turn their t-shirts inside out to hide the Bible verses on the shirts.
  A Florida agency banned two Christian schools from using a stadium speaker system to pray before a championship game, even though this was common practice. 
These 2 cases are each one step below the Supreme Court.
 
       Examples of Military Religious Rights on trial:
  A 33-year Air Force veteran, Oscar Rodriquez, was forcibly removed from a private retirement ceremony at a CA airbase because he planned to say the word “God” in his speech.
  Two high-ranking military officers, Col. Bohannon and Col. Madrid, are being punished for their religious views on marriage.
 
       Examples of Business Owners on trial:
  An OR family-owned bakery is being fined $135,000 for declining – on religious grounds – to create a custom cake for a same-sex wedding. The government says it also wants to “rehabilitate” their religious views.
  MN film makers, Angel & Carl Larsen, are facing large fines or 90 days in jail for declining to video a same-sex wedding.
 
       Examples of Houses of Worship on trial:
  A synagogue in Dallas, TX, is fighting for its existence against zoning regulations.
  An Orthodox Jewish community in Los Angeles, CA, was sued by animal rights activists trying to prevent a millennium-old religious ceremony (kosher chicken) from taking place in various synagogues.    
 
(CFFR, Students of Faith lessons, 2017; firstliberty.org, 12/28/17; ncregister.com, 6/22/12; thf_media, s3,amazonnews)
 
 “The liberty enjoyed by the People of these States, of worshiping Almighty God agreeable to their Consciences, is not only among the choicest of their Blessings, but also of their Rights.”  George Washington
08 Jan

Celebrate Religious Freedom Day – January 16, 2018

National Religious Freedom Day is observed on January 16 every year since 1993 to commemorate the Virginia General Assembly’s adoption of Thomas Jefferson’s landmark Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom on January 16, 1786.  This vital document became the basis for the Constitution’s First Amendment establishment clause, and led to the protection of freedom of religion for all Americans.  Every president writes an official Proclamation on this day.

 Why We Need Religious Freedom:
 “Religion and good morals are the only solid foundation of public liberty and happiness,” said Founding Father, Samuel Adams in 1778.

An academic report from Princeton University argues that vigorously advancing religious freedom is in America’s national interests:
 ·         The basis for religious freedom is  awareness of the reality and dignity of the human person.  Since religion is a human impulse to know and relate to something bigger than one’s self and is a phenomenon found in all times and cultures, to interfere with living out religious experience, is to interfere with human fulfillment.
 ·         “When citizens are free to have an ultimate commitment to something more than human, something beyond the authorities of state and society, the power of the state is thereby limited.”
 ·         At the same time, religious freedom disciplines religious people to treat their non-coreligionists with respect.
 ·         Morally, religion is just not religion unless it is done freely.
 ·         Legally, democracies have recognized that – far from being a marginal special interest – religious freedom is a central human right.

 (ncregister.com, 2012; mormonnewsroom.org, 2/3/12; Dr. D. Dreisbach, 2/16/15)

 “I still believe that standing up for the truth of God is the greatest thing in the world.  This is the end (purpose) of life.”       Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
01 Jan

Partial Victory for First Amendment Freedoms

A federal court judge ruled in mid-December that an Atlanta, GA, city policy requiring public employees to get permission to do other work outside their city employment, that led to the firing of Fire Chief Kevin Cochran in 2015, was unconstitutional.  The long-time fire chief had a distinguished career that included an appointment by Pres. Obama as the U.S. Fire Administrator.  Nevertheless, he was fired for authoring and self-publishing a book for his men’s Bible study that upholds the biblical view on sexuality.
 
“Atlanta can no longer require employees to get permission from the city for speech unrelated to work or punish them if they don’t,” said an Alliance Defending Freedom attorney.   “This win protects all city employees wanting to engage in ‘controversial’ speech – whether that be what the Bible has to say about marriage or what Charlie Brown and the Bible have to say about Christmas.”
 
However, the Atlanta city attorney is also declaring victory.  “We are pleased that Judge May ruled that the mayor acted lawfully and appropriately in terminating Mr. Cochran’s employment. … (This lawsuit) is an employment matter involving an executive  in charge of more than 1,100 firefighters and tasked to lead by example.”
 
For now, Cochran’s case will continue through the courts to determine if the chief gets his job back and receives some compensation.
 
Chief Cochran said, “It’s still unthinkable to me that the very faith and patriotism that inspired my professional achievements and drove me to treat all people with love and equity is what the government ultimately used to bring my dream career to an end.  All Americans are guaranteed the freedom of actually believing and thinking in such a way that does not cost them the consequences that I’ve experienced in this termination.”

(frc.org, 12/21/17; wabe.org, 12/20/17; christianpost.com, 12/21/17)
 
“We have become certain of two things: religious freedom is under attack, and we will not cease our struggle to protect it.”  Cardinal Timothy Dolan, New York
25 Dec

The True Meaning of “Separation of Church and State”

Our forefathers would have never accepted or permitted the restrictions on religion or conscience that are enacted today under the banner “Separation of Church and State,” since these restrictions are the exact opposite of the intent of Thomas Jefferson’s “separation …” phrase.  The intent of the founders was not to establish the government as a God-free zone, but to ensure that matters of religious conscience and practice was a government-free zone.
 
Yet, frequently today, crosses are ripped down in parks, prayer has been banished from schools, and there are lawsuits trying to remove “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance.  
 
How did this happen?  It seems that over the past half-century, when we weren’t paying close attention, atheist and freedom-from-religion groups challenged America’s founding principles in the public square, in schools and in the courts, thus succeeding in mutating Jefferson’s reassurance to the Danbury Baptist Church that government couldn’t interfere in their First Amendment Freedom of Religion rights.  President Jefferson wrote that the “free exercise” clause “built a wall of separation between Church and State.”
 
Our founders fought for a nation where, in the words of Pastor John Leland, all would be “equally free – Jews, Turks, Pagans, and Christians.”  They knew from history that an attack on anyone’s religious liberty would be destructive to everyone’s religious liberty; for where government, through power, can dictate, there is no liberty.
 
                 (christiananswers.netforbes.com, 7/9/11; wnd.com; KrisAnneHall, 6/26/13)
 
“God governs in the affairs of men … And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?”       Benjamin Franklin
18 Dec

Taking “Christ” Out of “Christmas” on College Campuses

Under the guise of inclusivity, many colleges across the nation are promoting non-religious decorations, displays and celebrations when issuing their annual guidelines for Christmas.  They contend that public religious displays are inappropriate for Christmas – a holiday so-named because it celebrates the birth of Christ.  In their efforts “striving to make campuses as inclusive as possible in 2017” by banning Christmas displays and celebrations, these colleges are telling Christians their traditions are offensive.
 
*  The University of California, Irvine, encouraged a “focus on celebrating a special occasion, instead of a specific holiday” such as a “year-end celebration” or celebrate “seasonal themes such as fall, winter, or spring.”
 
*  The State University of New York at Brockport issued decorating guidelines.  “Keep decorations general and non-specific to any religion.  Create a winter theme with lights and color rather than religious icons …”  Brockport advised employees to “consider a grab bag instead of a ‘Secret Santa’ gift exchange.
 
*  Missouri State University barred “religious icons”  and recommended displaying snowmen, bells, flowers, and other nondescript items.
 
*  Life University in Georgia, Eastern Connecticut State University, and others, are  holding a holiday decorating contest that considers “inclusiveness, or how the decorations are respectful of all religious winter holidays.”
 
*  Many colleges are leaving off the word “Christmas” to describe annual tree lighting ceremonies.
 
       (nynews.com, 12/10/17; leadershipinstitute.org, 12/6/17; campusreform.org, 12/11/17)
 
“There were only a few shepherds at the first Bethlehem.  The ox and the donkey understood more of the first Christmas than the high priests in Jerusalem.  And it is the same today.”    Thomas Merton, Catholic monk and author