23 Apr

Harvard Punishes Christian Student Group

Harvard University has sanctioned and placed on probation the largest Christian student group on campus, Harvard College Faith & Action (HCFA), for the group’s expectation that its student leadership follow orthodox Christian ethical teachings on sexuality.
 
HCFA had asked a Bible study leader to resign after learning she was in a same-sex relationship.  “We reject any notion that we discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in our fellowship,” wrote the HCFA co-presidents.  “The student in this case was removed because of an irreconcilable theological disagreement …”   In Christian theology, homosexual conduct – not people – is considered sinful.   “Our theological view is that – for professing Christians who are in leadership – celibacy is the only option outside the bounds of marriage.”
 
The situation at Harvard is not unique.  Clashes between religious clubs and campus diversity policies have occurred at Vanderbilt, Bowdoin, Wayne State, University of Iowa, and California State University systems, to name a few.
 
Religious clubs have the right to select their own leadership and set standards for leaders within the organization just as other campus groups do.   CitizenGoUSA wrote: “Would Harvard force a Muslim student group to retain a student leader who decided to convert to Christianity?  Would Harvard force an LGBT+ group to retain a student leader who expressed views critical of same-sex relationships?  Of course not.”                               
 
(citizengo.org, 2/24/18; freebeacon.com, 2/27/18; nbcnews.com, 2017; bpnews.net, 3/8/18; weeklystandard.com, 3/1/18)
 
“Unfortunately, there are powerful and well-funded interests who, with broad support in the academy and in media, have been working hard to associate our ‘first freedom’ (Freedom of Religion) with discrimination and prejudice.”        Professor Richard Garnett, University of Notre Dame Law School
16 Apr

“The Big Secret”

The following are headlines about schools that don’t know…
“The Big Secret”
The U.S. Dept. of Education Guidelines make it clear…
It’s OK for students to Pray in Public Schools!

* California Deputy Sheriff Visits Home of First-Grade Student to Warn Him Against Sharing His Faith with Classmates
* Sixth-Grade Student Prohibited from Mentioning Her Faith in “All About Me” Presentation
* New York Middle School Students Told to Turn Their T-Shirts Inside-out Because They Have Religious Symbols

Public Schools are not “God-Free Zones.” The courts have declared that students and teachers do not “shed their Constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gates …”

“Catholics For Freedom of Religion,” together with “Americans For Freedom of Religion,” have produced a 9 minute educational video titled: It’s OK to Pray.

You can see the video at www.youtube.com, type the words It’s OK to Pray in Public Schools in the search bar, and watch Long Island students explain denials of religious expression and act out protected rights to live their faith in public schools.

(First Liberty Institute; Undeniable: The Survey of Hostility to Religion in America)

“A Bible and a newspaper in every house, a good school in every district … are the principle support of virtue, morality, and civil liberty.” Benjamin Franklin
09 Apr

Christians Are Persecuted, Not Privileged, as Students are Taught at GWU

George Washington University in Washington D.C. is hosting a training seminar to teach the perils of “Christian privilege.”  The event description asks, “How do Christians in the USA experience life in an easier way than non-Christians?” “… are there places where Christians have built-in advantages over non-Christians?”  The learning objectives indicate the session will touch on “white privilege” as well.  
 
However, the many Christians who have been mocked, ostracized, sued, lost jobs, businesses, or military rank for following their Christian beliefs and conscience, could challenge the premise of this training seminar at GWU and a similar philosophy at Simmons College in Boston and other universities.   Instances of prejudice and persecution against Christians has substantially increased in the U.S. and the world.
 
*  German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that Christianity is “the most persecuted religion in the world.”
*  UK researcher, Rupert Short, says “Christians are targeted more than any other body of believers” and that Christianity is in peril, like no other religion.  He is concerned that “200 million Christians are socially disadvantaged, harassed or actively oppressed for their beliefs.”
*  The Scottish Parliament is demanding that more be done to protect Catholics who bear the brunt of religiously-motivated hate crimes in Scotland.  While Catholics comprise only 15% of Scottish population, they suffer 57% of hate crimes.
*  In the Middle East, the birthplace of Christianity, Christians are escaping or being killed, tortured, or enslaved.  For example, in 1990, Iraq had 1.2 million Christians.  Today, there are less than 200,000.
 

 

“… no one would be more zealous than myself to establish barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.”  George Washington
02 Apr

Freedom of Speech and Religious Expression Under Attack

Florida:  “ANY AND ALL CHRISTIAN MUSIC IS BANNED! ” This sign was posted on an organ located in a commons area of a condo building in Port Charlotte, FL.  The condo Board passed a new resolution in February that stated, “prayers and other religious services, observations, or meetings of any nature shall not occur … in or upon any of the common elements.”  A group of residents had held a Bible study group in the buildings common room for almost a year.
“The (condo) resolution, both in text and in application, is discriminatory and violates the Fair Housing Act because it prohibits … residents from accessing common condominium areas for any religious activity, while allowing other residents to use those same facilities for similar secular purposes,” said First Liberty law firm, after a resident filed a federal complaint.
 
Michigan: Citizens at a Senior Center were told that if they continued to say Grace before meals, federal funding for the meals would end.  “If you continue to pray, you know what will happen.”  The message was clear – you can either eat or you can pray.
The Great Lakes Justice Center has challenged this policy.
 
Pennsylvania:  In 2016, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) revised regulations regarding food distribution to the homeless to say that no religious activities – such as praying over the meal – could occur, Bethesda Mission was forced to decline accepting USDA surplus food.  “… in some way, we serve 100,000 poor and homeless people a month …,” said the Mission.  “We don’t force our faith on anybody.  But we find the whole idea of the government coming in and tell us what to do .. is out of bounds, especially in matters of faith”
 
(christiantimes.com, 3/13/18; firstliberty.org, 3/16/118; cnsnews.com,10/31/16; stevegruber.com, 8/18/17)
“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the Freedom of Speech.”   Benjamin Franklin
Action Steps:
*  Pray for a restoration of tolerance and kindness in our culture.
*  See multiple “search engines,” such as DuckDuckGo, Startpage.com, and others, to read more news stories on this topic.
26 Mar

Freedom of Worship’s Assault on “Freedom of Religion”

The right to live, work and worship according to one’s faith is a freedom foundational to the United States.  The Founders were clear, and the Bill of Rights makes it foundational to our Constitution, that the government should not infringe on the free exercise of religion.
 
In recent years, however, Americans have faced attempts to water down this robust understanding of religious freedom to a mere “freedom to worship.”
 
“Freedom of worship” means religious beliefs need to go in the Closet – or into four walls of a home or house of worship – and that faith should remain a private affair that is relegated to personal activities or weekend worship services.
 
“Freedom of religion” means religious believers can say and do as their conscience dictates in the public square.  It includes freedom of worship but is also the right to evangelize, change their religion, have schools and charitable institutions, and conduct their jobs and businesses according to their conscience and religious beliefs.
 
“The freedom of religion is much more than just the freedom to worship,” said Sen. James Lankford.  “Worship confines you to location.  Freedom of religion is the right to exercise your religious beliefs – it is the ability of Americans to live out their faith or choose to have no faith at all.”
 
(firstlings.comwsj.com, 6/10/16; ncregister.com, 8/18/16)
 “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; …”   First Amendment to the Bill of Rights

 

Action Steps:
1.  Pray that all Americans will cherish our freedoms.
2.  Learn all 5 freedoms in the First Amendment.
3.  Contact Catholics For Freedom of Religion at 631-896-8331 to arrange a speaker for your parish or ministry group.
19 Mar

Freedom of Conscience & Religion Rights Ignored

Washington State:  A bill containing no religious or moral exemptions, requiring the state’s insurers who cover maternity care to also cover elective abortions and contraception,  was passed by the state legislature and awaits the governor’s signature.  The bill also requires that as of 2019, health plans must provide free sterilizations, contraceptive drugs and devices.

~The Washington State Catholic Conference, along with pro-life groups and churches, strongly oppose the bill because it would promote abortions while violating constitutionally-protected conscience rights of individuals, churches, businesses and others.  “We strongly believe that even those who do not share our unconditional commitment to the dignity of every person from the moment of conception, have every reason to support our right to exercise our conscience in accord with the teachings of our faith,” a Bishop’s letter states.

Little Sisters of the Poor Freedom of Conscience & Religion Still Threatened:
In October, 2017, the government issued a new rule admitting that it violated the law when it tried to force religious ministries like the Little Sisters to violate their faith and include abortions and contraception in their health insurance plans.  The rule fulfills the 2016 Supreme Cout ruling and the President’s 2017 Executive Order, but the Little Sisters still need permanent court protection to finally end their years-long lawsuit and go back to serving the elderly poor.
 
~The case has been on hold ever since the Supreme Court unanimously overturned the lower court rulings against the Little Sisters, ordered the government not to impose $70 million in fines, and ordered the lower courts to allow time for the federal government to “accommodate the petitioners’ religious beliefs.”
 
             (littlesistersofthepoor.orgtownhall.com, 3/5/18; dailysunnews.com, 3/7/18)
 
 “The conscientious scruples of all men should be treated with great delicacy and tenderness: and it is my wish and desire that the laws may be extensively accommodated to them …”   George Washington
12 Mar

Religious Liberty Eroding in Canada – A Cautionary Tale for Americans

Canada’s Catholic bishops say the government’s new Canada Summer Jobs grant policy “conflicts directly with the right to freedom of religion and conscience which is enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms …”  This new policy requires that employers sign a form supporting abortion and transgender “rights” in order to receive student summer job grants, thus restricting the voices of faith communities in Canada and limiting their participation in the public square. 
“It seriously undermines the right to religious freedom since the Government of Canada is directly limiting the right of religious traditions to hold, teach and practice their principles and values in public,” the bishops wrote.  
Non-profit groups, small businesses, and private sector employers can apply for funding for wage subsidies for students ages 15-30.  However, some in government did not want pro-life groups receiving any Canada Summer Jobs grants, so this year they added the new requirement that pro-life individuals and businesses cannot, in good conscience, sign.  
 
Some unfortunate consequences of this new policy will be: summer camps will be forced to close; the services of numerous non-profit organizations will be reduced; apprenticeship opportunities will be lost.  “These effects, to name but a few, will be felt in Catholic dioceses and organizations as well as in many other faith communities across Canada.”
 
(lifesitenews.com, 1/11/18; cccb.ca, 1/18/18; catholicregister.org, 1/11/18)
“Christians must beware of a polite persecution that is cloaked in a disguise of culture, modernity, and progress.”  Pope Francis
05 Mar

Update: Turning Lemons into Lemonade at Ohio School District

When the atheist Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) threatened West Branch H.S., insisting they ban offering a short prayer at athletic events, and the school district agreed, admitting they couldn’t afford a lawsuit, FFRF didn’t expect that hundreds of young people would arrive at games with a better idea.  “Everybody’s really coming together to support the prayer issue,” said a local pastor.  (Now) we’re having more conversations about prayer and the Gospel than we’ve ever had before.”
 
By mid-February over 5,000 “Prayer Matters” T-shirts were sold. More than half the attendees at a recent game were wearing these shirts and, when the team played on the road, the home team they visited made and wore their own “Prayer Matters” tees in a sign of solidarity.
 
Some students have also created “Coexist” shirts, calling out the atheist minority’s unwillingness to allow free-flowing ideas on campus.  They believe allowing individuals to avoid all encounters with religion should be discouraged since it creates an atmosphere of close-mindedness, intolerance, ignorance and hypersensitivity.
 
“All the proceeds will go to any legal fee incurred on this matter,” said one parent who helped start the drive to reinstate prayers.  First Liberty Institute are now investigating a way to restore religious freedom to these students.
 
Therefore, rather than being discouraged by the FFRF’s efforts to censor prayer, a pastor enthusiastically declared, “The opportunities to talk about prayer and the Gospel are tremendous … all because of “No Prayer at Basketball Games!”  These students are showing millions of Americans how to thwart the overreach of a special interest minority, just as the Founding Fathers intended.
 
          (ratchetfights.org, 2/8/28; frc.org, 2/16/18; ohio.com, 2/7/18; truthrevolt.org, 2/7/18)
 
 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”   Romans 8:28
26 Feb

Play – but Don’t Pray: Students Fight Back Against Atheist Group

Beloit, Ohio – A community prayer before basketball and football games, led by a local pastor, has been a tradition at West Branch School District for the past 30 years.  Pastor Mark Reich said he prays for the athletes “protection, good, their best efforts and for everyone to go home saying, ‘I did my best.'”
 
The atheist Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter of complaint to the school district in January.  This anti-God group routinely attacks and threatens small towns and average Americans for exercising their First Amendment freedoms.  (They even sued Presidents Obama and Bush over the National Day of Prayer, claiming they were offended by the proclamation.  Fortunately, in this case, the appeals court concluded, “Hurt feelings differ from legal injury.”)  Nevertheless, each year, FFRF continue their dozens of complaints against schools and too often, the schools will capitulate rather than engage in a legal defense.
 
West Branch Superintendent Saxton decided to stop the prayer while exploring a compromise.  In the meantime, over 100 students and adults arrived at a recent game wearing “Prayer Matters” tee-shirts.  “I was upset and outraged because our community is so close-knit and it’s upsetting to see something that’s important to so many people get taken down,” said a West Branch graduate.
 
 (wkbn.com, 2/10/18; christianpost.com,2/11/18; aclj.org, 2015)
 
 “I believe we are allowed to express ourselves and it’s our freedom guaranteed by the Constitution.  I want the praying to continue.”
West Branch student – age 14
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”