20 Nov

Conscience Rights One Step Closer

ALERT!   Watch EWTN’s “Pro-Life Weekly”  coverage of Catholics for Freedom of Religion

http://bit.ly/2jsvyCe  the final 4 minutes of the show

The Departments of HHS, Treasury, and Labor, on Oct. 6, announced a Rule Protecting the Conscience Rights of All Americans that provides conscience protections to Americans who have a religious or moral objection to paying for health insurance that covers contraception/abortion services.   The government appears to admit that it violated the law when it tried to force religious ministries, like the Little Sisters of the Poor, to violate their faith.  Under the new rule, the objectionable Health & Human Services (HHS) mandate will remain in place for most employers and will now include an exemption for religious ministries.
However, the Little Sisters still need permanent court protection to finally end their years-long lawsuit and go back to serving the elderly poor.  Their case has been on hold ever since May, 2016, when the Supreme Court unanimously overturned the lower courts ruling against the Little Sisters, said the Little Sisters couldn’t be fined ($100/day per employee) and ordered the lower courts to find an accommodation acceptable to both parties. “Clearly, the Supreme Court understood the Sisters’ concern that the governments current scheme forces them to violate their religion,” said the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

In a related case, after years of litigation, on Oct. 11, the Department of Justice reached a settlement that marks relief for two similar ministries in relation to the HHS mandate.

“The last 3 years of litigation could have been avoided entirely if … administration had simply recognized that the First Amendment protects the rights of conscience of these religious ministries against an administration intent on coercing their obedience,” said First Liberty Institute.
13 Nov

Thanksgiving: The Religious Freedom Holiday

The Pilgrims who established the first Thanksgiving Day were in search of the freedom to practice their faith after being persecuted, arrested and fined for their form of Christianity.  After fleeing England, their beloved mother country, and a ten-year sojourn in Holland, these so-called “separatists” prayerfully decided to depart for America to find what the governor of Plymouth, William Bradford, called “freedom of religion for all men.”
There were 102 Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower who suffered the 67 days of rough sailing before they finally landed at Plymouth Bay in November, 1620.
After indescribable hardships, by March, 1621, less than a year after arriving, only 51 of the original 102 remained alive.  Fortunately, some Native Americans taught the Pilgrims  survival skills in this new land, and at the end of their first harvest, they decided to hold a feast of celebration and thanksgiving to God for their harvest, newfound friends, and freedom to worship as their hearts desired.
Now, almost 400 years later, let us reflect on the sacrifice of these brave souls who valued their freedom of religion above all security and comfort and have bequeathed to us this gift.  
Proclamation:  Thanksgiving Day 1789
“I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be … our sincere and humble thanks.”  President George Washington
06 Nov

Student Group Facing “Hate” Charges at Georgetown

Georgetown University student group, Love Saxa, is in danger of being defunded and barred from campus facilities after some students petitioned that it be recognized as a “hate group” – charges levied against it for its fidelity to Catholic doctrine on sexuality.
The Hoya, Georgetown’s student newspaper, argues that Love Saxa’s definition of marriage fosters hatred or intolerance since it “actively advocates a limited definition of marriage…”
 “Love Saxa believes that marriage is a conjugal union on every level – emotional, spiritual, physical and mental – directed toward the caring for biological children.  To us, marriage is much more than commitment of love between two consenting adults,” said student-president, Amelia Levine.  “I believe Love Saxa has the right to exist, especially at a Catholic school.  We exist to promote healthy, loving relationships at Georgetown.”
“Our definition of ‘healthy relationships’ and ‘sexual integrity’ is synonymous with those of the Catholic Church, and therefore those of Georgetown University.  If The Hoya wishes to call Love Saxa a hate group, we anticipate that it will not be long until other traditional religious groups are labeled ‘hate groups’ as well.”
Georgetown is a Catholic University in Washington, D.C., founded by the Society of Jesus in 1789.  “If we cannot safely advocate for beliefs synonymous with Catholic social teaching,” said Levine, “then no group at Georgetown can be certain of its security.”

(ncr.org, 10/20/17; catholicnewsagency.com, 10/20/17; foxnews.com, 10/23/17) 
“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
30 Oct

Widespread Ignorance of Religious Rights

A new survey from the University of Pennsylvania Annenberg Public Policy Center reveals that few Americans know even the most basic elements of our government and the Constitution that formed it.  
  *  More than 1/3 (37%) could not name a single right protected by the First Amendment.
  *  Only 15% could name Freedom of Religion as a right.
  *  Only 26% can name the 3 branches of government.
“Protecting the rights guaranteed by the Constitution presupposes that we know what they are.  The fact that many don’t is worrisome,” said the Director of the Annenberg Center.
“As a nation, it’s clear once again, we still do not provide enough basic education about our core freedoms – even enough to simply name the 5 freedoms of the First Amendment,” said the senior VP of First Amendment Center.
“Every totalitarian movement in history has sought to crush conscience rights.  That is because conscience rights are linked to religious rights, making freedom of religion the one right that totalitarian rulers fear most,” said Bill Donohue, Catholic League president.
“Freedom depends, in part, on our vigilance in protecting fundamental human rights.  If the first freedom to go is freedom of religion … then these survey findings are not encouraging.  We are not likely to defend rights we barely know exists.”
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech , or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for redress of grievances.   
~First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States
23 Oct

Ban on Farmers Over Their Marriage Views is Overturned

A federal judge ruled in mid-September that the Catholic Michigan farmers who were banned from selling their produce at a farmers market because of their religious beliefs about marriage, may resume selling their goods.  East Lansing officials had banned the farmers from participating in the 2017 Farmers Market, (even though this farm had sold their organic fruits there for 7 years), when they learned the farm would resume hosting weddings for unions between “one man and one woman.”
“Our faith and beliefs on marriage and hosting weddings at our home in our backyard of our farm have nothing to do with the city of East Lansing,” said Farmer Steve Tennes.  “Nor does it have anything to do with the produce that we sell to the people that attend the farmers markets who are from all backgrounds and all beliefs.”
“My wife Bridget and I volunteered to serve our country in the military to protect freedom,” Tennes said, “and that is why we feel we have to fight for freedom now whether its Muslims’, Jews’, or Christians’ right to believe and live out their beliefs.”  “The government shouldn’t be treating some people worse than others because they have different thoughts and ideas.”
“All Steve wants to do is sell his food to anyone who wants to buy it, but the city isn’t letting him,” said Alliance Defending Freedom in June.  “People of faith should be free to live and work according to their deeply held beliefs without fear of losing their livelihood.  If the government can shut down a family farmer just because of the religious views he expresses on Facebook – by denying him a license to do business and serve fresh produce to all people – then no American is free.”
“When you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.”                                      
Peter F. Drucker, consultant and author
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