RELIGIOUS FREEDOM WEEKLY

"Ye are the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid."

Matthew 5:14

  

Almost 400 years ago, in 1630 aboard the Arbella, Gov. John Winthrop wrote a now famous sermon titled, "A Model of Christian Charity” to his fellow Puritans to prepare them for planting a new society in a perilous environment.  These brave people, fleeing from religious persecution in Britain, would understand from the very beginning the standards and principles that they would live by to ensure the success of the colony.  Winthrop preached the importance of Christian virtues of faith, charity and love as a foundation bedrock upon which to build their new society.  "When God gives a special commission, He looks to have it strictly observed in every article.... We are entered into covenant with Him for this work.   We have hereupon besought Him of favor and blessing.”  (1)

 

The Puritan settlement was an experiment.  If the colony failed, not only functionally but especially morally, Winthrop feared they would lose the grace of God.  But, should they succeed, they would become a beautiful beacon of religious piety and freedom.  He wrote:

"For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill.  The eyes of all people are upon us.  So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world."(2)

 

Does Freedom Matter?

Too often Americans take freedom for granted but it is never guaranteed.  The restrictions upon freedoms of individuals, groups, schools, businesses, and houses of worship during the current pandemic have highlighted how fragile freedom really is.  Today, some retain their freedoms and others are denied.  "While the pandemic poses many grave challenges, there is no world in which the Constitution tolerates color-coded executive edicts that reopen liquor stores and bike shops but shutter churches, synagogues and mosques," wrote Justice Neil Gorsuch. (3)  Yet, ignoring the Constitution and restricting freedom, especially religious freedom, has become commonplace in America.

 

 landmarkevents.org (1)(2); thefederalist.com/ john winthrop; medium.com, 3/15/15(2); arcofhistory.org; thefederalist.com, 12/1/20(3)

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Happening Now:  Honoring Religious Liberty Martyr, St. Thomas Becket

 

"Thomas Becket's death serves as a powerful and timeless reminder to every American that our freedom from religious persecution is not a mere luxury or accident of history, but rather an essential element of our liberty.” "It is our priceless treasure and inheritance.  And it is bought with the blood of martyrs.

President Trump’s “Proclamation on 850th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of St. Thomas Becket.”

Issued Dec. 29, 2020

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

What Are the Origins of America's Unique Freedom & Judeo-Christian Principles?

January 10, 2021

In 1775, Paul Revere rode through the streets of towns and villages, country roads and dirt paths, calling out to his countrymen and neighbors to wake up, and prepare for an imminent attack on their freedoms.

 

In 2012, a group of Catholics came together bound by a common concern: the federal government’s denial of freedom of conscience. Much like Paul Revere, they recognized the urgent need to alert their friends and neighbors to an attack on our foundational freedom – our freedom of religion.

 

"The constitutional freedom of religion is the most inalienable and sacred of all human rights."

Thomas Jefferson

 

The group was roused by the government’s mandate that forced all employers, except churches, to provide abortion-inducing drugs, contraception and sterilization as part of their health insurance. These Catholics recognized that this was an extreme denial of religious freedom – and it was unconstitutional. The federal government was claiming the ability to deny First Amendment rights through regulations and excessive fines.

 

The Catholics – who were retired professionals, enjoying time with their families, and volunteering in their communities – saw that this information was not reaching Catholics in the halls of their schools and the vestibules of their churches, and they felt compelled to act. Their mission was clear: to draw attention to the ongoing erosion of religious freedom in the US and around the world. 

 

"It's the duty of everyone to defend religious freedom and promote it for all people."

Pope Francis

 

It was clear that secularism was being hard pressed on the heart of one of the most basic conscientiously-held beliefs – the sacredness of human life. The group knew from the world’s history of religious intolerance and persecution that all Americans were in great jeopardy, particularly since religious freedom, the right of conscience, is the first of all our inalienable rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

 

The group ultimately decided to mobilize and the Catholics for Freedom of Religion (CFFR) nonprofit organization was formed, embodying the group’s commitment to grassroots action. This has involved nine years of building resources and expanding volunteers to reach more fellow lay Catholics and bring attention to denials of religious freedom. Together, we continue to educate our fellow Americans about the facts and importance of religious freedom, how dearly it was purchased for us and how easily it is diminished and denied when we are not vigilant. 

 

"I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something.  

And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do."

Edward Everette Hale

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Our Story: Religious Freedom in Peril

January 3, 2021

"Of course, there are dangers in religious freedom and freedom of opinion.

But to deny these rights is worse than dangerous, it is absolutely fatal to liberty."    

-  President Harry S. Truman

 

San Francisco, CA:  As new restrictions are imposed on churches that will now ban indoor worship services in some counties, Abp. Salvatore Cordileone said, "Worship is both a natural and a Constitutional right.  My people want to receive the Body and Blood of Christ; they need it, and have every right to be free to do so."(1) The new health order treats religious worship as a "non-essential" activity, while allowing hair & nail salons, massage parlors, and tattoo parlors to remain open.  The Archbishop criticized the government for "demoting worship" and further said, "But the government still chooses to treat worship as less important than shopping for shoes." (2)

However, in May, 2020, Pres. Trump said, "Today, I am identifying houses of worship, churches, synagogues, and mosques, as essential places that provide essential services." (3)

 

Mississippi:  A 3rd grade girl was banned from wearing her "Jesus Loves Me" mask even though "Other students within the school district have freely worn masks with logos of sports teams or even the words 'Black Lives Matter,'" said an Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorney. (4)  School administrators forced her to remove the mask because it had a "religious message."  (5)

The school's action was a clear violation of the U.S. Department of Education's Guidance on students' religious freedom which states:   "Students may display religious messages on items of clothing to the same extent that they are permitted to display other comparable messages."(6)

"Public schools have a duty to respect the free expression of students that the First Amendment guarantees to them. ... No public school student should be singled out for peacefully sharing her religious beliefs with fellow students," said ADF counsel.  (7)

 

Kentucky:  A Federal Appeals Court recently overturned a lower court's decision that declared Gov. Andy Beshear cannot order private religious schools to stop in-person instruction to prevent the spread of Covid-19.  This lower court (U.S. District judge) said the First Amendment protects religious schools' right to make decisions without government interference.  "If social distancing is good enough for offices, colleges, and universities within the Commonwealth, it is good enough for religious K-12 schools that benefit from Constitutional protections."  (8)

However, the new ruling from the Federal Appeals Court stated, "We are not in a position to second-guess the governor's determination regarding the health & safety of the Commonwealth at this point in time." (9) thereby denying First Amendment protections to religious schools.

The Kentucky Attorney General who supports First Amendment protections, said, "...we're already hard at work to take this matter to the U.S. Supreme Court." (10)

(wpsdlocal.com, 11/27/20(8); courierjournal.com, 11/29/20(9)(10); cna.com, 11/28/20(1)(2); nypost.com, 5/22/20(3);  pjmedia.com, 11/5/20(4)(7); gogateways.org, 11/18/20(5)(6)

 

“Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.

It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.  – William Pitt

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

2020 Ends: With No End to Discrimination Against Religious Freedom

December 27, 2020

"Religious freedom is more than the 'freedom to worship' at a synagogue, church, or mosque.  It means people shouldn't have to go against their core values and beliefs in order to conform to culture or government," wrote the Heritage Foundation, a public policy foundation.  "Religious freedom protects a person's right to live, speak, and act according to their beliefs peacefully and publicly." (1)

 

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito recently spoke about his concern that religious liberty is under threat in the United States and warned that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic was acting as a "stress test" for Constitutional liberties.  He fears that religious liberty is emerging as a "disfavored" and "second tier" right.

"The pandemic has obviously taken a heavy human toll...But what has it meant for the rule of law?" said Justice Alito.  "The pandemic has resulted in previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty ... We have never before seen restrictions as severe, extensive, and prolonged as those experienced for most of 2020." (2)

 

Justice Alito raised concerns about the closure of churches on Easter Sunday and the closure of synagogues during the Jewish holidays of Passover and Yom Kipper.  "The covid crisis has served ... to highlight disturbing trends that were already present before the virus struck." (3)   He said that cases the court hears today follow a trend of eroding religious liberty.

 

Justice Alito was critical of states restricting worship services and especially cited the Nevada case. "Take a quick look at the Constitution.  You will see the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, which protects religious liberty.  You will not find a craps clause or a blackjack clause or a slot machine clause.  Nevada was unable to provide any plausible justification for treating casinos more favorably than houses of worship." (4)

 

What's at stake?   Heritage wrote, "Religious freedom prevents the cultural majority from using the power of the state to impose their beliefs on others.  This protects everyone - religious and nonreligious alike - from the government becoming so powerful that it can tell people what to think and how to act. ... A government that intrudes on conscience will not hesitate to intrude on our other freedoms." (5) 

(heritage.org (1)(5); catholicnewsagency.com, 11/13/20(2)(3)(4); christianpost.com, 11/13/20;

 freedomforum.org, 11/17/20)

 

 “Religious freedom is not only that of private thought or worship. It is the liberty to live, both privately and publicly, according to the ethical principles resulting from found truth.”

  - Pope Francis

 

"But a Constitution of government once changed from freedom, can never be restored.

Liberty once lost is lost forever."   - John Adams

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Warning!  Religious Freedom: What's at Stake If We Lose It

December 13, 2020

"The liberty enjoyed by the people of these States of worshipping Almighty God, agreeable to their consciences, is not only among the choicest of their blessings, but also of their rights.” -  George Washington

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Nov. 25, 2020, that NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order to enforce strict attendance limits on places of worship designated as coronavirus hot spots, violated the First Amendment's "free exercise" clause and actively discriminated against religious institutions.  The majority decision ruled in favor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and the Jewish congregations of Agudath Israel of America, because the regulations treated the houses of worship more harshly than comparable secular facilities.  "The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment's guarantee of religious liberty," wrote the majority decision. (1)

 

New York's rules, which the justices found to be "severe" and "inflexible," don't apply to retail stores in the same neighborhoods and in some places there are no attendance caps at all.  "Not only is there no evidence that the applicants have contributed to the spread of COVID-19 but there are many other less restrictive rules that could be adopted to minimize the risk to those attending religious services," the Court held. (2)

 

"This is an historic victory," said Rabbi Chaim Zwiebel.  "This landmark decision will ensure that religious practices and religious institutions will be protected from government edicts that do not treat religion with the respect demanded by the Constitution." (3)

 

In August, the pastors of two Colorado churches filed a "Lawsuit (that) calls both the federal government and Colorado leaders into account for their violations of the right to free exercise of religion among other abuses of power, primarily resulting from Gov. Jared Polis' COVID-19 related Executive Orders," said Thomas More Society attorneys. (4)

 

U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Domenico ruled, "The Constitution does not allow the State to tell a congregation how large it can be when comparable secular gatherings are not so limited, or to tell a congregation that its reason for wishing to remove facial coverings is less important than a restaurant's or spa's." (5)

(boisestatepublicradio.org, 11/26/20(1); msn.com, 11/26/20(2)(3); denver.cbslocal.com, 10/20/20(4); pjmedia.com, 10/21/20(5); npr.org, 11/26/20; nypost.com, 11/26/20)

 

"I think it is appropriate that we pay tribute to this great constitutional principle which is enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution:  the principle of religious independence, of religious liberty, of religious freedom."   -  President John F. Kennedy

of religious liberty, of religious freedom."                     -  President John F. Kennedy

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Supreme Court Rules for "free exercise" of Religious Freedom

December 6, 2020

"Of the many influences that shaped the American concept of liberty, the first and most formative was faith," wrote author Matthew Spalding. (1)

 

"Indeed, America was the first country in all of history that was deliberately formed to protect and promote religious freedom.  Our founders rightly noted that people don't give people freedom - God does,” wrote columnist Rebecca Hagelin.(2)

 

The freedoms we enjoy in America today originated in Judeo-Christian ideals that date back to the Pilgrims in 1620, the Puritans who followed them in 1630, and were the foundation for the Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson in 1776 and signed by the Founding Fathers.  

 

Two years after the first Thanksgiving, Gov. William Bradford made an official proclamation for a second day of Thanksgiving in 1623, to thank God for their abundant harvest and for "freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience.” (3)

 

Aboard the Arabella in 1630, in route to Massachusetts Bay, Puritan leader and lawyer John Winthrop wrote the lengthy document, A Model of Christian Charity, that became a model for future constitutional documents in the colonies and beyond.  It read: "We are a Company, professing ourselves members of Christ, ...  we shall find that the God of Israel is among us, when ten of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies, when He shall make us a praise and glory ..." (4)

(We Still Hold These Truths: Rediscovering Our Principles by M. Spalding(1); focusonthefamily.com, 6/30/15(2); americanthinker.com, 11/28/19(3); winthropsociety.com(4)

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Happening Now:  The Attack on God in Modern America

 

The two essential pillars that serve as stabilizing factors in any society, faith and family, are under attack during these tumultuous times.  

 

Amid the Covid-19 crisis, in Nevada, casinos are open but churches must remain closed.  In California, the governor told churches their congregants can no longer sing worship songs, even while wearing protective masks.  In Portland, Oregon, flags as well as Bibles are burned in the streets.  In many cities and states, vandals are targeting churches and religious statues.

 

"Do not be under the illusion that these protests and riots are anything but an attempt to dismantle all of Western Civilization and upend centuries of tradition and freedom of religion," wrote Journalist Miles Cheong. (1)

(dailysignal.com, 8/6/20; townhall.com, 8/6/20(1); newsweek.com, 8/5/20; freedomwire.com, 4/15/20)

 

“Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government - and all blessings which flow from them - must fall with them.”  Jedediah Morse 1799

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

From the Pilgrims to the Founders:

Building a Nation for Religious Freedom, Life and Liberty

November 29, 2020

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love endures forever. "

1 Chronicles 16:34

 

1621  Grateful Pilgrims reaped a bountiful harvest the summer following the deaths of almost half their people during their first winter in New England.  The 3-day feast was to thank God and to celebrate with their helpful Native friends.  "By the Goodness of God we are ... far from want," wrote Pilgrim Winslow.

 

1777  Continental Congress, First National Proclamation of Thanks:

"... it is the Duty of all Men to adore the ... Providence of the Almighty; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to Him for Benefits received ..."  Samuel Adams

 

1789  President George Washington proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving be held to thank God for giving the American people the opportunity to create a Constitution to preserve their hard won freedoms.

 

1863  During the Civil War, President Lincoln proclaimed a national day of "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens," making Thanksgiving an official federal holiday. 

(wikipedia.org)

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Happening Now:  Restricting Religious Freedom in 2020

 

Churches in California and Minnesota filed lawsuits in August against governors of their states challenging the restrictions placed on gatherings of more than 10 people that they contend are violations of religious liberty.  "Gov. Walz (MN), a former teacher, gets an F in religious liberties," said counsel for Thomas More Society. “Other states, including Texas, Illinois and Ohio, have excluded churches from Covid-19 mask mandates."(1).  

 

Religious plaintiffs have prevailed in some lawsuits.  In June, a federal judge blocked New York State from enforcing restrictions on indoor religious gatherings to 25% when other types of gatherings were allowed at 50%.

 

In Washington D.C., the Dept. of Justice stepped in to support the Capital Hill Baptist Church who is suing the mayor over the city limiting church services to 100 people while allowing large gathering protests and rallies.  "The Dept. of Justice is committed to upholding all the civil rights provided under the First Amendment, be it peaceable assembly in protest or practicing faith," said U.S.attorney for D.C. (2)

 

"From the first settlers seeking freedom to practice their faith, to our founding values starting with the First Amendment ... Americans of all faiths (and no faith) have (come to expect) ever-expanding religious liberties.  It's part of American exceptionalism," wrote Knox Thames in Christianity Today. (3)

 

(u.s.news.com,8/13/20(1);  wtop.com, 10/2/20(2); christianpost.com, 8/26/20; christianitytoday.com, 10/7/20(3)

In November, Americans prepare for the holidays and think about how our country came to be and why it is unique among all the nations of the world.

 

Freedom of religious expression is a key to understanding early American history and the founding of our nation.  The British colonies that eventually formed the United States of America were settled in the 17th century by men & women who, in the face of European persecution, refused to compromise passionately held religious convictions and fled Europe.  Although some settlers came for secular motives, the great majority left Europe to worship God in the way they believed to be correct.  They enthusiastically supported the efforts of their leaders to create "a city on a hill" or a "holy experiment."

 

In the founding documents, our founders quoted thousands of Bible scriptures, opened and closed sessions with prayer to God, and openly stated that they used the Ten Commandments in writing the laws.   "There are more than 4,500 recorded, public quotes by our Founding Fathers about the Bible, God, and the importance of ethics based on Christian principles," wrote author Randall Niles.(1)"History is clear:  Judeo-Christian ethics are at the foundation of the United States of America.   Morality was never seen as relative - it was always based on Natural Law and the authority of Scripture."(2)

 

(libraryofcongress.gov; biola.edu, 7/2/20; drivethruhistory.com, 5/5/17 (1)(2)

 

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Happening Now:  1776 Commission Established to Restore Patriotic Education

 

On Nov. 2, 2020, Pres. Trump signed an Executive Order to form the 1776 Commission with the goal "to better enable a rising generation to understand the history and principles of the founding of the United States in 1776, and, through this, form a more perfect Union..." The order further states: "The formation of a republic around these principles (Laws of Nature & Nature's God) marked a clear departure from previous forms of government, securing rights through a form of government that derives its legitimate power from the consent of the governed. Throughout its national life, our Republic's exploration of the full meaning of these principles has led it through the ratification of a Constitution, civil war, abolition of slavery, Reconstruction, and a series of domestic crises and world conflicts.  Those events establish a clear historical record of an exceptional Nation dedicated to the ideas and ideals of its founding.”

 

"Against this history, in recent years a series of polemics grounded in poor scholarship has vilified our Founders and our founding. Despite the virtues and accomplishments of this Nation, many students are now taught in school to hate our own country, and to believe that the men and women who built it were not heroes, but rather villains.  This radicalized view of American history lacks perspective, obscures virtues, twists motives, ignores or distorts facts, and magnifies flaws, resulting in the truth being concealed and history disfigured."

 

(whitehouse.gov;  msn.com, 11/2/20; dailycaller.com, 11/02/20; nypost.com, 9/17/20)

 

“The history of our nation’s protection of religious freedom makes clear that preserving America’s liberties depends on understanding God-given rights.”    B. Samuells, Pres.; Catholics for Freedom of Religion

As all freedoms and especially, religious freedom, are under assault around the world, we speak and pray on November 11 to honor the Americans who have served in all areas of the military in defense of liberty.

 

Veterans Day originated as "Armistice Day" on Nov. 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the signing of the armistice ending World War I on the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" of 1918.  Unlike Memorial Day that honors service members who died in service to their country, Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans - living or dead - to give thanks for serving their country honorably during war or peacetime.

 

From WWI to the present post-9/11 conflicts, approximately 40 million have served in all branches of the military.  Women have been approximately 9.1% of active members. These military men and women who protect the U.S. come from all walks of life and from every state.

 

(history.com/topics/veterans; va.gov, 11/2019; military.com/veterans; archives.gov; nationalww2museum.org)

 

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Happening Now:  3 Killed in Knife Attack at Notre Dame Basilica, Nice, France

French bishops ordered a "death knell" to ring from every church of their country, as an act of mourning, after 3 people were hacked to death in Notre Dame Basilica in the southern Mediterranean city of Nice on Oct. 29th while they were preparing for Mass. 

 

The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Parolin, wrote, "Entrusting France to the protection of Our Lady," Pope Francis "wholeheartedly gives his apostolic blessing to all those affected by this tragedy." (1)

"... with this attack in Nice, it is freedom of religion (under attack)." said French Prime Minister  Castex. (2)

(nypost.com, 10/29/20; cruxnow.com, 10/20/20(1); fox2detroit.com, 10/29/20(2)

 

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Be Silent No More!

Elected officials and their staff listen to, read and tabulate citizens' concerns and opinions when making decisions for their state and for the country.  Do not be silent.  Please contact one or more Senator or Congressman each week to encourage them to share your values.  Call Switchboard at 202-224-3121 to be connected to any Representative or Senator's office.  Find Representative email at www.house.gov    Find Senator's email at www.senate.gov

Excerpts from National Catholic Register (NCR), October 17, 2020:

 

"Pray, and vote - for the future of your country.” Michael Warsaw, publisher NCR

 

"In this year's election, the choice isn't really between" two presidential candidates - "it is a choice between two completely different views of America."

 

“One campaign has built itself on the notion that America is a great country, with much to offer.  It embraces a vision that sees religious practice and belief in God as central to the country's private and public life.”  In this understanding of America, faith is not to be exiled behind a misconstrued 'wall of separation' but “is “critical to the flourishing of America.”

 

"Under this view of America, people of faith are seen as a large part of the solution to the challenges our country faces, just as they have been central to so many positive movements in American history - from the right-to-life movement... to the great causes for justice and rights of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries."

 

"This view does not hold that everything (or every founder) in America is perfect."  But it does believe that "the tools exist within our Constitution and system of government to fix those problems that arise without having to completely change our system of laws and government."

 

The other campaign’s view is that "America has much to atone for and little to be proud of. Traditional religious ... values are seen as a form or vehicle for discrimination, not a central element of the country." “Abortion isn’t just celebrated: its export with taxpayers’ dollars” is a priority for them.” Religious freedom, including conscientious objections by the Little Sisters of the Poor, are dismissed and subverted. 

 

"America's progress in areas of racial equality" and hope of improvement within the present system is dismissed.  Religious people who disagree with a "redefinition of sexual values and the family" are "labeled bigots."  “Traditional religious beliefs are seen as a major threat to the country, and religious values are seen as out of step with the newfound progressive ones.  So called American "imperialism" is condemned but the "imperialism of communist countries" is overlooked.  Overlooked too, is that "a religion-embracing America that believes its peoples' rights come from God has done better for its people over time...”

 

These visions, "more than the candidates themselves, are what is on the ballot.  We are casting our vote for a long-term vision of America, not for a person."

(ncregister.com/author/michael-warsaw, October 17, 2020)

Election Prayer

Lord God, enlighten the minds of our people in America.  May we choose a President of the United States, and other government officials, according to Your Divine Will.  Give our citizens the courage to choose leaders of our nation who respect the sanctity of unborn human life, the sanctity of marriage, the sanctity of the family, and the sanctity of the aging.  Grant us the wisdom to give You, what belongs to You, our God.  If we do this, as a nation, we are confident You will give us an abundance of Your blessings through our elected leaders.  Amen.                             

Composed by Father John Anthony Hardon, S.J.

"Woe to you that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness;

 that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter."   Isaiah 5:20

 

“Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” from USCCB

 

Political and social questions require citizens to develop a well-formed conscience.  "Conscience is not something that allows us to justify doing whatever we want, nor is it a 'feeling' about what we should or should not do.  Rather, conscience is the voice of God resounding in the human heart, revealing the truth to us and calling us to do what is good and shunning evil."(1) “There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with love of God & neighbor and are called 'intrinsically evil' actions.  These actions must always be rejected and opposed."(2)

 

In “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” the US Conference of Catholic Bishops states, “The threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives destroyed.” (3)

 

"As we all seek to advance the common good - by promoting religious freedom, by defending human life from the moment of conception until natural death, by defending marriage, by feeding the hungry and housing the homeless - it is important to recognize that not all possible courses of action are morally acceptable." (4)  The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, "Some things are always wrong and no one may deliberately vote in favor of them.  Citizens support these evils indirectly if they vote in favor of candidates who propose to advance them." (5)

 

Pope Francis said, "We are living in an information driven society which bombards us indiscriminately with data - which leads to superficiality in the area of moral discernment.  We need to develop critical thinking and encourage development of moral values."(6)

(usccb.org/forming consciences, p.18, (1); usccb.org/consciences, p.19 #22(2);usccb.org/consciences, p.16(3); usccb.org/consciences, #20(4); ccc2240 (5); Evangelii Gaudium, #64 (6); lifesitenews.com, 9/21/20 (7)

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Happening Now:  San Francisco Archbishop Denounces Draconian Restrictions

"One person at a time inside this great Cathedral to pray?  What an insult!  This is a mockery," said Archbishop Cordileone on Sept. 20, 2020.  "Why can people shop at Nordstrom's at 25% capacity but only one of you at a time is allowed to pray inside this great Cathedral? ... I never expected that the most basic religious freedom, the right to worship - protected so robustly in our Constitution's First Amendment - would be unjustly repressed by an American Government."(7)

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Be Silent No More!

Elected officials and their staff listen to, read and tabulate citizens' concerns and opinions when making decisions for their state and for the country.  Do not be silent.  Please contact one or more Senator or Congressman each week to encourage them to share your values.  Call Switchboard at 202-224-3121 to be connected to any Representative or Senator's office.  Email:  Find Representative’s email at www.house.gov.  Find Senator's email at www.senate.gov.

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Embracing Goodness & Truth

October 25, 2020

When its hospital denied access to a Catholic priest who was asked to administer sacraments to a trauma patient injured in a car accident, the Office of Civil Rights at the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services intervened causing the University of Maryland Medical System to amend its COVID-19 visitor policy. "The Trump Administration has made it a priority to defend Americans' right to practice their faith, at all times and especially during this pandemic," said Secretary Alex Azar. "As our work with the Univ. of MD Medical System shows, we can deliver healthcare, combat COVID-19, and protect religious freedom all at the same time."

 

(1) The case of a juror removed from deliberation because he sought divine guidance, will be heard by the 11th U.S. Court of Appeals. "Dismissing a deliberating juror for believing prayer is effective denial of the noble and civic duty to serve as a juror to hundreds of millions of Americans who seek divine guidance through prayer," said counsel for First Liberty.

 

(2) The Dept. of Education issued a final rule that expands religious liberty protections on college campuses and allows the Department of Education to suspend or cut federal funding from colleges that violate the First Amendment. It ensures the equal treatment of religious student groups at public universities. "This administration is committed to protecting 1st Amendment rights to students, teachers, and faith-based organizations. Students should not be forced to choose between their faith and their education...,"said Sec. Betsy DeVos.(3)

 

(HHS.gov, 7/21/20; christianpost.com, 7/21/20(1); firstliberty.org, 9/24/20(2); law360.com, 9/24/20; thefederalist.com, 9/11/20(3); catholic league.org, 9/10/20; FredLucasWH, 9/23/20; thefederalist.com, 9/25/20(4)(5)

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Happening Now: Executive Order Ensures Babies Born Alive Receive Proper Care "I will always defend the sacred right to life," said Pres. Trump at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast. "This is our sacrosanct moral duty." (4) The Sept. 25, 2020 order directs HHS Sec. Alex Azar to implement an "Executive Order on Protecting Vulnerable Newborn & Infant Children" that recognizes "the human dignity and inherent worth of every newborn or other infant child, regardless of prematurity or disability, and to ensure for each child protection under the law." (5) It is uncontested that many children have been born alive following an abortion and left unattended to die alone, sometimes for many hours (Centers for Disease Control document, 2019).

Tens of thousands of Christians gathered on the National Mall and at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on September 26, 2020 for a National Day of Prayer and Return, calling all Americans to return to God and to heal the nation. With freedom of religion, freedom of worship, freedom of conscience, and freedom of speech in jeopardy today, these two worship services focused on a theme of repentance and prayer, rejecting sin and returning to God in turbulent times.

 

Rabbi Jonathan Cahn and Rev. Franklin Graham, organizers of the events, explained that America is a nation that started in covenant with God 400 years ago to glorify Him and spread His gospel to the whole world (see Mayflower Compact, 1620).  But the country has spiraled down to legislate immorality.  Jonathan Cahn said, "We drove God out of our hearts, out of our government, out of our ways, out of our laws, out of the education of our children, out of the public squares."(1)

 

The enthusiasm of the thousands attending is reminiscent of the First Great Awakening, a spiritual revival led by inspirational preachers prior to the American Revolution.  A Second Great Awakening before the Civil War, also led by preachers, exhorted repentance and a return to God and his Ten Commandments. 

 

President Trump took part in the event sending a message from the White House:

"On this inaugural National Day of Prayer and Return, the First Lady and I join millions of Christians here in the United States and around the world in prayer, as we turn our hearts to our Lord and Savior.” 

"Our great Nation was founded by men and women of deep and abiding faith - a faith that has stood the test of time.  Four Hundred years ago, early American settlers trusted their lives to His providence and braved a voyage to a New world....”

"The trials and tribulations the American people have faced over the past several months have been great.  Yet, as we have seen time and again, the resolve of our citizenry - fortified by faith in God - has guided us through these hardships and helped to unite us as one Nation under God."(2)

 

Such public gatherings, based on faith and morals, are meant to be protected under first amendment freedoms.  In recent decades these freedoms have been diminished and denied by cultural norms and government edict.  A Third Great Awakening would return God to his rightful place in this nation founded on inalienable rights from our Creator.

 

(1.cbn.com, 9/26/20(1); whitehouse.gov (2); pjmedia.com, 9/26/20

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Be Silent No More! 

Elected officials and their staff listen to, read and tabulate citizens' concerns and opinions when making decisions for their state and for the country.  Do not be silent.  Please contact one or more Senator or Congressman each week to encourage them to share your values.  Call Switchboard at 202-224-3121 to be connected to any Representative or Senator's office.  Email: Find Representative's email at www.house.gov   Find Senator's email at www.senate.gov 

The upcoming elections have been described by media pundits as the most important in the history of America.  We face a clash of principles: we will choose between the Judeo-Christian beliefs of our founders which include life, liberty, the rule of law, limited government and protection of conscience rights vs opposing principles reflected in unrestricted, taxpayer-funded abortion, extensive central government control,  selective application of the law and conscience rights labeled as an excuse to discriminate.

 

Political operatives try to focus our attention on each candidates' personality traits with a concurrent appeal to thought-free emotions instead of providing thoughtful analysis of policies and accomplishments.

Informed voters are critical thinkers who ponder:  what are the issues about which I will not compromise and abandon my closely held beliefs?  What principles, values, and policies will I vote for without regard to media spin?  

 

What are the Judeo-Christian values our Founding Fathers wove into the fabric of the American nation as the basis for inalienable individual liberties set forth in the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights?

# 1.  Faith in God and human life is the first gift of God.  This value is primary because it leads to a culture of Life, not a culture of death.  Americans who value life will defend innocent life and reject abortion, especially through the 9th month.

# 2.  Our Liberty is a gift from God and not from government.  "Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty."(2 Corinthians 3:17)

(judeochristianvalues.info; The Judeo-Christian Values of America, American Thinker, 9/15/07)

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Happening Now:  12,000 Californians Pray at Capital

Thousands of Californians attended an outdoor worship service in Sacramento in September to pray and protest the lockdowns in a "Let us Worship" rally.  "The fervor to worship God free from government edict and societal persecution drove America's earliest settlers across oceans and wild frontiers to this beautiful land to create a new nation built on a simple premise that all men are created equal and cannot be denied their inalienable rights to Life and Liberty," wrote this event's organizers.  "But our freedom to worship God and obey His Word has come under unprecedented attack."   (lifesitenews.com; 9/10/20)

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Be Silent No More! 

Elected officials and their staff listen to, read and tabulate citizens' concerns and opinions when making decisions for their state and for the country.  Do not be silent.  Please contact one or more Senator or Congressman each week to encourage them to share your values.  Call Switchboard at 202-224-3121 to be connected to any Representative or Senator's office.  Email: Find Representative's email at www.house.gov   Find Senator's email at www.senate.gov 

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Preserving America's Judeo-Christian Values - Or Not

A Time to Choose

September 27, 2020

"The happy union of these states is a wonder; their Constitution is a miracle; their example the hope of liberty throughout the world.  Woe to the ambition that would meditate the destruction of either!"    - James Madison, 1787

 

Judeo-Christian values are foundational to America, beginning with the Declaration of Independence "endowed by their Creator" to the principles found in the U.S. Constitution honoring God-given Life and Liberty.”

"Our Founding Fathers separated church from state, but they wisely did not separate God from state.  They acknowledged God as the source of our rights and were careful to place Biblical morality directly into our founding documents and laws, and into our values and culture, precisely to help prevent a future totalitarian or tyrannical rule in America," wrote author Dr. Ronald R. Cherry (1)

It is alarming that many today have turned a blind eye to the required connection between God and Liberty and forgotten the warning from John Adams and Thomas Jefferson that Liberty cannot survive among men without its Divine connection.

"Remember that a Constitution which gives to the people so much freedom and entrusts them with so much power, rests for its permanency, on their knowledge and virtue," wrote Arthur Stansbury, in 1828. "An ignorant people are easily betrayed, and a wicked people can never be ruled by the mild influence of their own laws.  If you would be free ... cultivate knowledge - flee from vice.  The virtuous citizen is the true noble."   (2)

(Elementary Catechism on the Constitution of the U.S. (2); americanthinker.com, 9/15/07(1); renewamerica.com, 5/5/11; thoughts.com,7/3/19; The 5,000 Year Leap)

 

Happening Now: Freedom of Religion & Freedom of Speech Denied

Florida State University's former head of the student senate is suing the school, charging his religious freedom was violated when he was removed from his position following comments he made in a private chat forum for Catholic students.  He had commented that policy positions of some protesting groups that embrace disrupting the nuclear family and are hostile to the Gospel, contradict the teachings of the Catholic Church.

"While FSU students claim they're creating a 'safe space', they've tried to cancel Jack's freedoms and discriminate against him because they don't like his beliefs in direct violation of the First Amendment," said Alliance Defending Freedom.(3)  "Florida State should be fostering real diversity of thought and not punishing individuals based on religious convictions or political beliefs."(4)

(ncregister.com, 8/3/20(4); cna.org, 9/2/20 (3); christianpost.com, 8/3/20)

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Be Silent No More! 

Elected officials and their staff listen to, read and tabulate citizens' concerns and opinions when making decisions for their state and for the country.  Do not be silent.  Please contact one or more Senator or Congressman each week to encourage them to share your values.  Call Switchboard at 202-224-3121 to be connected to any Representative or Senator's office.  Email: Find Representative's email at www.house.gov   Find Senator's email at www.senate.gov 

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

The Constitution of the United States

This “Miracle in Philadelphia” Was Grounded in America’s Judeo-Christian Values

September 20, 2020

“Preserve your government with the utmost attention and solicitude,

for it is the remarkable gift of heaven.”   -  Rev. Samuel Langdon, 1788

 

In recent decades, many have felt that government has departed from the Constitution, become less limited and our liberties less secure.  Some in Congress noted that true civics education had largely died out.

In 2004, under the guidance of Sen. Robert Byrd, Congress mandated that schools receiving federal funds - virtually all of them - must offer an educational program about the Constitution on September 17 to commemorate its signing on this date in 1787.

 

This school year millions of parents are supervising or monitoring their children's academic lessons each day as children from grades K-12 learn "remotely" or "on-line."  Rather than viewing this interruption to in-school learning as a negative, parents can now join the teacher’s lessons with their child and become re-acquainted with the "Miracle that Changed the World"(1)

 

The framers of the American Constitution combined the best political ideas of the past with an improved science of politics that included federalism, separation of powers, and checks and balances.  They created a form of government which had, in the words of James Madison, "no model on the face of the earth."(2)

 

The moral foundation of the Constitution is the principle of equal rights and the purpose of government was to be limited to protecting those rights.

 

Many students are encouraged to memorize the Preamble to the Constitution since this communicates the intentions of the framers and purpose of the document:

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of(3)

 

(The 5000 Year Leap by W. Cleon Skousen(1); Declaration of Independence & Constitution, Hillsdale College(2); Preamble of Constitution(3); uscourts.gov; 2.ed.gov; dar.org/constitution-week; wikipedia.org/constitution day)

 

“…Young Friends, remember that this Constitution, thus wise, thus just is your birthright…prize it as you ought.  It is yours, no human power can deprive you of it, but your own folly and wickedness.  To undervalue is one of the surest ways to lose it.”  

   - Arthur J Stansbury 1828; Elementary Catechism of the Constitution of the United States

Yes!  "In every case defending students' rights to pray, the students have prevailed.  Even teachers have the right to pray in school," said Brad Dacus, President of Pacific Justice Institute. (1)  

"The First Amendment does not require students to leave their religion at the schoolhouse door.  If students can wear T-shirts advertising sports teams or rock groups, they can also wear T-shirts that promote religion...," said President Bill Clinton in 1995.  "Nothing in the First Amendment converts our public schools into religion-free zones..."(2)

 

Pres. Clinton directed the Dept. of Education to develop a set of guidelines entitled Religious Expression in Public Schools to be sent to every superintendent in the country with the purpose of ending confusion regarding students' rights to live their faith.

 

It's important that students, parents, teachers, and administrators know these rights:

*  Students may read their Bible or other scriptures & say grace before meals.

*  Students may express their beliefs about religion in homework, art or written work.

*  Students may organize prayer groups and religious clubs before & after school.

*  Students may engage in individual & group prayer and religious discussion

*  Schools may teach about religion but may not provide religious instruction.

 

On Religious Freedom Day, January 16, 2020, President Trump reiterated these rights by updating the guidelines and approving plans to streamline and mandate a federal complaint process that students can use to alert authorities when they've been discriminated against.  "We will not let anyone push God from the public square... We call this the right to pray...There is nothing more important than that I would say."(3)

 

"Too many misinterpret a separation of church & state as an invitation to separate people from their faith," said Education Secretary DeVos. "In reality our Constitution doesn't exist to protect us from religion, it exists to protect religion from government."  (4)

(legaltopray.com,(1)(2); AmericanMinute.com(3); thought.com,3/29/19; info@cffor.org; npr.org, 1/16/20; abcnews.go.com, 1/17/20(3)(4)

 

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Be Silent No More!

 

"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, 2012

 

Elected officials and their staff listen to, read and tabulate citizens' concerns and opinions when making decisions for their state and for the country.  Do not be silent.  Please contact one or more Senator or Congressman each week to encourage them to share your values.  Call Switchboard at 202-224-3121 to be connected to any Representative or Senator's office.  Email: Find Representative's email at www.house.gov   Find Senator's email at www.senate.gov 

 

"Our contest is not only whether we ourselves shall be free, but whether there shall be left to mankind an asylum for civil and religious liberty."  - Samuel Adams

Soon children in grades K-12 will return to school either in-person or remotely, and the misunderstanding about prayer in public schools will return also.  Is it legal for your child to pray in public school?

 

Yes!  The Supreme Court never outlawed student prayer in public schools.  Multiple court decisions and Dept. of Education regulations confirm that students are free to pray alone or in groups, as long as such prayers are not disruptive and take place during non-instructional time.

During those times, students may also read their Bible or other scriptures, say grace before meals, study religious materials with fellow students and meet in after school religious based clubs.

 

So - why and how did this exercise of First Amendment Freedom of Religion become controversial?  Before the 1960s there was little resistance to teaching religious principles, Bible readings, or prayer in school - in fact, it was the norm.  The landmark case, Engel v. Vitale, brought before the Supreme Court in 1962, asserted that any state mandated prayer offended the Constitution’s prohibition against an establishment of religion and violated “separation of church and state.”  The majority opinion resulted in an end to the practice of students voluntarily reciting a school-composed, non-denominational prayer such as: "Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our country. Amen."  (1)

 

However, invoking the phrase "separation of church and state" to silence religious expression is to perpetuate the lie that this phrase is in the Constitution - it is not!   In fact, it is derived from President Thomas Jefferson’s letter in 1802 to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut to reassure them that their religious freedoms were safe from government interference and protected by the First Amendment.

 

To clarify students' rights, in 1995, President Bill Clinton said, "The First Amendment does not require students to leave their religion at the schoolhouse door." (2) He then instructed the Dept. of Education to write guidelines for religious expression in school.

 

On Jan.10, 2020, President Trump issued updated guidelines for religious expression in public schools and added a reporting mechanism for students experiencing denial of their religious expression. (3)

 

AmericanMinute.com(1)(2); thought.com, 3/29/19); npr.org, 1/16/20; religious tolerance.org); www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/religionandschools/prayer_guidance.html (3)

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Be Silent No More!

Encourage your school district to follow the many state legislatures which encourage or require all public schools to display our nation’s motto, “In God We Trust.”

 

Elected officials and their staff listen to, read and tabulate citizens' concerns and opinions when making decisions for their state and for the country.  Do not be silent.  Please contact one or more Senator or Congressman each week to encourage them to share your values.  Call Switchboard at 202-224-3121 to be connected to any Representative or Senator's office.  Email: Find Representative's email at www.house.gov   Find Senator's email at www.senate.gov 

Worshippers met in a local Walmart on June 26 in North Versailles, PA, after Gov. Tom Wolf ordered that individuals "should not gather in religious buildings or homes for services or celebrations until the stay-at-home order is lifted." (1)  

 

The church had moved its worship service from its building to Walmart after police officers interrupted to disperse the congregation.  Law Enforcement Today (LET) reported, "If people can safely gather at a Walmart to worship, then it is absurd to suggest that the actual house of worship is any more dangerous."(2) 

"This just further affirms the bias that is taking place across the country in the name of 'safety' and 'quarantine.'  Liquor stores and marijuana shops were deemed essential, but not houses of worship.” (3)

 

A group of 500 Evangelical Christians held a prayer & praise service in the lobby of a 1,600-person capacity Las Vegas casino on Aug. 6, since Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak restricted services in houses of worship to 50 people but allowed casinos to operate at 50% capacity.  Retail stores and restaurants are also allowed to reopen at 50% capacity.  "The governor allows hundreds to thousands to assemble in pursuit of financial fortunes but only 50 to gather in pursuit of spiritual ones.  That is unconstitutional," said lawyers for the church. (4)

 

This casino prayer & praise event came two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the plea of Calvary Chapel in Nevada to suspend the state-imposed 50-person limit for church gatherings.  In a 5-4 decision, justices denied the church's appeal to allow services for up to 90 members, 50% capacity, while fully complying with social-distancing and other rules.

 

Dissenting Justice Sam Alito wrote, "We have a duty to defend the Constitution, and even a public health emergency does not absolve us of that responsibility."  "The Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion.  It says nothing about freedom to play craps or blackjack..."(5)

(wnd.com, 8/10/20(1); 1cbn.com, 8/7/20(2)(4)(5); lawenforcementtoday.com, 8/8/20(3); thechristianpost.com, 8/8/20;

 

Be Silent No More!

“Evil preaches tolerance until it is dominant, then it seeks to silence good.” – Archbishop Chaput

 

Elected officials and their staff listen to, read and tabulate citizens' concern and opinions when making decisions for their state and for the country.  Do not be silent.  Please contact one or more Senator or Congressman each week to encourage those who share your values. *Call Switchboard at 202-224-3121 to be connected to any Representative or Senator's office  *Email: Find Representative's email at www.house.gov  Find Senator's email at www.senate .gov

 

“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it.” – Thomas Paine

From China to Great Britain, millions of religious & ethnic minorities are held in slavery - politely called "forced labor" in many reports.

According to the Global Slavery Index, there were over 40 million slaves in over 100 countries in 2019.  The International Labour Organization estimates that 26% of modern day slaves are children.  Some countries with the most slaves are China, N. Korea, India, Iran, Cambodia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Central African Republic.

 

Slaves are gleaned from minority populations of Christians, Uyghur Muslims, Yazidis, Hindus, and other religious/ethnic minorities.  These people are used for a wide variety of purposes:  factory and agriculture workers, organ harvesting, girls & women are sex-trafficked, and boys & men are forced to fight in government-backed militias that are engaged in civil wars.

Present-day slavery is both cheap and disposable.  In 1850, an average slave in the American South cost today’s equivalent of $40,000. Today, a slave costs $90 on average worldwide.

 

"The U.S. will not stand by as any government with a policy or pattern of human trafficking subjects its own citizens to this kind of oppression," said Secretary of State Pompeo at the July, 2020 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report conference.  "We will work tirelessly in the U.S. to free those who are still enslaved."(1)

"The TIP report takes modern-day slavery head on, providing a measuring stick for progress - or for regression, and sanction," said Rep. Chris Smith, N.J. (2)

 

The Slave-Free Business Certification Act, introduced by Rep. Josh Hawley, would require every American business that takes in $500 million worldwide to certify to the Dept. of Labor that their companies are not using slave labor in their supply chains or face substantial fines.  A recent study revealed 83 well known worldwide companies have "directly or indirectly" profited from slave labor. (3)

 

(worldatlas.com, 6/10/19; washingtontimes.com, 7/1/20; metrovoicenews.com, 7/23/20; freetheslaves.net; angelusnews.com, 7/2/20(1)(2); christianpost.com, 7/24/20(3)

 

Be Silent No More!

The Bishops of the United States remind us that, “In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation.”  

 -  USCCB's Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship

Elected officials and their staff listen to, read and tabulate citizens' concern and opinions when making decisions for their state and for the country.  Do not be silent.  Please contact one or more Senator or Congressman each week to encourage those who share your values. *Call Switchboard at 202-224-3121 to be connected to any Representative or Senator's office  *Email: Find Representative's email at www.house.gov  Find Senator's email at www.senate .gov

 

"I am only one, but I am one.  I cannot do everything, but I can do something.

I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do." Edward Everett Hale

China:  The Chinese Communist Party is forcing Christians to renounce their beliefs and replace religious symbols and imagery of Jesus with portraits of Chairman Mao and President Xi Jinping or be cut off from welfare payments, according to a recent U.S. State Department publication.  "The government is trying to eliminate our belief and wants to become God instead of Jesus." (1)  

"All impoverished religious households can't receive money from the state for nothing - they must obey the Communist Party for the money they receive," said a communist official. (2)

 

Kenya:  A pastor in northeastern Kenya reports Christians are being denied food relief during the COVID-19 crisis.  "The sad state of Christians in Kenya is being unpublished ... Many Christians are suffering at the hands of the local chiefs who oversee the fair distribution of the government's relief food…” (3)

 

Pakistan:  Christian leaders are reporting Christians were denied government food aid amid the coronavirus crisis.  "There was an announcement made through a mosque's loudspeaker ... inviting citizens to collect government's announced foodstuffs," a local pastor reported.  "When Christians reached the distribution point and presented their national identity cards, they were asked to get out of line claiming the foodstuff was only for Muslim citizens." (4)

 

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom condemned the rejection of Christians and Hindus for food aid.  "These actions are simply reprehensible," said the Commissioner.  "As COVID-19 continues to spread, vulnerable communities within Pakistan are fighting hunger… (5)

 

"The inconvenient truth," reported British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt in 2019, is "that the overwhelming majority (80%) of persecuted believers are Christians.   In the Middle East the population of Christians used to be about 20%; now it's 5%... We've all been asleep on the watch when it comes to the persecution of Christians." (6)

(dailywire.com, 7/21/20(1); 1.cbn.com, 7/19/20(2); christiannews.net, 5/24/20(3); jihadwatch.org, 4/7/20(4); christiannews.net, 4/23/20(5); christianpersecution.com, 6/9/20; the guardian.com,5/2/19(6)

 

Silent No More!

The Bishops of the United States remind us that, “In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation.”  

 -  USCCB's Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship

Elected officials and their staff listen to, read and tabulate citizens’ concerns and opinions when making decisions for their state and for the country.  Do not be silent. Please contact one or more Senator or Congressman each week to encourage those who share your Catholic values and to inform others.

*Call Switchboard at 202-224-3121 to be connected to any Representative or Senator’s office 

*Email: Find Representative’s emails at  www.house.gov     Find Senator’s emails at   www.senate.gov

 

"I am only one, but I am one.  I cannot do everything, but I can do something.

 I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do. -  Edward Everett

A network of California churches filed a lawsuit in July against Gov. Gavin Newsom after he re-imposed a coronavirus lockdown with orders against holding church services and bans on singing, chanting and all private home religious gatherings. "We've been essential for 2,000 years," said a CA Pastor, Che Ahn. (1)

 

"Newsom encourages tens of thousands of people to gather for mass protests, (but) he bans all in-person worship and home Bible studies and fellowship.  Such repression is well-known in despotic governments and it is shocking that even home fellowship is banned in America," said Matt Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel.  "This outrage will not stand." (2)

 

Gov. Newsom is not the only governor unconstitutionally restricting church activities.  Federal lawsuits are also pending in Courts of Appeal against Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, and Virginia.  However, federal courts around the country are split on whether religious liberty protections of the 1st Amendment will stand during a pandemic.  It is troubling that court in New Mexico recently ruled against the First Amendment.

 

Defending Religious Freedom

"Gathering, in short, is at the core of faith and religion. ... This time of restriction and confinement has confirmed for me that no freedom is more important than religious freedom," said Elder David Bednar of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  "Protecting a person's physical health from the coronavirus is, of course, important, but so is a person's spiritual health. ... Never again must the fundamental right to worship God be trivialized below the ability to buy gasoline."(3)

 

cbsnews.com, 7/20/20(1); (lc.org,7/17/20(2); newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org, 6/1/20(3); USCCB Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (4); washingtonpost.com, 7/17/20; pjmedia.com, 7/13/20

 

Silent No More!

 

The Bishops of the United States remind us that, “In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation.” (4)

Elected officials and their staff listen to, read and tabulate citizens’ concerns and opinions when making decisions for their state and for the country.  Do not be silent. Please contact one or more Senator or Congressman each week to encourage those who share your Catholic values and to inform others.

*Call Switchboard at 202-224-3121 to be connected to any Representative or Senator’s office 

*Email: Find Representative’s emails at  www.house.gov     Find Senator’s emails at   www.senate.gov

 

"The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty is staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people."  - George Washington

As Americans and as Christians we must expect and demand the rule of law be enforced in compliance with the 1st Amendment freedoms which support all of our inalienable rights. 

 

May God strengthen us to pray, speak and act to defend these five critical freedoms:
1. Freedom of Religion – the right of free conscience and free exercise of conscientious beliefs

2. Freedom of Speech - the right to speak freely and openly, without fear

3. Freedom of the Press – the right to communicate facts, opinions, ideas and beliefs  

4. Freedom of Assembly – the right to peaceably assemble

5. Freedom to petition the Government for redress of grievances

 

"Silence in the face of evil is itself evil; God will not hold us guiltless.
Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act."

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Lutheran Pastor, theologian, anti-Nazi activist

who was martyred at Flossenburg Concentration Camp, 1945

.

Across the country, churches and religious statues have been the target of vandalism, terrorism and arson. 

- Boston, Massachusetts:   A statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary was set aflame in St. Peter's Church.  "Whoever is responsible for the desecration of the Holy Mother's statue is clearly a troubled soul...Mary represents all that is good and pure in our world," said a diocese spokesperson. (1)

- Tennessee:  A statue of Holy Mary is beheaded. "What a strange time we live in," tweeted Bishop Stika of Knoxville.  "Anytime something like this happens, it's disappointing and concerning," said a Diocese of Knoxville spokesperson. (2)

- Florida:  A Catholic church in Ocala was set on fire while parishioners were inside preparing for mass. 

- San Gabriel, California:  Fire destroyed much of the 249-year-old mission church.  Bishop Robert Barran tweeted he was "deeply troubled." (3)   Archbishop Gomez called the mission the "spiritual heart of Los Angeles and the Catholic community here." (4)

- San Diego, CA:  A fire at Calvary Baptist church was declared "suspicious" by the Arson Strike Team. (5)

- Brooklyn, New York:  A 100-year-old statue of the Virgin Mary was desecrated with paint.  "Please continue praying for those who committed this act of vandalism against Our Lady and the Church," said Fr. Kuroly, rector (6)

 

(washingtonnewsdaily, 7/14/20(1)(6); ncregister.com, 7/15/20(2); deseretnews.com,7/11/20(3); ncregister, 7/13/20(4)(5); thetablet.org, 7/13/20; romereports.com, 7/14/20)

Today, many from all faiths and from no faith, see a malevolent force that has gripped our nation and the world that leaves many people feeling helpless and hopeless.   They often look only for political solutions to this present darkness.  But, at times of significant societal change, where uncivilized and often barbaric behaviors are seen daily on TV news and the internet, a spiritual/religious revival is called for to point the way to a more devout, more free, more kind and meaningful society.

 

"We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has ever experienced.  I do not think that the wide circle of the American Society, or the whole wide circle of the Christian Community realize this fully.  We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church, between the gospel and the anti-gospel, between Christ and the antichrist.  The confrontation lies within the plans of Divine Providence.  It is, therefore, in God's Plan, and it must be a trial which the Church must take up, and face courageously,” said Cardinal Karol Wojtyla (future Pope John Paul II), 1976 in Philadelphia for the bicentennial celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. (1)

 

"Millions of Americans are alarmed over our current cultural and political climate but are afraid to speak out.  They feel bullied into accepting a cultural and political outlook sharply different from what they believe," from Rabbi Aryeh Spero, Push Back, Reclaiming the American Judeo-Christian Spirit. (2)

 

Archbishop Carlo Vigano, former Apostolic Nuncio, wrote, "In recent months we have been witnessing the formation of two opposing sides that I would call Biblical: the children of light and the children of darkness.  The children of light constitute the most conspicuous part of humanity, while the children of darkness represent the absolute minority.  And yet, the former are the object of a sort of discrimination which places them in a situation of moral inferiority with respect to their adversaries, who often hold strategic positions in government, in politics, in the economy and in the media.  In an apparently inexplicable way, the good are held hostage by the wicked and by those who help them either out of self-interest or fearfulness."

   

"However, it is important that the good - who are the majority - wake up from their sluggishness and do not accept being deceived by a minority of dishonest people ...  It is necessary that the good, the children of light, come together and make their voices heard.  What more effective way is there to do this ... than by prayer, asking the Lord to protect ... all of humanity from this enormous attack of the Enemy?" (3)

 

(catholiconline/st.johnpaulwarning(1); Push Back by Rabbi Aryeh Spero(2); lifesitenews.com, 6/7/20(3)

Two of the most significant events in United States history, the American Revolution and the Civil War, were each preceded by a "Great Awakening" - a spiritual revival based on individual freedom and a challenge to live more moral lives.  These spiritual revivals set a standard for political individual freedom, democracy, and freedom for all people.

 

The First Great Awakening, sparked by powerful religious preachers, began in the 1730's and stressed individual responsibility for greater spiritual intimacy with God.  This emphasis on the authority of individuals over the established religious authority created dissent with the religious and political hierarchy.  This resulted in changing not only the religious framework but also the social and political landscape of the American Colonies.

 

Having experienced some democracy and equality in the churches, the common people began to demand democracy and equality in their political life as well. This desire for more freedom went directly against the goals of the British government’s desire for more money and control and became one of the basic causes of the American War for Independence.

 

The Second Great Awakening developed during the early 19th century (1790s-1840s) and was described as "... an expansion of religious feeling unknown in American history." (1)  This burst of religious enthusiasm prompted a movement to believe in the possibility of creating a much better world.  Many yearned for stability, decency, and goodness in the new and turbulent expanding American republic.

 

Social reform came largely out of this new devotion to religion and took the shape of social movements for temperance, women's rights, and the abolition of slavery, as well as reform to prisons and care for the handicapped and the mentally ill.  

 

Many religious leaders believe America is now seeing the development of the next Great Awakening.  In response to social and political challenges, they see Americans turning to our Judeo-Christian foundation for reaffirmation of the inalienable rights of each human being.

 

Americans remember In 1976 Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, Pope St. John Paul II, warned in his address in Philadelphia for the bicentennial celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence:   "We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church, between the gospel and the anti-gospel, between Christ and the Antichrist.  The confrontation lies within the plans of Divine Providence.  It is, therefore, in God's Plan, and it must be a trial which the Church must take up, and face courageously."

 

(ushistory.org; thought.com, 7/29/19; lifesitenews.com, 5/18/17; secondgreatawakeninghistory173.com(1); courses.lumenlearning.com; catholic online)

By the time of the American Revolution, 1776, our nation's founders embraced Freedom of Religion as an essential condition of a free and democratic society.

 

James Madison, often called the Father of the Constitution, described conscience as "the most sacred of all property" and "the Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man...(1)   George Washington wrote that "the establishment of Civil and Religious Liberty was the Motive that induced me to the field of battle." (2)   Thomas Jefferson assured the Ursuline Sisters - who had been serving a mostly non-Catholic population in Louisiana since 1727 by running a hospital, an orphanage, and schools - that their Ministry would be free "to govern itself according to its own voluntary rules, without interference from the civil authority."(3)

 

Therefore, when the Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791, religious freedom had the distinction of being the First Amendment.  Our founders believed religious liberty is, indeed, the first liberty.  The First Amendment guarantees, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

   

Recently, in a unanimous Supreme Court judgment affirming the importance of the First Freedom, Chief Justice Roberts explained that religious liberty is not just the first freedom for Americans; it is the first in the history of democratic freedoms, tracing its origins back to the first clauses of the Magna Carter of 1215.   Chief Justice Roberts cited an 1806 judgement involving the first Catholic bishop in the U.S., in which James Madison stated, the "scrupulous policy of the Constitution is guarding against a political interference with religious affairs" and this prevented the government from rendering an opinion on Church matters.(4)

   

Our American heritage and most cherished freedom is Freedom of Religion because if we are not free in our conscience and practice of religion, all other freedoms are fragile.  If our obligations and duties to God are contradicted by the government, then we can no longer claim to be a land of the free, and a beacon of hope for the world. (5)

 

(United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty(4)(5); founders quotes.com/essayonproperty;(1); azquotes.com/washington(2); founders archives.gov/jefferson(3))

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

The Christian Roots of America’s Longing for Liberty - Part 2

July 5, 2020

In the 17th century (1600's), many of the British North American colonies that eventually formed the United States were settled by men and women who, in the face of European persecution, refused to compromise passionately held religious convictions and fled Europe.  The colonies of NJ, PA, and MD were conceived and established "as plantations of religion."  While some settlers came for secular reasons, the great majority left Europe to worship God in the way they believed to be correct.  They enthusiastically supported the efforts of their leaders to create "a city on a hill" or a "holy experiment," whose success would prove that God's plan for his churches could be successfully realized in the American wilderness. (1)

   

In 1634, a mix of Catholic and Protestant settlers arrived from England at St. Clement's Island in Southern Maryland.  They came at the invitation of the Catholic Lord Baltimore, who had been granted Maryland by the Protestant King Charles I.  While Catholics and Protestants were killing each other in Europe, Lord Baltimore imagined Maryland, Mary Land in honor of Queen Henrietta Marie, as a society where people of different faiths could live together peacefully.  Maryland's 1649 Act Concerning Religion, also called the "Toleration Act", was the first law in our nation's history to protect an individual's right to freedom of conscience. (2)

 

Maryland's early history teaches us that, like any freedom, religious liberty requires constant vigilance and protection, or it will disappear.  Maryland's experiment in religious toleration ended within a few decades.  The colony was placed under royal control, and the Church of England became the established religion.  Discriminatory laws, including the loss of political rights, were enacted against those who refused to conform.  Catholic chapels were closed, and Catholics were restricted to practicing their faith in their homes.  The Catholic community lived under these conditions until the American Revolution. (3)

 

(Library of Congress/Religion & the Founding of the American Republic (1); USCCB/Our First, Most Cherished Liberty(2)(3)

 

"In addition to this summer's observance, we also urge that the Solemnity of Christ the King - a feast born out of resistance to totalitarian incursions against religious liberty - be a day specifically employed by bishops and priests to preach about religious liberty, both here and abroad.

"To all our fellow Catholics, we urge an intensification of your prayers and fasting for a new birth of freedom in our beloved country.  We invite you to join us in an urgent prayer for religious liberty."

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Celebrating "Religious Freedom Week" - June 22-29

The Christian Roots of America’s Longing for Liberty - Part 1

June 28, 2020

Beginning June 22, the Feasts of Saints Thomas More and John Fisher, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) celebrates religious freedom and urges Catholics to pray, reflect and take action on religious liberty.  Please join Catholics for Freedom of Religion (CFFOR) in praying to Mary Immaculate, Patroness of America, for the healing of our Nation and full restoration of religious freedom.  The text of the Rosary for America can be printed from the home page of www.CFFOR.org.

 

Freedom of religion is critical to our nation.   In 1887, Baltimore Archbishop Gibbons explained the American heritage of religious liberty during his visit to Rome by attributing it to the "civil liberty we enjoy in our enlightened republic" and "in the general atmosphere of liberty (the Church) blossoms like a rose."(1)

 

The Church has been a staunch defender of religious liberty in the past and has a solemn duty to discharge that duty today.  "As Catholic bishops and American citizens, we address an urgent summons to our fellow Catholics and fellow Americans to be on guard, for religious liberty is under attack, both at home and abroad."(2)

 

Pope Benedict XVI spoke about his worry that religious liberty in the United States is being weakened.  "Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion.  (There is) a tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience." (3)

 

Religious Liberty is about the freedom to contribute to the common good of all Americans.  "Can we do the good works our faith calls us to do, without having to compromise that very same faith?  Without religious liberty properly understood, all Americans suffer, deprived of the essential contribution in education, health care, feeding the hungry, civil rights, and social services that religious Americans make every day, both at home and overseas." (4)                      (USCCB.org/Ourfirstmostcherishedliberty, (1-4)

 

Regaining Religious Freedom After Covid-19

 

Attorney General Barr has made it clear by his words and actions that civil liberties are "not suspended in times of crisis." (5)  He recently wrote in a memo titled, "Balancing Public Safety with the Preservation of Civil Rights" that a DOJ priority is defending people of faith against potential dangers of government overreach and discriminatory policies.

 

Americans have witnessed this discrimination in numerous places including Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, California and beyond.  N.Y. Gov. Cuomo's irreverent statement at a press conference concerning flattening the curve in NY, "God did not do that.  Faith did not do that. Destiny did not do that...." demonstrates that some in government cannot understand why their self-imposed orders closing churches can be seen as antagonistic to people of faith. (6)  It appears that to some governors, faith is not existential or necessary and religious practice is a novelty.  "For people of faith, defending religious liberty and free religious exercise in the ultimate sense is a matter of life and death.  Just ask the early apostles," wrote Ryan Helfenbein, Liberty University. (7)

(dailysignal.com, 4/27/20(5); breitbart.com, 5/7/20(6)(7); washingtontimes.com, 5/1/20;

deseret.com, 5/20/20)

Prohibiting the reception of Holy Communion was one condition for churches to reopen according to a May 26 Executive Order in Howard County, Maryland.  "There shall be no consumption of food or beverage of any kind ... including as part of a religious service," the order stated.  "If singing takes place, only the choir or religious leaders may sing." (1)

This order coincided with statements from Dr. Anthony Fauci who recommended churches should stop distributing communion.  "I think for the time being, you just gotta forestall that," Fauci said. (2)

     

Days later, the Maryland county reversed this Executive Order.  "For the Catholic community, the reception of Communion is central to our faith lives and to our public worship." (3) “We are pleased to hear that Howard county will be lifting restrictions on faith institutions ...." said the Archdiocese of Baltimore. (4)

   

A family of 12 in Virginia, has filed a First Amendment lawsuit against VA Gov. Northam over his COVID-19 Executive Order barring residents from freely assembling for religious worship and forbidding public gatherings of more than 10 people.  

   

The  Center for American Liberty (CAL) is representing the family in its case against the restriction - which, in addition to stopping them from frequenting secular establishments as a group, bars them from "going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession), receiving the Sacrament of the Eucharist (Holy Communion), and praying on their private property with their priest and other believers." (5)

   

"The Executive Orders wrongly and unconstitutionally classify the exercise of religion as non-essential," said a CAL attorney.  "Gov. Northam's restrictions on religious expression are overly broad, discriminatory, and unconstitutional.  Our plaintiffs have been blessed with 10 children.  (This Order) discriminates against them because of the size of their family - ... while smaller families do not face such a prohibition." (6)

 

(wnd.com, 5/28/20,(1)(2); cna.com, 5/27/20,(3); dailycaller.com, 5/28/20,(4); catholicleague.org, 5/28/20; lifesitenews.com,5/27/20(5)(6))

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Catholic Bishops Designate Religious Freedom Week - June 22-29:

"To be Catholic and American should mean not having to choose one over the other.  Our allegiances are distinct, but they need not be contradictory, and should instead be complimentary.  That is the teaching of our Catholic faith, which obliges us to work together with fellow citizens for the common good of all who live in this land.  That is the vision of our founding and the Constitution, which guarantees citizens of all religious faiths the right to contribute to our common life together."

 

O God our Creator,

We ask you to bless us in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.  Give us the strength of mind and heart to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened; give us courage in making our voices heard on behalf of the rights of your Church and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.   Amen

Numerous churches around the country have filed lawsuits claiming that banning religious gatherings, or limiting them to 10 people, is a violation of the First Amendment. They claim they shouldn't be limited to online or drive-in services, especially if they adhere to social-distancing measures.

   

In May, the Department of Justice filed a statement of support for a Virginia church that claimed discrimination since they were limited to 10 people while businesses were allowed to accommodate larger groups.  

   

Churches in Kansas sued the governor over the 10 person limit at religious services and a Federal Judge ruled the state had "singled out" religious activities for "stricter treatment."  Now, these churches can hold services as long as they abide by the same protocols as for businesses.  

   

In Kentucky, a Federal Appeals Court partially blocked the governor's order prohibiting in-person gatherings, but said congregants could attend drive-in services.  However, the ruling expressed support for the churches argument that it wasn't being treated fairly, noting "hundreds" of cars were parked at a nearby grocery store.  "The breadth of the ban on religious services, together with a haven for numerous secular exceptions, should give pause to anyone who prizes religious freedom," wrote one judge. (1)

   

A Federal judge in North Carolina ruled against the governor saying religious leaders can open their doors to their congregations.  The judge pointed out that while only 10 worshipers were allowed inside under the governor's order, that same standard didn't apply to other entities, such as businesses.  "The record, ..., reveals that the Governor appears to trust citizens to perform non-religious activities indoors (such as shopping or working or selling merchandise) but does not trust them to do the same when they worship together indoors." (2)   State Sen. Daniel wrote, "Gov. Cooper (NC) cannot treat retailers and ABC stores one way and houses of worship another.  Nor allow one type of worship service to proceed while prohibiting another.  Hopefully, this decision will put some guardrails on what has been unchecked executive power." (3)

(pewresearch.org, 4/27/20; nbcnews.com, 5/9/20;(1); newsobserver.com, 5/16/20;(2)(3); abcnews.go.com, 5/3/20; courier.journal.com, 5/8/20)

 "There is not a single instance in history in which civil liberty was lost, and religious liberty preserved entire."  John Witherspoon, Founding Father

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Catholic Bishops Designate Religious Freedom Week: June 22-29, 2020

"Freedom is not only for Americans, but we think of it as something of our special inheritance, fought for at a great price, and a heritage to be guarded now.  We are stewards of this gift, not only for ourselves but for all nations and peoples who yearn to be free.  Catholics in America have discharged this duty of guarding freedom admirably for many generations."  

                                                                              - U.S.Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)

5-20-2020: The bishops of Minnesota have permitted parishes to resume public Masses, and to defy a statewide order prohibiting religious gatherings exceeding 10 people.  “An order that sweeps so broadly that it prohibits, for example, a gathering of 11 people in a Cathedral with a seating capacity of several thousand defies reason, “the bishops of Minnesota’s six dioceses said in a May 20 statement.  “Therefore, we have chosen to move forward in the absence of any specific timeline laid out by Governor Walz and his Administration. We cannot allow an indefinite suspension of the public celebration of the Mass,” the bishops added.   “We can safely resume public Masses in accordance with both our religious duties and with accepted public health and safety standards.”  The bishops’ letter permits parishes to resume public Masses May 26. (1)

 

"The Constitution and the rights enshrined therein are not suspended during a pandemic, and neither is our religion," said Pastor Ionescu, Romanian Pentecostal Church in Chicago.(2)  A group of Romanian pastors joined a growing number of churches in Illinois and across the country by opening their churches, following guidelines, and defying stay-at-home orders, which they consider unconstitutional.  The Chicago mayor had threatened, "we will take you to jail," if churches opened, reminding Ionescu of communist Romania where he saw pastors thrown into jail as criminals for preaching and gathering in ways forbidden by the government.

Liberty Counsel, representing the Chicago pastors said, "The virus doesn't prefer churches over liquor stores, or shopping malls, or big box centers, or abortion clinics." (3)

   

In California, 3,000 churches plan to defy shutdown orders and open on May 31 because it marks Pentecost, the birth of the Christian church, making it fitting for a "rebirth" of services.  "Our churches are part of the answer, not part of the problem," said Pastor Danny Carroll. "We're an essential part of this whole journey and we've been bypassed - kicked to the curb and deemed nonessential. (4)

 

The shutdown of houses of worship across the country has raised questions about the constitutionality of the orders and whether they infringe upon civil liberties.  Attorney General Barr has said he will crack down on possible religious freedom violations.

 

(CatholicNewsAgency.com, 5/20/20 (1); theepochtimes.com, 5/12/20(2)(3); vvdaily.press.com,5/17/20; CNBC.com,4/2/20; dailycaller.com, 5/8/20(4)

 

“In practice, no law and no constitution can protect religious freedom unless people actually

believe and live their faith… But it’s also true that no one can finally take our freedom unless we give it away.”  - Archbishop Charles Chaput

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), along with the leaders of many healthcare, bioethics, and pro-life organizations, is urging the Administration to make sure that vaccines for coronavirus are developed ethically and are free from any connection to the exploitation of abortion.  The coalition letter to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration strongly urges the federal government to "ensure that fundamental moral principles are followed in the development of vaccines, most importantly, the principle that human life is sacred and should never be exploited."  (1)

 

"It is critically important that Americans have access to a vaccine that is produced ethically.  No American should be forced to choose between being vaccinated against this potentially deadly virus and violating his or her conscience." (2)

 

This issue emerged because some politicians are urging the Administration to lift its restrictions on National Institutes of Health (NIH) research.  These restrictions prevent the use of any bodies of aborted children, often referred to as "fetal tissue."  Some media articles are claiming that the restrictions are preventing scientists from finding a vaccine for COVID-19 even though the restrictions against using aborted fetal tissue are not hindering research.

 

Pharmaceutical companies around the world are also working to make a vaccine against COVID-19.  Explaining current vaccine research, Dr. David Prentice, VP and Research Director for one company said, "... there are a lot (over 40) proposed or under development; ... a few raise concern because they use an abortion-derived cell line as part of the process." ... "their origin makes them ethically tainted."  (3)

 

However, there are possible alternatives.  "There are actually many licitly (permitted by law) produced vaccines under consideration, including vaccines using insect cells, ethically-derived human cells, and some that use no cells at all," Dr. Prentice explained.  "It's important that we advocate for such vaccines and treatments so that all people can access new vaccines in good conscience."  (4)

 

Many are not aware that common vaccines that grow in aborted fetal cells include: chickenpox, shingles, hepatitis A, rabies, MMR (measles, mumps, rubella).  These aborted fetal cells were originally used in the 1960s and 1970s.  These same lines are still used today.

While it's still too early to know what vaccine for COVID-19 will prove effective, scientists are certain that vaccines can be created without using fetal cell lines, and the bodies of aborted children are not necessary for medical research and advancements. 

 

(ProLife@usccb.org, 4/21/20(1); liveaction.org, 4/17/20(2)(3)(4); verywellhealth.com, 4/2/20; lifesiteews.com, 3/14/19)

 

"Ethics is nothing else than reverence for life.”  -  Albert Schweitzer, physician and humanitarian

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Catholic Bishops Urge that COVID-19 Vaccine Be Free from Aborted Baby Cells

May 24, 2020

"Standing up for liberty is one of our highest priorities, my highest priorities," said AG Barr

during a White House conference call with more than 500 faith leaders, including CFFR, in April.  He assured priests, rabbis, and ministers that the administration is on guard against overzealous state governments intent on "singling out" religious groups with punitive lockdown measures.  He explained that while "Draconian measures" were initially necessary to stop the spread of the coronavirus, they will combat efforts that apply these disproportionately to religious organizations. (1)

 

"Many policies that would be unthinkable in regular times have become commonplace in recent weeks, and we do not want to unduly interfere with the important efforts of state and local officials to protect the public," said AG Barr in a memo.  "But the Constitution is not suspended in times of crisis." (2)

 

The Supreme Court has long held that Constitutional rights can be lawfully restricted, to some degree, when emergency health orders are in place.  But the line demarcating where one begins and the other ends is a legal gray area.

 

In a memo to the nation's 93 U.S. attorneys, AG Barr said, "We must be vigilant to ensure its (the Constitution) protections are preserved, at the same time that the public is protected." (3)

"If a state or local ordinance crosses the line from an appropriate exercise of authority to stop the spread of COVID-19 into an overbearing infringement of constitutional and statutory protections, the Department of Justice may have an obligation to address that overreach in federal court." (4)

 

"One example of what Barr is concerned about is how churches have been singled out for different treatment," said Commissioner Gary Bauer, of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.  "Why is it okay for people to gather at Walmart but not at church?"   (5)

 

(newslocker.com, 4/24/20(1); dailysignal.com, 4/27/20(2)(4); nationalreview.com, 4/24/20(3); thehill.com, 5/2/20(5); theepochtimes.com, 4/27/20)

 

"America will never be destroyed from the outside.  If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."  - Abraham Lincoln

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

"The Constitution Is Not Suspended in Times of Crisis" - Attorney General Barr

May 17, 2020

Some faith leaders around the country have persisted in holding in-person services - a matter of religious freedom - despite state and local limits on public gatherings.  These gatherings are usually held in the church parking lot as parishioners remain safely in their cars. However, both parishioners and pastors have been arrested and fined.  "Instead of using a scalpel to address this, they're using a chainsaw," said Liberty Counsel. (1)

 

In mid-April, Attorney General Barr said the government "may not impose special restrictions on religious activity that do not also apply to non-religious activity." (2)  Therefore, if the government allows assembly in comparable places (grocery stores) "even in times of emergency, when reasonable and temporary restrictions are placed on rights, the First Amendment and federal statutory law prohibit discrimination against religious institutions and religious believers." (3)

 

"Religious freedom in America is not simply a fundamental right but a foundational one," wrote KrisAnne Hall, JD, Constitutional attorney.  "The settlements of the first American colonies were established in the flight from oppressive religious persecution.  Christian martyrs and patriots secured our God-given right to Freedom of Religion with their suffering and even with their lives."  (4)

 

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights..."  (The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776)

 

By what authority does the government declare the church non-essential?  "The church is a place where people turn for help and for comfort in a climate of fear and uncertainty."  For almost two millennia, "the church has been viewed by Western civilization as an essential part of society, a refuge in time of trouble or need, a place of peace and a sanctuary ...," KrisAnne Hall wrote. (5)

Remember civil and religious liberty always go together: if the foundation of the one be sapped, the other will fall of course. - Alexander Hamilton

(AP news, 4/4/20(1); the gatewaypundit.com, 4/14/20(2)(3); KrisAnneHall.com, Covid-19 Restrictions (4)(5), Shelter in Place)

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Religious Liberty or Religious Oppression:  A Time to Choose (Part 2)

May 10, 2020

Across the country, many government officials have announced stay-at-home orders of dubious constitutional validity.  The result is that in many communities the jails are being emptied of criminals while individuals respecting appropriate precautions have been arrested for the crime of being outside their home.  This has led to protests in many states.  "We have God-given rights that are infringed upon right now, every day this state remains closed," said a NC protestor. (1)  "I understand the need for caution, but I think it's gone way past anything reasonable," said a Kentucky resident. (2)

 

  • NYS Executive Order from governor states:  "all non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size for any reasons (worship services, parties, etc.) are canceled or postponed.  Further, individuals should not gather in ... homes... for religious services until the end of this public health emergency."(3) He further provides an online form for residents to report fellow New Yorkers they think are breaking the rules.

 

  • Michigan governor issued new orders to prohibit visiting family or friends unless to provide care; buying non-essential items such as gardening equipment, potting soil and seeds when in a store buying groceries; banning travel to a vacation home; banning some types of boats but not others.

 

  • Los Angeles, CA, mayor is encouraging residents to "snitch" on fellow citizens.  "We want to thank you for turning folks in and making sure we are all safe."(4)

 

  • NY City mayor is telling New Yorkers, “Bang, send a photo like this, and we will make sure that enforcement comes right away," if they observe anyone being too close.(5)

 

  • Kentucky State Troopers recorded license plate numbers of Christians who attended drive-in services on Easter…in spite of nails spread across the drive way entrances.

 

  • In NC, as in all states, abortion clinics continue in operation but elective surgery such as hip replacements are banned in hospitals.  Sidewalk pro-life counselors, practicing social-distancing in front of a NC abortion facility, were handcuffed and arrested.  "We are a federally recognized public charity," said a Cities4Life volunteer.  "I am well within my constitutional authority to be here."(6)

 

"The human desire for freedom is universal and cannot be repressed. The longing for freedom accrues and is common to all humanity." - Sec. of State Pompeo, Nov. 15, 2019, reflecting on his recent trip to Germany to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. (7)

 

"Safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct.  To be more safe (nations), at length, become willing to run the risk of being less free.”
Alexander Hamilton, Founding Father

 

(cnn.com, 4/17/20(1)(2); CHQ.com, 4/6/20; albanyupdate.com, 4/11/20(3); independentsentinel.com, 4/4/20(4); dnyuz.com, 4/18/20(5); dailycaller.com, 4/15/20; frc.org, 4/6/20(6); share.america.gov, 11/15/19(7)

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Religious Liberty or Religious Oppression:

A Time to Choose (Part 1)

May 3, 2020

"Those that would give up essential Liberty to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”  Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father, 1755

While all Americans have a moral, and practical, obligation to choose behaviors that respect their own and their neighbors best health and welfare during this coronavirus pandemic, we should be alert to the ramifications of suspending our "inalienable rights" of freedom of religion and to peaceably assemble that are protected in the U.S. Constitution and every State Constitution. These rights do not come as permissions from government but pre-exist all law and government.

   

"These Shelter in Place Orders often establish that failure to comply with the order will result in civil or criminal penalties," wrote KrisAnne Hall, Constitution attorney. (1)  Yet, these newly invented crimes are left to the discretion of individual police officers.  Courts call this "unbridled discretion" and have held this to be fundamentally unjust.  "But when a government uses threat and force to compel behavior and the Rights of the people are ignored & due process denied under the pretense of necessity, the people are not safe, the welfare of the people is not respected...," KrisAnne explained. (2)

    

Kansas City - Police shut down a parade of elementary school teachers who organized a parade, from the healthy safety of their individual cars, to boost the morale of their students.

     

San Diego, CA - Sheriff's department gave citations to people committing the crime of "watching the sunset" on the beach.

     

Port Isabel, TX - Mayor decided that residents may not travel with more than 2 people in their vehicle, causing distress & confusion to families with 2 or more children.

     

Colorado - A police chief said the act of leaving your home and going outside is now a "privilege" that can be revoked if misused.

     

Ohio - A prosecutor said that those who defy his state's stay-at-home-order are committing "felonious assault."

    

These, and many other seemingly ridiculous abuses are happening around the country as usually reasonable law enforcement departments, in the name of mitigating the virus spread, are assuming powers not granted in law or the constitution.  

   

"America was built upon the Principle of Liberty," wrote KrisAnne Hall. (3)  It was not constructed upon a principle of National Security or power of National Emergency.

   

Our founders believed that the preservation of Liberty was more important than life itself.  The proof of this belief is found in the last sentence of the Declaration of Independence:  "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

 

(dailywire.com, 4/6/20; usatoday.com, 4/2/20; KrisAnneHall.com, Shelter in Place Orders, Covid 19 Restrictions (1)(2)(3); Declaration of Independence)

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Lessons in Liberty - During COVID 19

April 26, 2020

"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom."  William Pitt the Younger, 1783

 

The COVID-19 public health crisis has imposed restrictions on in-person gatherings, causing most houses of worship in the U.S. and the World, to temporarily close their doors.  While many legal experts claim that the government can force churches to close during a health crisis, there remain Constitutional questions about whether these restrictions are reasonable and equally applied to other types of organizations as well as businesses.

 

Both federal and state authorities have determined that certain institutions and businesses may continue to operate as usual if they are considered "essential" to the public.   This criterion allows supermarkets, Walmart, Amazon, 7-11, Home Depot, as well as gas stations, auto repair shops, restaurants that deliver food, house builders and others, to continue their usual operations as “essential” to the public good.  

     

Why then, are these enterprises where multiple people gather, following "social distancing" rules, more "essential" to people than churches that feed their spiritual needs?  In times of public crisis, isn't spiritual nourishment also "essential"?   For example, "If doctors and nurses, taking precautions, can go in and out of hospitals, why not the spiritual doctors?" asked Mark Mallett, author and missionary. (1)

     

"According to the courts, a law that infringes upon a fundamental right, like Freedom of Religion, must overcome certain challenges:  The law must not be arbitrary, oppressive, or unreasonable.  The law must be equally applied to secular businesses (etc.) ... When arbitrary number limits are applied to a church and not to ... a grocery store, there is not equal application," wrote KrisAnne Hall, Constitutional Attorney, author. "By what authority does the government declare the church non-essential?" (2)

 

 In Pope Francis' homily, "Faith is Never a Private Matter", Dec. 6, 2013, he explained:

Prohibition against worshipping God is a sign of "general apostasy".  It tries to convince Christians to take "a more reasonable and peaceful road", by obeying "the tenets of worldly powers" who try to reduce religion to "a private matter". (3)

(deseretnews.com,3/21/20; markmallett.com, 4/6/20 (1); KrisAnneHall.com, COVID 19 Restrictions (2); vatican.va, Francis Homily,Nov28,2013 (3)

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Religious Freedom & Coronavirus Restrictions

April 19, 2020

Religious freedom, the right of man to follow his conscience, is rooted in the nature of God and the nature of man.  It is God's original design for humanity.

"God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness' (Gen 1:26)   So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Gen 1:27) 

  

Therefore, human beings are created for relationship with God and God desires relationship with us.  But a relationship with God can never be coerced or forced.  Authentic relationships must be entered into freely.  So, God Himself has given human beings freedom to embrace or reject him.  Therefore, God's basic design for humanity gives rise to religious freedom. (1) (p.21)

 

Being made in God's image means, among other things, that we reflect what God is like through our creativity, capacity for reason, sense of moral responsibility, and ability to make choices.  Being made in God's image means we're created with a unique capacity to enter loving relationships with one another and with God Himself. (p.24)

 

This, ultimately, is the origin of religious liberty.  We can't have an authentic relationship with God unless we have the freedom to embrace or reject Him.  And if God Himself doesn't coerce us, how much less should the government.  When the government tries to prevent us from freely relating to God - it is elevating itself above God and violating the created order. (p. 28)

 

Hence, religious freedom requires that the government, within reasonable limits, leaves religion alone as much as possible. (p.38)

 

(Free to Believe, by Luke Goodrich (1); Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, 2nd Edition)

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

A Theology of Religious Freedom

April 12, 2020

America’s first official day of national prayer was in 1775 when the Continental Congress called for the public to fast and pray for the leadership of the Colonies.  After that time, presidents periodically called the nation to pray during times of war or other hardships.

In 1952, Pres. Harry Truman signed a law that each year the president must issue a proclamation calling the people to pray, but didn't designate a specific day.  In 1988, Congress chose the first Thursday in May as the National Day of Prayer, and it was signed into law by Pres. Reagan

 

President Trump, responding to the Corona Virus outbreak, recently declared, "It is my great honor to declare Sunday, March 15th, 2020, as a National Day of Prayer.  We are a Country that, throughout our history, has looked to God for protection and strength in times like these ..." (1)

 

Referring to our history, President Trump stated, "In our times of greatest need, Americans have always turned to prayer to help guide us through trials and periods of uncertainty.  As we continue to face the unique challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, ... we must not cease asking God for added wisdom, comfort, and strength, and we must especially pray for those who have suffered harm or who have lost loved ones." ......

"As we unite in prayer, we are reminded that there is no burden too heavy for God to lift or for this country to bear with His help.  Luke 1:37, promises that 'For with God nothing shall be impossible,' and those words are just as true today as they have ever been.  As one Nation under God, we are greater than the hardships we face, and through prayer and acts of compassion and love, we will rise to this challenge and emerge stronger and more united than ever before.  May God bless each of you, and may God bless the United States of America."  President Trump's proclamation: National Day of Prayer, March 15, 2020 (2)

(presidentialprayerteam.org, 3/14/20 (1); whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions (2); gotquestions.org; today.ng,3/14/20)

 

No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States

 ~ George Washington

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

President Trump’s Call for National Day of Prayer Follows Tradition of America's Founders & Presidents

April 5, 2020

"We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church, between the gospel and the anti-gospel, between Christ and the antichrist.”

Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, 1976

American Heritage Dictionary:  "Socialism is any of various theories or systems of social organization in which the means of producing and distributing goods is owned collectively or by a centralized government that often plans and controls the economy."

Catholic Social Teaching (catholic.org):  "Only persons are made in the image of God...  The dignity of man, the concept of personhood, cannot be built upon agnostic or atheistic foundations."

Pope John Paul II (1978-2005)   "Socialism considers the individual person simply as an element, a molecule within the social organism, so that the good of the individual is completely subordinated to the functioning of the socio-economic mechanism."

 

Pope Benedict XVI (2005-2013)   "We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which ... generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from (those)...closest to those in need (government power ought to reside at the local or regional level and least centralized competent authority.)

 

Pope Paul VI (1963-1978)   "Too often Christians attracted by socialism tend to idealize it in terms which are very general: a will for justice, solidarity and equality.  They refuse to recognize the limitations of the historical socialist movements, ..."

 

Pope John XXIII (1958-1963)   "Pope Pius XI emphasized the fundamental opposition between Communism and Christianity, and made it clear that no Catholic could subscribe even to moderate Socialism.  The reason is that Socialism is founded on a doctrine of human society which ... takes no account of any objective other than that of material well-being... it places too severe a restraint on human liberty..."

 

Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903)  "To remedy these wrongs (in society) the socialists, working on the poor man's envy of the rich, are striving to do away with private property, and contend that individual possessions should become the common property of all, to be administered by the State or by municipal bodies.  They hold that by thus transferring property from private individuals to the community, the present mischievous state of things will be set to rights, inasmuch as each citizen will then get his fair share of whatever there is to enjoy.  But (if) their contentions ... were carried into effect, the working man himself would be among the first to suffer." 

 (tfp.org; catholic.org; catholic365.com; dr.taylormarshall.com)

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Five Popes Reflect on the Philosophy of Socialism and Communism

March 29, 2020

U.S. Ambassador for Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, has warned that religious persecution is spreading worldwide with alarming anti-Christian violence in Nigeria and a growing religious surveillance state in China.

"There's a lot of people getting killed in Nigeria," said Brownback .  "80% of the world's population live in countries that have religious persecution. “...”It's the most deadly time in the history of Christendom for you to be a Christian.  There's more Christian persecution than any time in the history of mankind." (1)

   

The incidents are grim and harrowing.  Nigerian villagers talk about the machetes falling on arms, fingers, heads, and pregnant bellies.  They've been lit on fire, sold into sex slavery, shot and raped - all because they're Christians.

   

"Boko Haram has killed more Christians in Nigeria than ISIS killed in Iraq and Syria combined," said former Congressman Frank Wolf. "(They're) committing genocide.  Genocide." (2)

   

Ambassador Brownback said there have been "some pretty good meetings recently" with the Nigerian government but is calling for more dialogue between Muslims and Christians to "really try to get them working together instead of killing each other." (3)

  

China has developed a "social credit" system over the last 10 years that has been used to track and punish religious minorities.  If a person has a low social credit score, said Brownback, they could be prohibited from obtaining an education or living in a certain area. “And it won't be just for you.  It will be your friends with you.  If anyone pings your cell phone, that will be tracked and they'll get the same low social credit score you get. And these are the systems being modeled and worked on and done now today in China," he said.  China is "best in the world" at religious persecution and surveillance of religious groups and has been engaged in a "war with faith." (4)

catholicworldreport.com, 2/28/20 (1); frc.org, 3/11/20 (2); ncregister.com, state.gov/ambassador-at-large-for international-religious-freedom  2/8/20 (3)(4)

 

"We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church, between the gospel and the anti-gospel, between Christ and the antichrist."   

Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, 1976

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

A Slow-Motion and Horrific Religious War

Is Under Way, Worldwide

March 22, 2020

A Texas-based jeweler is challenging the military's trademark office which pulled the company's trademark licenses saying they can no longer display military insignia and Bible verses on the replica dog-tags it has sold to service members since the 9/11 attacks.

For about 20 years, Shields of Strength has provided service members with memento dog-tags featuring inspirational messages based on verses in scripture such as Joshua 1:9,” Be strong and courageous.... " or Psalm 27:3, "Though my enemies attack me, I will not fear; ...I will still trust in God." (1)  In addition to sales, a few hundred thousand of these items have been donated to military units and personnel.

In July, the anti-religious, Military Religious Freedom Foundation, demanded the military branches stop allowing Shields of Strength to use a military emblem, saying it "poisons the constitutionally-mandated separation of Church and State ..."  (2)  The fact that separation of Church and State is not in the Constitution and the First Amendment protects Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Speech, did not deter the Pentagon from canceling the trademark licenses. They cited "Negative Press" as their motivation. (3)

A Constitutional Law attorney said, "While I would absolutely oppose the military issuing such tags, ... it is outrageous that service members can't voluntarily inscribe their own tags.  From a legal point of view, if the military allows any inscriptions at all (like "I love you Mom") then banning religious ones is content discrimination."  (4)

At present, anyone can order dog-tags online with military insignia and a non-religious saying such as "The difficult we do immediately, the impossible takes longer." (5)

 

(aclj.org/us-military (1); washintontimes.com, 12/4/19; foxnews.com/faith-values(2)(3); fellowshipoftheminds.com (4); dogtagsonline.com)

 

"A government that roams the land ... scrubbing away any reference to the divine will strike many as aggressively hostile to religion.   Supreme Court Justice, Samuel A. Alito 

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Military Bans Bible Verses on Dog-Tags

but Allows Non-religious Sayings

March 15, 2020

In a recent interview with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Attorney General William Barr said, "The reason the (Founding Fathers) felt they could grant so much freedom in the Constitution and only provide for limited government was because religion would be the force that guided people so they could largely govern themselves.  Alexis de Tocqueville observed that the centrality of religion was (the cause) of the health of American democracy. ”(1)

Barr defended a person’s natural right to obey one's conscience above one's government.  He is concerned that the rule of law, fair play, and due process are threatened by "militant secularists" trying to "impose their values" on others.” (2)

 

Maine & Maryland Barring Religious Schools from Tuition Support Programs

- Accused of Anti-religious Hostility

More than 100 small towns in Maine don't have their own high school, so families choose a high school and the town pays the bill up to the rate allowed by the state.  Three families are now suing the state for religious discrimination since, while the state will pay tuition for a private school, it refuses to pay tuition for a religious affiliated school. 

"When a state decides to empower parents to choose the school that is best for their child, to then say, but we are going to exclude religious schools...just strikes at the very core of our religious freedom...," said an attorney for Institute for Justice. (3)

Maryland revoked the Baltimore-area Bethel Christian Academy from participation in a voucher program benefitting low-income students and demanded the school repay more than $100,000 for their previous participation.

"The government may not discriminate against religious schools simply because it dislikes their religious beliefs.  Bethel offers an academically rigorous and caring Christian education in a diverse environment...Maryland's families deserve better and that's why we're grateful Bethel's lawsuit can move forward," said an Alliance Defending Freedom attorney. (4)

(thefederalist.com, 1/30/20(1)(2); csmonitor.com, 1/21/20(3); adflegal.org, 11/14/19(4); washingtonpost.com, 1/2/20; ij.org/maine)

 

Parents who have the primary and inalienable right and duty to educate their children must enjoy true liberty in their choice of schools.         Gravissimum Educationis, 1965 

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

The Health of American Democracy

Requires the Centrality of Religion

March 8, 2020

During a Jan. 28 radio interview with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Attorney General William Barr contended the First Amendment is under assault and that "militant secularists" are trying to impose their secular values on religious people.  "To me, the problem today is not that religious people are trying to impose their views on nonreligious people, it's the opposite - it's that militant secularists are trying to impose their values on religious people and they're not accommodating the freedom of religion of people of faith.” (1)

"Religion was viewed by the Founders as ... essential to maintaining a free country.  We believe in the separation of church & state, but what permits a limited government and minimal command and control of the population and allows people to have freedom of choice in their lives ... is the fact that they are a people capable of disciplining themselves according to moral values.” (2)

 

Little Sisters, Sued by Some States, Going Back to Supreme Court - for 3rd Time!

The Little Sisters of the Poor are a Catholic charitable order, founded in 1839, that cares for the elderly poor by operating 30 nursing homes across the country.  These homes have lay staff for whom the Little Sisters provide group health insurance.  Then - in 2012, the federal and some state governments decided that under the newly passed Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Sisters must ignore their beliefs and include contraception and abortion-inducing drugs in their insurance coverage or face crippling fines.

2013 - The Supreme Court issued an injunction protecting the Little Sisters but the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against them.

2014 - The Supreme Court ruled that closely held companies - mostly family owned businesses - are exempt from the contraception mandate.

2016 - The Supreme Court heard the 10th Circuit's case against the Sisters and unanimously overturned their ruling. 

2018 - This administration issued a new rule that contains an exemption for religious ministries in relation to the ACA.

Then - Several states sued the federal government and targeted the Little Sisters in particular by arguing that they are not religious enough, thereby forcing them to abandon their core beliefs and provide contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs.

2020 - The Supreme Court will again hear this case. 

(firstthings.com; crisismagazine.com; the federalist.com, 1/30/20; johnbwellsnews.com, 1/31/20(1); gopusa.com,1/30/20(2)

 

It is simply unreasonable for government to demand that the Sisters violate their consciences and put a wall between their faith and their good works.     Archbishop William E. Lori  

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Warning! - An Organized Effort to

Drive Religion Out of the Public Square

March 1, 2020

"The case before the Supreme Court today (Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue) concerns whether the Constitution offers states a license to discriminate against religion," said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).  "Our country's tradition of non-establishment of religion does not mean that governments can deny otherwise available benefits on the basis of religious status.... This is an issue of justice for people of all faith communities." (1)

 

Montana created a program where people who donated to private-school funding organizations received a modest $150 tax credit.  However, the Montana Dept. of Revenue cited the state's anti-religious Blaine Amendment to exclude those donors whose money went to religious private schools but allowed non-religious private-school donors to benefit.  Therefore, children who attend religious schools were stripped of their right to participate in the scholarship program.

 

The Blaine Amendments - found in 37 state constitutions - originated in the late 1800's to block Catholic demands for equal treatment of their schools.  The anti-legal immigrant, anti-Catholic provisions aimed to bar public funding of so-called "sectarian" schools of which over 2/3 were Catholic schools.

 

"But this case is not only about constitutional law...  Blaine Amendments ... were expressions of hostility toward the Catholic Church.  We hope that the Supreme Court will take this opportunity to bring an end to this shameful legacy," wrote the USCCB.(2)

 

(usccb.org(1)(2);  ij.org; becketlaw.org; cato.org; detroitnews.com,

 1/17/20; newsmax.com, 1/28/20)

    

“Blaine amendments … have the effect of excluding people of faith from participating in benefits that should be publicly available to everyone. Without religious liberty properly understood,

all Americans suffer.”       USCCB Fact Sheet, Office of Religious Liberty, 2018

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Anti-Catholic 1889 Blaine Amendment 

Goes to U.S. Supreme Court

February 23, 2020

In February, Americans remember the birthdays of two champions of freedom:  George Washington, the "Father of our Country," on Feb. 22, and Abraham Lincoln, the "Great Emancipator," on Feb. 12.  Washington liberated Americans from British tyranny and Lincoln liberated slaves from bondage.

 

Although some scholars today choose to question the motives of these great men as to whether they truly believed in freedom for colonists and slaves, it cannot be disputed that their actions did indeed bring liberty.  Since reading minds to discover motive is impossible, we can only judge facts, and the actions of both Washington and Lincoln qualify them as champions of freedom.

Historians have called George Washington the "Indispensable Man" for his role in the fight for freedom and creation of the United States of America.  One congressman's eulogy supports this title with these memorable words:  "First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen, ... Pious, just, humane, temperate, and sincere; uniform, dignified, and commanding ..."

 

The U.S. Senate official message read:  "Let his countrymen consecrate the memory of the heroic general, the patriotic statesman and the virtuous sage.  His example is now complete, and it will teach wisdom and virtue ... not only in the present age, but in future generations, as long as our history shall be read." (1)

 

Abraham Lincoln issued an executive order, the Emancipation Proclamation, Jan. 1, 1863, which changed the legal status under federal law of more than 3.5 million African Americans in the Confederate states from slave to free.  The Proclamation broadened the goals of the Civil War, making the freedom of slaves an explicit goal of the Union war effort and one of the two primary war goals.  To ensure the abolition of slavery in all of the U.S., Lincoln pushed for passage of the Thirteenth Amendment and insisted that Reconstruction plans for the Southern states require abolition in new state constitutions.

 

Lincoln is also revered for his many wise and pithy sayings:

    "Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

    "Freedom is the last, best hope of earth."

    "America will never be destroyed from the outside.  If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."

(azquotes.com; wikipedia.org; historynet.com; heritage.org(1); worldhistory.us/america; cbn.com)

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

They Fought for Freedom - February 16, 2020

"Faith-based groups should have the opportunity to compete on a level playing field as they seek to partner with the federal government to provide critical social services," said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.  "These proposed (new) rules protect religious liberty, a core constitutional right..." (1)

 

On Religious Freedom Day, the administration issued 9 rules to protect freedom by eliminating burdensome requirements, issued in past years, that unfairly imposed unique regulatory burdens on religious organizations.  Federal agencies, including the Dept. of Labor, must now ensure that the grant-making practices of state recipients of Federal funding comply with the First Amendment.

 

Religious freedom has been an ongoing concern in recent years as anti-faith groups have brought litigation against faith-based nonprofits and privately owned companies.  These opponents of religious freedom have created much confusion by suggesting that it is illegal or even unconstitutional, for religious organizations to participate in federal contracts simply because they choose to operate in accordance with their faith.  The end result was a distortion of law that put religious contractors at a distinct disadvantage.  Many of them had to make an untenable choice: continue operating in accordance with their deeply held religious beliefs or violate their conscience just for the opportunity to compete for a federal contract.

 

"From its opening pages, the story of America has been rooted in the truth that all men and women are endowed with the right to follow their conscience, worship freely, and live in accordance with their convictions.  On Religious Freedom Day, we honor the foundational link between freedom and faith in our country and reaffirm our commitment to safeguarding the religious liberty of all Americans."    ~President Trump, Proclamation, Jan.16, 2020.

 

(Religious Freedom Day 2020 Proclamation; first liberty.org; christianheadlines.com, 8/15/19; daily signal.com, 8/14/19; White House press release; (1) usccb.org/news)

 

"Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature."   ~Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Administration Committed to Ensuring

Religious Organizations a Level Playing Field

February 9, 2020

"I didn't want to file a lawsuit, but after many unsuccessful meetings with the (school) administration, I wound up realizing it was the only way to secure future students' rights to pray...," Chase Windebank told President Trump on National Freedom of Religion Day, Jan. 16. (1)  Chase had started a small group of fellow HS students praying during free period in his Colorado Springs school.  By senior year, when the group had grown to 90 students, the administration banned students from praying during school hours - even during lunch.  

 

The updated guidelines, originally issued at Pres. Clinton’s direction, and announced by the White House on Jan. 16, are designed to end this abuse of student Constitutional protections and promote teachers' and students' right to pray in public schools.  Windebank said, "And you guys are making sure that the Founding Fathers are living in our nation.  So, thank you very, very much.”  (2)  

   

Since secular legal groups have regularly pressured local school districts to end any perceived entanglement with religion, the Dept. of Education new rule "ensures the equal treatment and Constitutional rights ... owed to students on campus." (3)

 

(1) (2) c-span.org, 1/16/20, transcript; (3) christianpost.com, 1/16/20; ncregister, 1/17/20; whitehouse.gov/briefings)

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Students Should Not Have to Sue to Defend Their Basic Right to Religious Expression
February 2, 2020

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