RELIGIOUS FREEDOM WEEKLY

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

Recent court filings uncovered by the Catholic Benefits Association show the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is working to establish sweeping sex-discrimination regulations to dismantle the religious-liberty protections in health-care law.  "Discovery of a 74-page legal memorandum attached to a court filing ... revealed that HHS has promised to revise its mandates on health plan coverage and performance to include surgical abortion, cross-sex hormones, gender-transition surgeries, gender-affirming cosmetic surgeries and voice modification ... contraception, abortion drugs and sterilizations," wrote Tom Tracy, Catholic News Service.(1)  The new mandate "would not only disallow religious exemptions but would have a broad cost and compliance impact on all U.S. employers." (2)

 

"The forthcoming HHS regulation presents an existential threat to Catholic health care because the penalties to noncompliance will include private enforcement, class-action lawsuits ...  The penalties may also include loss of Medicare and Medicaid funding and even imprisonment for noncomplying health care executives," said attorney Mark      Nussbaum, advisor to CO - Catholic Benefits Association.(3)  "Such sanctions can shut down any hospital network. ... Such performance mandates will harm health care in the U.S. overall, given that Catholic hospitals provide an estimated 1/6 of hospital beds nationally." (4)

 

"Until November, 2021, when our attorneys discovered it in a 74-page court filing, nobody knew about it," said Doug Wilson, CEO of CO-based Catholic Benefits Association.  "The general public has almost no awareness of what may be coming.  It is written to end Catholic health care.  The requirements are so beyond Catholic teaching that Catholic employers of every sort would be faced with complying or shutting down," Wilson said. (5)

 (catholicnews.com, 4/5/22(1)(2); americamagazine.org, 4/5/22(3)(4); ncregister.com, 11/17/21; cruxnow.com, 4/5/22(5)

 

"Religious freedom is the lifeblood of the American people, the cornerstone of American government."   ~Cardinal Timothy Dolan

"Under the Constitution, a government may not treat religious persons, religious organizations, or 

religious speech as second-class." (1)    -Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh

 

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled in a 9-0 vote on May 2, 2022, that the city of Boston, MA, wrongly banned Christian flags from a community flag program in City Hall Plaza and that the city of Boston discriminated against Camp Constitution when it denied its application that referred to a "Christian flag." (2)     This is "viewpoint discrimination."  For the previous 12 years, Boston approved 284 flag-raisings by private organizations with no denials until now.  

Soon to retire Justice Stephen Breyer said, "... Boston's refusal to let Camp Constitution raise their flag based on its religious viewpoint 'abridged their freedom of speech.'"(3) Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Senior Counsel wrote, "The city of Boston's exclusion of religious expression from an otherwise wide-open public program amounted to discrimination based on viewpoint and is therefore unconstitutional.  ... this is about the protection of our First Amendment rights, which extend equally to all Americans, without government punishment." (4)

 

H.S. Football Coach Silent Prayer Now Before Supreme Court

On April 25, 2022, the Supreme Court heard the case of former high school football coach Joseph Kennedy who was fired after his practice of a silent, one-minute prayer at the 50-yard line following games at a Washington School district.  This case could affirm religious rights in public schools.  A ruling is expected in June. (5)

 

U.S. Bishops to Send Out Teams of "Preachers"

Sixty Eucharistic preachers have been chosen to share their faith that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, and that He has the power to transform the world.  These 60 Eucharistic preachers will form the "front line" of the Church's Eucharistic Revival, a three-year grassroots initiative aimed at increasing devotion and belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. (6)

 

We are "living on the eve of one of the great spiritual revivals in human history."

Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

 

(ncregister.com, 5/2/22(1)(2); lifesitenews.com, 5/2/22(3)(4); abcnews.go.com, 5/2/22; nbcnews.com, 5/2/22; cbsnews.com, 4/25/22(5); nypost.com, 4/25/22; aleteia.com/revival(6)

"Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”  Bill of Rights – 1st Amendment

 

Americans of faith are fortunate to live in a country with robust liberty protections in our Constitution and Bill of Rights First Amendment.  However, during these past two-plus years of COVID restrictions on religious activities, including full community worship, and their designation as "non-essential" while many secular activities were designated "essential," invites reflection on religious freedom in America today.

 

The Becket Law 2021 Religious Freedom Index found "Americans resoundingly believe that religious activities at houses of worship should be considered essential over secular activities." (1) These essential activities during a pandemic include worship and funerals with other religious ceremonies and community service following close behind.  "That Americans prioritized religious activities over secular ones during a pandemic provides a stark contrast to the COVID restrictions placed on houses of worship by local and state governments - rules that were both more restrictive and longer-lasting than those placed on many secular venues and businesses," wrote Katie Geary, Becket Fund. (2)

 

Many Americans are asking - What limits does the U.S. Constitution place on the government's suppression of religious liberty during a global health emergency, and what can believers do to secure their right to religious worship? (3)   The U.S. Supreme Court has considered these questions based on precedent and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.   We ask - Why did the founding generation protect religious liberty? (4)

 

The history of humanity is intertwined with faith and fundamental religious values that led to the modern understanding of human rights.  "Because their ancestors had escaped religious persecution in Europe, the founding generation saw the need to protect religion and viewed morality as necessary to the nation's success," wrote Prof. Anthony Koenc, Dallas College of Law. (5)  The First Amendment placed religion in a special category, uniquely shielding it from government interference.

 

"No doubt an emergency on the scale of COVID-19 justifies strong measures to protect the public, but we cannot lose sight of the fact that many of these measures are extraordinary assertions of government power that can dramatically constrain our basic freedoms.  The power of government must have limits."  Elder David Bednar, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (6)

(becketlaw.org/index/2021(1); dailycallernews.org, 4/22/22(2); accessiblelaw.intdallas.edu, 4/26/21(3)(4)(5);catholicnewsagency.com, 11/13/20; news.byu.edu, 6/18/20(6)

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways: then will I hear them from heaven, and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”      2 Chronicles 7:14

 

In a time of global religious revival, people of faith in many countries also face significant ongoing persecution and denial of any religious freedom.  The same trends - expansion of religious zeal and religious repression - apply particularly to Christians.  The majority of countries in which Christianity is growing are located in Africa, Eastern Asia, and the Arabian Peninsula.  None of the top 20 is found in Europe, North America or Latin America.  Still, Christianity is the most widely practiced religion in the world with approximately 1/3 of the global population.

 

Even though the number of atheists has increased worldwide, a new 2022 report from Lifeway Research shows the world's population of religious people is growing even faster with more Christians now living in Africa than any other continent and Christianity is growing faster there than any other place in the world.  

 

Why is Christianity growing faster in Africa as well as in China where persecution and attacks on religious freedom are the most extreme?   Research organizations point to the success of underground churches, evangelization, more than 90 million Bibles printed this year alone, as well as over a million Christian martyrs in a 10-year period.  Many will quote Tertullian, the 2nd century Christian author who wrote, "Blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church."

 

Religious revival is sorely needed in America today where a recent survey by the Freedom Forum showed only 14% of Americans consider religious freedom to be the most important freedom.  The religious revival in the colonies from the 1730s - 1740s, called the First Great Awakening, inspired Benjamin Franklin to write,

 

"Revival changes a nation from the inside out.   It was wonderful to see the change soon made in the manners of our inhabitants.  From being thoughtless or indifferent about religion, it seemed as if all the world were growing religious."

 

(baptiststandard.com, 10/4/17; 1.cbn.com, 2/4/22; christianpost.com, 3/24/21; doulospartners.org, 4/5/18;  washingtontimes.com, 2/1/21; cbsnews.com, 11/17/17; christianitydaily.com, 7/26/21)

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me."  Psalm 51 

Preserving Religious Freedom for all, "in 2021 the U.S. Supreme Court granted a historic ruling (Tandon v. Newsom), ensuring the constitutional right to worship for all Americans.” (1).  This was yet another ruling meant to protect the foundational right to religious liberty in America and will ensure freedom for all churches to join the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) plans for "Eucharistic Revival."

 

"In a spiritual sense, 'Revival' means coming to life, an awakening as the mighty Spirit of God that brings new life to His Body the Church and to us as individuals who are part of that grand fellowship.  It means a stirring of our hearts to the very core of our being - which results in joy," wrote Guidelines.org.(2)

 

"At every level of the three-year process, we will engage partnerships with ministries, apostolates and catechetical organizations to animate events at the local level and provide formation and resources for all ages and stages of faith," according to USCCB preliminary documents.(3)  

 

Beginning on June 19, 2022, diocese across the country will be encouraged to hold Eucharistic events with a primary focus on providing free teaching materials on the Eucharist.    The following year, in July, 2023, parishes will be encouraged to do the same.  "Grassroots creativity" will be encouraged.(4)

 

"We want to encourage every parish to think about increasing Eucharistic adoration as part of the life of this revival," said Bishop Cozzens.  "There's a strong sense among those who work with young people that the encounter (with Jesus) happens profoundly through Eucharistic adoration.(5)

 

(freedomrevival.org, 1/8/22(1); guidelines.org((2); angelusnews.com, 6/7/21(3); ncregister.com, 6/29/21(4)(5)

 

"If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven  and will forgive their sins and heal their land."  2 Chronicles 7:14

"I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."   John 6:51

The Bishops of the United States (USCCB) are calling for a three-year grassroots revival of devotion and belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist called, "Eucharistic Revival: My Flesh for the Life of the World."  Religious freedom in America, a fundamental and foundational right, guaranteed in the Constitution, protects this initiative to "start a fire" (1), beginning on June 19, 2022, and culminating in December, 2024.

 

The Bishops propose to invite U.S. Catholics of all ages to become part of a national movement "to renew the Church by enkindling a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist," said Bishop Andrew Cozzens, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis. (2)  This revival could be a time of healing for the entire church and a reawakening of understanding of the sacrament of the Eucharist. (3)

 

"One of the signs that the Holy Spirit is behind this is the incredible reception that so many different apostolates and movements have given to this idea," said Bishop Cozzens. (4 )  The development of the plan was spurred by a 2019 Pew Research study that found only about 30% of U.S. Catholics believe the Church's teaching that the Eucharist is truly the body and blood of Christ.

 

"I really believe our country and our world needs revival right now.  In fact, each of us do. We get revived by the Sacraments and Sacramentals we use.  We get revived by each other, our families, and thousands of (faithful) men and women...", wrote Fr. Richard Heilman. (5)  This Eucharistic Revival within the Catholic Church could be the impetus for a national faith revival and a return to the vibrant religious liberty inherent in our Judeo-Christian roots.

(thecentralminnesotacatholic.org, 8/2/21(2); nrconline.org, 11/17/21(4); catholicnewsagency.com, 6/18/21(3)(1); novenaforournation.com, 1/19/22(5)

 

"The devotion to the Eucharist is the most noble, because it has God as its object; it is the most profitable for salvation, because it gives us the Author of Grace; it is the sweetest, because the Lord is Sweetness itself."      St. Pius X

"All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience  to remain silent." - Edmund Burke

 

Religious Exemptions for Navy SEALS: Denied

 

Recent Update:  The Supreme Court has upheld the administration’s move to block two lower court rulings that protected Navy SEALS who applied for religious accommodation in refusing the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.  The lower courts had affirmed there is no military or pandemic exception to the Constitution and the protections of the Bill of Rights, First Amendment - Freedom of Religion.   However, the Supreme Court ruled the Commander-in-Chief, not a judge, is ultimately in charge of the armed forces.

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito accused the majority of doing a "great injustice to the 35 respondents ... who have volunteered to undertake demanding and hazardous duties to defend our country ..."  (1)

Thousands of administrative and medical exemptions to the COVID-19 shot were approved but, as of February 2022, only three religious exemptions were approved.

 

Supreme Court to Hear Case of Web Designer

 

During the October, 2022 term, the Supreme Court will hear the case of Colorado web designer, Lorie Smith, who hopes to expand her business to include designing wedding websites. Ms. Smith designs websites for the needs of all her clients but does not want to design wedding websites for couples celebrating same-sex unions since this would go against her religious convictions.  However, the 10th Circuit Court is claiming to uphold the Colorado law that prohibits speech that would support discrimination.

"She cannot create websites that promote messages contrary to her faith, ...," according to the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) petition.  "Lorie respectfully refers such requests to other web designers. (2)

"The government doesn't have the power to silence or compel creative expression under the threat of punishment," said ADF.  "It's shocking that the 10th Circuit would permit Colorado to punish artists whose speech isn't in line with state-approved ideology." (3)

 

Get Ready for Religious Awakening and Revival!

 

On the Feast of Corpus Christi (June 19, 2022), the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is launching a three-year campaign for "Eucharistic Revival." (4)

The Church's first great revival occurred when 3,000 came to Christ on the day of Pentecost, likely on May 24, A.D. 33.  That beginning was a foretaste of what would happen time after time throughout history.  By the year 300 approximately 14 million called themselves Christian, and by 500 the number neared 40 million.  (5)

 

(lifesitenews.com, 3/25/22(1); dailycaller.com, 3/25/22; washingtonexaminer.com,1/27/22; aleteia.org, 2/23/22(2); usatoday.com, 2/22/22(3; thedenverchannel.com, 2/22/22; usgraceforce.com, 2/2/22(4); decision magazine.com, 5/5/05(5)

 

“Faith is to believe what you do not see.  The reward of faith is to see what you believe.”

-St. Augustine of Hippo

“In all his activity, a man is bound to follow his conscience in order that he may come to God, the end and purpose of life.” “It follows that he is not to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his conscience.”
-Abp. Broglio, Abp. for the Military Services, quoting Gaudium et Spes

 

A group of Navy SEALS and other Naval Special Warfare service members are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold an injunction that temporarily blocks the U. S. Navy from enforcing the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.  The plaintiffs initially sued the Navy for not granting religious accommodations to the military-wide vaccine mandate.  Subsequently, both a district and an appeals court acted in favor of the SEALS, affirming there is no military or pandemic exception to the Constitution. 

 

However, in March, 2022, the administration asked the Court to lift the lower federal court order protecting the Navy SEALS from being punished for requesting religious accommodation to the vaccine mandate.  "In other words, the government asked for permission to continue punishing religious service members while the case is being heard," wrote First Liberty Institute. (1)

 

"Despite over 99% of the Navy being vaccinated, the Navy has not granted a single religious exemption for the COVID-19 vaccination...while granting hundreds of exemptions for secular reasons," said Counsel for First Liberty. (2)  "It is our hope that the Supreme Court will reject the administration's punitive approach and respect the religious liberty of our clients," First Liberty stressed. (3)

 

More Hope for Religious Awakening and Revival:

Pope Francis Consecrates Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Excerpts from the Consecration on March 25, 2022:

 

"Oh Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, in this time of trial we turn to you. ... 

"We have strayed from the path of peace.  We have forgotten the lesson learned from the tragedies of the last century, the sacrifice of the millions who fell in two world wars. ...

"Holy Mother, amid the misery of our sinfulness, amid our struggles and weaknesses, amid the mystery of iniquity that is evil and war, you remind us that God never abandons us, ...

"Therefore, Mother of God and our Mother, to your Immaculate Heart we solemnly entrust and consecrate ourselves, the Church and all humanity, especially Russia and Ukraine.   Accept this act that we carry out with confidence and love.  Grant that war may end and peace spread throughout the world. ..."  Amen

 

(firstliberty.org, 3/18/22(1)(3); americanmilitarynews.com, 3/18/22(2); libertynewsflash, 3/8/22; christianitydaily.com, 3/23/22)

"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

 

"I can't practice. I've closed my clinics for the month.  I can't see my patients.  I just can't help anyone," said Sister Dierdre Byrne, a board-certified physician-surgeon and retired U.S. Army colonel. (1)  "Sr. Dierdre has sought - and been denied - a religious exemption from DCs health worker COVID-19 vaccination mandate," explained Thomas More Society in their March 9, 2022, lawsuit.  "All three COVID-19 vaccines approved in the U.S. have been tested, developed, or produced with cell lines derived from abortions, something to which Sr. Dierdre has deep and sincere religious opposition." (2)  "The suit against (Mayor) Bowser and DC Health (the district’s health department) is based upon the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, both of which protect Sr. Dierdre's fundamental right to the free exercise of her religion," said attorney Christopher Ferrara. .(3)

 

A few days later, Sister Dierdre was notified by letter that her license was now once again active until September but that, "If at a later date the director finds that it is in the best interest of public health, the exemption granted to you may be rescinded." (4)   The issues in the lawsuit were not resolved and were replaced by a new standard: "You can practice until we say otherwise." (5)

 

"No American should be forced to choose between their religion and their job," said First Liberty Counsel, defending Postal Carrier Gerald Groff, an Evangelical Christian, who was denied a religious accommodation and forced to work on Sundays, which is against his deeply held religious beliefs requiring him to honor the Sabbath. (6)  "USPS should have recognized Gerald's deeply held religious beliefs ..." (7) After an accommodation was denied, Gerald resigned from his position and filed a federal lawsuit arguing that he had been a victim of discrimination in that the postal service failed to provide an appropriate accommodation. (8) The Third Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in January and this religious freedom case awaits a decision.

 

Hope for Religious Revival Continues

Many churches in many states have begun planning and promoting "Religious Revival" in their communities.  A recent campaign comes from Woonsocket, Rhode Island as the Firm Foundation Christian Church invites all to their Spring Revival in May, 2022, as they proclaim, "Be a part of what God is doing." (9)

 

(thomasmoresociety.org, 3/10/22(1)(2); catholicnewsagency.com, 3/11/22(1)(3); nationalcatholicregister.com, 3/13/22(4)(5); firstliberty.org, 1/25/22(6)(7); law&crime.com, 1/26/22(8); patch.com, Rhode Island (9)

 

“…our rulers can have authority over such natural rights only as we have submitted to them. The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit.

We are answerable for them to our God.”   - Thomas Jefferson

“If Virtue & Knowledge are diffused among the People, they will never be enslav’d.  This will be their great security.”  - Samuel Adams

The University of Nebraska, Lincoln (UNL), chapter of the evangelical Christian student group, Ratio Christi, is suing the university, claiming it was discriminated against when it was denied funding for a talk by philosopher, Robert Audi, former UNL professor for 30 years, now teaching at Notre Dame.  The student group filed the lawsuit claiming "viewpoint discrimination" after university officials denied a funding request of $1,500 in student activity funding for the event.  Prof. Audi's talk was titled "Is Belief in God Rational Given the Evils of This World?" (1)  The school claimed funding could not be used for "speakers of a political and ideological nature."  (2)

 

"Defendants spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in student fees each year to pay for speakers and other events promoting political and ideological viewpoints on topics like sexual orientation, social justice, police reform, and political activism," the lawsuit reads. (3)   Gov. Pete Ricketts urged UNL to support "speakers from a wide variety of viewpoints on campus, including Christian speakers."

 

The College of the Ozarks, a private, Christian college, awaits a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals, one step below the U.S. Supreme Court, in its lawsuit against the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and its directive forcing colleges and universities to open their dorms, bathrooms, and showers to members of the opposite sex.  By requiring colleges covered by the Fair Housing Act to not "discriminate" based on sexual orientation or gender identity, this directive forces religious schools to violate their beliefs.

 

"Religious freedom is under attack in America, and we won't stand on the sidelines and watch," said college president, Dr. Jerry C. Davis.  "To threaten religious freedom is to threaten America itself.  College of the Ozarks will not allow politicians to erode this essential American right or the ideals that shaped America's founding." (4)

 

Hope for Religious Revival in America from College Students

Christian Union Universities is launching a campaign from March 13 - May 7, 2022, to share the gospel with 70,000 students at the nation's most influential and secular schools - Brown University, Columbia Un., Cornell Un., Dartmouth College, Harvard College, Harvard Law School, Un. of Pennsylvania, Princeton Un., Stanford Un., and Yale Un. The goal is to ensure that every student hears the gospel three times through social media platforms. (5)

 

(dailynous.com, 11/5/21(1); thechristianpost.com, 11/3/21(2)(3); campusreform.org, 12/8/21; adf.org, 4/20/21(4); conservativehq.com, 1/26/22, dayandnight.org, 2/25/22(5)

"God allows me to be here for a witness to the entire world, to show what happens when you kick God out of your nation.  Lawlessness, injustice, abuse of power and corruption creeped in," said Pastor Artur Pawlowski, after being imprisoned in February for attempting to preach and minister to truckers in the Freedom Convoy along the U.S.-Canada border. (1)  Pastor Pawlowski's son said, "they (police) were staking out our home for hours, waiting for him to leave the house and they grabbed him ... right before he could perform his duties as a clergyman."  (2)  Law enforcement told the pastor he was under arrest for "mischief."

 

For two years, Pastor Pawlowski has been standing up for the right to hold church services during the Covid lockdowns and has been repeatedly arrested and imprisoned.

 

"He is not the first pastor to be targeted and persecuted for speaking the truth in the face of tyranny and injustice," wrote Standing for Freedom Center.  "Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was labeled a public safety risk by the FBI.  Pope John Paul II, who inspired the Solidarity Movement (in Poland) was considered so dangerous by the Soviet Union that the KGB tried to have him assassinated... Rumanian Pastor Richard Wurmbrand was imprisoned and tortured for 14 years for publicly declaring that his only loyalty was to Christ and that he would never place the state or the party above Him." (3)

 

Hope for Religious Revival in America

"We can feel and sense the rumblings of revival, and when I say revival, I mean people's hearts turning back to God," said Donna Stands-Over-Bull of the Crow Tribe.  "There's a lot of broken areas, broken communities, and our communities are rampant with drugs," said Stands-Over-Bull describing the plight of Native Americans. (4)  

"We've been having healing revivals over the on-line church.  God's been healing through social media," said Russell Stands-Over-Bull, senior pastor of Arrow Creek TV e-church. (5)

 

"One of the marvels of American history is how the country was born between two of the greatest revivals in history," wrote Robert J. Morgan, teaching pastor and author of 100 Bible Verses That Made America.  "The First Great Awakening prepared the Colonies for Independence, and the Second Great Awakening solidified the moral and spiritual foundation for the future."  (7)

"Today our nation's problems are not primarily political but spiritual.   And the answers are not found in our politics but in the hope of another spiritual return to God." (8)

 

(foxnews.com, 2/24/22(1); thechristianpost.com, 2/10/22(2); standingforfreedom.com, 2/22/22(3); theancestory.com, 2/18/22; 1.cbn.com, 2/2/22(4)(5); standingforfreedom.com, 2/24/22(7)(8)

 

A Prayer for Revival in America:

Father, as your children, your faithful remnant, we come before you today to confess our sins.  We recognize our wrongdoing and admit to You that we have been calling right wrong, and wrong right, and have even legalized evil. Father, help us in our desperate hour of need. Without you we are lost.  Intervene on our behalf.  We ask this in Jesus Name.  Amen

"Part of the scary thing about what's happening in Finland is that it could happen anywhere else," said human rights lawyer Paul Coleman. (1)  Coleman cautioned that the Finnish cases are the "canary in the coalmine" for freedom of speech and freedom of religion in the Western world.

 

If the court finds them guilty, two Christians in Finland face fines or up to two years in prison and thus would set the precedent of making quoting the Bible a criminal offense in Western countries.   Dr. Paivi Rasanen, member of Parliament (2011-2015), physician and mother of five and Bishop Juhana Pohjola of the Lutheran Mission Diocese in Finland, were charged with incitement against a minority group for publishing a pamphlet, "Male and Female He Created Them," that states the theological and scientific truth that men and women are different.   Bishop Pohjola warned that "the Gospel of Christ is at stake" as Western governments liken the Bible’s teachings about marriage and sexuality to "hate speech." (2)

 

"The Prosecutors main idea seems to be that the Bible should not be taught in its own right in public, and that freedom of religion does not allow permission to speak out loud if what is said is considered to discriminate against a minority group," said Bishop Pohjola.     "In this view, biblical teachings on marriage, sexuality, sin, and mercy could not be proclaimed publicly.  This is an attack on religious freedom." (3)

 

"Although (the Prosecutor) stated this was not about the Bible or about freedom of religion or opinions, she went quite deeply into theological issues," said Bishop Pohjola. (4)  Throughout her argumentation and questioning, the Prosecutor returned repeatedly to discussions of the nature of scripture, the defendant's interpretation of texts, and the Christian understanding of sin.

 

The defendants rejected all charges against them as false, arguing that the pamphlet in question and Christian teaching does not consider (minority groups) different before God.  "All (people) are of equal worth, and all are under sin, and all are under grace," explained Bishop Pohjola.  "We all have the same position before God ...(all) are welcome in our churches, to live in contact with Christ, and to find their identity - just as each of us should find our identity - as the creation of God, redeemed by Jesus Christ." (5)

 

"It is incredible this trial is happening in a modern European country and not in a religious theocracy," said Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) International. (6)   The court will announce its verdict on March 30, 2022.

 (thefederalist.com, 1/24/22(1); ncregister.com, 2/16/22(2)(6); lic-online.org, 2/14/22(3)(4)(5); 

christianpost.com, 11/11/21; citizengo.org, 2/8/22)

 

"It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible."

-George Washington

" A religion that doesn't interfere with the secular order will soon discover that the secular order will not refrain from interfering with it."      Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Before April 2022 Catholics and Americans of all faiths must learn, pray, speak out, and act.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) seeks to reverse and dismantle the

Affordable Care Act (ACA) religious liberty protections that were implemented in 2017 as well as the 2020 clarification of discrimination criteria.  The proposed new rule would add an "expansive definition" of discrimination on the basis of sex.  "Via this redefinition of sexual discrimination, all health-care entities must participate in the provision of abortions, sterilizations, contraception, (and) gender-transition services." (1)  Adding "sexual orientation and gender identity" to the ACA would require insurers to cover transgender surgeries, cross sex hormones and puberty blockers as "medically necessary gender-affirming care" without the ability to investigate religious freedom complaints. (2)

 

This new HHS rule, if approved, would allow no religious exemptions, and would force many medical professionals to violate their medical expertise and religious convictions.  HHS advises in court documents that it expects this rule to be enacted in April 2022.

In late 2017, the administration delegated to the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) broad authority to enforce violations of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).  "Prior to the delegation in 2017, no division was singularly responsible for the Department's compliance with RFRA or the First Amendment," wrote OCR Director Lisa Pino. (3)

 

Also, in June 2020, HHS issued a final rule that affirmed it cannot discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, age or sex.  HHS "did not create new protected categories under civil rights law," and determined that sex discrimination does not include gender identity or sexual

orientation. (4)  Sex neuroscientist, Debra Soh, explains that the term "gender" is a social and psychological correlate to sex and connotes "masculine" and "feminine."  But gender is not a biological characteristic as is "male" and "female," nor is it equivalent to the inherent, biological characteristics of race, color, etc.

 

This plan would "effectively remove all religious considerations from issues around life, family, marriage, the very nature of men and women," said Doug Wilson, from Catholic Benefits Association.  "This isn't a Catholic issue; this is a religious issue.  This will impact everyone religious, and, essentially, they're saying that your beliefs have no standing in this discussion." (5)

 (ncregister.com, 11/24/21(1)(5); dailycitizen.com, 2/4/22(2); christianpost.com, 11/17/21(3); hhs.gov, 6/12/20; asha.org, 6/16/20(4)

 

 Pope Francis appealed that freedom of conscience “always and everywhere be respected.”            June 17, 2020

If we are to guard against ignorance and remain free, it is the responsibility of every American to be informed."   Thomas Jefferson

 

As both religious freedom and personal freedom are being threatened or denied in businesses, the military, health care, schools, and churches, a new national group has formed to monitor religious liberty in the U.S.

 

The National Committee for Religious Freedom was launched on January 18, 2022, by Sam Brownback, former U.S. ambassador for international religious freedom from 2018-2020, who said that any weakening of the fundamental right to religious liberty in the U.S. will have detrimental effects overseas.  A number of religious leaders joined the committee that plans to organize nationally in each of the 50 states to "conduct educational campaigns about the necessity and the beauty of this sacred human right. ... Sadly, the human right of religious freedom is under attack," said Brownback, who also served as governor and senator from Kansas. (1)

 

Religious freedom is "being attacked by cultural and political elites who demand that religion be removed from our public life," said Thomas Farr, President of the Religious Freedom Institute.  They "defame as bigots and haters those with whom they disagree on matters of religion and public policy and public morality." (2)

 

This new group compliments the work of Catholics for Freedom of Religion (CFFR), founded in 2012, with its mission as a grassroots, lay ministry, to teach the facts of the First Amendment and religious freedom.  "We strive to educate every generation of Americans about our Freedom of Religion ... how rare it is, how dearly it was purchased for us and how quickly it can be lost."  This right includes the right to free exercise of conscience in every area of our lives.  "If we do not understand what freedom of religion correctly means, it can be eased away from us one word and one regulation at a time.  We would forfeit what God has provided and the Constitution has protected," wrote Barbara Samuells, president of CFFR. (3)

 

"It seems there is a real danger to religious freedom now in our country - mostly because people aren't serious about religion, or religious freedom."     Archbishop Charles Chaput

 

(aleteia.org, 1/25/22(1)(2); deseret.com, 1/19/22; copticssolidarity.org, 1/26/22 ;

Catholics For Freedom of Religion mission statement (3)

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Advocating for Religious Freedom for All

 February 20, 2022

A parent lawsuit, brought by the Thomas More Society, forced California to drop a public school curriculum requirement that had students praying to Aztec gods.  The curriculum included a section of "Affirmations, Chants, and Energizers," that prayed to five Aztec deities by name and title "that were invoked when the Aztecs worshipped with human sacrifices," said the special counsel.(1)  The prayers and chants recognized these deities as sources of power and knowledge, invoked their assistance, and gave thanks to them.

 

"The Aztec prayers at issue - which seek blessings from and the intercession of these demonic forces - were not being taught as poetry or history," said Thomas More Society.   "Rather, The Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum instructed students to chant the prayers for emotional nourishment after a 'lesson that may be emotionally taxing or even when student engagement may appear to be low.'  The idea was to use them as prayers." (2)

 

"We are encouraged by this important, hard-fought victory.  Our state has simply gone too far to promote fringe ideologies and racial grievance policies, even those that disregard established constitutional principles," said attorneys for the CA Equal Rights Foundation. (3)

 

"Satan Clubs" Causing Controversy in Public Schools

School officials and parents are trying to decide how to deal with what are being called "Satan Clubs" cropping up in schools, specifically in Illinois and Ohio, in a mistaken belief that these clubs have First Amendment Religious Freedom rights.  They do not.

 

Recently, a K-5 school in Lebanon, Ohio, that historically made space available for an after-school Christian program called "Good News" has provided space to a club calling itself "The Satanic Temple After-School Satan Club." (4)

 

"The district does not and is not legally allowed to discriminate against any groups who wish to rent our facilities, including religiously-affiliated groups," said a district spokesperson (5)  However, satanism is the opposite of religion since it directly attacks the foundation of religion - "the existence of a Creator who is the source of unalienable rights." (6)

"(Satan) is a liar and the father of lies."   John 8:44

"Satan disguises himself as an angel of light."  2 Corinthians 11:14

 

(cnsnews.com, 1/17/22(1); thechristianpost.com, 1/17/22(2); gvwire.com, 1/19/22(3); wkbn.com, 1/21/22(4)(5); returntoorder.com, 1/30/22; local12.com/news. 1/21/22; thecatholicthing.org, 5/6/17(6))

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

A Win for Genuine Religious Freedom in CA Schools

 February 13, 2022

An "After School Satan Club" for students in grades 1-5 was approved by the Moline-Coal Valley School District in Illinois on Jan. 10, 2022. Parents and the community are concerned these clubs pose a serious danger to children by promoting satanism as normal and acceptable. The Satanic Temple sponsoring the club claims 1st Amendment religious freedom protections.

 

However, Satanism is the antithesis of a religion and not eligible for religious protection. "Indeed, protecting Satanism reflects a thought process foreign to the logic of religious freedom in the U.S. Constitution," wrote attorney Gunnar Gundersen. (1)   "Its goal is to produce a society where religion is no longer viewed as a duty or unalienable right.  Thus, granting Satanism religious-freedom protections undermines rather than strengthens religious-freedom rights by directly attacking their foundation:  the existence of a Creator who is the source of unalienable rights." (2)

 

"It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as he believes to be acceptable to him.  This duty is precedent...to the claims of Civil Society.”  James Madison

(thecatholicthing.org, 5/6/17(1)(2); returntoorder.org, 1/23/22; theconversation.com, 3/5/20; bbc.com, 8/23/19; crux.com, 1/19/22; CFFR press release 1/16/22; presidency.ucsb.edu)

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Does 1st Amendment “Freedom of Religion” Protect Satanism in Public Schools?

 February 6, 2022

"Let us preserve freedom.  Let us cherish freedom.  Freedom of conscience,  Religious Freedom, the freedom of each person, each family, each people, which is what gives rise to rights."    -Pope Francis

 

"The federal government has no business to create a database of people who file religious exemptions," said Liberty Counsel, a religious freedom legal aid nonprofit, upon learning about this newest government policy that will begin tracking all federal employees who file for religious exemption to the Covid vaccine, beginning on Feb. 10, 2022. (1)  

 

"Knowing who files for religious exemptions serves no legitimate purpose," said Liberty Counsel.  "A federal agency compiling a database of people who take their faith seriously sets a bad precedent, (and is) hostile to religious freedom." (2)

 

Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Case of HS Coach Fired for Praying on Field

"No teacher or coach should lose their job for simply expressing their faith while in public," said Kelly Shackelford, First Liberty law firm. (3)  "By taking this important case, the Supreme Court can protect the right of every American to engage in private religious expression, including praying in public, without fear of punishment." (4)

 

In 2016, Coach Kennedy sued the school district after being suspended in 2015 for his practice of praying silently for 15-seconds on the football field 50-yard line after games.  He accused school officials of violating his religious freedom.  Kennedy said he hoped he would "soon be able to be back on the field coaching the game and players I love." (5)

 

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Happening Now:  Praying for Religious Faith & Freedom at Renewal 2022

On Jan. 8, 2022, in Plant City, FL, many Christian pastors, leaders and believers from around the nation joined in a rally designed to be the beginning of a movement to renew faith and religious freedom in America.  The hope is to inspire our nation to come back to God through a revival similar to the great faith awakenings of past centuries.  

"I believe in this darkest hour of American history, we're about to see the greatest move of God ever, as dark and light converge in this epic battle of (our) times," said Rev. Kevin Jessip, organizer of the event.  "The whole world is watching America and what we're doing; it’s crucially important that we begin to turn back to God.  He is the answer." (6)

 

(tiogapublishing.com, 1/14/22(1)(2); heritage.org, 1/12/22; christianpost.com, 1/15/22(3)(4)(5); firstliberty.org, 1/15/22; msn.com 1/15/22; washingtontimes.com, 12/27/21(6); operationrestoredwarrior.org, 1/8/22)

 

"He changes the times and the seasons; He gives wisdom to the wise  and knowledge to those who have understanding."  -Daniel 2:21

"When we assumed the Soldier, we did not lay aside the citizen."  -George Washington, 1775

 

More than 12,000 military service members seeking a religious exemption to the Covid vaccine had all been denied an exemption until one resounding victory to 35 Navy SEALs on Jan. 3, 2022.  Federal Judge Reed O'Connor found that, "the Covid-19 pandemic provides the government no license to abrogate" the freedoms of any American. "The Plaintiffs' loss of religious liberties outweighs any forthcoming harm to the Navy.  Even the direst circumstances cannot justify the loss of constitutional rights." (1)

 

"No longer can the Navy force service members to choose between their faith and serving their country," said Mike Berry, representing the 35 SEALs on behalf of First Liberty Institute.  "If religious freedom means anything, it must mean that those who are sworn to protect our freedoms should not be forced to lose those very same freedoms."(2)  "Of the thousands of religious exemptions that have been sought (the military) has not approved a single one.  That is textbook discrimination," Berry said. (3)

 

"My clients believe that the usage of fetal cell lines derived from abortions in the testing and development of any medical treatment is wrong," said attorney R. Davis Younts.  "Interestingly, the Covid-19 vaccines have caused many individuals to learn about this unethical practice for the first time and they intend to take a stand against this practice in the future." (4)

-------

Happening Now: Still Waiting for Court Date and Justice for Masked Student (5)

Lydia Booth, a 3rd grader at Simpson Central School in Mississippi in 2020, was forced to remove her mask that said "Jesus Loves Me", even though school officials allowed students to wear a wide variety of other messages on their masks including sports team logos and "Black Lives Matter." (6)  Lydia said of the mask, "It makes me feel like I'm protected by Jesus." (7)

After Lydia's mother did research, she found there was no school policy against expressing religious beliefs on a mask although school officials told her this is the policy. Lydia's First Amendment right to free speech and religious freedom had been violated.  Their Alliance Defending Freedom counsel said, "We're seeing administrators all over the place trying to shut down speech.  They have many different reasons for doing it, but we're seeing a lot of Christian and conservative viewpoints being marginalized." (8)

 

(armedforcesconnect.org, 1/5/22(1)(4); presscorp.org, 1/4/22(2); beckernews.com, 1/3/22(3); abcnews.go.com, 12/19/21; heritage.org, 1/5/22; adflegal.org,, 12/20/21(5); adflegal.org, 11/2/20(6);

christianitytoday.com, 5/18/21(7); adflegal.org, 10/5/21(8)

 

"If I can sit down for freedom, you can stand up for children."    Rosa Park

The President has declared January 16 as Religious Freedom Day every year since 1993 in commemoration of the 1786 Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom. This legislation, drafted by Thomas Jefferson, was the model for the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution.

 

An easy- to- understand paraphrase of Jefferson's lexicon, written for young school children to understand, would be: "God created us to be free in our thinking.  He is all-powerful but He chose not to force us to obey Him....Truth is a wonderful thing.  Truth can defend itself if you just let it be told.  People need to be free to talk about what they believe is the truth about God." (1)

 

Too many school age children and their parents are unaware of the ”Big Secret: America's Public Schools ARE NOT "God-Free Zones.” This truth is taught in the 9 minute “Students of Faith” video from Catholics for Freedom of Religion on our home page at www.cffor.org.  The student actors and the narrator  explain the origins of religious freedom in America, the importance of Religious Freedom Day and the rights of students to live their faith in many ways throughout their school day.

.

All presidents, since 1993, have issued a Proclamation on Religious Freedom Day: "Be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives ...that January 16, 1993, is designated as Religious Freedom Day (and the President calls on) all people of the U.S. to celebrate their religious freedom..." -President George H.W. Bush, 1993 Proclamation

 

"Religious freedom helps to give America's people a character independent of their government, fostering the formation of individual codes of ethics, without which a democracy cannot survive." -President Bill Clinton, 1994 Proclamation

 

"Religious freedom is a cornerstone of our Republic, a core principle of our Constitution, and a fundamental human right." -President George W. Bush, 2002 Proclamation

 

"Faith can bring us closer to one another, and our freedom to practice our faith and follow our conscience is central to our ability to live in harmony." -President Barack Obama, 2010 Proclamation

                                                                                                             

 

"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." -President Donald Trump, 2020 Proclamation

 

(gogateways.org/religiousFreedomDay (1); religiousfreedomday.com; nationaltoday.com; cffor.org)

 

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.            USCCB - Prayer for Religious Liberty

Jan.16, National Religious Freedom Day, Highlights the Freedom to Choose Life

 

"Our forefathers, seeking refuge from religious persecution, believed in the eternal truth that freedom is not a gift from government, but a sacred right from Almighty God."

January 16, 2018, Presidential Proclamation on Religious Freedom Day

 

"Each year, since 1993, the President declares January 16th to be Religious Freedom Day and calls upon Americans to observe this day through appropriate events and activities in homes, schools, and places of worship.

"The day is the anniversary of the passage of the Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom in 1786.  Thomas Jefferson drafted the statute and considered it one of his greatest achievements....

"The men who drafted the U.S. Constitution leaned heavily on Jefferson's statute in establishing the First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom.  Today, that protection is as important as ever." (1)

 

(gogateways.org/religious freedom day (1); religiousfreedomday.com; nationaltoday.com; cffor.org

 

Happening Now: Prayer from U.S. Catholic Bishops

Our 1st  Amendment Freedom of Religion guarantees the freedom of conscience and free exercise of faith which empowers us to live our beliefs such as the choice for life.  Taxpayers, including health care providers, cannot be forced to provide goods and services which violate their sincerely held religious beliefs.  The Dobbs case, now before the Supreme Court, will affirm or deny freedom of conscience.

Regarding the Dobb’s case, Abp. William E. Lori, chairman of the USCCB’S Committee on Pro-Life Activities, issued the following statement: "In the United States, abortion takes the lives of over 600,000 babies every year. Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health could change that. We pray that the Court will do the right thing and allow states to once again limit or prohibit abortion, and in doing so protect millions of unborn children and their mothers from this painful, life-destroying act. We invite all people of good will to uphold the dignity of human life by joining us in prayer and fasting for this important case.  (www.usccb.org/news/2021)

"Only in prayer - prayer that storms the heavens for justice and mercy, prayer that cleanses our hearts and souls - will the culture of death that surrounds us today be replaced with a culture of life."   (www.usccb.org)

Please join Catholics for Freedom of Religion in prayer for the success of the annual March for Life on Jan. 21, in Washington D.C.

"For many today, religious liberty is not a cherished freedom.  It pains me to say this, but in certain quarters, religious liberty is fast becoming a disfavored right." -Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito

 

Religious liberty is increasingly under attack by those who believe it cannot and should not coexist with our other freedoms.  However, religious freedom is a God given, fundamental human right and an American value enshrined in our Constitution and protected by the Bill of Rights as the First Freedom, the foundation-stone for all other freedoms.

 

“It’s the duty of everyone to defend religious freedom and promote it for all people.” -Pope Francis

 

Catholics for Freedom of Religion was founded in 2012 in response to an awareness of the increased threats to religious freedom.   These Catholic Americans, who were mostly retired professionals, enjoying time with their families and volunteering in their communities, were alarmed by the government mandate that forced employers to provide abortion-inducing drugs, contraception and sterilization, as part of their health insurance.  These Americans recognized that this was an extreme denial of religious freedom and that it was unconstitutional.  The federal government was claiming the ability to deny First Amendment rights through regulations and excessive fines.  

 

Much like Paul Revere who, in 1775, rode through the countryside calling out to his neighbors to "wake up" to the imminent attack on their freedoms, Catholics for Freedom of Religion's mission is to draw attention to the ongoing assault and erosion of religious freedom in the U.S. and around the world.  For  ten years we have been building resources and inviting more volunteers to help educate our fellow Americans about the origin, facts and importance of religious freedom.  America’s liberties were purchased for us at a dear price but can easily be diminished and denied when we are not vigilant. To learn more and to get involved, visit www.cffor.org.

 

"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 Everett Hale (1822-1909) American author, historian, and minister

Freedom to Pray, to Serve, to Preach, to Assemble

Freedom to Adore Him, Jesus Christ, Our New-Born King

 

The American Nativity Scene organization, in its 9th year of partnership with the Thomas More Society, a religious-liberty law firm, are helping groups of private citizens across the nation to display Biblical manger scenes on government property again this Christmas.  This year, 40 state capital sites are participating in a 25% increase from last Christmas and nearly double the number from 2018.

 

Since 2013, with funding from an angel donor, the group has shipped more than 400 Nativity scenes for display at state capitals, city hall buildings and public parks. The group provides two-foot-high figures depicting the baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and an angel.  Local groups provide a manger and straw, then work with the staff at the government venues to obtain any needed permits.

 

"The ability to do this is a good response to what has happened in society the last couple of years," said Ed O'Malley, president of the American Nativity Scene in Illinois.  "One of the benefits is the people and their enthusiasm with it and their excitement about the opportunity to do something to freely exercise our faith in the public square.  That alone, I think, is important for our country and our world that we can do that.  Not every place in the world can let you do that, but here, that's the First Amendment, the free exercise of religious speech."(1)

 

Residents and visitors to New York City will once again be inspired by a life-size nativity scene in Central Park, on a piece of public property in front of the Plaza Hotel on 5th Ave.  The Catholic League has erected this display for decades.  Their president, Bill Donohue, explained that a public forum, a place that is open to all ideas, concerts, artistic exhibitions, etc., cannot stop them from erecting the creche.

 

(thomasmoresociety.org, 11/20/20; youtube.com, 12/8/21; theepochtimes.com, 12/6/21(1);

yournews.com, 12/6/21; catholicleague.org; alyssum.org, 12/9/21)

On Christmas morning we thank God for the gift of His only Son to free us from our sins.  As  Americans, we thank God for a nation founded on inalienable rights from our Creator  who inspired God-fearing founders to protect freedom of conscience for all faiths.

 

Wishing you a Blessed Christmas from Catholics for Freedom of Religion

1st amendment to the Constitution: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; asserting our right to welcome the Christ Child  openly and joyfully to hearts and homes.

“Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign:  The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel.”  - Isaiah 7:14

 

“Once in our world, a stable had something in it that was bigger than our whole world.”  - C.S. Lewis

 

“He was created of a mother whom He created.  He was carried by hands He formed.  He cried in a manger in wordless infancy, He the Word, without whom all human eloquence is mute.”  - St. Augustine

 

“I truly believe that if we keep telling the Christmas story, singing the Christmas songs, and living the Christmas spirit, we can bring joy and happiness and peace to this world.”  - Norman Vincent Peale

 

“The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.”  - C.S. Lewis

 

“At this Christmas when Christ comes, will He find a warm heart?  Mark the season of Advent by loving and serving the others with God’s own love and concern.”  - Mother Teresa

 

“God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.”  - St. Augustine

 

“We consider Christmas as the encounter, the great encounter, the historical encounter, the decisive

Encounter, between God and mankind.  He who has faith knows this truly; let him rejoice.” – Pope Paul VI

 

“Christmas is joy, religious joy, an inner joy of light and peace.”   - Pope Francis

 

“The simple shepherds heard the voice of an Angel and found their Lamb;

 the wise men saw the light of a star and found their wisdom.”  - Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

 

“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.  We have seen His glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  - John 1:14

 

 

Praying for peace and joy in your heart and home as you celebrate the coming of the Christ Child.

From the volunteers at Catholics for Freedom of Religion who work to help preserve

religious freedom for you and your children and their grandchildren.

"Religious freedom is the lifeblood of the American people, the cornerstone of American government."  - Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Religious freedom protects people's right to live, speak, and act according to their beliefs, peacefully and publicly.  It protects their ability to seek the truth about God and live according to those beliefs. Religious freedom is more than the "freedom to worship" at a synagogue, church, or mosque.  No other nation has America's robust protection of religious freedom in a Bill of Rights. (1)  Sadly, in recent decades, some government actions have encroached on this God given and Constitutional freedom.

 

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the idea that the government should or could compel any citizen to adopt any official belief in its 1943 decision, WV State Board of Ed.v. Barnette.  They wrote, “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion to force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein." (2)

 

Since the principles of religious freedom prevent the cultural majority from using the power of the state to impose their beliefs on others, both religious and nonreligious alike, the government cannot become so powerful that it can tell people what to think and how to act. (3)  This is especially important to know during this Christmas/Hanukkah holiday.

 

"The U.S. Supreme Court and numerous federal appeals courts have recognized that government entities may recognize Christmas as a holiday and may maintain Christmas displays that include both religious and secular symbols." (4)  

"Publicly sponsored Nativity scenes on public property are constitutional, especially when the display includes other secular symbols of the holiday.  In fact, removing only the religious symbols of the holiday display would demonstrate hostility toward religion, which the First Amendment forbids," said Liberty Counsel. (5)

(learningforjustice.org; religiousfreedominstitute.org, 11/1/19; heritage.org (1)(2)(3);

 usccb.org, libertycounsel.org, 4/1/21(4)(5)

 

"God never gives someone a gift they are not capable of receiving.  If He gives us the gift of Christmas, it is because we all have the ability to understand and receive it."   - Pope Francis

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

What, Exactly, is Religious Freedom?

And How Does This Affect Public Christmas Displays?

 December 12, 2021 

“Freedom is a gift and a personal responsibility.  It is a challenge held out to each generation and it must constantly be won over for the sake of good.”   - Pope Francis

More than half of Americans said that religion, spirituality, freedom and patriotism give meaning to their lives according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center. (1)

 

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty also conducted a survey, released on Nov. 17, 2021, that tracks trends across the full spectrum of opinions on American religious freedom, and this shows the support for the "principles of religious freedom" at a 3-year high. (2)

"As Americans bounce back from a divisive year, we see an increased commitment to a wide range of religious freedom principles," said Luke Goodrich, Becket senior counsel.  "This across-the-board support shows a renewed confidence that protecting religious exercise and expression benefits American culture and civic life." (3)

 

71%, representing more respondents than ever before, said they think that religious organizations in the community should be just as eligible to receive government funding as non-religious organizations. 62% believe that people of faith should be free to voice their religiously based opinion in public, even on controversial topics. (4)

 

The Becket report found strong opposition among respondents to the government taking adverse action against people or organizations for their free exercise of religion.  Certain racial minorities - African Americans and Hispanics - were more likely than other respondents to view religion as "part of the solution" in society. (5) "Support for religious liberty in America in 2021 is alive and well," the Becket report concludes. (6)

 

(washingtontimes.com, 11.24/21(1); becketlaw.org, (2)(3)(4); ncregister.com, 11/17/21(5)(6)

“A nation always gets the kind of politicians it deserves.  If ever a time comes when the religious Jews, Protestants and Catholics ever have to suffer under a totalitarian state which would deny them the right to worship God according to the light of their conscience, it will be because for years they thought it made no difference what kind of people represented them in Congress and they abandoned the spiritual in the realm of the temporal.” -Abp. Fulton J Sheen

“Religious freedom is not only that of private thought and worship.  It is the liberty to live, both publicly and privately, according to the ethical principles resulting from found truth.” -Pope Francis, June 20, 2014

Few Americans realize that New England's first form of government was collectivism (socialism) and practiced what Karl Marx would promote two centuries later as, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." (1)  The Pilgrims, a pious and decent people, discovered that even the best men cannot thrive under an incentive-crushing system.  Within two years of the First Thanksgiving, the colonists had reaped shortages and starvation.

 

Writing in the History of Plymouth Plantation, Gov. William Bradford said that with the survival of the colony at stake, they contemplated upon "how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still languish in misery." (2) They decided to abandon the collectivist model of government in favor of a more free model.  So - they "assigned to each family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number, for that end ..." (3)

 

The following year, a happy Gov. Bradford wrote, “This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been ... The women now went willingly into the field and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression." (4)

The Pilgrims now wished to work because they got to keep, and then trade, the benefits of their labor.  They discovered that freedom is a much greater stimulus than force.

"Instead of famine, now God gave them plenty," wrote Gov. Bradford. "And the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many, for which they blessed God ... Any general want or famine hath not been amongst them since to this day." (5)

 

Thus, the Pilgrims rejected the economic principle and form of government, socialism, that would have led to the end of freedom and especially the end of religious persecution they had traveled so far to achieve.  More than two centuries later, Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903) would validate their decision when he wrote, ""It is clear that the main tenet of socialism, community of goods, must be utterly rejected since (it is) directly contrary to the natural rights of mankind, and would introduce confusion and disorder into the commonweal." (6)

Critique of the Gotha Programme, 1875- Karl Marx (1); libertyunderfire.org; townhall.com; historyofmassachusetts.org; History of Plymouth Plantation(2-5); fatima.org, 5/19/20(6)

 

"Socialism takes no account of any objective other than that of material well-being (and) places too severe a restraint on human liberty."     - Pope John XXIII (1958-1963)

It is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favors. - George Washington, Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, October 3, 1789

Each year, Americans celebrate the First Thanksgiving recalling the heroic Pilgrims who, seeking to escape religious persecution and longing to practice their religious beliefs in peace, sailed from England on Sept.6,1620, to the unknown New World.  With the help of local Native Americans, the Pilgrims learned to plant crops and survived.  At the harvest they gave thanks to God with a Thanksgiving feast.

 

While most Americans know this story of the First Thanksgiving, few know the tragic story of what happened at the harvest after two years of… “The Experiment.” 

 

The Experiment:  The Pilgrims had decided that their new community would create a collectivist model of governance where all labor was communal, with men raising crops for all families, not just their own, and sharing the harvest equally. Women engaged in domestic chores of cooking, sewing, etc. for themselves as well as their neighbors.  The result was that few did more than the minimum amount of work because the fruits of all labor were shared equally whether a person worked hard or a little.  Incentive to excel was destroyed.  Within two years, the result was shortages and starvation.

 

The Pilgrims' Governor, William Bradford, described the folly of collectivism:  "For this community was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort.     For the young men, that were most able and fit for labour and service, did repine (complain) that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men's wives and children without any recompense (payment)... And for men's wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc., they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could many husbands brook (tolerate) it. (1)

 

The Pilgrims had unwittingly adopted a form of governance that, if made permanent, would soon deprive them of the religious freedom they had just fled England for.  Two centuries later, describing the requirements for a socialist economic system, philosopher Karl Marx wrote, "Religion is the opium of the people.  The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness." (2)  

(libertyunderfire.org; townhall.com; historyofmassachusetts.org; mayflowerhistory.com (1)

 catholicworldreport, 11/11/19(2); crisismagazine.com

 

“Socialists, therefore, by endeavoring to transfer the possessions of individuals to the community at large, strike at the interests of every wage-earner, since they would deprive him of the liberty of disposing of his wages, and thereby of all hope and possibility of increasing his resources and of bettering his condition in life.”  - Pope Leo XIII, in Rerum Novarum

"Socialism (is) the most bitter enemy of Christian principles." -Pope Benedict XV (1914-1922)

The Catholic Church has condemned Socialism in all its forms - so-called Christian Socialism as well as atheistic Socialism - without exception.  But why?  What is the error of socialism?(1)

 

Pope John Paul II (1978-2005) said, "The fundamental error of socialism is ... (it) 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." (2)  However, Christianity holds the belief that each individual must be free to assume responsibility for his own choices.  Jesus came to save each person individually and not a collective called "people."

 

In 1891, Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903) wrote, “It is clear that the main tenet of socialism, community of goods, must be utterly rejected, since (it is) directly contrary to the natural rights

of mankind and would introduce confusion and disorder into the commonweal.” Socialism advances the error that private property is not a human right but can be taken away from individuals by the state and given to others. (3) 

 

Pope Pius XI (1922-1939) explained, "Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is injustice and a grave evil to assign to a higher association (big organization or government) what a lesser and subordinate association (local organizations or government) can do." (4)

 

"No Catholic could subscribe even to moderate socialism (since) Socialism is founded on a doctrine of human society which ... takes no account of any objective other than that of material well-being.  It proposes a form of social organization which aims solely at production; it places too severe a restraint on human liberty," wrote Pope John XXIII (1958-1963) in his 1961 encyclical Mater et Magistra. (5)

 

 (fatima.org, 5/19/20(1)(3)(4); Pope John Paul II-quotable quotes (2); tpfstudentaction.org, 4/8/10(5) tfp.org, 2/24/10; aei.org, 9/27/15)

 

"The state which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person- every person – needs: namely, loving, personal concern.”  -Pope Benedict XVI (2005-2013)

"Religious Socialism, Christian Socialism, are contradictory terms; no one can be at the same time a good Catholic (Christian) and a true Socialist."  - Pope Pius XI (1922-1939)

 

The word "socialism" and "socialist" are often used in discussions today, but "few people in the modern Western world understand what socialism is" ... or the "traditional Marxist view of socialism.”(1)  Socialism is not only about caring for the poor and eradicating poverty as many people mistakenly believe. "From Pope Pius IX (1846-1878) to Pope Benedict XVI (2005-2013), the popes have consistently condemned socialism" as "destructive" and "wicked." (2)

 

"Socialism, like Communism, advances the view of the state as the supreme authority and inevitably persecutes religion.... Even when the persecution is not blatant or heavy-handed, the belief that the state is higher than the Church leads to innumerable forms of persecution.  For example, God is not rightly acknowledged in the public forum, prayer is silenced, morality based on God's laws is ridiculed, taxes are used as coercion, and worship can be prohibited for what the government deems as just cause."(3)

 

Socialism advances class warfare and the deadly sin of envy.  Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903) said, "The great mistake is the notion that class is naturally hostile to class and that the wealthy and the working man are intended by nature to live in mutual conflict.  So irrational and so false is this view that the direct contrary is the truth ... Each needs the other: capital cannot do without labor, nor labor without capital.  Mutual agreement results in the beauty of good order, while perpetual conflict necessarily produces confusion and savage barbarity."(4)

 

"Too often Christians attracted by Socialism tend to idealize it ... They refuse to recognize the limitations of the historical social movements...  Pope Paul VI (1963-1978)

 

(Justin T. Haskins, Socialism is Evil, p.5(1); tfpstudentaction.org, 4/8/10(2); fatima.org, 5/19/20(3)(4);

 aei.org, 9/27/15; tfp.org, 2/24/10)

"We make this pronouncement: Whether considered as a doctrine, or an historical fact, or a movement, Socialism, if it remains truly Socialism, ... cannot be reconciled with the teachings of the Catholic Church because its concept of society itself is utterly foreign to Christian truth."  -  Pope Pius XI (1922-1939)

Conscience is the interior space in which we can listen to and hear the truth, the good, the voice of God.  - Pope Francis

Navy Seals Seek Religious Exemptions

A growing number of U.S. Navy Seals who are seeking a religious exemption from the DODs vaccine mandate are being threatened with punishment that includes demotion, pay cuts, repayment of the cost of training them and possible court martial.  This is a violation of their First Amendment protected rights.  First Liberty Institute General Counsel, Mike Berry, representing 40 Navy Seals, explains that requesting a religious accommodation is a right guaranteed to service members under both federal and military law. 

 

"Our nation's elite fighting force, right now, instead of fighting America's enemies, they are fighting for their careers and livelihoods and their freedom," Berry said.  "We should accommodate these heroes and not force them to choose between serving their faith and serving their country.  There's no reason why they can't. There's medical exemptions ... so why are they treating religion and religious freedom like they're second-class status."(1)  "Purging our military of its elite service members is detrimental to national security.  Doing so because (the military) refuses to accommodate their religious convictions is abhorrent to the Constitution,” Berry said. (2)

 

Medical School Accused of Religious Discrimination Over Exemption Requests

The University of Colorado's Anschutz School of Medicine is accused of discriminating based on religion.  A federal complaint was filed by the Thomas More Society on behalf of a Catholic pediatrician and bioethicist and a Buddhist first year medical student who "are unable to take the school's mandated vaccine because of deeply held religious objections." (3)

 

"The Un. of CO medical school turned its religious process into an inquisition ...," said a Thomas More attorney.  "So, the university was only going to accept the faiths that had a total ban on all vaccines but reject those groups of faith who for a variety of reasons - including abortions - would reject these particular COVID-19 vaccines. “...     ” The university had thus openly entered the theological business of judging the truth or falsity of its students' religious beliefs." (4)

 

 "The university's foray into theology has gone even further, with its administrators probing and debating the religious beliefs of its staff and students, rendering value judgments on believers in an inquisition that further violates the First Amendment," said attorney Peter Breen. (5)

(clarion.causaction.com, 10/21/21(1); firstliberty.org, 10/22/21(2); military.com, 9/15/21; wnd.com, 10/2/21(3)(5); catholicworldreport.com, 10/5/21(4); ncbi.nim.nih.gov; washingtonpost.com, 10/15/21)

 

“Conscience is the most sacred property:” - James Madison

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Religious Discrimination Over Vaccine Exemption Requests

October 31, 2021

"You shall have no other gods before me"    Exodus 20:3

 

A group of parents and the Californians for Equal Rights Foundation (CFER), a civil rights group, have sued the state of CA over a new public school curriculum, "Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum" that includes teaching the state’s high school students how to pray and chant to Aztec gods and invoking an ancient Nigerian Yoruba religious prayer.    The lawsuit, presented by the Thomas More Society, claims the State Board of Education violates the California Constitution's free-exercise and establishment clauses and state law banning government aid to religion.

 

"The curriculum's unequivocal promotion of 5 Aztec gods or deities through repetitive chanting and affirmation of their symbolic principles constitutes an unlawful government preference toward a particular religious practice," said the CFER president. (1)

 

"Can you imagine if elements of the Christian faith were proposed to be included in the public school curriculum?  What if a class incorporated praying to the Blessed Virgin Mary, or even reciting the Lord's Prayer?  How would that be received?" said attorney Paul Jonna. (2)

 

The Importance of Faith to America's Founders:  Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was one of the most prominent Americans of the colonial period as a statesman, author, publisher, scientist, inventor and diplomat.  He was an advocate of colonial unity, defender of American rights against the encroachments of the British Parliament and an extraordinarily charitable person.  He wrote in his Poor Richard's Almanac, "Proportion your Charity to the Strength of your Estate, or God will proportion your Estate to the Weakness of your Charity." (3)

 

During the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Franklin became frustrated at the lack of progress during the deliberations and delivered this famous plea:

 

     "...How has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understanding?"

     "I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth - that God governs in the affairs of men.  And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?  We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that "except the Lord build they labor in vain." (4)

 

(washingtontimes.com, 9/3/21(1); dailywire.com,,10/4/21(2); thecentersquare.com, 9/8/21; joshuatcharles.com, 12/10/18(3); americanrhetoric.com, 8/14/18(4); history.com, 11/9/09)

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Parents Sue California Over Mandated Chants to Aztec Gods

October 24, 2021

"Freedom of conscience is the core of all freedom."    -Pope Benedict XVI

 

Colorado website designer, Lorie Smith, is appealing a lower-court decision depriving her of the right to conduct her business according to her religious beliefs.  "I have clients ranging from individuals to small business owners to nonprofit agencies," Smith said.  "I have served and continue to serve all people, including those who identify as LGBT.  I simply object to being forced to pour my heart, my imagination and talent into messages that violate my conscience."  (1)

"The government shouldn't weaponize the law to force a web designer to speak messages that violate her beliefs.  This case involves quintessential free speech and artistic freedom...," said an Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorney. (2)  The 10th Circuit's ruling "holds that the more unique a product, the more aggressively the government may regulate access to it - thus the less First Amendment protection it has."  The lower court’s decision "empowers the government to force everyone to speak government-approved messages and subverts our core understandings of the First Amendment." (3)

In a similar case involving CO cake artist Jack Phillips, the U.S. Supreme Court scolded Colorado for its "hostility" to Christianity.

 

"If the Freedom of Speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter."  - George Washington

  

The Importance of Faith to America's Founders:  John Adams

Throughout his life, this Founding Father and 2nd President of the United Sates, exhibited a profound respect for the Bible and references it frequently in his writings.  He wrote to fellow Founder Benjamin Rush in 1807, "The Bible contains the most profound Philosophy, the most perfect Morality, and the most refined Policy, that ever was conceived upon the Earth." (4)   About the newly written Constitution, he wrote, "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."(5)

 

The Founders knew a virtuous people would courageously defend the rights endowed by their Creator and restored by the blood of patriots.  But a fearful people would readily give up these rights in exchange for a fleeting sense of security.

 

Princeton Professor Robbie George explains, "People lacking in virtue could be counted on to trade liberty for protection, for financial or personal security, for comfort - for having their problems solved quickly." (6)

(dailycaller.com, 9/24/21(1); wnd.com, 9/25/21(2)(3); harbingersdaily.com, 9/27/21; adflegal.org, 10/28/19; joshuatcharles.com, 12/11/18(4); constitutionallaw.regent.edu (5)(6); lawliberty.org)

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Web Designer Petitions Supreme Court to Affirm Religious Freedom

October 17, 2021

"It seems there is a real danger to Religious Freedom now in our country - mostly because people aren't serious about religion or religious freedom."  - Archbishop Charles Chaput

 

Happening Now:  Tennessee H.S. Football Players Lead Community in Prayer.

Players from two TN football teams led parents and fans in postgame prayer after school administrators banned public religious displays following a complaint from Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

 

"...the threat of a legal action to forbid prayer after the game was overwhelmed by player led prayer supported by parents and fans in solidarity," said a district alumnus. (1)

 

 "Courts have consistently ruled that prayer and proselytizing cannot be sponsored by schools or school personal," said a school attorney. (2)  The school added, "We support the right of students to participate in and lead spontaneous prayers.  That right is and will continue to be protected." (3)

 

"Religious Freedom is one of the most important Civil Rights issues of our times."

- Eric Metaxas, Author

 

The Importance of Faith to America's Founders:  George Washington

The Bible and religious faith exerted a profound influence on the founding generation, including those who were not particularly orthodox, traditional believers.  In 1783, assuming he was now exiting his public career, George Washington wrote his Circular to the State Governments, to the governors of each state that contained the advice he considered the most important.  It is full of encouragement to Americans to recognize that they had been given a truly unique opportunity by God, and they best not waste it.(4)

     "I think it a duty incumbent on me, to make this my last official communication, to congratulate you on the glorious events which Heaven has been pleased to produce in our favor ... and to give my final blessing to that Country, in whose service I have spent the prime of my life...   (The United States) seems to be peculiarly designated by Providence (God) for the display of human greatness and felicity; ... Here... Heaven has given a fairer opportunity for political happiness, than any other Nation has ever been favored with." (5)

 

(washingtonexaminer.com, 9/22/21(1)(3); dailymail.co.uk, 9/22/21(2); washingtonpost.com, 1/16,20; joshuatcharles.com, 12/10/18, Faith of the Founders #1, (4); founders.archives.gov(5)

 

"It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible."

- George Washington, Father of our Country

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Happening Now

October 10, 2021

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

 

Australia

·      Beginning September 11, a roadmap to ease COVID-19 restrictions was published for "low risk" areas. It allows citizens to leave home for limited hours a day and limited distance to shop, exercise or work. Rules include proof of vaccination before entering a church. (1)

·      These rules are being challenged by many religious leaders. "We explained (to the Health Minister) that all our faiths are inclined to allow all comers to worship, that many pastors and faithful would be uneasy with restricting worship to the fully vaccinated and that doing so could prove divisive," said Catholic Archbishop Fisher. "Race, gender, ethnicity, age, education, wealth or health status (including vaccination) must not be points of division within the Christian community or barriers to communion with Jesus."(2) 

·      "We want everybody to be safe in church, but we also want to make sure we minister to everybody," said Anglican Archbishop Raffel.(3)

·      "Even if it is consistent and churches are treated the same as cinemas, I still question whether the government has the right to impose on churches something we don't accept," said Minister Phil Colgan.(4)

 

Canada 

·      During the tightest COVID-19 restrictions - a time of stress and anxiety for many - it wasn't possible for people in Canada to turn to religious organizations for support and comfort. Churches, synagogues and mosques had to negotiate regulations that changed frequently.  Often, there could be no in-person services at all.

·      Rev. Susan Chisholm said capacity restrictions affected the fellowship associated with church gathering.  "It's a community that's really about hospitality and welcome as much as ritual and spiritual practice," she said.(5)

·       The country hoped to enter a Phase 5 reopening plan in mid-September that will begin a return to in-person church services and major religious events like funerals, etc.  Rev. Robert Doyle of Halifax said that many families had to delay funerals and now want to put their relative to rest.(6)

 

Ireland 

·      Religious services resumed for the first time in May, 2021 but the sacraments of Baptism, Communion and Confirmation did not return.  

·      "I don't see any reason why the celebration of confirmation or holy communion should cause any concern on public health grounds because we have mass in all our churches, carefully regulated for 50 people," said Bishop Doran. (7)  Five Roman Catholic bishops planned to defy these restrictions in Ireland's 22 diocese in August. 

·       The Catholic Archbishop of Dublin said that parents must be trusted to know how to protect the health of their children and that the ban on communions and confirmations was seen as discriminatory.  "A small number of people are going to parties, but the vast majority are not organizing big parties.  We need to trust and have faith in parents," said Fr. Joe McDonald. (8)

 

theguardian.com, 9/9/21(1); cathnews.co.nz, 9/13/21(2)(3)(4); nsw.gov.au; acc.org.au; cbc.ca, 9/12/21(5)(6); novascotia.ca/reopening, 9/8/21: toronto.ca/COVID, 7/16/21; reuters, 8/3/21(7); rtei.ie, 8/6/21(8)

 

"Guard with jealous attention the public liberty."  -Patrick Henry

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Restrictions on Places of Worship in Australia, Canada and Ireland

October 3, 2021

"The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man: and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate." - James Madison, 1785.

In June, 2020 and June, 2021, the Supreme Court issued several decisions supporting religious individuals and organizations who face continuing court challenges by opposing individuals or groups:

 

* The Court ruled on the "ministerial exception"  in which religious schools were sued by former teachers claiming wrongful termination.  The Court recognized that religious organizations have autonomy to make employment decisions about their ministers and clarified the religious functions of a "minister" is up to the religious group who know their faith best.  Therefore, religious groups are free to select priests, rabbis, ministers, and other religious leaders free from government interference. (1)

 *  A two case combined ruling "made it clear that the government has no business forcing pro-life and religious organizations to provide drugs and devices that can destroy life."  Therefore, "Little Sisters of the Poor and other pro-life ministries can continue to provide health insurance coverage for their employees without compromising their religious beliefs about the sanctity of life."(2)

 *  The Court ruled against the Montana Dept. of Revenue for excluding religious schools from a tax credit program that should have been equally available to religious and nonreligious schools alike, ending discrimination against schools that are religious.  This ruling is considered a victory for both religious freedom and school choice. (3)

 *  The justices ruled 8-1 that lawsuits can continue even after the government has abandoned the policy or behavior that prompted the lawsuit.  The case involved violations against a Christian college student's religious freedom and free speech rights. (4)

 *  Justices unanimously ruled in favor of Catholic Social Services, enabling faith-based foster care agencies to continue partnering with the city despite the agency's refusal to complete assessments of same-sex couples.

 

"In a divisive time with a lot of conflict, we saw the (Supreme) Court over and over again come to super-majority and often unanimous decisions" in its religion-related cases, said Mark Rienzi, president of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.(5)

(adflegal.org, 8/31/20(1)(2)(3); deseret.com, 6/6/21(4)(5); christianpost.com, 6/18/21;

nbcnews.com, 6/17/21; powerlineblog.com, 7/8/20

 

[T]he free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or

preference, shall forever hereafter be allowed, within this State.  - New York State Constitution of 1777 

Prayer For Religious Freedom:

Father, we praise and thank you for the gift of human life and human freedom.

Protect all people from being forced to violate their moral and religious convictions

In your goodness. guard our freedom to live out our faith and to follow you.    Amen

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Victories For Religious Freedom at the Supreme Court

September 26, 2021

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Principles of Religious Liberty For Constitution Week

September 19, 2021

To undervalue it (the Constitution) is one of the surest ways to lose it.  Take pains to know what the Constitution is - the more you study, the higher you will esteem it. The better you understand your own rights, the more likely you will be to preserve and guard them.

~~Arthur J. Stansbury, Elementary Catechism on the Constitution of the United States, 1828

 

The U.S. Constitution is the world's longest surviving charter of government.  It was signed on September 17, 1787, and since 2004, Congress requires that all public schools receiving federal funds implement educational programs about the Constitution on the day or week of Sept. 17 every year.

 

Following are some little known facts about the American Constitution:

*  The Constitution was written in the same Pennsylvania State House where the Declaration of Independence was signed.

*  The Constitution was prepared in secret, behind locked doors guarded by sentries.

*  55 delegates attended the Constitutional Convention and 39 signed, 3 delegates dissented.  Thomas Jefferson and John Adams could not sign because they were representing the United States in France and Great Britain at the time.

*  At 81, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania was the oldest delegate at the Constitutional Convention and at 26, Jonathan Dayton of New Jersey was the youngest.

*  George Washington established the first national "Thanksgiving Day" on Nov. 26, 1789  to "give thanks" for the Constitution. (1)

 

Principles of Religious Liberty and the Constitution:

James Madison explained that the free exercise of religion "is in its nature an inalienable right" because the duty owed to one's Creator "is precedent, ... to the claims of Civil Society." (1)  Religious liberty is not merely a right to personal religious beliefs or worship. It encompasses observance and practice and should be reasonably accommodated in all government activity, including employment and contracting.

 

"To avoid the very sort of religious persecution and intolerance that led to the founding of the U.S., the Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution protects against government actions that target religious conduct.   Government may not treat the same conduct as lawful when undertaken for secular reasons but unlawful when undertaken for religious reasons.  For example, government may not ... allow the distribution of political leaflets in a park but forbid the distribution of religious leaflets in the same park." (2)

(ciis.edu(1); justice.gov, 5/4/17(2); nationalday.com; dar.org; constitutionfacts.com/us;

christianheadlines.com, 8/10/21(3)

--------

Happening Now:    Major win for Religious Liberty Advocates

On Aug. 9, 2021, a federal judge ruled that Christian doctors and religious hospitals cannot be forced by the Affordable Care Act (ACA)  insurance plan to perform abortions or gender transition procedures.  Federal Judge O'Connor ruled that recent government rules forcing  such procedures "substantially burdens Christian Plaintiffs' religious exercise in clear violation of" the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). (3)

"The happy union of these states is a wonder;  their Constitution is a miracle; their example the hope of liberty throughout the world."    - James Madison

 

"The U.S. Constitution stands as a testament to the tenacity of Americans throughout history to maintain their liberties, freedoms and inalienable rights." (1)  In 1956, the Daughters of the American Revolution started the celebration of the Constitution adopted by Congress.  Then, in 2004, Sen. Robert Byrd, correctly  believing that American school children lacked significant knowledge regarding the Constitution, proposed an amendment, passed by Congress, requiring that all educational institutions receiving federal funds implement educational programs relating to the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17 every year, celebrating the signing of the Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787.

 

Since federal law requires schools, colleges and universities to observe Constitution Day with appropriate programs, those schools failing to observe the day or week, risk losing their federal funds.

 

This Constitution is the world's longest surviving written charter of government with its  first 3 words, "We the People", affirming that the government of these United States exists to serve its citizens.   "...its framers wisely separated and balanced governmental powers to safeguard the interests of majority rule and minority rights, of liberty and equality, and of the state and federal governments." (2)

 

"To prevent the abuses of power they felt under the British monarchy, the Founding Fathers framed the Constitution carefully, distributing power over three branches of government, outlining its powers, limitations on those powers, and the rights of citizens." (3)  The three branches were to have equal powers, called "checks and balances."  "Powers not assigned to one of the three branches are left to the individual states." (4)

 

Some of the original delegates from the states were troubled that the original Constitution lacked a description of individual rights.  In 1791, Americans added the first 10 Amendments known as the Bill of Rights.  The first and foundational right is:  "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;  ..." (5)

 

(dar.org(1); ciis.edu(2)(5); nationalday.com(3)(4); trinitydc.edu; uscode.house.gov.;

 Constitution of the United States

 

"Hold on, my friends, to the Constitution and to the Republic for which it stands. Miracles do not cluster and what has happened once in 6,000 years may not happen again. Hold on to the Constitution, for if the American Constitution should fail,  there will be anarchy throughout the world."   

-Daniel Webster, lawyer and statesman (1782-1852)

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Celebrating Constitution Week, September 17-23,

in All Schools

September 12, 2021

"Liberty must at all hazards be supported.  We have a right to it derived from our Maker."

 - John Adams, 1765

As students prepare for the new 2021-22 school year, they need an important tool in their backpacks: knowledge of their religious liberty rights.

 

On January 16, 2020 (Religious Freedom Day), the Dept. of Education issued updated Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer & Religious Expression in Public Elementary & Secondary Schools.  The guidance was originally issued in 2003.  The Guidance explains that "students and teachers do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate."  The law also requires that, as a condition of receiving federal funds, local education agencies must certify that they are in compliance with the prayer guidance.(1)

 

The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the First Amendment, with its enumerated rights of Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Speech, requires public school officials to be neutral in their treatment of religion, showing neither favoritism toward nor hostility against religion.  The newly updated U.S. Department of Education Guidelines explicitly list the many rights of students in relation to religious expression.  

 

These rights include:

*  Students may read their Bibles or other religious materials, say grace before meals, and pray or study religious materials with fellow students during recess, lunch hour, or other non-instructional time.

*   Students may express their beliefs about religion in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments.

*   Students may organize prayer groups, religious clubs, or other religious themed gatherings before or after school to the same extent that students are permitted to organize other non-curricular student activity groups.

*   Schools may teach about religion but not provide religious instruction.(2)

 

These rights are often denied as happened on Long Island, NY, when a high school senior was reading his Bible during free reading time. The teacher asked what he was reading and then proceeded to mock the student for reading the Bible and encouraged other students to join in. 

 

(justice.gov, Volumn 84-January, 2020(1); Ed.gov, Guidance from U.S. Dept. of Education(2)

 

"The sacred rights of mankind ... are written, as with a sunbeam, on the whole volume of human nature, by the divinity itself; and can never be erased." - Alexander Hamilton,  Founding Father

---------------------

Be Silent No More!

Assert your concerns re religious freedom in schools, the public square and legislation such as the misnamed Equality Act, covered in a previous bulletin. Do not be silent.  Contact your Senator at www.senate.gov, and your Representative at www.house.gov.  Call Switchboard at 202-224-3121 to be connected to any Senate or Representative office.

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

It's OK For Students to Pray in Public Schools

September 5, 2021

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Recent Rise in Attacks on Some Religious Groups

Threaten Everyone’s Religious Freedom

August 29, 2021

"The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man: and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate." ~James Madison, 1785.

New York City and Los Angeles: New York City, home to the largest population of Jews outside of Israel, reported over 80 anti-Semitic hate crimes so far this year compared to 62 last year.  Outdoor diners in Los Angeles were physically attacked by a group carrying Palestinian flags.Violence and harassment targeting American Jews coast-to-coast rose following the fighting between Israelis and Palestinians in May, 2021. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which tracks incidents of anti-Jewish violence and bias, said they saw a 75% increase in anti-Semitism reports. "We've seen things like this before," said Brandeis Un. Professor Yehudah Mirsky.  "But this seems a bit much.  This seems more."(1)

 

Portland, Oregon: A Christian prayer and worship event held in a Memorial Park, was attacked by a group of self-proclaimed Antifa protesters wearing full black gear that concealed their faces and heads while holding shields, weapons, and open umbrellas as well as pepper spray, rocks, fireworks, flash bombs and mace.  One woman reported, "We were about to have a worship event and (they) rolled in like angry mobs macing everybody, (throwing) rotten eggs and black paint ..." (2)  "Where is your God now?" said one Antifa member. (3)  It was reported they also threw the sound system into the Williamette River.

Families with children and infants were at the event that featured Polish-Canadian pastor Artur Pawlowski who was in the news during Easter when he was arrested for holding services at his church.  The event was entitled "Courageous Truth."(4)

 

Canada:  The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is being urged to add Canada to its watch list after pastors have been jailed in the country for keeping their churches open.  "I am troubled that our Canadian neighbors are effectively being forced to gather in secret, undisclosed locations to exercise their basic freedom to worship," wrote one U.S. Senator in a letter to USCIRF and the Ambassador to Canada.(5)

 

(bbc.com, 5/28/21(1); churchleaders.com, 8/10/21(2)(3); dailywire.com, 8/11/21,

christiandaily.com, 8/9/21(4); dailywire.com, 6/24/21(5)

 

"God who gave us life gave us liberty.  Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?"

~Thomas Jefferson, Author of America's Declaration of Independence, Founding Father

"Americans' membership in houses of worship continued to decline last year, dropping below 50% for the first time in Gallop's 80-year trend. In 2020, 47% of Americans said they belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque, down from 50% in 2018 and 70% in 1999," wrote a recent Gallop poll.(1)  When Gallop first measured church membership in 1937, it was 73% and remained near 70% until the 21st century.

 

The fastest-declining Christian populations in the world are in Europe according to a peer-reviewed study in the journal Sociology of Religion.(2)

 

Researchers, sociologists and church leaders offer a wide range of causes for this decline in church affiliation and attendance in the West while Christianity is flourishing in Asia and Africa.

 

Some studies suggest that countries supporting a particular religion through law, contributes to the secularization of that country.  For example, the Church of England is  the state church and Christianity is the state religion; the Swedish king is the head of the government and the Church of Sweden and appoints bishops to their positions; Portugal, Spain and Italy offer preferential support to the Catholic Church through tax policy and education.(3)  However, throughout Europe, Church affiliation is declining.

 

Other studies suggest that different factors are the cause for both decline and growth of Christianity in the world.

 

*   Abundant and bold prayer is practiced in countries with increasing Christianity.  For example, "in Africa, it is not unusual for churches to commit 50-100 days per year for fasting & prayer."(4)  This amount of fasting & prayer is rarely practiced in the West.

*   Empowering ordinary people for ministry is carried out in growing congregations.  Pastors are seen as coaches and teachers and are not responsible for everything the church does: preach, pray, visit the sick, counsel people, evangelize, oversee administration, etc., as is common in the West where a person "goes into ministry." (5)

 

Conclusion:  When looking at the range of statistics and causes surrounding contemporary Christianity, it becomes clear that even where Western culture appears to be becoming more and more secular, Christian faith is still very much alive.(6)

 

(news.gallop.com, 3/29/21(1); christianitytoday.com, 5/6/21(2)(3);christianpost.com, 3/15/20(4)(5);

pathos.com, 5/8/21; get religion.org, 5/15/21; holyart.com(6)

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Christianity Is Growing Faster Than Any Time in History

But Declining in Europe & America

August 22, 2021

Pope Francis, in 2014, spoke in his homily about Christianity experiencing the largest numbers of martyrs today than ever before in its 2,000 year history.(1)  

"The world hates Christians for the same reason it hated Jesus:  because He brought the light of God and the world prefers the darkness to hide its wicked works....The martyrs of today are greater in number than those of the first centuries," said Pope Francis again in 2016.(2)  In 2021, the number of martyrs is even greater.

 

Yet - despite this persecution on a massive scale, Christianity is growing faster than any time in history.  Where is this happening and why?

 

"The more you mow us down, the more numerous we grow;  

the blood of Christians is seed."      -  Tertullian, early Church theologian (155 - 220AD)

 

In the last 100 years, the number of Christians in the world has quadrupled from about 600 million in 1910 to well past 2 billion in 2020.  Christianity remains the world's largest religious group. (3)  

Africa and Asia, with believers in the most persecuted countries, are seeing incredible expansion of Churches while the Church in Europe and America is declining.  Millions of people across Africa and Asia in historically unengaged people groups are now in rapidly growing Disciple Making Movements.  In 2000, there were 6 such movements and today there are now 1,035. (4)

 

The Status of Global Christianity data reports that between 2000-2020:

*  Africa had 37,825 new Christ followers each day over the last 20 years.

*  Latin America had 16,988 each day.

*  Asia had 13, 443 each day.

*  North America had 1,999 each day.

*  Oceania had 473 each day.

*  Europe had 8 each day. (5)

(lifesitenews.com, 7/3/14(1); christianpost.com, 12/27/16(2); learnreligions.com, 4/6/20(3);

christianpost.com, 3/15/20(4)(5); getreligion.org, 5/15/21; catholicworldreport.com, 6/5/17

 

"The living Jesus will give you joy amid tribulation."

Richard Wurmbrand, Romanian Evangelist Minister and professor  (1909-2001)

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Where in the World is Christianity Growing and Why?

August 15, 2021

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

“Rise in Christian Persecution Worldwide” continued:

August 8, 2021

"It has been a tough year for billions of people.  However, for many of the 340 million Christians worldwide who face persecution and discrimination, things have been worse still," said Open Doors CEO H. Blyth.(1)

This year, the top 10 persecutors are: North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Eritrea, Yemen, Iran, Nigeria, and India.  Nigeria, with Africa's largest Christian population, is new to this list.  Of the 4,761 Christians killed for their faith in 2020, over 2,200 Christians were murdered by radical Islamists in Nigeria alone. 

 

"We've been all fighting a virus that we cannot see with the naked eye.  Less known but equally as viral has been the discrimination, isolation and violence against Christians by using Covid-19 as a leverage and justification," said Open Doors President Curry.(2)  "Extremists ... are emboldened by governments weakened by Covid-19 restrictions, knowing they can steal food and medical supplies from already embattled Christian communities. ...Violence by Islamists in Nigeria amounts to genocide," he said. (3)

 

In India, the nationalist  political party has encouraged persecution of Christians by sanctioning Hindu extremism and telling the nation only Hindus are truly Indian.

 

In China, the Communist Party (CCP) uses surveillance technology to track its people and punish them for attending church. A recent report from Radio Free Asia revealed that Chinese Christians are being detained in mobile "transformation" facilities and subjected to brainwashing, torture, and other violent measures to coerce them into renouncing the faith.  "It was a mobile facility that could just set up in some basement somewhere," said Li Yeuse who was detained by the CCP for over 10 months. "They mainly target Christians who are members of house churches.... I couldn't sleep; after you've been in there a week, death starts to look better than staying there." (4)

 

(christian.org.uk, 1/15/21(1); christianitytoday.com, 1/3/21: christianpost.com, 1/14/21(2)(3);

lifesitenews.com, 4/12/21(4); the persecuted.org, 2/22/21)

 

"Jesus says, 'I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Hostility is always at the beginning of persecution of Christians because Jesus knows that the mission is opposed by the work of the evil one."     - Pope Francis

"Let us pray for the many Christians in the world who still suffer persecution and violence.  May God grant them the courage of fidelity."   Pope Francis

 

More than 340 million Christians across the globe live in perpetual fear that they will be punished, harmed  or even killed for merely practicing their faith.  The annual World Watch List 2021 from Christian charity Open Doors showed this is a huge increase over previous years; the 2019 figure was about 260 million.

Every day, 13 Christians worldwide are killed for their faith; 12 churches or Christian buildings are attacked; 12 Christians are unjustly imprisoned and another 5 are abducted.

 

Open Doors identified three main trends driving the increase:

     "Covid-19 acted as a catalyst for religious persecution through relief discrimination, forced conversion, and as justification for increasing surveillance and censorship."

     "Extremist attacks opportunistically spread further throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, from Nigeria to Mali and beyond."

     "Chinese censorship systems continue to propagate and spread to emerging surveillance states."(1)

 

"My heart breaks when I hear of believers in India and Vietnam being refused food and told 'let your God feed you.'  Or when I hear of women like a Christian mother-of-three from Egypt who was kidnapped by the Muslim Brotherhood and forced to declare she had 'converted' in a video," said Open Doors CEO, Henrietta Blyth.(2)  

 

"The pandemic has legitimized increased surveillance by totalitarian governments, with China leading the way.  And nationalism driven by religious identity is increasing in countries such as India and Turkey." (3)

 

"It is tragic and unacceptable that this happen to anyone, whatever their

faith or none.  Christians will only be freed from persecution

when freedom of religion and belief is guaranteed for all." (1)

 

(christianitytoday.com, 1/3/21(1); christian.org.uk, 1/15/21(2)(3); 1cbn.com, 2/16/20;

persecution.org, 4/28/21; lifesitenews.com, 4/12/21)

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Let us Pray: Lord, the plight of our brothers & sisters is deep and the suffering of Christians is severe and frightening.  Therefore, we ask you Lord to spare their lives, to grant them patience & courage to continue their witness of Christian values with trust and hope.  Grant us the peace and stability that will enable us to live with each other without fear and anxiety, with dignity and joy.   Amen

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Significant Rise in Christian Persecution Worldwide

August 1, 2021