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Seminary of the Immaculate Conception,

440 West Neck Rd., Huntington, NY  11743   

631-896-8331

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM WEEKLY

"We don't worship government - we worship God."  ~President Trump, 2020

 

On Jan.16, National Religious Freedom Day, President. Trump said, "This afternoon, we're proudly announcing historic steps to protect the First Amendment right to pray in public schools...It is a sacred principle of our Republic that government must never stand between the people and God.  Yet, in public schools around the country, authorities are stopping students and teachers from praying, sharing their faith, or following their religious beliefs.... Tragically, there is a growing ...impulse...that seeks to punish, restrict, and even prohibit religious expression." (1)

    

For seven years, Catholics for Freedom of Religion has been reporting instances of students denied their right to religious expression in their schools.  

    

The Trump administration has updated the guidelines, first issued under President Clinton, and is sending them to every school that receives federal funds. The Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer and Religious Expression in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools can be read on the United States Department of Education website at www.ed.gov                       
    

“These actions by the president should prompt discussions among parents, clergy and educators that will end the too common suppression of students’ appropriate expressions of their faith.” said Barbara Samuells, President of Catholics for Freedom of Religion.

    

To monitor compliance with the guidelines, every public school will continue to certify to their state that they have no policy that conflicts with students' religious freedom rights.  As before, a public school's federal funding could be suspended if the school is not in compliance.” (2)

 

c-span.org, 1/16/20, transcript; ncregister.com, 1/17/20; americamagazine.org, 1/17/20; whitehouse.gov/briefings; (2) independentsentinel.com, 1/17/19

 

"The Constitution was never meant to prevent people from praying; its declared purpose was to protect their freedom to pray."      ~President Ronald Reagan

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

President Trump Safeguards the Right to

Religious Freedom in Public Schools
January 26, 2020

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."(1)

 

January 16 is the anniversary of the passage, in 1786, of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, written by Thomas Jefferson, and is the model for the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.  It is a statement about freedom of conscience that   protects the rights of people to express their religious believes without suffering discrimination.  Also, the government is banned from interference in religion and individual beliefs as well as taxing people to pay for the support of the local church.

   

This principle of a "wall of separation between church and state," was written by Pres.  Jefferson in 1802 to further clarify and support individual freedom of conscience and the open practice of faith without government interference, as intended in the First Amendment.

 

"On Religious Freedom Day, we celebrate our Nation's long-standing commitment to freedom of conscience and the freedom to profess one's own faith.  The right to religious freedom is innate to the dignity of every human person and is fundamental to the pursuit of truth."  (2)  President Trump Proclamation, 2019

 

(gateways.org (1); virginiahistory.org; billofrightsinstitute.org; time.com, 1/16/18;

whitehouse.gov, 1/15/19 (2)

 

"Almighty God hath created the mind free, and manifested his supreme will that free it shall remain ..."   Thomas Jefferson

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

National Religious Freedom Day - January 16

A day to learn, celebrate and thank God…
January 19, 2020

California Raids Christian School & Seeks to Change its Beliefs

      

A Christian boarding school in California, River View Christian Academy (RVCA), founded in 1993 under the ministry of Teen Rescue, has won a reprieve in court against the State of CA efforts to shut it down.  The dispute centers on the States' re-labeling the school as a "community care facility."  This label would force the school into heavy regulation by the State's Department of Social Services including mandates that violate the school’s religious mission and moral standards.  For example, the State requires licensed facilities to allow students the right to engage in spiritual and sexual exploration, contradicting the goals of many parents enrolling their children in RVCA.

   

The case began in January, 2019, when a raid of RVCA was conducted after an internet rumor that the school housed illegal drugs and stockpiled weapons.  The raid, terrifying to students and staff, included 16 armed officers from the CA Highway Patrol, 2 canine units, and 17 social workers.  Then, instead of apologizing for its dangerous blunder, the State imposed daily fines against the school for allegedly operating as a private "unlicensed community care facility,"(1) even though it has operated as a private school for 25 years, filing an annual affidavit with the CA Department of Education.

 

Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the school, winning a temporary reprieve because the judge expressed concern with the 1st Amendment implications.

   

PJI's lead attorney said, "I have never seen this level of aggressive, militant, and ideologically-driven conduct by a State agency against a religious institution.  As public schools have become increasingly hostile to parents, the courts have insisted that the parents' option is to choose private education.  Now, that fundamental right is under attack."(2)

  

**Take Action:  Parental Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, introduced in the Senate, 8/1/17, and to the House, 1/30/19, still awaits action.  This joint resolution states that:

*  the liberty of parents to direct the upbringing, education, and care of their children is a fundamental right.

*  the parental right to direct education includes the right to choose, as an alternative to public education, private, religious, or home schools, and the right to make reasonable choices within public schools for one's child.

(citizenjournal.us, 11/20/19; christiannewswire.com, 6/7/19(1)(2); 1cbn.com, 11/20/19, 6/7/19; onenewsnow.com, 6/20/19; congress.gov/115th; parentalrights.org)

 

"Train up a child in the way he should go.  Even when he is old, he will not depart from it."    Proverbs 22:6  

Wappingers Falls, NY:  This NY school district violated federal law when it rejected a Christian student's request to start an on-campus Christian club, according to pro-bono law firm, First Liberty Institute.

Freshman Daniela Barca's application to form the "OMG! Christian Club" at Ketcham H.S., aimed to offer "faith-based support" where students have "discussions about living for God in a godless society," (1) was rejected by her principal who claimed the club was "too exclusive."

   

First Liberty Institute sent a letter to Wappingers Central S.D. stating, "The discrimination toward Daniela's religious speech has prevented OMG from pursuing their community-wide goals of 'food drives, clothing drives,... and other charitable endeavors."(2)  The letter also notes the school has about 2 dozen on-campus groups, including a "Pride Club," claiming that the school is already allowing "exclusive " groups on campus.

   

"Ketcham school officials blatantly ignored the plain text of the Equal Access Act (EAA) of 1984 by rejecting Daniela's Christian club because of its religious speech," said attorney Keisha Russell. (3) The EAA clearly states that it is unlawful for public secondary schools that receive federal assistance to "deny equal access or fair opportunity" to students on the basis of "religious, political, philosophical, or other content of the speech at such meetings," (4)

     

First Liberty attorneys state they expect the school to allow the club no later than January 2, 2020.

 

Naples, FL:   The Gulf Coast H.S. denied a pro-life club, Sharks 4 Life, earlier this school year and is violating the U.S. Constitution according to Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).  

   

While recognizing almost 80 clubs including political group Turning Point USA, Students for Change, Korean Culture, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Gay-Straight Alliance, the school principal rejected pro-life saying it was "too political and controversial." (5)

   

"The failure to recognize Sharks 4 Life is blatantly illegal under the Equal Access Act and First Amendment, both of which guarantee students the right to have a student club that stands on equal footing with the hundreds of other student clubs in Collier County public schools," said an ADF spokesman. (6)

 

(christianpost.com, (1), (2); mrctv.org, 12/13/19 (3); christianpost.com, (4); pulpitandpen.org, 11/20/19 (5)(6)

Every December, public schools, towns and businesses, face the difficult task of acknowledging the various religious and secular holiday traditions celebrated during this time of year without crossing the line of promoting a particular belief.

The First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion to all Americans - including young school children - by prohibiting the government from endorsing any particular religious point of view while still respecting and protecting all religious beliefs.

Holiday Myths & Facts

Myth:   Public schools cannot display religious Christmas and Hanukkah symbols.

Fact:  A public school is free to display a Nativity scene, Menorah, and other forms of religious and secular seasonal expression with the purpose of depicting the origins of the holiday.

Myth:   Public school students aren't allowed to sing or play Christmas carols.

Fact:   Students can sing and perform religious carols along with secular ones.  The purpose is to teach about our society's cultural and religious heritage and allow students to perform a full range of music, poetry and drama.

Myth:   Students cannot talk about their faith and the religious origins of their holiday in class assignments.

Fact:   Schools cannot refuse to allow, punish, or give a lower grade to a student who includes a religious viewpoint in a class assignment.  Far from "establishing religion," that would be displaying an anti-religious bias which is unconstitutional and infringing on the free speech of students.

Myth:   Christmas trees, Nativity scenes, and Hanukkah Menorahs cannot be displayed on public land.

Fact:   The Supreme Court has held that these have become both a secular and religious symbol and their display by a public entity does not violate the Establishment Clause. 

(adl.org; adflegal.org, 12/11/15; rutherfordinstitute.org; alliancedefendingfreedom.org)

"To the American People:   Christmas is not a time or a season but a state of mind. To cherish peace and good will, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.  If we think on these things, there will be born in us a Savior and over us will shine a star sending its gleam of hope to the world." ~ President Calvin Coolidge

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

The December Dilemma:  Celebrating Religious Holidays in Public Schools & the Public Square

December 15, 2019

Texas:  A recent U.S. District Court ruling will allow doctors to refuse to perform gender-transition surgeries that violate their faith as well as their scientific judgment that the procedures can cause significant risks, especially to children, that include heart conditions, loss of bone density, and increased risk of cancer.  Also, "studies show that children with gender dysphoria found that fewer than one in four children continued to experience that condition into adulthood," said a Becket Law statement.(1)

In May, 2016, the Dept. of Health & Human Services (HHS) issued a rule requiring all doctors to perform gender-transition surgery.  If the doctor refused - even on religious grounds - they could be fired or face severe consequences.

"Today marks a major victory for compassion, conscience, and sound medical judgment," said Luke Goodrich, VP of Becket Law. (2)

 

Vermont:  The HHS Office for Civil Rights recently announced that the Un. of Vermont Medical Center violated the conscience rights of a nurse forced to assist in an elective abortion in 2018 against her conscience/religious objections.  The nurse was not told the procedure was an abortion until she walked into the room and the doctor said, "Don't hate me."(3)

"Forcing medical staff to assist in the taking of human life inflicts a moral injury on them that is not only unnecessary and wrong, it violates longstanding federal law," said Roger Severino, Director of OCR.  "Our investigation has uncovered serious discrimination by UVMMC against nurses and staff who cannot, in good conscience, assist in elective abortions.  We stand ready to assist UVMMC in changing its policies and procedures to respect conscience rights and remedy the effects of the discrimination."(4)

(becketlaw.org, 10/15/19, (1) onenewsnow.com, 10/21/19; (2 )thetexan.news, 10/15/19; (3)(4) hhs.gov, 8/28/19, dailysignal.com, 8/28/19; aclu.org, 11/19)

 

"Never do anything against conscience even if the state demands it." ~Albert Einstein

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Protecting Conscience Rights for Doctors & Nurses

December 8, 2019

Victories for Americans' First Freedom are happening nationwide, with people of faith reclaiming their most cherished and fundamental God-given liberty.  Recent court decisions set important precedents to protect religious rights for students and for faith-based adoption agencies.

 

Iowa - In 2018, the University of Iowa banned InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and several other religious groups from the school because they required their leaders to ascribe to its Christian beliefs.  Still, InterVarsity does allow all students to be members.  A Federal Court judge ruled in October, 2019, that university officials had "violated InterVarsity's clearly established (constitutional) right to free speech…  “The Court does not know how a reasonable person could have concluded this was acceptable..."  She ruled these officials can be held personally liable and forced to pay damages out of their own pockets because they failed to follow an earlier ruling in support of InterVarsity.

   

"We must have leaders who share our faith," said an InterVarsity director.  "No group - religious or secular - could survive with leaders who reject its values."  Would it make sense to force College Democrats to allow a Republican to lead the organization? Must the Libertarians admit Democratic Socialists to leadership positions?  Of course not.

   

Michigan - In September, a federal court ruled in favor of a faith-based adoption agency and in support of parents of 5 foster children with special needs. The court said, "the State's real goal is not to promote non-discriminatory child placements, but to stamp out St. Vincent's (Catholic Charities) religious belief and replace it with the State's own."

   

St. Vincent's was one of Michigan's most successful adoption and foster agencies.  It upholds Catholic teaching about marriage and therefore, referred same-sex and unmarried couples to agencies that have no objection to providing them adoption and foster services. In 2019, a new attorney general began a policy targeting faith-based agencies because of their beliefs about same-sex marriage.  She implemented a requirement that religious agencies provide recommendations and endorsement of same-sex couples and she banned religious agencies from making referrals.

   

Judge Jonker wrote, "What this case is about is whether St. Vincent's may continue to do this work and still profess and promote the traditional Catholic belief that marriage as ordained by God is for one man and one woman."  He called the state's actions a "targeted attack on sincerely held religious belief."

(washingtonexaminer.com, 9/27/19; ncregister.com, 9/27/19; nationalreview.com, 9/27/19, firstliberty.org, 10/11/19; christianheadlines.com, 10/1/19)

“I will walk about in freedom for I have sought your precepts.”  Psalms 119:45

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

We Give Thanks for Religious Freedom Wins in 2019

December 1, 2019

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Why Do We Celebrate Thanksgiving Day Every Year?

November 24, 2019

Ever since 1789 when Pres. George Washington proclaimed that a day of Thanksgiving be held to thank God for giving the American people the opportunity to create a Constitution to preserve their hard-won freedoms, most presidents have also proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving and praise to God.  However, the dates and months of the celebration varied.  It wasn't until Pres. Abraham Lincoln's 1863 Proclamation that Thanksgiving was regularly commemorated each year on the last Thursday in November.  Then, in 1941, Congress passed a joint resolution and officially set the fourth Thursday in November as a fixed-date for the holiday.

Since Washington's proclamation was the first of its kind, it is the legitimate standard for all future proclamations.  Pres. Washington focused on God and our relationship to him.  He said we should "acknowledge His providence," "obey His will," "be grateful for His benefits," "humbly implore His protection and favor."  Thanksgiving should be "devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be."

Thanksgiving Proclamations:

1863 - Pres. Abraham Lincoln:  "(I) invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States to set apart and observe (a day) of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens."

2015 - Pres. Barack Obama:  "Pres. George Washington proclaimed the first Thanksgiving in our country's nascence, calling on the citizens of our fledgling democracy to place their faith in  'the providence of Almighty God,' and to be thankful for what is bequeathed us."

2017 - Pres. Donald Trump:  "On this Thanksgiving Day, as we have for nearly four centuries, Americans give thanks to Almighty God for our abundant blessings ... to show gratitude for our freedom, for our friends and families, and for the prosperous Nation we call home."

(archives.gov/thanksgiving; thefederalist.com, 11/25/15; obamawhitehouse.archives.gov, 11/20/15; whitehouse.gov, 11/17/17; thoughtco.com, 1/27/19)

 

"It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord'...for the days are with us again when, at the gathering of the harvest, we solemnly express our dependence upon Almighty God."   Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  1942

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Escaping Religious Persecution - Still a Longed-for Dream Around the World - November 17, 2019

 Americans will soon celebrate Thanksgiving Day and remember the Pilgrims, who fled religious persecution seeking a place to live and thrive in freedom.  They came to this "New World" aboard the Mayflower and survived the harsh conditions in 1620-21 with the grace of God and help from the Wampanoag Indians. At last they were free from persecution.

   

Sadly, the God-given right to freedom of conscience is denied to over 3/4 of the world population with many experiencing extreme forms of persecution from harassment to torture and death.

   

For example, on Nov. 1, Chinese priests and parishioners barricaded themselves in a Catholic Church in northern China in an attempt to prevent the government from tearing it down. A Vatican agreement with China was intended to secure some religious freedom for Catholics but only state approved churches are now allowed…with their government spies and more control instead.  In many of these government-controlled churches, the cross is taken down and pictures of Prime Minister Xi Jinping are put up instead.

    

Chinese persecution of religious minorities has also been the focus of international concern with millions of Uighur Muslims and others imprisoned and subjected to organ harvesting for the country's organ trade.

     

"For the most part, we are aware of the persecution and martyrdom of (people of faith) around the world, but we tend to be naive about the threat to religious freedom right here in America," wrote Rev. Msgr. James McNamara.  There are those who want to deny conscience rights and freedom to practice closely held religious beliefs to some small business owners, health care workers, adoption agencies, military chaplains & officers, teachers & students, and many more.  These citizens are marginalized, discriminated against, sued, and denied their First Amendment religious freedom protections.

 

"May this country (America) and each of you be renewed in gratitude for the many blessings and freedoms that you enjoy.  And may you defend these rights, especially your religious freedom, for it has been given to you by God himself."                                        Pope Francis, December, 2015

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Dishonest Language – Example #2 

Deceptively Named "Equality Act" Would Harm Religious Liberty and Free Speech - November 10, 2019

(Deceit:  The act of causing someone to accept as true or valid what is false or invalid.)

 

Misinformation on the intent and implications of the so-called "Equality" Act, conceived to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation, was passed by the U.S. House in May.  This H.R. 5 bill would make it possible for nationwide religious discrimination against people of faith as well as free speech, by redefining the word "sex" in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" as protected classes throughout the federal code.

     

This bill purports to equate newly defined "sex rights" with the current rights found in the Civil Rights Act.   However, "sex" is a biological fact determined at birth and "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" are feelings.  Biological "sex" is objective and fact based.  "Orientation" and "gender identity" are subjective and fluid.  Since a feeling is subjective and not intrinsic to an individual such as a person's skin color or nationality, broadening the term "sex" to include "feelings" is inaccurate and deceptive.

   

If this bill is passed into law, the implications for religious freedom and free speech are far reaching.  The "Equality Act" bans the use of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) as a legal defense from the government violating a person’s religious liberty.  In addition, it would require men, women, etc., to be treated exactly the same from bathrooms, women's sports, shelters, rape crisis centers, to sexuality education programs that promote a particular ideology.

   

Former Equal Employment Opportunity Commissioner, Chai Feldman, said, "I'm having a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win...Sexual liberty should win in most cases.  There can be a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases the sexual liberty should win..."

(afa.net, 5/7/19; cnsnews.com, 5/21/19; familywatch.org, 5/14/19; reason.com, 5/16/19; lcation.org, 5/31/19)

 

“When we subvert the meaning of words… we undermine the language that sustains our thinking about the law. Dishonest language leads to dishonest debate and bad laws.”   

                                                                                                  ~Archbishop Charles Chaput                         

Archbishop Chaput has decried dishonest language. The mislabeled "Do No Harm" Act, does the exact opposite of its name since it eliminates religious freedom protections for employers and medical professionals.  The “Do No Harm” Act gives more privileges to those claiming to be offended than to those exercising their religious freedom First Amendment rights.  The “Do No Harm” Act includes the broad phrase "dignity harm" to essentially end any religious exemptions.

Since this Act is "Designed to amend the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993 ...," it removes exemptions for religious doctors, nurses, or any medical professional giving "access to, information about, referrals for, provision of, or coverage for, any health care item or service."  

     

This means that doctors could be forced to perform "gender-reassignment surgeries" or prescribe hormone-blocking prescriptions.  It would remove religious exemptions for those who do not want to provide referrals for abortion.  The Act has the potential to target and eliminate exemptions for protected religious speech since a person might claim that hearing speech about a religious belief causes him/her "dignity harm."

 

The “Do No Harm” Act could erase all religious exemptions in America.

 

(washingtontimes.com, 3/17/19; hrc.org; reporternews.com, 7/6/19; christianheadlines.com, 9/19/19; nationalreview.com, 9/19/19; catholicnewsagency.com,9/19/19)

 

Archbishop Chaput tells us: “Words are important because they shape our thinking, and our thinking drives our actions.Dishonest language leads to dishonest debate and bad laws.”

The Little Sisters of the Poor filed a petition with the Supreme Court on Oct. 1 asking the court to once again protect them from the Health & Human Services (HHS) mandate, under the Affordable Care Act, as they face lawsuits from California, Pennsylvania, and several other states.  The mandate requires that cost-free coverage for contraception, abortion inducing drugs and sterilization be included in employer health plans.

The Sisters are a religious order of nuns in the U.S. since 1868, dedicated to caring for the elderly poor. 

Catholic teaching holds abortion and contraception to be gravely immoral.  Thus, it violates conscience and religious freedom rights for Catholic nuns or any group with closely held religious beliefs, to comply with this mandate.

In 2016, the Supreme Court tossed the Little Sisters case and several similar cases back to their respective courts of appeal for reconsideration.  In 2017, the President issued an Executive Order supporting a new rule that would allow the Little Sisters and similar groups to claim a religious exemption against the mandate. He told the Little Sisters their "long ordeal will soon be over."  

"Today we are grateful for the president's order and look forward to the agencies giving us an exemption so that we can continue caring for the elderly poor and dying ... without the fear of government punishment," said Mother Loraine. 

A new HHS rule protecting religious freedom rights was subsequently issued. Yet, California immediately sued the federal government to take away that religious freedom exemption.   Although CA admits that it has many of its own programs to provide contraceptives, etc. to women, 13 other states joined them and are forcing the Little Sisters of the Poor back to court.

"It has been six long years since we began our legal battle against government mandates that threaten our ministry," said Mother Loraine.

(washingtonexaminer.com, 10/5/19; catholicnewsagency.com, 6/4/19; californiafamily.org, 2019; cruxnow.com,10/10/19; dailycaller.com, 10/10/19)

 

Beware of "polite persecution" that is cloaked in a disguise of "culture, modernity and progress."  ~Pope Francis

The persecution of Christians around the world has increased in 2019 with concern for believers in China, India, and Nigeria.  Watchdog group, Release International, reports 215 million believers face violence and discrimination for their faith.

 

China continued:  One underground church leader wrote in 2018: "Things are getting tighter here ... Brothers & sisters are facing difficulties and suffering for their faith.  My sister (& family) were put in jail for gathering with about 30 people ... They were beaten and shocked by the electric sticks ..."

 

India: Hate crimes and targeted violence rose 57% during the first two months of January.  The Religious Liberty Commission pointed to violent radical mobs that have stormed prayer meetings, ransacked churches, and beaten believers.  Recently, Indian authorities jailed church leaders and their families after hardline Hindus disrupted a worship service, beat individuals, and live-streamed the events on Facebook.

Radical Hindu nationalists use social boycotts to pressure Christians into converting to Hinduism. Christian families are cut off from electricity, water, the ability to cultivate agricultural fields, and even the ability to socialize with Hindu villagers.  

 

Nigeria: Militants such as Boko Haram continue devastating attacks against Christians in the north and central Nigeria.  In a six month period, 6,000 people were killed and 50,000 were driven from their homes.  Release International said there is a "deliberate plan to destroy and take over the predominately Christian communities in the region."  

The Christian Association of Nigeria said what is happening is "pure genocide and must be stopped immediately."

(christianpost.com/persecution; bbc.com/china; persecution.org, 9/7/19, 4/30/19; breitbart.com, 3/20/19)

 

"All religious minorities must be protected, and the evidence demonstrates that in some countries, Christians face the greatest risk."    U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt

Christians continue to be the most persecuted religious group in the world with significant increases in 2019. Watchdog groups, Release International and Open Doors, have particular concern for believers in China, India, & Nigeria.

 

China: In 2018, China was on track to contain the world's largest Christian population by 2030, thanks to a surge in underground house churches.  The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) estimated the number of Protestants at anywhere from 58-115 million, and Catholics range from 10-12 million.  About 1/3 of Christians attend the government sanctioned church groups: The Protestant Three-Self Church and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Church.  Still, Christians face growing repression and China is ranked as a country where it's most difficult and dangerous to practice Christianity.

 -  Over 2,000 crosses have been burned & ripped down and many churches demolished.

- The Communist regime is now demanding churches replace postings of the Ten Commandments with sayings of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

-  Some sanctioned churches require pastors to incorporate communist ideology in their sermons.

-  Some congregations are threatened to be blacklisted, meaning travel restrictions, schooling and future employment of their children will be impeded.  

-  By 2020, 600 million surveillance cameras will monitor all citizens, believers, and religious activities such as who buys Bibles, etc.

-  Chinese Christians will only be able to purchase the Communism-friendly version of the Bible.

-  There is a nationwide effort to exalt President Xi who says that religion must be guided by the party to adapt to socialist society.

In light of this ongoing crackdown on religious freedom, house church leaders are going back to underground practices. 

 

Today, Christianity is being labeled as a "Western Ideology" that must be resisted at all costs by the Chinese people.

(nytimes.com, 12/25/18; persecution.org, 4/30/19; newsmax.com, 3/9/18; faithwire.com, 9/18/19; townhall.com, 9/23/18; christianpost.com-persecution)

 

 "The great masses of the people ... will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one."    from Hitler's "Mein Kompf"

On Sept. 23, President Trump told the United Nations that stopping religious persecution around the world is one of his "highest priorities."

The event marked the first time a U.S. president has called a U.N. summit on religious freedom.  Speaking before a crowd of world leaders, U.S. business owners and survivors of religious persecution, the president committed another $25 million to protect religious freedom, religious sites and relics from persecution and destruction.  He said 80% of the world's population lives in places where freedom of religion is banned, restricted or threatened.  Christians continue to be the most persecuted religious group in the world, even nearing levels of genocide.

"The United States is founded on the principle that our rights do not come from government; they come from God.  This immortal truth is proclaimed in our Declaration of Independence and enshrined in the First Amendment to our Constitution's Bill of Rights.  Our Founders understood that no right is more fundamental to a peaceful, prosperous, and virtuous society than to follow one's religious convictions.”

"Regrettably, the religious freedom enjoyed by American citizens is rare in the world...  As we speak, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Yazidis, and many other people of faith are being jailed, sanctioned, tortured, and even murdered, often at the hands of their own government, simply for expressing their deeply held religious beliefs.”

"Today, with one clear voice, the United States of America calls upon nations of the world to end religious persecution. To stop the crimes against people of faith, release prisoners of conscience, repeal laws restricting freedom of religion and belief, protect the vulnerable, the defenseless, and the oppressed....”

"As President, protecting religious freedom is one of my highest priorities and always has been."

(whitehouse.gov; upi.com, 9/23/19; dailysignal.com, 9/23/19; ncregister.com, 9/23/19;townhall.com, 9/23/19)

Pope Francis told the General Assembly of the United Nations on Sept. 25, 2015:   “[T]he most basic understanding of human dignity compels the international community, particularly through the norms and mechanisms of international law, to do all that it can to stop and to prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities’ and to protect innocent peoples.”

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Advocating for International Religious Freedom at United Nations - October 6, 2019

Illinois just joined CA, CO, and NJ to require K-12 schools to teach LGBT 'history' incorporated into American history courses.  Maryland is now developing a similar curriculum.  Advocacy groups have praised these states for expanding their definitions of American history in the classroom.  The laws mandate that publicly funded schools include "the roles and contributions of LGBT people in the history of this country and this State."

    

These laws also have their critics.  Barnegat, NJ mayor, Alfonso Cirulli, said, "The government has no right to teach our kids morality."  Many parents have objected to the mandates and the laws' implementation has been slow.  CA school boards didn't approve the first LGBT-inclusive textbooks for K-8 classrooms until 2017.  A California based non-profit group, Queer Education, complained, "We have seen a lot of schools dragging their feet."

    

Parents with different points of view have spoken at school board meetings.  One California parent felt that teachers reading the children books about transgender people in 1st and 2nd grade is long before she may be ready to talk to her children at home about gender and sexuality.  "I should be the one to educate about those things, " she said. Another California  parent thinks her 5 year-old son, born a girl, would benefit from stories shared at school.

    

American Principles Project director, Terry Schilling, a Washington D.C. nonprofit whose mission is to re-establish human dignity as the basis for American society said, "I can't think of anything weirder than being obsessed with teaching young children about sexuality.  Even most parents struggle with the topic because of its difficulty but, somehow, we as parents are OK with a complete stranger teaching them.

    

"Parents need to reclaim their role as the primary educators of their children - especially as it pertains to their children's sexuality.  No one else has that right or responsibility."

    

"American children today don't even know the basics of history.  They are clueless as to the founding of America.  They are already essentially being taught that America was founded by white men who oppressed women and minorities instead of what America was really founded on - the notion of human dignity, that all men are created equal and have inalienable rights.  They aren't taught that civil rights leaders like Frederick Douglas and Martin Luther King Jr. viewed the ending of slavery and institution of civil rights as a continuation of the founding principles and not a contradiction."

(usnews.com,8/14/19; washingtonpost.com,8/16/19; christianpost.com,8/13/19; reuters.com,5/13/19)

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Some States Mandate Schools to Teach LGBT History

SEPTEMBER 29,  2019

While 30 states presently dictate the content of teaching core academic subjects (science, English, social studies, math) for religious & private schools, NY State has proposed a version of control that includes a much wider range of subjects and much more oversite.   The proposed NYS law, S6589, known as "Substantially Equivalent Instruction for Nonpublic School Students," would require public school administrators to oversee private schools within their border, whether or not their own schools are achieving academic proficiency, and would unconstitutionally force compelled speech, content discrimination, and viewpoint discrimination.

    

Leaders of Jewish, Catholic and other private schools explain that they already undergo accreditation by groups such as the NYS Association of Independent Schools.  "Our schools go through a very thorough process, the gold standard of accreditation," said the Association director.  "To do anything in addition is redundant, unfunded and doesn't make sense."

    

"The proposed regulations disregard the long history of success demonstrated by private schools across NY State, they undermine the choices made by parents who choose private schools for their children, and they substitute the education bureaucracy in Albany for the private school leadership sought by parents and students," wrote Parents For Educational & Religious Liberty in Schools (PEARLS).

    

Kellenberg Catholic H.S. principal, Bro. Kenneth M. Hoagland S.M., wrote, "NYS Education Dept. (NYSED) is attempting to drastically expand its authority over non-public schools...  (Catholic schools) have always maintained a comprehensive educational program, equal or superior to the program of studies dictated by the NYSED.  Under the proposal the (local school district) would oversee... lesson plans, testing scores, report cards and the like...No public school should have the authority to oversee our academic program."

    

The immediate targets of the regulations are 39 Yeshivas that, for religious reasons, reject much of secular education and teach mostly in Yiddish rather than English.  Many Jewish leaders see this law as a violation of religious rights, a threat to the traditional religious focus of their schools. The Catholic School Administrators Association of NYS argue that "the oversight of Catholic Schools by a (public school local district) is a clear conflict of interest and the proposed regulations are ill conceived and unacceptable." 

(thefederalist.com, 8/22/19; recordonline.com, 7/3/19; nycatholic.org, 3/1/19; nysed.gov, 5/31/19)

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

New York State Proposes to Deny Religious and Private Schools Control Over Curriculum

SEPTEMBER 22,  2019

"Religious believers can live quite peacefully with the separation of Church and state, so long as it's real freedom and not the half-starved copy of the real thing called 'freedom of worship.'  We can never accept a separation of our religious faith and moral convictions from our public ministries or political engagement.  It's impossible.  And trying to do so is evil ..."

Therefore, "religious faith sincerely believed and humbly lived serves human dignity" for both the believing and non-believing (and) "...it's vital in building a humane society."

 

"We can begin building a culture of religious freedom by changing the way we think.  Majority opinion doesn't determine what is good and true.  The deep moral problems we now face in our country didn't happen overnight.  They've been fed by a false understanding of freedom for decades, and they have roots in the exile of God from public consciousness.

"We also need to change the way we act.  ...The right to pursue happiness does not include a right to excuse or ignore evil in ourselves or anyone else.  When we divorce our politics from a grounding in virtue and truth, we transform our country from a living moral organism into a kind of golem of legal machinery without a soul."

 

"If we want a culture of religious freedom, we need to begin living that culture here, today, and now ...Nations change when people change...  You create the future with the choices you make.  So, serve the poor.  Help the weak.  Protect the unborn.  Speak the truth about creation (Gen. 5:2).  Fight for your right to love and serve God, and for others to do the same. 

"If you do that, you'll inspire others to do the same.  And you'll discover in your own life what it means to be fully human."

(thepublicdiscourse.com, 2019/07;  catholicphilly.com, 2019/07)

 

"The glory of God is a man fully alive."  Saint Irenaeus

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

"Building a Culture of Religious Freedom"

From Abp. Charles Chaput’s address on July 9, 2019

SEPTEMBER 15,  2019

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

What Can Parents & Grandparents Do to Protect a Child's Religious Freedom? - SEPTEMBER 8,  2019

(1)  Attend a monthly School Board meeting to "Educate the Educators"

     *  Provide copies of the U.S. Department of Education's Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer in Public Schools.  Every student may: pray before & after school during free times such as recess & lunch; read the Bible & other religious books during free reading time; write, speak and draw expressions of their faith in classwork & homework where appropriate to the assignment; wear clothing & jewelry with religious messages; speak about God and their faith at school events and graduation; form religious based clubs that use school resources the same as other clubs.

     *  Remind School Board members that as a condition to receive education funds, Section 9524 requires that the School District certify in writing to the State educational agency, that it has no policy that prevents, or otherwise denies participation in, constitutionally protected prayer or expression in their schools.

 

(2)   Tell your child about the Dept. of Education Guidelines that guarantee his/her First Amendment Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Speech.  CFFR has prepared a pamphlet, It's OK for Students to Pray, explaining these student rights.  See www.cffor.org for information and free pamphlets and DVD.  Also see www.ed.gov for other information.

 

(3)   Confirm that Constitution Week - Sept. 17-23, 2019 - is being celebrated at your child's school.   This celebration was signed into law in 1956.  It requires that schools and universities that receive Federal funds are educating students and faculty about the Constitution, signed 1787, that provides the framework for the United States of America.  The aims of this celebration are:

*  Emphasize citizens' responsibilities for protecting and defending the Constitution.

*  Inform people that the Constitution is the basis for America's great heritage and the foundation for our way of life.

*  Encourage the study of the historical events which led to the framing of the Constitution in September, 1787.

(cffor.org; ed.gov; dar.org; apples4theteacher.com)

 

"Educate and inform the whole mass of the people ... They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty."    Thomas Jefferson

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN A MINUTE

Lawsuits Often Needed to Restore Freedom of Religion & Speech to Students - SEPTEMBER 1,  2019

California: The Huntington Beach S.D. agreed to pay attorney costs and a policy change that will permit "students to engage in religious expression without fear of reprisal."  A case was brought on behalf of two students in an elementary school who were denied their First Amendment rights.  The principal had barred the students from handing out "Bring Your Bible to School Day" information flyers during the school day, including lunch and recess, due to their religious content.

"Bring Your Bible to School Day" has become a national event, in October, in order to counteract the misperceptions created by a 1963 Supreme Court ruling that teacher-led prayer be removed from American public schools.  Many people falsely assumed religion had been banned.  Too often school officials unfairly infringe on student rights to free speech and confiscate religious themed books read during free time, forbid student prayer during non-instruction time, or ban speech, writing, and artwork with a religious content. 

Colorado: The Univ. of Colorado-Colorado Springs, refused to reverse its policy that a Christian group could not require officers and leaders to adhere to Christian principles - until it was sued.  The school has now changed its discriminatory policies and must also pay $20,500 in damages, court costs, and attorney fees as part of the settlement. "After they were sued, all of a sudden a higher level of accountability was involved and they decided to change their policies and allow our group to operate freely on campus," said an Alliance Defending Freedom attorney.

Florida:  Univ. of Florida agreed to stop discriminating against student group Young Americans For Freedom (YAF).  The group sued the University alleging the schools' process of disbursing student fees to fund organizations on campus discriminated against their political views.  UF's Student Government had denied YAF's request to become a fully budgeted student organization, thus preventing funding requests for guest speaker fees.

The YAF chapter agreed to settle its lawsuit against the university in exchange for it eliminating the policies that prohibited the YAF from receiving speaker fees for their likeminded speakers.

(freedomxlaw.com, 1/7/19; wnd.com,8/3/19; biblica.com, 10/4/18; onenewsnow.com, 5/29/19; conservativehq.com, 8/5/19)

"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction... It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same."  ~Pres. Ronald Reagan

Freedom of religion is a cornerstone of the American vision.  It is understood to be the exercise of inherent natural rights.  "We are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights ..."  

The Founders believed that virtue derived from religion is indispensable to limited government and essential to the spirit of self-government.  Founder Samuel Adams said, "Religion and good morals are the only solid foundation of public liberty and happiness."

The American model of religious liberty takes a strongly positive view of both private and public religious practice.  It assumes that religious believers and institutions will take active roles in society, which include engaging in politics and policy-making and helping to form the public's moral views.

Religious freedom recognizes the right of all people to form their own conscience.  This right applies to people who believe in a God as well as for non-believers.  Liberty of conscience demands, and ultimately justifies, limited government.  Conversely, limited government requires individual responsibility.  In a free society, religion is an ally of good government and freedom as it forms the moral character of individuals and communities.

Research confirms that governments that respect religious liberty also tend to respect other freedoms and is strongly related to political liberty, economic freedom, and prosperity.  "Whenever religious freedom is high, there tends to be fewer incidents of armed conflict, better health outcomes, higher levels of earned income, and better educational opportunities for women," said researcher Brian Grim.

 

(heritage.org,12/20/19; democracyweb.org/essential principles; share.america.gov,2/4/19;)

 

"Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; ...

Just as freedom of religion is often considered a threat to dictatorship, it can be an important safeguard of democratic society."

UN General Assembly Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948

In July, the Army Chaplain Corps, founded on July 29, 1775 in response to a request from Gen. George Washington to the 2nd Continental Congress, commemorated their 244th Anniversary.  Washington knew that in addition to physical preparedness, his troops would need spiritual fortitude and the moral strength to persevere in the face of the formidable British army.

Today, a diverse and expanding group of over 200 religions are represented among military chaplains, ranging from majority religions such as Christianity to minority religions such as Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism. 

Sadly, military chaplains of today often face risks in carrying out their duties and living out their faith.  There are activist groups such as the misnamed Military Religious Freedom Foundation working to suppress faith and religious freedom in the Army, Navy, and Air Force.

Examples include: 

*   Navy Chaplain Wes Modder almost lost his career when he answered questions from a sailor seeking counseling about his church’s teaching on marriage.

*  Navy Chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt was court marshaled for standing against a policy that prohibited sectarian prayers while in uniform.  Eventually Congress rescinded this policy.

*   Army Chaplain Scott Squires faced disciplinary action after he complied with his denomination’s doctrines and declined to conduct a marriage retreat for same-sex couples.

These attacks on chaplains are becoming more frequent and hold the risk that troops could lose the spiritual strength they need as they prepare to risk their lives for our freedom.  Some organizations are asking for an Executive Order directing officials to protect and uphold religious freedom in America's military.

(firstliberty.org, 7/26/19; townhill.com, 7/29/19; aclj.org, 7/26/19; christiannewswire.com,2019; onenewsnow.com, 9/1/16

"Military power wins battles, but Spiritual power wins wars."  Gen. George Marshall

The U.S. State Department, in their Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, hosted leaders from over 100 countries and from religious communities being persecuted through atrocities including harassment, torture, murder, and sexual abuse. The Sri Lanka representative recalled the Easter Sunday attack that killed 259 Christians and injured hundreds more. 

Rabbi Myers of Pittsburgh's Tree of Life Synagogue spoke about 11 killed during services.

Dr. Ahmed of New Zealand spoke about the 51 killed at his mosque.  He said, "Love pulls us together. Hate destroys us."

A member of Uigher of China said the Chinese government has put more than one million people in concentration camps, where prisoners' organs are harvested and Uighurs are forced to give up their language, culture and religion.

Nadia Murad detailed the horrors she, Christians, and Yazidis (ancient religion with similarities to Christianity, Judaism & Islam), endured under ISIS.  Their invasion included mass killings, forced conversions, and sexual violence against women who were forced into sex slavery.

"I wish to give thanks to the government of the United States for including us in this important conference and special thanks to the administration for (their) concern and commitment to the persecuted minority in Iraq," said Fr. Thabet Youssef, a Chaldean Catholic priest.  "I can say this conference gives us hope.  Our greatest fear in the early years was that the world would forget us."

 

"We've hit a nerve here,” U.S. Ambassador Sam Brownback insisted to the biggest event of this kind in the world.  "People want religious freedom and they want it now."

(frc.org, 7/17/19; apnews.com,7/19/19; thefederalist.com, 7/23/19; onenewsnow.com,7/22/19)

 

"The freedom of belief is the fundamental human right on which every other one depends.  If that's violated, you can be pretty certain there's some pretty ugly things going on."    Anglican Bishop Mounstephen