Tag: Religious Liberty

Recipe for a Wedding Cake

 

In his famous poem “Ozymandias,” Percy Bysshe Shelley describes the head of the tyrant’s statue lying in the desert sand:

Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;

Ozymandias’ nameless sculptor had one thing in common with his innumerable brother sculptors, painters, and other artists throughout the ages: he was not well-positioned to turn down the job. Had he suggested to the king’s agent that his religion and his conscience really did not permit him to honor the king with his artistic talents, presumably the sculptor’s head would have hit the sand long before the king’s statue did.

Member Post

 

In response to a strong but unsupported reply I made on a comment on a @richardepstein post Let Them Bake Cake , @tommeyer rightly challenged me: “That said, do you think that [Justice Anthony Kennedy’s] career can be summarized as a ‘secular supremacist project of effectively outlawing biblical Christianity.’” Preview Open

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Let Them Bake Cake

 

Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips.

In its 2015 decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the Colorado Court of Appeals unanimously ruled in favor of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which sanctioned Jack Phillips, a devout Christian and the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, for violating the Colorado Antidiscrimination Laws (CADA). His offense: refusing for sincere religious reasons to prepare a custom-made wedding cake for Charlie Craig and David Mullins, a gay couple. His insistence that he enjoyed the First Amendment protections of freedom of religion and speech were roundly rebuffed—as were similar claims in the 2013 New Mexico decision in Elane Photography, LLC v. Willock and the 2017 Washington decision in State of Washington v. Arlene’s Florists, Inc. The Commission then ordered Phillips “to take remedial measures, including comprehensive staff training and alteration to the company’s policies to ensure compliance with CADA.”

So Phillips had to submit to the state’s regulations if he wished to remain in business. But why this compulsory re-education program? Phillips does not insist that Colorado limit marriage solely to unions between one man and one woman. He only resists providing them services that go against his religious conscience. He routinely supplies his gay and lesbian customers with off-the-rack items for use in same-sex marriages. And he has courteously directed his gay and lesbian customers to other establishments that supply services for same-sex weddings. Phillips thus tolerates and accommodates the practices of others with which he does not agree. But the Colorado Commission decidedly does neither.

Member Post

 

OK, this time I checked before I posted, and nothing came back. I am Christian. I regularly attend a “Bible-centered” church in Houston. I do not understand why many evangelical Christians are so fervently for President Trump. I admit that I find Trump vulgar, distasteful and not especially effective as a politician. I did not […]

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This Chaos Without Tradition

 

New “traditions” are entrenching themselves in America. Spontaneous one-man Civil Rights movements and the desecration of historical monuments have become authoritative expressions of the character and legacy of our society. Of course, these are not real “traditions.” They are the product of the fiery passion of democracy, the ardor of Jacobin fiends who have redefined what it means to be American. This is the chaos of a country without Tradition.

Tradition is a gift–an inheritance handed down over generations and not particular to any one person, family, or nation. It includes the mores of ancestors, and their heroes and holidays (as we had in this week’s Columbus Day) that express shared historical foundations. Tradition addresses the little things, like the proper attire at an evening party, even as it maintains great institutions, like the family, marriage, and religion. Though it cannot be explained by pure reason and logic, Tradition is in harmony with Nature, allowing us to better understand man’s origins and the world around us.

Today, however, Tradition is deemed senseless superstition — an arbitrary and expendable personal preference to be rejected at every turn. One cause of this has been Americans’ shared overreaction to the tumult of the Civil Rights Era. Generations formed in the ’60s and ’70s were riveted by the great courageous heroes of this movement and, of course, the natural justice of its cause. But after relentless revisions of history, future generations have failed to learn many other aspects of our culture’s past that are worthy of reverence — historical virtues without which the Civil Rights Movement would not have been possible. Thus, when we welcome immigrants now, we seem so ashamed of our past that we prefer that they bring their own identity, heroes, language, and mores with them rather than share ours as their common inheritance.

Richard Epstein looks at a recent Supreme Court ruling that could have major implications for when and how religious institutions can access public money.

The Supreme Court’s Playground Scrape

 

A recent Supreme Court decision sheds light on an important tension in the religious clauses of the First Amendment of the Constitution. In Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, a church’s application for a grant from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to resurface its playground with poured rubber made from recycled tires was turned down solely because of the church’s status as a religious institution. The Missouri DNR held that it was bound by this provision of the Missouri Constitution:

That no money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect, or denomination of religion, or in aid of any priest, preacher, minister or teacher thereof, as such; and that no preference shall be given to nor any discrimination made against any church, sect or creed of religion, or any form of religious faith or worship.

The provision is one of the Blaine Amendments that was widely adopted by states in the late nineteenth century on a strong tide of anti-Catholic sentiment. The amendments, adopted in 38 states, prohibit the distribution of public funds to religious educational institutions. In this case, the Court had to decide how the Missouri program and its constitutional amendment fared under the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Today, both clauses bind the states as well as the federal government.

David French of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America celebrate the Supreme Court decision that upheld a portion of President Trump’s travel ban, overturning lower court rulings. They also applaud the SCOTUS decision in favor of Trinity Lutheran Church against the State of Missouri in a religious liberty case. And they question Pride Month’s “inclusivity” as LGBT members of the Jewish community are ejected from a Chicago pride march for having the Star of David on a rainbow flag.

Spiritual Success and Repealing the Johnson Amendment

 

President Trump declared his desire to do everything in his power to protect religious liberty in a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast. The beginning was rather brash, as he declared his desire to attend for “the next seven years,” which earned him some laughs. After being introduced by a friend from The Apprentice, the president asked for prayers for Arnold Schwarzenegger, his less-than-successful successor on the show. He then he turned serious. After explaining how his mother taught him from the family Bible, he spoke of the importance of “spiritual success” over material success.

He declared his desire to overturn the 1954 Johnson Amendment, which effectively silenced minsters from speaking out on political matters through provisions in the tax code. This is not the first time Trump has called for its repeal. For example, he spoke about it in an interview with EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo last summer. And the Atlantic reported on it in August.

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Sitting in a warm, comfy home with gifts under the beautiful Christmas tree, listening to carols, watching Scrooge and feeling thankful, suddenly I am jolted with images of the bombed out ruins of Syria, and men in white hard hats digging with their bare hands through the thick, heavy rubble, moments after a deadly bomb […]

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In the United States, we have typically had an expansive view of religious freedom.  Behind the Free Exercise and Establishment clauses of the First Amendment is a powerful argument against tyranny.  As religion presents an authority higher than the State, there is a sense of judgement on even popularly supported laws and moral principles.   Castro […]

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The Darker Side of “Civility”: Or, After the Hangover of the Al Smith Dinner

 

Al-Smith-DinnerThe hangover from last week’s surreal edition of the Al Smith Dinner is finally wearing off, and things still look ugly. Host Timothy Cardinal Dolan says it was an “awkward” meeting between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, who shared a dais with Dolan at the old televised dinner raising money for New York Catholic charities. Yes, obviously awkward, Your Eminence, but wasn’t it a tad awkward for you to be there, too?

Wasn’t it especially awkward for Your Eminence when Hillary, opponent of all that is Catholic (except liberal Jesuit heresy) said, “We need to get better at finding ways to disagree on matters of policy while agreeing on questions of decency and civility?” Dolan instead would agree, as he responded to calls to permanently cancel the dinner by saying, “nothing can ruin the event” as it is “America and the Church at their best.” Dolan is gravely wrong.

The dinner itself is trivial but its pretense to civility — years ago and now — highlights a paradoxical problem for Christians confronting the Left’s anti-Christian agenda. How do we remain “civil and decent” in confronting the Left’s ideologues and yet resist their hijacking of what it now means to be “civil and decent?”

The Government’s Civil Rights Bullies

 

Microsoft Word - 20160908 Peaceful Coexistence 1pmEarlier this month, the US Commission on Civil Rights issued its report Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles with Civil Liberties. The report, which was occasioned in part by the same-sex marriage debate, tries to determine the correct relationship between antidiscrimination laws and the First Amendment’s protection of the free exercise of religion. Currently, persons of religious faith have been legally charged with discrimination under state antidiscrimination laws for refusing to provide their individualized services to same-sex couples because they sincerely believe that marriage is a relationship existing only between one man and one woman. The question is: should they be granted a religious exemption?

The report’s title, Peaceful Coexistence, conveys, perhaps unintentionally, a grim social reality in the United States. Historically, of course, it described the uneasy relationship between the US and the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. In that context, the phrase described how two nations, organized under radically different principles, could avoid the dangers of mutual annihilation through nuclear warfare.

One would hope that the stakes would be lower in this domestic debate, but judging from some of the rhetoric surrounding the issue, they are not. The Chairman of the USCCR, Martin Castro, recently commented publicly that “The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ . . . remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy, or any form of intolerance.” And there are powerful echoes of that position in a statement by five of the commissioners—Castro, joined by Roberta Achtenberg, David Kladney, Karen Narasaki, and Michael Yaki—who write: “These laws”—which seek exceptions to the antidiscrimination laws—“represent an orchestrated, nationwide effort by extremists to promote bigotry, cloaked in the mantle of ‘religious freedom.’”

Arizona AG 7, Freedom from Religion Foundation 0

 

Packer-PopeThe head of an Arizona agency visited France a few months ago, and offered to take employees’ “special intentions” on his visit to the Catholic holy site of Lourdes. Department of Economic Security Director Tim Jeffries’ email noted that he is a member of the Order of Malta, which is focused on “global works for the poor and the sick” and asked employees to reply with their intentions if they were comfortable doing so.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation (headquarted in Madison, WI, because of course they are) was deeply offended by the director’s kind offer and declared it a violation of the First Amendment (PDF).

It is unconstitutional to use DES staff and resources to promote your personal religious views. We request that you immediately cease promoting religion through DES email and do not involve DES employees in any future religious trips you take.

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Hurrah for the Christian Science Monitor. Yes, old-fashioned journalism still exists, hidden away in back corners of the mass media world. My favorite media critics at GetReligion brought my attention to a series on current issues in religious liberty. This is a series of articles that covers a lot of territory. Along the way they […]

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Religious Liberty Under Siege in Mississippi

 

Religious LibertyLast month, Judge Carlton W. Reeves of the Northern District of Mississippi handed down an extraordinarily misguided decision in Barber v. Bryant by issuing a preliminary injunction against House Bill 1523, Mississippi’s newly passed religious liberty law, just minutes before it was to go into effect. The court found that House Bill 1523 likely denied the plaintiffs—a diverse group of supporters of same-sex marriage—their rights under Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, and, furthermore, established preferred religious beliefs, violating the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. Phil Bryant, the governor of Mississippi, has filed papers in the Court of Appeals to dissolve that temporary injunction. State Attorney General Jim Hood has declined to join in that defense of the Mississippi law. As someone who gave some brief advice and encouragement to Mississippi’s appellate lawyers, I think that their motion should be granted, given the major points of principle that it raises.

To put matters in context, HB 1523 was the latest effort to provide explicit protection of religious liberty and moral conscience for those individuals who are opposed to same-sex marriage. At no point does the legislation limit the right of any person to participate in a same-sex marriage, which would be an obvious nonstarter given Obergefell v. Hodges, a highly dubious Supreme Court decision, which held that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed that right to all persons. House Bill 1523 does not seek to dislodge or compromise that decision. Indeed, it would have been dead on arrival if it had attempted any such maneuver. But as is often the case, no one quite understands the scope of a particular constitutional right until its correlative duties are accurately specified.

The correct reading of Obergefell comes in two parts. First, no private person can seek to block the performance of a same-sex marriage. Second, some public official must be prepared to solemnize those marriages, so that they have the full force and effect as traditional marriages. What the decision in Obergefell did not do, and indeed disclaimed, was the notion that people who are opposed to same-sex marriages had to participate in their validation. Even public officials can escape that duty under House Bill 1523 so long as alternative arrangements are made to ensure that “the authorization and licensing of any legally valid marriage is not impeded or delayed as a result of any recusal.” House Bill 1523 thus represents the kind of sensible accommodation that has long been the hallmark of religious liberty.

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Religions do things. Churches do things. Religious organizations do things. Things like preschools, grade schools, high schools, universities, law schools, nursing schools, med schools, hospitals, 12-step programs, eye clinics, dental clinics, day cares, famine relief, flood relief, affordable housing, pre-marital counseling, marriage counseling, divorce therapy, adoption agencies, racial reconciliation stuff, education in how to stay […]

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The Stand in Iowa

 

shutterstock_348035177I suppose we could at least say “We told you so,” though I fear the phrase has lost the sense of smug, self-satisfaction it had when we were younger. Now, I once again see myself empathizing with Jeremiah, who had to constantly tell the people of Jerusalem how bad things would get while competing with many false prophets, even as things went exactly as Jeremiah predicted.

If anything, the current situation in Iowa only confirms what had been long predicted: The government — through bureaucracy and extralegal panels — has moved to compel religious organizations (including churches) to comply with the new progressive political morality. The religious concession supposedly in the laws isn’t even that, as a government hostile to religion and religious thought is now in the business of deciding what constitutes a legitimate religion. The more vocal and aggressive wing of the LGBT movement controls both that movement as well as the media. They will suffer no opposition, and require endorsement. Everything not forbidden is compulsory.

The [Iowa Civil Rights Commission] is interpreting a state law to ban churches from expressing their views on human sexuality if they would “directly or indirectly” make “persons of any particular…gender identity” feel “unwelcome” in conjunction with church services, events, and other religious activities. The speech ban could be used to gag churches from making any public comments—including from the pulpit—that could be viewed as unwelcome to persons who do not identify with their biological sex. This is because the commission says the law applies to churches during any activity that the commission deems to not have a “bona fide religious purpose.” Examples the commission gave are “a child care facility operated at a church or a church service open to the public,” which encompasses most events that churches hold.