Tag: Religious Liberty

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I recently read Elie Wiesel’s, Night and A Jew Today and blogged on each of them. If it’s OK, I’m linking those blog entries here, for anyone who’s interested.  I’m sure he’s at rest, but I’m sorry he’s gone. He leaves us too soon. We need his voice. I think of David French’s recent article in NRO […]

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SCOTUS: No Free Exercise of Religion Allowed in Washington State


shutterstock_171501734There was a lot of noise this week about how the Supreme Court of the United States struck down a Texas law that imposed regulations on abortion clinics, but there was little notice of a more important ruling. In Stormans v. Weisman, the Supreme Court declined (5 – 3) to hear a petition on a Ninth Circuit case out of Washington State that affirmed a state law requiring all pharmacies to stock and dispense the “Plan B” pill, which can act either as an emergency contraceptive or an abortifacient.

The Stormans own Ralph’s Thriftway, a grocery store/pharmacy with two locations a couple of miles apart in Olympia, Washington. Despite the Ralph’s employees’ willingness to refer customers to any of the 30 other nearby pharmacies that stock the drug, Washington State is determined that traditionalist Christians must not be allowed to run a pharmacy that does not stock the pill. That is unfortunate, because the Washington State law is a clear violation of the Stormans’ First Amendment right to the free exercise of their religion. Writing for the dissenters (and joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Thomas), Justice Samuel Alito writes:

This case is an ominous sign. At issue are Washington State regulations that are likely to make a pharmacist unemployable if he or she objects on religious grounds to dispensing certain prescrip- tion medications. There are strong reasons to doubt whether the regulations were adopted for—or that they actually serve—any legitimate purpose. And there is much evidence that the impetus for the adoption of the regulations was hostility to pharmacists whose religious beliefs regarding abortion and contraception are out of step with prevailing opinion in the State. Yet the Ninth Circuit held that the regulations do not violate the First Amendment, and this Court does not deem the case wor- thy of our time. If this is a sign of how religious liberty claims will be treated in the years ahead, those who value religious freedom have cause for great concern.

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California. Land of the solution in search of a problem. The latest effort by California Progressives (I know, redundant) is State Bill SB 1146 which will remove funding and financial assistance to religious school students unless the school gives up it’s religious convictions, removes faith from it’s curriculum, student life and educational requirements. The reason? Discrimination.  It appears […]

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Mona Charen noticed.  So did Mollie Z. Hemingway.  They are close readers of our mass media journalism.  They called them out this week for bias.  The Leftist mass media reported on an important and long-awaited Supreme Court ruling.  They were clearly disappointed in the ruling, but they gave the facts.  What Mona and Mollie noticed […]

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Donald Trump, in an interview with Yahoo News, expressed concern not only for the ongoing refugee crisis, but also with the American Muslim community as a whole:  Yahoo News asked Trump whether this level of tracking might require registering Muslims in a database or giving them a form of special identification that noted their religion. […]

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Report: Pope Francis Met With Kim Davis


From the NYT:

Pope Francis met secretly in Washington last week with Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who defied a court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, her lawyer said in a telephone interview Tuesday night. Francis gave her rosaries and told her to “stay strong,” the lawyer said. Ms. Davis and her husband, Joe, were sneaked into the Vatican Embassy by car on Thursday afternoon, according to Ms. Davis’s lawyer, Mathew D. Staver. The couple met for about 15 minutes with the pope, who was accompanied by security, aides and photographers. Mr. Staver said he expected to receive photographs of the meeting from the Vatican soon.

Actress Launches Failed ‘Gotcha’ Moment on Ted Cruz


A minor celebrity named Ellen Page had a brilliant idea. She would go to some flyover state called “Iowa,” find dumb, evil, bigot Senator Ted Cruz, and confront him over his backward views on gay rights. Better yet, she would bring her own camera crew to document every second of her courageous destruction of the christofascist Texan and the snake-handling hill people he represents. America would finally see a white Hollywood millionaire standing up to small-town evangelical bakers and octogenarian florists.

Unfortunately for Page, Sen. Cruz had no clue who she was and never realized he was supposed to be intimidated by the 28-year-old.

Protecting Inmates From Dangerous Ideas


shutterstock_69674647Christianity is no longer permitted in Kentucky’s juvenile detention centers.

Chaplain David Wells was told he could either sign a state-mandated document promising to never tell inmates that homosexuality is “sinful” or else the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice would revoke his credentials … The Kentucky regulation clearly states that volunteers working with juveniles “shall not refer to juveniles by using derogatory language in a manner that conveys bias towards or hatred of the LGBTQI community. DJJ staff, volunteers, interns and contractors shall not imply or tell LGBTQI juveniles that they are abnormal, deviant, sinful or that they can or should change their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

One incident doesn’t constitute a trend, but this was predictable, and it’s reasonable to expect similar rule changes following the Supreme Court ruling.

Gratitude and Responsibility


I went to church yesterday.

We say that so casually in America. We met to worship God according to the dictates of conscience, to learn from His Word, and to fellowship. We did so quite publicly — there’s even a sign out front — not in a back room in hushed voices. We had no fear of armed men breaking up the meeting. We heard a sermon that was neither censored nor written to avoid the displeasure of any public official. In America, we can still worship as we believe.

Oregon: Bakers’ Statements to National Media Were “Unlawful”


Most of us probably assume that if legal charges are filed against us and we consider them unjust, we have a First Amendment right to raise a ruckus in the press. But last week’s controversial Oregon cake ruling suggests that some public officials are not so sure about that.

Last week, the Commissioner of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, Brad Avakian, ordered Melissa and Aaron Klein of Sweet Cakes by Melissa to pay $135,000 in damages, primarily for emotional distress, to a same-sex couple it had turned down for a wedding cake (earlier). In addition, the ruling ordered the Kleins to

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Sweet Cakes by Melissa was a bakery in Gresham, Oregon.  They became famous because they declined to provide the wedding cake for a lesbian wedding.  The bakery was punished severely for this.  Nearly two years after the shop was closed, a very large fine was recently pronounced by the State of Oregon.  I am posting […]

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Slate’s Rising Intolerance on Gay Rights


In my recent Defining Ideas column, “Hard Questions on Same-Sex Marriage,” I sought to explore some of the intellectual cross-currents and difficulties in the Supreme Court’s opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges. There were two basic points in the article.  First, I sought to explain the difficulties in finding a constitutional right to gay marriage, even though most of the standard arguments against same-sex-marriage tend to fall flat as a matter of social and political theory. The article was in no sense an effort to rally religious conservatives to stop the powerful political juggernaut that has resulted in a surge in public approval for same-sex-marriage.

The second point was my deep uneasiness that the same-sex-marriage movement is moving sharply from its defense of gay unions towards a massive intolerance of those individuals who, for religious reasons, oppose the practice and wish to conduct their own personal lives and business activities in accordance with their own beliefs — beliefs that I hasten to add are not my own. The recent hysterical screed against my column by Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern, laden as it is with abusive epithets, shows just how rapidly that form of intolerance is taking over the gay rights movement more generally.

A Random Sampling of Progressive Opinion on Religious Liberty


SCOTUSLest you think that I was overly alarmist in my earlier post on Obergefell’s threat to religious liberty, consider this.  I wrote a slightly longer version of the piece for City Journal, which was then posted to RealClearPolitics — so it attracted a fair number of eyeballs outside of the conservative bubble.  Here are some of the comments I got:

  • Religion is the problem, not gay marriage. Religion is a multi-billion dollar a year industry that threatens the civil liberties of everyone. Religion is as pervasive as pornography in this country, but much more harmful to our culture.
  • If the institution of marriage is removed from its unnatural cloud of accompanying religious magic . . .  it is a right, like any other. As such it should by law available to ALL citizens. In THIS country at very least.
  • I think it’s always dangerous to defend anything based on religious belief.
  • It’s a “threat to religious liberty” only if you think that people should be free to use their religion as an excuse to screw others.
  • There are so many parallels with the 1960’s civil rights movement it is hard for any rational person to fathom how those on the “pro-religious” freedom side expect history to view their backward cause.

Progressives feel momentum on their side and nothing will get in their way. If new rights can be invented by the judiciary, then old rights — like the free exercise of religion — can be just as easily interpreted into oblivion.

To Defend Religious Liberty Today


shutterstock_159174965Thomas Jefferson was brilliant and essential, but he has never been my hero among the Founding Fathers. As such, it caught me off guard when I found myself deeply moved at the memorial that honors him in our capital. Even crowded by tourists, it feels a little set apart, a peaceful spot from which one can look out across the Tidal Basin and reflect on this city and nation of ours and on Jefferson’s words on freedom cut into the surrounding walls. Words that were true when first written, though not fully realized in law. Words that are true now, even if the laws should abandon them utterly.

Almighty God hath created the mind free.

Inscribed under the dome is Jefferson’s vow of “eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” He wrote this to Benjamin Rush in 1800, nearly a decade after the ratification of the 1st Amendment designed to protect against such tyranny. Even this master of words knew that — in the end — words on paper could not alone secure liberty. Such is human nature, and such is the power of ideas gone wrong.

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If you still have any doubt that religious liberty in America is under attack, come meet the influential Senator from Massachussetts.  Here’s a transcript, but the text alone doesn’t do her justice.  Go watch the video.    Scott Walker also has a vision of what it means to President. After the Supreme Court said on Friday that […]

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Obergefell’s Threat to Religious Liberty


As a libertarian, I support same-sex marriage. As a libertarian, I also fear the totalitarian overtones sounding from the next round of gay rights initiatives. The nature of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on same-sex marriage in Obergeffel v. Hodges has only compounded the danger. As I note in my newest column for Defining Ideas from the Hoover Institution:

…[I]n the wake of Obergefell, we have to ask what the next step in the struggle over same-sex marriage will be. By insisting that same-sex marriage is a fundamental right, Kennedy has consciously introduced an equivalence between race and sexual orientation. How far is he prepared to go? In the 1983 case of Bob Jones University v. United States, the Supreme Court upheld an IRS decision to deny tax-exempt status to schools engaging in racial discrimination. The Court acknowledged that it could not outlaw the Church’s practices, which were protected as a free exercise of religion. But the differential tax treatment was fine because “the Government has a fundamental, overriding interest in eradicating racial discrimination in education.”

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So Albert Mohler has used the term “erotic liberty” to describe the ongoing campaign to allow sex without moral limits to trump everything, including religious liberty. Fred Clark at Patheos comments: “Mohler is describing a group of people as less than human . . . .”  The term “erotic liberty” is a “dishonest, reductionist, hateful phrase.”  He […]

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Scenes From my Front Porch


The thing about living in a place with four seasons — bear with me, I spent about 80 percent of my life in California — is that the beginning of spring is inevitably frantic. As the trees bloom, all your rationales for putting off home improvements start to wilt. And so, at the Senik household, there’s been a parade of contractors, plumbers, handymen, and the like ascending the hill in recent days.

After awhile, they become virtually indistinguishable from one another. Each explains, with the thinly-veiled contempt of a teacher that should have retired years ago, highly technical concepts in impenetrable jargon that bounces off my skull like a bird flying into a window. Each next proceeds to request an amount of money that would imply they’ve taken one of my family members hostage. Each then dutifully gets paid because…well, I’m a writer. The odds are pretty good that my death will be premature, but I’ll be damned if it’s going to happen on my roof.

‘Viktor’ was different. Him I’ll remember.

Why RFRA Was Necessary


Ricochet readers who listened to last week’s Libertarian podcast know where I stand on Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Even if the political process surrounding the law’s adoption was flawed, the protections it seeks to afford for religious liberty are vital. As I note in my new column for Defining Ideas, the Indiana law did not occur in a vacuum. The more intemperate critics of the law would do well to consider that context:

…During the more than twenty years that the federal RFRA has been in operation, it has provoked relatively little litigation on provision of services issues, and courts have never read it as a blanket license to discriminate. For the most part the application of the law dealt with matters of faith and religion.