Tag Archives: Conscience

Before the rise of secularism, Americans believed in conscience

Dissent, disagreement, conscience and religious liberty
The importance of respecting the conscience of others

In the last 50 years, America exchanged religious liberty for hedonism. We used to believe that conscience was a good thing, and we respected individual differences rooted in religious convictions. But today, secular leftist politicians, lawyers and judges attack Christians using the courts. Pro-lifers, pro-marriage business owners, and people expressing Christian convictions in public have all felt what it is like to have conscience attacked by the secular leftist state.

Let’s take a look at what things were like in a different time when moral convictions had not been destroyed by secular leftism.

Consider this article in The Federalist about a new movie called “Hacksaw Ridge”.

Excerpt:

Over last weekend, I saw the new Mel Gibson flick “Hacksaw Ridge.” Gruesome and at times overshadowed by lead actor Andrew Garfield’s awkwardness, “Hacksaw Ridge” was an ode to the age-old American custom of protecting dissent by protecting the conscience.

In an age when attacks upon conscience and religious liberty grow more and more fiery, the true tale of World War II hero Desmond Doss’ conscientious objection to killing is a reminder of the difficult stakes involved in ensuring that individual liberty is the presumption that government takes toward individuals, even during war.

“Hacksaw Ridge” is the story of Doss, a Seventh Day Adventist whose religion prohibited taking the life of a fellow human being. Doss, obviously a patriot, felt obligated to serve in World War II as a medic. Where war is the business of taking life, Doss saw his role as helping save lives. That he does, as his heroism is on full display in his military record and receiving the Medal of Honor from President Truman.

The article has 6 sections.

The first one makes the point about how things have changed:

1. The Conscience Is Sacred

Doss arrived at his pacifism through religious conviction. It was an ethical precept he arrived at by religious devotion and piety, which means his pacifism was not something arbitrarily considered. Throughout the movie, the tattered Bible he carried with him everywhere he went symbolized the solemnity of his beliefs. Standing before a court martial, he was willing to go to jail for his convictions.

This is important today because so much hostility is based in rejecting religious motivation around contentious issues such as sexuality. Liberals are inclined to believe that any and all opposition to the ever-expanding lexicon of the sexual revolution is based in animus. That’s hogwash. Today’s dissenters from the sexual revolution have no use for animus. Rather, they believe the purposes of sexuality and human embodiment are different than what secular progressivism teaches.

Doss’ sincerity is a reminder that the convictions people arrive at by religious motivation are not designed to be capricious, but are ordered toward certain ends that people will naturally disagree about.

Part 3 was also good, because it explains efforts by Republicans to pass laws like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act – laws that are opposed by atheists in the Democrat party:

3. It’s Good to Accommodate People’s Consciences

When almost court-martialed for insubordination, Doss insists that his desire all along was to be a medic. This request was eventually approved. In the movie, we see the U.S. government preserve a man’s conscience by assigning him a duty that did not violate it. The U.S. government was right to accommodate Doss where accommodations can be made. In this move, it recommitted itself to an important principle at the heart of our constitutional system: The presumption of liberty.

This means it is government’s burden to prove infringing upon a person’s liberty is absolutely necessary. In Doss’ case, it was deemed unessential for him to carry a weapon, so he served in a different capacity. This is at the heart of legislation like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which puts the burden on the government to prove its case and make every last accommodation where possible.

The problem with people on the secular left today is that they have no empathy. For them, other people have no right to disagree because it makes them feel bad – but they don’t see how jail time and fines amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars makes the victim of their legal attacks feel bad:

5. Protecting Conscience Means Developing Empathy for Others’ Convictions

As the movie’s plot develops, Doss’ fellow soldiers come to understand that his motives aren’t sinister. They realize that, when freed to live faithfully, Doss is there to help save their lives. Throughout this, and when they learn of his sincerity, his enemies-turned-friends gained a greater understanding of Doss’ convictions. They came to understand the force of his resolve, which dampens their mockery.

In one visceral scene in particular, Doss and the most intense warrior in his battalion are in a foxhole together. There, in seeing Doss’ devotion to sacrifice and conscience, his enemy-turned-friend makes lighthearted gestures recognizing that Doss’ motives are pure. In the crucible of conflict, progress occurs.

As in the case of Doss, protecting conscience doesn’t mean you will agree with the conscience you’re protecting. In fact, disagreement underscores the very need for protection. If conscience and religious liberty are simply ideas our society supports when popular, such protections are easily undone.

One of my favorite passages in the Bible talks about conscience.

1 Corinthians 4:2:

1 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.

2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.

3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself.

4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.

You can clearly see in today’s gay rights movement the problem with the government choosing to favor sinful behavior over religious liberty. People who are involved in sinful lifestyles don’t have the ability to do the right thing when it comes to respecting others. Engaging in a sinful lifestyle corrupts the ability to be respectful of the human rights of others. The desire to feel good and be approved of is seen as more important than respecting the right of others to disagree.

Who knows how far the secular left would go to punish dissenters from gay marriage? Although the media doesn’t cover it, there have been countless episodes of violence and vandalism, workplace persecution and job terminations, not to mention an armed attack by a domestic terrorist at the Family Research Council building. Because people in a sinful lifestyle don’t respect conscience rights of those who disagree. Conversely, when a person stands alone for a moral virtue (e.g. – chastity), there is no desire to compel others.

U.S. Civil Rights Commission chairman says religious liberty is just “intolerance”

Obama speaks to the Human Rights Campaign
Obama speaks to the Human Rights Campaign

The Washington Times reports on a story that shows what Democrats really think about the moral standards described in Judeo-Christian religious texts.

Excerpt:

The chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights said that “religious freedom” and “religious liberty” have become merely “code words” for intolerance, “Christian supremacy” and committing every form of identity-politics sin, and thus they must yield before anti-discrimination laws.

The remarks, released Thursday in a report on “Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles with Civil Liberties,” is the latest example of an increasingly hostile reception in liberal circles to one of the six specified rights at the core of the First Amendment — the “free exercise” of religion.

“The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance,” said Martin R. Castro, a Chicago Democrat named USCCR chairman by President Obama in 2011.

[…]It’s the area of sexual orientation and gender identity where the greatest conflicts lie, and the report offered little support to those who see their work or artistic expressions — creative photography, cake decorating or flower arranging, for example — as also expressions of their religious belief about marriage being the union of one man and one woman.

Is all moral disapproval able to be dismissed as “intolerance”? The truth is that Jews and Christians have been taught from the Bible to put the needs of children above the selfishness of adults. That is why we have rules around sexuality that confine sexuality to within a life-long, faithful, loving commitment of marriage. God decided that a man and a woman cannot have the pleasure of sex without first committing to  each other for life. That commitment is proof that obligations are more important to the man and the woman than their selfish need to have pleasure in this life.

It’s not that Jews and Christians single out homosexuals for “discrimination”. We have the exact same disapproval for no-fault divorce, premarital sex, abortion, infanticide and adultery. And we ought not be forced by government officials to celebrate (or subsidize) behaviors that go against our commitment to subjugate sexual urges to the needs of children. Anyone who understands children knows that they need a stable environment to grow up in, and access to their biological mother and father. That is the ideal situation, and that is the arrangement that we celebrate with the word “marriage”, even though we are permissive to let people live how they want.

The word marriage is very important. I would not call cohabitation “marriage”, nor would I call multi-partner relationships “marriage”, nor would I call serial promiscuity “marriage”. I would not even attend a marriage ceremony by professed Christians unless I knew that they had been chaste during their courtship. I would not attend the wedding of a person who had previously initiated a divorce, either. I don’t want to celebrate or acknowledge any relationship where recreational sex was given more weight than the needs of children for stability, and access to their mother and father. That is the real issue with religious liberty and conscience. I have a right not to endorse or participate in activities that put adult selfishness above the needs of children. And it’s my decision what I do or do not celebrate – it’s not the decision of a secular leftist bureaucrat.

Double standard

Meanwhile, pastors who oppose homosexuality in their sermons actually do face discrimination and intolerance.

Consider this article from The Stream: (H/T George)

A pastor filed suit against the Georgia Department of Public Health Wednesday, accusing the agency of religious discrimination after officials allegedly fired the man because of his sermons, which called homosexuality a sin.

Dr. Eric Walsh worked as the director of Pasadena’s public health department and served on President Barack Obama’s Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDs. The Georgia Department of Public Health then offered him the job of running a district of the state health department in 2014 .

When news broke that Walsh had been offered the job, LGBT groups expressed their outrage, largely because he had called homosexuality a sin at the church where he is an associate pastor. The LGBT community called on the department to not hire Walsh because of his “anti-gay propaganda and religious rhetoric.” Walsh also spoke against evolution, Islam and Catholicism.

The health department rescinded their offer, and Walsh filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint in 2014 alleging religious discrimination.

[…]First Liberty, a religious liberty group representing Walsh, points to a copy of an email the group obtained where a government official discusses assigning employees to listen to Walsh’s sermons on YouTube.

“OK…I have an assignment for several of us,” the email reads. “We have to listen to his sermons on You Tube tonight. If we take a couple of hours each, then we should cover our bases. I will enlist Dwana to help us. Kate is going to listen to them as well.”

First Liberty says this email, plus the unwarranted withdrawal of the offer, is serious evidence of discrimination.

“I couldn’t believe they fired me because of things I talked about in my sermons,” Walsh said in a statement. “It was devastating. I have been unable to get a job in public health since then.”

How is that not intolerance? Do you think his lawsuit has any chance of success if the government is run by people like this Civil Rights Commission chairman?

Voting matters

Back to the Civil Rights Commission chairman: How does someone with that view get appointed to such a high position? The answer is that many, many people who read the Bible and go to church thought that it would be a good idea to vote for a President who would appoint this man to his high position.

Which Religions Voted for Obama in 2008?
Which Religions Voted for Obama in 2008?

Lots of people who claim to be religious voted for Obama, and now we know what he thinks of Bible-believing Christians.

What happened to the Christian baker who declined to celebrate redefining marriage?

Gay activist vandalizes pro-marriage sign
Gay activist vandalizes pro-marriage sign

I thought that this recent article from The Federalist was worth reading so that everyone can understand how the tolerance crowd really deals with respectful disagreement.

Excerpt:

The employees tasked with handling the front of the shop are busy tending to consumers, so owner Jack Phillips, the kind of guy who’s more comfortable dealing with sugar paste than strangers, jumps in to help out.

We’d like you to design a cake for our wedding, the man explains, motioning to his partner at the other side of the shop.

Sorry, Phillips responds, I can’t create specialty cakes for gay weddings. If you’d like, I can sell you anything else you want — cupcakes, pastries, whatever.

Anger flushes over the would-be customer, who stands up, curses, and flips off Phillips while he heads for the door — a reaction that is well within the normal bounds of serious disagreements in American life.

Oh, but the two men could not handle disagreement like you or I could:

A half hour after Mullins and Craig storm out of Masterpiece Cakeshop, the store’s phone rings. An irate caller asked Jack if he’s the jerk who turned away the gay couple. Well, no, I just don’t design cakes for same-sex weddings; I didn’t turn away anyone, he explains.

This distinction fails to pacify the agitated man, and after offering an array of colorful suggestions, he hangs up. In the hour between the incident and closing time that Thursday night, Phillips estimates he received another six comparably incensed calls berating him for cake-denying bigotry. When he finally got home, his inbox is fuller than it’s ever been. And it’s not because locals have a sudden hankering for Funshine Cookie Pops.

[…]Jack begins his demanding work at 6 a.m. the next morning, so he can prepare for a Bible study class he hosts on Fridays. The phone is already ringing. It rings all day. All day Saturday (probably all day Sunday) and all day Monday, as well. Angry voices, swearing at him; demanding cakes; threatening him. Jack stops answering.

Then the protestors show up.

One of the disadvantages of showing off your righteous passion in a suburban parking lot in Lakewood, Colorado is that very few people can see or hear you. So the activists picketing Masterpiece that weekend were forced to pick up their rainbow flags and move to a busy intersection on nearby Wadsworth Ave — right across the street from another bakery. Actually, within the five square miles radius of Masterpiece there are a dozen places that could have accommodated the jilted couple.

Then again, this has nothing to do with a cake.

No, they didn’t want a cake, they wanted to stamp out anyone who disagreed with their lifestyle – stop them from earning a living so that they would starve. Or maybe put them in prison. And to the people on the secular left, this rage made sense. It was normal. It was justified. They didn’t protest the murder of gay people in Muslim countries, they protested being told no by a Christian man whose first priority was to keep his conscience clean according to his moral convictions.

More:

On Monday, the TV stations showed up. By Tuesday, Jack was on local news.

[…]The first letter from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission arrived soon enough. Americans, evidently, no longer share a “common” sense about societal norms. So Mullins and Craig had lawyered up immediately — contacting the ACLU, once champions of free expression and now champions of hurt feelings.

[…]The commission was not above retroactive punishment, however. At the time, being found guilty of violating civil rights laws didn’t only mean the end of Phillips’ life’s work. The punishment for refusing to make a special cake for a gay wedding was $500 and one year in prison per charge (jail time was only later amended out of the law when general public learned about the statue).

The shop was not only ordered to alter its policy and start participating in gay weddings or else face debilitating fines, it was told to provide comprehensive staff training, ensure compliance, then file quarterly obedience reports with the government for two full years. In these reports, Phillips was to describe exactly which remedial measures the shop had taken to conform, and document the reasons any other patrons were denied service.

Colorado’s Thought Police would teach Phillips how to stop himself acting on any ideas that were heretical.

The commission could only pass quasi-criminal judgments. In the end, these charges had to be authorized by the attorney general, who was charged with executing complaints and filing formal proceedings. In this case, that person was John Suthers, a Republican. He did.

The case is now headed to the Supreme Court. The article notes that complaints filed with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission by Christians who were denied cakes by non-Christian bakers were dismissed – because the laws are only enforced against Christians. It’s very much like 1930s Nazi Germany, in that regard, with the secular leftists in place of the Nazis, of course.

Well, I would never respond like that to people who disagreed with my sexual orientation. My sexual orientation is chastity – no sex before marriage for any reason. I would not even kiss a girl on the lips before marriage. How would I handle someone who refused to sell me a cake? I would thank them, and find another cake. That’s what grown-ups who have self-control do when confronted with people who disagree with them. It’s called “celebrating diversity”. It’s called “tolerance”.

I don’t need pride parades or government coercing those who disagree with me. Chastity is self-evidently virtuous, because it puts self-sacrificial commitment above recreational sex. But some people are not so sure that what they are doing is morally right, and that’s why they want to involve the government to force people to celebrate them. They think that maybe if everyone agrees with them, then the majority of sinful humans can somehow overturn the moral law. Or at least make rebellion more comfortable for now. In my case, the honor of what I am doing with my sexuality is internal and self-attesting, even if the culture is against it.

Obama administration rejects “right of conscience” complaint from pro-life groups

Barack Obama speaking to Planned Parenthood
Barack Obama speaking to Planned Parenthood

This is from the radically leftist Los Angeles Times.

They write:

Thee Obama administration on Tuesday rejected a “right of conscience” complaint from anti-abortion groups in California who objected to the state’s requirement that health insurance plans include coverage for elective abortions.

The civil rights office at the Department of Health and Human Services said it had completed an investigation and dismissed several complaints after concluding California’s policy did not violate a decade-old rule adopted by Congress, known as the Weldon Amendment.

The office said the provision, which protects doctors, nurses, hospitals and other healthcare providers who object to performing abortions, does not extend to health insurance firms that have no moral objection to providing abortion coverage and instead are acting on the request of religious-minded customers.

The decision upholds a move by the California Department of Managed Care, which notified seven insurance providers in 2014 that state law does not allow them to offer coverage that limits or excludes abortions for some employers.  The issue arose when faculty members at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and Santa Clara University objected to this limitation in their insurance plans.

So, the religious schools and institutions cannot have plans that exclude abortion, because the Obama administration does not recognize the right of religious organizations to refuse to fund abortion. But the Obama administration does recognize the obligation of pro-life taxpayers to continue to pay the salaries and benefits of their Democrat overlords. You must pay the taxes for government, you just don’t get a say in what government does.

Alliance Defending Freedom reacted to the decision so:

Lawyers for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which filed one of the complaints, denounced the HHS decision.

“The Obama administration is once again making a mockery of the law,” said Casey Mattox, senior legal counsel for the alliance. “The state of California has ordered every insurer, even those insuring churches, to cover elective abortions in blatant violation of the law. We will continue to defend churches from this clear violation of the 1st Amendment and federal law and call on Congress to hold HHS accountable.”

I know that sometimes people vote for bigger government because they want a handout taken from their neighbors. But money isn’t everything – some things are more important. Like not violating the consciences of Christians. Don’t make Christianity harder for Christians to practice.

Christian student expelled for quoting the Bible on marriage on Facebook page

Anti-marriage gay activists vandalize church
Anti-marriage gay activists vandalize church

This article is from the Christian Post, and I’m blogging about it to warn you all about Facebook, and how to use it.

Story first, though:

A Christian student expelled from England’s Sheffield University because he quoted the Bible’s stance on homosexuality in a Facebook post supportive of controversial Kentucky clerk Kim Davis has lost his appeal.

Felix Ngole, a 38-year-old in his second year of study for a master’s degree in social work at the University of Sheffield in South Yorkshire was told that he is no longer a student at the university after a committee ruled he “may have caused offense to some individuals” by issuing a Facebook post last September quoting Leviticus on the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality.

Ngole’s post came in defense of Davis, the clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, who became the center of a media firestorm last year when she refused to allow her office to issue same-sex marriage licenses with her name and title on them because of her religious objection to same-sex marriage.

Although Ngole’s Facebook page is private and can only be seen by his friends, his post was brought to the attention of administrators at the university months later.

Ngole’s future at the university was then subjected to the “Fitness to Practice” committee, which ruled that his conservative Christian beliefs about marriage would negatively impact his “ability to carry out a role as a social worker” and that his post “transgressed boundaries which are not deemed appropriate for someone entering the social work profession.”

The committee ruled that Ngole was to be “excluded from further study on a program leading to a professional qualification.” In late February, the school informed Ngole that he would no longer be recognized as a university student.

“Your student record will be terminated shortly and your library membership and university computer account withdrawn,” Ngole was told. “You may wish to contact your funding body for advice on your financial position.”

That’s actually not such a  strange thing, as similar things have happened in the United States. Alliance Defending Freedom has a post up about one case from Eastern Michigan University.

Secret Agent John Drake
Secret Agent John Drake

So what’s the solution to this?

Three points:

  1. Don’t post anything publicly on your Facebook account.
  2. Don’t use your real name on your Facebook account, use an alias instead.
  3. Don’t friend everyone who sends you a friend request unless you know them personally and know that they are sympathetic to your views on controversial issues.

Obviously, there are degrees of risk. Someone in an academic environment who doesn’t follow the news about what Christians are facing in different countries is the most at risk, especially compared to working in a private company. Not only are Christians in academia mingling with intolerant secular leftists, but you pay your money up front when you go to school, and getting into another school after being expelled is much harder than finding another job.

I actually have a friend who is a Christian apologist. He writes all about controversial subjects like intelligent design, gay marriage and Islam under his real name. And he friends pretty much anyone who sends him a friend request, including people who disagree with him on controversial issues. He likes to have a lot of friends, although I wouldn’t classify him as someone who invests deeply in other people’s lives. Publishing controversial views under his own name has actually caused him some trouble academically, where he lost a world-class PhD supervisor. And he has ignored all my warnings. Don’t be like that guy. The goal of your life is not to behave recklessly, and then get destroyed before you accomplish anything. The goal of your life is to accomplish a lot over the long term, and pray that the other side never lays a finger on you.

I used to attend an Anglican church in my home town when I was an undergraduate student. The church (St. Alban’s) was a wonderful stone building in the middle of downtown, with a frightfully small parking lot. The pastor (George) was excellent, and I remember many one-off things that he said. But most of all I remember this statement that George got out of the Book of Common Prayer:

O God, from whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed; Give unto thy servants that peace which the world cannot give; that our hearts may be set to obey thy commandments, and also that by thee, we, being defended from the fear of our enemies, may pass our time in rest and quietness; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.

And he would always dismiss us with this blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields
and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

When I was in my early 20s, I used to scoff at this talk of “rest and quietness” and “wind always at your back”. I had already experienced persecution twice by that time – once in the workplace, and once at school. But I thought I was invincible. However, even back then I was tracking the censorship and persecution of Christians in countries like Canada. As time passed, I saw more cases in more countries where the secular left expelled students, got people fired, vandalized churches and private property, put people on trial, and I watched the government fine Christians for offending others with unwelcome speech. The limits on their desire to be praised for sinning disappeared. Every act of coercion became permissible in order to take away the shame and guilt.

Now that things have accelerated out of control, and even the pious pastors in their comfortable churches finally understand that secular leftism is on a collision course with free speech and freedom of religion, I find myself wishing more and more to pass my life in rest and quietness. I was careful to make a difference starting when I was young. But now rest and quietness seems like a wonderful idea as I get older. A word to the wise for you youngsters who think that you will never face persecution. Take it from someone who has faced it: it’s something to be avoided if you can, so long as you can still make a difference.