Tag Archives: Religious Freedom

Religious liberty defenders evaluate Trump’s new executive order

Trump holds up Bible he "received from his mother" to evangelicals
Trump holds up Bible he “received from his mother” to evangelicals

The Alliance Defending Freedom is a prominent defender of religious liberty. They fight out religious liberty cases at the highest level – the Supreme Court of the United States.

Here’s what they thought of Trump’s executive action on religious liberty:

“During his campaign, President Trump stated that the first priority of his administration would be to preserve and protect religious liberty. In speeches, he said the Little Sisters of the Poor and other people of faith will always have their religious liberty protected on his watch and will not have to face bullying from the government because of their religious beliefs. Religious voters took him at his word, giving the president a mandate to affirm and protect Americans’ first freedom.

“The current outline of the Religious Liberty Executive Order released by White House officials recalls those campaign promises but leaves them unfulfilled.

“First, no specific relief is offered to families like the Vander Boons in Michigan, who were threatened with the effective closure of their family-run business for simply expressing a religious point of view on marriage that differed from that of the federal government.

“Second, the outline directs the IRS ‘to exercise maximum enforcement discretion to alleviate the burden of the Johnson Amendment.’ But Americans cannot rely on the discretion of IRS agents, some of whom have abused that discretion for years to silence pastors and intrude into America’s pulpits. Nor does the outline do anything to prevent a future, hostile administration from wielding its power to penalize any church who dares exercise its constitutionally protected freedoms in a manner that displeases those in authority. A legislative problem like the Johnson Amendment demands a legislative solution like the Free Speech Fairness Act.

“Third, the outline indicates it will ‘provide regulatory relief for religious objectors to Obamacare’s burdensome preventive services mandate, a position supported by the Supreme Court decision in Hobby Lobby.’ The president certainly should fulfill his promise to protect the Little Sisters of the Poor, a host of Christian colleges, and others from having to choose between violating their consciences and paying crippling fines to the IRS.

Here is an article by religious liberty hero David French of the ACLJ in National Review. He makes a key point that must be understood by pastors who want to know if the coast is clear to speak about policy from a Christian perspective.

Excerpt:

Next — and this is important to understand — an executive order cannot repeal a statute, and legal restrictions on political activity by churches are statutory. They’re part of the so-called Johnson Amendment, a rarely enforced provision of the tax code that prohibits 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations from, as the IRS explains, “directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”

The Johnson Amendment is constitutionally problematic (to put it mildly). Lyndon Johnson rammed it through Congress for the noble purpose of stopping nonprofits from supporting his primary opponent and preserving his own political hide, and it’s been on the books ever since. Though it’s rarely enforced, it hangs like the Sword of Damocles over the heads not just of churches but of every 501(c)(3) in the United States. First Amendment lawyers are desperate to find a good test case to challenge it, but the IRS’s general lack of enforcement means that the right case is elusive. So the amendment remains.

The answer to the Johnson Amendment, however, is to either repeal the statute or overturn it in court. This order does neither. In fact, a lawyer will commit malpractice if he tells a pastor or director of a nonprofit that this order allows a church or nonprofit to use its resources to support or oppose a candidate. Even if the Trump administration chooses not to enforce the law, a later administration can tear up Trump’s order and begin vigorous enforcement based on actions undertaken during the Trump administration.

Imagine, for example, that churches rely on this order to mobilize support for Trump in his 2020 reelection campaign. Imagine he loses to Kamala Harris. Then, suddenly, churches across the land would be instantly vulnerable to IRS enforcement action. Thinking they were protected, churches would find themselves in the worst of predicaments, with their rights and possibly even existences dependent on the capricious mercies of the federal courts.

Although many evangelicals bet on Trump to do something to protect religious liberty, the President has not done anything with this executive action to solve the problems. I cannot help but think that we would have been better off with someone who was more aware of the challenges, and who had a track record of battling for religious liberty in his record.

Although Trump whiffed again on religious liberty, there are several pieces of legislation that Congress could take up to solve the problem.

Here are four of them:

Perhaps we can count on Trump to sign them – if the Republicans get them passed.

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.

Todd Starnes: Ted Cruz is the best candidate to defend religious liberty

Ted Cruz explains policy to little girl who wants to be President
Ted Cruz explains policy to little girl who wants to be President

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, my second favorite think tank behind the Heritage Foundation, is advising the Ted Cruz campaign about religious liberty issues. They’ve actually made a list of things for him to do if he is elected President. Since this issue is the core of my being – it animates my whole life plan – I was curious to see what Cruz intends to do about religious liberty.

Here is Todd Starnes of Fox News writing about it:

America’s Christian bakers and florists and wedding planners will be safe under a Ted Cruz presidency.

“I am absolutely convinced in my discussions with the senator that religious liberty will be a lot better off in America with a Cruz administration,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and Chair of Cruz’s Religious Liberty Advisory Council.

The council released exclusively to me its initial recommendations for both legislative and executive actions that will restore the nation’s First Freedom – the freedom of religion.

[…]The council, made up of prominent religious leaders, recommended 15 action items that will protect Americans from discrimination by the federal government on the basis of their view of marriage and also protect employers threatened by the HHS contraception mandate.

[…]The council is also calling on Cruz to direct a review of the IRS’ treatment of religious organizations and to direct federal agencies to respect the free exercise of religion.

The list includes measures to promote religious liberty at the Department of Education, the IRS, the Department of Health and Human Services, the armed forces, and in the federal government as a whole.

Cruz has a record on defending religious liberty:

Cruz has been a passionate advocate of religious liberty for years. He’s been in the front line trenches defending our First Freedom – helping secure courtroom victories to preserve the Texas Ten Commandments monument and the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial.

“As president, I have pledged on my first day in office to rescind every single one of President Obama’s unconstitutional executive actions, and to direct every federal agency to respect and protect the religious liberty of every American,” Cruz said.

His vow is certainly welcome news to American Christians who have been subjected to eight years of vicious attacks by militant LGBT and atheist groups – not to mention the Obama administration.

“Our constitutional liberties should not be subject to the whims of the current administration, and – whether Hobby Lobby or the Little Sisters of the Poor – people of faith should not be made to bow down at the altar of political correctness,” Cruz said.

I took a look over the names of the people on his panel of policy advisors, and was surprised to see people I actually know on it. You probably know these names as well: Jay Wesley Richards, Everett Piper, Bishop Harry Jackson, Ken Blackwell, and Jason Benham. Jason Benham has had to face discrimination himself, when his show was pulled because of his Christian worldview. If I had to pick a scholar who has the same interests as me across the board, it would probably be Jay Richards. So, needless to say, I’m pretty pleased with this. Seems to me like we have been losing, losing, losing at religious liberty for the last 8 years under Obama and his Democrat allies in the House, Senate, federal government and Supreme Court. If Cruz wins, thins are going to change for us on this all-important issue. I just want to be free to be me, and not to be punished for disagreeing with other people on issues of morality and conscience.

I guess it goes without saying that Donald Trump is the polar opposite of Cruz on all of these issues. That’s why it’s important to me that someone with a record of standing up for religious liberty at the Supreme Court wins the nomination. I don’t want someone who only has talk – and Trump’s talk isn’t even that encouraging. He’s promised gay rights activists “forward motion” on gay rights. I think we’ve had enough of #NewYorkValues already under Obama, Mr. Trump.

By the way, if you’re not listening the Family Research Council Washington Watch Weekly podcast, please subscribe. They cover everything from social issues, to fiscal issues, to foreign policy. One of their frequent guests is retired Lt. General William G. Boykin, who is also on Cruz’s foreign policy advisory committee, which I blogged about before.

Related posts

Disney, Marvel, NFL and Apple threaten to boycott Georgia over religious freedom bill

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

This story is from the Washington Times.

Excerpt:

Walt Disney Co. and its subsidiary Marvel are threatening not to shoot films in Georgia if the governor signs a religious liberty bill that the opponents say is discriminatory against gays and the transgendered.

“Disney and Marvel are inclusive companies, and although we have had great experiences filming in Georgia, we will plan to take our business elsewhere should any legislation allowing discriminatory practices be signed into state law,” a Disney spokesman said in a statement.

The boycott threat comes after Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin issued a clarion call for Hollywood to stop doing business in Georgia after the legislature passed the Free Exercise Protection Act.

Republican Gov. Nathan Deal has not indicated whether he will sign the bill.

The bill would originally have protected religious liberty and conscience over the demand of gay activists that anyone who disagrees with them be punished:

[…]The bill initially would have allowed Georgians to decline service for same-sex weddings if doing so violated their religious beliefs. But, sensing the coming storm, Mr. Deal urged lawmakers to make substantial changes to the legislation before passing it.

But then protections for religious liberty and conscience were removed:

“I know there are a lot of Georgians who feel like this is a necessary step for us to take,” Mr. Deal said during deliberations over the bill. “I would hope that in the process of these last few days, we can keep in mind the concerns of the faith-based community, which I believe can be protected without setting up the situation where we could be accused of allowing or encouraging discrimination.”

The new version of the bill says the protections do not apply in cases of “invidious discrimination,” which could mean religious wedding vendors would not be protected from declining to service same-sex marriage ceremonies.

The Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau said this week that it has heard from at least 15 companies that are considering pulling convention business out of Atlanta if the legislation becomes law. ACVB President and CEO William Pate said the loss of that business could cost the city up to $6 billion, the Atlanta Business Chronicle reported.

Conservatives accused Georgia of gutting the bill’s primary purpose.

“It is unfortunate that the Georgia legislature caved to pressure from big business and special interests to water down their weakened bill even further,” wrote the Heritage Foundation’s Roger Severino and Ryan Anderson at the Daily Signal. “Other states must stand vigilant against such cultural cronyism.”

And for me, this story just reinforces why I don’t have a television, why I don’t go to movies in the theater, and why I don’t buy comic books or other products from entertainment companies.

I also don’t follow American football because the NFL has been anti-Christian and anti-family for some time.

The Daily Signal explains:

A CBS News/Associated Press story Sunday, headlined “NFL warns state of Georgia over ‘religious freedom’ bill,” reported that “the NFL acknowledged that the religious exemptions bill … could have an impact on the selection process for the championship game in 2019 and 2020.” Atlanta is one of four cities up for the next two Super Bowls.

[…]“NFL policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard,” spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement, adding that the NFL may evaluate “whether the laws and regulations of a state and local community are consistent with these policies” when looking at Super Bowl contenders.

Yes, because tolerance and inclusiveness require making sure people of faith who don’t support same-sex marriage have no freedom to live in accordance with their beliefs.

ESPN is also on record as being anti-Christian and anti-family, which is why I never tune them in. Why would I choose to be influenced by people who disagree with free speech, religious liberty and conscience protections?

I’ve blogged before about Apple’s opposition to religious liberty and conscience rights. And they are involved in the Georgia legislation as well:

“We urge Gov. Deal to veto the discriminatory legislation headed to his desk and send a clear message that Georgia’s future is one of inclusion, diversity, and continued prosperity,” said Apple in a statement. Hundreds of companies are part of Georgia Prospers, a coalition that told The New York Times that the bill “could harm our ability to create and keep jobs that Georgia families depend upon.”

I don’t use Apple products, not even if they are given to me for free.

Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran

This might be a good time to recall what happened to the Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran with this story is from the Daily Signal.

Excerpt:

Cochran’s book, published in 2013 and called “Who Told You That You Were Naked?,” expresses a biblical view on marriage and addresses homosexuality from his Christian perspective.

[…]Fast-forward a few months, and Cochran received a 30-day suspension without pay, after an LGBT activist group started to protest the book.

“LGBT citizens deserve the right to express their beliefs regarding sexual orientation, and deserve to be respected for their positions without hate and discrimination,” Cochran said, according to a January article from The Atlanta-Journal Constitution. “But Christians also have the right to express their beliefs regarding sexual orientation and be respected for their position without hate and without discrimination.”

After 34 years as a firefighter, Cochran’s fairy-tale career came to a halt in January due to his personal views on gay marriage.

Just to refresh your memory, this is what religious freedom laws are supposed to defend against:

Everyone knows that big government and big labor unions are opposed to conservative values. Big business, contrary to popular myth, is also not conservative. Small businesses are conservative, but big businesses are not conservative. It’s very important for Christians to understand who is opposed to religious liberty so that we can vote accordingly. The right to behave as a Christian in public should be our number one concern.

Where does Bernie Sanders stand on gay rights vs religious liberty?

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

Here’s an article from Robert Gagnon from the American Spectator. Dr. Gagnon is someone I trust on the gay marriage / homosexuality / gay rights issues. In this post he makes a list of all the things Sanders is doing and intends to do on the gay rights vs religious liberty issue.

He writes:

I have encountered a fair number of persons holding a more or less traditional view of marriage who are warming up to Sanders because Sanders strikes them as a “nice man” who just wants to “help the poor.” Pay attention, please, for Sanders has told us exactly what he would do to you as President (rest assured that Hillary Clinton would do the same):

First, Sanders will kill any sort of religious liberty legislation, such as the the “First Amendment Defense Act”:

1. “Veto any legislation that purports to ‘protect’ religious liberty at the expense of others’ rights” (the scare quotes are his). In other words, he is going to get you, you hateful, ignorant bigots who have a problem with supporting directly with your talents, goods, and money the full homosexual and transgender lifestyle.

Second, if anyone in your office finds out that you oppose gay marriage, Sanders is authorizing your pro-gay co-workers to have you fired on the spot:

2. “Sign into law the Equality Act,” of which he “is currently a cosponsor,” “which would expand the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other anti-discrimination laws to include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.” This would include a so-called “employment nondiscrimination” legislation that renders you the moral equivalent of a racist should you utter in or out of the workplace the view that homosexual activity is harmful or immoral. Think of it as anti-Christian (and anti-Muslim and anti-Orthodox Jewish) employment discrimination legislation.

Expect lots of firings and terminations to take place. Imagine your workplace as a sort of “secret police” state, except the policing won’t be so secret. Expect there to be a full-court federal push to punish with hefty fines those who do not want to contribute their talents and goods directly to “gay weddings” (bakers, florists, photographers, caterers). Churches that allow non-parishioners to use any of their facilities will have to offer these to “gay weddings” and any other homosexual or transgender activities. In some cases white-collar employees who outside the workplace write in favor of a male-female foundation for marriage (even on a Facebook post) could be charged with creating a hostile work environment and terminated.

Pro-gay indoctrination of police officers into the gay agenda:

4. “Require police departments to adopt policies to ensure fairer interactions with transgender people, especially transgender women of color …, and institute training programs to promote compliance with fair policies.” This is a mandate to indoctrinate forcibly police departments along the lines of “progressive” sexual ideology. Either they learn to advance the transgender cause or face discipline and termination. That means converting law enforcement into the most active enforcers of a homosexual and transgender agenda against the citizenry. You have no rights, except the right to remain silent.

Pro-gay  indoctrination of young children in the schools:

5. Pass “anti-bullying” legislation requiring indoctrination of children in the schools into the LGBT agenda. Your children will be taught to regard you as a “bully” and a “homophobic bigot” if you don’t affirm homosexual and transsexual identities. Your children will be given exercises that will urge them to declare their affinity with the LGBT cause. “If you believe that sexual orientation is not a choice, walk across the room to us, where these treats are waiting.” If your children don’t comply, they will be ostracized.

Dr. Gagnon lists a few policies favored by Sanders, and takes a look at his record on gay rights issues in Vermont. Suffice to say that if this man is elected President, religious liberty and freedom of conscience for Christians will be finished. Some voters think that forced redistribution of wealth by a secular government is more important than the right to live by Biblical sexual ethics. For myself, I’m not for redistribution of wealth by a secular big government. I believe in Biblical sexual ethics, and I believe in natural marriage. I don’t want to elect someone who would punish me for being supportive of natural marriage and traditional morality.