Tag Archives: Religious Liberty

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.

Hillary Clinton promotes taxpayer funding of abortion and opposes religious liberty

Hillary Clinton and Planned Parenthood
Hillary Clinton and Planned Parenthood

Where does Hillary Clinton stand on religious liberty? Here she is in a video explaining her view that religious liberty has to be changed by the force of government when it conflicts with abortion rights.

LIfe News explains:

In a speech last year, Hillary Clinton lamented that too many women are supposedly denied abortions. The Democratic presidential candidate came under fire for that pro-abortion comment, but she also drew widespread condemnation for another remark in the speech.

The comment had Clinton essentially saying that Christians must be forced to change their religious views to accommodate abortions.

“Far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health care and safe childbirth. All the laws we’ve passed don’t count for much if they’re not enforced,” Clinton said, using the euphemism for abortion.

“Rights have to exist in practice — not just on paper,” Clinton argued. “Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will. And deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.”

It doesn’t matter if you want to be a faithful Christian and disagree with the killing of unborn children. Hillary’s going to force you to agree with her pro-abortion agenda, and make you pay for the abortions with your taxes.

And that was actually the pattern of her behavior when she was Secretary of State. She wasn’t concerned with national security, or foreign policy. She was concerned with promoting abortion abroad, using taxpayer dollars, including the taxpayer dollars of pro-life taxpayers.

CNS News explains:

[…]Clinton’s State Department… sends tens of millions of dollars to African countries each year for family planning and reproductive health services, including abortion.

The largest recipient is the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), which received $50 million from the State Department in 2010, the most recent year for which figures are available.

UNFPA has a history of supporting abortion services in Africa, most notably in 2005 through its Maputo Plan of Action.

The plan, adopted by the health ministers of the African Union, calls for the implementation of another UNFPA-drafted document known as the Continental Framework on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, which calls on African countries to “[p]rovide safe abortion services to the fullest extent of national laws, and where appropriate provide legal framework for safe abortion services.”

In both the Continental Framework and the Maputo Plan, discussion of abortion is couched in terms of reducing “unsafe” abortions, providing “safe” abortions, and promoting access to family planning in Africa.

Through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the State Department also sends millions of dollars to Africa to help with population control and family planning programs.

Clinton on Monday cited six countries – Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, and Uganda – which had partnered with the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s The Way Forward Project to increase care for children in their countries.

Combined, those six countries received a $90.5 million for “family planning” in 2010.

Meanwhile, in America, Hillary’s good friends at Planned Parenthood receive about $500  million from federal taxpayers each year. And Planned Parenthood returns the favor by donating millions to Democrats.

The Daily Signal explains:

In the past three election cycles, Planned Parenthood’s advocacy and political arms, employees, and their families have spent over $38 million to elect or defeat candidates for federal office who decide how much taxpayers subsidize the nation’s largest abortion provider.

[…]Planned Parenthood receives approximately $500 million from federal taxpayers each year for Medicaid and Title X Family Planning, both programs intended for low-income Americans.

“Planned Parenthood stands alone as a major recipient of taxpayer funding that is also a major participant in elections,” Mattox said.

If Hillary Clinton is elected, we should expect to see more taxpayer dollars being used to promote abortion abroad and here at home. This is something that Hillary Clinton is passionate about – eliminating children in the womb, and silencing Christians who disagree with aborting unborn children.

Belfast bakery sued by gay activist loses appeal and must pay £88,000

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

I heard about this story from my friend Jonny in Northern Ireland, who sent me updates about new developments. I didn’t realize that the penalty for disagreeing with same-sex marriage was going to be over a hundred thousand dollars! Especially when, as the article mentions, same-sex marriage is not even legal in Northern Ireland.

NBC News reports.

Excerpt:

A Northern Irish bakery that refused to bake a cake iced with a pro-gay slogan lost its bid to overturn its prosecution for discrimination on Monday as a local court rejected an appeal based on its owners’ Christian beliefs.

Ashers Baking Co in Belfast had been found guilty of discrimination in May last year for refusing to make a cake bearing the words “Support Gay Marriage” and a picture of characters Bert and Ernie from the television show Sesame Street.

The firm initially accepted the order from Gareth Lee, a gay rights activist, but later contacted him to cancel it and refund his money. Judge Declan Morgan on Monday ruled the bakery had directly discriminated against Lee.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom where same-sex marriage is not allowed, and the largest political party, the socially conservative Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), has blocked attempts to legalize it.

By contrast the Republic of Ireland in May last year approved gay marriage after a referendum backed the measure, signaling a major change in what was once a strongly Catholic and socially conservative society.

[…]Daniel McArthur, general manager at Ashers, told journalists he was disappointed with the judgment, saying it undermined “democratic freedom, religious freedom and freedom of speech”.

Northern Ireland’s Equality Commission, which backed Lee’s case, said it is seeking costs of 88,000 pounds ($108,000) from the bakery, which said it is taking legal advice on what to do next.

The Belfast Telegraph notes that the bakery was not discriminating against a gay person – they did not know what the sexual orientation of the customer was. They simply objected to endorsing a message on a cake that they did not agree with.

Excerpt:

The McArthur family insisted they did not know the sexual orientation of Mr Lee, an LGBT activist, when declining his order.

The family insist their problem was with the cake, not the customer. But Mr Lee claimed it made him feel a lesser person.

However, on Monday morning the Court of Appeal upheld the original decision that Ashers Bakery had “directly discriminated”.

In delivering the appeal judgement, Northern Ireland’s Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan rejected the argument that the bakery would be endorsing the slogan by baking the cake.

He said: “The fact that a baker provides a cake for a particular team or portrays witches on a Halloween cake does not indicate any support for either.”

Lord Chief Justice said bakers couldn’t provide a service only to customers who agreed with their religious beliefs.

[…]After the ruling, speaking publicly for the first time, LGBT activist Gareth Lee said he was “grateful” for the outcome of the appeal.

Mr. Lee had feelings, and the Ashers got a hundred thousand dollar bill (payable to Northern Ireland’s Equality Commission) for hurting those feelings.

Keep in mind always that the Asher family is not just paying Northern Ireland’s Equality Commission. The family is also paying the salary of this judge with the income from their business. They are paying this secular judge from the secular leftist government to punish them for being faithful to their Biblical convictions. That’s why Christians should never vote to enlarge a secular government using money from private individuals and private businesses beyond what the Constitution limits the government to do.

I often hear Christians complain to me about why I am so focused on getting young people to study STEM degrees in school, to get jobs in STEM fields, and to save money and donate effectively.

Premier Christian Radio explains why money matters:

Throughout the legal battle Ashers has been supported by The Christian Institute, which has organised public rallies and garnered financial backing for the case.

Simon Calvert from the organisation pledged the family would not have to worry.

On Premier’s News Hour he said: “We [will] back the family all the way and so the family don’t have to worry about the cost.

“The Christian Institute legal defence fund has got that covered but, you know, that’s going to be a lot of money.”

The organisation had spent £200,000 itself in legal costs, he said.

“It is a lot of money, but Christians are concerned about the state of religious liberty in the UK and they have been willing to donate to our legal defence fund to help us to fight this case and cases like it,” he added.

The money to prosecute Christians came from Christians through taxes, and whatever is left over after taxes is used for the defense of Christians from the secular government. That’s why money matters. And that’s why Christians should not be voting to expand government, which raises tax rates, and shuts off the flow of dollars to organizations that defend Christians in court. It also shows why aliases are practical – the more you can fight the secularists without getting hit and incurring costs yourself, the more money there is for the people who are pinned down by the state and need assistance. You don’t want to be someone who has no money to donate, but asks for others to support you. Have the alias, then earn the money. Then you can donate to others, and not depend on them because you won’t be in legal trouble yourself. This is so simple, but many Christians don’t understand how to think about these financial issues.

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.