One Decision, But Not Really A Resolution Of The Issue

In 2012, Jack Phillips refused to bake a wedding cake for Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig. In 2012. Same sex marriage was not legal in Colorado, and the Supreme Court had not yet ruled on the issue. It was a very different time. The State of Colorado charged Mr. Phillips with discrimination, and the case made its way to the Supreme Court, which ruled today. The Washington Times posted the story today.

The article in The Washington Times reports:

Mr. Phillips had argued as a Christian, he could not be forced to create a custom wedding cake for a homosexual couple, citing his First Amendment rights, though he said he offered to sell one of his standard cakes to them.

Colorado said his refusal broke the state’s public accommodation law prohibiting businesses from refusing service to anyone based on religion, race, sexual orientation and national origin.

During proceedings before the state’s civil rights commission one commissioner complained that freedom of religion had been used to “justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the Holocaust.” The commissioner called Mr. Phillips‘ beliefs “one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric.”

Justice Kennedy said those statements undermined the state’s case against Mr. Phillips.

The Supreme Court ruled 7 to 2 in favor of Mr. Phillips. The two judges who ruled against Mr. Phillips were Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Mr. Phillips is essentially a cake artist. The question becomes whether or not a person can be forced to use his art for something he fundamentally disagrees with. Artists are usually commissioned. If the charges against Mr. Phillips were allowed to stand, does that mean that an artist does not have the right to refuse to do a commissioned work? I think that is the ultimate question–does a person running a business have the right to choose their clientele?

Attacking Religious Freedom In Massachusetts

CBN News posted an article today about the battle for religious freedom in Massachusetts.

The article explains the timeline of the events:

Four churches in Massachusetts are suing the state over a new anti-discrimination law that provides no exemption for churches.

Instead, the statute restricts speech that might conflict with government views on gender identity and forces churches to open their bathrooms and locker rooms to people based on their perceived gender identity.

…The state legislature added gender identity as a protected class to the state’s public accommodation law in July 2016. On Sept. 1, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination issued a “Gender Identity Guidance,” which determined that a church would be considered as a place of public accommodation “if it holds a secular event, such as a spaghetti supper, that is open to the general public.”

Alliance Defending Freedom is handling the case for the four churches. The four churches are Horizon Christian Fellowship in Fitchburg, Abundant Life Church in Swansea, House of Destiny Ministries in Southbridge, and Faith Christian Fellowship in Haverhill.

The article reports:

“All events held at a church on its property have a religious purpose and the government has no authority to violate the First Amendment’s guarantees of freedom of religion and speech,” Alliance Defending Freedom legal counsel Christiana Holcomb said.

The law went into effect Oct. 1.  But opponents of the law celebrated a major win late Tuesday in their efforts to repeal it.  The Massachusetts secretary of state has certified the required number of signatures needed to put a repeal measure on the 2018 ballot.

It will be interesting to see if the issue makes it on to the 2018 ballot, even though it has the necessary signatures. A number of years ago, the voters of Massachusetts collected enough signatures to put gay marriage on the ballot, but somehow that never happened. The gay marriage law that took effect in Massachusetts was the result of a court decision–not a vote of the people. Unfortunately, I think this issue may be resolved the same way.

 

Religious Freedom Wins A Victory

The Daily Signal today posted a story about the recent Supreme Court case regarding the Little Sisters of the Poor. I am not a lawyer and do not totally understand what I am about to report (other than the fact that it is good news for those of us who treasure the freedom to practice our religion in our daily lives).

The article reports:

In a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court “vacated,” meaning erased, all of the lower court cases and required them to reconsider the claims brought by the Little Sisters of the Poor and others that the regulations promulgated pursuant to Obamacare violate their religious exercise in light of the government’s admission that it could indeed provide contraceptive coverage without the Little Sisters’ collaboration.

…The Little Sisters of the Poor and other challengers suggested, among other things, that the government could require insurance providers to make separate contraceptive plans available to employees whose employer plans do not include such coverage.

This would require a separate enrollment process along the lines of how some employers have separate dental, vision, or prescription plans, as well as separate “insurance cards, payment sources, and communication streams.”

They maintained that such “truly independent efforts to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees” would allay their religious objections because they would be removed from the process entirely.

According to the Supreme Court, “the government has confirmed” its scheme could be modified in a manner that leaves the Little Sisters of the Poor out of the process, as they requested, while still insuring women employees receive contraceptive coverage.

…The ruling means that all the lower court opinions that went against the religious freedom of the Little Sisters of the Poor and the other religious nonprofits are wiped away and their flawed reasoning cannot be used as precedent in the future.

It illustrates that the government could have accommodated the Little Sisters of the Poor all along without affecting contraceptive coverage, but chose not to. And it guarantees that the government cannot force the Little Sisters of the Poor and the other challengers to choose between violating their consciences as the government demands or face crippling fines and penalties.

In the coming months, the lower courts will reconsider these challenges, but it is hard to see how the administration and the lower courts can find a way to get around the Supreme Court’s unanimous order—making the decision a big victory for the Little Sisters of the Poor.

The underlining in the quote is mine. I wanted to make sure that anyone who reads this article understands that this entire legal dust-up was unnecessary. It was another example of bullying by the Obama Administration. The Administration wanted to bully any Christian who might want to practice their faith in their mission or occupation into accepting terms of ObamaCare that are unacceptable in Christianity.

Notice also that the Supreme Court decision to ‘vacate’ the lower court cases was unanimous–even the liberal justices realized that what was done to the Little Sisters of the Poor was simply not appropriate.

 

 

This Isn’t Good For Our Society

Breakpoint posted an article today about the intolerance our culture is currently showing toward those who hold Biblical beliefs.

The article includes a wonderful comment about popular conceptions of open-mindedness:

You’ve seen those ridiculous “Coexist” bumper stickers, right? You know, the ones where the word is spelled out using religious symbols from Christianity, Islam, Paganism, Gay rights, Judaism, and so on?

I call it ridiculous because, as someone once wrote: “The C wants to kill the E, X, T, and the O. The O offers peaceful non-resistance, which will be ineffective if real trouble breaks out. The E feels like it’s been oppressed, making it intolerant of the C, the X, and the T. The I and the S are numerically irrelevant, but are just necessary to spell out the word. And the sticker is mostly directed at the T (or the Christian), who ironically poses no threat whatsoever to any of the others.”

In other words, the “Coexist” bumper sticker slogan assumes that each ideology be emptied of its actual conviction if its to work. And according to Colson Center board member Jennifer Marshall, that’s what big business is currently trying to sell to the American people.

The article points out that those who claim that they are in favor of coexistence are not willing to coexist themselves. A recently-passed Mississippi law allows those who hold Biblical beliefs on homosexuality to refuse to participate in homosexual weddings and to allow their religious convictions determine their rental policies if they are landlords. The law simply prevents discrimination against those who hold Biblical beliefs on matters regarding homosexuality.

The article concludes:

“Mississippi’s policy shows that we can coexist,” Marshall says. “Why would big business oppose that?”

That’s a good question given the number of times large corporate entities have entered these hot debates just in the last few years. Think of all of the corporate-led attacks and blackmail against common-sense religious freedom legislation in Arizona, Indiana, Georgia, North Carolina, and now Mississippi. And then think of the bakers, florists, and photographers in places such as New Mexico, Colorado and Washington State who have been forced to choose between their beliefs and ruinous fines forcing them out of business. They were not allowed to co-exist, at least not without compromising their convictions.

As Jennifer Marshall points out, true advocates of cultural coexistence seek conscience protections for all, not just those who adhere to the vision of the sexual revolution. Citing a poll that says 63 percent of state residents support the law, Jennifer writes, “Citizens in Mississippi and elsewhere are looking for solutions that defuse cultural tension over issues of sexual orientation and gender identity . . .The corporate establishment’s campaign against these common sense policies disregards all that. Citizens would do well to see through the big business marketing blitz against religious liberty. This corporate messaging puts neither the common good nor constitutional principle first.”

The First Amendment states:

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Living life according to your beliefs is one example of the free exercise of your religion. The group shaming of Christian beliefs is not only damaging to our culture, it is unconstitutional.

Laws That Really Don’t Make Any Sense

Just when you think state legislators couldn’t pass any more weird laws, someone comes up with a new idea. The law I am about to describe is not only unnecessary and useless, it doesn’t even apply where it might matter.

Hot Air is reporting today that California has politically gone off the deep end.

The article reports:

A California lawmaker has introduced a bill that would ban government-funded travel to states with laws that he says discriminate on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

“No one wants to send employees into an environment where they would be uncomfortable,” said Democrat Evan Low, Jon Ortiz, a reporter for the Sacramento Bee, reported this week.

Low said he decided to introduce the bill after Indiana signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law in March 2015.

Does the law include government-funded travel of women to Saudi Arabia and other countries where they do not have equal rights?

I believe that America is made up of states. The last I heard, each state had the freedom to make laws that applied in that state. California is perfectly within its rights to limit the travel of government officials or employees to places where they will not be uncomfortable. Obviously, being within your rights does not mean that what you are doing can be described as logical or sensible.

It gets worse. The article explains:

Low said he doesn’t know which states his bill would apply to yet. He said it would not cover lawmakers and political trips but would affect administrative travel.

So what, pray tell, is the point of this legislation?

 

First Amendment Rights For All Americans?

First Amendment RightsPlease keep this picture in mind when reading the following article.

This is what the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

(The italics and underline are mine.)

Today CBN News posted an interview of DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.

Ms. Wasserman-Schultz stated:

“If you’re a religiously affiliated organization then you have wider latitude in terms of the Constitution and the protections that the First Amendment provides,” Wasserman-Schultz said.

“I think Americans make a distinction between protecting the First Amendment rights of a religious organizations or religiously affiliated organizations and being able to discriminate, broadly, simply because of one individual who owns a business and their own values and their being able to impose those values on either their employers or their customers.”

So let me get this straight–according to Ms. Wasserman-Schultz, the First Amendment only applies to religious organizations–it does not apply to individuals. So churches are allowed to act according to their religious beliefs, but people don’t have that right. Wow.

Individuals who hold traditional religious beliefs are losing their rights. Recently a gag order was put on an Oregon couple who refused to bake a cake for a gay wedding (article here). A left-leaning website claimed there was no gag order. Here is the gag order:

Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian added a gag order to the fine, ordering the Kleins “to cease and desist from publishing, circulating, issuing or displaying, or causing to be published, circulated, issued or displayed, any communication, notice, advertisement or sign of any kind to the effect that any of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, services or privileges of a place of public accommodation will be refused, withheld from or denied to, or that any discrimination will be made against, any person on account of sexual orientation.”

The head of the Democrat National Committee does not think individual business owners have First Amendment rights. Please keep this in mind as you consider your vote in the next election.

The Intolerance Of Those Who Call For Tolerance

On Thursday the Daily Haymaker posted an article about some recent events in North Carolina that are an affront to the concept of freedom of speech. Recently New Hanover County school board member Tammy Covil posted an opinion on a closed Facebook page.

This is her post and one of the replies after it was screen captured and sent to the Democrat party:

covil

She posted this on a Facebook page that was supposed to be for a closed group. It is her personal opinion. Obviously it does not agree with the person who replied at Equality NC, but are they both not entitled to their opinions?

The article concludes and suggests a course of action:

The left sees Covil as a big problem.  She is serving on the state’s Common Core study commission. My New Hanover sources tell me she is a possibility for superintendent of the school district there.

Covil has spoken out against the teaching of nonsense like “gender fluidity.”  (I’ve heard about that in some amphibians and reptiles, but not in humans.)

The lynch mob has already set up a Facebook page aimed at shutting Covil down.

If you live in New Hanover County, do what you can to help this woman out.  If you don’t live there, talk to any of your friends who do.  Donate money to her campaign. Leaders like Tammy Covil — who dare to stand firm on their principles — are our only hope for saving our society, our culture, and our country.

Regardless of where you stand on the issue of gay marriage, there is no reason to shut down free speech on the issue. Ms. Covil is a conscientious person who is doing a good job in her role as a New Hanover County School Committee member and as a member of the Common Core study commission. What she said, essentially, is that she holds a Biblical view of marriage. She is as entitled to her belief as those who oppose her are to theirs. The difference is that she is not trying to shut down their right of free speech.

Expanding The Bounds Of Ridiculousness

I don’t know if ridiculousness is a word, but in this case it surely applies. Last Monday, Breitbart.com reported that George Washington University Law School Professor John Banzhaf has filed a complaint with the Washington, D.C. Office of Human Rights against Catholic University. The Professor is charging the University with  creating an “offensive” environment in which Muslims are intimidated out of proper reverence for their own religion because of the large amount of Catholic imagery draping the halls. Dude, it’s Catholic University. What did you expect–statues of Buddha?

The article reports:

It’s hard to keep a straight face while reading all that, but rest assured the rusty gears and chains of the bureaucracy began clanking as soon as Banzhaf’s thick complaint was dumped into the hopper of the anti-discrimination machine. “A spokesperson for the human rights office said they are investigating Banzhaf’s complaint — and the inquiry could take as long as six months,” writes BeliefNet.

“I don’t know what the attorney wants them to do – if he wants them to actually move the Basilica or if the Muslim students can find someplace where they don’t have to look at it,” an incredulous Patrick Reilly of the Cardinal Newman Society told Fox News. “One wouldn’t expect a Jewish institution to be responsible for providing liturgical opportunities for other faiths and I wouldn’t expect a Catholic institution to do that.”

“This attorney is really turning civil rights on its head,” Reilly continued. “He’s using the law for his own discrimination against the Catholic institution and essentially saying Catholic University cannot operate according to Catholic principles.”

…This is all part of the effort to create a legal and super-legal regulatory environment in which maintaining faith-based institutions is nearly impossible… or, at least, so difficult that these institutions will be forever subdued beneath the heel of the almighty State. Just wait until churches lose their tax-exempt status for refusing to comply with Big Government decrees about same-sex marriage, and you’ll see how that works.

Religious freedom is under attack in America. It won’t be long before the tax-exempt status of churches will be under fire. If Americans value the right to freedom of religion, they need to begin to stand up now. One of the things to note is a subtle changing of the First Amendment. We are hearing people speak about ‘freedom of worship‘ rather than ‘freedom of religion.’ It’s a subtle difference, but the word change is an effort to keep religious people out of the public forum. Freedom of worship keeps God in the church. Freedom of religion allows God in the public square.

The Internal Revenue Service Continues Its Attack On The First Amendment

On Monday, National Review reported that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has decided that it has the right to monitor what is said in the pulpits of America‘s churches.

The article reports:

It was bad enough, as I wrote here last August, that the Internal Revenue Service appeared to reach an agreement to monitor the pulpits of ill-favored churches. What’s worse is that the IRS, directly counter to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requirements, steadfastly has refused to make public key documents pertaining to that decision.
So the IRS, acting with the whole power of government behind it, seems to be saying it can monitor and presumably punish churches for the content of their sermons, but the churches can’t know exactly if, how, and why they are being monitored.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and Judicial Watch filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests on April 9 requesting the release of the IRS documents.
The article concludes:
Completely apart from the administrative law-breaking, it is that First Amendment right that remains the nub of the underlying case. The public has been bombarded in recent weeks with stories of battles about the limits of private expressions of faith in the business world. What the IRS apparently is doing, at the atheist group’s request, attacks faith at an even more fundamental level than that: inside the churches’ own doors, at their very pulpits.
As Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1808, “I consider the government of the U.S. as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, disciplines, or exercises.”
Surely, if a government agency is monitoring religious institutions in a way that could lead to such intermeddling, the public deserves an explanation of how, why, when, and where such monitoring is taking place. But this is Obama’s IRS. It seems to think it answers to nobody. The courts must disabuse it of that virtually criminal notion, with every power at the courts’ disposal.

If the churches and the organizations affiliated with them do not step up to defend our religious freedom, no one will. This should be a wake-up call to every church to get involved in the political process–not shy away from it. My message to pastors is, “Don’t preach party politics–preach the principals that built this country.

How To Twist A Story To Fit Your Agenda

The mainstream media is trashing Indiana‘s new law that protects the religious rights of Christians. We can’t have those rights protected, we have to have other rights protected. One of the stories that has repeatedly shown up on Facebook is the story of a pizza place that won’t serve gays. It seems a little odd that a pizza place would even know if a customer was gay, but the story is definitely making the rounds. Well, as usual, the truth is not necessarily what has been posted.

Yesterday The Daily Caller posted an article about the pizza place in question. I hope they sue the reporter who wrote the story for serious money–they were slandered.

The article reports:

There were no complaints nor denials of service to anyone ever, but because of their religious beliefs, Memories Pizza stands in ruin and the family who owns it has had their lives threatened countless times. How did the O’Connor family, owners of Memories, find themselves in this situation? They were honest with a reporter in search of a story to fit the media’s narrative.

Alyssa Marino is a reporter with ABC 57 News in South Bend, Indiana. With her state in the center of a hurricane over religious freedom, Marino must’ve thought she’d had a coup – a devout Christian business owner willing to speak on camera about their religious beliefs and how it impacts the operations of that business.

…When owner Crystal O’Connor told Marino, “If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no,” she had to know she’d struck gold.

Marino had her headline, “RFRA: Michiana business wouldn’t cater a gay wedding.” O’Connor’s quote was in paragraph three. The chyron on the screen for the report read, “Restaurant denies some services to same-sex couples.”

And that is how you twist a story to smear someone who holds a belief different than the one you are promoting.

Equal Rights Means Equal Rights

Breitbart.com posted an article yesterday about a religious liberty bill passed by Arkansas this week.

The article reports:

Meanwhile, while everyone was focused on Indiana, Arkansas honored both the founding of our country and the First Amendment by giving legal standing to the conscience of the Religious. In the coming years, as the Left and media ramp up their attacks on Christians, it is going to be important for us to have a place to go if necessary.

The government forcing the Faithful into participating in the sacramentalization of sin (like a same sex marriage) is intolerable to people of many faiths. Now faithful Muslims, Jews, Christians and others have 21 states where they can escape persecution from those trying to tell us that the government forcing you to violate your religious conscience is equality and freedom.

As previously stated, “Everyone has equal rights, or no one does.

The campaign in the mainstream media against the Indiana law giving equal rights to Christians was unsuccessful because the new media exposed the lies. Not all of America actually heard the truth, but enough people did to blunt the anti-Christian lies of the mainstream media.

What Do Equal Rights Mean?

On Sunday the Independent Journal Review posted an article about Indiana‘s ‘Religious Freedom’ Act. There has been an outcry from gay and lesbian groups that say that the law will discriminate against them. I would like to point out that 21 states already have similar laws, and that the goal of the law is to protect EVERYONE’S rights.

When you open a business, you do not give up your First Amendment rights. According to the First Amendment you are guaranteed the right to practice your religion. There is also a right of association–you have the right to choose who you will do business with. Christians who hold a Biblical view on homosexuality have as much right to practice their beliefs as anyone else. The law in Indiana will protect these rights.

This is the map of the states that have passed laws similar to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA):

RFRA Existing graphic

Incidentally, the RFRA was signed into law by former President Bill Clinton–not by a Republican.

The article concludes:

In other words, not only can the Christian owners of a bakery refuse to write an inscription on the wedding cake of a gay couple, but the black owners of a T-shirt business don’t have to print the KKK’s burning crosses on shirts, and Jewish owners of a gift shop don’t have to put Nazi symbols on coffee cups.

Everyone has equal rights, or no one does.

A Dangerous Executive Order

The Daily Signal posted an article today about President Obama’s latest Executive Order. The President claims that the order will bar federal contractors from practicing “discrimination” on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. That sounds good, but there are some problems with it.

The article reports:

Today’s executive order does not contain any religious liberty protections—though it does retain an older federal regulation that permits religious organizations that favor employment of co-religionists to continue such practices. But there is no protection for organizations that hire based on mission—not on affiliation—to continue to do so. This in effect excludes taxpayers who hold conscientious beliefs about sexuality that run counter to Obama’s from being eligible for federal contracts funded with their own tax dollars.

The article also explains the solution for this Executive Order:

In response to this executive order, Congress has an opportunity to protect religious liberty and the rights of conscience. Policy should prohibit the government from discriminating against any individual or group, whether nonprofit or for-profit, based on their beliefs that marriage is the union of a man and woman or that sexual relations are reserved for marriage. The government should be prohibited from discriminating against such groups or individuals in tax policy, employment, licensing, accreditation, or contracting.

The Marriage and Religious Freedom Act—sponsored by Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, in the House (H.R. 3133) with more than 100 co-sponsors of both parties and sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee, R – Utah, in the Senate (S. 1808) with 17 co-sponsors—would prevent the federal government from taking such adverse actions. Protecting religious liberty and the rights of conscience fosters a more diverse civil sphere. Indeed, tolerance is essential to promoting peaceful coexistence even amid disagreement.

We have always had transgendered people with us. They should be treated with respect. However, people with religious convictions should also be treated with respect. The right of conscience has always been a part of American law–from abortion law to gender issues. The Executive Order President Obama signed today is an affront to the freedom of all Americans–it does not respect their First Amendment right to practice and live according to their religious beliefs. Someone needs to read the U.S. Constitution to all of the people in Washington .

Sharia Law And Freedom Are Not Compatible

Yahoo News reported yesterday that Mariam Yahya Ibrahim, a Sudanese woman, has been sentenced to death for converting to Christianity.

The article reports the following statement by a Sudanese government official:

Sudan is committed to all human rights and freedom of faith granted in Sudan by the constitution and law,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abu-Bakr Al-Siddiq said. He added that his ministry trusted the integrity and independence of the judiciary.

Mariam Yahya Ibrahim has also been charged with adultery for marrying a Christian man.

This sentence is appropriate under Sharia Law. It is considered a capital offense to convert to Christianity. Remember that this is the same Sharia Law that CAIR would like to introduce into America. Freedom and Sharia Law are incompatible. We do not want Sharia Law in America.

 

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The People Who Control The Language Control The Argument

The people who control the language control the argument. This was made very clear recently in the debate over Arizona SB 1062. The bill was designed to protect the rights of Christians in the marketplace. The legislature of Arizona felt that the bill was necessary because of various incidents resulting in lawsuits in other states. When the State of Arizona passed the bill through its legislature, the state was threatened with boycotts, loss of the Super Bowl, and various other forms of economic harassment. The bill was labeled ‘anti-gay,’ ‘Jim Crow, and various other things. The opponents controlled the language. The bill is only two pages long. It is written in legalese, but is fairly straightforward and easy to understand.

Power Line posted a link to the bill on Tuesday.  Here is the bill:

State of Arizona

Senate

Fifty-first Legislature

Second Regular Session

2014

 SB 1062

Introduced by

Senators Yarbrough: Barto, Worsley

 

 

AN ACT

 

amending sections 41‑1493 and 41‑1493.01, Arizona Revised Statutes; relating to the free exercise of religion.

  (TEXT OF BILL BEGINS ON NEXT PAGE)

 Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Arizona:

Section 1.  Section 41-1493, Arizona Revised Statutes, is amended to read:

41-1493.  Definitions

In this article, unless the context otherwise requires:

1.  “Demonstrates” means meets the burdens of going forward with the evidence and of persuasion.

2.  “Exercise of religion” means the practice or observance of religion, including the ability to act or refusal to act in a manner substantially motivated by a religious belief, whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.

3.  “Government” includes this state and any agency or political subdivision of this state.

4.  “Nonreligious assembly or institution” includes all membership organizations, theaters, cultural centers, dance halls, fraternal orders, amphitheaters and places of public assembly regardless of size that a government or political subdivision allows to meet in a zoning district by code or ordinance or by practice.

5.  “Person” includes a religious assembly or institution any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, religious assembly or institution, estate, trust, foundation or other legal entity.

6.  “Political subdivision” includes any county, city, including a charter city, town, school district, municipal corporation or special district, any board, commission or agency of a county, city, including a charter city, town, school district, municipal corporation or special district or any other local public agency.

7.  “Religion‑neutral zoning standards”:

(a)  Means numerically definable standards such as maximum occupancy codes, height restrictions, setbacks, fire codes, parking space requirements, sewer capacity limitations and traffic congestion limitations.

(b)  Does not include:

(i)  Synergy with uses that a government holds as more desirable.

(ii)  The ability to raise tax revenues.

8.  “Suitable alternate property” means a financially feasible property considering the person’s revenue sources and other financial obligations with respect to the person’s exercise of religion and with relation to spending that is in the same zoning district or in a contiguous area that the person finds acceptable for conducting the person’s religious mission and that is large enough to fully accommodate the current and projected seating capacity requirements of the person in a manner that the person deems suitable for the person’s religious mission.

9.  “Unreasonable burden” means that a person is prevented from using the person’s property in a manner that the person finds satisfactory to fulfill the person’s religious mission.

Sec. 2.  Section 41-1493.01, Arizona Revised Statutes, is amended to read:

41-1493.01.  Free exercise of religion protected; definition

A.  Free exercise of religion is a fundamental right that applies in this state even if laws, rules or other government actions are facially neutral.

B.  Except as provided in subsection C, government of this section, state action shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.

C.  Government State action may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if it the opposing party demonstrates that application of the burden to the person person’s exercise of religion in this particular instance is both:

1.  In furtherance of a compelling governmental interest.

2.  The least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

D.  A person whose religious exercise is burdened in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding, and obtain appropriate relief against a government regardless of whether the government is a party to the proceeding.  The person asserting such a claim or defense may obtain appropriate relief.  A party who prevails in any action to enforce this article against a government shall recover attorney fees and costs.

E.  In For the purposes of this section, the term substantially burden is intended solely to ensure that this article is not triggered by trivial, technical or de minimis infractions.

F.  For the purposes of this section, “state action” means any action by the government or the implementation or application of any law, including state and local laws, ordinances, rules, regulations and policies, whether statutory or otherwise, and whether the implementation or application is made or attempted to be made by the government or nongovernmental persons.

 

I have posted the bill in order to allow readers to draw their own conclusions about what the bill said and what the bill didn’t say. Those of us who support family values and religious freedom need to be very aware of what happens when those who oppose these values control the vocabulary.

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Protecting Religious Liberty

Yesterday CNS News reported that the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that both the owners of a company and their company have religious liberty rights that are burdened by the HHS mandate.

The article reports:

The (American Center for Law and Justice ACLJ) represents Korte & Luitjohan Contractors, Inc., a family owned, full-service construction contractor located in Highland, Illinois. The company provides a group health insurance plan for its non-union employees, which number about 20. Cyril B. Korte and Jane E. Korte own a controlling interest in the company and contend the HHS mandate violates their Catholic faith. The ACLJ filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of both the individuals and the company in October 2012.
Below is an excerpt from the ruling:

We hold that the plaintiffs–the business  owners and their companies — may challenge the mandate. We further hold that compelling them to cover these services substantially burdens their religious-exercise rights.

Under RFRA the government must justify the burden under the standard of strict scutiny. So far it has not done so, and we doubt that it can.

Because the RFRA claims are very likely to succeed and the balance of harms favors protecting the religious-liberty rights of the plaintiffs, we reverse and remand with instructions to enter preliminary injunctions barring enforcement of the mandate against them.

This decision is good news for those attempting to preserve religious freedom in America.

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Another Lawsuit Regarding The Health And Human Services’ Birth Control Mandate

CNS News reported yesterday that a court in Michigan will hear arguments against the Obama Administration’s Birth Control mandate on September 26.

The article reports:

The lawsuit aims to permanently block implementation of the Health and Human Services requirement that employees and individuals to obtain insurance coverage that covers contraception, sterilization, and abortion-producing drugs without any cost-sharing. The HHS mandate imposes clear violations of conscience on Americans who morally object to abortion and contraception, the Law Center (the Thomas More Law Center) said in a news release.

The lawsuit also challenges the constitutionality of the HHS mandate because the mandate limits the rights of business owners to freely practice their religion.

The article states:

“Judge Cleland’s decision to expedite the briefing schedule and set a quick hearing date for oral arguments on our motion for a preliminary injunction against the Government was crucial,” said Thomas More Law Center attorney Erin Mersino. “It best serves our goal of protecting the religious freedoms of our clients. Without the Court’s timely intervention, the HHS mandate effectively penalizes their free exercise of religion,” he added.

The question of whether or not the HHS mandate violates the First Amendment is definitely headed to the Supreme Court. As I reported on July 28 (rightwinggranny.com), a Colorado company called Hercules Industries won a court case in the Tenth Circuit regarding the HHS mandate that companies provide birth control services in the health insurance policies.

As reported on July 28:

A federal court issued an order Friday that halts enforcement of the Obama administration’s abortion pill mandate against a Colorado family-owned business while an Alliance Defending Freedom lawsuit challenging the mandate continues in court.

I am sure there will be much more to come on this issue.

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The Fight For Religious Freedom

The fight for religious freedom is not something that is only happening in the Middle East–it is alive and well in America. The current attack in America seems to be on the Catholic Church and its charities and educational facilities, but the attack is actually on any Bible-believing Christian.

Two stories recently in CNS News illustrate the point. The first, posted yesterday, is entitled, “Archbishop Questions Pelosi’s Logic in Opposing Provision to Protect Military Chaplains from Being Ordered to Act Against Faith.” The second, also posted yesterday, is entitled, “BREAKING: Cardinal Dolan of NY, Cardinal Wuerl of D.C., Notre Dame–And 40 Other Catholic Dioceses and Organizations–Sue Obama Administration.”

Both stories involve the Catholic Church, but their implications reach far beyond that. The article on the military chaplains is summed up as follows:

The House Democratic Leader further said the idea that military chaplains would be forced to perform same-sex marriages against their will is “a manufactured crisis.”

“Nobody is ordering them to do that,” Pelosi said. “I’ve never seen any suggestion that we’re ordering chaplains to perform same-sex—where is that? I haven’t seen it and I’ve been around this issue for a long time.”

But Broglio, the head of the Archdiocese of the Military Services, respectfully but firmly took issue with Pelosi.

“I would suggest that perhaps she’s not very familiar with how the military works,” Broglio said. “While no one might be constrained to act against his or her conscience, you can also have a situation where someone in command makes it very, very difficult for that person, if the command wants him or her to act in a certain way. And I think that the law, the provision in the draft, the provision in the bill, would protect the chaplain from that kind of situation.

Broglio agreed that Catholic chaplains have not yet been asked to perform same-sex marriages.

I am not sure how much contact Ms. Pelosi has actually had with military command structure, but I think she is wrong to assume that the problem of forcing Catholic chaplains to perform gay marriages would not come up.

The second article deals with the freedom of a church charitable or educational facility to practice their beliefs.

The article explains:

The Archdiocese of New York, headed by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., headed by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the University of Notre Dame, and 40 other Catholic dioceses and organizations around the country announced on Monday that they are suing the Obama administration for violating their freedom of religion, which is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

The article also reports that the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. has established a special website–preservereligiousfreedom.org–to explain its lawsuit and present news and developments concerning it. Since the media will not honestly cover the church’s side of the story, the church will use the Internet to get out their story. That is a very smart move.

The article reports:

“This morning, the Archdiocese of Washington filed a lawsuit to challenge the mandate, recently issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, that fundamentally redefines the nation’s long-standing definition of religious ministry and requires our religious organizations to provide their employees with coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization, even if doing so violates their religious beliefs,” Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington said in an open letter posted online this morning. “Just as our faith compels us to uphold the liberty and dignity of others, so too, we must defend our own.”

“The lawsuit in no way challenges either women’s established legal right to obtain and use contraception or the right of employers to provide coverage for it if they so choose,” said Cardinal Wuerl. “This lawsuit is about religious freedom.”

“The First Amendment enshrines in our nation’s Constitution the principle that religious organizations must be able to practice their faith free from government interference,” Cardinal Wuerl said.

All of us, regardless of religious affiliation, need to stand with the Catholic Church in both these matters. This is an attack on anyone who believes that the First Amendment allows the free exercise of religion.

 
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Comments By Cardinal Francis George

Cardinal Francis George is the archbishop of Chicago and former head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). His comments on President Obama’s recent ruling on contraception coverage at Catholic Institutions were posted at CNS News yesterday.

The bottom line on his comments:

He continued: “What will happen if the HHS regulations are not rescinded? A Catholic institution, so far as I can see right now, will have one of four choices: 1) secularize itself, breaking its connection to the church, her moral and social teachings and the oversight of its ministry by the local bishop. This is a form of theft. It means the church will not be permitted to have an institutional voice in public life. 2) Pay exorbitant annual fines to avoid paying for insurance policies that cover abortifacient drugs, artificial contraception and sterilization. This is not economically sustainable. 3) Sell the institution to a non-Catholic group or to a local government. 4) Close down.”

This is an intentional effort to take the voice of religious people out of the public square. When you consider that the basis of the American legal system is the Judeo-Christian ethic, this is a rather amazing step by our government.

The Cardinal further stated:

“Liberty of religion is more than freedom of worship,” says the cardinal. “Freedom of worship was guaranteed in the Constitution of the former Soviet Union. You could go to church, if you could find one. The church, however, could do nothing except conduct religious rites in places of worship — no schools, religious publications, health care institutions, organized charity, ministry for justice and the works of mercy that flow naturally from a living faith. All of these were co-opted by the government. We fought a long cold war to defeat that vision of society.”

It is my opinion that all Christian churches in America need to stand with the Catholic Church on this issue. The church (other than the Catholic church) stood quietly while the Catholic adoption agencies in Massachusetts were shut down due to Biblical standards upheld by the Catholic church on homosexuality. We can’t afford to stand quietly now as Catholic hospitals are denied their rights to be Catholic hospitals.

 

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A Backlash From The Catholic Church

The Catholic Church has come out strongly in protest of the recent ruling announced by Heath and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on January 20.

As I previously reported (rightwinggranny.com):

The Health and Human Services Department recently announced it will require all employers (with few exceptions) to provide health insurance to their employees which includes subsidized contraception, sterilization and coverage for abortion-inducing drugs.

This meant that religious institutions, like Catholic colleges and hospitals, or other Christian institutions would  be compelled to violate their conscience by cooperating with that which they believe to be wrong. Currently many of these institutions purchase health-insurance plans which do not provide free coverage of these services. 

This ruling matters to you even if you are not Catholic–everyone’s freedom to practice (or not practice) the religion of their choice is now under attack.

CNS News reported today that Representative Nancy Pelosi has stated:

Pelosi: “First of all, I am going to stick with my fellow Catholics in supporting the administration on this. I think it was a very courageous decision that they made, and I support it.”

The Catholic Church has released a statement stating:

“In so ruling, the Administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our Nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty. And as a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled either to violate our consciences, or to drop health coverage for our employees (and suffer the penalties for doing do). The Administration’s sole concession was to give our institutions one year to comply.

“We cannot—we will not—comply with this unjust law.”

Nothing this political happens by accident. I can’t help but wonder what the motive of the Obama Administration is in starting this fight at this time. I know that many Catholics do not agree with their Church on the subject of birth control, but many Catholics share the Church’s believe on abortion. This needs to be watched–there may be more coming that will impact other people of faith.

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The Supreme Court Rules On Lutheran School Teacher Firing

On Wednesday, Christianity Today posted an article about the recent Supreme Court decision regarding the firing of a school teacher in a Lutheran School. The court ruled that the teacher was a ‘minister’ and could not sue the church after she was fired in 2005.

The article reports:

“The First Amendment provides, in part, that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,'” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the unanimous opinion. “We have said that these two Clauses ‘often exert conflicting pressures,’ and that there can be ‘internal tension … between the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause.’ Not so here. Both Religion Clauses bar the government from interfering with the decision of a religious group to fire one of its ministers.”

This is an important ruling. The article points out how this ruling may impact some recent decisions regarding religious groups on college campuses:

If the government can’t tell a church or religious group to accept or reject a minister, he asks, “How then it can be constitutional for a public university to tell religious student groups what criteria they can and cannot use in selecting their leaders? Does this decision have a penumbra that strengthens the freedom of religious organizations more broadly? That remains to be seen–yet the language and the unanimity of the decision are encouraging.”

Kim Colby, senior counsel for the Christian Legal Society’s Center for Law and Religious Freedom, was similarly encouraged. “This decision should help religious groups that are being charged with ‘religious discrimination’ when they require their leaders to agree with their statement of faith,” she said. “In a conflict between nondiscrimination laws and religious liberty, religious liberty prevailed. Nondiscrimination laws serve vital and good purposes in our society. But they have been increasingly misused to harm religious liberty in a number of contexts over the past decade.”

The CLS lost a Supreme Court battle last year when the justices ruled 5-4 that a California law school can bar groups that require leaders to sign a statement of faith.

The battle for freedom to allow religious groups to be religious is just beginning. If I started a bridge club, I would want the people joining to be interested in playing or learning to play bridge. It makes no sense to allow someone to join a bridge club if they are only interested in playing hearts or poker (or even volleyball). That is not discrimination–it is common sense. Sometimes you have to discriminate–not because you are being unfair, but because you are protecting a common interest. A bridge club that plays hearts or poker (or volleyball) really does not make a lot of sense. 

 

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This Looks Innocent But It Isn’t

CBN News reported today on U.N. Resolution 16/18, a U.N. Resolution supported by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The resolution sounds very practical until you examine it closely. The resolution seeks to limit freedom of speech when dealing with Islam.

The Center for Security Policy reports:

The Obama administration started down this ill-advised road by cosponsoring in 2009 an OIC-drafted resolution in the UN Human Rights Council that condemned “defamation of religion” – read, Islam.  That initiative helped advance the Islamists’ twelve-year campaign to “prohibit and criminalize” such defamation in accordance with the “blasphemy laws” that are part of the totalitarian doctrine they call shariah.

Then, as more and more of the Free World began awakening to the danger posed by such efforts to compel them to submit to shariah, Team Obama helped engineer a new document at the Human Rights Council.  Adopted in March, Resolution 16/18 focused, instead of banning defamation, on getting the world’s nations to combat “intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization, and  discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against persons based on religion or belief.”  

The countries in the OIC that are sponsoring this are countries where a person can be put to death for converting to Christianity or encouraging anyone else to become a Christian. Do we really believe that they are for preventing discrimination based on religion?

The article at CBN reports:

Sekulow (Jordan Sekulow, director of policy and international operations for the American Center for Law and Justice) says his organization is fighting to keep the resolution from becoming adopted because it could backfire and be broadly misinterpreted country by country.

“Just the building of churches … having a cross outside your door can be inciting violence,” Sekulow explained.

“So if you let them define these definitions when there is no problem coming from the minority faiths, this is somehow going to ‘green light’ their suppression,” he added.   

We need to remember that freedom of religion is not a right in many countries around the world. Letting a group of countries where freedom of religion does not exist pass a law about religious discrimination is simply not smart–the intentions of those countries may be very different than the intentions of the countries in the world where all faiths are welcome.

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