The Supreme Court, Religious Freedom and a Playground

The Supreme Court will soon consider the case of a Missouri Lutheran pre-school which was denied a grant to improve their playground — even though the state program helps other non-profits.  More Signs 1

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM:  Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Pauley

AT ISSUE: Whether the exclusion of churches from a publicly funded aid program violates the Free Exercise and Equal Protection Clauses, if the state cannot establish a sufficiently valid Establishment Clause concern.

THE CASE: A local Christian church — supported by the nonprofit Becket Fund — sued after being denied Missouri state funds to improve the surface of a playground used by its preschool. The program gives grants to nonprofits seeking a safer recreational environment for children. Missouri law prohibits direct government aid to educational institutions that have a religious affiliation.

 

The Becket Fund puts it more bluntly:

The State of Missouri wants to make sure children run on safe playgrounds – unless they attend a religious school.

snip –

…the State denied the grant solely because the school is associated with a church. The State cited the Blaine Amendment, an arcane anti-Catholic and bigoted law that prohibits religious affiliated organizations from participating in public programs. This blatant discrimination prompted Trinity Lutheran to sue the state of Missouri in 2013.

 

 

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The Supreme Court, Religious Freedom and a Playground

Freedom

 

Shouldn’t places of worship be among the most free?

I think freedom works best when people have choices.  Those choices allow us to make lousy decisions, as well as excellent ones.  Sometimes it takes a while to figure out which. 

I wandered onto a page run by the Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Here’s just a picture and caption from the page:

NICE PLACE.png

I agree with the first part.  That does look like a nice place to hear a sermon. And I almost agree with the second part.  If Reverend Johnson at the Luther Memorial Lutheran Church (so Lutheran we put it in the name twice!) decided to list off the best people to vote for, I’d be a bit uncomfortable.  In part because for a long time, that sort of thing has been forbidden. So, it would be a really, new thing.

But wait.  Who says that has to be the only way?  I don’t know those people in that church. Maybe they want that kind of help from their preacher. Is it really necessary to mandate this?  Does government have that authority?

Actually, yes they have that authority.  Bob Mefford of the American’s United for the Separation of Church and State:

We’ve heard a lot lately about repealing the “Johnson Amendment.” This provision, passed in 1954, is called that because its sponsor was then-U.S. Sen. Lyndon Johnson (D-Texas). It states that groups holding 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status – a category that includes houses of worship – may not endorse or oppose candidates running for office. Despite this provision in federal law, I am sad to say that in recent years many of my extremist Christian brothers and sisters (though mainly brothers) have fought hard to make houses of worship centers for partisan politics.

[We all know that no matter what else is true, the word “extremist” is code for “they don’t see eye to eye with me.”  He diminishes his argument by adding this.]

I actually have not heard much about the Johnson Amendment.  I always wondered where this ‘don’t politicize the pulpit’ stuff came from.

Again, I’m more interested in stepping back and wondering…Why does my government care?  In what way is civic life enhanced, protected or made more free by a provision in federal tax law which forces houses of worship to stop short of certain activities?

Oh, I know why I don’t want endorsing in my church.  That fella can barely keep the Corinthians and Samaritans figured out.  [Just kidding, of course.]  On the other hand, do I want the choice to worship somewhere with another way of doing things?    

As we are now, there is no choice.  Honestly, how much freedom can there be if all churches are under this mandate?  I’m free to go to any church I want to, but no preacher is free to say those things he or she feels or things about political campaigns.  Shouldn’t places of worship be among the most free?

cross and jesus

“And let’s offer up a prayer for Brother Bob, who’s in a really tight runoff for the School Board seat being vacated by that atheist Tod Harnot.  Remember to prayerfully pull lever C5…”

Thanks, Bob Mefford, for pointing out the exact year and location in federal law when my church sold off some of it’s rights, in order to keep tax exempt status.  I know you hoped to do something else with your essay.  But thanks.

By the way, the Americans United for Separation of Church and State has some kind of event this week on Facebook.  They claim their vision is under fire, no doubt from ‘religious freedom statutes’ being proposed by state legislatures. 

They’re wrong in my opinion, but of course since I’m not actually in a church right now, I can say whatever I want.  I have all of the protections offered by my country’s First Amendment.

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Image result for first Amendment

Source: Michael Owen, Artist for Freedom

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freedom

Is Religious Freedom the same as Bigotry and Discrimination?

Depends on who you ask. 

Townhall:

Last week, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights released a report entitled “Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles with Civil Liberties.”

It analyzed the balance struck by federal courts in considering claims for religious exemptions from nondiscrimination laws, the report reads. Yet, many freedom-loving Americans were none too pleased to find that the document claims the term “religious liberty” is sometimes code for discrimination. (It really hammers this point home because the word discrimination is used over 700 times).

The commission argues that religious freedom is being used as a “weapon” just like in the days of slavery and Jim Crow. Religious liberty, the report reads, is being used to “undermine” the rights of American minorities. 

The article goes on to quote Sen. Orin Hatch, who is no fan of the report.  

Hatch concluded that the commission get a better understanding of the meaning of religious liberty before filing any more reports.

The report comes out against the ‘religious freedom laws’ which are being written across the country. (The link is to the report — a big pdf file.)

Religious exemptions to the protections of civil rights based upon classifications such as race, color, national origin, sex, disability status, sexual orientation, and gender identity, when they are permissible, significantly infringe upon these civil rights. (page 5, Letter from the Chairman)

We will need to work out the balance between religious liberties and civil rights.  Can a Christian, Mormon or Muslim civil servant refuse to marry gay citizens?  Will people of faith be driven from civic life because of these issues?

If a court decides that gay marriage is a right, can local justices of the peace or judges effectively force gay couples to drive to another county or state for a marriage?

And am I the only person who thinks the federal government’s own commission should tread lightly as state legislatures write religious freedom laws?  

I’ve said before, these are dangerous times for the faithful.  I pray the answers come through mature debate.  Calling folks bigots is not the answer.

Is Religious Freedom the same as Bigotry and Discrimination?

LGBTQ and NC: A Culture Rebels Against God

Tim Wildmon: (American Family Association)

All was quiet in the home state of Andy Griffith until February 22 of this year when the Charlotte City Council passed an ordinance requiring all government agencies and private businesses to ensure that men could use women’s bathrooms if they want to.

The legal problem with that move was that the state constitution of North Carolina requires all “public accommodation” laws to be handled at the state level. In other words, what Charlotte did was not within their authority, so the governor and the state legislature responded by passing HB 2 on March 23, which “mandates people use the bathroom corresponding to their biological sex in public buildings, places, and schools.” Simply put, everything was fine – Charlotte enacted a law they had no authority to enact, and the state of North Carolina put everything back like it was.

“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” (Romans 1:28)

For this simple common sense law, the state of North Carolina has become the whipping boy for the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender political machine and their many powerful supporters in big business, academia, the liberal media, and the entertainment industry.

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North Carolina has been taking it on the chin.  Our voting early laws were deemed racist since they allowed 10 days of early voting and not 17 days.  Apparently there’s a cut-off somewhere in the middle.  Bringing an ID to the polls is too difficult, and was a racist idea.

And the LGBTQ bathroom issue — or non-issue.

Image result for kilt
It’s a kilt.  Click picture to order one!

To tell you the truth, I think most guys don’t actually want men dressed as women to visit the men’s room.  But we don’t really want free access to the ladies’ room for everyone in a skirt.

Before the Charlotte City Council brought this up, nobody cared.  Apparently things got done somehow without government influence.  

Wildmon explains:

What is going on is a country in rebellion against God Almighty. This is about putting the final touches on the sexual revolution. The Bible clearly states that homosexuality is unnatural, immoral, and unhealthy. Everyone knows that a man who thinks he is a woman has a mental disorder, not to mention a spiritual one.

Bruce Jenner will always be a man – even if he wears a dress and heels the rest of his life. Yet, his confusion is lauded by the media and popular culture as brave and heroic. What’s really going on here is demonic. It’s a culture shaking its collective fist at God and shouting: “Don’t tell us how to live! We will not listen to your rules!”

I disagree,  Bruce Jenner is the greatest female athlete ever.  Gold medal and everything.

 

 

 

LGBTQ and NC: A Culture Rebels Against God

They Are Armed With the Same Set of Facts

But come from very different perspectives:

When did “freedom of religion” become nothing more than the right to abuse other people, particularly women and LGBT people?

Over the past few years, nearly every time someone claims their freedom of religion is being violated, it involves being completely horrid to other people. This observation has some terrifying implications for the LGBT community, given where we are legally.

For example, refusing to provide wedding services to lesbian and gay couples has been the cause célèbre for years. The people doing the discriminating walk away with a cool half million dollars, and the queer people end up with nothing but a lot of death threats and hate mail. People are telling LGBT people “we don’t serve your kind” in other commercial areas as well. Doctors are refusing to treat childrenwith gay parents. Restaurants are telling transgender customers they’re not welcome.

[I checked out that last one.  The doctor passed the lesbian kid’s child to someone else in the practice, though the writer seems to indicate that the child was bleeding out and the MD refused to treat the child.  Do doctors have a right to refuse patients?  I think they do. Do I agree with the MD?  No.  — Dave]



‘Duck Dynasty’ Star Alan Robertson: I’ve Never Seen Religious Freedom Attacked More Than It Is Today

WASHINGTON – “Duck Dynasty” TV star Alan Robertson said Saturday morning that he can’t remember a time in America were Christian values and religious liberty were more under attack than they are today.

He’s the one who stands out in family photos.

Robertson, the son of Duck Commander founder Phil Robertson and who some regard as the “beardless brother,” spoke to a room full of evangelical and social conservative voters at the Family Research Council’s Values Voters Summit and proclaimed that he is not afraid to face liberal backlash for publicly voicing his beliefs on biblical teachings on sexuality and marriage.

“We are in a perilous time, where from positions of power, I don’t know that if in my lifetime I have ever seen more of an attack on traditional values, traditional family and really, religious liberty,” Robertson asserted.




I’m fascinated by the total confidence that each side shows.  It’s the kind of confidence that makes compromise impossible.  Somebody has to win this battle.

Either religious people will be able to refuse to do certain things because of their religious beliefs, or they will be made to do these things.  

Forget about baking cakes.  This is just the early chapters of very hard times.  This is just the kind of fracture is society that makes everyone weaker — at precisely the time when unity is important.

We live in interesting times.  

 

 

They Are Armed With the Same Set of Facts

Hate Speech, and Why I Think It Is Under Fire

I have a Google Alert for the phrase ‘hate speech.’ Any news article with that phrase that Google knows about, is put in my inbox.  I now get links to stories all over the world.

I’ve come to some conclusions.  This hate speech accusation thing is big. 

From South Africa to Indonesia, and the U.S. and UK, people are finding themselves in trouble for words which in another day might have been acceptable.

The Tanjungbalai Police on Thursday announced they had received statements from language experts with North Sumatra University in regards to alleged insults uttered by a Chinese-Indonesian resident named Meliana against a religion. 

That’s from Indonesia, where they had to bring in experts because there was a language issue — and they really were not really sure what Meliana said.Experts had to be brought in to decipher what she said.  How much damage could her words have done?   Apparently she complained about the sounds of the Muslim call to prayer.  

If you’ve never heard the call to prayer, just wait.  You will, in your neighborhood eventually.  It’s like Michael Bolton, but in Arabic.



Chelsea Clinton told the critical thinkers on The View that 2016 brought the normalization of ‘hate speech.’  As usual for a leftist, she has it backwards. 2016 has brought us the criminalization and codification of so-called hate speech. 



Where it is not a crime, it’s a political death-threat.  Donald Trump is being blamed for an uptick in racial and cultural bigotry.  So, he’s responsible for the statements of others, and his campaign has a ‘whiff’ of racism?  I hear those accusations all the time in the press.  

Aren’t political statements supposed to be the most free of all?  Yet Clinton, her mother and her side of the political aisle hope to silence opponents with labels of hate.

In Quebec, Canada, they fined a comedian $35,000 for telling a rude joke.  

In Louisiana, a man has been charged with a hate crime for calling a police officer a n—-.  Mind you, I would never insult anyone because of race, and don’t condone the behavior, but Louisiana has recently added police to the hate speech law already in effect.  

In France, an anti-racism group is taking legal action against a mayor who said that to be French, you must be European. 



Some of this is left wing, some is pro-Islam some of this is just about a lack of emotional strength and intellectual heft.  

Muslims want anti-blasphemy laws, to shield them from any criticism.  My crack about the call to prayer, above in bright blue, would get me charges in France, a fine in Quebec, and a beheading in most of the Middle East. 

Some of it is politics.  The left has few facts on their side when debating immigration, crime, the status of the black family,  the war on poverty and many other issues.  Easier to just call people haters, and then call their followers haters, and if necessary, call those who listen to the facts haters.

Some of this is related to the wussification of the young American mind.  Chalk the nameTrump on a sidewalk, and watch the future leaders of the country curl into the fetal position, while calling for the firing of the Dean of Sidewalks.  They never learned that America is their safe space, and also their free speech zone.  



What to do about this?  We need to stay aware of local situations which dovetail with this issue.  We need to constantly add a voice to the debate.  Always emphasis “I hate what so-and-so said, but this is the country where even stupid and hateful but non-violent words are protected.”

Don’t let anyone call verbal exchanges ‘attacks.’  Pearl Harbor was an attack.

Remind people that there is a fundamental right at stake. Can somebody declare your non-violent statements as hateful, and therefore illegal or forbidden?  Where in the Constitution is that? And what kind of country do you leave to your children if you accept that premise?

When a leftist says “I have a right to…” and the rest of the phrase has to do with their comfort, ignorance or some other fiction, call them on it.  You do not have a right not to be offended.  You do not have a right to never see my religious beliefs in practice.  You do not have a right never to learn a new perspective.

Remember that the left thinks they have made an important point once they’ve declared something is ‘hate.’  So what?  Somebody on your side said what somebody else said is hateful. That’s called a debate.  It’s America.   We do this here.  We’ve survived stupid, evil and hate without the meddling of leftist editors.

People have said hateful, hurtful, disrespectful and stupid things for centuries here, without the heavy hand of a censor. We don’t need them now.

Hate Speech, and Why I Think It Is Under Fire

Churches in Mass. Must Follow Pronoun, Bathroom Guidelines at Secular Events

The left will not stop with schools, sporting events and other so-called public places.  Bathroom rules, multi-gender-based pronouns, so-called offensive speech rules…  These will be enforced everywhere.

Your spaghetti supper is a secular event.  Evangelism might be, too.

The Washington Post’s Eugene Volokh says, Massachusetts: Churches may be covered by transgender discrimination bans, as to ‘secular events’

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This will be illegal.

Now some might think this is fine: Everyone should use the pronouns that the subjects prefer, the argument would go, even if the speaker views such use as endorsement of what the speaker sees as falsehood, or of a wrong-headed ideology. People shouldn’t say derogatory things about transgender people, at least when those people can overhear.

Maybe churches could do something different in sermons, or behind closed doors — but once they open their doors for “secular events,” church leaders have to use the words that the law requires, even when they view them as false or even blasphemous, and have to suppress offensive speech by their congregants. I don’t share this view, but I take it that some do.

But I just think it should be clear that this is where these rules are headed, at least in places like Massachusetts but likely elsewhere as well.



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.



I can’t tell if secular forces are trying to neuter the church for political gains, or if spiritual forces are trying to defeat the faithful in the name of evil.  Either way, this is unlawful, evil and un-American.

Churches in Mass. Must Follow Pronoun, Bathroom Guidelines at Secular Events