Archive for the tag “First Amendment”

Why the Hobby Lobby hubbub matters

Many of the comments we have been hearing about the HHS abortion mandate and Christian conscientious objection come from people who completely ignore the Constitution and the First Amendment as they form their opinion. That ought to deeply concern any person of any faith who can identify even one faith conviction they would be unwilling to compromise on order of the government.

hg scottHalee Gray Scott writes for Relevant magazine:

Can the government require Christians to observe business practice that compromises their faith practice?

“This is the way the world ends,” wrote American-English poet T.S. Eliot, “not with a bang, but a whimper.” Buried somewhere in the top news stories of the day—“U.S. Marine Pens Response to Gun Control Bill,” “Cat Arrested at Brazil Prison,” “Father of India Gang Rape Victim Reveals His Daughter’s Name,” “Candlelight Vigil Planned in Boulder for Slain Bull Elk”—you might have read about Hobby Lobby.

No? That’s not surprising, since many of the major networks have remained largely silent on the issue. Yet, this “whimper” of a story might be one of the most significant legislative decisions in our time. Lest you think I overstate my claim, let’s take a look at Hobby Lobby’s case and what’s actually at stake.

What’s at stake in this case is whether or not the government can force private business owners to act against their religious convictions.

As of today, the Green family, the evangelical Christian owners of Hobby Lobby Creative Centers and Mardel Christian Bookstores, potentially owes the federal government $21.3 million in fines for defying the HHS mandate ….

If a privately owned company is paying for health care, should the federal government have a say in what is covered? There are three reasons why Christians and non-Christians alike should be concerned about the ruling in the Hobby Lobby case.

First, the religious exemption proposed in the HHS mandate is so narrow that the vast majority of faith-based organizations—including Catholic hospitals, charities, colleges, universities and nonprofit organizations—fail to meet the criteria. …

Second, some critics claim, “No employers in the private sector have the legal right to force their employees to obey their employer’s religious beliefs.” The Greens do not oppose their employees using emergency contraception, they just oppose paying for it. …

Third, … ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether or not one agrees with the Green’s convictions or not. You don’t have to be Christian to understand that this ruling is potentially a watershed moment in our nation’s history. If we, as a free republic, don’t stand now for the freedoms afforded us in our Constitution, who will be next?

Read the full text of this excellent article by clicking here.

Dr. Halee Gray Scott is an author, scholar, and researcher who blogs at hgscott.com.

Their freedom is your freedom — and it’s at risk

freedom_of_religionBy Mark Kelly

The majority of people in the United States seems not to care a whit about an outrageous situation in which the federal government is ordering people of faith to violate their genuine convictions in obvious violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Most don’t seem to think the situation matters or that it affects them personally. Some even have publicly approved.

I’m talking, of course, about the federal Health and Human Services Department requiring all employers to provide health insurance that covers access to contraception — except that the issue for some isn’t contraception but abortion. The federal government’s definition of ‘contraception’ includes toxic chemicals like the “morning-after pill” that prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in its mother’s womb. For a great many earnest evangelical Christians, that isn’t contraception; it’s abortion. (For traditional Catholics, the violation of conscience is even more serious.)

Many Christian institutions and businesses have filed suit against the HHS requirement, citing the First Amendment’s clear language that Congress may not adopt any law the prevents the free exercise of religion. Although the HHS abortion-drug mandate clearly violates the First Amendment, federal lawyers say religious people have no religious freedom rights once they step into the “secular” public square. On Dec. 26, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor denied a request from the Christian owners of Hobby Lobby that federal fines of up to $1.3 million per day be held off while their suit against the law is pending. The esteemed justice said the potential fine fails to satisfy the legal standard for an “emergency.”

I shudder to think what it would take for Ms. Sotomayor to declare an emergency for these business owners.

Americans who value their freedom ought to be deeply concerned about this situation. Even those who do not see the current regime as a threat must realize that regimes change. We live today in a highly polarized society. Various factions, each completely convinced of the rightness of their opinions, would be totally comfortable binding the entire society with laws based on those opinions.

I’d love to hear from those of you who aren’t deeply concerned about the HHS mandate and its effect on religious freedom. What will you think when another regime comes to power that is aggressively opposed to your convictions? Even if you disagree about the “morning-after pill” and the issue of abortion, why would you not want to defend the freedom of Hobby Lobby’s owners to conduct their lives according to the mandates of religious conviction?

Isn’t their freedom your freedom?

Muslims, why are you not already up in arms over this culture’s celebration of immorality and promotion of homosexual marriage? What would you do if a regime comes to power that condemns Muhammad as a cruel tyrant, forbids possession of the Quran, outlaws Sharia as a backward, unjust legal code, and denies faithful Muslims the right to live according to its precepts?

Jews, many of you already are outraged by the favoritism expressed by this administration toward Palestinians and Islamists over Israel’s right to peaceful existence. What would you do if a regime declares that your religion promotes racist apartheid and closes your houses of worship, outlaws U.S. citizens assisting Israel, uses its military might to displace the Israeli government, and installs a Palestinian government in its place?

Buddhists, your path to deliverance from suffering demands right views, aspirations, conduct, and livelihood, to deny the craving that enslaves us all. What would you do if the U.S. Department of Commerce declared it the patriotic duty of American citizens to teach their children the virtues of consumption and to bolster the economy by purchasing a set amount of goods and services each year — with tax penalties for failure to meet the quotas?

Hindus, you celebrate the vast diversity of your divinities, some of which represent values abhorrent to Muslims, Jews, and Christians. What would you do if a regime comes to power that declares those gods a danger to society and forbids their worship under penalty of law, placing federal observers in your temples to ensure compliance?

Christians, where do I begin with you? You ought to be deeply, deeply concerned already. But there is more to come, I assure you. What would you do if your church was forbidden to conduct any activities outside the walls of its building? What if heavy taxes are laid on church property and receipts? What if government elementary schools actively promote adult/child sexual relationships as just another “sexual identity” and “lifestyle”? What if parents lost custody of their children for teaching them the “intolerant” belief that Jesus is God and the only path to salvation?

Secularists, ignoring the First Amendment affects you too — if not the free exercise clause, then the clause that forbids Congress from enacting laws that establish one religion over others. What would you do if a Dominionist party managed to gain control of the government and mandated fundamentalist Christian church attendance, tithing and school prayer?

Yes, some of these scenarios are less likely than others, but none of them are inconceivable, given the animosities and polarization of U.S. society today. You know there are elements in this country right now that would be delighted to implement some of the policies mentioned above. Why are you not standing to defend conscientious objectors to the HHS mandate?

Perhaps it’s because you are comfortable and don’t want to rock the boat: You’ve got yours and no one is trying to take it away; let others figure out how to handle their own problems. Perhaps you have your hands full just trying to survive in this economy. Perhaps you simply are distracted — preoccupied with sporting events or Facebook or Angry Birds or Call of Duty: Black Ops II. Distracting the people with “bread and circuses” is a proven way for tyranny to worm its way into power unopposed. Perhaps, as I said before, you agree employers should provide such insurance and you have no sympathy for someone who disagrees, even for religious reasons.

Whoever you are, it’s time to start paying attention to this issue. Look past the specifics of this conflict and focus on the principle of religious liberty, both free exercise and establishment. The First Amendment’s religious liberty provision is all that stands between you and the tyranny others would like to impose on you. The Constitution must be defended if we are to maintain freedom and liberty in this country.

Their freedom, whoever they are, is your freedom.

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You can take a stand for faith freedom by learning more from the ERLC or the Manhattan Declaration websitesigning a petition, donating to a religious liberty organization like The Becket Fund, and contacting the White HouseHealth and Human Services, and your Congressman.

‘Do you think God wants us to obey HHS rather than him?’

Mark Kelly writes at kainos:

The authorities had Peter and John because they were teaching, on the authority of Jesus, that there is a resurrection of the dead. The Sadducees didn’t like it, because they had rejected the truth taught by both Jesus and their own Scripture. They threw the two in jail overnight and the next morning commanded them to never again speak or teach about Jesus.

But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him?” So the Council then threatened them again and let them go because they didn’t know how to punish them without starting a riot. (Acts 4:1-21) The next time the authorities arrested Peter and John, they had them flogged.

Today, Christians are being threatened by authorities (not with flogging, thankfully) for following the teachings of the Scripture, rather than submitting to the opinions of the government. The federal government’s Health and Human Services bureaucracy has ordered all businesses, hospitals, universities, and other organizations to pay for employee insurance that covers drugs which prevent pregnancy by causing a chemical abortion. So far, more than 110 plaintiffs have gone to court, seeking relief from the order because abortion violates their religious convictions. Government lawyers say religious people have no freedom of religion rights once they step into the “secular” public square.

The very first words in the Bill of Rights are “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” If those words have any meaning at all, the HHS contraception mandate, and the related parts of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) are unconstitutional.

One danger of liberalism is that it tells a person to believe their own opinions over the truth of Scripture. Selfish people want to believe an unborn child is merely a lump of tissue because the truth is inconvenient for sexual promiscuity. We have a President and Congress that believe their own opinions about abortion, in spite of the scientific evidence that shows those opinions to be false, in spite of the clear teaching of Scripture about the sanctity of human life.

We know the country’s courts do not respect the truth of Scripture. In the weeks ahead, we will learn whether they value liberal opinion about abortion over the plain language of the US Constitution, the supposed authority for governing this country.

If opinion is the greater source of authority, the great majority of Americans — as much as 75% in some polls — believe abortion should not be allowed except in cases of rape or incest. Most Americans believe abortion is morally wrong and oppose abortion on demand. Most Americans support 24-hour waiting periods, parental consent for minors, and notification of husbands. Most Americans are repulsed by late-term abortions and reject using public funds to pay for any abortion.

Majority public opinion doesn’t matter to liberal elected officials, because liberalism tells them to trust their own enlightened opinions over the ignorance of the uneducated masses. In the weeks ahead, we will learn whether rank and file Americans truly hold the convictions about abortion that they say they hold. We also will learn whether American Christians have the courage to take a public stand for the religious freedom rights guaranteed by the Constitution and actively oppose the unjust HHS contraception mandate.

When the authorities tell Christians and other conscientious people of faith to shut up about their convictions and do what they are told, we will find out who is willing to resist. We will learn who takes Scripture seriously as God’s word — and who takes Jesus seriously when he says that if we deny him before men, he will deny us before the Father.

The authorities backed down from Peter and John because they didn’t know how to punish them without starting a riot. People were passionate about what they had seen God do and would not sit quietly by while the authorities punished people who were simply obeying the truth. What are you passionate about?

You can get involved by learning more from the ERLC or the Manhattan Declaration websitesigning a petition, donating to a religious liberty organization like The Becket Fund, and contacting the White HouseHealth and Human Services, and your Congressman.

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