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Category Archives: Religious Liberty

Why the Indiana Law that Protects Religious Liberty is Good Policy

ThinkstockPhotos-99338324In an article from The Daily Signal, The Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson and Sarah Torre explain why Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act is not controversial, does not promote nor permit discrimination, and above all, why it is good policy to protect citizens from unnecessary and unreasonable government coercion:

These protections for religious freedom, like the one passed in Indiana, provide a commonsense way to balance the fundamental right to religious liberty with compelling government interests.

There are now numerous cases of photographers, florists, cake makers and farmers being forced to participate in celebrating same-sex weddings in violation of their belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. These are citizens who have no problem serving gays and lesbians but do object to celebrating same-sex weddings.

Religious liberty isn’t an absolute right. Religious liberty doesn’t always trump. Religious liberty is balanced with concerns for a compelling state interest that’s being pursued in the least-restrictive means possible.

But it isn’t clear that forcing every photographer and every baker and every florist to help celebrate same-sex weddings is advancing a compelling state interest in the least-restrictive way possible. Protecting religious liberty and the rights of conscience doesn’t infringe on anyone’s sexual freedoms.

...Again, Religious Freedom Restoration Acts don’t allow individuals to do whatever they wish in the name of religion. There will be times when the government can show it has a compelling reason for burdening religious expression—to ensure public safety, for instance.

But Religious Freedom Restoration Acts set a high bar for the government to meet in order to restrict religious freedom.

You can read the full article at The Daily Signal.

Video: Indiana Law: Bad for Business or Just Misunderstood?

Watch as Ryan Anderson from the Heritage Foundation explains to Out Leadership's Todd Sears and reporters at CNBC that it is not the “controversial” Indiana Law that is pro-discrimination, but it is in fact the law’s opponents who are pro-discrimination.

Why Apple's CEO is Wrong About Indiana's Religious Freedom Law

In a Washington Post op-ed, Apple CEO Tim Cook calls ‘religious freedom’ laws “dangerous” and pro-discrimination:

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A wave of legislation, introduced in more than two dozen states, would allow people to discriminate against their neighbors. Some, such as the bill enacted in Indiana last week that drew a national outcry and one passed in Arkansas, say individuals can cite their personal religious beliefs to refuse service to a customer or resist a state nondiscrimination law.

...Men and women have fought and died fighting to protect our country’s founding principles of freedom and equality. We owe it to them, to each other and to our future to continue to fight with our words and our actions to make sure we protect those ideals. The days of segregation and discrimination marked by “Whites Only” signs on shop doors, water fountains and restrooms must remain deep in our past. We must never return to any semblance of that time. America must be a land of opportunity for everyone.

Tim Cook is wrong on many accounts (our Founding Fathers built America on the idea of equal opportunity, NOT equal outcome), but more importantly, Tim Cook is a hypocrite.

In a commentary piece on The Daily Signal, Ryan Anderson succinctly explains why Tim Cook is the only person in favor of discrimination in this whole debate:

ThinkstockPhotos-124679702It is Tim Cook who favors laws that discriminate against people of faith who simply ask to be left alone by government to run their businesses and their schools and their charities in accordance with their reasonable belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. It is Tim Cook who would have the government discriminate against these citizens, have the government coerce them into helping to celebrate a same-sex wedding and penalize them if they try to lead their lives in accordance with their faith.

...Indeed, Apple itself has exercised this freedom (or is the proper word, according to Cook, “discrimination”?). After all, Apple removed the Manhattan Declaration app from its App Store. Apple decided that a Christian app bearing witness to the dignity of unborn life, the nature of marriage as the union of husband and wife and the centrality of religious liberty was incompatible with its mission. So they “discriminated” against the Manhattan Declaration.

No one suggested that this should be made illegal. Even if we thought it a misguided decision, we thought Apple should be free to decide its own values and live according to them.

Tim Cook called on the nation to stand up to discrimination, and that is exactly what Ryan Anderson, Sarah Torre, Mike Pence, and many others have done: they have shown that it is not the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act that is pro-discrimination, but opponents like Tim Cook who are actually advocates of discrimination.

The full article by Ryan Anderson can be read here.

Victory for Religious Freedom in Indiana!

ThinkstockPhotos-466956854Here's some great news out of Indiana! The Indiana House has passed a bill with a 63-31 vote to protect the religious liberty of business owners in the state.

SB 101, known as the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” will be heading back to the Senate, where a similar version has already passed. If the House’s version is found in accord with the Senate's version, the bill will head to Governor Mike Pence, who has made it clear that he will sign the bill into law.

Supporters of the law attest that the law does not allow discrimination of same-sex individuals, but rather, honors the rights of business owners who for example, may not in good conscious provide wedding services to same-sex couples.

Supporters of the law say it will keep government entities from forcing business owners - such as bakeries and florists who don't want to provide services to gay couples - from acting in ways contrary to strongly held religious beliefs. Gay marriage became legal in Indiana last year following an appellate court ruling.

Supporter Micah Clark, executive director of the American Family Association of Indiana, tweeted after its passage in the House on Monday that the bill was a "good, tested, protective shield for all faiths."

ThinkstockPhotos-466073636While opponents claim that SB 101 would allow for discrimination against same-sex couples, what SB 101 actually achieves is protecting individuals from suffering discrimination based on their religious beliefs. Specifically, SB 101 prevents state and local governments from "substantially burdening" citizens from being able to exercise their freedom of religion, unless the government can prove that it has compelling interest and is doing so in the least restrictive means.

Supporters of the bill explain that the measure protects people, organizations, and business owners from government intrusion.

"It's important that we allow our citizens to hold religious beliefs, maybe even those we might be appalled by, and to be able to express those," said Rep. Tom Washburne, R-Inglefield.

What is more, opponents should be aware that SB 101 is based off of a 22-year-old federal law, dubbed the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act, the same act that was influential in the Hobby Lobby decision.

While this bill awaits full adoption in Indiana, nineteen other states have already adopted similar religious freedom bills, and there are several others that are considering legislation.

While the opposition will not respectfully admit defeat, bravo to the state of Indiana for recognizing the importance of religious freedom and the true right of individuals to practice their religious beliefs, both in their private and public lives. Well done, Indiana. Our founding fathers would be proud.

Ted Cruz Takes Steps to Protect Religious Liberty in D.C.

This week, Sen. Ted Cruz introduced two joint resolutions to overturn recently enacted D.C. Council legislation that undermines religious liberty.

via Sen. Ted Cruz's website:

"The D.C. Council is attempting to force religious institutions to provide services, make employment decisions, or participate in activities that directly violate their faith," said Sen. Cruz. "No government entity should be able to coerce organizations - whether they be non-profits or religious schools - into funding abortion services or promoting gender policy that is contrary to the organization's fundamental mission.

"D.C.'s legislation would require pro-life organizations to fund abortions. It would require Catholic schools to pay for abortions, in direct contravention of their faith. That is wrong, and unconstitutional. Despite pending legislation that might provide a temporary exemption limited to insurance coverage, the D.C. Council is ultimately telling institutions within the District that a day will come when they must make the intolerable choice between complying with the law and abiding by their religious convictions. Rather than discriminating against pro-life and religious organizations, D.C. should welcome diversity of thought and protect the freedom of conscience. We must stop this assault on the Catholic Church, and we must act to protect religious liberty. Congress has a constitutional responsibility to oversee the nation's capital, and I urge my colleagues in both houses to pass this resolution and affirm the First Amendment rights of all citizens."

Mark Your Calendars for the 2015 March for Marriage!

"This triangle of truisms, of father, mother and child, cannot be destroyed; it can only destroy those civilizations which disregard it." - G.K. Chesterton

2015 March for Marriage

When: Saturday, April 25, 2015, at Noon ET

Where: Union Square, South of Capitol Reflecting Pool, Washington, DC

 

Who: Marriage defenders, champions, and leaders from across the nation join together to defend marriage, family, and American liberties!

Why: To defend marriage as the unique union between 1 man and 1 woman; to protect the family as the building block of society; to ensure that our children will have a future where basic American rights and liberties are honored, preserved, and protected.

Stayed tuned for more information to come!

"Government should respect the rights of all citizens."

In The Daily Signal, Ryan Anderson of Heritage writes:

It’s hard to imagine a more bedrock American right than being free to live according to your religious convictions. The very idea of being forced to violate your beliefs seems unthinkable.

Unless you happen to believe that marriage refers exclusively to the union of a man and a woman. Because more and more often, the government is penalizing and coercing those who simply wish to be free to live in accordance with that belief.

[...]

[B]ecause various state and local governments have passed laws creating special privileges based on “sexual orientation and gender identity” (dubbed SOGI) [...] government harassment is likely to increase. For it treats the belief that marriage is the union of a man and woman as if it were insidious discrimination.

But it shouldn’t. Even if the government recognizes same-sex relationships as marriages, it need not and should not require any third party to recognize a same-sex relationship as a marriage. Government should respect the rights of all citizens.

Indeed, a form of government respectful of free association, free contracts, free speech and free exercise of religion should protect citizens’ rights to live according to their beliefs about marriage.

Read the rest here.

I Stand Sunday

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Christians across America are joining I Stand Sunday this weekend, November 2, 2014, as speakers from across the nation gather at Grace Community Church in Houston, Texas to focus on the freedom to live out our faith free of government intrusion or monitoring.

We will stand with pastors and churches in Houston, Texas who have been unduly intimidated by the city's Mayor in demanding they hand over private church communication.

Watch the free, live simulcast above beginning at 6:00 p.m. CT/7:00 p.m. ET on Sunday (program duration is approx. 90 minutes), or the rebroadcast at 8:10PM CT/9:10 p.m. ET.

Remember to stand for religious freedom online as well by using the hashtag #IStandSunday.

SPECIAL EVENT: Stand for Houston Pastors

National Organization for Marriage

Dear Marriage Supporter,

The right of churches to speak the truth freely is under threat in Houston.

Five pastors and churches in have had their internal church communications subpoenaed by Mayor Annise Parker. This is part of an intimidation campaign that comes amidst a lawsuit brought by citizens against the city of Houston after a petition from residents was basically thrown out by the city administration.

But none of these pastors or churches are even a party to the lawsuit! This action is simply an attempt to intimidate anyone who has dared to question the city's terrible gender-neutral "bathroom bill" — the ordinance against which the voters signed the petition.

The bottom line, though, is that the government has no business monitoring sermons or prying into the private communications between a pastor and his congregation! The Constitution secures the freedom of the church to proclaim the truth. We can't sit idly by and allow intimidation like this to stand.

That's why The National Organization for Marriage is proud to be a partner in a special nationwide simulcast event, live from Houston:

The event will stream live from Grace Community Church in Houston—one of the affected churches—and will focus on what's happening in that city, as well as other threats to religious freedom around the country. Our aim will be to show how Christians nationwide can stand together in love and unity for America's First Freedom of religious liberty.

Please bring this to the attention of the your church leadership, and encourage them to have your church join with us and churches across the country as we focus on this issue that is crucial to the freedom of the church. If your church is unable to join, there's also a home viewing option, where you can watch with your small group.

Speakers will include:

  • David & Jason Benham, Co-founders, Benham Companies

  • Hernan Castano, Pastor, Iglesia Rios de Aceite — Houston

  • Dr. Ronnie Floyd, President, Southern Baptist Convention

  • Magda Hermida, Founder, Magda Hermida Ministries

  • Gov. Mike Huckabee, Host of Fox News' Huckabee, former Gov. Arkansas

  • Tony Perkins, President, Family Research Council

  • Pastor Steve Riggle, Founding Senior Pastor, Grace Community Church, Houston

  • Alan Robertson, Star of Duck Dynasty

  • Phil Robertson, The Duck Commander/Duck Dynasty

  • Dr. Rick Scarborough, President, Vision America

  • Todd Starnes, Fox News Radio

  • Dr. Ed Young, Pastor, Second Baptist Church Houston

Time is short, but the issue is crucial. The affected pastors and churches in Houston need believers from across the nation standing with them in solidarity for the right to freely proclaim the truth of Scripture. Visit IStandSunday.com to find out how you can be a part of this bold moment of witness to the truth and this historic stance for our most cherished liberties.

Faithfully,

Brian S Brown
Brian S. Brown
President
National Organization for Marriage
Brian Brown

Christian Bakers Face Increasing Fines for Standing by Beliefs on Marriage

You may remember the story of Aaron and Melissa Klein, the Christian bakery owners in Oregon who declined to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple last year.  Not only have they been forced to close their successful family business, but they are now facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. The Kleins ascertain that the $150,000 fine would be enough to completely bankrupt the couple and their 5 children.

The penalty hit the couple after they were found “guilty” of violating the same-sex couple’s civil rights, but what about their own civil rights? During an interview with the The Daily Signal, Aaron Klein said that he believed that he was “well within” his legal rights to decide not to take the couple’s business, citing his belief that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

In an excerpt from ChristianNews, Klein recounts the interaction that led to this heavy fine being levied on him:

Melissa Klein“My first question was what’s the wedding date,” Klein told television station KTW in Portland. “My next question was [the] bride and groom’s name. … The girl giggled a little bit and said, ‘It’s two brides.’”

He stated that he then informed the women that the bakery does not make cakes for homosexual events.

“I apologized for wasting their time and said that unfortunately, we do not do same-sex marriages,” Klein explained.
The women then left Sweet Cakes upset about the incident, and later, one of them filed a complaint with the state.

But Klein states that he regularly serves homosexuals. He believes that there is a difference between serving homosexuals in general, and having to personally facilitate same-sex ceremonies, which is an act of participation.”

“I have customers come in almost on a weekly basis that are homosexual,” he said. “They can buy my stuff. I sell stuff. I talk with them. That’s fine. … This was not the first time we’ve served these girls.”

“We were being asked to participate in something that we could not participate in,” Klein’s wife, Melissa, noted.

In January, the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) announced that it had concluded that the Klein’s broke the law when they declined to make the cake.”

The same-sex couple in question subsequently filed a civil rights complaint against the couple, ignoring the fact that the Kleins had filled other orders for the woman who had requested the “wedding” cake. Other homosexual activists also reacted with bitterness, threatening emails, harassment of their vendors, as well as ransacking the Klein’s bakery truck.

But when the Kleins appeared at the Value Voters Summit earlier this month, they were anything but bitter. Melissa Klein even broke down in tears when she described how special the process of making wedding cake is to her:

“For me personally, when I would sit down with [a customer], I just would want to know everything about her wedding,” she tearfully stated ... about the intimate involvement she would have in the matter if she accepted the order. “I’d want to know about the flowers, her dress, the centerpieces, her colors, the way her hair is going to be. I would even want to talk about ‘where are you going on your honeymoon?'”

The couple posted the following message on Facebook:

“Our culture has accepted 2 huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. Second is that to love someone means that you must agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.

Sweet Cakes Facebook Message

It is tragic to see our government employing discrimination in the name of “anti-discrimination.”

Aaron and Melissa are true champions of the freedom of religion, and are an inspiring example of how in our morally unstable country, we're often faced with the choice to do either what is right or what is easy. Bravo to the Kleins for courageously defending marriage as the union between one man and woman.

WATCH LIVE: Values Voter Summit 2014

The Values Voter Summit is just days away! The annual Summit—which provides a forum to inform and mobilize citizens across America to preserve the bedrock values of traditional marriage, religious liberty, sanctity of life and limited government that make our nation strong—will be held from Sept. 26-28 in Washington D.C.

If you're not able to attend, you can watch the live feed all weekend right from your home or office.

Friday, Sept. 26 Live Feed:

Saturday, Sept. 27 Live Feed:

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An Opportunity to Protect Conscience Rights

Last week at National Review, our friend Ryan Anderson presented four major problems with President Obama's new executive order on sexual orientation and gender identity.   The four biggest problems with the executive order, Anderson wrote, are:

1.) It undermines our nation's commitment to reasonable pluralism and reasonable diversity,

2.) It equates conscientious judgments about behavior,

3.) It does not contain a Bona Fide Occupational Qualification exemption, and

4.) It is unnecessary.

Anderson wrote:Ryan Anderson

All Americans should be free to contract with the government without penalty because of their reasonable beliefs about morally contentious issues. The federal government should not use the tax code and government contracting to reshape civil society about controversial moral issues that have nothing to do with the federal contract at stake.

[...]

Sexual orientation and gender identity are unclear, ambiguous terms. They can refer to voluntary behaviors as well as thoughts and inclinations, and it is reasonable for employers to make distinctions based on actions. By contrast, “race” and “sex” clearly refer to traits, and in the overwhelming majority of cases, these traits (unlike voluntary behaviors) do not affect fitness for any job.

A Bona Fide Occupational Qualification (BFOQ) exemption, Anderson wrote, "allow employers to make employment decisions so long as those decisions are honestly related to job qualifications."

For example, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act contains a BFOQ that allows employers to take sex into account: hiring a female camp counselor at an all-girls sleep-away summer camp, for example, which might otherwise seem to be “sex discrimination.”

This new executive order presents an opportunity for Congress to act to protect conscience rights and religious liberty, Anderson argued:

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. This is the policy approach proposed by the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act (H.R. 3133, S. 1808).

This is indeed the time for Congress to move to protect conscience rights and religious liberty.  The left is doubling down on their attacks on marriage supporters and religious liberty.  America is healthier and freer when the law tolerates a diverse array of opinions and religious beliefs.

Should Parents or Government Raise Children?

"There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized." - George Orwell, 1984

Scottish parliament recently passed a bill that requires the state to appoint a "guardian" for every child in the country from birth until the age of 18.  This sinister and disturbing practice would expand the role of the state in an unprecedented way, chipping away at parental rights and opening the door for massive government intrusion into family life.Man-Woman-Child

The right of children to be raised by their parents--and the rights of parents to raise their children according to their values--is a basic human right.  When parents responsibly rear their children, families stay strong, thus limiting the power of the state.  A free society depends in part on strong marriages and families to bring up children in the most ideal setting.

A government "guardian" checking in on every child is tantamount to government surveillance of every family.  These "guardians" will have access to family records and will be required to report on the child's development and welfare.  They will also recommend household changes.

What if a government "guardian" disagrees with parents on how to best raise a child?  Will the government official be able to override the parents' decisions about the child's healthcare, education, and home life?  What if the government worker disagrees with parents' religious or political views, and thinks it's "unfair" or "bigoted" to raise a child in a religious environment?

If this bill and the threatening principles enshrined in it become law--which will happen unless pro-family activists stop it--it would open the door for state-sponsored surveillance on every family.  It would enable the Scottish government to tell parents how to raise their children, place children's best interests and parental rights at odds with the interests of the increasingly powerful state.

Of course, there are occasionally unfit or abusive parents from whom children must be protected.  But sound policy is not based on rare exceptions.  In almost every case, children do best when raised by married parents in a stable relationship, and the government has no right to interfere with this.

Parents, not the government, know what's best for their kids.

Southern Baptist Convention: Executive Order Violates Freedom of Conscience

SBCRussell Moore, president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, has joined other faith leaders in raising concerns over the lack of religious liberty protections in President Obama's new executive order.

Moore said:

“While we don’t know the full implications of this executive order, I am disappointed that this administration persistently violates the freedom of conscience for religious organizations that provide necessary relief for the poor and endangered.  The same religious convictions that inspire their social action are the convictions now considered outside the new mainstream of sexual revolutionary fundamentalism. The ones hurt will be the most vulnerable in our society.”

This new executive order could result in Christians and those who belief in marriage as the union of a man and a woman facing reprisal and even punishment simply for expressing their views in the workplace.

Catholic Bishops Slam "Unprecendented and Extreme" Executive Order

The bishop-Chairmen of two USCCB Committees slammed President Obama’s July 21 "gender identity" executive order for its lack of religious freedom protection and "flaws in its core prohibitions."  This new "non-discrimination" executive order, aimed at preventing workplace discrimination against LGBT persons, opens the door to discrimination against Christians and those with deeply-held beliefs about the nature of marriage and human sexuality.

Catholic BishopRe-iterating the Catholic Church's opposition to unjust discrimination and sexual conduct outside of marriage, the bishops outlined how this new executive order "implements discrimination" and why Catholics and people of goodwill should oppose it.

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty and Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, Chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth said:

Today’s executive order is unprecedented and extreme and should be opposed.

In the name of forbidding discrimination, this order implements discrimination. With the stroke of a pen, it lends the economic power of the federal government to a deeply flawed understanding of human sexuality, to which faithful Catholics and many other people of faith will not assent. As a result, the order will exclude federal contractors precisely on the basis of their religious beliefs.

ObamaMore specifically, the Church strongly opposes both unjust discrimination against those who experience a homosexual inclination and sexual conduct outside of marriage, which is the union of one man and one woman. But the executive order, as it regards federal government contractors, ignores the inclination/conduct distinction in the undefined term “sexual orientation.” As a result, even contractors that disregard sexual inclination in employment face the possibility of exclusion from federal contracting if their employment policies or practices reflect religious or moral objections to extramarital sexual conduct.

The executive order prohibits “gender identity” discrimination, a prohibition that is previously unknown at the federal level, and that is predicated on the false idea that “gender” is nothing more than a social construct or psychological reality that can be chosen at variance from one’s biological sex. This is a problem not only of principle but of practice, as it will jeopardize the privacy and associational rights of both federal contractor employees and federal employees. For example, a biological male employee may be allowed to use the women’s restroom or locker room provided by the employer because the male employee identifies as a female.