Sunday, October 14, 2012

Religious Freedom? What Happened To It?

Every week, it seems, I receive a mailing bemoaning the fact that the Federal Government is eroding into our freedom of speech and freedom of religion, which are guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution. I must admit that most of the dire warnings I just shrug off, because these things do not impact my life directly. But…I cannot ignore these warnings any longer; they are just becoming too big!

1)       Recently I have learned that a U.S. District Court Judge, Barbara Crabb has ruled the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional. She has compared the National Day of Prayer to practicing magic!

2)       At the Hastings College of Law in San Francisco, the student chapter of the Christian Legal Society was denied any status on campus because it would not abandon its requirement that members commit themselves to Christian norms regarding sexual morality. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling in 2010 held that the student group’s rights were not violated by a “take all comers” policy.

3)       Following this lead, Vanderbilt University has rewritten its student organizations policy and effectively chased every traditionally Christian student group off campus, denying them regular access to campus facilities.

4)       At the University of Illinois, an adjunct professor of religion, hired to teach a course on Catholicism, was let go because a student complained about his patient explanation of the Catholic Church’s natural law teachings on human sexuality. (He was later restored to his teaching duties, but at the expense of the Newman Center, not on the state payroll.)

5)       Authorities in Washington state and Illinois have attempted to force pharmacists, against their conscience, to dispense “morning after” pills when other pharmacists short distances away make these abortifacients available.

6)       New York City has barred church congregations—and them alone—from using public school buildings outside school hours.

7)       In New Mexico, a Christian wedding photographer was fined for violation of a state “human rights act” because she refused to take the business of a same-sex couple who claimed to want her services at their civil union ceremony.

8)       In Massachusetts, Illinois, San Francisco, and the District of Columbia, the adoption and fostering agencies of Catholic Charities have been shuttered because they will not place children with same-sex couples, as the local authorities demand.

9)       The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court recently ruled that a Wisconsin public high school could not rent space for its annual graduation exercises in a local church lest it be seen as “endorsing religion” and “coercing” its students to view Christianity in a positive light.

10)    In 2010, Judge Vaughn Walker of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco ruled that Proposition 8, preserving marriage in the California constitution as the union of one man and one woman, was unconstitutional. He held that the affinity between traditional religion and the moral case against same-sex marriage was reason enough to strike down the popular referendum and went so far as to say that religious doctrines holding homosexual acts to be sinful are in themselves a form of “harm” to gays and lesbians.

11)    In 2009, an Iowa Supreme court held that the state’s law restricting marriage to a man and a woman was an expression of a religious viewpoint, and for that reason unconstitutional.

12)    In 2009, President Obama spoke at a Notre Dame commencement and opined that to disagree with his views on abortion and other social issues is fundamentally irrational, and thus to be relegated to the private sphere; he ruled them out of order in public debate.

13)    The administration has been opposed to legislation that protects the conscience statements of military chaplains and other military personnel who continue to hold and to express the view, on religious grounds, that sexual relations are morally permitted only in a marriage between a man and a woman.

14)    In the recent term of the Supreme Court, the administration’s lawyers took the position that there should be no “ministerial exception on religious freedom grounds for employers such as religious schools from federal anti-discrimination laws. Church schools and other religious institutions, they argued, have only as much protection as non-religious institutions do on “freedom of association” grounds—as though the religious clause of the First Amendment added no ground whatsoever for a unique religious freedom claim. Fortunately, the Supreme Court threw out the administration’s argument by a 9-0 decision. The Court held that the Obama Justice Department’s view was “remarkable,” “untenable, and “hard to square with the text of the First Amendment, itself.”

15)    And of course, there is the infamous Health and Human services “contraception mandate,” which is designed to force people of faith, and particularly Catholics to provide drugs for contraception and for producing abortion to early pregnancies. The use of these drugs clearly violates the religious consciences of many people in the United States, and not Catholics only. Protestants, Catholics, Jewish, Mormon, and Muslim peoples have joined together to oppose this blatant violation of the First Amendment.

         Our society and government is demonstrating a blundering impatience whenever countervailing claims are made in the name of religious conscience, the integrity of religious institutions, or the foundational character of religious communities, as part of American civil society. The government is failing to perceive the legitimate contribution of religion to public discourse and the establishment of moral and ethical policy.

         I just wonder where all this Constitutional violation is going to end. Our government is openly taking away primary and basic freedoms from our people. I hope something changes at the next election to counter this trend toward godlessness in America.
          (Much of this blog post was excerpted from Imprimis Sept 2012, Vol. 41, Number 9.)

No comments:

Post a Comment