New Book On Religious Liberty Can Pivot Public Discourse Back in Right Direction

The debate over cultural issues sadly isn’t going anywhere in this country. Whether it’s public schools pushing for the normalization of transgenderism or the media cheering on the prospect of imprisoning those who disagree with gay marriage, public discourse on the matter has been lost.

If you dissent from the “popular opinion” of the day, your view is to be wholly condemned and subsequent shaming of your views will ensue. We’ve reached a boiling point where we must accept everything, rather than offer peaceful and respectful disagreement through tolerance–or face punishment. A new book on religious liberty by three of the most prominent Millennial-aged scholars on the marriage debate — two for the preservation of the institution, the other in favor of redefinition–have a new book that can help pivot civil discourse in the right direction.

I recently finished Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination by John Corvino, Ryan T. Anderson, and Sherif Girgis. Corvino is a proponent of gay marriage and previously co-authored a book Debating Same-Sex Marriage with Maggie Gallagher. He holds a Ph.D., teaches at, and chairs the Philosophy Department at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. Anderson and Girgis are well known in conservative circles, with the former serving as the William E. Simon Senior Research Fellow in American Principles & Public Policy at Heritage Foundation and the latter a PhD candidate in philosophy at Princeton University. They co-authored What Is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense with Princeton University Professor Robbie George in December 2012.

What I found was how sound and convincing each argument presented in the point-counterpoint format was throughout the book–offering solid points and arguments for both views surrounding the debate over religious liberty and discrimination. Corvino articulated the leftist view on religious liberty quite well and offered sound arguments for his position–even though I vehemently disagreed with his assessment. Alternatively, Anderson and Girgis articulated the conservative position on these issues in the typical intellectual way they normally do–affirming why they are two of the leading voices on social conservatism today.

If you want a book that promotes open-mindedness and offers a fair account of the religious liberty issue, this book will help vill that void.

Most of our readers, myself included, believe in religious liberty and that certain protections should apply to those who don’t want to violate their conscience, with respect to soliciting services or products for religious ceremonies. Conservatives and libertarians also believe private companies have the right to refuse service or terminate employment — even if it’s unfair or politically motivated. But we should hear out our opponents if they can civilly articulate their perspectives on the issues. More speech, not less.

So much of public discourse has been lost and muddled by those who disregard free speech and the free exchange of ideas in the public square. Debating Religious Liberty will help renew your faith in the art of debate and exchange of ideas with respect to cultural issues. Check it out.

Christian Baker Discusses Harassment, Death Threats as SCOTUS Debate Nears

On Monday, the Supreme Court ended its most recent session by revealing that it will determine whether a Colorado baker discriminated against a gay couple when he declined to bake a cake for their 2012 wedding in its next term.

The controversial case, Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, gained national attention after bakery owner Jack Phillips declined to make a wedding cake two gay men, citing his Christian beliefs. Phillips said he didn’t refuse the couple service and offered to sell them anything in the store, but he would not actively participate in the couple’s wedding by making a cake specifically for the occasion.

With the SCOTUS is set to debate the balance between religious liberty and equal treatment under the law, Phillips spoke with Fox News about the years of harassment and threats he, his family, and his workers have faced as a result of the incident.

Phillips has grown somewhat accustomed to the lost business, hate-filled online reviews, and nasty phone calls he has faced, but it still bothers him when the vitriol meant for him is—intentionally or not—passed on to others.

“In all of this, the threats against me or disparaging comments, the worst part is that I have to answer the phone so they’re not threatening my wife or my daughter when they pick it up,” Phillips said. “They don’t wait to see who’s on the phone. You pick up the phone, they’re already talking.”

He recalls receiving two specific death threats—one involving his daughter—that were obviously troublesome, but one of the most hurtful moments came when a member of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission compared him to a Holocaust sympathizer.

“Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the Holocaust,” Commissioner Diann Rice said in a brief. “I mean, we can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination.”

The comments hit close to home for Phillips, whose father was severely injured in World War II, while part of a team that helped liberate a Nazi concentration camp.

“For her to compare standing for my faith and not making a cake to Hitler’s…

Read the full story at Faithwire.com.

Nancy Pelosi: GOP Health Care Bill Dishonors God

A shameless act of hypocrisy by the House minority leader.

Nancy Pelosi, who boasts a 100 percent rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund, chastised the GOP health care bill on Tuesday by saying it “dishonors God.” She went on to encourage her Republican colleagues not to dismantle Obamacare by seemingly referring to it as “God’s creation.”

“I know my colleagues are people of faith,”Pelosi said. “They tell us that all the time.”

“So, this is God’s creation, we have a real responsibility to it,” she continued. “To minister to the needs of God’s creation is an act of worship. To ignore those needs is to dishonor the God who made us.”

“So from our faith, from our responsibility and community in our country to acknowledging that we are all one family in our country, it is very important that our colleagues not only read the bill, but examine their consciences and look into their hearts, and maybe look into the eyes of these families, and maybe make a decision in favor of what is right,” she stated.

This isn’t the first time Pelosi has invoked religion when it’s suited her. In early June, she claimed President Trump was dishonoring God and the religious community by exiting from the Paris climate agreement. In an Inauguration Day interview with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” she again said Republicans dishonor God with their policies. She really likes that phrase.

Let me ask this to the self-described “devout Catholic” from San Francisco: where was this religious devotion when evangelical Christians were being sued into baking cakes for functions they didn’t believe in? Where was this devotion to God when she continually bashed religious freedom laws? Does she honor God when she makes it her life’s work to keep Planned Parenthood publicly funded and continually killing unborn children? Let’s not forget, Pelosi leads a party that, in its 2012 convention, removed reference to God in their platform. When leaders tried to add language pertaining to God in a last-minute voice vote, the crowd booed in overwhelming unison.

This is the person who is going to lecture Republicans on honoring God?

The insincerity in her tone when she invokes religion is so stark it’s almost laughable.

 

A Cautionary Tale For Those Who Favor Criminalizing ‘Hate Speech’

 

As a cautionary tale of what happens when the State becomes the arbiter (and arbitrary master) of what’s considered “religious hatred,” liberals should take note of what is happening in Russia. From the Washington Post:

Last summer, Ruslan Sokolovsky entered the imposing Church of All Saints in Yekaterinburg, a city about 1,000 miles east of Moscow. The Russian Orthodox church holds special meaning for some, because it was supposedly built on the site where the last czar of Russia, Nicholas II, was murdered along with his family.

But Sokolovsky wasn’t there to worship or pay tribute to Russian history. Instead, the blogger wandered through the gilded rooms of the church, his eyes and fingers glued to his smartphone. He was playing “Pokémon Go,” the app that allows users to “catch ’em all” using augmented reality.

Sokolovsky is an outspoken atheist, who trolled Jesus in the video he recorded of his Pokémon search. Jesus didn’t care, because God can handle critics. But Russia can’t.

After Russian officials discovered the footage, Sokolovsky was detained last fall and charged with inciting religious hatred. On Friday, the last day of the trial, prosecutors in Russia requested a sentence of 3½ years in prison for Sokolovsky.

Russia has laws on the books that simultaneously restrict church activities (many missionaries and evangelical churches have been forced to leave or shut down), and criminalize speech or activities that “insult the feelings of believers.” Since the only “believers” Russia acknowledges are the ones they’ve hand-picked, this toxic brew of legal caprice gives the government a free hand to imprison whom it pleases.

The charge against Sokolovsky, inciting religious hatred, is the same offense under which two women from the punk-rock collective Pussy Riot were imprisoned for two years, according to the Associated Press. The group had staged a protest against Russian leader Vladimir Putin at an Orthodox cathedral in Moscow in 2012. Shortly afterward, two members were arrested on charges of hooliganism.

Even American atheists need to realize that protecting the religious rights of everyone–Christians included–is paramount in keeping our country from sliding toward despotism. Shenanigans like Houston Mayor Anise Parker’s 2014 subpoena of pastors to provide their sermon notes ultimately harm everyone.

A society without complete religious freedom is headed for the scrapheap. President Trump has so far not taken any concrete steps to relax the chokehold eight years of Obama placed on religious freedom in the federal government. Liberals can’t stand Trump but love to rejoice in all the “protections” for their chosen victim classes.

Although conservatives have reason to be hopeful about Trump’s commitment to religious freedom, it would also be helpful if Trump would distance himself from Vladimir Putin’s horrible record. But that’s not really the message here. Government should properly get its nose out of people’s theology, or lack thereof, and liberals should stop their crusade to make government the thought police.

Liberals should stop fighting reasonable religious protections, lest they find themselves more aligned with Vladimir Putin than our founding fathers.

Religious Groups Urge Congress to Keep the Johnson Amendment in Place and They’re Not Wrong

The Johnson Amendment is a hot button issue at the intersection of politics and religion.

What the Johnson Amendment does is prevent institutions with 501( c )(3) tax-exempt status, such as churches, from using the pulpit as a stump for a particular political candidate.

It’s actually quite narrow in its focus. Church leaders can still give their religious views on issues of the day, so nothing is being watered down because of the existence of the Amendment.

Want to preach on the sanctity of life, per Psalm 139:13? Feel free.

Want to preach about the ungodliness of the homosexual lifestyle, per 1 Corinthians 6:9? Even though the left rails and the LGBT lobby gnashes their teeth in protest, nothing in the Johnson Amendment stops churches from preaching what their faith teaches.

What’s more, churches can even set up voter registration booths within their walls.

In short, church is free to be church, but what they can’t be is a platform for any specific candidate or party.

President Trump made ending the Johnson Amendment a promise to Christian groups that supported him, saying it impeded on a church’s ability to “worship freely.”

It doesn’t.

On Tuesday, around 100 religious groups urged Congress to keep the Johnson Amendment in place.

“Current law serves as a valuable safeguard for the integrity of our charitable sector and campaign finance system,” the groups, which include the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and the Hindu American Foundation, said in a letter to lawmakers.

“Current law simply limits groups from being both a tax-exempt ministry and a partisan political entity,” the groups wrote.

“Permitting electioneering in churches would give partisan groups incentive to use congregations as a conduit for political activity and expenditures,” the groups wrote. “Changing the law would also make them vulnerable to individuals and corporations who could offer large donations or a politician promising social service contracts in exchange for taking a position on a candidate.”

Other groups standing in agreement with this positon include the Episcopal Church, the Anti-Defamation League, the National Sikh Campaign, Interfaith Alliance, and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.

As it now stands, plans are for a repeal of the Johnson Amendment are to be included in tax reform legislation.

This is a promise that never should have been made.

I’ve talked about this before, and I still hold this to be truth: the Johnson Amendment should have never been a thing, but equally, American churches and charitable organizations are not served by framing this as an issue of freedom of religion, or freedom of speech.

The purpose of our churches is to provide a place of spiritual comfort and fellowship to its congregation.

The purpose of charitable organizations is to provide for the community, based on their needs, not their politics.

I’ve had these discussions before, and no matter the candidate in question, I’ve always maintained that if you’re in a Christian church pulpit, promoting any politician, you’re promoting the wrong King.

Christians know that no manmade system is going to save this world. To promote government as an answer is to water down the Gospel, and those promoting the Johnson Amendment as a hindrance to worship do not fully grasp what it is to worship.

To be clear, I don’t have a problem with churches allowing candidates to come speak, at least as a means of introducing themselves to the congregation, but if the message is overly politicized, then they have no business there.

I can say that I know many people who have been lifted because of the spiritual nourishment received in a good church setting.

I know very few who have been lifted where the government has become overly involved in their lives.

If that isn’t clear evidence of the need to keep politics from invading our church pulpits, I don’t know what is.

The Battle for Religious Freedom in Georgia

Earlier this year Georgia Senator Marty Harbin introduced SB 233, a state copy of the federal Religious Freedom and Restoration Act. It’s pretty widely accepted that a “clean” RFRA (just the 1993 federal RFRA language, without the additional provisions included in the 2016 bill that was vetoed by Governor Deal) would pass the Georgia General Assembly and be sent to the Governor’s desk. In fact, Nathan Deal has said in the past year, he would sign a clean RFRA bill. But now the Governor has reneged on RFRA, and many of his supporters in the Senate are trying to make sure RFRA never gets a vote.

There are a number of arguments for passing RFRA, such as the one laid out here by Resurgent contributor Dave Bishop. Many would even argue that RFRA does not go far enough to protect religious liberties, but it is certainly a necessary step in the right direction. I reached out to Senator Harbin, and he had this to say about RFRA.

“The Religious Freedom Restoration Act merely raises the levels of religious freedom for Georgia Citizens, giving them the same religious freedom protections as inmates in a Federal prison.

The history of RFRA begins in 1993 when this legislation was passed into law by the US congress, with only 3 dissenting votes out of 535 lawmakers. President Bill Clinton signed it into law. For four years, Americans enjoyed the same level of protection for religion that is enjoyed by free speech, the press, and the right to peaceably assemble. This level of protection is offered for these other freedoms at both the state and federal levels.

However, in 1997, the US Supreme Court ruled that RFRA would have to be enacted by individual states for it to be applicable at the state level. Since that time, 21 states, ranging from deep red to deep blue, have enacted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, currently labeled SB 233 in Georgia.

The legislation merely requires that the government show a compelling government interest before infringing on someone’s freedom of religion. It also requires the government, once it has proven it needs to invade someone’s religion, to do so in the least invasive way possible.

This is simple, yet crucial legislation. And we are working hard to enact it this year in Georgia.

Governor Nathan Deal voted for this bill in 1993 in the US congress. However, he has declined to support the exact same bill for the state of Georgia. The Lieutenant Governor, Casey Cagle, assigned RFRA to Rules, where Chairman Jeff Mullis refused to allow it a hearing.

We will continue to work to pass this important legislation for the citizens of Georgia.”

Unfortunately the delay tactics have done enough to prevent RFRA from making it to the Governor’s desk in 2017. Even if it were to clear the Senate, it is too late to send the bill to the House to pass it before the session ends. However, it is important that RFRA pass the Senate in this session for several reasons.

First, it would clear an important hurdle for 2018, and put RFRA near the front of the line for the next legislative session.

Second, it would send a message to gubernatorial candidates that we are serious about RFRA. There will be a lot of campaigning done between now and January 2018, and passing RFRA through the Senate would ensure that RFRA is a topic of discussion in the Republican primary.

Chairman Mullis should give RFRA a fair hearing instead of allowing it to be pigeon-holed in his committee. These are tactics we would expect from Harry Reid, not Georgia Republicans. If you would like to encourage Chairman Mullis to give RFRA a hearing, you can email him at [email protected] or call his office at 404-656-0057.

LGBT Group in Ohio Looks to Force Their Agenda on Christian Churches

The left are fond of painting themselves as happy warriors for the downtrodden, the enlightened and informed, in a nation besieged and ravaged by hateful Christian barbarians.

Is that a slight exaggeration?

Slight. Maybe.

The realities are closer to what is going on in Ohio.

An LGBT organization in Ohio has announced plans to target churches if they refuse to offer their property to be used in a homosexual wedding. In opposing the Ohio Pastor Protection Act (HB-36), the group Equality Ohio announced that they would target churches, forcing them to rent church facilities to groups that oppose their beliefs. This despite the fact that all the Roman Catholic bishops in Ohio support the bill, and Catholics make up approximately 20 percent of the state’s population.

HB-36, in short, would protect pastors from performing weddings that violated their religious beliefs, such as gay weddings.

When asked “if a church community has a church hall that they rent to couples who want to have that wedding reception in that hall … should that church hall and church community be forced to rent that to someone who wants to use that building for something that’s against that church community’s belief system,” an Equality Ohio spokeswoman said, “Sure, I would say that if that space is open and generally available to the public for a fee, yes that should be available to everyone.”

This statement may seem innocent enough, but to Representative Nino Vitale (R-Urbana), the author of HB-36, it is a declaration of war. “If you have property rights and religious freedom, shouldn’t you have religious freedom, at least on your own property?” Vitale asked in an interview with PJ Media.

Vitale’s fear is that if HB-36 does not make it to law, the ACLU of Ohio will target churches, in full.

There is always that threat.

Back in 2014, a lesbian Houston, Texas mayor went after area pastors, asking to be given copies of their sermons, in order to assure they weren’t preaching against homosexuality.

The courts in that case ruled against her, but it doesn’t change the fact that to topple churches and force compliance with the LGBT agenda would be the ultimate coup.

The representative also noted that “some of the largest insurance companies that handle churches in the United States now have religious freedom riders, and you can select those and add them to your church policy.” Potential lawsuits are “so big of an issue that even insurance companies recognize it.”

My own church selected such a rider, as a precautionary measure.

What it does, basically, is restrict activities on church property to those that are church-related. Period.

Vitale figures the Catholic church was the main target, saying it is rare to get all Catholic bishops in the state to rally behind a single piece of legislation, but that the Catholic Conference of Ohio did testify in favor of HB-36.

Furthermore, Vitale emphasized that the protections in this bill are very specific and limited. This legislation would not protect Aaron and Melissa Klein, for instance, the bakers who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding and were fined $135,000 by the state of Oregon. It would not protect Barronelle Stutzman, who refused to sell flowers for a same-sex wedding in Washington, and recently lost her appeal before the Washington State Supreme Court.

The Ohio Pastor Protection Act would only stipulate that pastors and religious ministers could not be forced to officiate weddings with which they have a religious objection, and that churches and religious societies could not be forced to rent out their property for such events. Furthermore, similar laws are already on the books in Florida and Texas, and are pending in 14 states, including Ohio.

The gay mafia, however, see this as all-or-nothing.

They will paint it as a “civil rights” issue and attack it on that front.

The question then becomes, if they can attack religious freedom on that level, destroying the places of worship for those who disagree with them, what is to stop them from coming after Christians in their homes, next?

The Politico Inaccurately Reports Donald Trump “Did Not Highlight Action on Religious Freedom”

This is a very interesting report from the Politico about Donald Trump keeping in place an Obama era executive order that Trump had promised to repeal. Now, it would seem, he might carve out an exception to it for sectarian organizations. But otherwise this is a broken promise.

Nonetheless, the Politico engages in a bit of fiction at the end of the piece written by Annie Karni. This is included:

“This president’s No. 1 priority is demonstrating to the people that got him elected that he is doing the people’s business,” said [James] Carafano, who’s organization backs a religious freedom executive order.

But Carafano noted that it makes most sense for the administration to churn out executive orders that are in line with Trump’s campaign promises. Trump, the first Republican nominee to feature an openly gay speaker at his convention, did not highlight action on religious freedom . “For them to put out an executive order that didn’t try and match up with the priorities that he campaigned on would be an unforced error,” said Carafano.

Note that this is not a quote from James Carafano of the Heritage Foundation, but an insert by the reporter. It is also very much not true.

In both Donald Trump’s convention acceptance speech and on the campaign trail he highlighted religious liberty issues. The Daily Signal has a pretty comprehensive list, including this quote from his acceptance speech in Cleveland:

[The Johnson Amendment], pushed by Lyndon Johnson many years ago, threatens religious institutions with a loss of their tax-exempt status if they openly advocate their political views. Their voice has been taken away. I am going to work very hard to repeal that language and to protect free speech for all Americans.

To say he “did not highlight action on religious freedom” at either the Republican Convention or on the campaign trail is completely inaccurate.