Tag archives: Religious Liberty

Bowdoin College and Religious Bigotry

by Rob Schwarzwalder

February 20, 2014

Bowdoin College, one of America’s elite institutions of higher education, has now “banned a local lawyer and his wife from leading campus Bible studies with students after the couple refused to sign a non-discrimination agreement they say violates their Christian faith.”

For nearly the past ten years the couple, Rob and Sim Gregory, has been volunteers with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s Bowdoin Christian Fellowship (BCF). They have been told they will no longer be welcome on Bowdoin’s campus after May because of their commitment to the Bible’s teaching that sexual intimacy is reserved for a heterosexual couple within the covenant of marriage.

The following excerpt from The Maine Wire explains the story well and succinctly:

For nearly a decade, the Gregorys have been a fixture of Bowdoin’s community and source of counsel and comfort for college-aged Christians. But last year administration officials informed the Gregorys they would be required to sign a non-discrimination agreement in order to continue serving as an advisor to BCF.

If someone’s participating in an organization and they are LGBTIQA [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Questioning, Asexual] and they are not allowed to participate in that organization because of their sexual orientation or they cannot lead that organization because of their sexual orientation, then that’s discrimination,” said Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster, according to the Bowdoin Orient.

According to the Orient, Foster said the initiative grew partially as a reaction to the Penn State scandal in 2011 in which assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of multiple counts of child molestation. “One of the things we realized,” Foster told the Orient, “is that we have people on our campus working with students, spending a significant amount of time with students, and we don’t know a lot about a lot of these people.”

Gregory, who runs a Damariscotta-based law firm and is also a minister, had no qualms submitting to a background check. But for him, signing the agreement would constitute a violation of his Christian faith. So he offered a revision to the agreement that would protect his right to teach the historical Christian faith - without Bowdoin’s censorship. Similar religious exemptions have been adopted at other American colleges and universities.

The suggested amendment to the agreement read, in part, as follows: “Reservation of Rights to Religious Beliefs and Practices: The signature on this agreement shall not be construed to limit in any way the right of the undersigned Volunteer to hold, teach and practice his/her sincerely held Christian religious beliefs and to follow, hold, and teach the religious beliefs and practices of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in the conduct of its campus ministry at Bowdoin College.”

In a Feb. 5 email obtained by The Maine Wire, Nathan Hintze, associate director of student activities, rejected Gregory’s compromise language.

I’m sorry that you have decided not to agree to the College’s volunteer policy,” said Hintze. “Both the Muslim and Catholic volunteers have in fact agreed without reservation.. It is simply unacceptable to have College-recognized student organizations effectively discriminate against individuals in violation of Maine law, which protects students’ right to fully participate as members of an organization and to lead that organization regardless of one’s sexual orientation.”

The stern, unbending voice of crypto-fascism is all too prevalent in the college’s condescending comments. For Rob Gregory, as quoted in Bowdoin’s student paper, The Orient, the fundamental issue is fidelity to Scripture and to historic Christian teaching: “The Bible teaches that human sexuality is expected to find its fulfillment inside of the twoness of persons and the twoness of genders.”

For this affirmation of biblical teaching on human sexuality, the Gregorys are being forced off the Bowdoin campus.

A friend of mine, who is associated with Bowdoin, sent me the following in a confidential email:

Rob and his wife, Sim, have hosted students countless times at their homes, taken on pro bono an internationally-covered cause to help a Bowdoin student, and spent thousands of dollars to love Bowdoin students out of their love for Christ. I know this firsthand, though Rob doesn’t say this publicly at all. In short, Bowdoin could not be targeting and smearing a better man (and his wife). Rob is gospel-centered, a man of oak, and does all this work (usually 35 hours a week) when he’s not being a high-powered Maine attorney. He and his wife aren’t paid a dime for this! They serve Bowdoin’s students selflessly, and Bowdoin has the temerity to try to crush them.

The historic Judeo-Christian understanding of morally valid human sexual expression is not bigoted, intolerant, or whatever other tired terms-of-political-art its opponents use whenever their social suzerainty in our decomposing age is questioned. And if the Bible’s teaching on human sexuality is true, then there is no ground for compromise with those who insist it not be taught. There is no common ground here, which is scary for anyone who cares about liberty and justice in a self-governing society.

The Gregorys deserve our thanks for their willingness to stand unequivocally “for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:2). They are losing access to the Bowdoin campus in time, but for them, a well-deserved eternal reward awaits. Not a bad trade-off, that.

Video: Senior Master Sgt. Philip Monk Discusses Military Religious Freedom Incident

by FRC Media Office

December 20, 2013

Master Sgt. Phillip Monk shares his story about how he was relieved of his duties when he refused to agree with his openly lesbian commanding officer that a subordinate’s expression of opposition to same-sex marriage constituted “discrimination.”   His punishment was intended to have a chilling effect on service members throughout the military.  This case among many other similar incidents prompted Congress to overwhelmingly vote to strengthen conscience and religious freedom protections for our men and women in uniform. Passage of the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act requires the Armed Forces to accommodate a service member’s ability to practice and express their religious beliefs and to issue regulations formalizing those safeguards.   For more information go to militaryfreedom.org.  Thank you for standing up for #militaryfreedom.  Please share this video with your friends and family!

Conscience, Convenience or Misguided Conviction?

by Sherry Crater

November 1, 2013

Commuting and working in Washington, D.C. affords many opportunities to engage in lively conversations with people who hold diverse opinions on controversial issues. With religious liberty currently being a hot topic, a recent discussion on First Amendment rights and religious expression turned into an instructive session for a group of adult men and women.

The conversation began with a recounting of the case of a New Mexico photographer who was fined $7000 for declining to photograph a same-sex “commitment” ceremony due to her deeply held religious beliefs. The discussion then turned to the provision in the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) which mandates that businesses and organizations provide contraceptives, abortion inducing drugs and sterilization procedures in their insurance plans.

Against this backdrop, the question was posed, “If you are the only pharmacist in a community and you don’t believe in the use of contraceptives, do you have an obligation to distribute contraceptives to the community regardless of your personal beliefs?” The consensus of the group, with a couple of exceptions including me, was yes; the pharmacist should comply and distribute the contraceptives for the “common good” of the community. One gentleman asked why the individuals seeking contraceptives could not simply travel to the next town to purchase them. A young woman responded, “It isn’t fair that I should be inconvenienced in getting my contraceptives.“

Her response raises a couple of important thoughts. First, why should the pharmacist have to violate his or her conscience for the convenience of others who can easily obtain abortion- inducing drugs or contraceptives elsewhere? The purchaser probably would not have to go far to obtain them, as access to contraceptives is certainly not a problem. Birth control and emergency contraceptives are available at grocery stores, every major retailer like Wal-Mart and Target, or online. Why does the purchaser’s convenience trump the pharmacist’s conscience?

Second, the assumption was made that the pharmacist would just be willing to acquiesce to the law, discard his or her moral convictions and distribute the objectionable pharmaceuticals. This assumption underestimates the strength and sacred nature of religious or moral convictions. A person with deeply held religious beliefs may very well choose to find another profession or move to another community rather than violate their conscience about such high priority personal matters. In such a case, the attempt to force the pharmacist to dispense the contraceptives against his or her will ends with the pharmacist taking their business to another community, thus leaving the original community potentially without a pharmacist at all.

Many well-intentioned but misguided people could benefit by better understanding the ramifications of limiting the freedom of people to live out their religious beliefs. Perhaps what seems best for one individual’s notion of the “common good” might have unfortunate consequences for many other members of the community. Americans have recognized since our founding the fundamental right of all citizens to free expression of religion and exercise of conscience as inherent, unalienable rights granted to us by God and secured and protected by the Constitution.

On the intersection between “gayness” and Christian practice

by Jessica Prol

October 10, 2013
On a cold morning this past January in Gresham, Oregon, Aaron Klein sat down with two customers at the bakery he owned with his wife, Sweet Cakes by Melissa. The two women, a bride and her mother, were making plans to purchase a wedding cake. Before discussing the details, Klein asked his customers a few standard questions. When would the wedding be? What was the groom’s name? At the second question, there was an awkward hesitation, and the mother explained that this would be a wedding between two brides. Klein politely but firmly told them that because of his and his wife’s Christian beliefs, they would not bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. Without a word, the bride and her mother got up and left.
About ten minutes later, the bride’s mother returned to the bakery and began to debate Klein using biblical references to claim that her daughter was created that way and there was nothing wrong with her marriage. Klein was firm, asserting that he would not be involved in a lesbian wedding. When he refused to back down, the woman left. About two weeks later, Klein received a complaint letter and an official investigation notice from the Oregon Department of Justice.

But the saga is not over. In a recent post for The American Spectator, Claire Healey tells how Aaron and Melissa Klein faced additional harassment for their decision—harassment that eventually led them to close their doors. It is sobering to infer that consistent Christian witness will, at times, collide with the celebration of sexual license.

 

It is also sobering to know that the Kleins are not alone. Family Research Council has partnered with The Liberty Institute, to document hundreds of challenges to religious liberty and practice across the United States. You can review and download that report here: religioushostility.org. Not all of these cases deal with the crossover between Christian witness and sexuality, but it is an especially tumultuous intersection.

But some mainstream Christians and progressive advocates have banded together to proclaim that need be no friction, no disagreement, no critique of homosexual practice. Their premise: Haters gonna hate and we’re “Not All Like That.”

I understand why the “Not All Like That” (NALT) movement is attractive to my peers. It is a rare and difficult sort of person who loves making enemies. I have met them, but I don’t find they make the most loyal friends.

But what if NALT is selling a counterfeit Gospel, spreading a lie that masquerades as love?

The question looms large on our public conversation. For today, I begin by offering a few resources that begin to inform an answer:

Todd Starnes Appears on “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins”

by Bethany Brock

October 8, 2013

Todd Starnes from Fox News on Washington Watch with Tony Perkins: We’ve come to a point in America where we have to take a collection for bail for our military ministers.

Todd Starnes, a Fox News reporter and a speaker at this weekend’s Values Voter Summit, appeared on Monday’s edition of “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins” and described an event this weekend where nearly 50 government contracted military chaplains who were furloughed due to the government shutdown were banned from performing Mass on military bases:

I received word from many of my readers.  They confirmed that weekend Mass on their base had in fact been canceled. There were no services. Many have had to go off base to go to church this weekend,” Starnes said.

One of Starnes’s readers told him that at Langley Air Force Base, a priest was told that if he came on base and held Mass, he and his supervisor could be punished and they both could face the possibility of getting fired. 

One of my readers emailed me.  He was on a military base where they did have a Catholic priest (who was not contracted by the government) and they talked about taking up a collection to cover bail for any priest who defied the government and went ahead and celebrated Mass after all.  Now that, in my estimation, is the lowest of low. It’s come to a point in America where we have to take a collection to cover bail for ministers,” Starnes said.

Click here to listen to the entire interview.

President Endorses Intelligent Design!

by Robert Morrison

April 8, 2013

In a letter of this date, a two-term President of the United States, writing to his predecessor, wrote this:

…the Theist, pointing to the heavens above, and to the earth beneath, and to the waters under the earth, asked if these did not proclaim a first cause, possessing intelligence and power; power in the production, and intelligence in the design, and constant preservation of the system; urged the palpable existence of final causes, that the eye was made to see, and the ear to hear, and not that we see because we have eyes, and hear because we have ears…

Well, as you will readily discern, dear reader, this is not President Obama’s or President George W. Bush’s accustomed style of writing.

This letter, dated April 8, 1816, was penned by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello and addressed to his reconciled friend, John Adams. It’s worth parsing the eighteenth century language because it’s a keen insight into the minds of our Founding Fathers.

In this letter, the former president, Thomas Jefferson, one of the leading scientific minds of his day, rejects the atheism of some of the French philosophes with whom he shared so many ideas. He ascribes to the Creator “power in the production, intelligence in the design, and constant preservation of the system…”

Jefferson’s ideas of Intelligent Design were put to a court test in Dover, Pennsylvania, in 2005. The federal judge in that case came down hard against any students in the public schools learning what Jefferson actually believed about origins of our universe. The judge found Mr. Jefferson’s reasoning a form of religious indoctrination that was wholly unconstitutional.

Today, liberals routinely cite Jefferson’s “Letter to the Danbury (Conn.) Baptists as their source for all church-state jurisprudence. No matter that they have completely twistified (Jefferson’s own word) what he thought and what he wrote.

Noted author Eric Metaxas shows where such twistifying leads. It leads to a doctrine of religious freedom that is narrowly construed to permit “freedom of worship” and which at the same time comes down hard on “free exercise.” The First Amendment doesn’t just guarantee freedom of worship. It is broader than that.

Here’s a portion of Eric Metaxas’s recent speech at CPAC:

Let me begin with my hometown, Danbury, CT. Some of you know that Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to the Danbury Baptists in [1802], in which he uses the phrase “separation of church and state” — and in case there is anyone who doesn’t know it, the sense in which Jefferson uses that phrase is actually the opposite of how it’s generally thought of today. Today we often hear that it means that the state needs to be protected from religion, and that religion should have no place in government or society.

Jefferson and the Founders thought the opposite. They knew that the State was always tempted to take over everything — including the religious side of people’s lives. So they put a protection in the Constitution that the government could not favor any religion over another… and could not prohibit the free exercise of religion.

They wanted churches and religions to be protected from the government — from Leviathan. Why? Because they knew that what people believed and their freedom to live out and practice one’s most deeply held beliefs was at the very heart of this radical and fragile experiment they had just launched into the world.

Okay, so where are the threats to Religious Freedom in America today? Well, for one thing, understand we are not talking about Freedom of Worship. In a speech 18 months ago, Hillary Clinton replaced the phrase Freedom of Religion with Freedom of Worship — and my hero and friend Chuck Colson noticed and was disturbed by it. Why? Because these are radically different things. They have Freedom of Worship in China. But what exactly is Freedom of Worship?

In my book Bonhoeffer I talk about a meeting between Bonhoeffer’s friend, the Rev. Martin Niemoller, who early on in the Third Reich was one of those fooled by Hitler. And in that meeting he says something to Hitler about how he, Niemoller, cares about Germany and Third Reich — and Hitler cuts him off and says “I built the Third Reich. You just worry about your sermons!”

There in a few words you have the idea of Freedom of Worship. Freedom of Worship says you can have your little strange rituals and say whatever you like in your little religious buildings for an hour or two on Sundays, but once you leave that building you will bow to the secular orthodoxy of the state! We will tell you what to think on the big and important questions. Questions like when life begins and who gets to decide when to end it and what marriage is… And if you don’t like it, tough luck! That’s Freedom of Worship and that have that in China and they had it in Germany in Bonhoeffer’s day…

Freedom of Worship is limited to the four walls of your church or synagogue. It creates the “naked public square” that the late Richard John Neuhaus warned about. It crushes civil society and puts everything under the power of the all-encompassing State.

In 2010, in celebration of the Fourth of July, the National Archives breathlessly informed us they had found an early draft of the Declaration of Independence. In that rough draft, Thomas Jefferson scratched out the word Subjects and replaced it with Citizens. The archivists were right to point to the significance of this change of language. It was the first time we Americans thought of ourselves as Citizens of a republic and not Subjects of a king.

Citizens govern themselves. Subjects have to obey Mandates from a distant HHS. Citizens have a right to free exercise of religion. Subjects are granted mere freedom of worship by the overawing power of the State.

FRC in the News: January 25, 2013

by Nicole Hudgens

January 25, 2013

The Pro-Life March Continues

Jessica Prol, FRC’s Managing Editor for Policy Publications, wrote about the history and the dangers of legal abortion in an op-ed that appeared in The Washington Times. She celebrates life on the day of the famous March for Life today in Washington, D.C. and tells the story of a sweet baby girl, Naomi, who will prayerfully experience one of God’s greatest gifts—life.

Robert Morrison, FRC’s Senior Fellow for Policy Studies, wrote an op-ed that appeared in Human Events today about abortion giant, Planned Parenthood, and the future of the pro-life movement.

General Boykin in the NY Times and on Fox News Sunday

This Sunday, Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin (Ret.-USA), Executive Vice President at FRCwill be featured on Fox News Sunday and was recently quoted in the New York Times with his expertise concerning women in combat roles. Boykin, whose long career includes much time in the Special Forces Operations, made the statement that “the people making this decision are doing so as part of another social experiment.” Read Boykin’s response on the FRC website and op-ed that appeared in USA Today about women in frontline combat.

You Can Fight for the Country’s Freedom, But be Denied Your Own

FRC President Tony Perkins commented on a story done by Fox News Radio that explained how the Army ordered a cross and steeple to be taken off of a chapel in Afghanistan. Tony stated that “Under this Administration, the military has become a Christianity-free zone. As a veteran, there’s an irony here. You put on the uniform to defend freedom — chief among them is freedom of religion. And yet, you are stripped of your own freedom to practice your faith.”

America’s Religious Heritage is not a “Patchwork,” Mr. President

by Rob Schwarzwalder

January 16, 2013

In today’s proclamation concerning “Religious Freedom Day,” President Obama refers to America’s religious heritage as a “patchwork.”

This is revisionism, a conscious dilution of the historical record. The reality is that America’s religious heritage is grounded in the Jewish and Christian faiths. To maintain this is nothing more than a matter of intellectual integrity.

No serious scholar argues that every American alive in 1776 was a Christian, or that all of the leading Founders were biblical inerrantists. Rather, just about all of them had been drenched in the Bible from their youth. Their worldview was informed and animated by their belief in an infinitely wise, all-powerful, and personally intervening God – the God of the Old and New Testaments.

Consider the words of four respected American historians:

Daniel Dreisbach, Ph.D. (Oxford), American University: “the Founders … identified themselves as Christians, were influenced in important ways by Christian ideas, and generally thought it appropriate for civic authorities to encourage Christianity.”

Mark David Hall, Ph.D. (University of Virginia), George Fox University: “Christian ideas underlie some key tenets ofAmerica’s constitutional order. For instance, the Founders believed that humans are created in the image of God, which led them to design institutions and laws meant to protect and promote human dignity. Because they were convinced that humans are sinful, they attempted to avoid the concentration of power by framing a national government with carefully enumerated powers. As well, the Founders were committed to liberty, but they never imagined that provisions of the Bill of Rights would be used to protect licentiousness. And they clearly thought moral considerations should inform legislation.”

Ellis Sandoz, Ph.D. (University of Munich), Louisiana State University: “The Constitution owes a great debt to the spiritual convictions of the country and to its Christian traditions … It is primarily in terms of contextual factors that the spiritual aspects of the Constitution are to be sought.” A Government of Laws: Political Theory, Religion, and the American Founding: Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press, 2001, p.126.

Matt Spalding, Ph.D. (Claremont Graduate School): From the perspective of religious faith, the basic principles of the Founding, at the level of political principles, were understood to be in essential agreement with the core precepts of the Bible. That this is the case can be seen throughout the many church sermons published from the founding era.

The Judeo-Christian emphasis on personal moral accountability and liberty of conscience has allowed religions of all kinds to find a home in America. But all faiths have not been equal in the shaping of our Republic. This is not to disparage any faith other than Judaism or Christianity, but only to stand by a historical record that is clear.

Contra the President, our religious heritage is not a “patchwork.” It has been, rather, an almost seamless garment of biblical convictions and values. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “we cannot escape history.” Let’s not try.

See also FRC Senior Fellow Bob Morrison’s booklet, “Deeds Not Words: What the Founders Really Did on Religious Freedom,” and Dr. Dreisbach’s FRC lecture on “The Bible and the Founders.

The Cry of the Martyrs Webcast: Emmanuel Ogebe

by FRC Media Office

November 15, 2012

Yesterday, FRC, along with Voice of Martyrs, had a webcast on the threats to religious liberty around the world. “The Cry of the Martyrs: The Threat to Religious Liberty Around the World” featured many experts speaking on religious persecution and how to fight the attacks against religion.

Emmanuel Ogebe, a Nigerian Christian attorney, spoke about the persecution in Nigeria and Boko Haram. Below is the video from the webcast.

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