Tag archives: Religious Liberty

Remarks on Religious Liberty

by Family Research Council

May 29, 2012

Prepared Remarks of the Hon. Ken Blackwell

Senior Fellow for Family Empowerment, Family Research Council

To the American Religious Freedom Program Conference

Good afternoon. It is good to be with so many like-minded men and women, people who are committed to defending our most essential freedom — religious liberty.

We tend naturally to focus on religious freedom issues that rise to the national level. Those cases that come before the Supreme Court rank high in public interest and command the attention of the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times and other giants of the main-stream media.

One of the most unprecedented and ominous assaults on religious freedom is the proposed Health and Human Services contraception mandate. As I have written in a variety of opinion pieces, there has been nothing comparable to this in 225 years in this country. There is truly no precedent for the threat embodied in theHHSMandate.

If the federal government can force not only Catholic institutions, but those of many other faith communities, and small businesses, and family-owned firms to provide drugs that can cause abortions or chemical contraceptives that violate their beliefs, then the First Amendment to the Constitution has effectively been repealed.

Late in the 19th Century,Germany’s Chancellor Bismarck waged an assault against Catholics. The Prime Minister intended to close down Catholic schools and hospitals, convents and monasteries throughout the country. We’re not there yet; but we must be vigilant.

Approximately one in six hospital patients inAmericais cared for in Catholic hospitals. These hospitals employ more than 550,000 full-time workers and 240,000 part-timers.

One thing needs to be emphasized here: Many of those employees and many of the millions of patients seen in those hospitals choose Catholic health care because it is grounded in a set of moral convictions. This is true even, and perhaps especially, for non-Catholics who seek care or who work in these Catholic institutions.

My Family Research Council colleague, Bob Morrison, a Lutheran, has twin granddaughters who were delivered at a Catholic hospital last December. When these newborns came down with the life-threatening RSV virus over Christmas, Bob was relieved that the twins were cared for in a Catholic institution. There, he could trust the care-givers and the administrators to share his family’s pro-life convictions and practice them in the way they treated his grandchildren.

Even when it is a specifically Catholic institution being threatened, the religious liberties of all Americans are in jeopardy. If Catholic hospitals are forced to choose between God and Caesar, bureaucrats will eventually compel other religious organizations and faith-based ministries to make an identical choice.

And ironically, even though Obamacare is intended to help the uninsured, it’s those of lower income who will suffer most as Catholic hospitals and religious colleges suspend health insurance altogether.

This present danger notwithstanding, our experience suggests that most threats to religious freedom have come at the state and local levels. One of the most blatant examples was the case of Oregon in the 1920s. There, a popular referendum strongly backed by the Ku Klux Klan outlawed private education. Only when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this unconstitutional in the case of Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925) was this threat blocked. It was in this case that the Court memorably said: “The child is not the mere creature of the state.”

Then there were the Blaine Amendments, named for James Gillespie Blaine the powerful Republican who sought to ban any public funds from aiding — even indirectly — what were then called “sectarian” institutions.

Though the Blaine Amendment, a vestige of the Know-Nothing movement of the 1800’s, was never passed at the federal level, similar legislation was enacted and is even today still on the books in many state constitutions. They were put in state constitutions to stop families from educating their children in Catholic schools (instead of public schools). Now, they have become a wall between private faith and the public square.

The Blaine Amendments, on record in 40 jurisdictions, constitute a serious barrier to education reform and parental choice.

The Becket Fund, a non-profit that protects the free expression of all faiths, is litigating a case inOklahoma. There a family seeks to use a state scholarship to send their autistic son to a religious school for special needs children.

InIndiana, the state teachers union, predictably, is leading the charge to prevent parents from using vouchers at religious schools. The union claims these parents are violating the Indiana Blaine Amendment.

InFlorida, voters will have the chance this November to repeal that state’s Blaine Amendment. Local family policy councils, state and national public interest law firms, and citizen-activists have worked tirelessly to bring this policy change to the ballot.

The government not only threatens religious liberty in our education, it also threatens through supposed discrimination laws. We have the case of aMichiganpublic university grad student, Julea Ward. Because of her religious convictions, she asked to refer a homosexual client to another counselor. She was then ordered to go through “remediation.” Ms. Ward refused and was expelled. A host of religious liberty defenders, most notably the Alliance Defense Fund, are standing with her.

We have seen Catholic Charities forced out of adoptions in Massachusetts and Illinois because they will not place children in same-sex or unmarried households. In Washington, D.C., this so-called “non-discrimination policy” was used by the City Council to achieve the ends of anti-Catholicism. Told by the Archdiocese that they might be forcing Catholic Charities out of adoptions in the nation’ capital, one councilman said, and I quote:

Good. We’ve been trying to get you out of it forever. And, besides, we are paying you to do it. So, get out!” (Interview by James Taranto, Wall Street Journal,31 March 2012)

Conscience Protection Laws are vitally needed. Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansasrecently signed a strong one. But many state laws are weak or unenforced. In WashingtonState, for example, Gov. Christine Gregoire pressured a pharmacy owned and operated by two sisters who refused to dispense the so-called morning after pill. This drug can cause abortions. The Governor personally joined in a boycott of this family-owned pharmacy. So much for the war on women.

It is amazing how quickly this storm has arisen. In 2008, at the end of the Bush administration, our colleague then-Secretary Mike Leavitt issued conscience regulations on behalf of the Departmentment of Health and Human Services. These were good conscience regs — protecting doctors and hospitals from being forced to practice medicine that they found morally objectionable. Immediately upon coming into office, the Obama administration revoked the regulations.

With theHHSMandate, the gloves have come off. The carve-out for religious institutions is so narrow, so restricted, that it is hard to imagine even cloistered nuns qualifying for a religious exemption.

Knights of Columbus Grand Knight Carl Anderson questions whether Jesus’ own ministry would qualify for an exemption from theHHS Mandate. Was His work wholly religious? Or was He engaged in the food service industry with those loaves and fishes?

There’s a scene in a famous movie I recommend watching over again. In A Man for All Seasons, Sir Thomas More is facing execution for standing by his conscience in a time of agitation.

More tells his prosecutors: “I do none harm, I say none harm, I think none harm. And if this be not enough to keep a man alive, in good faith I long not to live.”

Thank God, we have not gotten to that point.

But our task is to make sure we never get to that point. We cannot allow these salami tactics — this divide-and-conquer strategy — to succeed. If theHHScan that we subsidize abortion-causing drugs now, what is to stop them from mandating our support for surgical abortions next year?

So we are not being alarmist when we take alarm. James Madison knew something of liberty: “The people are right,”Madisonsaid, “to take alarm at the first advance on their liberties.”

The battle is raging inWashington, without question. But the key battle-front of this fight is in your state — at your local hospital, or adoption agency. Are you up for the challenge?

Secretary Sebelius on Religious Freedom Protections

by Family Research Council

April 26, 2012

This morning in a hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives Education and Workforce Committee, HHS Secretary Sebelius was questioned by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) on the topic of religious liberty. Specifically, Rep. Gowdy questioned Secretary Sebelius’ statement in her testimony indicating the careful consideration she undertook to “balance” religious liberty protections with preventive services in making the decision about the contraceptive mandate (which includes drugs that can cause abortions).

Rep. Gowdy asked the Secretary about the specifics of her “balance”. In doing so he explained three tests for legal balance, depending on the content and issues being weighed. He explained that because religious liberty is a fundamental right any decision that might violate it would require the strictest scrutiny.

Under oath, the nation’s HHS head stated that in making this decision and taking into consideration religious liberty issues, she relied on the expertise of HHS General Counsel. When questioned further about the counsel she received, the Secretary reported that guidance was provided entirely in discussion, and no legal memo was written on the topic. When asked further about her knowledge of the most significant cases related to relgious liberty that have been decided by the Supreme Court, the Secretary responded that she was unaware/unfamiliar with these cases. It is a telling moment.

The full video is a must-see and just over five minutes:

An Eternal Perspective on Cultural Disarray

by Rob Schwarzwalder

February 8, 2012

Proposition Eight, the California ballot initiative that declared marriage exists solely between one man and one woman, has been struck down by a federal court. President Obama is planning to compel religious institutions to pay for abortifacients and other contraceptives as part of their health insurance programs. New York City is about to prohibit churches from meeting in public schools.

Is the sky falling? Are the nation’s moral foundations so eroded that they are on the verge of collapse?

For two reasons, I will answer no. In the past year, in states across the country, there have been wonderful wins for the cause of life and family. Ultra-sound bills and abortion clinic regulations have been enacted and polls show that Americans are more troubled than ever by abortion-on-demand. There have even been some Supreme Court judicial rulings (e.g., Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC and Spencer v. World Vision) favorable to religious liberty.

These things should inspire us to keep working for faith, family, and freedom in the public square. Although the assaults on the Judeo-Christian moral tradition, the very nature of the family, and the religious and economic liberty we cherish are manifold, not to fight them would be to surrender our biblical obligation to work for justice and stand for the oppressed (Proverbs 31:8-9). For the sake of the Just One Himself, this we must never do.

Second, Jesus Christ is Lord of time and eternity. He is Lord when we rejoice and when we weep. He is the sovereign before Whom every knee shall bow (Philippians 2:9-11). Who sustains all things by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:2). And according to the Psalmist, God is unthreatened by the machinations of political man: (Though) the kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed … He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them (2:2-4).

In other words, God is accomplishing His will in ways our limited human understanding might find puzzling but which are fully commensurate with His character and plan for humanity.

The Most High rules in the realm of mankind, we read in Daniels prophecy (4:2). He has called us to stand for righteousness and human dignity in every sphere of life. Whatever external wins or losses we might experience in the moment, these truths should sustain us in our efforts at all times.

Vanderbilt University Defends Crackdown on Religious Groups

by Krystle Gabele

February 3, 2012

In a recent article on Fox News, Christian student organizations may be forced to meet in secret at Vanderbilt University, as college officials are enforcing a nondiscrimination policy that bans organization leaders from holding specific beliefs.

So far, four Christian organizations on campus have been told by the university that they are in violation of the policy, and they are in danger of losing their registered student group status. This comes after Vanderbilt University conducted an investigation of a Christian fraternity, Beta Upsilon Chi, and found the organization discriminated against a student based on sexual orientation. Additionally, another group, the Christian Legal Society, was asked to remove Bible verses and the words, Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior from their constitution.

The real issue at stake here is religious liberty. Denying an organization the right to worship freely or being able to stand up for what their faith teaches them is wrong, and it is persecution. According to Professor Carol Swain, who advises the Christian Legal Society:

There are people on campus who are very threatened by the idea of religious freedom and they would like to create an environment where no one hurts anyone elses feelings unless its Christians.

What would our founding fathers think of what is happening at Vanderbilt? They would probably think this is a travesty. After all, they fled from the religious persecution in England by coming to America, where they could worship freely without being forced to attend the Kings church.

In fact, when our founding fathers drafted the Constitution, they made certain that religious liberty would be protected in our country. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. (Bold, emphasis mine)

Vanderbilts decision to ban student religious organizations is a violation of the First Amendment, but it is limiting the groups ability to worship freely, as our founding fathers envisioned.

Eternal Father Strong to Save

by Robert Morrison

November 29, 2011

Do we think it will stop with banning crosses by the side of remote highways in the Utah desert? It will not. The atheizers will not rest until they have sandblasted all the crosses in American public life and bulldozed all references to Jesus on federal property.

I thought of this yesterday when I served as an usher at the Naval Academy Chapel. A dear friend had passed away suddenly.

Standing by the elevator, I could really study the stained glass windows in the chapel. The sun streamed through, brilliantly lighting the figure of Admiral David Glasgow Farragut. The 64-year old Farragut is shown lashed to the rigging of his ship, the USS Hartford, at the Battle of Mobile Bay. Fearless as he was, he suffered from vertigo. He is known to history for one great saying; “Da-n the torpedoes, full speed ahead.” Farraguts family wanted us to know that, salty sailor that he was, he was also a man of deep faith. So the well-thumbed prayer book of Admiral Farragut is encased in this Chapel.

What will the atheizers do with this Chapel? They can cover over the saying engraved in gold above the altar: Eternal Father Strong to Save. They can paint over the Tiffany stained glass figure of Jesus walking on the waters. They might leave 69—the numbers that tell us the window as a gift of the Academy Class of 1869. But the gold cross on the altar will have to go.

Once they have obliterated all signs of Christianity from the Chapel, it would be—like the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople—a formerly Christian site. That magnificent Byzantine structure was de-consecrated when the Turks conquered the city. The Turks turned it into a mosque. And todays votaries of the religion of peace informed Pope Benedict XVI he should not cross himself on entering the threshold, lest he provoke riots throughout what is called the Muslim world.

The atheizers will have to go further with the USNA Chapel. Thats because the very building is shaped like a cross. Originally, it was a Jerusalem cross, but in 1940, the new nave was added, extending the chapels length and increasing to 2,500 its seating capacity. Now, from the air, it looks like a Latin cross. How can that be tolerated by the tolerance lobby?

Well, the Blue Angels wont have to look down on that Latin cross, the Chapel where many of them worshipped, where many of them were married, and from where not a few Academy graduates were buried. It seems that the Blue Angels—along with other military precision jet flying teams—will be grounded. Budget cuts. This administration has $500 million to give to the PLO, the folks who invented airline hijacking for terror purposes, but it has no money for these American heroes.

The friend whose funeral we attended was a proud Navy wife. Her husband was one of the thousands who risked his life daily for our freedoms sake.

She once thanked me for a column I wrote, and asked me to plead with President Bush not to apologize for landing second seat on the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. With tears in her eyes, our friend said the NFOs—naval flight officers—never got the recognition they deserved. For the brave fliers and sailors of the Mighty Lincoln, their mission was indeed accomplished. Their commander-in-chief had nothing to apologize for. She was right. The president was wrong to apologize to members of the media who never flew, never served, and never understood.

Whether we are believers or not, every American should take alarm at the ceaseless attacks on religious liberty. Where is this administration in the Utah cross case? Does a president who delivers a Thanksgiving Address to the nation—without mentioning the One to whom thanks are offered—understand what he is putting at risk? The men who are launched daily—and nightly—from carrier decks may not themselves all be believers.

But without the believers in our armed services, no ship would sail, no planes would be launched, no submarines would dive.

The atheizers want a naked public square. But that is not what our all-volunteer military is defending. A naked public square cannot stand by itself. Nature abhors a vacuum. So does a people. The atheizers are only clearing the path for a militant faith, a religion that advances not with palm fronds laid in the path of a prince of peace, but with fire and sword.

For our friend, her heart was with her hero husband every time he slippd the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God.

For her, for the thousands of other wives and families of our fliers, we sang as we departed that Naval Academy Chapel:

Lord, guard and guide the men who fly

Through the great spaces in the sky

Be with them always in the air

In darkning storms or sunlight fair

Hear us when we lift our prayer

For those in peril in the air.

FRC Blasts Supreme Court for Allowing Decision to Stand that Removes Roadside Crosses in Six States

by FRC Media Office

October 31, 2011


CONTACT: J.P. Duffy or Darin Miller, (866) FRC-NEWS or (866) 372-6397

FRC Blasts Supreme Court for Allowing Decision to Stand that Removes Roadside Crosses in Six States

October 31, 2011

SCOTUS Lets Stand One of Worst Religious Liberty Assaults in American History

WASHINGTON, D.C.- Family Research Council (FRC) strongly criticized the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today to let stand one of the worst religious assaults in all of American history. The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear Davenport vs. American Atheists will now result in the removal of 14 crosses bearing the names of fallen Utah state troopers that have been placed at roadside locations. In addition to Utah, the cross removal order will affect five other states including Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Wyoming.

The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case could have significant implications for national memorials and monuments across the nation, including, but not limited to, the crosses on headstones in Arlington Cemetery.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins responded with these comments:

The Supreme Court has failed to recognize that religious liberty is a fundamental right given to us by God and protected in the Constitution. I find it tragic that our freedoms are now at greater risk from our own courts than from the foreign or domestic enemies we’ve faced,” concluded Perkins.

Director of the Center for Religious Liberty at the Family Research Council Ken Klukowski co-authored FRC’s brief in the case with Professor Nelson Lund. Of the case, Klukowski said:

The U.S. Supreme Court decided today to let stand one of the worst court decisions on religious liberty in American history. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered removal of roadside crosses in six states is the worst example yet of the Establishment Clause being turned on its head to sterilize the public square of references to faith.

Freedom of religion means, in part, that no government should discriminate against those who, using their own funds, wish to erect a non-invasive religious display on public property,” concluded Klukowski.

To read FRC’s amicus brief, click here: http://www.frc.org/davenport


Does U.S. Foreign Policy Matter for Religious Freedom?

by Jared Bridges

October 27, 2011

Yesterday here at FRC headquarters, a sobering panel of religious freedom & foreign policy experts looked at the past, current, and potential impact of U.S. foreign policy upon religious freedom around the world.

Watch the panel below, or visit the event page for audio and embed code.

Participants included:

  • Elyse Anderson, Foreign Policy Director for Congressman Frank Wolf (R-Va.)
  • Ann Buwalda, Executive Director, Jubilee Campaign
  • Dr. Thomas Farr, first Director of the State Department’s office of international religious freedom and Director of the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and Visiting Associate Professor of Religion and International Affairs at Georgetown’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service
  • Emmanuel Ogebe, Nigerian attorney and human rights leader
  • Tina Ramirez, Director of International and Government Relations, The Becket Fund

A Welcome Move by the Supreme Court (yes, you read that right)

by Rob Schwarzwalder

October 4, 2011

In good news for all who cherish religious liberty, the Supreme Court has decided to let stand a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that the Christian charity World Vision was within its legal rights to fire three employees who, after signing the ministry’s doctrinal statement, admitted to denying the Deity of Christ.

The importance of this ruling is obvious and profound: If an explicitly religious organization requires employees to sign a doctrinal statement, and they do so of their own free will, that organization has every right to terminate the employment of those who no longer subscribe to the beliefs articulated in the group’s own statement of faith. In the words of World Vision president Richard Stearns, “our Christian faith has been the foundation of your work since the organization was established in 1950, and our hiring policy is vital to the integrity of our mission to serve the poor as followers of Jesus Christ”.

World Vision’s principled stand was stated by its VP and Chief Legal Officer, Steve McFarland, who noted that WV would stop taking federal funds before employing anyone who could not, in good conscience, support its doctrinal positions.

Secularists don’t understand the integrated nature of all faith-based activities: In any ministry, a person who welcomes guests at a reception desk is representing Christ as surely as the ordained minister behind the pulpit. Sacred and secular are not, for Christians, distinct domains. Jesus claims Lordship over all of life, and ministries recognizing this know they cannot but weaken their missions and ministries if they hire those who disagree with their beliefs.

Iranian Pastor Continues to Face Death Unless He Denies Christ

by Rob Schwarzwalder

August 4, 2011

In late June, FRC reported on the story of Iranian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, who has been sentenced to death because of his “apostasy” — he left Islam and has become a Christian and house church leader.

Now, according to Compass Direct news, Pastor Nadarkhani “awaits the outcome of a judicial investigation into his spiritual background to see if he will be executed or, if possible, forced to become a Muslim, according to Christian groups with ties in Iran.” Yet “even if the investigation releases him from the charge of apostasy, it is likely the charge of evangelizing Muslims will still carry a lengthy prison sentence, sources said.”

In other words, the Iranian judicial system is trying to manipulate the pastor into saying he was forced to convert to Christianity as a teenager. Here’s what the Iranian court said about his appeal to his death sentence: According to Part 2 of Article 265 of the Islamic Republic Criminal Law, this case was received by and must be returned to the state court of Gilan Section 11, and further investigated to prove that from puberty (15 years) to 19 he was not Muslim by his acquaintances, relatives, local elders, and Muslims he frequented. He must repent [of] his Christian faith if this is the case. No research has been done to prove this; if it can be proved that he was a practicing Muslim as an adult and has not repented, the execution will be carried out.

The death sentence was issued even though there “is no Iranian criminal statute requiring the execution of those who abandon Islam. In September 2008 members of the Iranian parliament began writing a law instituting the death penalty for men, and life imprisonment for women, who leave Islam.” Instead, according to Jason DeMars, president of a ministry that works with Iranian believers, “the judges who issued the ruling appear to be relying on at least one fatwa, or religious edict, written by the Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and on edicts issued by Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi, a current religious leader in Iran. The edicts are based upon Shiite interpretations of the Quran and Hadith, a written record of the sayings and actions of Muhammad.”

Thankfully, Christians around the world are praying for Pastor Nadarkhani, his family, and for the hearts and minds of those making a decision about his fate (for example, see the Swedish Christian site World Today). We can be assured that the God Who knows the hairs of our heads is in control, even as we petition Him to strengthen this courageous brother in Christ and deliver him from his persecutors.

In addition to praying, call the Iranian Interest Section at the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington, DC at (202) 965-4990. You can also contact the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran at the United Nations: Email — iran@un.int; Phone — (212) 687-2020.

Marcia Walden’s Story: Losing My Job for My Christian Beliefs

by FRC Media Office

March 29, 2011

Marcia Walden, a licensed counselor in Georgia, explains why she was fired after referring a homosexual client to a colleague. Marcia referred the client to another colleague because offering counseling services would conflict with her Christian beliefs on homosexuality. Under ENDA legislation currently before Congress, Christian employers and employees across the nation would experience similar attacks on their Constitutional right to freedom of religion, speech and association.

For more on how you can protect the religious liberties of employers and employees, visit FightEnda.org.