• Religious Freedom •
October 7, 2005
Dartmouth College is older than the United States of America, having been established in 1750 as “Moore’s Indian Charity School.” The Reverend Eleazar Wheelock, a leading figure in the nation’s first Great Awakening, established the school with the original purpose of evangelizing American Indians. Keep that in mind as you learn of more recent developments.
September 15, 2005
A federal judge in Sacramento ruled Wednesday that it is unconstitutional to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools. U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton ruled that the pledge’s reference to one nation “under God” violates the right of children in the public schools to be “free from a coercive requirement to affirm God.” Once again, the driving force behind this case is Michael Newdow–the atheist attorney and medical doctor who won a similar decision at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2002.
August 26, 2005
The protection of religious liberty remains a central concern in Iraq, even as the Iraqis struggle toward a constitutional system. Christianity Today features an important interview with Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom at Freedom House. She makes a very powerful argument:
Our State Department bureaucracy, most of our policy makers in Congress, and those in the media are intellectually unprepared for understanding why the denial of individual religious freedom for Muslims is so subversive to democracy. They describe Saudi Arabia’s system simply as rigid and puritanical. We need to understand extreme Islamic law better because it is our main ideological challenge today.
July 18, 2005
Today’s culture wars can be directly traced to the cultural transformations of the 1960′s. As a matter of fact, that critical decade represented nothing less than a cultural revolution of sorts–a revolution Stanley Kurtz describes as “both a fulfillment and a repudiation of the vision of America’s founders.”
July 6, 2005
A Manchester, England financial institution, The Co-operative Bank, has asked a Christian organization, Christian Voice, to close its accounts because its convictions on homosexuality are “incompatible” with the position of the bank.
Here are excerpts from the bank’s statement, as quoted by BBC News: It has come to the bank’s attention that Christian Voice is engaged in discriminatory pronouncements based on the grounds of sexual orientation. . . . This public stance is incompatible with the position of the Co-operative Bank, which publicly supports diversity and dignity in all its forms for our staff, customers and other stakeholders.
The bank insisted that the decision had nothing to do with religion, but was made “purely on the issue of diversity.” So, what about Christian beliefs about homosexuality? Does the bank have no Muslim account holders? Will they be treated similarly?
The bank charges that the Christian Voice organization is an extreme group that has made scandalous claims against homosexuals. The organization came to the attention of the British public over its condemnation of the BBC for its plans to broadcast Jerry Springer — The Opera, which it described as blasphemous.
In a statement released after the BBC news story, the bank made this claim: We accept that everyone has the right to freedom of thought on religion; however, we do not believe that this entitles people to actively encourage and practice discrimination. In other words, the organization can hold to its beliefs, but cannot act on them?
Here we face another case of using the word discrimination as propaganda. All sane persons discriminate. We do not hire infants as police officers, child molesters as babysitters, or high school drop-outs as brain surgeons. Each of these decisions is an act of discrimination. In the course of a normal day, most persons make dozens of discriminatory decisions. The moral issue is whether an act of discrimination is right and proper. This bank is, to turn its own phrase, actively encouraging and practicing discrimination against a Christian organization — even as it condemns discrimination in all forms.
This news story is hard to take at face value. It is hard to believe that a financial institution can get away with this kind of overt religious discrimination. Who’s next?
LINKS TO UNCOOPERATION: News story from BBC News. See also the bank’s statement, posted on its Web site and a statement from Christian Voice, from its Web site.
June 28, 2005
Today’s commentary, Two Decisions, Two Worldviews–The Ten Commandments Decisions, considers the meaning and impact of the two decisions handed down yesterday.
The decisions aside, this is a good opportunity for Christians to remember the importance of the Ten Commandments. As Martin Luther instructed: “God threatens to punish everyone who breaks these commandments. We should be afraid of His anger because of this and not violate such commandments. But He promises grace and all good things to those who keep such commandments. Because of this, we, too, should love Him, trust Him, and willingly do what His commandments require.” [from Luther's Small Catechism]
LINKS FOR THE PERPLEXED: Supreme Court of the United States, decision in the case, McCreary County, Kentucky, et. al. v. American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, et. al.; in the case, Van Orden v. Perry [TX]. Press coverage in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, Statements and documents from The American Center for Law and Justice [ACLJ], People for the American Way [PAW], American Civil Liberties Union [ACLU], The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, The Interfaith Alliance; Amicus Briefs: ACLJ for Texas Case, Becket Fund for Kentucky case, Becket Fund for Texas case, The Interfaith Alliance and Baptist Joint Committee in the Texas case, TIA and BJC on the Kentucky case.
June 28, 2005
The U.S. Supreme Court handed down its long-expected decisions on the public display of the Ten Commandments on Monday, producing more confusion than clarification in the process. Before the day was out, the nation’s High Court had handed down two decisions, represented by eight separate opinions from nine justices. At the end of the day, the real winners were the lawyers, who can look forward to a tidal wave of litigation in the aftermath of these confusing decisions.
June 27, 2005
When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that local governments could use economic development as a cause for taking property, most Americans seemed to think that the case had little to do with a threat to their own property–or the property of their churches.
The power of eminent domain allows governments [or governmentally-approved agencies] to take private property for the cause of the common good. Generally, these purposes have been limited to causes like roads, utilities, and similar projects. Now, based on the Court’s decision in the case Kelo et. al. v. City of New London, governments may target private property for taking, claiming, for example, that the government needs additional tax revenue.
This news story explains why the threat may put churches at special risk. “Because all houses of worship are tax-exempt, they will continue to be attractive targets for seizure by revenue-hungry local governments,” said Jared Leland, media and legal counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. In any event, the decision also represents a significant expansion of government power.
June 24, 2005
The June 19, 2005 cover story of The New York Times Magazine is entitled, “What’s the Movement to Outlaw Gay Marriage Really About?” The article deserves significant attention. Interest is likely to be sparked by a line printed on the cover just under the article’s title. That line suggests that the battle to outlaw gay marriage is “not just about marriage.” Of course, that statement is profoundly true–and that’s what makes the article interesting.