Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Two families fighting for their religious liberty at the Supreme Court

The Heritage Foundation reports on the cases that will determine how far the Democrats can go to undermine religious liberty.

Excerpt:

In less than two weeks, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in cases challenging an Obamacare mandate that is trampling on religious freedom. The Hahn family and the Green family will be at the Court on March 25 asking for respect of their religious liberty and the freedom to continue offering their employees generous health plans.

Let’s meet these families and what they’re fighting for.

A Christian Mennonite family, the Hahns have run Conestoga Wood Specialties near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for nearly 50 years. A second-generation family business, Conestoga employs almost 1,000 individuals to produce quality wood products.

The Hahns have always run their family business in accordance with their faith, including offering an employee health plan that aligns with their values. Under the mandate, however, Conestoga Wood could face fines of up to $95,000 per day for sticking to their deeply held beliefs and not complying with the mandate.

Speaking of their fight for religious freedom at the Supreme Court, Conestoga president Anthony Hahn explains the magnitude of their case: “It’s not really only for Conestoga; we’re taking a stand for other businesses as well. This is a religious liberty issue that is concerning to us. We feel that the government has gone too far in too many instances.”

And number two:

“We believe that the principles that are taught scripturally are what we should operate our lives by, so that naturally flows over into the business,” explains Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby, an arts-and-crafts retailer.

Headquartered in Oklahoma City, Hobby Lobby has grown from one 300-square-foot garage to over 500 stores in 41 states employing more than 16,000 individuals.

The Greens’ faith is integral to how they operate their family business. Hobby Lobby storesclose on Sundays and are open only 66 hours a week so that their employees can spend more time with their families. The family’s faith influences not only the way they care for employees but their investment in communities through partnerships with numerous Christian ministries.

Yet under the Obamacare mandate, the government is forcing families like the Greens to violate those beliefs by funding coverage of potentially life-ending drugs and devices or face crippling fines—up to $1.3 million per day in the case of Hobby Lobby. Even if the business is forced to drop employee health care coverage to avoid the mandate, it would still face a fine of $2,000 per employee per year.

There are other victims as well, but these are the two that I am watching.  The Obama administration just recently established in the courts that parents have no human right to homeschool their children. Now there will be a fight to see if government can force Christians to violate their consciences in their business operations. We should all be watching and praying about this, and thinking about what we can do to protect our values.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

All the Arizone SB 1062 bill did was allow religious liberty to be raised as a defense

The Weekly Standard posted a letter by a group of law professors from various universities, including Harvard and Stanford, to explain what the Arizona religious liberty bill did. It turns out that all the Arizona bill did was specify how religious liberty protections apply within the state, using a federal standard that was already passed nearly unanimously by Congress during the presidency of Bill Clinton.

Here’s what the professors said about the Arizona bill:

The federal government and eighteen states have Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs). Another twelve or thirteen states interpret their state constitutions to provide similar protections. These laws enact a uniform standard to be interpreted and applied to individual cases by courts. They say that before the government can burden a person’s religious exercise, the government has to show a compelling justification.

That standard makes sense. We should not punish people for practicing their religions unless we have a very good reason. Arizona has had a RFRA for nearly fifteen years now; the federal government has had one since 1993; and RFRA’s standard was the constitutional standard for the entire country from 1963 to 1990. There have been relatively few cases; if you knew little about the Arizona RFRA until the current controversy, that is because it has had no disruptive effect in Arizona. Few people had heard of the federal RFRA before the current litigation over contraception and the Affordable Care Act.

SB1062 would amend the Arizona RFRA to address two ambiguities that have been the subject of litigation under other RFRAs. It would provide that people are covered when state or local government requires them to violate their religion in the conduct of their business, and it would provide that people are covered when sued by a private citizen invoking state or local law to demand that they violate their religion.

But nothing in the amendment would say who wins in either of these cases. The person invoking RFRA would still have to prove that he had a sincere religious belief and that state or local government was imposing a substantial burden on his exercise of that religious belief. And the government, or the person on the other side of the lawsuit, could still show that compliance with the law was necessary to serve a compelling government interest. As a business gets bigger and more impersonal, courts will become more skeptical about claims of substantial burden on the owner’s exercise of religion. And as a business gets bigger, the government’s claim of compelling interest will become stronger.

So basically, businesses have the same religious liberty right as individuals AND individuals can use religious liberty as a defense in a civil suit. That’s it. No one is being licensed to discriminate indiscriminately. The bill did not say that the defense could be used in every case, it just said that religious liberty could be used by businesses as a defense (more likely to be accepted by small businesses), and that religious liberty could be used as a defense in civil suits. Whether the defense would be effective would still be decided by the courts.

Even the libertarian Cato Institute‘s Ilya Shapiro, who favors gay marriage, thought the bill was FINE:

Even though I’m for marriage equality – next week I’ll be filing a brief supporting the challenge to the marriage laws of Oklahoma and Utah in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit – I have no problem with Arizona’s SB 1062.

SB 1062 does nothing more than align state law with the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (which passed the House unanimously, the Senate 97-3, and was signed by President Clinton in 1993). That is, no government action can “substantially burden” religious exercise unless the government uses “the least restrictive means” to further a “compelling interest.” This doesn’t mean that people can “do whatever they want” – laws against murder would still trump religious human sacrifice – but it would prevent the government from forcing people to violate their religion if that can at all be avoided. Moreover, there’s no mention of sexual orientation (or any other class or category).

The prototypical scenario that SB 1062 is meant to prevent is the case of the New Mexicowedding photographer who was fined for declining to work a same-sex commitment ceremony. This photographer doesn’t refuse to provide services to gay clients, but felt that she couldn’t participate in the celebration of a gay wedding. There’s also the Oregon bakerythat closed rather than having to provide wedding cakes for same-sex ceremonies. Why should these people be forced to engage in activity that violates their religious beliefs?

That’s a libertarian speaking, there, and they are not social conservatives.

An article tweeted by Ryan T. Anderson from The Federalist asserts that the real lesson of the loss for religious liberty in Arizona is how easily the Republican Party will capitulate to pressure even when the truth is on their side. They just don’t care about religious liberty enough to defend it.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , ,

What should gay activists do instead of using government to force their morality on Christians?

Here’s an excellent post from Michael Graham, a talk show host in New England, of all places.

Excerpt:

I know, I know—Arizona’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” is the greatest act of human evil since Pol Pot’s killing fields.  So even suggesting that maybe—just maybe—the Arizona legislature has a point puts me on the same side of history as Hitler, Stalin and Robin Thicke.

But indulge me for a moment and consider how this would actually work:

A guy is at his print shop in Tempe. In walks a customer (good) who wants to give him money (even better!) to print thousands of fliers for the upcoming LGBTQ “Whip And Chain Exchange” at a local sex shop.

The printer—who has bills to pay—obviously wants to say “yes.” The reason EVERY business owner opens a business is to say “yes.”

But the guy is also serious about his religious beliefs. He sincerely believes that his faith is the most important aspect of his life. So he opened a business to care for his family, but he goes to church/synagogue/mosque because he needs to care his soul.

So he says “Uh, I appreciate the business but I’m really not comfortable being part of this event you’re having. Would you mind asking another printer? I’ll even recommend a few…”

Now, at this point what do you think should happen? Forget the law—what is the right thing for the parties involved to do?

To me the answer seems obvious: the LGBT folks should roll their eyes and say “whatever, man” and take their money somewhere else.  I wouldn’t mind if they said something snarky like “Dude—it’s your loss,” or “Can we leave you a copy in case you’d like a free spanking?”

Their integrity is in place. So is the religiously-devout business owner’s.  Why isn’t that the ideal outcome?

Oh, that’s right—because nobody gets to scream “I’m a victim! I’m a victim!”  And nobody gets to bully the person of faith.

And so instead what liberals and gay activists want is for the religiously devout printer, or baker, or wedding-band singer to be forced to participate—at gunpoint—in an event that violates their religious beliefs.

They want government agents to show up at the print shop or florist shop and order the owner to get to work. Force them to supply their labor for an event.

Seriously? That’s really what you want?  Because if you do—that’s sick.

Why do you care so much that some small business owner doesn’t support same-sex marriage? Why isn’t the jerk in this story the gay activist who doesn’t do what any decent straight/gay/bi/animal-friendly person would do and just take their business somewhere else?

The whole thing is worth reading. You might recognize Michael Graham as the interviewer on the Weekly Standard podcasts, which I highly recommend. The Weekly Standard itself posted an article on Wednesday that mentioned a letter to Governor Jan Brewer signed by 11 law professors who urged Brewer to read the bill and to see that the purpose of the bill was to protect Christians from having to participate closely in activities that were incompatible with their religious beliefs. The lawyers claimed that popular criticisms of the bill were “deeply misleading” and the bill was “egregiously misrepresented” by critics.

By the way, I noted that the National Football League and Major League Baseball were both opposed to the Arizona bill. Apple and American Airlines also opposed religious liberty. Please spend your money wisely. I never give these companies my money, and neither should you – if you can help it. Apple in particular is one of the most anti-Christian companies out there.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , ,

SCOTUS Justice grants stay for some from Obamacare pro-abortion mandate

This article from NBC News reports on a development in some of the cases being brought by Christian organizations against the Obama administration.

Excerpt:

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor granted a last-ditch plea from Catholic groups Tuesday night to block a birth control mandate in the new health care law for religious organizations, just hours before it was to have gone into effect.

Sotomayor issued the stay at the request of an order of Catholic nuns in Colorado, part of a larger effort by Catholic-affiliated groups from around the nation to halt provisions of the Affordable Care Act that require companies — regardless of religious beliefs — to provide contraceptives and other abortion-inducing drugs to their employees.

The groups wanted the mandate halted while the court considers a legal challenge, brought by the for-profit company Hobby Lobby, arguing that the requirement violates their religious liberties.

In June, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver waived millions of dollars of fines against Hobby Lobby and a subsidiary, Mardel Christian Stores, which refused to comply with the mandate, writing that the companies were likely to win their claim that requiring for-profit companies to pay for birth control was a violation of religious protections.

The motion for a stay went to Sotomayor as the justice with oversight for the 10th Circuit. She gave the government until Friday to respond.

“Tomorrow, a regulatory mandate will expose numerous Catholic organizations to draconian fines unless they abandon their religious convictions and take actions that facilitate access to abortion-inducing products, contraceptives, sterilization, and related education and counseling for their employees,” the groups said in their request for a stay Tuesday.

The mandate requires companies run by Christians to provide their employees coverage for drugs that can cause abortions  by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg.

The big case that everyone is watching is the Hobby Lobby case, and they were granted a stay from a federal court back in July of 2013. Their case is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the government will argue that Christians should be forced to subsidize abortion, in violation of their consciences.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Catholic chaplains face arrest for performing mass during shutdown

Todd Starnes of Fox News does a good job of covering the how the secular left infringes on religious liberty in the military.

Check out his latest story. (H/T ECM)

Excerpt:

The U.S. military has furloughed as many as 50 Catholic chaplains due to the partial suspension of government services, banning them from celebrating weekend Mass. At least one chaplain was told that if he engaged in any ministry activity, he would be subjected to disciplinary action.

“In very practical terms it means Sunday Mass won’t be offered,” Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services told me. “If someone has a baptism scheduled, it won’t be celebrated.”

The Archdiocese for the Military Services tells me the military installations impacted are served by non-active-duty priests who were hired as government contractors. As a result of a shortage of active duty Catholic chaplains, the government hires contract priests.

Broglio said some military bases have forbidden the contract priests from volunteering to celebrate Mass without pay.

“They were told they cannot function because those are contracted services and since there’s no funding they can’t do it – even if they volunteer,” he said.

John Schlageter, general counsel for the archdiocese, said any furloughed priests volunteering their services could face big trouble.

“During the shutdown, it is illegal for them to minister on base and they risk being arrested if they attempt to do so,” he said in a written statement.

A well-placed source told me that a furloughed Air Force chaplain was threatened after he offered to forgo pay. The chaplain was told he could not go on base or enter his chapel offices. He was also barred from engaging in any ministry activity.

The source told me the chaplain was told that if he violated those orders he and his supervisor would be subjected to disciplinary action – with the possibility of being fired.

I don’t think anyone should be surprised that the Democrats are hostile to freedom of religion. They are, after all, socialists. Government is more important than religion, and if they conflict, government wins.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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