Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Colorado Civil Rights Commission: anti-conscience laws can only target Christians

This is from Todd Starnes, writing at The Stream.

He writes:

Bill Jack wants to make one thing perfectly clear: Bakers should not be forced to make a cake that would violate their conscience or freedom of expression.

Jack, of Castle Rock, Colo., is making national headlines over an experiment he conducted in the wake of attacks on Christian business owners who refuse to provide services for same-sex marriages.

Last year, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled that the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood unlawfully discriminated against a gay couple who wanted a wedding cake. Jack Phillips, the owner of the cake shop, is a devout Christian, and his attorneys argued that to force him to participate in the gay wedding would violate his religious beliefs.

The Civil Rights Commission saw it differently.

So if Christian bakers who oppose gay marriage are compelled under law to violate their beliefs — what about bakers who support gay marriage? Would they be compelled to make an anti-gay marriage cake?

[…]As you probably guessed, the bakeries rejected Jack’s request for what some would call “anti-gay” cakes.

“If he wants to hate people, he can hate them not here in my bakery,” Azucar Bakery owner Marjorie Silva told 7NEWS. She called the writing and imagery “hateful and offensive.”

But hating Christians enough to force your morality on them with fines and emprisonment – that’s not hatred at all.

More:

So Jack filed a discrimination complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission — just as the gay couple did in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.

Using the commission’s logic — if a Christian baker is forced to violate his beliefs, shouldn’t all bakers be forced to violate theirs, too?

Absolutely not, says the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

It ruled that Azucar did not discriminate against Jack based on his creed. It argued that the bakery refused to make the cakes because of the “derogatory language and imagery,” The Denver Channel reported.

Jack told me it’s a double standard — pure and simple.

“I think it is hypocritical,” he said. “It’s unequal treatment before the law. The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act is being used to coerce businesses to participate in events that violate their consciences.”

Jack said he decided to conduct his experiment to prove the Colorado law was “only being applied to Christian business people.”

“Christians need to understand that this is the state of Christianity in the United States,” he said. “We are now second-class citizens. Our free speech is being censored.”

To be clear, Jack believes the bakeries had the right to deny him service. His point was to draw attention to the hypocrisy.

“I stand for liberty for all, not liberty for some,” he said. “If we don’t have liberty for all, then we have liberty for none.”

So. Although Christians may have voted for these laws thinking that they were “nice”, the truth is that every scrap of Christianity that anyone finds of offensive is going to become illegal. At some point, we are all going to have to choose between the Bible and being punished by the state.

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Indiana RFRA “fix” is a full repeal, religious liberty will be no defense

CNS News analyzes the “fix” proposed by Indiana Republicans.

Excerpt:

Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long announced Thursday that they would submit a new versionof the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to Gov. Mike Pence to counter criticism that it discriminates against gays and lesbians.

“It was never intended to discriminate against anyone,” Long told reporters. “That perception led to the national protests we’ve seen.”

But a lawyer for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty says the proposed legislative “fix” is not only unnecessary, it would undermine the religious rights of Hoosiers and leave them vulnerable to criminal prosecution for following their religious beliefs, the opposite of what RFRA was intended to do.

“We think the Indiana law is a very good law which is modeled on what has worked at the federal and state level for 20 years, and which is similar to constitutional provisions that are backed up by 50 years of jurisprudence,” Becket legal counsel Daniel Blomberg told CNSNews.com. “These laws work very well to protect the religious rights of minorities.

“All the Indiana law does is the same thing that’s been working very well for a long time,” he pointed out. “Today the Indiana legislature proposed a ‘fix’ that we think is 1) unnecessary; and 2) itself is broken and would create a very dangerous change in Indiana law.

“Individuals asked to be part of a same-sex wedding who decline because they feel it violates their religious beliefs would not be able to raise the RFRA under the ‘fix’,” Blomberg told CNSNews.com. “It would leave them defenseless. It also makes specific allowances for criminal prosecution. So not only is the ‘fix’ not helpful, it should not be accepted.

“We have a choice on how to handle these situations. We can allow government to drive religious people out of business, fine them and possibly imprison them, or we can allow religious people to have their day in court, and let the courts balance their religious claims against other competing values.”

Gary Bauer explains what’s at stake:

“Gov. [Mike] Pence is going through a rhetorical lynching,” Gary Bauer, former Republican presidential candidate and president of American Values, told CNSNews.com. “This is what we were warning about in the [Manhattan] Declaration, and why the Declaration was written.”

Besides upholding the “sanctity of life” and the “dignity of marriage,” the Manhattan Declaration, which was signed by Bauer and a number of other religious and political leaders in 2009, championed “religious freedom”. “No one should be compelled to embrace any religion against his will, nor should persons of faith be forbidden to worship God according to the dictates of conscience or to express freely and publicly their deeply held religious convictions,” the Declaration stated.

It warned that “freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized by those who would use the instruments of coercion to compel persons of faith to compromise their deepest convictions.”

Such restrictions “undermine the viability of the intermediate structures of society, the essential buffer against the overweening authority of the state, resulting in the soft despotism [Alexis de] Tocqueville so prophetically warned of,” the Declaration continued. “Disintegration of civil society is a prelude to tyranny.”

“It’s becoming clearer and clearer that the tolerance movement used by the cultural Left in recent decades was just a poll-driven strategy and not an actual commitment to tolerance,” Bauer continued, adding that the Indiana law is being used to cut off debate and redefine anyone with traditional moral values as a bigot. “Every pastor and every parent should be deeply worried about what is happening in Indianapolis,” he said.

I guess I blame the church for this. I go to church. I know what goes on in there. It’s a sermon on the gospel every week. There is about 20 minutes of singing. Current events are never mentioned. The existence of God and the resurrection are never explained or defended. The Bible is just assumed to be true, and no issues outside it are ever discussed. Objections to Christian theism are never named, much less defended against. Reasons and evidence are never provided for the Biblical view on topics like abortion or same-sex marriage, much less economics, the environment, etc. The emphasis is on comforting people. The emphasis is on not judging. The emphasis is on making people feel good and leaving them free to do whatever makes them feel good.

I just don’t see young people having any interest in defending Christianity any more against the culture. I mean, I am seeing “pro-life”, “pro-marriage” evangelicals voting for Democrats because they want a bigger secular government.  They want more money to be transferred from Christian families to Solyndra so we can fight the global warming monster. They believed Obama about keeping your doctor, keeping your health plan, and not funding abortions – but Obama lied on all three of these. They want to vote for Obama’s promise that health insurance premiums will drop $3000 in 2008, and then vote for the same guy again in 2012 when the premiums have actually gone up $2500. They voted for Obama saying that he supported traditional marriage, but then his Justice Department declined to defend the Defense of Marriage Act.

Young Christians just don’t care about marriage as Jesus defined it – one man, one woman, for life.  They say they do, but then they vote for the party that opposes religious liberty when they get the chance. Global warming and raising the minimum wage are more important. Why? Because the secular culture told them so. And that’s their authority when it comes to voting.

Young Christians just seem to be completely disloyal to God as he really is. I don’t think that Christians really want to have to think about what would work to defend God’s reputation and character from these attacks. They just want to do their own thing, and get the praise from men, rather than the praise from God. In my own case, I am now in my upper 30s and still very much respecting the Biblical standards around sex: no pre-marital sex, no adultery, no frivolous divorce. Why is it such a difficult standard for younger evangelicals to accept and to defend? They seem to believe that chastity, natural marriage, and natural child-bearing are all unimportant things. The only rule now is to have fun with sex, and to never judge anyone for breaking the rules. That’s not what the Bible teaches, but that’s what young Christians believe. Who is going to talk to them about it? Not the pastors. Not their parents. And not their friends.

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Hillary Clinton attacks Indiana’s religious liberty law

First, let’s take a look at what Jesus says about same-sex marriage.

Matthew 19:1-6:

1 Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan.

2 And large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?”

4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,

5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?

6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Now, let’s see some reactions to the Indiana law, which I explained in a previous blog post, from people on the secular left.

Hillary Clinton thinks that any arrangement of people who love each other is as good as any other:

Hillary Clinton opposes religious liberty

Hillary Clinton opposes religious liberty

Her tweet implies support for incestuous relationships being “marriage” as well as polygamy. That is a direct logical implication of calling an arrangement of people who love each other “marriage”.

But she’s not the only one.

Marriage defender Ryan T. Anderson responds to Apple CEO Tim Cook in the Daily Signal.

He writes:

Apple CEO Tim Cook has taken to The Washington Post to tell the nation that, in the words of the headline, “Pro-discrimination ‘religious freedom’ laws are dangerous.”

Notice the scare quotes around “religious freedom.” But the reality is that the only person in favor of discrimination in this debate is Tim Cook.

It is Tim Cook who favors laws that discriminate against people of faith who simply ask to be left alone by government to run their businesses and their schools and their charities in accordance with their reasonable belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. It is Tim Cook who would have the government discriminate against these citizens, have the government coerce them into helping to celebrate a same-sex wedding and penalize them if they try to lead their lives in accordance with their faith.

[…]As Sarah Torre and I explained last week, Indiana’s religious freedom law protects citizens from government coercion—it places the burden of proof on the government if it is going to violate liberty. For over 20 years, the federal government has lived by this standard—the Religious Freedom Restoration Act  passed unanimously in the House, with 97 votes in the Senate, and was signed into law by Bill Clinton. Twenty states have passed this law. And 11 additional states have religious liberty protections that state courts have interpreted to provide a similar level of protection.

So, in total, the federal court system and 31 state court systems enforce this level of protection. Why is Tim Cook suddenly opposed to it?

The answer is simple: This isn’t a debate about Religious Freedom Restoration Acts. This is a debate about whether Americans should remain free to live in accordance with the truth about marriage in their public lives. This is a debate about whether or not the government should be able to coerce people into violating their belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman.

This is what the Indiana law is suppose to defend against:

Again, it’s not a slam dunk – all it says is that when a secular big government sues a person of any religion to force them to deny their faith, then religious liberty can be brought in as part of their defense during their day in court. By the way, always vote for smaller government, then these things don’t even happen because marriage, family and private businesses are less regulated.

How is the law applied?

This article from The Federalist lists 10 examples of how religious freedom laws have been applied.

Here’s one:

7) Muslim prisoner fights to wear short beard: Abdul Muhammad
Abdul Muhammad is a Muslim incarcerated in Arkansas. He was not allowed to grow the 1/2 inch beard his religion commands even though Arkansas permits beards for other reasons. And the same beard would have been allowed in 44 state and federal prison systems in the country. In 2011, he filed suit. He won the suit using the “RFRA for prisoners” — the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. That bill was also signed by Bill Clinton.Earlier this year, Muhammad won his case unanimously at the United States Supreme Court. They held that he’d shown the restriction was a substantial burden on his religious exercise.

And:

9) Florida denies prisoners kosher meals: Bruce Rich

Bruce Rich is an Orthodox Jewish prisoner in Florida, one of the last remaining states in the country that doesn’t provide kosher food for Jewish prisoners. He argued this violates the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, RFRA for prisoners.

Florida claimed it limited food options to control costs and maintain security. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which took Rich’s case, noted that 35 states and the federal government provided kosher meals without it posing a problem.

[…]Rich withdrew his case once Florida began providing the necessary meals.

Does this law sound like a free pass to discriminate against gays to you? It goes to trial, and religious liberty is part of the defense that the judge considers.

Look at this opinion from another Indiana law professor:

I should stress–and this point was totally lost in the Indiana debate–that RFRA does not provide immunity. It only allows a defendant to raise a defense, which a finder of fact must consider, like any other defense that can be raised under Title VII or the ADA. RFRA is *not* a blank check to discriminate.

Here’s another defense of the Indiana law by an Indiana University law professor who supports same-sex marriage.

You can read another analysis of the religious liberty law from Gabriel Malor, a gay conservative. Actually, I re-tweeted THREE gay conservatives who were in favor of the law yesterday (Gabriel Malor, Milo Yiannopoulos, and Gay Patriot).  This is not what you are hearing in the mainstream media, but is being used as a club to beat Christians into silence. And sadly, many younger evangelicals will respond to this and vote Democrat out of a lack of understanding of the issues.

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How to respond to complaints about Indiana’s new religious freedom law

Good news to start your day!

Good news to start your day!

First, the story, from the Daily Signal:

A bill known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act has been signed into law by the governor.

Supporters of Indiana Senate Bill 101 say that the law protects the free practice of religion, and opponents say the law will allow gay and lesbian individuals to be discriminated against.

For example, the law could permit business owners who felt that being forced to serve a certain customer in a particular case violated their religious beliefs to appeal to a judge. The courts would then decide if their objection was valid or not.

The bill was passed by the House 63-31 on Monday, and was approved by the Senate 40-10.

Gov. Mike Pence, R-Ind.,  approved the legislation today.

“Indiana is rightly celebrated for the hospitality, generosity, tolerance and values of our people, and that will never change,” Pence said in a statement. “Faith and religion are important values to millions of Hoosiers and with the passage of this legislation, we ensure that Indiana will continue to be a place where we respect freedom of religion and make certain that government action will always be subject to the highest level of scrutiny that respects the religious beliefs of every Hoosier of every faith.”

This is the key part:

Sarah Torre, a policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal that the bill is modeled off of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which passed with bipartisan support and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

The federal law “prohibits substantial burdens on religious exercise unless the government can show a compelling interest in burdening religious liberty and does so through the least restrictive way possible,” said Torre. “Protections for religious freedom, like the one passed in Indiana, provide a commonsense way to balance the fundamental right to religious liberty with compelling government interests.”

Torre said that it’s important to note that the law “doesn’t allow individuals to do whatever they wish in the name of religion:”

“The law is simply a commonsense way of balancing government interests with the fundamental freedom of individuals to live out their faith. There will be times when a state or federal government can show it has a compelling reason for burdening religious expression—to ensure public safety, for instance. But Religious Freedom Restoration Acts set a high bar for the government to meet in order to restrict religious freedom.”

Such legislation at the state and federal level merely protects First Amendment rights, according to Torre.

“A robust conception of religious liberty provides every person the freedom to seek the truth, form beliefs, and live according to the dictates of his or her conscience—whether at home, in worship, or at work,” said Torre.

Torre added that 19 other states have similar laws.

And if that were not enough, here is an Indianapolis Star editorial from law professor at Indiana University School of Law – who supports same-sex marriage – who is in favor of Indiana passing the bill.

He writes:

I am a supporter of gay rights, including same-sex marriage. But as an informed legal scholar, I also support the proposed Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

[…]The bill would establish a general legal standard, the “compelling interest” test, for evaluating laws and governmental practices that impose substantial burdens on the exercise of religion. This same test already governs federal law under the federal RFRA, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. And some 30 states have adopted the same standard, either under state-law RFRAs or as a matter of state constitutional law.

[…]But granting religious believers legal consideration does not mean that their religious objections will always be upheld. And this brings us to the issue of same-sex marriage.

Under the Indiana RFRA, those who provide creative services for weddings, such as photographers, florists or bakers, could claim that religious freedom protects them from local nondiscrimination laws. Like other religious objectors, they would have their day in court, as they should, permitting them to argue that the government is improperly requiring them to violate their religion by participating (in their view) in a celebration that their religion does not allow.

But courts generally have ruled that the government has a compelling interest in preventing discrimination and that this interest precludes the recognition of religious exceptions. Even in the narrow setting of wedding-service providers, claims for religious exemptions recently have been rejected in various states, including states that have adopted the RFRA test. A court could rule otherwise, protecting religious freedom in this distinctive context. But to date, none has.

In any event, most religious freedom claims have nothing to do with same-sex marriage or discrimination. The proposed Indiana RFRA would provide valuable guidance to Indiana courts, directing them to balance religious freedom against competing interests under the same legal standard that applies throughout most of the land. It is anything but a “license to discriminate,” and it should not be mischaracterized or dismissed on that basis.

What the secular leftists in the media are saying is that the law gives religious people the right to reject any customer for any reason. Big businesses, which are overwhelmingly leftist, are also reacting the same way. The truth – as we saw above – is nothing like what the secular leftists are saying. The law is simply an echo of a federal law that already exists and was signed by Bill Clinton. Well done, Indiana. Well done, Republican legislators. Well done, Governor Mike Pence.

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Barronelle Stutzman turns down deal from Washington attorney general

The attorney general offered her a lighter punishment in exchange for denying her Christian faith… and she surprised him by saying no.

Here is her full response:

Dear Mr. Ferguson,

Thank you for reaching out and making an offer to settle your case against me.

As you may imagine, it has been mentally and emotionally exhausting to be at the center of this controversy for nearly two years. I never imagined that using my God-given talents and abilities, and doing what I love to do for over three decades, would become illegal. Our state would be a better place if we respected each other’s differences, and our leaders protected the freedom to have those differences. Since 2012, same-sex couples all over the state have been free to act on their beliefs about marriage, but because I follow the Bible’s teaching that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, I am no longer free to act on my beliefs.

Your offer reveals that you don’t really understand me or what this conflict is all about. It’s about freedom, not money. I certainly don’t relish the idea of losing my business, my home, and everything else that your lawsuit threatens to take from my family, but my freedom to honor God in doing what I do best is more important. Washington’s constitution guarantees us “freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment.” I cannot sell that precious freedom. You are asking me to walk in the way of a well-known betrayer, one who sold something of infinite worth for 30 pieces of silver. That is something I will not do.

I pray that you reconsider your position. I kindly served Rob for nearly a decade and would gladly continue to do so. I truly want the best for my friend. I’ve also employed and served many members of the LGBT community, and I will continue to do so regardless of what happens with this case. You chose to attack my faith and pursue this not simply as a matter of law, but to threaten my very means of working, eating, and having a home. If you are serious about clarifying the law, then I urge you to drop your claims against my home, business, and other assets and pursue the legal claims through the appeal process. Thanks again for writing and I hope you will consider my offer.

Sincerely,

Barronelle Stutzman

The attorney general is a Democrat, of course, and Washington is a very blue state. The whole case is troubling, but it’s really troubling that Stutzman is paying Ferguson’s salary through her taxes. She is paying him to do this to her. It’s always a scary thing to me when Christians have to have their consciences trampled at the hands of a government that they pay taxes to employ. I am sorry for Barronelle. I don’t think that she should have to celebrate something she disagrees with.

If there is one thing that troubles me about her statement, it’s that she cashes out her opposition to gay marriage in purely religious terms, and I think that’s not he right approach. The right approach is to talk about how children suffer when they are denied their mother or their father or both, how same-sex marriage undermines marital norms of exclusivity and permanence, how same-sex marriage undermines religious liberty, etc. But still, it’s important that she fight this and that everyone understands how same-sex marriage changes society.

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