Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

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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Navy chaplain removed from unit for teaching Biblical views on sex and marriage

This is from the Daily Signal.

Excerpt:

A former Marine and current Navy chaplain has been removed from his unit after sharing the teachings of his faith tradition in private, pastoral settings.

Lt. Cmdr. Wes Modder, a chaplain at the Base Chapel Naval Weapons Station at Joint Base in South Carolina, is an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God.

According to his legal team, a “handful” of individuals complained about his views on issues like atheism, homosexuality and sexual relationships outside of marriage.

According to Military Times, after the complaints, Modder’s commanding officer wrote in a “detachment for cause” letter that states Modder is “unable to function in the diverse and pluralistic environment” of the United States Navy.

It’s such a diverse environment that if you disagree with the secular leftist view of sex and marriage, then you can’t say anything. And we are paying taxes to pay for these people to violate the basic human rights of Christian employees. It’s not just happening to Christian business owners who refuse to celebrate gay marriage, now. It’s just regular Christians workers, too.

More:

His commanding officer has requested that Modder be removed from the promotion list (despite his ranking as “Early Promote,” the highest rating), separated from his unit, and brought before a Board of Inquiry.

The same commanding officer previously wrote in Modder’s fitness report in October of 2014 that Modder was the “best of the best” and recommended him for promotion.

The board could force Modder, who previously served as a Marine in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, out of the Navy. His case is currently under review.

I thought this was useful to see what pressures authentic Christians face as they try to earn the money they ned to provide for their families in an increasingly secular environment:

Mike Berry, the senior counsel and director of military affairs at the Liberty Institute, is handing Modder’s case.

[…]“He’s in a catch-22 between his faith and his career,” said Berry.

Berry said that Modder offered everyone who sought his guidance a “disclaimer” that he was speaking to them as an ordained Christian minister, stressing that Modder offered “spiritual advice” and “Biblical truth” according to his faith tradition in “private” sessions, not merely “unsolicited opinions.”

But after the complaints of a “handful” of individuals, Modder’s future in the Navy is in jeopardy.

[…]Modder is also approaching his 20-year anniversary of military service. If his case is not resolved by Sept. 1, his pension and retirement benefits could also be in jeopardy.

Seems like he was very careful, but that did not protect him from the complaints of a handful of individuals who wanted to get rid of him for disagreeing with them. And of course Modder’s commanding officer has to deal harshly with him, or he will not be promoted. This is the new secular Inquisition.

Now, try to think with me about how many people are teaching their views on sex and marriage, and using taxpayer dollars to do it. Public school teachers, Planned Parenthood… Heck, in Ontario, Canada, the Liberty Party’s sex education curriculum was developed by a convicted child pornographer. And yet Christian chaplains are the ones who have to face discrimination for stating their views.

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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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Alliance Defending Freedom will defend Atlanta fire chief fired for his Christian faith

This report is from the Daily Signal.

Excerpt:

Former Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran filed today a federal lawsuit against the city of Atlanta and its Mayor Kasim Reed alleging they terminated his employment because of his belief in traditional marriage.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, states Cochran’s was fired “solely” because:

…[Cochran] holds religious beliefs concerning same-sex marriage and homosexual conduct that are contrary to the mayor’s and the city’s views on these subjects, and because he expressed those beliefs in the non-work-related, religious book he self-published.

Cochran had been a firefighter since 1981 and was appointed Atlanta’s fire chief in 2008. In 2009, President Obama appointed him as U.S. Fire Administrator for the United States Fire Administration in Washington, D.C. In 2010, he returned to serve as Atlanta’s fire chief.

Cochran is a devout Christian and active in his community as a member of Elizabeth Baptist Church, where he serves as a deacon and teacher.

On Jan. 6, 2015, after writing and self-publishing a book which briefly mentions homosexuality as one among many sexual sins from a Christian perspective, the city of Atlanta and Mayor Reed suspended Cochran without pay, subjected him to “sensitivity training” and ultimately fired him.

Although a city investigation found that Cochran has not discriminated against anyone throughout his career as fire chief of Atlanta, the city still fired him, citing the need for tolerance of diverse views.

“I respect each individual’s right to have their own thoughts, beliefs and opinions, but when you’re a city employee and those thoughts, beliefs and opinions are different from the city’s, you have to check them at the door,” said City Councilman Alex Wan, a leader in the campaign to oust Cochran, to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in November.

Alliance Defending Freedom, a non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith, is defending Cochran in his lawsuit against the city and mayor of Atlanta.

Please watch the 5-minute video above. The city councilman Alex Wan is openly gay, by the way.

If you want to help out with Cochran’s legal defense (and this is a case we really, really need to win) then you can go to the Alliance Defending Freedom page here and read more about the case, and donate, if you feel that this is a team you want to partner with. Even if you don’t donate, share the story in social media, because a lot of people need to understand what happens when gay rights activism conflicts with religious liberty. It goes to court, and that’s when Alliance Defending Freedom makes their stand.

Listen. If you are looking to steer your kids into a career that will make a difference, consider trying for an Alliance Defending Freedom lawyer. These guys go to bat for all of us, and if you work your parenting well, you might be able to make a child grow up who will make a difference.

And subscribe to the Alliance Defending Freedom podcast.

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Alliance Defending Freedom wins HHS mandate case: Democrats forced to pay $570,000

Life News has some good news for us.

They write:

The bill is coming due, literally, for the Obama administration over its attempts to force companies to comply with the HHS mandate, that compels them to pay for drugs for their employees that can cause abortions.

The pro-life legal group ADF obtained a settlement in federal court Friday that requires the Obama administration to pay an agreed-upon amount of $570,000 to ADF and allied attorneys who won a lawsuit at the U.S. Supreme Court against the abortion-pill mandate in Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Burwell. 

Conestoga Wood is one of the companies that challenged the abortion mandate in court and the high court eventually sided with them and Hobby Lobby, the most prominent firm taking on the Obama mandate.

“The government does a serious disservice to taxpayers when it pursues unjust laws that force many of them to defend their constitutionally protected freedoms,” Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Matt Bowman told LifeNews.com. “While this case is finally over, many others remain. We hope the administration will stop defending its indefensible abortion-pill mandate and end its waste of taxpayer dollars on a fruitless quest to force people to give up their freedom to live and work according to their beliefs.”

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys represent Conestoga Wood Specialties and the Hahn family, Mennonite cabinetmakers in Pennsylvania who appealed to the nation’s high court after a divided federal appellate court ruled against them. The Supreme Court eventually sided with the company.

“The cost of religious freedom for the Hahn family and many other job creators across the country who face this mandate is severe,” added Senior Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “A family should not face massive fines and lawsuits just because they want to earn a living consistent with their faith.”

The mandate could have cost the family nearly $3 million per month in fines if it doesn’t agree to live contrary to its Christian convictions. It forces employers, regardless of their religious or moral convictions, to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception under threat of heavy penalties by the Internal Revenue Service and other federal agencies if the mandate’s requirements aren’t met.

Conestoga Wood Specialties owners Norman Hahn, Elizabeth Hahn, Norman Lemar Hahn, Anthony H. Hahn, and Kevin Hahn desire to run their company, a wholesale manufacturer of custom wood cabinet parts, in a manner that reflects their Christian beliefs, including their belief that God requires respect for the sanctity of human life.

I try not to think about whose money this is… in a fair world, it would come right out of Obama’s bank accounts.

I took a quick look to see if there were any ADF podcasts on this case, and I didn’t find any.

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