The constitutional religion cases decided this term are the most practically important of all of the term’s cases, precisely because they will improve the ecosystem of K-12 education both by boosting competition to public education and forcing the inclusion of more private schools with traditional values in that competition. They will allow more parents to do what we are trying to do for our daughter—get an education that provides both deep knowledge and sound values. Nothing is more essential to our nation than that we sustain schools that will compete against the monolithically left-liberal educational establishment for the minds of the next generation.
So, just like that, small religious groups lost their right to meet in person and must, at this late date, switch to teleconferencing. And that’s what you get when local government takes over. Why did they adopt everything else the State Department of Health Services had in its orders, but change that one thing? They rushed it out on the same day the court acted, but they had the time and motivation to go harder on religious groups? How did that happen?
In my latest Acton Commentary, I respond to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s commnets on religious liberty. Here’s a bit of what I have to say:
Let me first commend Ocasio-Cortez for her frank appeal to the Gospel in her criticism of what she describes as the Trump administration’s “religious liberty assault on LGBTQ rights.” While I disagree with most of what she says, it is good when politicians who describe themselves as Christians take a public stand for their convictions and what they see as the policy implications of their faith. Even when, as in this case, I disagree with what is said, I’m glad to hear religious and specifically Christian ar
You can read the rest here: Liberty for AOC but not for thee | Acton Institute
One of the reasons conservative Christians voted for Donald Trump is because of the hope (since vindicated) that he would reverse Obama administration policies that required either that faith-based groups to either leave Public Square or remain but at the cost of compromising their commitment to their own moral traditions.
On Thursday, the White House announced a new rule that will help faith-based organizations remain a vital part of the child-welfare system. The Obama-era provisions redefined federal nondiscrimination policies in a way that excluded faith-based groups. The new rule brings regulations at the Department of Health and Human Services back in line with all other federal nondiscrimination law and Supreme Court precedent.
It’s worth noting, that this unwelcome choice was limited wholly to matters of human sexuality. In effect, the Obama administration said to faith-based groups, agree with us about contraception, abortion, and homosexuality or abandon your ministry.
Besides being unconstitutional, these policies were intrinsically unjust seeking as they did to undermine faith-based communities. A Catholic school, for example, that employed an openly homosexual teacher does so at the expense of their Church’s teaching on the nature of marriage. Likewise with an Evangelical Christian, Jewish or Muslim social service agency that is required to place children with same-sex couples.
When faced with an aggressively secular that seeks to use the government to undermine a community’s religious faith and practice, is ti any wonder that that conservative Christians turned out in large numbers for Trump?
If Democrats, and especially progressive Demoncrats, are serious about taking the White Hise and flipping the Senate, they will need to adopt policies that protect not only the rights of sexual minorities but also conservative Christian, Jews, and Muslims.
For Orthodox Christians, the absence of such policies–and especially the commitment to continue and expand the anti-religious liberty policies of the Obama administration–makes voting for Democratic candidates morally problematic for two reasons.
First, these policies seek to compel believers to agree with policies that they find morally unacceptable. Second, in doing so these policies actively undermine the witness of a community not only in the Public Square but also within its own precincts.
There has been much written about the hypocrisy of evangelical Christ support for President Trump. And most of it, I think, is correct.
However, what remains unexamined by these same critics is the way in which Democrats have created this situation. Without a credible alternative that protects their religious liberty, it is not surprising that conservative religious believers continue to support the Trump administration.
Politics is always a trade-off. There is rarely if ever, a policy or politician wholly in agreement with the Gospel. When the alternative placed before conservative religious voters is a seriously, almost comically, morally flawed candidate who protects their liberty and an equally, if differently morally flawed candidate who pursues policies that risk that liberty, one ought not to be surprised that they vote for the former.
Criticisms of this choice demonstrate either an appalling lack of empathy for one’s fellow citizens or an attempt to shame conservative believers to no longer pursue their own, morally legitimate, self-interest. Neither is in the service of a free and just society.
I’ve linked below to proposed Wisconsin Senate bill 382. If it were to become law, it would eliminate “from the reporting requirement the exception for information obtained through confidential communications.”
Current law provides that a member of the clergy is not required to report information relating to suspected or threatened sexual abuse of a child that he or she receives solely through confidential communications made to him or her privately or in a confessional setting if he or she is authorized to hear or is accustomed to hearing such communications and if, under the disciplines, tenets, or traditions of his or her religion, he or she has a duty or is expected to keep those communications secret. The bill eliminates from the reporting requirement the exception for information obtained through confidential communications.
However well-intentioned, this is an unjust infringement on religious liberty and represents an attack on the life of the Church. I would encourage all Wisconsin residents to contact their state legislators and the bills co-sponsors to protest this violation of both the US and Wisconsin constitutions. The bills’ co-sponsors can be found in the attached document.
Earlier this year, Wi State Representative Melissa Sargent of Madison, explained to a pastor what it REALLY meant to listen to Jesus. Now together with Reps. Chris Taylor and Sen. Lena Taylor, Sargent is presuming to intrude on the relationship between priest and penitent by requiring priests report allegations of child abuse that are heard in confession (see below).
There are a number of potential problems with the proposed legislation (which I haven’t read and can’t find on the Wisconsin statehouse website).
First, it’s an intrusion into the internal life of a religious community. The legislation re-defines for its own purposes the nature of confession.
Second, and following from this, the loss of confidentiality has a potential chilling effect on the priest/penitent relationship. In a global sense, if people think that the priest might reveal the content of their confessions to law enforcement they will likely be guarded in what they say to him.
Undermining priest/penitent can also harm the very people the bill seeks to protects: victims of sexual abuse. Requiring clergy to report what we hear in confession means that we would be legally obligated to violate the confidentiality of victims. Under these circumstances, it would not be unreasonable for a person who has been abuse to forgo speaking to his or her parish priest because of the credible fear that the priest would report the conversation to the State.
Third and finally, the bill seeks to punish clergy who have not violated our pastoral and moral responsibilities. Worse, innocent clergy AND penitents (including victims of sexual abuse) would have their rights curtailed because of the actions of others.
You can read more about the latest swipe at religious liberty here.
In Masterpiece Justice Kennedy wrote: “It hardly requires restating that government has no role in deciding or even suggesting whether the religious ground for” the baker’s “conscience-based objection is legitimate or illegitimate.” Religious minorities should appreciate that Justice Kennedy took the time to restate it nonetheless. Governmental entities have a nasty habit of refusing to protect religious practices that are, in their view, religiously mistaken or illegitimate. Hopefully, Justice Kennedy’s statement will put an end to this pernicious practice.