• A coercive contraceptive mandate imposes pro-abortion ideology on all with pro-life views.
• The gutting of the only federal conscience regulation in health care opens the door to discrimination.
• The denial of federal funds to a ministry, just for opposing abortions, threatens care for human trafficking victims.
• The administration's court case to restrict faith-based organizations' hiring rights minimizes religious liberty.
• Firings, discrimination and coercion of life-honoring health care professionals imperil health care access.
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Katrina Lantos Swett, chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said, “We want to see people at the highest levels saying ‘we get it,’ religious freedom is not just a nice issue, it’s central to our foreign policy and national security policy. We are not totally in the dark in the way our government actually works, but what you need is attention from those at the highest level that think this is important, this is a priority that is crucially in our national interest.”
Two controversial bills—the Human Rights Amendment Act and the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act—passed their first reading and vote as part of the D.C. Council Consent Agenda on Tuesday, Oct. 28. The final passage of the bills may seriously violate the religious freedom of Catholic educational institutions in the city. The Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act (Bill 20-790) would force organizations and employers to provide insurance coverage for elective abortions regardless of religious objection. The Human Rights Amendment Act would roll back an exemption for religiously-affiliated organizations to the 1977 act which prohibited “discrimination based on race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, familial status and 11 other protected classes.”
Indeed, a form of government respectful of free association, free contracts, free speech, and free exercise of religion should protect citizens' rights to live according to their beliefs about marriage. After all, protecting religious liberty and the rights of conscience does not infringe on anyone's sexual freedoms. No one has a right to have the government force a particular minister to marry them. Some citizens may conclude that they cannot in good conscience participate in same-sex ceremonies, from priests and pastors to bakers and florists. They should not be forced to choose between their beliefs and their livelihood.
Last week I told you that Houston’s Mayor, Annise Parker, demanded to see the sermons of a group of five pastors and threatened them with a subpoena. Why? Because the pastors had objected to a new so-called “equal rights” ordinance that would allow self-identified “transgendered” men to use women’s restrooms. That’s an issue all its own. But as bad as that is, the Houston mayor’s shocking and outrageous trampling on the religious liberty of these pastors is far, far more disturbing. In fact, for someone in government to demand that pastors turn over their sermons is almost beyond belief. I confess I almost thought I was reading something out of my own book on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, where I describe how the Gestapo tried to harass and intimidate Martin Niemoller and other German pastors speaking the truth from their pulpits.
Even as Evangelicals gently but firmly speak the truth about God's teaching regarding human sexual conduct, they need to extend the mercy of Christ to the homosexual men and women God brings into their lives. If Evangelicals have homosexual neighbors, they need to treat them with the same warmth and respect they should treat anyone else. If their kids become friends with children raised by same-sex couples, those little ones should be welcomed as eagerly as any other child. If one's homosexual colleague is in the hospital, visit him, do his yard work, drive him home, and so on. Yet law and public policy are different matters. Just as water does not collect atop an apex - it flows down one side or the other - so there are only two sides to the debate over legal recognition of same-sex marriage.
Today we cannot overlook the fact that approximately 100 million Christians still live under oppression and persecution for expressing their faith in Jesus. Christians living under oppressive regimes cannot walk down the road holding a Bible, read it in freedom, choose for themselves the faith they wish to follow, or express their faith in an open marketplace of ideas without fear of persecution or death. In places like North Korea, ranked highest on Open Doors' World Watch List of countries that persecute Christians, is where more than 70,000 Christians live and work in labor camps for the crime of trying to practice their faith. Or in places like Iraq and Syria, where Jihadist rebels from the Islamic State have pushed Christ-followers from their homes, tried to force conversion to Islam, and tortured and killed people for their faith. But Christians in the West can do something to help. We can let those living under persecution know that they are not forgotten.
In our system of government, the ultimate "king" is the people. As citizens, we bear responsibility for electing officials, for speaking to laws that are made in our name, and for setting precedents by our actions. Shrugging this off is not the equivalent of Jesus standing silently before Pilate. It's the equivalent of Pilate washing his hands, so as not to bear accountability for our own decisions and precedents set. When the government acts, legal precedents are set. By complying with this unjust decree, Christians would be binding future people and institutions, including those who are the most powerless to stand against such things. If the government can scrutinize the preaching of Christian churches on sexual matters in Houston, the same government could do the reverse in, say, Amarillo.
More than 1,800 pastors in all 50 states plus Puerto Rico have participated so far in the Alliance Defending Freedom seventh annual Pulpit Freedom Sunday event, which began this year on Oct. 5. Of those participating, 1,517 preached sermons presenting biblical perspectives on the positions of electoral candidates and signed a statement agreeing that the IRS should not control the content of a pastor’s sermon. “The tax-collecting IRS shouldn’t be playing speech cop and threatening a church’s tax-exempt status simply because its pastor exercises his constitutionally protected freedom of speech,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley, who heads the Pulpit Freedom Sunday event.
Life Legal Defense Foundation and Alliance Defending Freedom filed a formal complaint Thursday with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services over the California Department of Managed Health Care's decision to force all employers, including churches, to pay for elective abortions in their health insurance plans. LLDF and ADF represent seven California churches that object to offering their employees insurance plans covering elective abortions and allege that DMHC's coercion of abortion coverage violates federal law. LLDF Legal Director Catherine Short noted,"DMHC would have us believe that, while the Legislature exempted these churches from the state's contraceptive coverage mandate, it nonetheless intended to force them to cover all abortions under the rubric of 'basic health care.'"
Marriage is too important to allow unelected judges to redefine it without a fight. Even if the umpires are colluding with the other team, that's no reason to allow them an unopposed victory. Even if many of the courts of law are biased, we can still win in some of them-indeed many who favor redefining marriage think the 6th Circuit Court will uphold Ohio and Michigan's marriage laws, and the battle continues in other circuits, including the 5th Circuit which will review Texas and Louisiana's law (a federal judge recently upheld Louisiana's law). And the composition of the Supreme Court might well change for the better before the Court ends up actually deciding the marriage question.