Religious Liberty RulesApr 04, 2016
The hypocrisy of the left is astounding. For the past week, the left has cheered the Governors of Virginia and Georgia for vetoing legislation designed to protect the religious liberty rights of pastors and faith based organizations. At the same time, the left cheered a new set of federal regulations establishing a “religious liberty rule” governing faith-based organizations operating in the social services realm.
Under this new “religious liberty rule,” a person receiving social services benefits can request an alternative provider if they disagree with the religious beliefs of the organization providing the social services. The rule also provides that those receiving services cannot be required to attend or participate in religious activities.
In this case, what is good for the goose is certainly not good for the gander.
You see, it is religious liberty right for an individual receiving services or benefits, such as adoption, welfare, or job search, to choose to receive those services from a non-faith based organization. But, it is discrimination when a county clerk requests that she not violate her religious beliefs and offers to have a deputy clerk issue the marriage license.
It is religious liberty for a beneficiary of social services to choose not to participate or attend a religious ceremony. But, it is discrimination when a baker or photographer chooses not to provide services that would require their participation or attendance to a same-sex marriage ceremony.
For the left, “religious liberty” only exists to protect an individual from ever being influenced by religion. It chooses to protect freedom from religion rather than freedom of religion.
Booing God in Chesterfield
Booing God in Chesterfield
It seems that booing God and America’s distinct religious heritage has come to Virginia, the birthplace of religious freedom, even taking place just a few miles from the very place where the Statute for Religious Freedom passed into law.
Needless to say, the overtly anti-faith wing of the secular left is no longer a small segment to be ignored, but has become the dominant force on the left driving not just an anti-faith political movement, but sadly, an entire political party.
In case you didn’t see it in news coverage of this week’s Town Hall meeting in Chesterfield with local Congressman Dave Brat – oh wait, you couldn’t have since none of the multiple media stories about the event mentioned it – the crowd repeatedly booed any reference to God. From the start, where the crowd booed the pastor of the church where the event was held and booed when the name of the church was mentioned, the crowd was openly hostile to the idea of faith.
But topping it off were the resounding boos that came when Congressman Brat dared state that our rights come from God:
Of course, as rejecting the principles on which our nation was founded becomes more celebrated, the more of this we’re going to see. The secular left is unrestrained and unashamed of its hatred for God and God-fearing Americans. Obviously, there are many on the left who believe that rights are granted to us by government (i.e. man), therefore making government their god. They don’t seem to understand (or maybe they do?) why a government that has the power to grant rights also has the power to eliminate them.
Yet again, the media failed to mention any of this in its coverage. Why? Do they agree with the protestors? Or are they concerned that if Virginians were made aware of this kind of anti-faith action on the left they’d quickly reject it? Media bias is revealed just as much in what it chooses not to report as what is does report. Ignoring the anti-faith booing is yet another example.
Our response to this hostility cannot be to behave in a similar way. We know the truth, and as Thomas Jefferson said in the Statute for Religious Freedom, “that truth is great and will prevail, if left to herself; that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict.” Our response must simply be to remain informed of the truth of our religious heritage, and its importance in maintaining a civil society. And we must be willing to teach our kids, inform our friends and neighbors, and vote only for those who do not arrogantly believe that they are the source of our freedom.
No Conversion Allowed
No Conversion Allowed
There’s a growing movement afoot which seeks to legally ban licensed counselors from helping minors overcome same-sex sexual attractions or to reconcile struggles in accepting their own gender. In Virginia, we’ve staved off bills recently that would do just that (2016 -HB 427, SB 262, SB 267). These efforts gained more traction last week when a group of 68 Congressmen (all Democrats) introduced what they’ve titled the “Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act”, which would make it illegal – potentially even criminal – for “any person” to assist a minor in changing their “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.” Not surprisingly, however, such persons remain free to “provide assistance to an individual undergoing a gender transition” or to “provide acceptance, support, and understanding of a client or facilitate a client's coping, social support, and identity exploration and development.”
So let me get this straight: At the same time the new Left insists that adolescents as young as five years old be unconditionally supported in “changing” their birth gender and in “exploring” the outer reaches of their sexual curiosities, they are actively demanding that those same kids be legally barred from receiving professional counseling to overcome certain sexual thoughts and feelings they may develop along the way, even when those feelings are unwanted or unhealthy?
That’s right, kids. You have an absolute right to trust your feelings when they contradict biology, social science, and traditional morality, and we’ve even got an endless supply of adult counselors lined up to affirm you in them. But if you so much as think about changing your mind, then you’re out of luck – since, after all, we care so much about your “health” and “safety.” Oh, and by the way, anyone who tries to help you may be a fraudulent criminal.
So much for “self-determination” of the patient, the cardinal rule of the counselor-patient relationship.
There are, of course, a number of obvious problems with this concept (too many to list here). Chief among them is that most Americans identify as being a part of a major faith group (e.g. Christian, Jewish, Muslim), and the traditional views of at least the top three involve moral guidelines and truth claims about the nature of male and female and human sexual behaviors. This “law” runs roughshod over these long and deeply held views and makes no exemptions for those who hold them. Both those who counsel and those who seek counsel would now be prohibited by law from incorporating their faith when seeking resolution to a crisis of identity.
The second obvious (and frankly so brazenly preposterous as to defy belief) problem is the blatant double-standard which provides that counselors may only affirm a child when they seek to entertain and indulge certain sexual thoughts, feelings, and inclinations, BUT that counselors may never affirm or aid a child when the child (or his parents) seeks to challenge or correct certain sexual thoughts, feelings, and inclinations – especially and particularly those sexual inclinations which diverge from natural human behavior. In other words, only certain feelings will be sanctioned, and only those ones which tend to be profoundly damaging to children. This places faith-based counselors in a true ethical dilemma, while at the same time depriving a child of the guidance they need during the most critical window of time for healthy emotional realignment, with the effect of further solidifying the child’s misguided feelings about themselves and others.
But maybe worst of all, this policy shamelessly declares, in essence: ‘No, you can’t change – not even if you want to. What you feel is the essence of who you are. Accept it, embrace it, and don’t let anyone help you see a better way for your life – especially those people who may actually know what they’re talking about. And by the way, not only are you incapable of – and now prohibited from – changing, but there’s not a thing wrong with you. You’re perfect just the way you are. And since perfect people don’t need fixing, any effort to help you do so is futile and actually harmful to you.’ (Note the very first line of the bill: “Congress makes the following findings: (1) Being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or gender nonconforming is not a disorder, disease, illness, deficiency, or shortcoming.”)
But for people of faith, and particularly Christians, this view goes against everything they believe about the human condition. (i.e. That every person is imperfect and broken; that they are unable to fix themselves on their own; that by the power of God through the message of truth and love, a person can be transformed into someone new; that God will help them overcome temptations and even change their desires; that God’s design for their sexuality is far better for them than any other way, and that all others will lead to disappointment, dissatisfaction and ultimately destruction.) Such an edict, then, is wholly incompatible with the religious freedom of most Americans.
Ultimately, to tell a person that they cannot change and that there is no one who can help them do so is to tell them that there is no hope.
But in fact, there is hope. People can and have changed. And with the aid of professional counseling, countless many youth have learned to cope with struggles which plagued them, and they’ve gone on to flourish in their lives. And why would it not be so in the area of their sexuality or gender? Even the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association acknowledge, for example, that as many as 98% of gender-confused boys and as many as 88% of gender-confused girls eventually accept their chromosomal sex by adolescence or adulthood if allowed to do so.
The real harm to children in these situations is in preventing them from getting the help they need in their time of conflict. And because that’s precisely what these measures would do, and because we know that there is always hope for people who want to change, we owe it to our children to do everything in our power to ensure these policies' defeat in every place they may be found.
Why Tire Scraps Matter
Why Tire Scraps Matter
Seminal moments often involve otherwise obscure storylines. This is especially true in the law. Consider, for instance, a present case before the U.S. Supreme Court, wherein a major doctrine of religious liberty hinges on shredded tires and preschool playgrounds.
The Court hears oral arguments today in the case of Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer. It involves a church in Missouri, Trinity Lutheran, that applied for a state program that reimburses nonprofits for the purchase and installation of rubber playground surfaces made from recycled tires. The program is intended to reduce the number of used tires in the state’s landfills while at the same time providing a safe place for children to play. The church hoped to use the funds to replace its existing playground, covered with pea gravel – which it describes as “unforgiving” and having “hard, jagged edges” – and grass.
The state ranked Trinity Lutheran’s application 5th out of 44 it received. And although the state awarded 14 grants, it denied Trinity Lutheran’s application, citing a provision of the state constitution that prohibits money from the state treasury from going “directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect, or denomination of religion.”
And hence, we get an epic school yard fight on our hands, with the “free exercise clause” on the one side and “establishment clause” on the other.
Here’s the basic struggle in constitutional laymen’s terms: A state has a (U.S.) constitutional obligation to not act in a way which officially favors one religious sect over another. Thus, a state has to be careful about how it spends public money so as to avoid actions which have the practical effect of “establishing” a certain religion (e.g. the Church of England). At the same time, a state has a constitutional obligation to not act with disfavor towards religion and religious entities, or to officially favor one religious sect over another, or even to favor non-religion over religion.
Needless to say, sometimes it can be a very tricky task for a state to perfectly meet both obligations.
Some spectators argue that Missouri’s constitutional provision is consistent with the First Amendment’s prohibition against a state establishing religion since it essentially says “no public money for ANY church.” Others say Missouri’s categorical denial of public benefits to churches infringes on the free exercise of religion because the state is demonstrating hostility towards religion and religious institutions, rather than treating them on equal terms with other entities, regardless of their religious viewpoint.
As with all legal disputes, it’s critically important to keep in mind what is and what is not being disputed. The case is NOT addressing whether or not it’s a good policy idea for the government to give certain grants for certain projects – like funding tire scrap playgrounds. It’s also not about the wisdom of churches accepting public funds or benefits. The important question here is: If the state decides to provide various benefits to the general public, should some organizations be automatically excluded from access to those benefits solely because of the organization’s religious character or views?
If the First Amendment means anything at all, the answer must be no. Our constitutional republic was established to protect and to foster religion, not to exclude it from the public sphere altogether – which is precisely what Missouri’s amendment does. Read plainly, the Missouri provision would prohibit policemen from responding to an altercation on the church property. It would prevent the fire department from putting out a church fire. These notions, however, are absurd to any reasonable person. And yet in these examples lies the same principle that should permit a church to have equal access to a grant program that provides funding for safer playground surfaces.
Moreover, it can hardly be said that providing funding for safer playgrounds has the effect of establishing a state religion. It may be altogether different if the facts involved sending a group of church members on a mission trip to Haiti for the purpose of evangelizing the people there, but that’s just not the situation here.
Significantly, Virginia’s constitution contains a similar amendment. (These are often referred to as “Blaine Amendments”.) Article IV, Section 16 states, in relevant part, “The General Assembly shall not make any appropriation of public funds, personal property, or real estate to any church or sectarian society, or any association or institution of any kind whatever which is entirely or partly, directly or indirectly, controlled by any church or sectarian society.” Religious entities in the Old Dominion, therefore, have an equal size stake in the outcome as Trinity Lutheran of Missouri.
This case is sure to have far-reaching implications. Bound up in Trinity Lutheran’s quest for tire scraps is the determination of whether or not a significant piece of religious liberty will prevail. The issue is before us now because Trinity Lutheran recognized that rubber tire scraps were of some real value to them. Little could they have known just how valuable those same tire scraps would be for the rest of us.
 Some of the factual language in this paragraph was taken from scotusblog.com.