Tag Archives: religious freedom

Post-Christian America

Patrick Novecosky writes that America’s Christians roots have eroded considerably . . .

Patrick Novecosky

President Obama drew fire in 2008 for saying that America was no longer a “Christian nation.” With his reelection last month, many are beginning to realize that he might have been right. In November, four states rejected traditional marriage, and Florida voters rejected an amendment that would have protected religious liberty.

Obama has, quite literally, declared war on Christianity in America. Earlier this year, the President targeted Catholics with the Health and Human Services mandate that forces Catholic employers to provide employees with free contraception and abortion-inducing drugs. The bishops responded with a successful Fortnight for Freedom last summer. A great number of bishops spoke adamantly against voting for the man. Yet Obama still garnered 50% of the Catholic vote (42% of “active Catholics” voted for him).

Faithful Catholics were left angry and confused by the results — and rightly so. Many conservative pundits have weighed in on how to explain the outcome. My theory is relatively simple. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught about the Beatitudes. One of them sticks out for me: “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God.” Sadly, few Americans (Catholics included) fit that description today. A majority of Catholics have abandoned the sacraments — particularly Confession — and embraced a hedonistic secular culture.

Few seem to realize how profoundly sin blinds us to the truth. It cuts us off from God and from knowing that our eternal destiny is either heaven or hell. When our hearts and minds are clouded by sin, then logic, reason and truth become irrelevant. As a nation, we suffer from spiritual blindness and no longer recognize many self-evident truths. The Catechism teaches that “by deviating from the moral law, man violates his own freedom, becomes imprisoned within himself, disrupts neighborly fellowship, and rebels against divine truth” (CCC #1740).

As Fr. C. John McCloskey III wrote so eloquently earlier this year, “America needs witness, not enthusiasm. The United States will either become predominantly Catholic in numbers, faith, and morals or perish under the weight of its unbridled hedonism and corruption.”

We who fully embrace the truth must seize this Year of Faith. This may be our best opportunity to deepen our relationship with Jesus Christ and our understanding of that truth taught by the Catholic Church. Then we must go out boldly into the world and let the light of Christ shine through us. After all, Jesus said that we are the light of the world.

Patrick Novecosky is Legatus’ magazine’s editor-in-chief.

What’s at stake on November 6

Alan Sears writes that the values Americans hold sacred are up for grabs this year . . .

Alan Sears

With Election Day right around the corner, Americans must decide not only who will serve in office, but how those “personnel choices” will affect crucial federal and state-level issues foundational to our nation’s heritage and to our continuance in the image envisioned by our Founders.

A quick look at recent headlines easily demonstrates that three of those issues — religious freedom, marriage, and the sanctity of life — are facing some of the most serious challenges we’ve seen in our nation’s history. (Click here for a related story.)

In probably the most prominent example, religious freedom has literally been under assault since ObamaCare’s introduction in 2009. The passage of that bill into law in March 2010 only upped the ante, and has since spawned an abortion pill mandate that literally forces business owners to forego their consciences and their faith in order to provide health insurance that covers abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraceptives for employees.

We witnessed a significant victory against the abortion pill mandate in August when Denver-based Hercules Industries won an injunction against the mandate. The company is led by Denver Chapter Legates William and Andrew Newland.

Alliance Defending Freedom represents Hercules in that case, and we were happy to see them secure relief from the coercion other businesses in America still face. Everyone needs to remember that votes cast at all levels on Nov. 6 will affect decision-makers who will have the power to repeal this mandate altogether.

Marriage, the most fundamental building block to the health and survival of the nation, is also endangered at the federal level and in many states across the country this November.

The Obama administration has not enforced the Defense of Marriage Act since officially announcing their opposition to the law on Feb. 23, 2011. This move emboldened individuals and special interest groups nationwide to push the redefinition of marriage. It opened the door for those seeking to impose a homosexual agenda on the military through repeal of the military’s so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in September 2011. It gave way to our President announcing his support for same-sex “marriage” in May 2012.

Not surprisingly, there are now efforts to secure same-sex “marriage” ceremonies for U.S. forces. The future of these ceremonies and, most importantly, the protection of religious freedom for chaplains who have biblical convictions against performing them, is in the hands of members of the House and Senate — many of whom Americans will have the opportunity to support or oppose in just a few days.

And at the state level, ballot initiatives in Maine, Minnesota, Maryland, and Washington will allow citizens of those states to decide whether they wish to protect and preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman. These ballot initiatives are crucial not only for those states themselves but also because other states are watching. For example, groups in California, Colorado, Florida, Nebraska, and Ohio are already collecting signatures for proposed initiatives that either legalize same-sex “marriage” or repeal an existing ban on it.

Life is also on the ballot this November — both directly and indirectly. As Legatus magazine featured last month, Massachusetts voters will decide whether doctor-prescribed death will become the law of the land as it is in three other states. The “Death with Dignity Act,” which is on the ballot in the Commonwealth, allows doctors to prescribe life-ending medications for patients who then take the drugs home and end their lives when they’re ready.

It’s a surreal proposal, reminiscent of the famous lines of “Invictus” by English poet William Ernest Henley: “I am the captain of my fate. I am the master of my soul.” And it begs the question: Do we take our lives into our own hands only for the purpose of throwing them away with a prescription? Suffering patients need understanding and sound medical treatment, not encouragement to kill themselves.

Voters this year, as in all years, must look at the policies surrounding life that each candidate is promoting, weigh the candidate’s position, and choose those who will stand against the culture of death by standing for a culture of life.

Dropping our guard is simply not an option this November. Religious freedom, marriage, and life face serious challenges that simply cannot be put off for consideration in some future election cycle. The time is now. Your vote may help carry the day.

Alan Sears is a former federal prosecutor who held various posts in the departments of Justice and Interior during the Reagan administration. He is president and CEO of Alliance Defending Freedom. He and his wife Paula are members of Legatus’ Phoenix Chapter.

Defending liberty

Legatus members nationwide step up to protect religious freedom by fighting HHS mandate . . .

Legatus members are at the forefront of a legal battle being waged against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate requiring employers to cover abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilization in their insurance plans.

Of the estimated 27 lawsuits that have been filed by businesses, nonprofit organizations, and institutions since the mandate was announced Aug. 1, 2011, nearly a fourth involve Legatus members as plaintiffs.

In addition to a suit filed by Legatus itself, the list includes the cases of Hercules Industries of Denver (which recently won the first court order against the mandate), Triune Health, EWTN, Priests for Life, and Ave Maria University. All are owned or led by Legates. Detroit’s Weingartz Supply Co., and its president, Legate Daniel Weingartz,  also are plaintiffs in the Legatus suit, which challenges the  constitutionality of the HHS mandate under the First Amendment’s religious liberty and free speech provisions.

First Amendment rights

Matt Bowman

Matt Bowman, legal counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing 14 plaintiffs in the Hercules case and three other suits contesting the HHS mandate, said Legatus involvement in this issue shows that the organization is doing vital work to help Christian business leaders incorporate their faith into their everyday lives.

“The government in these cases is taking the position that you cannot exercise religion in your everyday life,” said Bowman. He quotes Pope Benedict XVI, who vigorously countered such sentiments in 2008 when he asked, “Is it consistent to profess our beliefs in church on Sunday, and then during the week to promote business practices or medical procedures contrary to those beliefs? Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted. Only when their faith permeates every aspect of their lives do Christians become truly open to the transforming power of the Gospel.”

The first suit against the HHS mandate was filed last November by Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic liberal arts school in North Carolina, before the Jan. 20 publication of final rules on the directive. According to the Catholic News Agency, that case was dismissed in July on technical grounds. The college is expected to  continue its fight against the mandate.

Michael Warsaw

Led by Legate Michael Warsaw, EWTN became the first Catholic organization on Feb. 9 to legally challenge the HHS mandate after publication of the rules. That same month, two other groups with  Legates at the helm, Priests for Life (Legate Janet Morana) and Ave Maria University (Legate Jim Towey), followed with similar suits.

Denver’s Hercules Industries, where Legates William and Andrew Newland are CEO and vice president, respectively, filed suit April 3 and in July was granted an order against the mandate. That ruling, however, only applies to Hercules. In opposing the order, the Obama  administration said that people of faith give up their religious liberty when engaging in business.

Legate Mary Ann Yep, co-founder with her husband, Christopher, of Chicago’s Triune Health Group, disagrees. Triune is challenging  both the HHS mandate and a similar state mandate in Illinois in a suit filed in August. Yep told the Catholic News Agency that she cannot separate her identity as a Catholic woman from her identity as a business owner, and that she aims to live by the same principles whether she is at home, at work or in church.

Crain’s Chicago Business recently named Triune Health the Best Place to Work for Women in the Chicago metro area.

Spiritual warfare

As members engage in the fight for religious freedom on various fronts, Legatus is seeking to bolster their efforts by mobilizing members in a spiritual battle for the future of the country.

On Aug. 1, the date the HHS mandate took effect, Legatus’ executive director John Hunt asked chapters to offer 1,776 Masses and pray 1,776 hours of Eucharistic adoration before the Nov. 6 election.

The effort has garnered a tremendous response from Legates. As of publication, members have committed to 2,186 Masses and 750 hours of Eucharistic adoration. Orange County Chapter member Tim Busch has arranged for 600 Masses and 250 hours of adoration. Anthony Mullen, an At-Large member, has pledged 100 Masses.

Mullen has called the prayer effort “the single most important work we can possibly do to defeat religious intolerance in America. We have a sacred duty together before God to fight with all our being, relying on the greatest power in the universe: God’s sacrifice in the  Mass and his presence in the Eucharist.”

Judy Roberts is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Defending our first freedoms

John Hunt: We’re engaged in a struggle for the soul of the Church in America . . .

John J. Hunt

As Legates bask in the glow of the organization’s quarter century of service to the Catholic Church, we find ourselves engaged in a struggle for the very soul of the Church in America. The technological and cultural advances we enjoy in the 21st century have been met with a corresponding slide in morality, ethics and objective truth in the marketplace, the academy and, on occasion, even within our families.

For many Legates, the attack on religious freedom espoused in the Health and Human Services contraception mandate incorporated into the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) provides the rallying call to defend our First Amendment right to religious freedom.

In order to defend this God-given liberty, Legatus has filed a federal lawsuit against the HHS mandate that requires insurance coverage for contraception and sterilization. “This is a case about religious freedom,” the lawsuit’s 42-page complaint begins. It charges that the mandate “forces employers and individuals to violate their religious beliefs because it requires employers and individuals to pay for insurance from insurance issuers, which fund and directly provide for drugs, devices, and services” that they believe are sinful.

Today, unlike any other time in modern history, freedom of religion is in real danger. The natural law truths — marriage between one man and one woman, recognition that life begins at conception and must be protected until natural death, unchanging and sacred understanding of the goodness of an all-loving God — are not only being ignored, they are being reviled by a culture that seeks its own “truth.”

A dichotomy exists in this age of progress and plenty, and we in the United States — particularly we of Legatus — are called to lead in this cultural conflict. It is a period of fundamental change that threatens the very life of the Church in America. We are blessed to live in a time when each of us can and must contribute to the Church’s apostolic fruitfulness in the face of challenges from all sides. This spiritual battle between good and evil can only be surmounted by a complete reliance on, trust in, prayer to, and love of Jesus Christ.

As you offer your daily prayers and attend Mass, I ask that you include the intention of success in the litigation to which duty has called us.

John Hunt is Legatus’ executive director. He and his wife Kathie are charter members of Legatus’ Chicago Chapter.

Religious freedom in America

Hollywood, the media and activist judges chip away at First Amendment rights . . .

During the 1960s, it was hip to protest the Vietnam War. Many called upon their principles or religious beliefs to protest an unpopular war as “conscientious objectors.” Hippies popped flowers into soldiers’ rifles, and Jane Fonda went all the way to Hanoi to gripe about the conflict.

When people of faith object to something that goes against their beliefs, however, the same rules don’t apply.  For example, when Elaine Huguenin refused to photograph a lesbian commitment ceremony in New Mexico last year because of her religious beliefs, she was fined $7,000 for discrimination. What had once been deemed “forward thinking” has suddenly become “backwards.”

First Amendment rights

Although the U.S. Constitution protects the right to freely practice one’s faith, activist judges spurred on by Hollywood and the mainstream media are chipping away at First Amendment rights. When freedom of religion clashes with the court-granted “rights” of minority groups, people of faith usually end up on the losing side.

“The rights of conscience clash when it comes to abortion and related life issues and the homosexual agenda,” said Legatus member Alan Sears, president of the Alliance Defense Fund, the largest religious liberty legal alliance in America. “We are receiving calls in these areas all the time.”

Same-sex couples’ rights have caused a sea change in the law.

“It is nothing short of an earthquake,” said Kevin Hasson, president of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

“In places where same-sex ‘marriage’ or civil unions are legalized, you change hundreds of statutes,” he said. “It affects housing. What if a same-sex couple wants housing at Notre Dame? It affects places that host wedding receptions. What if the Knights of Columbus are asked to host a lesbian wedding? It affects wedding florists. It affects employers. What if a homosexual is hired by an archdiocese and wants his partner to be covered by insurance?”

Health care professionals who do not want to partake in abortion, sterilizations and contraception have also been targeted. One of President Bush’s last acts before leaving office in December was to enact a Provider Conscience Rule which protects health care workers from being fired or penalized for refusing to participate in abortion or other morally objectionable procedures.

In March, President Obama began the process to rescind the rule. It’s currently undergoing a White House review. However, during his speech at Notre Dame in May, he spoke in favor of “drafting a sensible conscience clause” in order to “honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion.”

The U.S. bishops and pro-life legislators applauded Obama’s sentiment, but they’re also demanding that he back up his words with action.

“We were delighted to hear that the conscience of health care workers would be defended,” said Sears. “But what does it really mean?”

Religious freedom

When the Founders wrote the Constitution — even before the First Amendment — they included a provisional clause designed to free Quakers from having to swear fidelity to the Constitution in violation of their conscience. Instead, they were allowed to “affirm” their fidelity. When the First Amendment was added, religion was the first freedom it protected.

“In the olden days, the First Amendment was just about swearing and not going to war,” said Hasson. “Now there are millions of Americans in a thousand different religions and denominations. In 1990, the Supreme Court decided in Employment Division v Smith that the situation had become very unwieldy.”

Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia held that laws of so-called “general application” trumped religious practices. Scalia, long hailed as a religious rights champion, ruled that the government had the right to interfere with religious exercise, challenging a long-held American tradition of the right to practice religion freely.

“Under Scalia’s reasoning,” Hasson mused, “a sheriff in Oklahoma could bust a First Communion class for underage drinking.”

Piero Tozzi of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute concurs, saying state constitutions bring a lot to bear on recent cases.

“In light of the Supreme Court’s Smith decision drastically curtailing free exercise protections under the First Amendment, religious liberty clauses in state constitutions become increasingly important,” said Tozzi, who has argued religious liberty cases on state constitutional grounds. “It remains to be seen whether state courts will continue to interpret these long-standing provisions as protecting a fundamental liberty when challenged by rights of recent vintage — like the right of homosexuals to ‘marry.’”

Brian Rooney, communications director for the Thomas More Law Center, says state laws need to be beefed up. “If we really want to safeguard religious liberty, we need to get states to pass robust statutes that protect religious liberty,” he said.

He points to New Hampshire lawmakers’ May 20 decision to reject a bid to legalize same-sex “marriage” after Gov. John Lynch — a Catholic — insisted the bill contain religious liberty protections. Lawmakers in favor of same-sex “marriage” balked at this provision and voted against the bill.

However, the “Hate Crimes” bill passed in April by the U.S. House of Representative is a cause for concern. It extends protections to homosexual and transgender “victims.”

“It is a slippery slope,” Rooney said. “What is a hate crime? Even if it is only words and not assault, you can still be tried. If a pastor says that same-sex relations are immoral, and a person in the congregation goes out and attacks a gay person, that pastor could be in trouble.”

Religious freedom advocates worry that if things don’t change, people of faith could be forced to compromise their beliefs or face prosecution like residents of Sweden or Canada.

“In 2003, a pastor in Sweden taught very politely about sexual morality,” Sears explained. “He said that homosexual behavior was wrong and called for repentance. A person in the congregation tape-recorded the talk, and the pastor was sent to jail.”

Likewise, religious freedom in Canada has eroded due to lawsuits and human rights tribunals’ charges against people of faith. Canada legalized same-sex “marriage” in 2005 after activist judges ruled in favor of the practice in eight of 10 provinces.

In June, the Connecticut Office of State Ethics launched a probe into the Bridgeport diocese’s efforts to head off two bills that infringed upon its religious liberty. Officials are investigating whether the diocese acted as a “lobbying organization” when it bused people to a rally to protest a bill that would have granted more power to parishioners regarding church finances. The diocese also urged churchgoers to contact lawmakers about a bill to legalize same-sex “marriage.” Bishop William Lori says diocese was simply exercising its constitutional rights to free speech and assembly. The diocese has launched a civil lawsuit against two officials in the Office of State Ethics.

The front lines

Americans’ failure to adequately defend their constitutional right to religious liberty has compounded the erosion of those rights, experts say. Those on the front lines are worried about Americans’ lack of concern.

“Are we too complacent as Catholics? Yes,” said Rooney. “But we’re better than we were in the past. We’re faced with FOCA, hate crimes legislation, civil rights being expanded to include homosexuals. The Department of Homeland Security sent out a communication recently to all federal, state and local law enforcement agencies saying that prolifers are potential terrorists. But, on a positive note, our bishops have found their voice since last fall’s election.”

Sears contends that Christians need to stand up and be counted in the culture, the courts and the voting booth. Prayer, education and action, he contends, are essential to  the fight. Most of the organizations defending religious liberty have regular e-mail alerts to keep supporters aware of the issues.

“Legates have an unusual ability to influence their companies and their surroundings on these issues,” said Sears. “We have to remember that Legatus members’ real role is above and beyond the organization itself.

“The First Amendment and religious freedom are in great peril, and the greatest peril is freedom of conscience,” he explained. “We’re winning lots of cases, but the future depends on people of faith standing up and fighting.”

Sabrina Arena Ferrisi is a staff writer for Legatus Magazine.



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California court clamps down on religious freedom

Supreme Court ruling crosses the line, critics say

The California Supreme Court ruled that patient demand for nonessential, electice care trumps physicians’ freedom of conscience and their ability to practice medicine in accordance with their religious or moral beliefs.

According to the court’s Aug. 18 ruling, physicians’ constitutional right to practice their faith doesn’t exempt them from following state law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

That holds true, Justice Joyce L. Kennard wrote in the 18-page decision, “even if compliance poses an incidental conflict with the defendants’ religious beliefs.”

If a doctor wants to refuse a service on religious grounds, the court found, he or she must refuse all patients or provide a doctor who can provide the service to everyone. The decision comes only three months after the same court struck down a ban on same-sex “marriage.”

Catholics were quick to dispute the ruling.

“No one has the right to demand a nonemergency medical procedure from someone who finds that procedure morally unacceptable or religiously objectionable,” said Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Curry. “This case did not involve a life-and-death situation but only a possible inconvenience — one which required the patient to ‘walk across the office.’”

Guadalupe “Lupita” Benítez, a lesbian, filed suit after a San Diego-based clinic refused her a fertility treatment in 1999. The doctors, who are Christian, said that they denied the treatment because Benítez was unmarried, and that they were allowed to do so under the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of religion.

Kenneth R. Pedroza, who represented the doctors, said the ruling would probably cause many physicians to refuse to perform inseminations at all. Pedroza said his client did not violate the law because it did not bar discrimination on the basis of marital status in 1999. The state law has since been amended.

The Capitol Resource Institute, a California family policy advocacy group, said in a statement that “the California Supreme Court’s decision proves that these activist judges are willing to deny our First Amendment religious freedom in order to create rights for homosexuals.”

“This case starkly demonstrates the take-no-prisoners approach of the gay rights movement,” said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, a legal defense organization specializing in the defense of religious freedom. “They will not stop until they have silenced or bankrupted every voice of conscience who disagrees with them.”

This article includes reporting from LifeSiteNews.com and Catholic News Service.