First Amendment

Greece v. Galloway

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Yesterday, in Town of Greece v. Galloway, the Supreme Court reached the stunningly obvious conclusion, under the text of the Constitution, the views of the Founding Fathers and the historic practice in this country, that prayers prior to town meetings are not unconstitutional under the First Amendment.  Go here to read the text of the opinion.  Of course the four liberals on the court, for whom the text of the Constitution is so much Play-Doh, dissented.  I was going to write a post on the decision, but Christopher Johnson,  a non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels for the Church so frequently that I have named him Defender of the Faith, has beat me to it:

 

 

 

I’m not a lawyer, I just pretend to be one on the Internet so I apologize if there’s too much technical jargon in this post.  But yesterday, CNN’s Daniel Burke reported that the United States Supreme Court told people who claim that the mere sight of a Christian cross compels them to become Christians or who claim to break out in a cold sweat whenever they hear someone say “Jesus Christ” to grow a pair and man the hell up:

If you don’t like it, leave the room.

That’s the essence of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s advice for atheists and others who object to sectarian prayers before government meetings.

In a 5-4 decision written by Kennedy, the Supreme Court allowed Greece, New York, to continue hosting prayers before its monthly town board meetings – even though an atheist and a Jewish citizen complained that the benedictions are almost always explicitly Christian.

Many members of the country’s majority faith – that is, Christians – hailed the ruling.

Considering the intellectual vacuity of court rulings on the Establishment Clause over the years, any schadenfreude yesterday, Chris?  Yeah, a little bit.  I’d use “wailing and gnashing of teeth” here but that’s Biblical and I don’t want to offend anyone.

Many members of minority faiths, as well as atheists, responded with palpable anger, saying the Supreme Court has set them apart as second-class citizens.

Groups from the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism to the Hindu American Foundation decried Monday’s decision.

“The court’s decision to bless ‘majority-rules’ prayer is out of step with the changing face of America, which is more secular and less dogmatic,” said Rob Boston, a spokesman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which litigated the case.

If you don’t like it, step out of the room for a few moments.

But what about people who like their local government meetings to be religion-free?

“Should nonbelievers choose to exit the room during a prayer they find distasteful, their absence will not stand out as disrespectful or even noteworthy,” Kennedy writes.

Elections matter, folks.  Because they can result in stupid people getting lifetime jobs.

[Justice Elena] Kagan, writing for the dissenting minority, sharply disagreed.

She suggested that the five justices who formed the majority – all of whom are Catholic – don’t understand what it’s like to belong to a minority faith in America.

Did Burke happen to mention that the majority in this case was Roman Catholic?

The Supreme Court’s Catholic majority seems to think that, because many prayers before government meetings take on a ceremonial aspect, the actual content of the prayers doesn’t really matter, Kagan continues.

Just checking.

In essence, she said, the majority is arguing “What’s the big deal?” and making light of religious differences while conferring a special role on Christianity.

“Contrary to the majority’s apparent view, such sectarian prayers are not ‘part of our expressive idiom’ or ‘part of our heritage and tradition,’ assuming that ‘our’ refers to all Americans. They express beliefs that are fundamental to some, foreign to others – and because of that they carry the ever-present potential to divide and exclude.”

Ellie?  Have you ever actually read the Establishment Clause?  It says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  That’s it.

There’s nothing in there about division or exclusion or any of the rest of that hippie crap.  Put it another way.  What if that town board brought in a Muslim to offer a prayer one evening, he opened with “In the name of Allah, the compassionate, the merciful” and mentioned Mohammed a time or two, using that “peace and blessings be upon him” line?

Know what I would do if that happened, Ellie?

Absolutely nothing.

I wouldn’t make a scene or anything.  But I wouldn’t pray.  I’d sit there quietly and respectfully until the gentleman finished and then I guess we’d proceed with town business.  The fact that a Muslim publicly prayed while I was in the room neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg, as Mr. Jefferson once put it.

And it certainly doesn’t constitute an establishment of the Muslim religion in that town, Ellie, your tortured reading of the First Amendment notwithstanding.

One more thing.  Atheists?  What is the deal with you people?  Why do you always turn up in stories like this?  You don’t believe this stuff or at least you claim that you don’t so why legally force people who disagree with you to keep quiet?  What difference does it make to you if someone publicly expresses concepts that you find absurd?

Sounds REAL insecure to me. Continue reading

Bingo!

I rarely read Hot Air much these days, though it is fortunate that I decided to take a look this afternoon or else I would have missed this insightful post from Ed Morrissey, as he absolutely nails it on two distinct issues.

First off, Morrissey calls out the Democrats for their attempt to amend the first amendment. Senator Tom Udall from New Mexico has introduced an amendment inspired by recent Supreme Court decisions that curtailed certain campaign finance restrictions. Morrissey notes that not only does this amendment not have a prayer of getting anywhere near the two-thirds vote required, it’s simply not something that very many Americans are clamoring for.

If Democrats think this will allow them to ride a wave of Occupy Wall Street populism, they’d better look again at the polling this week. Despite spending weeks on the Senate Floor ranting about the Koch Brothers, Harry Reid’s McCarthyite campaign of Kochsteria has resulted in … almost nothing. In the NBC/WSJ poll linked earlier, only 31% had an opinion about the Koch Brothers at all, and only 21% thought of them negatively in a poll where 43% of the respondents admit to voting for Obama in 2012. Michael Bloomberg, one of the left’s multibillionaire activists, got a 26% negative score, and the Democratic Party got a 37% negative score. (The GOP got 44%.) Nearly twice as many respondents think of Barack Obama negatively than they do the Koch Brothers, despite weeks of hard-sell demonization from top Democratic Party leaders.

Well, the Democrats are trying just about everything to prevent the electoral thumping that they will undoubtedly receive this Fall, and this is just one more act of desperation that will have absolutely no impact whatsoever. But at least it lets us know the truth about what they think of the first amendment.

But I’m even more impressed with Morrissey’s final paragraph, as he brings up a Supreme Court case that I’ve long contended was the impetus for all of the craziness that the federal government has spewed forth over the past seven decades.

If Democrats (and Republicans) want to act seriously to take billionaires out of the political game, they’re aiming at the wrong Supreme Court decision. They should pass an amendment repealing Wickard v Filburn‘s impact on the interstate commerce clause. That decision shifted massive political power from the states to Washington DC by defining practically everything as interstate commerce — including non-commerce. Killing Wickard would shift most regulatory power back to the states, and take the corruption out of Washington DC as the stakes would become too small for billionaire investment. Don’t expect Senate Democrats to do anything meaningful on crony capitalism, though … or anything meaningful at all, if this stunt is all they have.

Other than Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood, Wickard stands out as the absolute worst decision in the history of the Court. As Ed points out, it essentially allowed the federal government to intervene in every nook and cranny of our lives under the justification of “interstate commerce,” even where the action under consideration was neither interstate or commerce.

Ed’s also correct in noting that this expansion of the federal government is the prime reason that so much money is being pumped into federal elections, lobbying, and other activities. Last week I heard Russell Simmons spouting about how all of the evils of our world are due to the corrupting influence of money, and that’s why he supported Occupy Wall Street. Yet Simmons and his ilk are the very ones seeking to augment the powers of the federal government. They don’t see the inherent contradiction in this approach. As the federal government grows and grows and grows, it only increases the avenues for monied interests to wield their influence. It is the massive expansion of the federal government that has inspired this massive spending by outside groups. Of course interested stakeholders are going to want to influence the federal government in areas that affect them. The solution to diminishing their influence is not in curtailing the first amendment, but in restoring the balance of power between the states and the federal government. The Koch brothers (and George Soros for that matter) will immediately lose interest in spreading their wealth around to hammer away at the federal government if the federal government would simply get out of everyone’s business.

Like that will ever happen.

Freedom of the Press is for All of Us

Freedom of the Press Under Obama

“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.”

Thomas Jefferson

Hattip to Instapundit. Josh Stearns at Huffington Post reports on the fact that the media in the US isn’t quite as free as it used to be.

 

According to a new report from Reporters Without Borders, there was a profound erosion of press freedom in the United States in 2013.

After a year of attacks on whistleblowers and digital journalists and revelations about mass surveillance, the United States plunged 13 spots in the group’s global press freedom rankings to number 46.

Reporters Without Borders writes that the U.S. faced “one of the most significant declines” in the world last year. Even the United Kingdom, whose sustained campaign to criminalize the Guardian’s reporters and intimidate journalists has made headlines around the world, dropped only three spots, to number 33. The U.S. fell as many spots as Paraguay, where “the pressure on journalists to censor themselves keeps on mounting.”

Citing the Justice Department’s aggressive prosecution of whistleblowers, including its secret seizure of Associated Press phone records, the authors write that “freedom of information is too often sacrificed to an overly broad and abusive interpretation of national security needs, marking a disturbing retreat from democratic practices. Investigative journalism often suffers as a result.”

The threats facing newsgathering in the U.S. are felt by both longstanding journalists like New York Times national security reporter James Risen, who may serve jail time for refusing to reveal a source, and non-traditional digital journalists like Barrett Brown.

Brown is a freelance journalist who has reported extensively on private intelligence firms and government contractors. He now faces more than 100 years in jail for linking to stolen documents as part of his reporting, even though he had no involvement in the actual theft. Continue reading

Prayer and the First Amendment

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Bravo to Roy Costner IV!  Valedictorian of his class at Liberty High School in Liberty, South Carolina, he tore up his approved speech which did not mention God, and spoke about his Christian faith, reciting the Paternoster:

After speaking for a bit, the senior cut to the quick.

“Those that we look up to, they have helped carve and mold us into the young  adults that we are today,” Costner said in his speech. “I’m so thankful that  both my parents led me to the Lord at a young age. And I think most of you will  understand when I say…”

Costner then proceeded to recite a full-length version of the Lord’s Prayer,  the pivotal Christian prayer that is attributed to Jesus in the both the Gospel  of Luke and the Gospel of Matthew.

The audience members began to cheer tentatively and then heartily once they  realized what Costner was saying. The applause eventually became so loud that it  drowned out Costner’s voice.

At the end of the prayer, after Costner says, “Amen,” the audience breaks  into another round of wild applause.

Go here to The Daily Caller to read the rest.  The absurdity of Federal judges acting as censors of student speeches at commencement stems from a 6-3 decision of the Supreme Court in Santa Fe Independent School District v. Jane Doe (2000) in which the majority banned student led prayer at football games as an establishment of religion.

Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote a scathing dissent that began:

CHIEF JUSTICE REHNQUIST, with whom JUSTICE SCALIA and JUSTICE THOMAS join, dissenting.

The Court distorts existing precedent to conclude that the school district’s student-message program is invalid on its face under the Establishment Clause. But even more disturbing than its holding is the tone of the Court’s opinion; it bristles with hostility to all things religious in public life. Neither the holding nor the tone of the opinion is faithful to the meaning of the Establishment Clause, when it is recalled that George Washington himself, at the request of the very Congress which passed the Bill of Rights, proclaimed a day of “public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God.” Presidential Proclamation, 1 Messages and Papers of the Presidents, 1789-1897, p. 64 (J. Richardson ed. 1897). Continue reading

Of Bible Verses, Cheerleaders and the Constitution

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Well the law and common sense won a round in Texas:

A judge has ruled that cheerleaders at a Southeast Texas high school can display banners emblazoned with Bible verses at football games.

 

In a summary judgment of a lawsuit filed last year by Kountze High School cheerleaders, State District Judge Steve Thomas ruled Wednesday the banners are constitutionally permissible. In a copy of the ruling obtained by CBS affiliate KFDM in Beaumont, Thomas determined: “The Kountze cheerleaders banners that included religious messages and were displayed during the 2012 football season were constitutionally permissable. Neither the Establishment Clause nor any other law prohibits cheerleaders from using religious-themed banners at school sporting events. Neither the Establishment Clause nor any other law requires Kountze ISD to prohibit inclusion of religious-themed banners at school sporting events.”

 

The ruling ends the case in Thomas’ court. The lawsuit had been scheduled for trial June 24.

 

In October, Thomas granted an injunction requested by the cheerleaders allowing them to continue displaying religious-themed banners pending the lawsuit’s outcome. Thomas at the time said the district’s ban on the practice appeared to violate free speech rights. Continue reading

Shut Up, They Explained

 

 

Jesus-hate-speech

 

 

Eugene Volokh at The Volokh Conspiracy takes a look at a bill in Minnesota that would have caused many of my classmates back in my school days to stand mute.

 

 

use of one or a series of words, images, or actions, transmitted directly or indirectly between individuals or through technology, that a reasonable person knows or should know, under the circumstances, will have the effect of interfering with the ability of an individual, including a student who observes the conduct, to participate in a safe and supportive learning environment. Examples of bullying may include, but are not limited to, conduct that:

  1. places an individual in reasonable fear of harm to person or property, including through intimidation;
  2. has a detrimental effect on the physical, social, or emotional health of a student;
  3. interferes with a student’s educational performance or ability to participate in educational opportunities;
  4. encourages the deliberate exclusion of a student from a school service, activity, or privilege;
  5. creates or exacerbates a real or perceived imbalance of power between students;
  6. violates the reasonable expectation of privacy of one or more individuals; or
  7. relates to the actual or perceived race, ethnicity, color, creed, religion, national origin, immigration status, sex, age, marital status, familial status, socioeconomic status, physical appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, academic status, disability, or status with regard to public assistance, age, or any additional characteristic defined in chapter 363A of a person or of a person with whom that person associates, but the conduct does not rise to the level of harassment. Continue reading

Why We’re Not Going Anywhere

Archdiocese launches Campaign for Religious Liberty

Let me explain, in as clear and precise terms as I can, why social conservatives are not going anywhere, nor should they go anywhere, but should remain right at the heart of the conservative movement and gain acceptance among libertarians as well, and should reject as the foolish garbage that it is all suggestions to the contrary.

First, our principles are not electoral losers. Leftists believe they are on “the right side of history”, comparing the campaign for “marriage equality” with every civil rights struggle of past eras. They believe that this fact is reflected in the way the youth vote splits and the purported reasons why. At the same time, they gloat and brag about the size of the Democratic share of the minority vote.

The merits of the “marriage equality” campaign don’t need to be discussed here. I’ve discussed them to death on this blog in previous posts. The fact remains that minorities are opposed to “marriage equality.” If Hispanics can be won over to the GOP on the immigration issue, it will put a stop to this “wrong side of history” nonsense for a generation. The uncomfortable alliance between racial minorities who hold socially conservative views and white liberals will finally be blown apart. Unlike them, when racial minorities finally do side with the GOP en masse, we won’t attribute white liberal hatred for them to “racism” (even though it sure looks like it sometimes). This is a battle of values, not skin colors, and a failure to see that is one of the reasons why the white liberal left will never win the future they mistakenly believe to be theirs.

Continue reading

Free Speech and the Left

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 Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it.

Abraham Lincoln

One of the more refreshing aspects of the fallout in the wake of the Cairo and Benghazi embassy attacks, is the degree that it has brought out in the open the contempt that many people on the political Left have for affording constitutional protection to speech which they despise.  A case in point is Sarah Chayes.  Ms. Chayes is about as establishment Liberal as it is possible to get.  A graduate of Harvard, the offspring of Abram Chayes, and  Antonia Handler Chayes, both luminaries of the academic and political Left, she had a career as a reporter for The Christian Science Monitor and National Public Radio.  Under Obama she was a special assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  Her credentials and background therefore make her opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times of special interest.  In that opinion piece she argues that the Mohammed video would not be worthy of constititutional protection because it is meant to be purely offensive and intended to provoke a violent reaction.  It therefore constitutes the equivalent of yelling fire in a crowded theater:

 

While many 1st Amendment scholars defend the right of the filmmakers to produce this film, arguing that the ensuing violence was not sufficiently imminent, I spoke to several experts who said the trailer may well fall outside constitutional guarantees of free speech. “Based on my understanding of the events,” 1st Amendment authority Anthony Lewis said in an interview Thursday, “I think this meets the imminence standard.”

Finally, much 1st Amendment jurisprudence concerns speech explicitly advocating violence, such as calls to resist arrest, or videos explaining bomb-making techniques. But words don’t have to urge people to commit violence in order to be subject to limits, says Lewis. “If the result is violence, and that violence was intended, then it meets the standard.”

Indeed, Justice Holmes’ original example, shouting “fire” in a theater, is not a call to arms. Steve Klein, an outspoken anti-Islamic activist who said he helped with the film, told Al Jazeera television that it was “supposed to be provocative.” The egregiousness of its smears, the apparent deception of cast and crew as to its contents and the deliberate effort to raise its profile in the Arab world a week before 9/11 all suggest intentionality.

The point here is not to excuse the terrible acts perpetrated by committed extremists and others around the world in reaction to the video, or to condone physical violence as a response to words — any kind of words. The point is to emphasize that U.S. law makes a distinction between speech that is simply offensive and speech that is deliberately tailored to put lives and property at immediate risk. Especially in the heightened volatility of today’s Middle East, such provocation is certainly irresponsible — and reveals an ironic alliance of convenience between Christian extremists and the Islamist extremists they claim to hate.

Interesting that she trots out Anthony Lewis to shore up her argument.  Lewis, now 85 and retired, was for decades the uber Liberal’s uber Liberal at the New York Times and regarded as a First Amendment absolutist.  Unless he is now in his dotage, one can only assume that, like many on the Left, his dedication to free speech ends when he disagrees strongly enough with what is being spoken.

The argument that Sayes is making is an old one.  It is called the Heckler’s Veto, and it has been used throughout American history to argue that speech should be suppressed because of the violent reaction it might cause.  Liberals, back when they were truly liberal, use to fight against it.  Lately they have embraced it, most notably in erecting bubble zones around abortion clinic, and banning pro-life protesters from those zones.  In the case of Christopher v. Hill,  530 U.S. 703 (2000), the Supreme Court upheld such zones 6-3.  The scathing dissent of Justice Scalia is instructive:

The Court today concludes that a regulation requiring speakers on the public thoroughfares bordering medical facilities to speak from a distance of eight feet is “not a ’regulation of speech,’ ” but “a regulation of the places where some speech may occur,” ante, at 14; and that a regulation directed to only certain categories of speech (protest, education, and counseling) is not “content-based.” For these reasons, it says, the regulation is immune from the exacting scrutiny we apply to content-based suppression of speech in the public forum. The Court then determines that the regulation survives the less rigorous scrutiny afforded content-neutral time, place, and manner restrictions because it is narrowly tailored to serve a government interest–protection of citizens’ “right to be let alone”–that has explicitly been disclaimed by the State, probably for the reason that, as a basis for suppressing peaceful private expression, it is patently incompatible with the guarantees of the First Amendment.

    None of these remarkable conclusions should come as a surprise. What is before us, after all, is a speech regulation directed against the opponents of abortion, and it therefore enjoys the benefit of the “ad hoc nullification machine” that the Court has set in motion to push aside whatever doctrines of constitutional law stand in the way of that highly favored practice. Madsen v. Women’s Health Center, Inc., 512 U.S. 753, 785 (1994) (Scalia, J., concurring in judgment in part and dissenting in part). Having deprived abortion opponents of the political right to persuade the electorate that abortion should be restricted by law, the Court today continues and expands its assault upon their individual right to persuade women contemplating abortion that what they are doing is wrong. Because, like the rest of our abortion jurisprudence, today’s decision is in stark contradiction of the constitutional principles we apply in all other contexts, I dissent. Continue reading

Barack Obama is Unfit to be President

The Obama administration continues to show complete contempt for American liberties.

In the wake of the Benghazi and Cairo debacles, and the administration being caught completely flat-footed in regard to these coordinated assaults on our embassies, the Obama administration has acted to attempt to escape any responsibility.

First, they have had their lickspittle media friends blame Romney for speaking out.  Ah yes, Romney attacking the craven statement of the Cairo embassy is the chief problem and not minor issues like the Middle East going up in flames and the Obama administration being completely clueless as to what to do.

Second, the State Department is refusing to take questions, from those few members of the media who still occasionally act like reporters instead of unpaid Obama press agents, until their investigation is complete.  The Good Lord knows how long that would take, but I would wager Wednesday November 7, 2012.

Third, the administration is still attempting to claim that these attacks are the result of the film attacking Mohammed.  Of course that was merely the pretext for the attacks.  The administration knows this, but its policy of appeasement of jihadists would be in jeopardy if they admitted that the silly film had virtually nothing to do with these revenge attacks on the anniversary of 9-11.

Fourth, when one is seeking to evade responsibility having a nice fat scapegoat is very convenient.  Thus we have the maker of the film, who is on probation for a bank fraud conviction, being taken into custody for questioning as to his alleged violation of the terms of his probation.  The alleged violation is for using a computer not connected with his work.  Of course the administration cares not a fig about that.  It wants jihadists abroad and Americans at home to see that Obama is getting tough with this fellow who stirred up all the trouble.  (Ignore all those jihadists!  It is all the fault of this guy!)  That this tramples over the man’s First Amendment rights is of absolutely no concern.  The Administration might wish to eventually haul in this fellow’s co-conspirators:  John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, James Madison and all the other Founding Fathers who gave us the freedom that Obama is seeking to shred.

Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit, speaks for me in reaction to this: Continue reading

Free Speech For Me, But Not For Thee

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For if Men are to be precluded from offering their Sentiments on a matter, which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences, that can invite the consideration of Mankind, reason is of no use to us; the freedom of Speech may be taken away, and dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep, to the Slaughter.

George Washington

 

One of the interesting fall outs of the rampages in Cairo and Benghazi is the calls by some on the Left for jailing people for exercising freedom of speech.  Eugene Volokh of The Volokh Conspiracy blog pointed this out yesterday:

That’s what MSBNC contributors Mike Barnicle and Donny Deutsch, the University of Pennsylvania’s Prof. Anthea Butler (Religious Studies), and of course the Egyptian government argue with regard to the movie that mocks Mohammed:

Prof. Butler: “Good Morning. How soon is Sam Bacile going to be in jail folks? I need him to go now.When Americans die because you are stupid…” “And yes, I know we have First Amendment rights,but if you don’t understand the Religion you hate, STFU about it. Yes, I am ticked off.” “And people do go to jail for speech. First Amendment doesn’t cover EVERYTHING a PERSON says.” “[T]he murder of the Ambassador and the employees is wrong, wrong. But Bacile will have to face his actions which he had freedom[.]”

Mike Barnicle: “Given this supposed minister’s role in last year’s riots in Afghanistan, where people died, and given his apparent or his alleged role in this film, where, not yet nailed down, but at least one American, perhaps the American ambassador is dead, it might be time for the Department of Justice to start viewing his role as an accessory before or after the fact.”

Donny Deutsch: “I was thinking the same thing, yeah.”

In a way this is an unsurprising development.  The Left in this country, with honorable exceptions, has not been overly fond of the concept of free speech for some time.  Speech codes seeking to hamper the free speech rights of conservatives and Christians have been a staple at many colleges and universities for the past twenty years.  Conservative speakers are routinely shouted down when they speak on campuses.  The recent attack on Chik-Fil-A by the Mayors of Boston and Chicago was merely the latest manifestation of the willingness of many on the Left to use government power to suppress views they hate. Continue reading

Fortnight For Freedom

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The fight over the HHS Mandate is about to come to a boil.  In June the Bishops are going to have this document inserted in Mass bulletins throughout the nation which mentions the necessity of disobeying immoral laws in certain situations.

Some unjust laws impose such injustices on individuals and organizations that disobeying the laws may be justified.  Every effort must be made to repeal them.  When fundamental human goods, such as the right of conscience, are at stake, we may need witness to the truth by resisting the law and incurring its penalties.

I am almost thankful to President Obama.  Due to his blind hubris, his willingness to ride roughshod over American liberties for cheap perceived political advantage, he has awakened the Church in this country from her slumber, and reminded Catholics that they are part of the Church Militant here on Earth. 

Beginning for two weeks, up to Independence Day, the Bishops are having a Fortnight For Freedom: Continue reading

For Greater Glory: God’s Timing

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The film, For Greater Glory, the heroic story of the Cristeros who fought for the Church and religious liberty in the twenties of the last century in Mexico, is opening on June 1.  Go here  to read my post on the film.  The National Catholic Register’s Tim Drake has an interview with the producer of the film, Pablo Jose Barroso.  Note what the producer says about the timing of the film in regard to the struggle for religious liberty the Church is waging today in our country:

Tell me about the film.

It’s a great experience because it takes you to that period and beautiful  country, with its art and settings. It’s a story of hope, of freedom and of  heroism. The film tells the story of the pacifist movement, a group of people  who were trying to change things in Congress peacefully, as well as the story of  a former general who is recruited to organize the Cristeros into an army. You  also see several of the martyrs, including Blessed Jose Sanchez del Rio. In the  end, it’s about people standing up against oppression and dying for Christ. My  hope is that it will give viewers great hope.

What do you hope viewers take away from the film?

I think that, culturally, we’re not being congruent with our religious  beliefs. We are not standing up for our faith. We’ve been tolerating things that  are wrong. It seems as if it’s easier for people to be against God than to claim  him as their Creator. In this Year of Faith [to begin in October], the Holy  Spirit can help people to be more faithful. If only one person who doesn’t  believe in God sees this film and reflects on him, that is my best hope.

Given the current fight for religious freedom going on in the U.S., do  you see the release of the film as God’s timing?

Yes, it was frustrating and difficult not to have the film released when I  wanted it, but the Lord’s time is not our time. The movie is about conscience.  No one ever wins when religion is oppressed. As believers we need to band  together. This is the perfect time for this film. Hopefully, it will help wake  people up to the things that are taking us from God. In the end, this will harm  us. We have to be faithful. Continue reading

See You In Court Mr. Obama

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By this time I rather suspect that at least some of his campaign strategists, if not President Obama, are beginning to wonder if it was such a bright idea to pick a fight with the Catholic Church in an election year.  Ed Morrissey at Hot Air gives us the details on 43 lawsuits filed simultaneously around the country today attacking the HHS mandate as blatantly unconstitutional:

Today’s Roman Catholic calendar lists May 21st as the feast day of St. Christopher Magallanes, a martyr killed for celebrating Mass during the Cristero War in Mexico. Perhaps Catholics today may want to recall St. Thomas More — the patron saint of lawyers, who was executed for refusing to agree to a mandate that gave Henry VIII the prerogative of defining religious expression in England.  Dozens of Catholic institutions filed lawsuits today against the Department of Health and Human Services over its mandate and its narrow definition of religious practice:

Catholic archdioceses and institutions filed suit in federal district courts across the country Monday against the so-called contraception mandate, claiming their “fundamental rights hang in the balance.”

The plaintiffs include a host of schools and organizations, including the University of Notre Dame and the Archdiocese of New York. The lawsuits, though related, were filed individually.

The schools are objecting to the requirement from the federal health care overhaul that employers provide access to contraceptive care. The Obama administration several months back softened its position on the mandate, but some religious organizations complained the administration did not go far enough to ensure the rule would not compel them to violate their religious beliefs.

Kathryn Jean Lopez posts a brief statement from Timothy Cardinal Dolan, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and one of the chief critics of the HHS mandate:

We have tried negotiation with the Administration and legislation with the Congress – and we’ll keep at it – but there’s still no fix. Time is running out, and our valuable ministries and fundamental rights hang in the balance, so we have to resort to the courts now. Though the Conference is not a party to the lawsuits, we applaud this courageous action by so many individual dioceses, charities, hospitals and schools across the nation, in coordination with the law firm of Jones Day. It is also a compelling display of the unity of the Church in defense of religious liberty. It’s also a great show of the diversity of the Church’s ministries that serve the common good and that are jeopardized by the mandate – ministries to the poor, the sick, and the uneducated, to people of any faith or no faith at all. Continue reading

An American Issue

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Note how the Bishops in the above video indicate what a unique threat to the Catholic Church in America the Obama administration poses.  They recognize that the goal of the current administration is to strip the Bishops, through fostering a de facto schism in the Church, of their ability to stand in the way of this administration.  This is all very unprecedented in American history and all very dangerous to our concept of religious liberty enshrined in the Constitution.  The Administrative Committee of the USCCB set out what is at stake well on March 14th:

The Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, gathered for its March 2012 meeting, is strongly unified and intensely focused in its opposition to the various threats to religious freedom in our day. In our role as Bishops, we approach this question prayerfully and as pastors—concerned not only with the protection of the Church’s own institutions, but with the care of the souls of the individual faithful, and with the common good.

To address the broader range of religious liberty issues, we look forward to the upcoming publication of “A Statement on Religious Liberty,” a document of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty. This document reflects on the history of religious liberty in our great Nation; surveys the current range of threats to this foundational principle; and states clearly the resolve of the Bishops to act strongly, in concert with our fellow citizens, in its defense.

One particular religious freedom issue demands our immediate attention: the now-finalized rule of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that would force virtually all private health plans nationwide to provide coverage of sterilization and contraception—including abortifacient drugs—subject to an exemption for “religious employers” that is arbitrarily narrow, and to an unspecified and dubious future “accommodation” for other religious organizations that are denied the exemption.

We begin,  first, with thanks to all who have stood firmly with us in our vigorous opposition to this unjust and illegal mandate: to our brother bishops; to our clergy and religious; to our Catholic faithful; to the wonderful array of Catholic groups and institutions that enliven our civil society; to our ecumenical and interfaith allies; to women and men of all religions (or none at all); to legal scholars; and to civic leaders. It is your enthusiastic unity in defense of religious freedom that has made such a dramatic and positive impact in this historic public debate. With your continued help, we will not be divided, and we will continue forward as one.

Second, we wish to clarify what this debate is—and is not—about. This is not about access to contraception, which is ubiquitous and inexpensive, even when it is not provided by the Church’s hand and with the Church’s funds. This is not about the religious freedom of Catholics only, but also of those who recognize that their cherished beliefs may be next on the block. This is not about the Bishops’ somehow “banning contraception,” when the U.S. Supreme Court took that issue off the table two generations ago. Indeed, this is not about the Church wanting to force anybody to do anything; it is instead about the federal government forcing the Church—consisting of its faithful and all but a few of its institutions—to act against Church teachings. This is not a matter of opposition to universal health care, which has been a concern of the Bishops’ Conference since 1919, virtually at its founding. This is not a fight we want or asked for, but one forced upon us by government on its own timing. Finally, this is not a Republican or Democratic, a conservative or liberal issue; it is an American issue. Continue reading

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