Category Archives: religious news

Public policy = taxation

Here’s a thought I want to share: If religious organizations are going to bully public officials into following certain policy positions, then they need to be taxed liked any other business.

The San Francisco Catholic Archdiocese has declared its intention to deny House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — a devout Catholic — communion because of her pro-choice stance on abortion.

Hold on!

Pelosi’s position on abortion is well-known and has been reported on since before she became a member of Congress. The SF archdiocese, though, has sniffed out an opportunity to make some extra hay over the issue because of that draft Supreme Court opinion that suggests the court is set to overturn the Roe v. Wade abortion decision.

Speaker Pelosi shouldn’t be denied a sacred religious sacrament because of a public policy dispute she might have with the leaders of the church of which she has been a lifelong member.

I should point out, too, that members of Congress, as do virtually members of the federal government, take oaths of loyalty to the Constitution, not to the Bible or any other holy book. The last time I checked, which wasn’t long ago, I determined for the umpteenth time that the Constitution is a secular document.

The Church is treading on a slippery and dangerous slope by denying the speaker the opportunity to partake in holy communion.

But if the Church is allowed to get away with this kind of bullying, then there needs to be a serious debate and a decision on requiring religious organizations to share in the tax burden that falls on the rest of us.

First Amendment revisited

Let’s take a quick second look at the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in light of a decision the Supreme Court is likely to deliver about a former high school football coach who lost his job because he wanted to pray on the field after games.

Joe Kennedy, a former coach at Bremerton (Wash.) High School, has seen this case make all the way to the top of the judicial food chain.  His prayers drew criticism from those who said it violated the Constitution’s ban on state-sanctioned religion.

OK, back to the amendment. It sets four liberties for protection; it calls for a free press, freedom to assemble peaceably, to petition the government for gripes … and it has a religion clause.

It says, specifically, that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof … ”

The framers set the religion matter first among those liberties. Why? Because their direct forebears had fled Europe’s religious mandate. They created a secular state in the New World. The other provisions came secondary to the religious one.

It does trouble me, therefore, that someone would complain about a coach praying on the field, which is his right as a U.S. citizen. The athletes who joined him in prayer? They weren’t forced to do it. The coach didn’t threaten them with losing their playing time if they decided against praying.

Common sense would seem to dictate that the young athletes were free to do what they felt like doing. Common sense also tells me the framers had it right when they lined out the prohibition against establishing a state religion as the first civil liberty to be protected.

Let the coach pray

This is one of those issues that makes my public-policy heartburn flare up, so here goes a shot at trying to make sense of something.

Joseph Kennedy was a football coach at Bremerton (Wash.) High School. He once knelt in prayer at the 50-yard line, thanking the Almighty for keeping the players safe. A few players then joined him, voluntarily. The players and the coach would pray after games.

Then word got out that he was doing it. News spread around the school district. I guess someone took issue with it, contending it violated the First Amendment prohibition against Congress establishing a state religion.

Now the case is going to the U.S. Supreme Court.

What a crock!

I do not understand why this case even is being discussed. The coach lost his job over his praying on the field. He moved to Florida.

“It seems so simple to me: It’s a guy taking a knee by himself on the 50-yard-line, which to me doesn’t seem like it needs a rocket scientist or a Supreme Court justice to figure out,” he told CBS News. “I didn’t want to cause any waves, and the thing I wanted to do was coach football and thank God after the game.”

Then we have this response: “When a coach uses the power of his job to be in a place and have access to students at a time when they’re expected to encircle him and come to him, that’s an abuse of that power and a violation of the Constitution,” Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told CBS News’ Jan Crawford. “Religious freedom is not the right to impose your religion on others. We all need to have it, so that’s why the free exercise and establishment clause work together to protect religious freedom for all of us.”

Imposing religion? Wow!

After losing his job for praying on the field, ex-high school football coach Joe Kennedy brings case to Supreme Court – CBS News

As I understand it, the coach didn’t demand players pray with him; it was strictly voluntary. Nor do I believe he preached New Testament Gospel lessons. Which makes me wonder if Jewish, Buddhist or Muslim students could pray to “God” in the same fashion as their Christian teammates.

There is no “sanctioning” of a religion occurring in these prayers. Is there?

Well, the SCOTUS is going to hear the case. My hunch is that the court’s 6-3 super-conservative-majority is going to find that Coach Kennedy violated no constitutional prohibition.

I am OK with that. Let the coach pray.

Easter greetings reveal plenty

Make no mistake about it: The differences between Joe Biden and the man he succeeded as president of the United States were on full display in the respective Easter greetings the two men sent out today.

President Biden’s message was full of hope, given the nature of the Christian holiday, commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. “As we reflect today on Christ’s Resurrection, we are reminded that with faith, hope, and love — even death can be defeated,” the president tweeted. “From our family to yours, we wish you hope, health, joy, and the peace of God, which passes all understanding. Happy Easter and may God bless and keep you.”

Biden and Trump release very different Easter messages (

Then came this from Donald J. Trump, who used his Easter message to launch an attack on New York Attorney General Letitia James: “May she remain healthy despite the fact that she will continue to drive business out of New York while at the same time keeping crime, death, and destruction in New York!” reads a message from Trump’s Save America political action committee, which also calls James a “racist.”

Wow! Enough said.

Yes, tax churches too

Annette Ferrell is a Dallas resident who, in a letter to the Dallas Morning News, posed a question that I believe I am prepared to answer.

She wrote this in today’s newspaper: Am I the only one shocked that churches recommend political candidates? Are pastors announcing or suggesting which candidate to support to their flock? Am I mistaken that our nation was built on religious freedom from domination of any religion? Is it time to tax the churches?

Let’s see. OK, my answer is that, yes, it is time to tax churches the way we tax other institutions.

The Constitution declares only that Congress shall make no law that establishes a state religion. Beyond that, the nation’s government document is virtually silent on the issue of religion, although it does declare in Article VI that there should be “no religious test” demanded of political candidates. I suppose, though, that taxing authorities have deemed houses of worship to be untouchable, that they shouldn’t be taxed because they — ostensibly, at least — are not involved in the political process.

Well, many of them damn sure are involved.

Here’s an example I want to share briefly about something I witnessed during my first year in Texas. I attended a political rally in the spring of 1984 — in a church in Beaumont. It featured a stemwinder of a speech from the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Baptist preacher who that year was running for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Jackson had the place rockin’ with his rhetoric. It was, from a political standpoint, one of the most electrifying events I’ve ever witnessed.

The setting, though, did give me pause. That it occurred in a church troubled me at the time.

If we fast-forward to the present day, we see churches becoming involved in the election of Republican candidates for high office. Preachers have developed clever ways of dancing around their political activity. Their involvement is unmistakable.

If politicians must make their pitches in houses of worship, then the government has every right to assess tax liabilities on those places.

No communion for POTUS?

By John Kanelis /

The Bible is God’s infallible word, yes?

So, with that I want to venture briefly into some dangerous rhetorical territory. Some Catholic bishops want to deny President and Mrs. Biden communion because of their views on abortion.

Catholic Church doctrine opposes abortion. Period. It is not a debatable point. President Biden believes women deserve to have the right to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy, which is against church doctrine. Some bishops want to deny serving him communion at Mass. Given that the first couple attends church regularly, well … that’s a big deal.

My quandary is this: The Bible I have read since I was a little boy does not set any sin above all others. Thus, abortion is no more serious a sin than, say, coveting someone else’s property or engaging in sloth.

How, then, do bishops justify weaponizing a particular sin by denying a politician communion which in effect declares that abortion is more punishable than any other sin? Is that in keeping with Biblical teaching?

Evangelical leaders: lukewarm to man of faith


A story I read in the newspaper this morning offered a curiously ironic tale of how a key political demographic group is awaiting the arrival of a new president of the United States.

The evangelical Christian movement — with leaders such as Dallas preacher Robert Jeffress, Franklin Graham, Tony Perkins — is giving Joe Biden a wait-and-see welcome as he prepares to become president of the United States.

The irony? Joe Biden is a man of deep and abiding faith in God and in Jesus Christ. The man he is replacing as president of the United States has what one could say generously has a flimsy relationship with Scripture. Yet the evangelical movement clung furiously to the notion of Donald Trump getting re-elected to a second term.

Why the love affair with The Donald? It’s purely political. He appointed judges who adhered to evangelicals’ world view. They are anti-choice on abortion; they favor prayer in public schools; they rule consistently against gay Americans’ rights. What does Donald Trump think about all of that? No one can say with any degree of certainty that he endorses any of it. He just makes the correct political appointments.

They’re getting now a man who attends church daily. He prays to God. His faith has held him up as he has battled unspeakable personal tragedy — such as burying his wife and infant daughter and then his grown son many years later.

President-elect Biden’s personal faith journey isn’t enough to persuade many faith leaders to back him with anything approaching the zeal they demonstrated for a guy who has only a passing acquaintance with faith and whose personal behavior betrays virtually every tenet found in both the Old and New testaments of the Good Book.

The headline in today’s Dallas Morning News declared that the “religious right” is “wary of Biden but not hostile.”

The irony of the evangelicals’ tepid response to the election of a man of faith, though, still screams loudly at me.

Falwell Jr. sues Liberty U … for defamation? Eh?

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)


Jerry Falwell Jr. is fighting back against the university his late father founded.

Someone will have to explain to me how this should play out.

Falwell once served as president of Liberty University, the school that his dad, Jerry Falwell Sr., founded. Junior got himself into a series of scandals and ethical difficulties, culminating in a picture showing him snuggling with a woman who is not his wife … with his pants unzipped.

Oh, we also have reports of his wife engaging in a sexual relationship with a pool guy who alleges that Junior actually watched the two of them taking part in naughty behavior. To think, then, that Falwell Sr. founded an organization called the Moral Majority.

Falwell now says the university defamed him and that he was dismissed unjustly from his post as head of the nation’s largest Christian institution of higher learning.

I am no fan of Falwell Jr., or his father for that matter. So I am not looking at this lawsuit story with a dispassionate set of eyes. I acknowledge my bias. Still, it seems to me — looking at this from some distance — that Falwell Jr. brought all of this trouble on himself with his rather strange behavior.

What about ‘religious freedom’?

I want to discuss religion briefly, as it well might become an issue in the rapidly unfolding and accelerating presidential campaign.

The issue has come up in a public way and in a way near to my own heart.

Former college and professional football coach Lou Holtz told the Republican National Convention that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is a Catholic “in name only.” Coach Holtz, who once guided student-athletes at Notre Dame University, received immediate pushback from the renowned Catholic school. He spoke for himself, ND officials said, not for the university.

Biden is far from a CINO — Catholic In Name Only. His faith is well-known. He speaks openly about it, about how his faith has helped steer him through unspeakable tragedy.

This topic makes me uncomfortable. Religious faith is deeply personal. It’s not something I like sharing, and I won’t do so here.

However, I do want to challenge an implication that a fellow I know made to me directly. He said in a social media post that I “probably” am comfortable with doing away with “religious freedom.” This fellow seems to believe, according to his world view, that we should be allowed to worship openly and freely without any interference.

I could not agree more with this fellow. He and I actually share a devotion to “religious freedom.” I want to add a caveat, however.

The Constitution spells out quite clearly that we also are free to not worship if we choose. It is a secular document written by men whose direct forebears fled religious persecution in Europe.

While I am committed to religious freedom, I also want to embrace what I believe is a broader view of what that term means and what it entails.

So, when a noted public figure, such as former coach Lou Holtz, says a leading politician is a “Catholic in name only,” he crosses a line he shouldn’t cross. He shouldn’t purport to know what rests in Joe Biden’s heart. That is a dangerous assumption Holtz makes.

As for the fellow who jabbed at me by assuming I “probably” would want to do away with religious freedom, he also is crossing a precarious line.

I am all for granting Americans the right to worship as they please. I also believe we are free to forgo religious faith … if that’s how we want to roll.

Just think that we’re about to be force-fed a large dose of religion in a presidential campaign that already has gone from harsh to ugly.

‘No religious test … ‘

How many times do I have to remind religious zealots about what Article VI of the U.S. Constitution says about how “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States”?

Don’t answer that. I’ll keep saying it for as long as it takes.

While skimming through the TV channels this evening I ventured onto a news channel and listened to a former football coach say that Joe Biden is a “Catholic in name only.” Lou Holtz, the former Notre Dame coach, was speaking on behalf of Donald Trump but then decided he knows what is in the heart of Joe Biden.

Yep, Coach Holtz went far beyond the Xs and Os of drawing a football play and straight into territory where he doesn’t belong.

Donald Trump has declared that Biden is “anti-God” and “anti-Bible.” The practicing Catholic would destroy our faith, according to a president who has no relationship with any religious faith.

I am going to circle back to what the Constitution instructs us. It is a secular document written by men who took great pains to keep religion far away from the government they were creating. Article VI is as crystal clear as it gets. No candidate for public office should be required to adhere to any religious faith.

Biden doesn’t run away from his Catholicism. He flaunts it. He carries Rosary beads. He smears ash on his forehead to commemorate Ash Wednesday every spring. He is free to do that. He would be free to not do it as well.

The Constitution doesn’t require us to attend any house of worship. If it did, well, Donald Trump wouldn’t qualify as a presidential candidate. You know what I mean?

So, for Lou Holtz to step into a religious thicket by hurling an epithet at a man of faith is reprehensible. Stick to talking football, coach. Take a look, too, at what the Constitution’s Article VI instructs us.