Tag Archives: Religious freedom

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.

Founders didn’t get it perfectly right … but they came close

I feel this need to come to the defense of our Founding Fathers over the work they did to create a “more perfect Union.”

The very words of the document they crafted to form the framework of our government — “more perfect Union” — recognize that the founders knew they hadn’t reached perfection.

I’ll tell you this: They came pretty close to it.

Accordingly, I also believe the founders would be horrified at how the political winds are blowing these days and, for that matter, have blown for some time. They would disapprove mightily of a president who seeks to usurp legislative authority by blocking Congress’s oversight responsibilities. They would bristle at the influence being exerted on our national election by foreign powers and the president’s seeming acceptance of it.

The founders would not like one bit the introduction of religion into our political debate, the notion being argued by many that this is a “Christian nation,” and who are horrified at officeholders who swear an oath to defend the Constitution by placing their hand on a holy book other than the Bible.

Our founders knew of the circumstances that brought their ancestors to this land in the 17th and 18th centuries. They were fleeing religious persecution. They did not want their government telling them how to worship. So, the founders ensured that the Constitution they would write would state specifically that Congress shall make no law that establishes a state religion and that citizens were free to worship — or not worship — as they saw fit.

They wrote language into one of the articles that declared no office seeker should be held to a “religious test.”

Yes, the founders argued mightily as they crafted the Constitution over whether it should contain any reference to religion. The document refers to the “Creator” and officeholders swear to “God” to defend and protect the Constitution.

It is the secular nature of the Constitution, though, that protects us against the imposition of radical religious doctrine in our government — be it radical Christian, radical Muslim or radical anything.

The Constitution as it was ratified initially did have some serious flaws. It didn’t allow women to vote. It failed to outlaw the enslavement of human beings. It didn’t allow for the direct election of senators by citizens.

In the years since then, though, the descendants of those great men saw fit to improve the Constitution by fixing those egregious errors.

But the Constitution has held up over the course of 230 years. The separation of powers lined out in the document have kept the president in check. The Constitution has enabled Congress to rise up against abuses of power by the executive branch through impeachment. Indeed, we just might be on the verge of seeing yet another congressional uprising.

We have survived constitutional crises. We have done so because, as Gerald Rudolph Ford said upon ascending to the presidency in a time of monumental crisis that forced the resignation of his immediate predecessor, “Our Constitution works.”

Is it gut-check time for the NFL?

The National Football League needs to re-evaluate a few priorities.

A young man is trying to find a spot with one of the NFL’s professional football teams. He’s a pretty good quarterback. He once led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2013.

Then he did something foolish, perhaps even stupid. He decided to kneel during the playing of the National Anthem at the start of football games. Colin Kaepernick was protesting the plight of African-Americans. He decided to make a political statement by declining to stand for the Anthem.

He’s been vilified ever since.

Why the NFL re-evaluation? Well consider a thing or two. The league has allowed actual convicted felons to play football. They’ve been convicted of spousal abuse, sexual abuse, illegal dog fighting, drug peddling. Why, one of the game’s all-time greats — retired linebacker Ray Lewis — once pleaded no contest to a charge in connection with the murder of an individual. He retired recently and has been feted as one of the game’s giants. Huh? Yep.

Kaepernick has been convicted of nothing. He has committed no crime. He merely chose to make a political statement. Yes, I wish he hadn’t done it that way. But that is his prerogative. It’s in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees him the right to do what he did.

Kaepernick was waived by the 49ers. He wants to keep playing football. General managers, team owners and head coaches are afraid of fan reaction, I suppose.

Check out John Feinstein’s excellent column on Kaepernick right here.

Do you remember when a young boxer declined induction into the U.S. Army, citing his religious objection to the Vietnam War? The late Muhammad Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title in 1967 and then denied the opportunity to fight for a living. He was deprived of more than three prime years of his career. Then in 1970, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Ali had been denied his constitutional right of religious freedom.

Ali returned to the boxing ring and, well, the rest is history.

Colin Kaepernick is facing much of the same recrimination. It is unjust. It’s gut-check time in the NFL.

Pence to revisit religious freedom act

A friend of mine posted this tidbit on Facebook, so I thought I’d share it here.

“So who needs a religious freedom law anyway. Last time I checked, you could go to any church you want. You can even go to one where they wave snakes around if that’s your thing. Or you don’t have to go to any of ’em. You can go to a mosque, a synagogue, a cathedral, a tarpaper shack. Or you can stay home and watch re-runs on MeTV. Ain’t nobody need no law on religious freedom. Oh, but if you’re in business, you don’t have a right to discriminate. Religion stops when you invite the public to your door. Got it?”

His target? It’s the Indiana law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

http://thehill.com/homenews/news/237544-indiana-governor-in-crisis-mode

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has been taking it on the chin since signing the bill into law. He’s now seeking to amend it to ensure that businesses cannot discriminate against someone because of their sexual orientation.

It’s the sexual orientation element that’s gotten so many folks riled up.

The stated intent is to protect people’s religious principles. The effect in the eyes of critics has been that the law now gives business owners license to discriminate against gay individuals or same-sex couples.

Gov. Pence has been on the defensive ever since signing the bill. He’s now seeking to fix the law and I give him credit for recognizing the need to protect his state’s residents from undue — and illegal — discrimination.

I won’t question his motives for seeking to change the law. I do feel the need to point out that Gov. Pence is considering a run for the Republican nomination for president of the United States.

 

State using religion to discriminate?

Indiana seems like a nice enough place, with nice people motivated to do nice things to and for others.

Why, then, does the state’s legislature send to Gov. Mike Pence a bill that allows people to possibly concoct a religious belief in order to discriminate against others?

Pence this past week signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which prevents someone from suing, say, a business owner from doing business with you based on the business owner’s religious beliefs.

Pay attention here: The bill is aimed squarely at gays and lesbian who could be denied service from those business owners.

http://mediamatters.org/video/2015/03/29/abcs-stephanopoulos-grills-gov-mike-pence-on-an/203077

Reaction to this law has been furious. Business owners across the nation have declared their intention to cease doing business in Indiana as long as the state sanctions discrimination against their employees. With the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four tournament set to be played in Indianapolis, there could be a serious backlash that inhibits the money the state hopes to earn.

This law looks for all the world — to me at least — as if the state is using “religious freedom” as a shield to protect those who wantonly discriminate against those who have a certain sexual orientation.

What we have here looks like a misuse of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, which guarantees the right of those to hold whatever religious belief they wish. The state is suggesting the First Amendment takes precedence over the 14th Amendment, which guarantees all citizens “equal protection” under the state and federal laws.

Imagine a couple wanting, say, to buy a home. Can a lender refuse to loan the couple the money to buy the home simply by pulling the “religious freedom” statute out of thin air — or out of some bodily orifice, for that matter? The law, as I understand it, prohibits the gay couple from suing the lender because the law protects the lender from being hassled over his or her religious beliefs.

The appearance of using religious liberty and freedom as a pretext to allow overt discrimination is a disgrace.

U.S. a ‘Christian nation’? Hardly

Ron Reagan has fanned the flames of anger by recording a radio ad in which he proclaims himself to be an “unabashed atheist.”

He’s signed on to the Freedom From Religion Foundation and has declared his disgust with those who keep interjecting religion into public policy discussion.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/26/ronald-reagan-son_n_4344364.html?ncid=txtlnkushpmg00000037

OK, here’s where I’ll make a couple of disclaimers.

One is that I am not an atheist. I was baptized a Christian as a baby and am now more of a believer in Jesus Christ than I’ve ever been.

The other is that I believe Reagan — the younger son of the 40th president of the United States, Ronald Reagan — happens to be correct in asserting that the United States is a secular nation.

I’m not going to get into bashing others today; it’s a vow I made the other day about commenting on Thanksgiving. I intend to keep it positive — at least for the remainder of this day.

I merely want to refer to the U.S. Constitution, the document that establishes the framework for this nation’s greatness.

I believe the founders mentioned religion precisely twice in that document.

The first time is in Article VI. There, they said officeholders shall swear to uphold the Constitution, then they added: “but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

The second time is when they got around to establishing the Bill of Rights. The very First Amendment in part says this: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof … ” The amendment goes on to give Americans the right to speak freely about the government, it allows for a free press, gives citizens the right to assemble “peaceably” and to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

You’ll notice that in the First Amendment, the founders laid out the religion part first. Why is that? I only can surmise that they did so because their forebears had come here to escape religious persecution. They did not want to told they had to worship a certain way. They wanted freedom from all of that, so they set sail for the New World, where they could be free to worship — or not worship — as they pleased.

I also believe the founders were guided by religious principles. They did refer to “the Creator” when they wrote the Declaration of Independence. I hasten to add, though, that the reference is to a universal deity — and not necessarily a Christian deity.

Ron Reagan’s declaration speaks to the trend in recent decades to keep insisting that the United States is a “Christian nation.” It isn’t. It’s a secular nation with no national religion. Our founders sought to separate the church from the state.

Moreover, to those who keep insisting that the words “church and state separation” do not appear in the Constitution, I only can refer them to the First Amendment. I know what it means. So do they.

And I give thanks for the founders’ wisdom in ensuring our government should be free from religious doctrine.