Friday, August 30, 2013

Iowa Board of Medicine axes telemed abortions on an 8-2 vote

The Iowa Board of Medicine on Friday approved a rule this afternoon to prohibit telemed, or webcam, abortions.  Adopted by an 8 to 2 vote, the rule requires a physician to be physically present with the mother while abortion drugs are being adminstered, as opposed to simply pushing a button from a remote location following a video consultation.

Some 3,000 babies have lost their lives to this new Planned Parenthood money-making venture and 3,000 mothers and families have been forever damaged.

"The pro-life movement is often falsely accused of only caring for the baby," said Iowans for LIFE Executive Director Maggie DeWitte. "Yes, we dearly care for the baby, but we also dearly care for the mother."

"This issue is about women's health care, and in the case of telemed abortion, lack of adequate women's health care," she said.

"I would think every woman in the state of Iowa who considers herself a feminist would be supporting the efforts of the Iowa Board of Medicine in looking into this practice and realizing that this is a safety issue for our mothers, sisters, aunts, friends and any woman we know," DeWitte continued. "I wouldn't want to subject my worst enemy to the shoddy care of telemed abortion, where they never see a doctor in person during the entire procedure."

That was a point made by an ER doctor. She pointed to the lack of follow-up care with telemed abortions.  She pointed out that women were told to go to the ER if they have complications, but the ER doctors don’t know these patients or their history and therefore they are not getting the best level of care they could.

During a hearing on the matter, a Planned Parenthood representative was asked who administers the pre-telemed ultra-sound. He first stated that typically it is an RN. He later corrected himself and admitted that not all Planned Parenthood clinics have RN’s on staff. In some cases it was a certified medical assistant (CMA). Yet Planned Parenthood’s chairman, Dr. Robert Shaw refused to answer if he ever relied on a CMA’s evaluation to conduct a procedure or provide medication in his practice.

The rule is set to become effective Nov. 6.

Bishop Pates urges Secretary Kerry to work for ceasefire in Syria

WASHINGTON—Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chair of the U.S. bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace, called on Secretary of State John Kerry to work with other governments to "obtain a ceasefire" in Syria and create "a future for all Syrians, one that respects human rights and religious freedom."

Bishop Pates made the call in an August 29 letter to Secretary Kerry.

Bishop Pates addressed the Syrian crisis the same day Jordan's King Abdullah II and Pope Francis met at the Vatican. There Pope Francis spoke of Syria's "tragic situation" and said that "the path of dialogue and negotiation between all components of Syrian society, with the support of the international community, is the only option to put an end to the conflict and to the violence that every day causes the loss of so many human lives, especially amongst the helpless civilian population."

This is a copy of the bishop’s letter:

Dear Secretary Kerry:

Today Pope Francis met with King Abdullah II of Jordan. Regarding their meeting, the Holy See reported: “Special attention was reserved for the tragic situation in which Syria finds itself. In this regard, it was reaffirmed that the path of dialogue and negotiation between all components of Syrian society, with the support of the international community, is the only option to put an end to the conflict and to the violence that every day causes the loss of so many human lives, especially amongst the helpless civilian population.”

With the Holy Father, we abhor the “acts of atrocity” that he decried in the wake of the attack with chemical weapons. We make our own his admonition: May the “clash of weapons…be silenced. It is not conflict that offers prospects of hope for solving problems, but rather the capacity for encounter and dialogue.”

The longstanding position of our Conference of Bishops is that the Syrian people urgently need a political solution that ends the fighting and creates a future for all Syrians, one that respects human rights and religious freedom. We ask the United States to work with other governments to obtain a ceasefire, initiate serious negotiations, provide impartial and neutral humanitarian
assistance, and encourage building an inclusive society in Syria that protects the rights of all its citizens, including Christians and other minorities.

Sincerely yours,

Most Reverend Richard E. Pates
Bishop of Des Moines
Chair, Committee on International Justice and Peace
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

On this week’s program

On Faith on Trial this week: Dr. Jerome Corsi, a well-known conservative writer who has written several controversial books that have topped the New York Times best seller list (he has another one on it way about the Kennedy assassination). He will discuss the identity and influence the Socialist Labor Organizer Saul Alinsky has on today’s national policies and how that affects the Obama Administration’s relations with the Church. 

Also on the program is Attorney Jim Campbell from the Alliance Defending Freedom.  Jim represented the New Mexico photographer whose $7,000 fine for not photographing a lesbian “commitment ceremony” was upheld by that state’s supreme court.  What was so offensive about that decision was the language used by one of the justices who wrote that even though the photographer had moral reservations about taking the job, she was obligated to violate her conscience as part of the price she had to pay as a citizen.

All this week on Faith on Trial on Iowa Catholic Radio, 1150 AM; 88.5 & 94.5 FM and streaming live on  There are three air times for you: 8 a.m. Saturday; 2 & 7 Sunday, and 9 p.m. Monday.  All times are Central.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

9th Circuit deals major blow to free speech & religious freedom

In a major setback for free speech & religious freedom in America, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this morning against an order granting preliminary injunctive relief from California Senate Bill 1172. This bill makes it illegal for licensed therapists to give counseling to minors that in anyway dissuades them from unwanted same-sex-attractions.

In addition to making it illegal for licensed counselors to dissuade minors from same-sex-attractions, it also makes it illegal to dissuade them from same-sex sexual activities. While proponents of this bill have erroneously noted that this law does not apply to clergy in general, it has a chilling effect by placing clergy who are also licensed therapists in a legal quagmire when giving counseling that coincides with their beliefs and doctrines.

“This decision is a dark day for those who believe in the first Amendment and the rights of parents over the proper upbringing of their children. Make no mistake, we are not finished in our efforts to overturn this outrageous legislation,” said Brad Dacus, President of Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) and a frequent guest on Faith on Trial.

PJI will be evaluating options for appealing this ruling, he said.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Judicial Watch: DOD documents call conservative views “Extremist”

Judicial Watch has obtained educational materials from the Department of Defense (DOD) depicting conservative organizations as “hate groups” and advising students to be aware that “many extremists will talk of individual liberties, states’ rights, and how to make the world a better place.” The documents repeatedly cite the leftwing Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as a resource for identifying “hate groups.”

Judicial Watch obtained the documents in a response to a Freedom of Information Act request that asked for “Any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to the preparation and presentation of training materials on hate groups or hate crimes distributed or used by the Air Force.” Included in the 133 pages of lesson plans and PowerPoint slides provided by the Air Force is a January 2013 Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute “student guide” entitled “Extremism.”  The document says that it is “for training purposes only” and “do not use on the job.” Highlights include:
  • The document defines extremists as “a person who advocates the use of force or violence; advocates supremacist causes based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or national origin; or otherwise engages to illegally deprive individuals or groups of their civil rights.”
  • A statement that “Nowadays, instead of dressing in sheets or publically espousing hate messages, many extremists will talk of individual liberties, states’ rights, and how to make the world a better place.”
  • “[W]hile not all extremist groups are hate groups, all hate groups are extremist groups.”
  • Under a section labeled “Extremist Ideologies” the document states, “In U.S. history, there are many examples of extremist ideologies and movements.  The colonists who sought to free themselves from British rule and the Confederate states who sought to secede from the Northern states are just two examples.”
  • In this same section, the document lists the 9/11 attack under a category of “Historical events.”
  • "[A]ctive participation …with regard to extremist organizations is incompatible with military service and, is therefore prohibited.” [Emphasis in original]
  • The document details the “seven stages of hate” and sixteen “extremists’ traits.”
  • The SPLC is listed as a resource for information on hate groups and referenced several times throughout the guide.
  • Of the five organizations besides the SPLC listed as resources, one is an SPLC project (Teaching Tolerance) and one considers any politically or socially conservative movement to be a potential hate group (Political Research Associates).
  • Other than a mention of 9/11 and the Sudan, there is no discussion of Islamic extremism.
In April 2013, following a terrorist shooting at the family Research Council (FRC) headquarters that occurred in August 2012, Judicial Watch filed multiple FOIA requests to determine what, if any, influence SPLC’s branding of hate groups had on government agencies. On its website, the SPLC has depicted FRC as a “hate group,” along with other such mainstream conservative organizations as the American Family Association, Concerned Women for America, and Coral Ridge Ministries and Catholicism. At the time of the shooting, FRC president Tony Perkins accused the SPLC of sparking the shooting, saying the shooter “was given a license to shoot … by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center.”
The document was obtained by Judicial Watch was from the Air Force, but it originated in a DOD office and is, therefore, thought likely to be used in other agency components.
You might remember that earlier an Army training sessions, that also obtained its information from SPLC, listed Catholicism and Evangelical Christianity as extremist organizations along with Hamas and the Ku Klux Klan:

“The Obama administration has a nasty habit of equating basic conservative values with terrorism.  And now, in a document full of claptrap, its Defense Department suggests that the Founding Fathers, and many conservative Americans, would not be welcome in today’s military,” said Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton.  “And it is striking that some the language in this new document echoes the IRS targeting language of conservative and Tea Party investigations.  After reviewing this document, one can’t help but worry for the future and morale of our nation’s armed forces.”

American Family Association calls for resignation of Oregon official

As reported earlier, a Christian-run bakery in Oregon, Sweet Cakes by Melissa, is now under fire from the state’s labor commission for making a conscience-driven decision not to participate in a lesbian wedding ceremony. The Oregon Labor Commission has launched an official investigation, which in turn could lead to the prosecution of the Christian couple which runs this bakery. 

Most egregiously, Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian said, “Everybody is entitled to their own beliefs, but that doesn't mean that folks have the right to discriminate. The goal is never to shut down a business. The goal is to rehabilitate. For those who do violate the law, we want them to learn from that experience and have a good, successful business in Oregon.” 
American Family Association has condemned those comments. AFM president Tim Wildmon said, “This is an unconscionable and unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment. The Constitution doesn’t just guarantee a right to religious belief, it guarantees a right to the free exercise of religion. That’s what Oregon is trying to deny. 

 “To say that this couple needs to be rehabilitated for believing and practicing the values on which this nation was founded is entirely beyond the pale. This sounds like Stalinist Russia or China under Mao, where those who thought for themselves were forced under government coercion into re-education camps. This is not the America that was given to us by our Founders. 
 “The natural question to ask is what happens if the Kleins refuse to be ‘rehabilitated?’ What happens if they maintain their faith and their values, and refuse to convert to political correctness? The next logical step would be for the government to shut down their business altogether, which would be an act of Nazi-esque tyranny. 

 “The AFA is calling for the immediate resignation of Commissioner Avakian. A government official who is so fundamentally ignorant of the Constitution and its protections has no business in public office.” 

Friday, August 23, 2013

On this week's program ...

This week on Faith on Trial:  Robert Tyler of the Advocates for Faith and Freedom about a Christian pastor who was arrested for reading the bible outside the Department of Motor Vehicle office (before it opened!). We will also have Charles LiMandri of the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund about the recent legal attacks on your freedom of conscience. Saturday at 8 a.m.; Sunday at 2 & 7 p.m., and Monday at 9 p.m. (times Central) on Iowa Catholic Radio, 1150 AM; 88.5 & 94.5 FM and streaming live on

New Mexico Supreme Court judge trashes religious freedoms!

In a shocking decision, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled Thursday against a Christian couple, who simply wanted to live out their faith. The case may have seemed routine, but the language of one of the justices should send a chill down the spine of every believer.

Justice Richard C. Bosson, a Democrat who was elected to the court in 2002, stated that the defendants were "compelled to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives." The judge went on to say, "it is the price of citizenship."

The case involved photographer Elaine Huguenin, who had declined to use her artistic expression to portray the story of a same-sex commitment ceremony between two women. Although the two women easily found another photographer, they filed a complaint with the state’s Human Rights Commission against Huguenin and her husband. The commission ordered the Huguenins to pay nearly $7,000 in fees to the two women who filed the complaint.

In this ruling upholding the penalty, the court is essentially saying: If you practice your faith fully and openly, you will be punished — and punished severely!

Regarding the judge: In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan outlook of State Supreme Court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. At that time, Bosson was given a Campaign finance score which indicates a very strong Democratic ideological leaning. That figure was calculated for judges who were current as of October 2012. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor of legislature).

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Cleveland schools sued over charging fees for religious clubs

Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel says the organization has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Child Evangelism Fellowship and its Good News Club that operates in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

The school principal at Cranford Elementary is charging the Good News Club $69.50 a month for use of its facility, Liberty Counsel claims in its lawsuit. The club did not pay a fee during the 2011-2012 school year but was charged during the 2012-2013 year. “And consequently in 2012 the club had to close because they couldn’t afford this fee,” says Staver, who calls the charge a “discriminatory fee” because it was not charged to other organizations.
Staver is confident that Liberty Counsel will win this case because of a perfect track record in defending CEF clubs. “We’ve never ultimately lost a Good News Club case when it’s gone into litigation,” says Staver. Cases lost at the local level were overturned during appeals, he says. Child Evangelism Fellowship has been providing religious and moral education to children for 70 years.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Planned Parenthood protester settles free speech suit against city

The City of Ann Arbor, Michigan has settled a federal free speech lawsuit brought by a Planned Parenthood protester who was ticketed over anti-abortion signs on his car.

The American Freedom Law Center had filed the suit on behalf of Paul Dobrowolski against the city’s police chief, John Seto. Dobrowolski had displayed anti-abortion signs in his car which was parked on a street outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Ann Arbor.
Donbrowolski’s signs included the phrases “Ask to see the Ultrasound,” "Abortion Hurts Women" and "Free Ultrasound, Family Life Services,” then listed a pro-live center’s address and phone number. Police considered the “Free Ultrasound” sign to be advertising and Dobrowolski was ticketed twice and paid a $25 fine to the city for each. City code prohibits a parking a car on a city street for the purpose of displaying advertising.

The lawsuit challenged the city code claiming the signs were political speech and protected by the First Amendment. The city agreed to pay Dobrowolski $7,000.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Dacus & PJI blast Christie for signing gay therapy bill

“Governor Christie (R-NJ) is no friend of free speech,” said Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) in response to the Governor's decision to sign a bill outlawing therapy for minors seeing professional help for unwanted same-sex-attraction.

PJI filed the first of two lawsuits against a nearly identical bill in California. PJI obtained a preliminary injunction in December 2012, and the law is currently on hold because of the serious free speech and religious freedom restrictions it imposes.

Dacus, a frequent guest on Faith on Trail, also noted that in addition to free speech and religious freedom issues, one of the major flaws of this bill is that—like the California one—it is based on LGBT activist pressure and not scientific outcomes. “The question here isn't if sexuality comes from birth or not; the question is 'Should we allow the government to restrict religious and constitutional freedoms because a forceful LGBT lobby says we should?' The answer to that question is a resounding 'No!'”

This is not the first time that Gov. Christie has drawn the ire of religious freedom advocates. In 2011 PJI criticized Gov. Christie for siding with LGBT activists over free speech concerns. Gov. Christie suggested a teacher should be fired for posts on her personal Facebook page that were deemed unsupportive of LGBT history month.

Legal challenges to the new bill are likely. If the California litigation is any indication, it could be bottled up in court for months to come, delaying implementation. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Oregon investigates baker’s refusal to serve same-sex wedding and other briefs

The state of Oregon is now investigating a bakery owner who, citing religious reasons refused to provide a wedding cake for a so-called same-sex ceremony.  The State Bureau of Labor and Industries will investigate whether the business violated a 2007 law that protects gays and lesbians.  This is the tenth such complaint that the bureau has investigated since the law was passed. The state’s Labor Commissioner, Brad Avakian, said this about the investigation, “The goal is never to shut down a business.  The goal is to rehabilitate.” In other words, to get the business owner to “think correctly.” So much for the tolerant left!

You might recall that the commander of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson removed from the base website an essay penned by Lt. Col. Kenneth Reyes, a Christian chaplain serving at the Alaska air base. The essay was entitled “‘No Atheists in Foxholes’: Chaplains Gave All in World War II." An atheists’ group had demanded that the Air Force punish Reyes for what he called an “anti-secular diatribe” for using the "no atheists in foxholes" reference. Within hours of the complaint, the essay was gone. Now the posting has been restored with the disclaimer the views reflected on the website are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Air Force.

Two men charged with a misdemeanor for reading the Bible to a group of people waiting outside a California Department of Motor Vehicles office have been acquitted by a judge. The judge who entered the verdict ruled the prosecution failed to present enough evidence that the church leaders committed a crime by reading aloud from the Bible before the DMV opened.

Robert Tyler, general counsel with Advocates for Faith & Freedom and who will be our guest next week on Faith on Trial, said the ruling is a win for people of faith. "This case, I think, is somewhat symbolic of the battle that we have seen occur in the United States over Christian worldview in an attempt to silence [that] worldview,” he said.

Same-sex school showers in California; religious rights on campus

This week on Faith on Trial: Our old friend Brad Dacus of the Pacific Justice Institute will join us to discuss the affects of a new California law that allows students to pick their own gender when it comes to school locker rooms and athletic teams.  The specter of boys showering with your daughter after gym class is now enshrined in law, thanks to the signature of Gov. Jerry Brown.  Also on the program is Robert Shibley, senior vice president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), on the religious rights of students and faculty members on college campuses; rights which are often denied. You can listen Saturday at 8 a.m.; Sunday at 2 & 7, and Monday at 9 p.m. on Iowa Catholic Radio, 1150 AM; 88.5 & 94.5 FM and streaming live on  All times Central.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Lessons on Conscience Protection from the UK

by Paul Diamond 

Unless Americans respond to the Supreme Court's recent marriage decisions with greater protections for the rights of conscience, our first freedom is sure to lose force, just as it has in the UK.

Over the past twenty years I have witnessed firsthand the steady assault on the rights of citizens in Britain to speak and act according to their conscience. During that time different parts of the British state, including our Parliament, publicly funded organizations, and the judiciary, have opposed and punished the expression of belief and conscience.

My American friends are, like me, horrified at this rapid deterioration in personal liberty and freedom in the UK. Most of them believe, however, that the First Amendment would stop such a thing from happening in the "land of the free."

The First Amendment is a magnificent and precious defense of personal liberty, and I hope that my friends are right; but my own experiences represent a cautionary tale for truly liberal-minded Americans. I want to share with you four brief examples from my own legal experience.

The first case that drew my attention to conscience restrictions arose in 2001. A street preacher named Harry Hammond went into Bournemouth city center carrying a placard that read, "Jesus Gives Peace, Jesus Is Alive, Stop Immorality, Stop Homosexuality, Stop Lesbianism, Jesus Is Lord." He set up his placard and, as he started to speak, a crowd surrounded him, pushed him to the ground, threw water and soil at him, and pulled down his sign.

The police arrived, noted that Hammond had been attacked, and arrested him for inciting the attack he had suffered. They did not arrest anyone who had assaulted him. He was found guilty, and ordered to pay fines and costs totaling $1,000. Shortly after his conviction he was hospitalized, recovered, but shortly thereafter died.

Many people, including some Christians, would not agree with Hammond's views, but as a victim of violence, should he have been arrested? Even gay rights activist Peter Tatchell, a man who has been beaten and abused for his sexuality, offered to testify on Hammond's behalf in any subsequent appeal. Even he saw the dangers inherent in Hammond's treatment. Tatchell said that while the placard was offensive to gay people, there was no legitimate reason to suppress his right to protest and turn him into a criminal.

This case began a trend, in which agencies of the state decide what someone is and is not at liberty to say in a public space, and how they may or may not demonstrate their faith.

The second case involves Stephen Copsey, who, in February 2000, told his employers that he did not wish to work on a Sunday when they introduced Sunday working hours in order to meet increased demand caused by a new contract win. His employer, WBB Devon Clays Ltd., came to an arrangement with the workforce, including Copsey, and for two years he was allowed to observe the Sabbath in line with an agreement by which he would receive less money for not working on a Sunday.

This arrangement worked for the employer and employees until March 2002, when the company won another new order that required a further increase in production. The management decided that Sunday working should be mandatory, and announced that all employees must be prepared to work on a Sunday or lose their jobs. Copsey told his employers he would not work on what he considered a holy day, and after a period of negotiation his employment was terminated at the end of July 2002. He received no redundancy payment.

He appealed the dismissal but received no support from the English legal system. His first recourse was to the local Employment Tribunal and then subsequently the tribunal's appeal process. The judge in the Employment Appeal tribunal told Copsey that if his religious commitments were incompatible with what was being asked of him he was "free to resign," as if this were an adequate remedy for any discrimination against him.

The case went to the Court of Appeal, the second highest court in England. The three presiding judges again sided with Copsey's employers, although there was some sympathy for Copsey's position based on the fact that it was the employer who was unilaterally varying the terms of the employment contract, not Copsey.

The third case, that of British Airways (BA) employee Nadia Eweida, is perhaps the most infamous recent case involving conscience restrictions.

In 2006 Eweida was employed in a public-facing role for BA and wore a small cross on a chain around her neck. She was asked to cover up this cross, even though people of other faiths could wear religious garments at work. When she refused to remove or cover up her cross, or take a position where she was not exposed to the public, she was placed on unpaid leave.

Eweida subsequently appealed this decision, first through an Employment Tribunal and then in the Court of Appeal, losing on both occasions. The case received a considerable amount of attention in the British media, much of it broadly supportive of Eweida. In November 2006 then-Prime Minister Tony Blair commented directly on the case, suggesting that BA should "just do the sensible thing"--meaning allow Eweida to wear her cross.

In October 2010 Eweida announced that she would take her case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The court heard Eweida's case in September 2012, and on January 13, 2013, nearly seven years after she had been suspended, the European Court held that there had been a violation of Article 9 of the ECHR.

In delivering judgment the court noted that:

As enshrined in Article 9, freedom of thought, conscience and religion is one of the foundations of a "democratic society" within the meaning of the Convention. In its religious dimension it is one of the most vital elements that go to make up the identity of believers and their conception of life.

And in commenting directly on Eweida's case, the court said that the refusal by BA between September 2006 and February 2007 to allow the applicant to remain in her post while visibly wearing a cross amounted to an interference with her right to manifest her religion.

A rare victory for Christian conscience, won not in a British but a foreign court.

There may be an argument that we need to balance of rights of employees with those of private enterprise. A private company, its management and shareholders, should have rights as well as the employee. But in the UK, discrimination against Christians is meted out to private and public-sector employees alike.

I witnessed this myself in the case of public employee Shirley Chaplin. Chaplin had been a nurse in the British National Health Service for thirty years and had worn her crucifix during all of that time. In 2009 she was asked to remove her crucifix on "health and safety" grounds (although her employers produced no evidence of what danger a medical practitioner might pose to patients by wearing a crucifix or cross). Chaplin's Muslim colleagues were exempted from this restriction not for any health and safety reason but because the hijab was deemed to be a "mandatory cultural requirement" of Islam.

The wearing or showing of crosses in the UK has been a particular problem for public- sector employments because it is deemed to be offensive to others under diversity policies.

Chaplin was also not permitted to wear the crucifix as a badge on her uniform; instead her employer suggested that she wear it inside her clothing, out of sight. Later, she was told she could dangle the cross with her identity badges. This she refused to do and so she was dismissed. This case eventually found its way to the ECHR, but an international court was not prepared to review the decision of the national court.

Thus the drive to proscribe Christian conscience and expression in Britain spans both private enterprise and the state. Indeed the British government, together with related institutions, is now embarked on the steady but relentless process of establishing a religion that we might call secular humanism. It favors this "religion" over all others, especially Christianity, and thereby undermines all the Judeo-Christian values that have underpinned Western society for centuries.

Reflecting on these events, I can't help but notice something that might sound familiar to my American friends. We have a state that prefers and establishes its own system of belief as a form of religion. That same state then prohibits the right of Christians to speak or publicly manifest their religion. Like all religions, secular humanism fails the tests of rationality and logic; it shows unwarranted special animus toward Christians and favors certain other religious groups.

Could the same thing happen in the United States? The First Amendment does stand as a bulwark against the erosion of liberal freedoms to speak, to assemble, and to act out of conscience; but for how long? Alluding to that amendment, Thomas Jefferson wrote in his correspondence of a "wall of separation between church and state"; but it is not hard to see how some cracks could appear in that wall.

What, for example, might a hostile US court make of a commercial photographer who refused to accept an assignment to photograph a same-sex marriage? Or how would federal employers react to employees who do not actively endorse homosexual activity or seek a conscientious objection to facilitating a same-sex marriage?

These cases are already pending in lower US courts. If they were to come before a British court, the decision would be entirely predictable, and conscience would be no defense.

How will the United States deal with Catholic adoption agencies that do not wish to place a child with a same-sex couple? To guess at the answer, we need only reflect on the fact that Catholic adoption agencies in the UK (and three US jurisdictions: Massachusetts, Illinois, and the District of Columbia) have felt that they have no choice but to close.

The recent marriage decisions of the US Supreme Court will need to be carefully balanced with protections for free religious exercise. My case work in the United Kingdom on "hate speech," the firing of Christian employees who refuse to endorse homosexual conduct, and the banning of Christians from professional bodies due to their views of such conduct, indicate that the road ahead for the American people needs to be carefully driven.

The battle lines for these principles are now being drawn. All those who care about the personal liberties enshrined in the spirit and the letter of the First Amendment will need to fight to preserve America's truly liberal rights. The alternative is an intolerant, secular state that will impose its will on the lives of its citizens. We need only look to the horrors of the last century to know how important the battle for liberty and freedom of conscience will be.

Paul Diamond is a UK-based barrister, and standing counsel to Christian Concern

This article originally appeared in Public Discourse, the online journal of the Witherspoon Institute of Princeton, NJ, it is reprinted with permission.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

City: no problem with rights commissioner damning Christians

Pastor Cary Gordon, of the Cornerstone World Outreach, is reporting that the city of Sioux City, Iowa will not take action to remove a recently appointed human rights commissioner who was involved in a controversy when it was discovered that he authored several Facebook messages to Pastor Cary urging him to go to hell with his entire family and “the sooner the better.” The messages were sent after the pastor was involved in the judicial retention election on 2010 where three supreme court justices were removed from office after they approved same-sex marriage for the state.  We had Pastor Cary on the program a few weeks back and we’ll have more to say about his later.  Check out our earlier post: “Pastor being sent to Hell.”

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Faith on Trial this week: Threats to religious freedom in the military:

This week we have a special program on Faith on Trial – one guest for the entire program: Retired Lt. General William G. “Jerry” Boykin, executive vice president of the Family Research Council.  Gen. Boykin served 36 years in the army and was one of the original members of Delta Force and later commanded that unit in combat.  He also commanded all the army’s Green Berets.  During his last four years in uniform he served as Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence.  Gen. Boykin will discuss the administration’s decision to limit the religious freedom of service members and their chaplains.  He will tell us why it is happening, what the effect of it will be, and what you can do about it.  Join us Saturday at 8 a.m.; Sunday at 2 & 7; and Monday at 9 p.m. on Iowa Catholic Radio, 1150 AM; 88.5 & 94.5 FM and streaming live on our website.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

California’s Move to Eliminate Private Schools

by Wendy McElroy
The Future of Freedom Foundation  

California Senate Bill 131 is the latest volley in the political campaign against religious and private educational institutions, especially Catholic ones.

SB 131 raises the current civil statute of limitations on damage lawsuits that are brought on the grounds of childhood sexual abuse. Under existing law, such a suit must be brought within 8 years of the child’s 18th birthday or 3 years from when the alleged victim realizes the psychological damage that has resulted from the abuse. The proposed replacement would allow lawsuits for acts occurring as long ago as 40 years. Or, rather, it would allow suits against private or nonprofit schools and employers, including Catholic schools and charities, but not against public schools or employers.
You can read the entire article here.

Permanent deacons in U.S grow to nearly 15,000

The number of permanent deacons in the United States continues to increase, according to a national survey released by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

The bishops began to ordain permanent deacons for the United States in the early seventies. The ministry emphasizes roles in liturgy, preaching and service. Currently there are more than 18,000 deacons, about 3,000 of them retired. The most recent survey found that the largest numbers of deacons were reported by the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston (414), Diocese of Trenton, New Jersey (383), Archdiocese of Los Angeles (344) and Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut (300).

 Ninety-three percent of active deacons are currently married; four percent are widowers, and two percent never married.

 “The statistics are encouraging,” said Archbishop Robert J. Carlson, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. “But they also alert us to the fact many of the deacons will soon reach retirement age. This suggests a need for bishops to recruit a greater number of men to join the ranks of the permanent diaconate.”

 Ninety-five percent of active deacons are at least 50 years old. About a quarter are in their fifties; 43 percent are in their sixties; and 25 percent are 70 or older. Seventy-eight percent of active deacons are white. Fifteen percent are Hispanic or Latino, Three percent are African American and three percent are Asian.

 Many permanent deacons hold jobs outside of the ministry in such areas as sales, law or other work. Only about 21 percent of active permanent deacons are compensated for ministry. Some serve in full-time ministry, for example in parishes or diocesan positions. Others are compensated for hospital or prison ministry. A small percentage of deacons are entrusted with full-time pastoral care of a parish and others work in a social services agency.

 Almost 30 percent of permanent deacons hold a graduate degree, about two-thirds of them in a field not related to the diaconate. Three in ten (31 percent) have a bachelor’s degree as their highest level of education. Eighty-five percent of deacons are required to undergo post-ordination formation. The median number of hours is 20 per year. About 74 percent of dioceses also provide formation opportunities for wives of deacons.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Supreme Court urged to uphold prayer at town council meetings

On Friday, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed a friend-of-the-court brief at the United States Supreme Court urging the Court to reverse a lower court decision that forbade the Town of Greece, New York, from starting council meetings with prayers led by a volunteer member of the public. Volunteers hail from many different religious traditions, including Christian, Jewish, Bahá’í, and Wiccan. The Becket Fund’s brief asks the Supreme Court both to uphold the ubiquitous practice of legislative prayer and to repair Establishment Clause law by bringing it back to its origins in the Bill of Rights. According to the brief, the Founders did not see legislative prayer as a forbidden “establishment of religion” because it did not share the features of an established state church such as the Church of England.

“The Founders knew what it meant to have a government church and legislative prayer doesn’t come close,” says Eric Rassbach, Deputy General Counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty who was a recent guest on Faith on Trial. “The Founders had been colonists in an empire with an established church and most of the colonies also had established churches. Legislative prayer just wasn’t part of what it meant to have an official government church.”
The brief states that the Founders understood an establishment of religion to consist of four key elements:  (1) government financial support of the church, (2) government control of the doctrine and personnel of the church, (3) government coercion of religious beliefs and practices, and (4) government assignment of important civil functions to the church – all linked by an underlying concern about state coercion to participate in religious activity. The brief argues that because legislative-prayer does not fall within any of these categories, it is not an establishment of religion.

The brief also explains how the Founders “viewed legislative prayer as a natural outflow of their political philosophy of limited government and inalienable, God-given rights.” By hearing prayer before a government meeting, elected officials are reminded of the limits of their powers, as well as the source of the inalienable rights which belong to the public they are elected to serve.
In Town of Greece v. Galloway, which will be heard and decided in October, the Court will address the constitutionality of legislative prayers for the first time in decades. In recent years appellate courts have split over the correct interpretation of the Establishment Clause. Town of Greece could be an opportunity for the Supreme Court to clarify interpretation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause for the lower courts.

“This case is a good opportunity for the Supreme Court to put Establishment Clause law onto a firmer foundation by rooting the law in the Clause’s history rather than the amateur psychoanalysis too often indulged in by the lower courts,” said Rassbach.

Friday, August 2, 2013

IRS Harassment of Pro-Life Groups Continues Despite Claims to Contrary

The Thomas More Society has submitted an updated second memorandum to Congressman Aaron Schock (R-Illinois) of the House Committee on Ways and Means, detailing additional evidence of continued IRS targeting of pro-life organizations. Despite claims by the Obama Administration that the harassment has ceased, the Society produced over 230 pages of documentation showing that the federal government is still interrogating pro-life groups beyond the scope of its legal authority, infringing upon these organizations’ First Amendment rights of assembly, free speech, and religious liberty.

“Despite claims to the contrary, the IRS continues to target and harass pro-life and conservative charities, illegally questioning their religious activities and withholding their tax exemptions,” said Peter Breen vice president and senior counsel of the Thomas More Society. “We have now produced irrefutable evidence of six clients whose First Amendment rights were trampled upon by the IRS because of their position upholding the sanctity of life. Even after public disclosure of this wrongdoing, the Obama Administration’s IRS has refused to cease its illegal activity. We will continue to aid Congress in its investigation until those responsible are brought to justice and the IRS is made to respect every American’s constitutional rights.”
Since the Thomas More Society disclosed evidence in May showing IRS harassment of three pro-life groups, the Society has been contacted by numerous additional organizations seeking legal counsel related to IRS issues. Three of these entities, Cherish Life Ministries, LIFE Group, and Emerald Coast Coalition for Life are highlighted in today’s memorandum as having experienced illegal targeting by the IRS.

The memo details the recent experience of several pro-life organizations applying for 501(c)(3) charitable recognition and reveals blatant bias on the part of the IRS agents assigned to process those applications. Repeatedly these pro-life groups were harassed with questions about time spent in prayer at abortion facilities and told that they must educate and advocate on abortion from both sides of the issue. Two groups were also falsely denied their tax exemption status by IRS agent Mrs. R. Medley who claimed they didn’t qualify under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS Code. All three groups’ tax exemptions were delayed 13-16 months with IRS supervisors, including Lois Lerner, singling out their applications for further review by an “exemption organization specialist.” While Thomas More Society attorneys have intervened and secured relief for two of these three organizations, one organization – Emerald Coast Coalition for Life – still remains in limbo.

The Society has now presented Congressman Schock and the Committee with compelling documentation of six different groups which have experienced viewpoint-biased discrimination by the IRS, dating back to 2009 and involving multiple IRS offices and agents, including those in El Monte, California; Chicago, Illinois; and Cincinnati, Ohio.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

City tries to prohibit Christians from serving; status of Blaine Amendments and how they affect private schools

This week on Faith on Trial: Eric Rassback, deputy general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty on the state of the “Little” Blaine Amendments. These are state constitutional amendments that were adopted in the mid to late 19th century after the failure of a proposed federal constitutional amendment that would have prohibited public funds from being used for non-public schools. Then we’ll have Chris Gacek, senior fellow with the Family Research Council who will discuss a proposed amendment to the San Antonio, Texas, city code that would effectively prohibit Christians from elected or appointed positions with the city; echoes of last week’s interview with Pastor Cary Gordon of the Cornerstone World Outreach in Sioux City, Iowa. Tune in: Saturday at 8 a.m.; Sunday at 2 & 7 p.m.; and Monday at 9 p.m. on Iowa Catholic Radio 1150 AM; 88.5 & 94.5 FM and streaming live on