Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Our nation’s Thanksgiving: A time to thank God

Our Nation’s first Thanksgiving Day took place on November 26, 1789.  It was a religious event.

To the chagrin of the anti-religionists among us today, on September 25, 1789, the first act of Congress after framing the Bill of Rights, which prohibited an establishment of religion, was to pass a resolution requesting that the President of the United States recommend to the people a “Day of Public Thanksgiving and Prayer.”  This Resolution is clear evidence that our Founding Fathers never imagined that the language of the Establishment Clause they had just adopted in the Bill of Rights would someday be interpreted by the Supreme Court as creating a “wall of separation between church and state” and used to ban God from the public square.

Washington enthusiastically agreed to the Resolution of both Houses of Congress.  In his Proclamation dated October 3, 1789, he began: “Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour; …”

Nowadays, Thanksgiving in America is a joyful celebration; a day to spend with family and friends; a day to eat turkey; a day to watch football and Thanksgiving Day parades.  But at this time of great turmoil around the world, it is important that we reflect on the reasons for our Nation’s First Thanksgiving.  On this Thanksgiving Day, please, take time to thank God for the many blessings we enjoy in this amazing land of ours, and to think about, and implore God’s protection, over the men and women serving in our Armed Forces who stand the lonely guard, in rough and faraway places, so that we may enjoy this Thanksgiving Day far from the sounds of war. 
Below is the first National Thanksgiving proclamation issued by President Washington. Please take a moment to read it. Click here to see the actual Proclamation.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Supremes to hear two HHS mandate challenges this term; decisions could come this June

The U.S. Supreme Court today agreed to consider two cases involving President Obama’s HHS mandate, which requires employers to cover contraceptives and abortion producing drugs in their health plans. One case involves Hobby Lobby Inc., an Oklahoma City-based arts and crafts chain with 13,000 full-time employees. Hobby Lobby won in the lower courts.

The other case is an appeal from Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., a Pennsylvania company that employs 950 people in making wood cabinets. Lower courts rejected that company's claims. The cases will be combined for arguments, probably in late March. A decision should come by late June.

These are two landmark cases addressing the constitutionally guaranteed rights of business owners to operate their family companies without violating their deeply held religious convictions.

“This is a major step for the Greens [owners of Hobby Lobby] and their family businesses in an important fight for Americans’ religious liberty,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead lawyer for Hobby Lobby. “We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will clarify once and for all that religious freedom in our country should be protected for family business owners like the Greens.”

In July, a lower federal court granted Hobby Lobby a preliminary injunction preventing the government from enforcing the HHS mandate requiring the family businesses to provide in the employee health insurance plan two drugs and two devices that are potentially life-terminating. Another federal court denied a similar request from Conestoga Wood Specialties.

The Greens and their family businesses – who have no moral objection to providing 16 of the 20 FDA-approved contraceptives required under the HHS mandate and do so at no additional cost to employees under their self-insured health plan – then took the unusual step in October of joining the government in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case, despite the family’s victory in the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

There are currently 84 lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the HHS mandate.   

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Conscience rights under Obama, next on Faith on Trial

Professor Charles Rice
On May 17, 2009 President Obama gave the commence address at the University of Notre Dame and was awarded an honorary degree.  The invitation was controversial and was opposed by the local Catholic Bishop and 80 other U.S. bishops across the nation, as well as numerous members of the faculty at Notre Dame.  During his address, the president said:  "Let's honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded not only in sound science, but also in clear ethics, as well as respect for the equality of women." How well did he do in honoring the conscience rights of those who disagree with abortion? This week on Faith on Trial Charles E. Rice, Professor Emeritus at Notre Dame Law School, will grade the president on that promise.  Professor Rice is the author of the book What Happened at Notre Dame and the forthcoming Contraception and Persecution. Listen to Professor Rice this Tuesday at 9 a.m. and re-broadcast at 9 p.m. (central) on Iowa Catholic Radio, 1150 AM, 88.5 & 94.5 FM and streaming live on

Friday, November 22, 2013

Where were you 50 years ago today? Do you know who else died that day?

John F. Kennedy 1917-1963
C. S. Lewis 1898-1963
Everybody alive 50 years ago will remember where they were when they heard the news of President Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, Texas.  This weekend there will be numerous television specials on the assassination and its continuing affect on the United States.  But did you know that on the same day President Kennedy (b. 1917) died the great Christian apologist C. S. Lewis (b. 1898) also died? Lewis, you might recall, was a prolific author who penned such classics as The Chronicles of Narnia, Mere Christianity, the Great Divorce and the Screwtape Letters.  Ironically, Aldous Huxley (b.1894) also died on this date 50 years ago.  

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Why we bring Faith on Trial to you

These are just some of the reasons why Iowa Catholic Radio brings this program to you, courtesy of our friends at the Alliance Defending Freedom:

In New York, the school board has been trying for nearly two decades to block Bronx Household of Faith from meeting in a public school building for worship services on Sundays.
In Michigan, the radical group “Bash Back” invaded Mount Hope Church and disrupted a worship service while showering the congregation with propaganda on homosexual behavior.

In Montana, Canyon Ferry Road Baptist Church faced election law charges after a volunteer passed out petitions to place a marriage amendment on the Montana ballot.
In Arizona, Gilbert city officials ordered Oasis of Truth Church to stop meeting or holding Bible studies in its pastor’s private home.

In Illinois, the City of Carlinville refused to allow Carlinville Southern Baptist Church to use a building it had purchased for worship services.
In Louisiana, a federal contractor ordered Calvary Baton Rouge Church to stop feeding people left homeless by Hurricane Katrina because the group offered a voluntary prayer service and Bible study.

In New Jersey, the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights issued a complaint against the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association of the United Methodist Church for not allowing a “civil union” ceremony at their worship pavilion for people practicing homosexual behavior.
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Monday, November 18, 2013

This week on Faith on Trial on Iowa Catholic Radio

Tuesday we have two great guests.  First up is John Wells, Commander USN Ret., who is the attorney representing two chaplains suing the Veteran’s Administration claiming that they were harassed out of a VA chaplain training program.  Following John is Erin Mersino, staff attorney with the Thomas More Law Center.  This will be Erin’s second guest appearance on the program and this time she will be discussing the secular war on Christmas.  Tuesday 9 a.m. (Central) and re-broadcast at 9 p.m. on Iowa Catholic Radio 1150 AM, 88.5 & 94.5 FM and streaming live on 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Veteran put on leave for saying “God Bless America”

A retired military veteran who now works in a hospital was stunned when supervisors called him into the office last week to demand that he remove “God Bless America” from his e-mail signature block.  What happened next was even more shocking—he complied with the directive but was placed on administrative leave for “insubordination” when he said he wanted to consult with legal counsel about his rights.  

Pacific Justice Institute now represents this veteran, Mr. Boots Hawks, and sent a strongly-worded letter to his supervisors at Dameron Hospital in Stockton, California, late Tuesday.  In the letter, PJI Staff Attorney Matthew McReynolds reminded the hospital that Mr. Hawks has been a dedicated employee for ten years, earning such distinctions as “Employee of the Year” for his work in quality assurance.  Prior to joining the hospital staff, Mr. Hawks spent twenty years in the U.S. Army, attaining the rank of Sergeant First Class.  PJI is demanding that supervisors rescind their disciplinary action and their censorship.

PJI President Brad Dacus, a frequent guest on Faith on Trial, commented, “Rarely do we see something as shocking as supervisors placing a hard-working military veteran on leave right before Veterans’ Day for saying something patriotic.  The hospital’s actions were outrageous and illegal.  We expect a swift apology and full restoration of Mr. Hawks’ rights.”  

Mr. Hawks returned to work on Wednesday to find that lock combinations had been changed and his computer password had been suspended.  The hospital had not yet responded to PJI’s letter as of Thursday morning.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Chaplains harassed for their faith sue VA

A lawsuit filed last week alleges that the leader of a San Diego-based Department of Veterans
John Wells
Affairs chaplain training program severely mocked two Christian participants because of their faith. One of the chaplains eventually left the program voluntarily because of the treatment; the program leader eventually ejected the other participant.

Military-Veterans Advocacy filed the suit against Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki on behalf of the Conservative Baptist Association of America, the organization that acted as an endorsing agent for the two chaplains.

“No American choosing to serve in the armed forces should be openly ridiculed for his Christian faith, and that is most obviously true for chaplains participating in a chaplain training program,” said Commander J.B. Wells, U. S. Navy (Ret.), executive director of Military-Veterans Advocacy. “Not only was the treatment these men received inappropriate, it was also a violation of federal law and the religious freedom guarantees of the First Amendment.”

[Commander Wells will be one of our guests next week on Faith on Trail.]

Chaplains Maj. Steven Firtko, U.S. Army (Ret.) and Lt. Cmdr. Dan Klender, U.S. Navy, entered the San Diego VA-DOD Clinical Pastoral Education Center program in August 2012. Shortly thereafter, the program’s supervisor, Nancy Dietsch, began to harass the two men for their beliefs. On various occasions and without provocation, she admonished them not to pray in Jesus’ name or cite Scripture, sometimes pounding her fists on her desk, accusing them of “not giving a rat’s ass” about VA patients and other members of the military, and threatening to fail them. She continued to openly ridicule them and their beliefs openly in class.

In February, Klender voluntarily withdrew from the program solely because of Dietsch’s harassment. Firtko, whom Dietsch placed on probation, received a letter dated Feb. 15 from the VA and Dietsch notifying him that he would be dismissed from the program March 1. Both Klender and Firtko filed formal complaints with the VA in July.

The lawsuit, Conservative Baptist Association of America v. Shinseki, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, explains that all administrative options have been exhausted and that the harassment that the chaplains endured violates the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Administrative Procedures Act, and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Faith on Trial Tuesday topics:

Joel Oster
Justin Butterfield
Gina Noll and I are looking forward to an interesting program Tuesday:  First up will be Joel Oster, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom at its Kansas City Regional Service Center in Kansas, where he plays a significant role in litigation efforts defending church autonomy.  Joel will be visiting with us about attempts by the state to selectively exclude religious organizations from public service benefits. Then we will have Justin Butterfield, a Harvard Law School graduate, now serving with the Liberty Institute who practices in the field of religious liberty.  He will be discussing Liberty Institute’s latest report on religious hostilities.  Join Gina and me at 9 a.m. (Central) for the live broadcast, or at 9 p.m. for the re-broadcast Tuesday on Iowa Catholic Radio, 1150 AM, 88.5 & 94.5 FM and streaming live on

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Photographer asks Supreme Court: Is abandoning my freedom the ‘price of citizenship’?

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing a Christian photographer asked the
Elaine & Jonathan Huguenin
U.S. Supreme Court Friday to reverse a New Mexico Supreme Court decision that required her to abandon her freedom as the “price of citizenship.”

On Aug. 22, the New Mexico high court upheld a decision against Elane Photography after its co-owner, Elaine Huguenin, declined to use her artistic expression to communicate the story of a same-sex ceremony. A concurrence accompanying the opinion concluded that Huguenin and her co-owner husband Jonathan “now are compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives,” adding “it is the price of citizenship.”

“The idea that free people can be ‘compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives’ as the ‘price of citizenship’ is a chilling and unprecedented attack on freedom,” said Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence. “We are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to make it clear that no American has to abandon their constitutionally protected freedoms just to make a living. No American should be punished or put out of business simply for disagreeing with the government’s opinion on a moral issue.”

“Every artist must be free to create work that expresses what he or she believes and not be forced by the government to express opposing views,” added Legal Counsel Jim Campbell. “Should the government force an African-American photographer to take pictures of a KKK rally? A government that can force anyone to promote messages against his or her will is a government out of control.”

In 2006, Huguenin declined Vanessa Willock’s request to photograph a commitment ceremony between Willock and another woman. Huguenin declined the request because her and her husband’s Christian beliefs conflict with the message communicated by the expressive event, which Willock asked Huguenin to help her “celebrate.”

Willock easily found another photographer for her ceremony, and for less money, but nevertheless filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission against Elane Photography. After a one-day trial, the commission ruled against the Huguenins and ordered them to pay $6,637.94 in attorneys’ fees to Willock. The case then made its way through the New Mexico state court system as Elane Photography v. Willock.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Freedom of Conscience in Hawaii; Army says Christian organization “hate group”

The Center for Religious Freedom is reporting:

Altering Marriage Will Impact Freedom of Conscience in Hawaii: Since the 2012 elections, the number of states sanctioning same-sex marriage has doubled, but in the rush to appease some outspoken and politically-connected citizens, are the religious liberties of others being trampled?  

That’s the worry in Hawaii, where the State Senate recently voted 20-4 to legalize same-sex “marriage,” repealing a constitutional amendment passed by popular vote in 1998 that defined marriage as being between one man and one woman.

Army Needs To Address the Root of this Problem:  Two weeks ago, at Camp Shelby in Mississippi, counter-intelligence officers presented a briefing that identified the American Family Association – a non-profit Christian organization – as a “domestic hate group.” This was not the first time something bizarre like this had happened. On another army base, evangelical Christians and Catholics were listed as prime examples of religious extremism. On yet another, the Founding Fathers were portrayed as extreme.

Then, last week, a similar report came out about a briefing at Fort Hood in Texas where Tea Party supporters, in addition to evangelical Christians, were labeled as extremists.   

Each time, senior military officials downplayed the shocking classifications as isolated incidents. But a string of incidents reflect a pattern.

Read more on the organization’s blog.

New NY mayor: City needs more abortions, fewer pro-life clinics

New York, in which 41 percent of pregnancies end in abortion has elected a new mayor who is pledging to partner with Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers to expand their businesses even further by providing them with “city-sponsored” space to set up shop.

Bill de Blasio, who was elected Tuesday with 73 percent of the vote, also pledged to help abortionists wipe out their main competition – pro-life crisis pregnancy centers – which he refers to as “sham” clinics. These centers offer women financial and logistical assistance to either keep their babies or place them with adoptive families.

Read the entire Breitbart article here.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The problems Christians face in today’s military

On our program this week we had Col. Ron Crews, Chaplain, U. S. Army Retired, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty. This video echoes the message Col. Crews gave us.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Open restrooms? Watch this and you decide

We’ve had Brad Dacus of the Pacific Justice Institute on our program several times.  The last time he joined us was October 22 when he shared this story with us.  Watch the video, it is eye opening and you’ll know why Brad is one of our favorite and most informative guests.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

This week on Faith on Trial …

Peter Sprigg, senior fellow at the Family Research Council on the effects of the pending Employment Non Discrimination Act; and Col. Ron Crews, retired army chaplain and executive director of the Chaplain’s Alliance for Religious Liberty on the problems Christians and Christian chaplains are facing in the military.  Live Tuesday morning at 9 (Central) and re-broadcast in the evening at 9 on Iowa Catholic Radio, 1150 AM; 88.5 & 94.5 FM and streaming live on Gina Noll from St. Augustin parish will join me in the studio.


Saturday, November 2, 2013

ADF brining religious freedom cases to the Supreme Court

By Alan Sears

The opening of another session of the U.S. Supreme Court brings to the forefront several key cases being litigated or funded by Alliance Defending Freedom – cases with profound implications for the future of your life and your religious freedom. I want to give you a glimpse of what’s coming, in the hope that you and your family will pray specifically for these cases and for how they will be reviewed by our nation’s most influential legal tribunal.
Town of Greece v. Galloway On November 6, the high court will hear oral arguments in this case, which involves a lawsuit accusing local officials in Greece of violating the Establishment Clause of the Constitution by allowing members of the community to pray aloud before town council meetings. Our attorneys are representing Greece, and the court’s ruling in this case could have far-reaching consequences for public expressions of faith, in everything from the Pledge of Allegiance to “In God We Trust” on our nation’s currency.

McCullen v. Coakley During the third week of January, the court will hear oral arguments debating the constitutionality of a 35-foot “buffer zone” created by the Massachusetts legislature to keep pro-life activists and counselors from approaching abortion clinics (and their customers) in that state. Alliance Defending Freedom is funding this case.
Isaacson v. Horne We are awaiting word on whether the high court will hear this case, which involves an Arizona law that restricts non-emergency abortions after 20 weeks.  Our attorneys are serving as co-counsel.  If the court upholds this law, it will affirm that the government has an interest in restricting abortion that goes beyond even preserving the baby’s life and the mother’s health … and that interest could open the way to substantial erosions of the Roe v. Wade decision.

Reed v. Town of Gilbert – We are representing a small Arizona church whose temporary signs inviting people to its worship services are regulated far more heavily than temporary signs used to promote political, ideological, and other messages.
Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius – We are representing the Hahns, a practicing Mennonite family whose company manufactures custom wood cabinets, in this federal lawsuit challenging the Obama administration’s abortion pill mandate. (The mandate forces employers, regardless of their religious convictions, to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception or face heavy financial penalties from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.)

In addition, Alliance Defending Freedom lawyers are currently completing cert petitions (which ask the court to review and hear arguments in a case) for two other major cases:

Elane Photography, LLC v. Willock – in which we are defending a New Mexico artist penalized for “sexual orientation” discrimination because she gracefully declined to use her talents as a photographer to celebrate a same-sex “commitment ceremony.”

Planned Parenthood v. Betlach – in which we are defending an Arizona law (written by one of our own attorneys) that prohibits providers of elective abortions from participating in Medicaid family planning.

Proverbs 21:1 tells us that “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.” Please join me in praying that the heart of each judge of the highest court in our nation will be sensitive to the directives of the Lord – and expand religious freedom and protections for life for the sake of our children and grandchildren.

Friday, November 1, 2013

D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rules against HHS mandate for Catholic business owners

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 1, 2013 ( – In the newest victory for religious freedom in the U.S. judicial system, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of two Catholic business owners who are fighting the Health & Human Services (HHS) contraceptive, abortifacient, and sterilization mandate on Friday.

The case involved two Ohio brothers, Frank and Phil Gilardi, whom the mandate would force to either violate their consciences or face over $14 million in fines as they run their two businesses in the town of Sidney.
Justice Janice Rogers Brown wrote in the decision that “the burden of the HHS mandate “becomes substantial because the government commands compliance by giving the Gilardis a Hobson’s choice. They can either abide by the sacred tenets of their faith, pay a penalty of over $14 million, and cripple the companies they have spent a lifetime building, or they become complicit in a grave moral wrong.”

“If that is not 'substantial pressure on an adherent to modify his behavior and to violate his beliefs,' we fail to see how the standard could be met,” she wrote.
Read the rest of the story here.

Belgium considering euthanasia for children, dementia patients

The Washington Post is reporting:

In Belgium, where euthanasia is now legal for people over the age of 18, the government is considering extending it to children — something that no other country has done. The same bill would offer the right to die to adults with early dementia.
Advocates argue that euthanasia for children, with the consent of their parents, is necessary to give families an option in a desperately painful situation. Belgium is already a euthanasia pioneer; it legalized the practice for adults in 2002. In the last decade, the number of reported cases per year has risen from 235 deaths in 2003 to 1,432 in 2012, the last year for which statistics are available. Doctors typically give patients a powerful sedative before injecting another drug to stop their heart.

Read the entire story here.

FRC says: Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA): A threat to freedom of conscience and religion

As reported by the Family Research Council

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) would prohibit employers from making employment decisions on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. It is misleadingly labeled as a logical extension of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. While the Civil Rights Act was enacted primarily to protect the rights of racial minorities, ENDA is aimed at providing special protections for "sexual orientation" (which includes voluntary homosexual conduct) and "gender identity" (referring not to one's biological sex, but to "the gender-related identity, appearance, or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, with or without regard to the individual's designated sex at birth").
The "gender identity" provision would protect anyone who is "transgendered," a broad umbrella term that includes transsexuals (people who have had sex-change surgery), anyone who has changed or is changing their public "gender identity" (regardless of whether they have had surgery or hormone treatments), transvestites (people who dress as the opposite sex on an occasional basis for emotional or sexual gratification), and drag queens and drag kings (people who dress as the opposite sex for the purpose of entertaining others).

Among other problems with ENDA, as reported by the Family Research Council:
“Sexual orientation” and “gender identity” are unlike most other characteristics protected in civil rights laws. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars discrimination based on “race, color, national origin, sex, and religion.” The first four of these are included largely because they are inborn, involuntary and immutable. (Religion, while voluntary, is explicitly protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.) While sexual attractions may be involuntary, neither sexual conduct nor transgender behavior meets any of these criteria.

ENDA’s “gender identity” provisions would undermine the ability of employers to impose reasonable dress and grooming standards. The bill requires that such standards be consistent with the employee’s chosen and variable “gender identity.” This effectively forbids employers from using the most fundamental standard of all—that people be dressed and groomed in a way that is culturally appropriate for their biological sex.
ENDA’s “gender identity” provisions would violate the privacy of others. Because transgender status is not dependent on having “sex-change surgery,” ENDA would allow some biological males (who claim to be female) to appear nude before females (and vice versa) in bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers.
ENDA would mandate the employment of homosexual, bisexual, and “transgendered” individuals in inappropriate occupations. For example, under ENDA, employers in the area of education and childcare would be denied the right to refuse to hire homosexuals or transgendered individuals, even if they consider such persons to be inappropriate role models for children and young people.
ENDA’s “religious exemption” is inadequate to protect people of faith. ENDA contains an exemption for certain “religious organizations,” such as houses of worship or religious schools. However, the exemption fails to protect individual Christians, Jews, Muslims and others who have objections to certain sexual behaviors from making employment decisions consistent with their faith. In fact, it is questionable whether any profit-making corporations would qualify for the exemption, meaning that Christian bookstores, religious publishing houses, and religious television and radio stations could all be forced to compromise their principles in mandated hiring practices.
ENDA would pave the way for further redefinition of marriage. State courts which have redefined “marriage” to include homosexual couples in Massachusetts, California, Iowa, and Connecticut cited the existence of “non-discrimination” laws like ENDA at the state level as establishing a principle regarding the legal irrelevance of “sexual orientation,” which they have then applied to the institution of marriage.7 Passage of ENDA at the national level could give fuel for a similar decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, forcing the redefinition of marriage in every state in the union, at some time in the future.