David Cortman

Religion has its rights in the public square

David Cortman
By David Cortman

Recently, thousands of student journalists gathered at the annual National High School Journalism Conference to celebrate the First Amendment and its guarantees that ensure journalists the freedom to engage in their profession. In attendance were students from all walks of life, including hundreds of Christian students. Ironically, at a session on bullying, those Christian students found themselves and their beliefs being berated and mocked by Dan Savage.

“We can learn to ignore the bulls**t in the Bible about gay people,” Savage proclaimed to the students.  “We ignore bulls**t in the Bible about all sorts of things.”

While rarely expressed in such colorful language, this is an all-too-common sentiment: that Christianity is irrelevant and has no place in public life. The increasing prevalence of these views makes it more important than ever for Christians—and all freedom-loving citizens—to embrace the role faith plays in preserving our liberties. So let’s address a few common arguments in favor of excluding faith from public life.

Some say that the U.S. Constitution’s so-called “separation of church and state” prohibits Christianity (or any religion) from influencing the public sphere. But this extreme “separation” doesn’t exist. It’s not in our Constitution, Bill of Rights, or any other founding document. As courts have explained, “The First Amendment does not demand a wall of separation between church and state.”

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This “separation” is a myth created by those on the far left who seek to sanitize our schools, workplaces, and public life of religion. They base it on a phrase—taken out of context—from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists in 1802. Jefferson wrote to reassure the Baptists that the First Amendment would preclude the federal government’s intrusion into religious matters between denominations. Rather than shielding government from religion, the First Amendment was intended to protect religion from the influence of government. It certainly was not meant to marginalize people of faith or exclude them from the public square.

Others claim that Christians are “judgmental” and simply want to force their beliefs on the population at large. But few, if any, Christians seek to establish an American theocracy. Instead, they see the Bible as providing a moral foundation for society—one which our Founding Fathers believed was vital to our nation’s continued success. Does anyone seriously question whether our society would be better off if more people followed the Ten Commandments…if more people showed proper respect for God and their parents…if fewer people lied or committed adultery?

As Americans move further and further from this moral compass, they fall into greater levels of selfishness and debauchery. Yet Christians who stand against the flow and cry “Stop!” are labeled as judgmental.

The Christian call for a return to biblical values is not a cry of judgment, it is one of love. It is the same love displayed when a mother warns her child about a hot stove, or a college student warns an intoxicated friend that he should take a cab. Christians, as those of all faiths, have the right—in fact, the duty—to to share what they think is best for society and to warn their fellow citizens when society strays from its foundational values.

Finally, many say that the contributions of Christianity to society are irrelevant. Really? Let’s look at the “irrelevant” contribution of Christianity to our society. Approximately 1 out of 5 hospital beds in this country are operated by religious hospitals. Clearly irrelevant. Evangelical Christians donate more than three times as much on average to nonprofit organizations than Americans as a whole: $4,260 per year as compared with $1308. Also irrelevant. More than 900 colleges, universities, and institutions of higher learning in our nation are affiliated with the Christian faith. Each one, apparently irrelevant.

And we cannot forget how “irrelevant” Martin Luther King, Jr.’s faith was to his work in the civil rights movement or how “irrelevant” Abraham Lincoln’s faith was to his call for a “new birth of freedom.”

Christianity is relevant because it is the source of the noblest virtues of our people. It motivates our charitable activities and our care for the sick. It drives us to learn, to explore, and to develop the next generation of leaders. Most importantly, it tells us of the innate dignity of every human our Creator lovingly crafted. And thus, when religious expression and religious activity are given the full measure of freedom recognized by the First Amendment, we can be confident that the better angels of our nature will prevail.

Let’s return to Mr. Savage’s presentation one last time. As scores of students walked out of the session in protest, Savage offered a weak apology: “I apologize if I hurt anyone’s feelings. But. I have a right to defend myself.”

Yes, Mr. Savage, you do have the right to defend yourself. You may even have the right to unleash a profanity-laden tirade against Christianity to a roomful of silent teenagers. But as you curse the Bible and those who believe it, you may want to take a moment to ask yourself where the freedom of speech that enables you to do so comes from…and where the freedom of press and your freedom to (apparently) believe in no religion at all comes from, too.

Those who decry our nation’s Christian heritage and the continuing contributions that Christians make to public life simply fail to recognize that the freedoms that make America great are intrinsically linked to the religious beliefs upon which our nation was founded. The Declaration of Independence acknowledges that we are endowed with unalienable rights by our Creator, and such rights remain the foundation of the First Amendment.

These rights are not, and should not be seen as being, dependent solely upon a government that may decide to take them away as it sees fit.  And those who seek to knock down this cornerstone of our republic need to beware lest the house come toppling down with it.

David Cortman is senior counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund, a legal alliance employing a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family. 

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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signs the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
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Indiana faces backlash as it becomes 20th state to protect religious liberty

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By Ben Johnson

INDIANAPOLIS, IN, March 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On Thursday, Indiana became the 20th state to prevent the government from forcing people of faith to violate their religious beliefs in business or the public square.

Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 101) into law, saying the freedom of religion is a preeminent American value.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion, but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,” Pence said.

Gov. Pence, a possible dark horse candidate for president in 2016, cited court cases brought by religious organizations and employers, including Catholic universities, against the HHS mandate. “One need look no further than the recent litigation concerning the Affordable Care Act. A private business and our own University of Notre Dame had to file lawsuits challenging provisions that required them to offer insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.”

The new law could also prevent Christian business owners from being compelled to bake a cake or take photographs of a same-sex "marriage" ceremony, if doing so violates their faith. In recent years, business owners have seen an increased level of prosecution for denying such services, despite their religious and moral beliefs.

The state's pro-life organization applauded Pence for his stance. "Indiana's pro-life community is grateful to Gov. Mike Pence for signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law,” said Indiana Right to Life's president and CEO Mike Fichter. “This bill will give pro-lifers a necessary legal recourse if they are pressured to support abortion against their deeply-held religious beliefs.”

“RFRA is an important bill to protect the religious freedom of Hoosiers who believe the right to life comes from God, not government,” he said.

The state RFRA is based on the federal bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The Supreme Court cited the federal law when it ruled that Hobby Lobby had the right to refuse to fund abortion-inducing drugs, if doing so violated its owners' sincerely held religious beliefs.

In signing the measure – similar to the one Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed – Pence and the state of Indiana have faced a torrent of venom from opponents of the bill, who claim it grants a “right to discriminate” and raises the spectre of segregation.

"They've basically said, as long as your religion tells you to, it's OK to discriminate against people," said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, a national homosexual pressure group.

The Disciples of Christ, a liberal Protestant denomination based in the state capital, has said it will move its 2017 annual convention if the RFRA became state law. The NCAA warned the bill's adoption “might affect future events” in the Hoosier state.

Pence denied such concerns, saying, "This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way I would've vetoed it."

The bill's supporters say that, under the Obama administration, it is Christians who are most likely to suffer discrimination.

"Originally RFRA laws were intended to protect small religious groups from undue burdens on practicing their faith in public life,” said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. “It was not imagined there would come a day when laws might seek to jail or financially destroy nuns, rabbis or Christian camp counselors who prefer to abstain from the next wave of sexual and gender experimentation. And there's always a next wave.”

The bill's supporters note that it does not end the government's right to coerce people of faith into violating their conscience in every situation. However, it requires that doing so has to serve a compelling government interest and the government must use the least restrictive means possible. “There will be times when a state or federal government can show it has a compelling reason for burdening religious expression – to ensure public safety, for instance,” said Sarah Torre, an expert at the Heritage Foundation. “But Religious Freedom Restoration Acts set a high bar for the government to meet in order to restrict religious freedom.”

Restricting the ability of government to interfere in people's private decisions, especially their religious decisions, is the very purpose of the Constitution, its supporters say.

"Religious freedom is the cornerstone of all liberty for all people,” Tooley said. “Deny or reduce it, and there are no ultimate limits on the state's power to coerce."

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Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting.
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Porn is transforming our men from protectors into predators. Fight back.

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By Jonathon van Maren

Since I’ve gotten involved in anti-pornography work, I’ve met countless men who struggle, fight, or have beaten pornography. Each person seems to deal with the guilt and shame that accompanies porn use in a different way—some deny that it’s “all that bad,” others pretend that they could “stop whenever they want,” many insist that “everyone is doing it,” and most, when pressed, admit to a deep sense of self-loathing.

One worry surfaces often in conversation: What do my past or current struggles with pornography say about me as a man? Can I ever move past this and have a meaningful and fulfilling relationship?

I want to address this question just briefly, since I’ve encountered it so many times.

First, however, I’ve written before how I at times dislike the language of “struggling” with pornography or pornography “addiction,” not because they aren’t accurate but because too often they are used as an excuse rather than an explanation. It is true, many do in fact “struggle” with what can legitimately be considered an addiction, but when this language is used to describe an interminable battle with no end (and I’ve met dozens of men for whom this is the case), then I prefer we use terminology like “fighting my porn habit.” A semantic debate, certainly, but one I think is important. We need to stop struggling with porn and start fighting it.

Secondly, pornography does do devastating things to one’s sense of masculinity. We know this. Pornography enslaves men by the millions, perverting their role as protector and defender of the more vulnerable and turning them into sexual cannibals, consuming those they see on-screen to satisfy their sexual appetites.

What often starts as mere curiosity or an accidental encounter can turn into something that invades the mind and twists even the most basic attractions. I’ve met porn users who can’t believe the types of things they want to watch. They haven’t simply been using porn. Porn has actively reshaped them into something they don’t recognize and don’t like. 

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Porn is this generation’s great assault on masculinity and the role of men in society. It is essential that we win this battle for the sake of society’s survival. Contrary to what the gender-bending and family-morphing progressive elites claim, good husbands and good fathers and good church leaders are necessary for a healthy society. But pornography is destroying marriages, creating distant and disconnected fathers, and, metaphoricaclly castrating men, hindering their ability and desire to make a positive difference in the society around us.

So, with this sobering set of facts in mind let’s return to the question: what do pornography struggles, past and present, say about a man?

The proper way to respond is with everything that is good about masculinity. We have to fight pornography as men have fought countless evils throughout the ages. We need to fight pornography to protect women, and wives, and children, and our society at large. This is how pornography threatens society, by castrating men, and turning them from protectors into predators. Rooting out the evil in our own lives allows us to better fulfill the role we are called to perform in the lives of others. Battling our own demons enables us to battle the wider cultural demons. Every day without porn is another bit of virtue built. Virtue is not something you’re born with. Virtues are habits that you build. And one day without porn is the first step towards the virtue of being porn-free.

Many men ask me if men who have had past porn addictions are cut out for being in a relationship or working in the pro-life movement or in other areas where we are called to protect and defend the weak and vulnerable. And the answer to that is an unequivocal yes. Our society needs men who know what it means to fight battles and win. Our society needs men who can say that they fought porn and they beat porn, because their families and their friends were too important to risk. Our society needs men who rose to the challenge that the evils of their generation threw at them, and became better men as the result. And our society needs men who can help their friends and their sons and those around them fight the plague of pornography and free themselves from it, too—and who can understand better and offer encouragement more relevant than someone who has fought and been freed themselves?

So the answer to men is yes. Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting. Lend them support and encouragement. We cannot change the fact that porn has left an enormous path of destruction in its wake. But we can change the fact that too many people aren’t fighting it. We can change our own involvement. And we can rise to the challenge and face this threat to masculinity with all that is good about masculinity.

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Red Alert!

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By John-Henry Westen

I don’t like having to do this, but we have always found it best to be totally upfront with our readers: our Spring fundraising campaign is now worrying us! 

You see, with just 6 days remaining, we have only raised 30% of our goal, with $125,000 still left to raise. That is a long ways to go yet.

We have no choice but to reach our minimum goal of $175,000 if we are going to be able to continue serving the 5+ million readers who rely on us every month for investigative and groundbreaking news reports on life, faith and family issues.

Every year, LifeSite readership continues to grow by leaps and bounds. This year, we are again experiencing record-breaking interest, with over 6 million people visiting our website last month alone!

This unprecedented growth in turn creates its own demand for increased staff and resources, as we struggle to serve these millions of new readers.

And especially keep this in mind. As many more people read LifeSite, our mission of bringing about cultural change gets boosted. Our ultimate goal has always been to educate and activate the public to take well-informed, needed actions.

Another upside to our huge growth in readers is that it should be that much easier to reach our goal. To put it simply: if each person who read this one email donated whatever they could (even just $10) we would easily surpass our goal! 

Today, I hope you will join the many heroes who keep this ship afloat, and enable us to proclaim the truth through our reporting to tens of millions of people every year!

Your donations to LifeSite cause major things to happen! We see that every day and it is very exciting. Please join with us in making a cultural impact with a donation of ANY AMOUNT right now. 

You can also donate by phone or mail. We would love to hear from you!

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