Ben Johnson

News,

UPDATED: Supreme Court unanimously shoots down Obama admin in religious freedom case

Ben Johnson

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 12, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In a breakthrough decision for religious freedom, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled Wednesday that religious institutions have a constitutional right to determine their ministers without government interference.

Although the High Court has long recognized churches’ First Amendment right to choose priests and senior pastors, yesterday’s 9-0 decision marked the first time it upheld the “ministerial exception” for religious schools and other parachurch ministries.

“[T]here is a ministerial exception grounded in the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the 36-page ruling. “Requiring a church to accept or retain an unwanted minister, or punishing a church for failing to do so, intrudes upon more than a mere employment decision.

“Such action interferes with the internal governance of the church, depriving the church of control over the selection of those who will personify its beliefs…According the state the power to determine which individuals will minister to the faithful also violates the Establishment Clause, which prohibits government involvement in such ecclesiastical decisions.”

Bishop William E. Lori, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ ad hoc committee for religious liberty, hailed the ruling as “a great day for the First Amendment.” He said, “This decision makes resoundingly clear the historical and constitutional importance of keeping internal church affairs off limits to the government – because whoever chooses the minister chooses the message.”

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) asked the court to overturn the ministerial exception, which was first adopted by lower courts in 1972, a legal precedent that precedes Roe v. Wade. Mark Rienzi, an attorney at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, told the radio program Kresta in the Afternoon on Thursday the EEOC’s position “said in essence religion gets no special treatment here.”

The Court’s decision called the EEOC’s view of the ministerial exception “untenable,” “extreme,” and “remarkable,” according to religious organizations no greater rights than those enjoyed by “a labor union, or a social club.”  The 9-0 ruling amounted to a “very emphatic rejection of this administration’s very narrow view of religious liberty,” Rienzi said.

The Obama administration sued a Detroit-area Lutheran school for dismissing Cheryl Perich, a teacher and “commissioned minister,” for breaking a church doctrine requiring disputes to be resolved internally. Perich, who was diagnosed with narcolepsy, claimed the school really fired her because of her medical condition. Rather than attend a church tribunal, she filed a discrimination lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) joined in litigation against Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran School, arguing all church employees other than priests or senior pastors should be able to sue for discrimination.

Douglas Laycock, the University of Virginia Law professor who argued the school’s case, said no court could evaluate whether a minister had been fired under a pretext without first ruling whether his views and conduct were sufficiently orthodox, something forbidden under the First Amendment. The First Amendment forbade state intrusion into church hiring practices, Laycock said, adding that Perich referred to herself as a minister and claimed a ministerial housing allowance on her taxes.

The EEOC argued since lay teachers performed the same duties, and ministry took up only 45 minutes of her workday, Perich was entitled to lost wages, damages, and attorneys’ fees. Justice Roberts ruled, “The issue before us, however, is not one that can be resolved by a stopwatch.” In his concurring opinion, Justice Samuel Alito stated, “the constitutional protection of religious teachers is not somehow diminished when they take on secular functions in addition to their religious ones.”

Religious liberties advocates argued the case had far-reaching consequences for church ministries of all backgrounds. Government interference in church personnel decisions could lead to a chilling of free speech not favored by the current administration, argued John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, which filed an amicus brief on the school’s behalf. “When a church is forced to make employment decisions based on a lawsuit rather than spiritual needs, the end result is that its core activities and spiritual message are inevitably altered in order to accommodate or protect against government pressures or expectations,” he stated.

Ken Klukowski of the Family Research Council described the lawsuit as a “profoundly troubling claim of power over churches.” 

Proponents of the administration believed the plaintiff’s civil rights outweighed potential First Amendment concerns. Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, stated, “Clergy who are fired for reasons unrelated to matters of theology — no matter how capricious or venal those reasons may be — have just had the courthouse door slammed in their faces.”

The Obama administration’s lawsuit was supported by the ACLU, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, People for the American Way, the American Humanist Association, and several other organizations.

One Catholic organization, BishopAccountability.org, offered an amicus for the EEOC.

Justice Clarence Thomas offered a concurring opinion broadening the ministerial exception and stating the Church should be free to select its ministers entirely free of government regulation. The state, he wrote, should “defer to a religious organization’s good-faith understanding of who qualifies as a minister.” Justices Alito and Elena Kagan added in their concurrence that the term “ministers” should not be definitive, to assure Christian sects and non-Christian religions that have no notion of ordained ministry enjoy the same protections.

The issue is likely to come before the court again, as this ruling did not offer a blanket definition of who qualifies for the ministerial exception, or what other kinds of lawsuits may be allowed. Roberts ruled, “There will be time enough to address the applicability of the exception to other circumstances if and when they arise.” 

The case is Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.



Share this article

Advertisement
Featured Image
Mike Mozart, CC
Claire Chretien Claire Chretien

News,

Texas AG to Target: Show me how you’ll protect women and kids from criminals

Claire Chretien Claire Chretien

AUSTIN, Texas, May 5, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – The latest backlash Target received as a result of its transgender bathroom policy was a letter from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asking the company to provide its safety policies to protect women and children from “those who would use the cover of Target’s restroom policy for nefarious purposes.” 

“Target, of course, is free to choose such a policy for its Texas stores,” Paxton wrote in a letter to Target CEO Brian Cornell. He noted the possibility of the Texas Legislature addressing the issue in the future, but said, “regardless of whether Texas legislates on this topic, it is possible that allowing men in women’s restrooms could lead to criminal and otherwise unwanted activity.”

“As chief lawyer and law enforcement officer for the State of Texas, I ask that you provide the full text of Target’s safety policies regarding the protection of women and children from those who would use the cover of Target’s restroom policy for nefarious purposes,” Paxton continued.

More than 1.1 million people have pledged to boycott Target over its new policy allowing men to access women’s bathrooms.  Opponents of the policy worry that it puts women and children at risk by emboldening predators, who may now freely enter women’s restrooms. 

Target’s new policy is “inclusive,” the company claims, and they say “everyone…deserves to be protected from discrimination, and treated equally.” 

“Texans statewide can no longer be silent on the issue of protecting the safety of women and children,” Texas Values President and Attorney Jonathan Saenz said in a statement Wednesday urging Texans to boycott Target.  This is the first time in its history the pro-family group has called for a boycott. 

“We need all Texans to understand that Target is using this radical change in their store policy to try convince people that our laws should be changed in this dangerous direction as well,” said Saena.  “Our goal with this boycott is for Target to change its dangerous new policy, to raise awareness of the real threats to safety that these policies bring and to help businesses and lawmakers understand the significant opposition to such measures that is growing daily… Texans all across our state must join this Boycott Target effort before someone gets hurt.”

On Tuesday a male allegedly filmed an underage girl at a Frisco, Texas, Target fitting room.  Police are searching for the man. 

There have been numerous incidents of male predators across North America accessing women’s facilities and citing transgender policies as allowing them to do so.  



Share this article

Advertisement
Featured Image
Donald Trump, the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party, represents virtually everything the Republican Party has typically defined itself over against a katz / Shutterstock.com
Albert Mohler

Opinion,

Christians, America has reached a crisis point. Are you ready to take up this challenge?

Albert Mohler

May 5, 2016 (Albert Mohler) -- For nearly two and a half centuries, Americans have enjoyed the enormous privilege and responsibility of forming our own government—a privilege rarely experienced throughout most of human history. For most of history, humanity has struggled with the question of how to respond to a government that was essentially forced upon them. But Americans have often struggled with a very different reality; how do we rightly respond to the government that we choose? 

To put all of this in historical perspective, the Framers of the American experiment understood that a representative democracy built on the principle of limited government would require certain virtues of its citizens. These would include a restraint of passions and an upholding of traditional moral virtues, without which democracy would not be possible. As the idea of limited government implies, the citizenry would be required to carry out the social responsibilities of the community without the intrusion of government and, thus, citizens would be expected to have the moral integrity necessary for such an arrangement. The Framers of the American Republic also agreed that it would be impossible to have a representative democracy and a limited government if the people did not elect leaders who embodied the virtues of the citizenry while also respecting and protecting society’s pre-political institutions: marriage and family, the church, and the local community.

Thus, the idea of a limited government requires that society uphold and pursue the health of its most basic institutions. When a civil society is weak, government becomes strong. When the family breaks down, government grows stronger. When the essential institutions of society are no longer respected, government demands that respect for itself. That is a recipe for tyranny.

Much of this was essentially affirmed until the early decades of the 20th century when progressivists began promoting an agenda that fundamentally redefined the role of the federal government in public life. By the middle of the 20th century, the Democratic Party had essentially embraced this progressivist agenda, becoming committed to an increasingly powerful government—a government whose powers exceeded those enumerated in the Constitution. At the same time, the Democratic Party also began advocating for a basic redefinition of the morality that shaped the common culture. By and large, however, the Republican Party continued to maintain a commitment to the vision of America’s founders, advocating for a traditional understanding of morality while also upholding the principle of limited government.

By the 1980s, the two parties represented two very different worldviews and two very different visions of American government. For decades, each party has acted rather predictably and in ways that accord with their fundamental principles. All of that, however, has now changed.

The 2016 presidential campaign has developed in an entirely unpredictable manner and, in many respects, represents a crisis in American democracy. This crisis is not limited to either party. Bernie Sanders, the Independent senator from Vermont, has won several stunning victories in the primary season over presumed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. While it is still extremely likely that Clinton will become the Democratic nominee, Sanders support among voters represents a populist flirtation with Democratic Socialism. This pattern is something few Democrats could have imagined just one year ago. What this foray into Democratic Socialism represents, then, is a radical adjustment of the Democratic Party’s basic economic principles. Thus, even if Hillary Clinton becomes the nominee, the process will likely drag her even further to the left, eventually redefining the Democratic Party before our very eyes.

But if it is remarkable to see what is happening in the Democratic Party, it is absolutely shocking to see what is happening among Republicans. Traditionally, the Republican Party has established its reputation by standing for the principles advocated by the American Founders—limited government upheld by the health of society’s primary institutions such as marriage, family, and community. Yet Donald Trump, the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party, represents virtually everything the Republican Party has typically defined itself over against. Clearly, both political parties are now redefining themselves. What is not clear is where each party will ultimately end up. What is also not clear is whether the American experiment can survive such radical political change.

As already noted, the American experiment in limited government requires that the citizenry and those who hold public office honor certain moral virtues and respect the institutions that are crucial for a society to rightly function. Yet, we now find ourselves in a situation where the three leading candidates for president show little to no respect for such institutions in their articulations of public policy.

This fundamental redefinition of the American political landscape requires Christians to think carefully about their political responsibility. Make no mistake; we cannot avoid that responsibility. Even refusing to vote is itself a vote because it privileges those who do vote and increases the value of each ballot. In truth, we bear a political responsibility that cannot be dismissed or delegated to others. Every Christian must be ready to responsibly steward his or her vote at the polls.

To put the matter bluntly, we are now confronted with the reality that, in November, Hillary Clinton will likely be the Democratic nominee and Donald Trump the Republican nominee. This poses a significant problem for many Christians who believe they cannot, in good conscience, vote for either candidate. As a result, Christians are going to need a lot of careful political reflection in order to steward their vote and their political responsibility in this election cycle.

Headlines from around the world tell us that other representative democracies are at a similar moment of redefinition. Political turmoil now marks the United Kingdom and also nations like France and other key American allies. Perhaps democracy itself is now facing a crucial hour of decision and a crucial season of testing. It is no exaggeration to say that democracy is being tested around the world; it is certainly being tested here at home. Yet if this is a moment of testing for democracy, it is also a crucial moment for Christian witness. This election cycle is going to be a particular test for American Christians—and we are about to find out if Christians are up to this challenge.

Reprinted with permission from Albert Mohler.



Share this article

Advertisement
Featured Image
Shutterstock.com
Ben Johnson Ben Johnson Follow Ben

News

‘Sick and twisted’: Scientists keep embryos alive outside womb up to 13 days for experimentation

Ben Johnson Ben Johnson Follow Ben

May 5, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Two teams of scientists have announced that they have been able to keep human embryos alive outside the womb for 13 days for the purpose of conducting scientific experiments. Some call the announcement the onset of a “Brave New World,” while others are petitioning lawmakers to lift sanctions that would keep scientists from experimenting on newly conceived babies even longer.

Researchers from Cambridge University, King's College, and Rockefeller University said in two separate reports that they stopped at 13 days only to avoid violating an internationally accepted law. At least 12 nations restrict the amount of time a newly conceived child may be kept alive in a laboratory to 14 days, the point at which scientists believe “individuality” begins.

The newest development allows scientists to observe newly conceived human beings after the point at which implantation in the womb would have occurred.

Professor Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz, one of the studies' lead researchers, said her team's breakthrough could advance embryonic stem cell research and “can improve IVF success.”

Some scientists have called on the international community to extend the amount of time such experimentation can take place.

“If restrictions such as the 14-day rule are viewed as moral truths, such cynicism would be warranted,” three experts – Insoo Hyun, Amy Wilkerson, and Josephine Johnston – wrote in a commentary published yesterday in Nature magazine. “But when they are understood to be tools designed to strike a balance between enabling research and maintaining public trust, it becomes clear that, as circumstances and attitudes evolve, limits can be legitimately recalibrated.”

Pro-life experts said the experimentation destroys human life and could lead to grave ethical dilemmas by extending the research.

“No human being should be used for lethal experimentation, no matter their age or stage of development,” said Dr. David Prentice, a professor of molecular genetics and an Advisory Board Member for the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center. “The 14-day rule is itself arbitrary, and does not assuage those who believe life begins at the moment of sperm-egg fusion. Moreover, allowing experiments on human embryos beyond 14 days post-fertilization risks the lives of untold more human beings, because it further encourages creation and destruction for research purposes.”

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, called the experimentation “sick and twisted.”

“Science has undeniably proven that a new human life, with unrepeatable DNA, begins at conception,” she said. “There is no reason for experimentation on that human life and science itself should not be heralding thae fact that a tiny human being can survive now for two weeks outside of the womb, all for the sole purpose of experimentation.”

Dr. Prentice noted that embryonic stem cell research “has yielded no benefit thus far,” leading even its most vocal advocates, such as Michael J. Fox, to admit it has not lived up to its promise.

“If this research does not stop at 14 days, where does it stop?” asked Prentice. “This is a risky step which could encourage further eugenic attitudes and actions.”

Dr. Prentice encouraged Congress “to have a full and open debate on the issue of human embryo research before the research community moves further without oversight.”



Advertisement

Customize your experience.

Login with Facebook