Uncommon Sense

politics and society are, unfortunately, much the same thing

Report: 2015 Saw ‘Most Violent’ Persecution of Christians in Modern History

original article: Report: 2015 Saw ‘Most Violent’ Persecution of Christians in Modern History
January 20, 2016 by THOMAS D. WILLIAMS

The brutal, worldwide persecution of Christians during the past year makes 2015 “the most violent and sustained attack on Christian faith in modern history,” according to a watchdog organization that has been monitoring Christian persecution for decades.

Open Doors, an organization founded in 1955 to assist persecuted Christians, publishes an annual “World Watch List,” documenting attacks on Christians and ranking the most hostile national environments for believers.

“The 2016 World Watch List documents an unprecedented escalation of violence against Christians, making this past year the most violent and sustained attack on Christian faith in modern history,” Open Doors CEO David Curry said at the rollout of the list.

Persecution in “continuing to increase, intensify and spread across the globe,” he said.

At the top of the Watch List, for the 14th consecutive year, stands North Korea, where an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 Christians are imprisoned in labor camps. Carrying on as one of the last holdouts of Communist totalitarianism, North Korea bears a particular hatred for Christians, who are a constant reminder of accountability to a higher power than the state.

“Christianity is not only seen as ‘opium for the people’ as is normal for all communist states,” the report says. “It is also seen as deeply Western and despicable.” During 2015, thousands of Christians living in North Korea were forced to renounce their faith or flee under threat of death.

As in the case with last year’s report, the vast majority of countries experiencing acute Christian persecution are Muslim nations. In 2015, nine out of the top ten countries where Christians suffer “extreme persecution” had populations that are at least 50 percent Muslim, a phenomenon replicated in 2016.

The 2015 report found that “Islamic extremism is by far the most significant persecution engine” of Christians in the world today and that “40 of the 50 countries on the World Watch List are affected by this kind of persecution.”

The 2016 list places Iraq in second place, immediately after North Korea, with horrific Islamic violence dominating news headlines during 2015. Throughout the year, Christians were forced to flee their homes by the thousands or be killed.

Just this week, the United Nations released an extensive report on Islamic State violence in Iraq, and estimates that ISIS currently holds some 3,500 people, mostly women and children, in the country.

The report, jointly issued by U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq and U.N. human rights office in Geneva, declared ISIS atrocities in Iraq to be “war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly genocide.”

Some of the crimes described in the report include executions by shooting, beheading, bulldozing, burning alive and throwing people off the top of buildings.

The other nations making the top ten in Christian persecution are Eritrea, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Iran, and Libya, all of which have Muslim majorities.

The report underscores the geographical extent of Christian persecution, and Curry highlighted the global nature of the problem, noting that it has become more acute not just in a few isolated regions, but “in every continent in every country.”

“The levels of exclusion, discrimination and violence against Christians is unprecedented, spreading and intensifying,” Curry added. “Christians, longing to stay in their home countries, are being forced to flee for their lives and for their children’s lives,” he said.

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ACLU targets Louisiana high school

original article: ACLU targeting Louisiana school over educator’s ‘God Bless You’ greeting
September 27, 2015 by Fox News

The ACLU of Louisiana is accusing a high school of promoting Christianity in an open letter on Friday because a student group hung prayer boxes and the principal ended an online letter with “May God Bless You All.”

Louisiana ACLU Executive Director Marjorie Esman said in a letter published by the Shreveport Times that Airline High School violated the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by allowing the Fellowship of Christian Athletes to set up prayer boxes that feature “Christian Symbols.” Esman’s letter also noted Principal Jason Rowland closed a September 2015 message to the school’s website with “The Future Starts Today – May God Bless You All.”

“The United States Constitution requires public schools to ensure that state-supported activity is not used for religious indoctrination,” the letter, which was addressed to superintendent D.C. Machen, states. It alleges that Rowland also “encouraged students to ‘pray to the Almighty God.’”

No official action will occur until the school board meets on Oct.1, but the claims addressed in the letter have already been placed on the meeting’s agenda, according to the Shreveport Times.

“In the meantime, please understand that the Bossier Parish School System enjoys an established record of achievement,” a statement from Parish spokeswoman Sonja Bailes said. “Such success is due in large part to the fact that, as in this case, the system respects both the law and the religious beliefs of all its students and employees.”

While school officials are holding their tongues for the time being, other state groups and officials have begun speaking out.

Louisiana State Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Bossier City, has offered free legal services to the Parish and Rowland, according to the Times.

“This is typical of the ACLU,” he said. “They’re on a seek-and-destroy mission for all things religious.”

He added: “I hope the school will stand its ground.”

Freedom Guard, a non-profit public interest law firm, has also offered free legal defense to Airline High School, according to KSLA.

Airline High School is in Bossier City, which lies east of Red River, about 3 miles from Shreveport.

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Student Bullied by Anti-Religious Hostility at University of Wisconsin

original article: Student Bullied by Anti-Religious Hostility at University of Wisconsin
June 24, 2015 by Liberty Counsel

Baraboo, WI – Liberty Counsel demanded the University of Wisconsin reverse its professor’s viewpoint discrimination and open hostility toward religion that occurred when Professor Annette Kuhlman threatened her student, Rachel Langeberg, with a failing grade for a group project unless she removed a Bible reference from a class presentation at the University of Wisconsin-Baraboo/Sauk County.

When reviewing Langeberg’s sociology group project, Professor Kuhlman wrote, “…the University of Wisconsin is a secular institution. Religious contemplations and the bible [sic] belong to a different realm and not academic sources. So your argumentation along Christian lines, including the slides you designed in relation to it, are [sic] inappropriate for this presentation. I will not allow you to present unless you change this. You will also fail your presentation if your discuss religion in connection with it.” After Ms. Langeberg tried to resolve the matter by meeting with the professor and Dean Tracy White, to no avail, she contacted Liberty Counsel.

“Dr. Kuhlman’s review crossed the line from scholarship to censorship,” said Liberty Counsel Attorney Richard Mast. On numerous occasions, the Supreme Court has upheld students’ First Amendment rights in the public schools. The Constitution does not “require complete separation of church and state; it affirmatively mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance, of all religions, and forbids hostility toward any.” Lynch v. Donnelly. Moreover, “teachers must be sensitive to students’ personal beliefs and take care not to abuse their positions of authority.” Farnan v. Capistrano.

“Students do not lose their First Amendment rights when they sign up for classes at the University of Wisconsin,” said Mast. “It is blatantly unconstitutional to restrict student religious speech or threaten a failing grade for religious content, where the speech or content is otherwise academically appropriate for the assignment,” Mast concluded.

Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.

We need a separation between school and state.

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How Does Gay ‘Marriage’ Hurt Us? Here’s How

original article: How Does Gay ‘Marriage’ Hurt Us? Here’s How
June 17, 2015 by Eric Metaxas

Christians are often asked by gay activists why they oppose same-sex “marriage.” “How does our marriage hurt you?” they ask.

Well, I can think of one significant way it will hurt us: It will destroy religious freedom and free speech rights.

The handwriting is on the wall in Canada, which legalized same-sex “marriage” in 2005, in effect completely changing its true meaning. Since then, as Michael Coren notes in National Review Online, “there have been between 200 and 300 proceedings … against critics and opponents of same-sex marriage.” Of course he means legal proceedings.

For instance, in Saskatchewan, a homosexual man called a state marriage commissioner, wanting to “marry” his partner. The commissioner, an evangelical Christian, declined to conduct the ceremony for religious reasons. He simply referred the man to another commissioner.

But that was not enough for the gay couple. Even though they got their ceremony, they wanted to punish the Christian who had declined to conduct it.  The case ended up in the courts. And the result? Those with religious objections to conducting such ceremonies now face the loss of their jobs.

Canadian churches are also under attack. Coren writes that when Fred Henry, the Roman Catholic bishop of Calgary, Alberta, sent a letter to churches explaining traditional Catholic teaching on marriage, he was “charged with a human-rights violation” and “threatened with litigation.”

Churches with theological objections to performing same-sex “wedding” ceremonies are being threatened with the loss of their tax-free status. In British Columbia, the Knights of Columbus agreed to rent its building for a wedding reception before finding out that the couple was lesbian. When they did find out, they apologized to the women and agreed to both find an alternative venue and pay the costs for printing new invitations. But that wasn’t good enough. The women prosecuted, and the Human Rights Commission ordered the Knights of Columbus to pay a fine.

Of course, the lesbians knew perfectly well what the Catholic Church teaches about marriage, but they sought out a Catholic-owned building, anyway.

(AP Photo)

As Michael Coren puts it, “it’s becoming obvious that Christian people, leaders, and organizations are being targeted, almost certainly to create legal precedents”—precedents intended to silence and punish anyone who dares to disagree with so-called gay “marriage.”

If you think this couldn’t happen here, think again. This year [2012] we’ve seen ObamaCare attack the autonomy of Catholic churches by attempting to force them, in violation of Catholic teaching, to pay for contraceptives and abortifacients for church employees. And just last week, a lesbian employee of a Catholic hospital in New York sued the hospital for denying her partner spousal health benefits.

This is what we need to tell our neighbors when they ask us, “How does gay ‘marriage’ hurt us?” It means that those hostile to our beliefs will attempt to bend us to their will to force us to not only accept gay “marriage,” but to condone it as well.

This is why I urge you to join the half-million Christians who have signed the Manhattan Declaration. Please sign it yourself by going to manhattandeclaration.org.

You and I must demonstrate love to our gay neighbors, of course, remembering that we are ultimately engaged in spiritual warfare. But we should boldly stand up when our rights as citizens and the demands of our conscience are threatened.

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Filed under: bigotry, bullies, christian, civil rights, corruption, culture, discrimination, diversity, first amendment, free speech, homosexuality, hypocrisy, ideology, intolerance, left wing, liberalism, nanny state, oppression, political correctness, progressive, public policy, regulation, relativism, religion

Benevolent Totalitarianism – New Age Slavery

original article: The government’s war on Christianity
May 4, 2015 by Bob Livingston

The number one goal of all governments is to control and dominate their own citizens. The more deceptively it can be done, the more complete and long-lasting the tyranny.

I have been telling you for many years that the face of modern tyranny is benevolent totalitarianism. Police state totalitarianism went out with World War II. The “Gestapo” knock at the door in the middle of the night and barbed-wire detainment camps are history, though there are steps in place to recreate them here via FEMA resettlement camps. Benevolent totalitarianism is an advanced stage of people control through mind control and mass psycho-political manipulation.

The individual (individualist) is an enemy of the state. Therefore individuality must be removed. So the individual and the nuclear family, which is an individual and sovereign unit, are under attack.

Stop here, dear reader, if you are offended by the politically incorrect. This column will surely distress your sensibilities. If you read on you are in for some uncomfortable but Godly truths.

Government is attacking the individual and family unit in a myriad of ways: through social programs, class warfare and altruism, which is selfless self-denial to the point of literal self-sacrifice for a myth called society, and propaganda.

Social welfare programs are destructive to the individual and the family unit because they absolve the parents of their parental responsibilities and promote dependency on government. There are now “families” that for two or three generations have been wards of the state. Many if not most of them are without a male head of household. They depend upon the state to provide their sustenance, their housing, their transportation, their healthcare and their entertainment. They know nothing of individuality or personal responsibility. Their provider is the state, and the state is their god. It is 21st Century Baal worship.

Class warfare is a code word for race warfare and it promotes racism and bigotry. Government panders to minorities with extravagant subsidies and racism. Minorities respond because they are conditioned to do so. Subsidies and racism are subtle forms of economic warfare between the middle class and minorities. All is a masquerade for the benefit of a wicked political system.

Who are minorities? They are, of course, racial minorities, but there are a whole lot more. There are homosexual minorities, feminist minorities, political minorities, religious minorities, low wage minorities and all the minorities whose issues dominate the news cycles. For more on this read, “Lawyers and minorities love socialism.”

Public policy is molded on these manipulated minority influences, all contributing to the power and collectivism of government. This is all an invisible charade, an organism, with a totally different and opposite orientation to individual liberty and Christianity. It is in reality New Age slavery, a benevolent totalitarianism, an illusion of freedom.

One can always identify minority special interests simply because they welcome government intervention and intrusion (socialism) as a net for perceived social inequality, poverty and underachievement. Guilt manipulation and all manner of charades are used to force social and economic equality where none is earned.

Because of perceived social, cultural, racial and psychic inferiority, minorities desire to parasite on government force and socialism to subvert those they envy and wish to imitate.

They could never succeed except for the very sophisticated propaganda of altruism.

Altruism is the very foundation of statist propaganda that the individual must place his interests, including his property, beneath the “need” of the collective (state). It is a deceptive ploy by government to play upon Christian values of service and servitude as taught by Jesus Christ. But it is not service to benefit others — as Christ taught — that the state seeks, but service and sacrifice to the state. In our time this is called “in the public interest” or “common good.” The terms “public interest” and “common good” always translate to “in the government interest.”

Therefore, the army of federal judges and politicians act in the “public interest.” And they would tell you in a minute that they do everything in the “public interest.” This is a deception that few unravel mainly because of the self-deception of altruism. As long as an individual believes that he should share his property and produce for the “common good,” he is in reality no longer an individual but a part of the collective servants of the state. Altruism motivates people to self-sacrifice for the state. This is why altruism is at the root of all governments. Governments must instill self-sacrifice to solidify political power.

The goal of government is to coerce the people into a regimented, docile and obedient mass under a propaganda system based on altruism and self sacrifice. That is why the individual and the family unit must be undermined.

The individual will act in his own interest and is therefore a danger to the state. In a traditional family unit headed by a man – as established by God in Genesis 1 and reaffirmed by Christ in Matthew 19 and the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 and Colossians 3 — the individualist man will always act in the best interest of self and family.

The crowd, on the other hand, is easy to persuade and manipulate through the mass media. Note that few if any television families today or in the last 40 years are traditional families. This is by design. In fact, traditional families are anathema to Hollywood and the male head of household, if there is one, is almost always portrayed as drunk, a louse, an adulterer, an abuser or a buffoon — or some combination of those traits — who is disrespected by his wife and children. This serves to diminish the role and necessity of the father and the traditional family unit. (This is not to vilipend the importance of the work by single parents in families torn apart by death or divorce, but to point out that the ideal family in God’s plan is for there to be a husband, wife and children.)

All public schools are government training grounds for group dynamics. Everything is taught in terms of groups over individualism and even family. Children are force-fed altruism, feelings-based character traits (where self-esteem is elevated over achievement), alternative lifestyles and even non-Christian religious or pagan dogma. But Christian-based values are banned from the classroom and the discussion.

So how is all this an attack on Christianity? The way to destroy a religion is to dilute it. Enough water in the milk and the milk becomes water. The way to conquer a religion is to absorb it. The way to one-world religion is to unite all religions. This is what secret cults do rather than open confrontation.

Christianity still has its name, its churches and its forum but not its spirit. Hillary Clinton recently said “deep-seated … religious beliefs” have to be changed before the world’s women will get full access to abortion. Fifty-three million souls lost to abortion since Roe v. Wadeare not enough for her or the arbotionistas.

But Christians cannot change these “deep-seated … religious beliefs” because if they do so they are no longer Christian. (1 John 2)

The homosexual lobby tells Christians they must violate their beliefs and God’s commands and participate in their immorality. The homosexual lobby preaches tolerance but will not tolerate other beliefs. They are homo-intolerant.

The regime’s Solicitor General conceded to Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito that if homosexual marriage is legalized by the Supreme Court that churches that do not accept homosexual marriage in their doctrines would lose their tax-exempt status. This would be an all-out, full frontal assault on the Christian faith. And it would get ugly quickly, because Christians cannot accept homosexual marriage in their midst because to do so is to violate God’s command in Ephesians 5:3, and engage in works of the flesh. In fact, some avowed Christians are now promising resistance to this heresy.

Some “Christians,” I call them nominal Christians, have come to accept anything that doesn’t interfere with their six pack and wide-screen TV. So they sit back as the messianic state, also known as the nanny state, legislates away our freedoms one by one, promising security in return and even deliverance from every modern problem. Herein the religious basis of the modern religio-political system is revealed. One cannot understand politics today (which is to say, the system) until one understands the history and manifestation of false religion among sinful men.

All sin is established and brought forth from a seemingly tiny kernel of false belief about the nature and purpose of man. This humanistic kernel is planted in the vacuum of men’s hearts and spirits when they kick God out of their lives. As the Bible tells us, true belief is shown in the doing (James 2:14-26). Faith without works is dead. Many men speak of freedom but their actions do not accord with what they say.

Christians, in your smugness, arrogance, conceit and materialism, the time is at hand when you will be considered “a terrorist” if you claim your faith, proclaim Biblical teaching, belong to a patriotic group or even a pro-life organization.

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Religion of peace beats, burns boy alive

original article: Christian Boy Dies After Muslim Men Beat, Burn Him Alive for His Faith
April 15, 2015 by LEAH MARIEANN KLETT

A 14 year old Pakistani Christian boy has died five days after being set on fire by two Muslim men, doctors and family have revealed.

Last week, Christian group The Voice Society reported that Nauman Masih was coming from a tailor’s shop in Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab, when he was attacked by the two young Muslim men. The men, who were going for Friday prayers to their mosque, reportedly stopped Nauman and asked what his religion was.

“I told them that I am Christian. They started beating me, when I tried running, both boys started following me through the street and then they threw Kerosene on me and burnt me,” Nuaman was quoted as saying. “I kept on running when a heap of sand came my way, I lied down on the sand … [A] few people from the community … [extinguished] fire by putting sand on me. I became unconscious, and they called 1122 Emergency medical helpline and called [for] an ambulance.”

Nuaman was hospitalized with more than fifty percent of his body covered in severe burns. Sadly, on Wednesday, the boy died from his injuries, UCANews has confirmed.

As previously reported by the Gospel Herald, the teen had been living with his paternal uncle, Nadeem Masih, as his father died when he was just four years old.

On Wednesday, Nadeem tearfully explained that he has called on authorities to track down his nephew’s killers.

“I appeal to the Punjab government and Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to ensure the killers are brought to justice,” Nadeem said, explaining that he had raised Nauman like his own son. “We have registered a police complaint.”

This kind of horrific situation is becoming far more common in Pakistan, where hatred against Christians has reached unprecedented levels despite Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s repeated promises to protect believers, who make up just 2% of the country’s population.

In November, a Christian couple, Shama and Shahzad, were tortured by a Muslim mob and burnt alive in a brick kiln furnace after being falsely accused of desecrating the Quran.

Then, in March, 15 people were killed in two simultaneous attacks on churches in a Christian area of the city of Lahore. A Pakistani Taliban splinter group has since claimed responsibility for the attack, which left another 80 people injured.

“All these incidents are honestly just the tip of the iceberg of discrimination and persecution that religious minorities endure – from indentured servitude, forced conversions to kidnapping for ransom,” ICC President Jeff King told the Christian Post in a recent interview. “The list of grievances is endless and it is inflicted on Pakistan’s religious minorities.”

Joseph Francis, national director of the Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), has also condemned the attacks.

“The killing of Nauman has further increased a prevalent sense of insecurity among Christians who are yet to recover from the twin suicide attacks on churches in Lahore,” he said.

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What Is Religious Freedom?

original article: What Is Religious Freedom?
April 7, 2015 by Joseph Backholm

Last week, America had a rigorous debate over religious freedom. Just in case you crawled into a cave for lent and are now emerging from isolation, I’ll catch you up.

First, Indiana passed a law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). It mirrored a federal law that has been in place since 1993 which states that government must meet a very high standard before doing things that burden the free exercise of religion.

Fearing that it would create room for business owners not to be part of same-sex weddings, the tolerance mob threw themselves to the ground in unison and began convulsing…for days. Apple threatened to stop doing business in Indiana because of their “discriminatory” laws despite recently opening stores in Saudi Arabia, where homosexuality is punishable by flogging, imprisonment or execution.

Washington’s Governor Jay Inslee ordered a ban on state travel to Indiana despite recently taking a trip to China. Late last week he also had the communist Chinese flag flown on the state capitol grounds.

Connecticut’s Governor Dan Malloy also issued a travel ban to Indiana despite the fact that his state has a RFRA that is broader than the one passed in Indiana.

A reporter from an ABC affiliate in South Bend, Indiana traveled 30 miles to the town of Walkerton to search for business owners who didn’t support same-sex marriage. Inside Memories Pizza, they discovered a 21 year-old girl who, when asked, said she supported the new law. She explained that while the business would never decline serve a person who identified as gay, she thought they would decline to cater a gay wedding because of their beliefs about marriage.

Like that’s going to be an issue.

You pretty much lose your gay card if you have your wedding catered with pizza.

Still, once word got round that there’s a bigot in them there woods, the mob grabbed their torches and pitch forks and temporarily left their ivory towers to protest this monument to intolerance because indignation is what they do. The business was forced to close (hopefully, temporarily).

While the little businesses were being shut down, the big businesses started calling the politicians who promised to do whatever was necessary to keep the campaign contributions coming. In the end, the politicians passed a “fix” which was really a “break”. It clarified that if there is ever a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty that sexual liberty would win.

No longer are courts allowed to balance the competing interests of people who identify as gay with the people who have strong beliefs about marriage they are unwilling to compromise. In Indiana now, gay beats God. Every time.

As the debate raged, one thing became clear. Everyone says they believe in religious freedom, but there are very different understandings of what that means.

As one post on my social media feed stated, “Religious freedom is about the right to worship how you want on your own time.” Lots of people “liked” it.

But is it true? Is religious freedom about church and the right to say your prayers?

The American idea of religious freedom is rooted in the First Amendment. “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Those eager to take a narrow view of religious freedom often cite Reynolds v. the United States when the Supreme Court said, “Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious beliefs and opinions, they may with practices.”

This seems to suggest that the government can control our actions, even those we say are “religious.”

But that quote, and that case, is far from the end of the story.

In fact, it was the beginning story. Literally.

Reynolds, a case from 1878, was the first time the Supreme Court considered what the “free exercise” of religion meant. In that case, they took a narrow view of religious freedom because they wanted to ban polygamy and Mormons were arguing that the First Amendment protected their right to multiple wives.

Strangely, this 140 year-old case in which the conservatives of the day banned polygamy is now being used by modern day leftists to force today’s conservatives to celebrate same-sex weddings.

However, after Reynolds, the Supreme Court abandoned their own precedent and greatly expanded their understanding of what religious freedom was.

Jehovah’s Witnesses were acknowledged to have the right to pass out literature (Schneider v. Town of Irvington, 1939) and refuse to cite the pledge of allegiance (West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 1943). Seventh-Day Adventists could not lose unemployment benefits for declining to work on Saturday (Sherbert v. Verner, 1963) and the Amish could not be bound by compulsory school laws that conflicted with their beliefs (Wisconsin v. Yoder, 1972).

In these cases, the Supreme Court clarified that if government is going to burden religious freedom, they must: (1) have a compelling reason and (2) use the least restrictive means possible.

It wasn’t until Native American’s became involved that the Supreme Court moved away from strong protections for religious freedom. In 1988, the court ruled that it did not violate the law to build a road through Native Americans’ sacred lands (Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Ass’n) and then in 1990 ruled that the government could stop them from using peyote in their religious ceremonies (Employment Division v. Smith) as they had done for thousands of years.

Curiously, building a road through sacred lands was not illegal because it did not “coerce individuals into acting contrary to their religious beliefs,” though that is exactly what is being attempted now.

In these cases, the court didn’t just change the outcome, they changed the test.

Instead of requiring the government to have a compelling reason and use the least restrictive means possible, the Court said the government needed only to prove that their laws were “neutral laws of general applicability.”

In other words, “everyone was required to eat the pork, so you Jews have no right to complain about being targeted.”

This is a much lower standard that disrespected the religious freedoms of everyone, not just the Native Americans who were impacted in these cases.

In recognition of this fact, Congress responded to the Supreme Court’s decision by passing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) which restored the standard that existed prior to 1990. It passed Congress almost unanimously and President Clinton signed it in 1993.

Once again, religious freedom received the highest protections we give to fundamental rights.

Since then, RFRA has been used to defend: (1) the rights of a Lipan Apache leader to own eagle feathers; (2) a Sikh devotee’s right to carry a kirpan (an emblem resembling a small knife with a blunt, curved blade) to his job at the IRS; and (3) allowed a kindergartner to enroll in kindergarten despite a policy that a boys hair should be shorter than the collar.

What’s the point of all this?

Religious freedom has always been about much more than “the right to worship how you want on your own time.”

“But not in your business”, they say.

While the law does treat businesses and individuals differently in many ways, it has long recognized that businesses do not exist independent of the people who own them. And those people still have rights.

This is why courts have acknowledged that corporations have free speech rights, the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, and even a racial status. After all, you can’t have a minority owned business if the business doesn’t take on some of the characteristics (and resulting protections) of its owner.

If a business can be Hispanic, can it not also be Catholic, Jewish, or Muslim?

Unfortunately, for those who are working hardest to destroy the individual freedoms of Americans, none of this matters.

Things like legal precedent and the free exchange of ideas are simply roadblocks to a more tolerant world.

If they can just stop you from “discriminating”, then the world will become more tolerant. The fact that they have to be exceedingly intolerant in order to make the world more tolerant is lost on them because they have good intentions.

But it should not be lost on you.

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Religious conservatives are the targets of discrimination, lawyer says

original article: Religious conservatives are the targets of discrimination, lawyer says
April 3, 2015 by JOHN M. GLIONNA

Jordan Lorence is a veteran attorney who in 2006 represented a female photographer in one of the cases widely cited in the “religious freedom” law debate this week.

From his office in Washington, he has watched the events in Indiana and Arkansas and quickly reached this conclusion: Religious conservatives are the ones being discriminated against for their stance of conscience.

Lorence, the senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious-based legal lobbying group, represented a New Mexico photographer who declined to take photos for a gay wedding.

“Nobody has a religion that says they have to deny service to gay people, the way the other side portrays this issue,” he said. “That completely distorts reality and makes this seem like a segregated lunch counter in the South.”

He added: “I’ve had a long time to ponder this and I can’t think of a single person who has said ‘My religion says I can’t sell goods and services to gay people.’ Nobody.”

His observations offer an up-close look at one side of the issue that provoked a national uproar when lawmakers in Indiana and Arkansas approved legislation that they argue was designed to protect religious freedoms. The laws were widely criticized as measures that would allow for discrimination against gays and lesbians who could be denied goods and services in the name of religious belief. Many conservative backers of the law were opposed to same-sex marriage. Arkansas also took up the issue.

Governors in both states signed new legislation on Thursday that offers some protection against discrimination for sexual orientation, aiming to satisfy critics that included high-profile business leaders and gay rights activists.

Lorence explained why many religious people of support such laws. What some are saying, he insisted, is that they cannot be a party to a ceremony in which marriage is defined differently than between one man and one woman—or serve as an advocate for such a marriage.

He said some professions do more than just sell goods. Some, he said, involve creativity and moral decisions.

People such as website designers, videographers, social media specialists and advertising agencies that devise campaigns—if asked to advocate political or religious platforms— have a right under the law to decline

“They don’t have a standard product – it’s a message they have to formulate to put out there, but people want to ignore the fact that asking a [Christian] website designer to create a website that God does not exist could create some crisis of conscience.”

He said the law should protect, for instance, a Jewish tattoo artist asked to create a Nazi swastika.

The threshold for denying services in a religious protection case, he said, is whether the task required by the religious person is “expressive.” Does the job involve some sort of creativity?

For example, he said a Walmart clerk could not refuse to check out a gay couple. “A Walmart clerk can’t say ‘I wont sell food that a gay couple wants to buy.’ That’s not expressive, they would lose the discrimination case.”

On the other hand, he argues, decorating a wedding cake with a message is an expressive act and should fall under religious protection laws.

“Those are going to create a conscientious objection. And if there is a nondiscrimination law that says, ‘You must promote my message or take part in my ceremony or I’m going to sue you for discrimination,’ that raises some significant constitutional issues.”

In 2006, Elane Photography owner Elaine Huguenin received an email request to photograph a “commitment ceremony” between two same-sex partners, asking if Huguenin would be “open to helping us celebrate our day….” according to the Alliance Defending Freedom website.

The site says the photographer declined to use her artistic expression to communicate a message at odds with her beliefs. The client, Vanessa Willock, filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission. After a one-day administrative trial in 2008, the commission ruled against the Huguenins and ordered them to pay $6,637.94 in attorneys’ fees to Willock. Lorence had invoked New Mexico’s version of the religious protection law.

The case then made its way through the New Mexico state court system, and the New Mexico Supreme Court upheld the ruling. In a concurrence accompanying the court’s opinion, one of the justices wrote that the Huguenins “now are compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives,” adding “it is the price of citizenship.”

Said Lorence: “She is a photographer. Her work isn’t like taking photos for the DMV. Ms. Willock said she wanted to hire her because she liked her style, her artistic message. She said ‘I want you to put our ceremony in the best light and communicate the message that our relationship is legitimate and that we love each other.’

“Elaine said that in good conscience ‘I can’t do that.’ She had a conviction not to take the job. She doesn’t take pictures like a gumball machine dispenses candy.”

In 2012, Sante Fe, N.M., hair stylist Antonio Darden made news when he said he would no longer cut the hair of Gov. Susana Martinez—or offer her the secret hair coloring recipe he designed just for her—because he disagreed with her opposition to gay marriage. Although his stand did not involve a religious protection law, Lorence used the anecdote to make a point.

“The governor’s aides called not too long ago, wanting another appointment to come in,” Darden, who is gay, told a local television station at the time, “Because of her stances and her views on this, I told her aides no. They called the next day, asking if I’d changed my mind about taking the governor in and I said no.”

Darden added: “It’s just equality, dignity for everyone. Everybody should be allowed the right to be together.”

Lorence said the media rallied behind Darden.

“The stories said ‘Wow, what a principled guy. They treated him like a hero because the governor violated his beliefs,” Lorence said — and the fervor caught on.

“Waiters and waitresses in the area vowed not to provide service to the governor if she came in to eat because of her stance on same-sex marriage,” he said.

Lorence believes laws that protect religious convictions are in place for a reason, and should not be politicized.

“Because this hairdresser was on the right side of the political debate, he got a pass in the press,” he said. “It’s wrong to view religious liberty laws as a fortress of the conservatives, that if you wipe out laws protecting religious liberty you’ve somehow seized a strategic stronghold of the enemy and brought them closer to defeat.”

Reached at his shop, Dardon told the Los Angeles Times that he had every right to deny service.

“I am gay. And she did not treat me as an equal,” he said. “And if you do not treat me as an equal, you cannot come into my shop.”

Lorence had a message to those on the other side of the debate.

“Be careful what you wish for. One day, the government will demand that you do something that violates your innermost beliefs. And then you’ll have absolutely no defense.”

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Age of intolerance: What the Indiana pizza attacks tell us about free speech

original article: Age of intolerance: What the Indiana pizza attacks tell us about free speech
April 6, 2015 by Howard Kurtz

The Indiana pizza uproar is still giving me indigestion.

Just when gay rights advocates had won a victory by getting Mike Pence and the Indiana legislature to modify their religious freedom law, left-wing zealots harassed the poor folks at Memories Pizza into temporarily shutting down.

As you probably know, the contretemps began when Crystal O’Connor, one of the shop’s owners, told a local ABC station that they wouldn’t provide pies for a gay wedding. As she later told Neil Cavuto, “It is not a sin that we bring gays into our establishment and to serve them. It is a sin, though, if we cater their wedding. We feel we are participating, we are putting a stamp of approval on their wedding.”

By answering that hypothetical question, O’Connor unleashed an outpouring of hate on social media. Yelp was flooded with such images as Hitler holding a pizza and Jesus holding up a middle finger. “Avoid this place like the Plague,” one person wrote. “Sounds to me like a memory of owning a pizza place is all the owners going to have after this idiocy,” said another.

Now I don’t think it’s fair to blame this on “the left.” It’s not that liberal commentators or leading activists were mounting a crusade against the pizzeria, it’s these morons who spew venom, often anonymously, with nasty tweets, nasty emails, and now nasty restaurant “reviews.”

I get that Crystal O’Connor’s business may not have a legal right to refuse service, not that there’s a great demand for sausage and pepperoni at gay weddings or any other kind of wedding. But she wasn’t even expressing animosity toward gays and lesbians, just explaining her Christian beliefs.

This reinforces my view that the clashes in Indiana and Arkansas were largely about the politics of symbolism. Whether you’re more concerned about religious liberty or about gay rights, how many bakers and florists could have been affected by the Indiana law as originally signed, before a media and business backlash prompted Pence to accept gay rights language in the revised measure?

But the larger problem is that too many on the left want to silence free speech or punish those whose beliefs are deemed unacceptable. You see this every time a campus protest forces a conservative speaker to cancel an appearance—and that should depress honest liberals who once fervently fought for free speech.

Remember last year, when pressure from gay activists and boycott threats forced Brendan Eich to resign as CEO of the browser company Mozilla? His sin was to make a donation to the 2008 Prop 8 campaign in California, which succeeded at the time in banning gay marriage.

Keep in mind that those who don’t support gay marriage are being denounced and hounded for taking the same position that Barack Obama espoused until 2012.

Same-sex marriage is now legal in 37 states, and with young people increasingly seeing it as a non-issue, that trend will undoubtedly continue. But it’s important for all of us, in the media and elsewhere, to respect the views of a significant number of Americans who don’t agree.

On Crystal O’Connor and the pizza controversy, the Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf, a gay marriage supporter, frames the question around small-business owners as “should we destroy their livelihoods”:

“The owners of Memories Pizza are, I think, mistaken in what their Christian faith demands of them. And I believe their position on gay marriage to be wrongheaded. But I also believe that the position I’ll gladly serve any gay customers but I feel my faith compels me to refrain from catering a gay wedding is less hateful or intolerant than let’s go burn that family’s business to the ground.

“And I believe that the subset of the gay-rights movement intent on destroying their business and livelihood has done more harm than good here—that they’ve shifted their focus from championing historic advances for justice to perpetrating small injustices against marginal folks on the other side of the culture war.”

But liberal Washington Post columnist Gene Robinson likens the debate to the civil rights movement:

“It is her right to believe whatever she wants. Religious liberty is guaranteed by the Constitution. But in a pluralistic society, freedom of worship cannot mean a business that serves the general public can discriminate. When I was growing up in the South, there were business owners who believed the Lord didn’t intend for different races to mix, much less marry. Federal civil rights legislation barred these businesses from acting on that belief. The proprietors got over it.”

But National Review’s Jonah Goldberg says that critics of these religious freedom laws are going overboard:

“Comparing RFRA laws to Jim Crow laws turns all of this on its head. Jim Crow laws forced tolerant businesses to be intolerant of blacks. No one, anywhere, is suggesting that people who want to do business with same-sex couples should be barred from doing so. The argument is whether the government should force a few ardent Christians (or Jews or Muslims) to participate in a ceremony that violates their faith.”

Rush Limbaugh is escalating matters further, saying the battle is part of “the Democrats’ war on Christianity” because “they resent that Christianity provides a repository for faith and confidence in something other than government, which is where they want all power localized.”

I get that passions are running high. But if Republicans and Democrats were able to find a compromise in Indianapolis, perhaps we could all lower the temperature a bit—and that includes those who think it’s great sport to harass a small pizza shop owner.

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When did ‘tolerance’ start to mean punishing people for their beliefs?

original article: Here’s What Happens When It’s Okay To Punish People’s Beliefs
April 3, 2015 by Rick Wilson

I try to stay off Twitter on April first. The jokes are rarely as good as their authors think, which is why the Internet Rage Machine attack unleashed on the Memories Pizza parlor in Indiana couldn’t have happened on a worse day. This had to be a joke, right?

Sadly, it wasn’t. It was a custom-made moral panic story perfectly tuned to stroke the egos and ideological erogenous zones of Washington and New York’s media classes. It was a perfect opportunity to play their Red State Haters narrative at full volume. Of course, we’re locked in the Stupid Spiral now, talking about this instead of the news of a Democratic U.S. senator being indicted for corruption or of Hillary Clinton destroying evidence under subpoena, or of Barack Obama willing to sell his soul for a bad nuclear deal with a gleeful Iran.

As with immigration, race, abortion, guns, income inequality, and a host of other topics, I’m reminded that gay marriage and religious liberty questions will never be resolved in the eyes of liberals. A large segment of the Left wants their vote-driver issues to never, ever be in the rear-view. There is no shining city ahead for them, just an endless arena of raw, almost inchoate rage and complaint. Their entire model is predicated on the creation and maintenance of grievance demographics, and the latest flavor is the hypothetical oppression of gay couples in contrived scenarios in tiny Indiana pizza shops. Oh, this one will fade soon, but the sense that these fights are getting louder, and uglier, is troubling.

Political Violence Is Never Okay

At some point, the social-justice warrior crowd is going to incite their people into something more than Ferguson or Occupy or Internet harassment. At some point, their fanatic desire to erase God from the hearts and minds and actions of red America will cross a threshold. Someday, in some town, a Christian shopkeeper who becomes the focus of the 4chan or Reddit Rage Machine will be killed by some militant atheist or black bloc kid or some other flavor of crazy. That day, their rage won’t come from the click of a mouse, but from the barrel of a gun.

That day, their rage won’t come from the click of a mouse, but from the barrel of a gun.

On that day, instead of reacting with horror and disgust, someone important enough in their social-justice-warrior universe–be it a political figure, a celebrity, or just a popular activist–will say something like, “I abhor violence, but…”

On the day that “but” becomes acceptable on the Left, it’s a ratchet that turns only one way. When political violence becomes mainstreamed, it infects a society quickly. It’s a short, quick slide into hell. The tolerance crowd will read that scenario and explode with denials. They’re never going to call for violence. Leftism is a peaceful religion. (Sound familiar?)

Sorry, kids. The twentieth century (really, every century) is replete with examples of the boundaries of civilization fraying when the cause of the day made religiously or ideologically driven violence acceptable. In almost every case, the owners of the dominant share of cultural and social power did let it happen there. I fear that even here, even now we’re not beyond it.

It’s Reprehensible to Punish Thoughtcrime

If, following a breathless media report, it’s okay to destroy the business of someone who objects to you or your lifestyle on religious grounds, why not burn their home down? Does someone like that really deserve to have a place to live? Why not torch his cars? His kids are allowed in school? Hell, why not drag those hateful, homophobic bigots outside and hang them, pour encourager les autres? Of course, it couldn’t happen here, says America’s justice-warrior class, “We just want you to stop having Wrong Thoughts.”

If it’s okay to destroy the business of someone who objects to you or your lifestyle on religious grounds, why not burn their home down?

The Rage Machine’s footsoldiers are unable to imagine consequence, or accountability–and it shows. They’ve been told what the Wrong Thoughts are and, by Tyson, they’re going to punish the people who hold them. You might think some vestigial moral center of the Left would rein in their vanguard, but as in so many cases before, they’re hiding behind the “it can’t happen here” argument. It resonates well in their minds–and with their media enablers.

I imagine that promise sits less comfortably with the uneasy ghosts of Germany, Russia, China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Armenia, Bosnia, Rwanda, and a hundred other less-known excursions into correcting the Wrong Thoughts of the Wrong People.

Floyd Lee Corkins II attacks FRC, attempts mass murder because of their supposed ‘anti-gay’ stance

Provocating journalist instigates story resulting in death threats and other terrorism against Christian pizzeria

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