Jim Tonkowich

by Jim Tonkowich

Guest Writer

July 26, 2014

Dodging Bullets Over Religious Freedom

We are dodging bullets, bullets that would be fatal to our way of life because they are aimed at our religious freedom.

We dodged a bullet (for now at least) when the Senate voted on Wednesday not to consider S. 2578. The bill, entitled “Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act of 2014,” is, as Ed Whelan of the Ethics & Public Policy Center noted, more appropriate named “The Religious Freedom Deprivation Bill.”

The bill is designed to overturn the affirmation of religious freedom in the U. S. Supreme Court’s Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision. The Court told the government that it cannot force closely held corporations to pay for abortion causing “contraceptives” in their employee health insurance plans when the corporations’ owners have religious objections. This bill would undo that decision.

Then it gets worse. Beyond contraceptives, abortifacients, and sterilization, the bill specifies that there will be no religious exemptions from providing any “item or service” mandated “under any provision of Federal law or the regulations promulgated thereunder.”

As William Saunders and Mary Drury write at lifenews.com, “Effectively, this writes a blank check to the Obama Administration (or future administrations) to force employers to pay for insurance coverage of any drugs, devices, and services—even if that employer has a religious or consciences objection.” “Any” could include abortions including late-term abortions and physician-assisted suicide.

The bill overturns Hobby Lobby, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA), and the First Amendment. As Bishop William Lori and Sean Cardinal O’Malley of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote to the Senate before the vote, “In short, the bill does not befit a nation committed to religious liberty. Indeed, if it were to pass, it would call that commitment into question.” Let me suggest that the fact that the bill was proposed calls the commitment to religious liberty of a majority of our senators into question.

It was close: 56 to 43 with 60 needed to take up the bill. Find your senators here.

Down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Senate there are more bullets to dodge.

A few weeks ago, the White House announced that it is writing an Executive Order to ban discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders (LGBTs) by anyone contracting with the federal government.

Since many Christian organizations have federal contracts, leaders of churches and groups sent the president letters. One letter asks that the president, “include explicit religious freedom protections in any executive order providing nondiscrimination guarantees for LGBT employees of federal contractors” including a “non-retaliation clause,” since “A religious exemption will only be meaningful if organizations that claim it are not punished for asserting their rights.”

A second more conciliatory letter asking for a religious exemption was sent by another group including D. Michael Lindsay, President of Gordon College, an evangelical school north of Boston. It is perhaps ironic that this letter didn’t ask for a “non-retaliation” clause since Dr. Lindsay has been dodging bullets ever since.

Denny Burk, Professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College blogged:

“I don’t think anyone at Gordon College anticipated the backlash that would result from President Lindsay’s signature on the letter. Today [July 15], an Op-Ed in the Boston Globe says Gordon College is “dressed in a cloak of bigotry they refer to as religious freedom.” Some of Gordon’s own students and alumni are unhappy, and there is now an online petition calling on President Lindsay to remove his signature from the letter. The school’s accrediting agency has announced its intention to investigate whether Gordon College meets requirements for diversity and non-discrimination. The mayor of Salem has terminated a contract with Gordon College now that the college “advocates for discrimination against the LGBT community.”

Lindsay defended himself in an open letter to the Gordon College community: “Signing the letter was in keeping with our decades-old conviction that, as an explicitly Christian institution, Gordon should set the conduct expectations for members of our community. Nothing has changed in our position.”

But a great deal has changed in the culture outside and inside Gordon College. For many evangelicals and Catholics, sexual liberation now trumps biblical and Church teachings.

To be fair, accreditation agency, The New England Association of Schools & Colleges, has told Lindsay that when a school is in the headlines, it’s common procedure to ask questions and the college is not in imminent danger of losing their accreditation. Another bullet dodged at least for now. But for how much longer?

Sad to say the letters and Dr. Lindsay’s tribulations appear to have been for naught. Given the choice between religious freedom and sexual expression, President Obama picked sexual expression. The Executive Order announced Friday and signed Monday contains no exceptions for faith-based contractors.

It makes you wonder how long we can try to dodge bullets before our religious freedom is little more than a faint memory.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on ReligionToday.com. It has been cross-posted with permission.

9 Responses to Dodging Bullets Over Religious Freedom

  1. MarcoPolo says:

    Corporations and other Businesses are NOT People, and thusly, are for profit, not for preaching religious edicts.
    The Citizens United was a disastrous Supreme Court decision, and the Hobby Lobby-Conestoga ruling was equally destructive to the Capitalist system. Non-Profits like Churches, etc. may be the only exemption, but NOT, for profit businesses.

    Simple, right? And better for the Greater Good!

    • Thomas says:

      Please go troll somewhere else. You`re pathetic. Liberalism is the new fascism, for sure.

      • MarcoPolo says:

        Thanks for directions, Thomas, but I have as much reason and love to be part of these conversations. Besides, if it weren’t for those of us who think differently than you, you’d just be preaching to the choir.

        Peace to you too, brother!

        • Thomas says:

          You learned the noble art of being a intolerant fanatic with a smile in your face and nice words. Obama sure does it well. And your “brotherhood” its with your likes.

          • MarcoPolo says:

            I think I’m quite tolerant, Thomas.

            I believe this world needs to be even MORE tolerant.
            So doesn’t that also mean that everybody must compromise somewhere in their collective being?
            I know it’s asking different things of different ‘business entities.

            When it comes to orthodox religion as an entity that exists purely by the benevolence of its parishioners and supporters, for them to be compared to a retail corporation that is in business to make money, it enters a different realm. Aside from a religious edict to guide and direct it’s owner to profit without guilt, these issues will probably be resolved in court.
            And that is what we’re seeing happen.

            Isn’t this an exciting time to live?

      • MarcoPolo says:

        Thomas, I think we agree on the same thing, regarding the issue of religious freedom. ( And please tell me if I’m wrong), but neither of us want to see ANY religious institutions being closed. For any reason!!

        It is abundantly clear, that over the centuries, the Church has borne the burden of providing charity and compassion to the needy. It would be ideal if we as a society AND Government made certain that those institutions be bolstered and supported by all means of contribution, be they private, public, corporate or PAC monies, it would make for a better and healthier world.

        I wouldn’t characterize the notion to actually close businesses by legislation, as being politically correct…
        but I’d certainly be against any kind of legislation like that!
        And the only reason to strive for political correctness, is to provide diversity to the masses who must co-habit in the same space with minimal conflict, and hopefully, in harmony.

        And there are probably other things we agree on too, so please don’t think I’m engaging my friends on this thread merely for entertainment. No! I truly need to understand how you feel, and why you think the way you do. …Enlightenment!

        Thank you for your time and honesty.

  2. Fran Brunson says:

    The President has to answer to a higher Executive than himself. No Executive Order from any politician can override the moral order He established.

  3. Trent whalin says:

    America is Rome and it will fall as Gods wrath is upon us. We had a good run.

    • MarcoPolo says:

      God’s wrath?
      Which God do you worship?

      For sure, mankind will bring this world to it’s doom.

      But that doesn’t have to happen if we all just learn to live together without pushing Religion upon the non-believers.

      Nobody promised an eternal bliss…er, I forgot, Jesus did!
      But one has to die before that is realized, so when each person’s “lights go out” it becomes an entirely different scenario.


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