Read it slowly and with sorrow. And with pride. Future generations will recognize the moral courage of those who march and who affirm the truth that even Dr. Seuss knew: “A person is a person, no matter how small.”
Today the March continues in Washington DC and in the hearts of every decent man and woman. For the innocents we pray, may they rest in a place of happiness, in a place of peace, where there is no more pain, no suffering, no grief, but everlasting life.
William Barr is currently serving his second stint as Attorney General of the United States. On October 11, 2019 he delivered an amazing speech at the Notre Dame School of Law de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture. His speech was masterful. It is a must read. He skillfully presented the natural law foundation for robust religious liberty and in so doing highlighted the political, philosophical, and anthropological rationales that have protected religious free exercise in the American legal system.
And he did much, much more.
He exposed the dangers of secular ethics rooted in sentimentality. He called out “modern secularists [who] dismiss … morality as other-worldly superstition imposed by joy-killing clergy.” And he explained how the Nation’s educational system has become ground zero in a cultural war that, if not thoroughly engaged and confronted, would usher in a controlling and tyrannical government intent of forcing YOU and to accept and even endorse its theology.
His speech might be renamed or at least subtitled “Why Old Fashioned Religion Matters … It’s Not Just Piety, Baby.” The following extended excerpts gives a taste of his powerhouse presentation. Read it all.
“The imperative of protecting religious freedom was not just a nod in the direction of piety. It reflects the Framers’ belief that religion was indispensable to sustaining our free system of government.
Men are subject to powerful passions and appetites, and, if unrestrained, are capable of ruthlessly riding roughshod over their neighbors and the community at large.
No society can exist without some means for restraining individual rapacity.
But, if you rely on the coercive power of government to impose restraints, this will inevitably lead to a government that is too controlling, and you will end up with no liberty, just tyranny.
I think we all recognize that over the past 50 years religion has been under increasing attack. … we see the growing ascendancy of secularism and the doctrine of moral relativism.
By any honest assessment, the consequences of this moral upheaval have been grim.
In 1965, the illegitimacy rate was eight percent. In 1992, when I was last Attorney General, it was 25 percent. Today it is over 40 percent. In many of our large urban areas, it is around 70 percent.
Along with the wreckage of the family, we are seeing record levels of depression and mental illness, dispirited young people, soaring suicide rates, increasing numbers of angry and alienated young males, an increase in senseless violence, and a deadly drug epidemic.
As you all know, over 70,000 people die a year from drug overdoses. That is more casualities in a year than we experienced during the entire Vietnam War.
[T]he campaign to destroy the traditional moral order has brought with it immense suffering, wreckage, and misery. And yet, the forces of secularism, ignoring these tragic results, press on with even greater militancy.
Secularists, and their allies among the “progressives,” have marshaled all the force of mass communications, popular culture, the entertainment industry, and academia in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values.
Law is being used as weapon in a couple of ways.
First, either through legislation but more frequently through judicial interpretation, secularists have been continually seeking to eliminate laws that reflect traditional moral norms.
At first, this involved rolling back laws that prohibited certain kinds of conduct. Thus, the watershed decision legalizing abortion. And since then, the legalization of euthanasia. The list goes on.
More recently, we have seen the law used aggressively to force religious people and entities to subscribe to practices and policies that are antithetical to their faith.
The problem is not that religion is being forced on others. The problem is that irreligion and secular values are being forced on people of faith.
[T]he last Administration sought to force religious employers, including Catholic religious orders, to violate their sincerely held religious views by funding contraceptive and abortifacient coverage in their health plans. Similarly, California has sought to require pro-life pregnancy centers to provide notices of abortion rights.
Some state governments are now attempting to compel religious individuals and entities to subscribe to practices, or to espouse viewpoints, that are incompatible with their religion.
Ground zero for these attacks on religion are the schools. To me, this is the most serious challenge to religious liberty.
The first front relates to the content of public school curriculum. Many states are adopting curriculum that is incompatible with traditional religious principles according to which parents are attempting to raise their children. They often do so without any opt out for religious families.
Thus, for example, New Jersey recently passed a law requiring public schools to adopt an LGBT curriculum that many feel is inconsistent with traditional Christian teaching. Similar laws have been passed in California and Illinois. And the Orange County Board of Education in California issued an opinion that “parents who disagree with the instructional materials related to gender, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation may not excuse their children from this instruction.”
A second axis of attack in the realm of education are state policies designed to starve religious schools of generally-available funds and encouraging students to choose secular options. Montana, for example, created a program that provided tax credits to those who donated to a scholarship program that underprivileged students could use to attend private school. … But Montana expressly excluded religiously-affiliated private schools from the program. And when that exclusion was challenged in court by parents who wanted to use the scholarships to attend a nondenominational Christian school, the Montana Supreme Court required the state to eliminate the program rather than allow parents to use scholarships for religious schools.
It justified this action by pointing to a provision in Montana’s State Constitution commonly referred to as a “Blaine Amendment.” Blaine Amendments were passed at a time of rampant anti-Catholic animus in this country, and typically disqualify religious institutions from receiving any direct or indirect payments from a state’s funds.
The case is now in the Supreme Court, and we [the United States Department of Justice] filed a brief explaining why Montana’s Blaine Amendment violates the First Amendment.
A third kind of assault on religious freedom in education have been recent efforts to use state laws to force religious schools to adhere to secular orthodoxy. For example, right here in Indiana, a teacher sued the Catholic Archbishop of Indianapolis for directing the Catholic schools within his diocese that they could not employ teachers in same-sex marriages because the example of those same-sex marriages would undermine the schools’ teaching on the Catholic view of marriage and complementarity between the sexes.
This lawsuit clearly infringes the First Amendment rights of the Archdiocese by interfering both with its expressive association and with its church autonomy. The Department of Justice filed a statement of interest in the state court making these points, and we hope that the state court will soon dismiss the case.
We must be vigilant to resist efforts by the forces of secularization to drive religious viewpoints from the public square and to impinge upon the free exercise of our faith.
I can assure you that, as long as I am Attorney General, the Department of Justice will be at the forefront of this effort, ready to fight for the most cherished of our liberties: the freedom to live according to our faith.”
The “intersectionality” of bioethics and law is growing at a dizzying pace. Thankfully, there are women and men in both disciplines ready and able to do battle with the social activists who seek to impose their tyrannical agendas. The litigators at Alliance Defending Freedom and the Becket Fund are leading the charge. Their record is encouraging and recalls the old adage that “the best defense is a good offense.” To that one may add “victory through superior firepower.” These champions of religious liberty and life have racked up an impressive series of trial and appellate court wins.
Two recent cases exemplify what’s happening across the country: Franciscan Alliance v. Azar and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Setting the Stage
Sexual orientation non-discrimination laws, coercive “educational” pogroms inculcating radically libertine values in children, and wholesale assault on the legal structures protecting religious liberty and freedom of speech are the tools wielded by putative civil libertarians determined to crush the traditional social values associated with the natural family. But the counter offensive is under way.
Two recent developments highlight the efforts of well-financed and “deep-state” seated radical secularists who have taken aim at our children, our institutions, and our freedoms.
The first would make abortion, sterilization, and sex reassignment surgery a part of basic healthcare, paid for by YOU, and mandated by under the threat of massive fines, withholding of Medicare and Medicaid funding, and health care provider license revocation.
The second would turn the meaning of the word “sex” utilized in 1960s civil rights legislation on its head to embrace radical gender theory and the demands of transgender revolutionaries.
Franciscan Alliance v. Azar
In 2010 Congress passed the Affordable Care Act that prohibits denial of certain medical treatments on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, or disability. Congress did not define “sex.” Rather, it incorporated the definition in pre-existing federal anti-discrimination laws.
But in 2015 the Obama administration adopted a rule interpreting “sex” to include “gender identity,” “sex stereotypes,” and “termination of pregnancy,” among other things. It declares that “gender identity” means an individual’s “internal sense of gender, which may be male, female, neither, or a combination of male and female” and that “gender identity spectrum includes an array of possible gender identities beyond male and female.”
The Rule also defines “sex” to include discrimination based upon “termination of pregnancy” in covered programs. It covers virtually all licensed physicians because they accept Federal financial assistance, including payments from Medicare and Medicaid. It likely covers over 133,000 hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, and similar provider facilities, about 445,000 clinical laboratories, 1,200 community health centers, 171 health-related schools, state Medicaid and CHIP programs, state public health agencies, federally facilitated and state-based marketplaces, at least 180 health insurers that market policies through federally facilitated and state-based marketplaces, and up to 900,000 physicians!
WOW. The rule would treat refusal to participate in or refer for abortion, sterilization, or sex transitioning treatment (everything from hysterectomies, mastectomies, hormone treatments, genital reassignment surgery, Adams apple reduction, electrolysis, and more), into the same category as refusal to refusing to perform CPR on a heart attack victim because of his race or her religion.
And to add fuel to the fire, the Obama administration held that that some procedures “related to gender transition” may be required even if they were not “strictly identified as medically necessary or appropriate.” Under the bizarre rule, if a doctor would perform a mastectomy as part of a medically-necessary treatment for breast cancer, it would be illegal for the same doctor to decline to perform a mastectomy for a medical gender transition, even if the doctor believed that removing healthy breast tissue was contrary to the patient’s medical interest.
The final insult was the absolute refusal of the Obama administration to allow for a religious exemption to the onerous and oppressive rule.
Into this nightmare stepped the Becket Fund and its outstanding team of litigators. Representing Franciscan Alliance, a Roman Catholic nonprofit hospital system, and several other clients, Becket filed suit in the United States District Court in the Northern District of Texas.
On October 15, 2019 the District Court entered a nationwide permanent injunction barring enforcement of the unlawful and religiously discriminatory rule. Applying the strict scrutiny appropriate for federal action that infringes on the free exercise of religion, the court held that the rule violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, holding that the government failed to demonstrate that enforcing the rule against the plaintiffs would achieve any compelling government interest, but would substantially burden religious free exercise. Moreover, the court held that the rule’s absolute exclusion of religious exception was also unlawful.
R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
You can’t make this stuff up. A funeral home founded and charted on its adherence to core Christian principles faces the power of deep-state bureaucrats intent on driving home a new definition of “sex” in federal law.
R.G. & G. R. Harris Funeral Homes has been a fixture in the Detroit area for more than 100 years. It maintains high standards of professional conduct, appearance, and demeanor, all aimed at helping grieving families more through the most difficult of times.
In 2007 it hired a male employee as a funeral director, a critical position that serves as the face of the funeral home and works closely with grieving families. The new employee agreed to the sex specific dress code and other policies of the business. But six years later he told the owner that he was going to present himself as a woman at work, interact with clients in that manner and use the women’s restrooms that would be used by all of the company’s female employees, including an 80 year old woman.
The owner, Tom Rost, could not accept such a destructive presence in his business, one that would undermine the scared and somber activity of burying the dead and ministering to the loved ones of the deceased.
Unelected federal bureaucrats at the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission decided to use used the funeral home as a test case, convincing a lower court to rewrite the meaning of “sex” discrimination and reject what the public and the U.S. Supreme Court have understood it to mean for more than half a century.
Into that minefield stepped Alliance Defending Freedom, the premier civil liberties litigation and appellate advocacy law firm in the nation. ADF successfully defended Tom’s company in District Court, but the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed and held that the federal government can force Tom Rost to allow a male funeral director who identifies as female to violate the business’s professional dress code—a dress code that is in accord with industry standard and federal law—by dressing as a woman when working with grieving families.
The 6th Circuit’s decision redefined “sex” in a Federal statute to conflict with the word’s well-understood meaning when the law was enacted in 1964. Under the 6th Circuit’s ruling, employers cannot maintain sex-specific policies, including policies for overnight facilities, showers, restrooms, locker rooms, and employee dress.
Although the federal government under the current administration has reversed it prior anti-historical position and now recognizes what Congress meant by the word “sex” and agrees with the funeral home, the American Civil Liberties Union is arguing on behalf of the former employee that the Supreme Court should rewrite the law.
No one tells the story better than Tom Rost and ADF attorney John Bursch in this compelling video:
On October 8th Attorney Bursch and United States Solicitor General Noel Francisco argued for reversal of the 6th Circuit’s radical decision before the United States Supreme Court. ADF’s dedicated case resource page provides a case summary, case related articles, court decisions, and many of the relevant legal documents – including its brief filed with the Supreme Court.
As a special treat, an audio recording and transcript of the argument before the Supreme Court is available here.
As reported by Vatican News service, the person behind the declaration is Rabbi Avraham Steinberg, co-president of the Israeli National Council on Bioethics. Rabbi Steinberg proposed the idea to Pope Francis, who entrusted the initiative to the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life. Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the president of the Academy, coordinated a mixed inter-faith group to draft the declaration. The signatories included Archbishop Paglia, representatives from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Patriarchate of Moscow and All Russia, representatives of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate, David Rosen for the American Jewish Committee, and Samsul Anwar from the Indonesian Muhammadiyah, an Islamic social and cultural association.
Marsudi Syuhud, secretary general of the influential Islamic association Nahdlatul Ulama, offered his strong support as well, declaring: “Protecting life is one of the purposes of Islamic law, that’s why we don’t stop protecting life until the end of our life.”
Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah, chairman of the United Arab Emirates Fatwa Council, noted the historic significance of the event: “Our meeting today represents a new step in the course of joint religious action. It is the first time heavenly religions have come together to assert their agreement on core values and assets.”
It is particularly significant that the statement does not limit itself to rejecting euthanasia. Rather it takes up related issues on which broad agreement is to be found among the three faiths.
First, it takes a firm “no exceptions” stance in clear and unambiguous language against “any form of euthanasia – that is the direct, deliberate and intentional act of taking life – as well as physician assisted suicide – that is the direct, deliberate and intentional support of committing suicide – because they fundamentally contradict the inalienable value of human life, and therefore are inherently and consequentially morally and religiously wrong, and should be forbidden without exceptions.”
Second, it affirms that health care workers must not be coerced into assisting in intentionally causing death, directly or indirectly, including so-called “assisted suicide.” It demands that even where the dismal practice has found legal sanction, moral objection to cooperation with it falls “into the category of conscientious objection that should be universally respected.”
Palliative care services, provided by an organized and highly structured system for delivering care, are critical for realizing the most ancient mission of medicine: “to care even when there is no cure.” We encourage professionals and students to specialize in this field of medicine.
Palliative care is a great mission of mercy. The clear recognition that it is essential health care is a sure sign that inter-religious dialogue can and does yield important fruit.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has once again struck exactly the right cord in his drive to elevate religious liberty to the forefront of the international human rights agenda. He is reorienting U.S international policy to break the link between American foreign aid and the anti-life/anti-family agenda of prior administrations. In the process he is highlighting the essential First Freedom – religious liberty:
On October 2, 2019, he spoke at a Vatican symposium entitled Pathways to Achieving Human Dignity: Partnering with Faith-Based Organizations hosted by the U.S. Sate Department and the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See. He called out the persecution of Uighurs in China and other nations’ dismal record as well:
We must recognize the roots of religious repression. Authoritarian regimes and autocrats will never accept a power higher than their own. And that causes all sorts of assaults on human dignity.
The full text of his remarks and video are available here.
Developments at the U.S. State Department have been encouraging under Secretary Pompeo. The latest symposium at the Vatican is a significant statement of support for an international human rights agenda that focuses on the real needs of those denied religious liberty, exploited by human trafficking, forced into practices demanded by global ideological colonization, and struggling to maintain traditional family structures in fractured social environments.
The Saint John Paul II Bioethics Center was created to engage the modern project in light of the visionary insight of John Paul the Great in his first encyclical letter, Redemptor Hominis.
The development of technology and the development of contemporary civilization, which is marked by the ascendancy of technology, demand a proportional development of morals and ethics. (n. 15)
Pope Francis recently addressed that theme in an address to the participants in the seminar The common good in the digital age, promoted by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development which took place in the Vatican from 26 to 28 September 2019.
The full text of the Holy Father’s address is here. What is striking is the continuity of thought between John Paul and Francis. Both placed emphasis on the dizzying pace of technological development and the urgent need for moral and ethical reflection. And not merely a concomitant, subordinate, or collateral reflection, but one that has a precise object: the indissoluble connection between the common good of human society and the inherent dignity of each individual human being.
That the technological revolution presents challenges to human decency is repeated so often it may seem trite. But the threats are real and growing. Fantastic advances in scientific masterly over nature offers amazing opportunities to heal, nurture, and protect creation. But each step forward risks betrayal of what it means to be human: to be precious, unique and unrepeatable. New techniques that allow manipulation of genetic code may cure disease, but inevitably issues of inequality of access and privacy will arise. Artificial intelligence and robotics will lead to vast changes in automation and employment, protecting the vulnerable from some dangerous conditions and even from mind numbing mundaneness of uncreative tasks, but risk massive social displacement and idleness. Growing demand for material wealth, even to excess, and ever greater knowledge of reproductive biology has, in many first world societies, deeply wounded family life and the nuptial meaning of human sexuality, reducing intimacy to pleasure and procreation to mere reproductive technique. Embryocidal experimentation on the most incapable of the human family is passé. The examples are multitudinous. Along with these changes there will occur is a social disruption the consequences of which are unknown.
Francis sees the looming question on the horizon of human development:
The indisputable benefit that humanity will be able to draw from technological progress (cf. Laudato Si’, 102) depends on the degree to which the new possibilities at our disposal are employed in an ethical manner (cf. ibid., 105). This correlation requires an adequate development of responsibility and of values alongside the vast technological progress underway. Otherwise, a dominant paradigm – the “technocratic paradigm” (cf. ibid., 111) – that promises uncontrolled and unlimited progress will be imposed and perhaps will even eliminate other factors of development, with great danger for the whole of humanity..
Francis readily acknowledges that “unprecedented and new challenges” require fresh solutions and he urges that these be drawn from the “creative fidelity” of an authentic moral vision that places both respect for the dignity of the individual and the pursuit of the common good in harmonious relation.
A good example would be robots in the workplace. On the one hand, they could put an end to certain arduous, risky and repetitive types of work – that emerged, for instance, at the start of the industrial revolution in the nineteenth century – which often cause suffering, boredom and exhaustion. On the other hand, robots could become a purely hyper-efficient tool, used only to increase profits and returns, and could deprive thousands of people of work, putting their dignity at risk. … If technological advancement became the cause of increasingly evident inequalities, it would not be true and real progress. If mankind’s so-called technological progress were to become an enemy of the common good, this would lead to an unfortunate regression to a form of barbarism dictated by the law of the strongest.
True ethical and moral development must have as its goal “the attenuation of economic, educational, technological, social and cultural inequalities.” It is nothing less than “the task of defending the dignity of every human person, convinced that the common good cannot be separated from the specific good of each individual.”
A better world is possible thanks to technological progress, if this is accompanied by an ethic inspired by a vision of the common good, an ethic of freedom, responsibility and fraternity, capable of fostering the full development of people in relation to others and to the whole of creation.
This is nothing less then the “integral ecology” as developed in a recent L.I.F.E. post. It rejects “ecologically-garbed individualism” while embracing the precious uniqueness of each individual. Unless clarity is achieved, confusion will drive incoherence. The contradictions are plain:
when we combat trafficking in endangered species while remaining indifferent to human trafficking; when we fight against genetically modified organisms but allow experimentation on the human genome and human embryos; when we worry about cruelty to animals while justifying the ghastly practice of abortion of our younger, more vulnerable brothers and sisters; when we seek to keep natural environment intact as a gift, and care for the male and female members of endangered species, but then think we have absolute power over our created bodies, trying to cancel out human sexual difference through gender ideology.
The future will be decided now and it will pass through the technological revolution. If it is to be an authentic advance for civilization it must respect and nourish the dignity of the individual. It cannot do that without making a choice between fundamentally different views of what a human person is: a being with inherent dignity and ultimate purpose or an autonomous actor with temporary self-consciousness but no ultimate meaning. It is essentially a choice between humility that recognizes the limits of our nature and the arrogance of the antediluvian temptation “you will be like God.” And so a choice must be made between two cups. As the ancient Knight cautions inIndiana Jones and the Last Crusade, “choose, but choose wisely. For as the true grail will bring you life, the false grail will take it from you.”
Placing material progress before an ethic that unites the common good and the dignity of the individual is the surest path to our children’s children echoing the Knight’s sad lament “He chose poorly.”
The U.S. Department of Labor announced a critical proposed rule change on August 15 that would clarify protections for religious employers seeking federal contracts.
The proposed rule unifies existing but scattered and, at times, ambiguous legal protections that protect religious organizations from some non-discrimination employment rules governing federal contractors. Many religious organizations providing essential services through federal contracts employ individuals who represent the ministry of the organization and therefore must either share confessional allegiance or embrace doctrinal teaching of the entity.
The rule makes clear what the Constitution protects: religious employers may “condition employment on acceptance of or adherence to religious tenets without sanction by the federal government,” as long as they do not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, or national origin. And that “adherence to religious tenets” may legitimately include acceptance of the interpretation given to the tenant by the organization itself. That is critical to protecting religious liberty. Imagine if a Catholic migrant relocation and social services agency was obliged to hire a dissenting church member who advocated same-sex marriage or abortion?
The rule covers more than churches or our houses of worship. It covers employers that are “organized for a religious purpose, hold themselves out to the public as carrying out a religious purpose, and engage in exercise of religion consistent with, and in furtherance of, a religious purpose.”
A news release from DOL notes that the rule codifies disparate strands of well-established elements of religious liberty:
The proposed rule is rooted in statute, Supreme Court decisions, and Executive Orders. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes a critical, protective exemption for religious organizations. A similar exemption is included in Executive Order 11246 and OFCCP’s regulations, which govern certain employment practices of federal contractors. Recent Supreme Court decisions – Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, and Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores – further address the protections afforded religious organizations and individuals under the Constitution and federal law.
This is an enormously helpful development. The proposal is a mini crash course, of exceptional quality, on an important religious liberty issue with wide reaching implications. Readers are encouraged to submit supportive public comment to DOL, which may be made electronically here by September 16, 2019.
Every submitted public comment helps. Suggested comment may read as simply as follows:
Please adopt this proposed rule to clarify that faith-based organizations may make decisions and policy in accordance with their beliefs.
Or more elaborately, along these lines:
Many faith-based organizations provide valuable services to assist the homeless, the hungry, victims of sexual abuse, and more. These faith-based services are valuable to the government because they are effective and because, by contracting out rather than expanding the government bureaucracy, they save taxpayer dollars. Forcing religious organizations to hire people who disagree with the tenets of their faith would undermine the service and, in many cases, force the faith-based organization to withdraw from providing such services. This proposed rule protects the ability of religious organizations to continue providing their valuable aid to people in need.
This is an opportunity for all to be “in the trenches” fighting to protect religious liberty.
While some voices have misunderstood and even twisted sections of Pope Francis’ encyclical letter Laudato Si’, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, has reminded a youth conference meeting in New York that commitment to planetary ecological health cannot bear fruit if it is divorced from other issues relayed to the treatment of human beings.
… Pope Francis says, that, on the one hand, we must be concerned with injuries to our planet and the irresponsible treatment of other living beings; on the other, however, we must resist the trends and ideologies that focus almost exclusively on protecting the planet or other species while allowing offenses against human dignity. He prophetically gives several examples of this ecologically-garbed individualism: when we combat trafficking in endangered species while remaining indifferent to human trafficking (LS 91); when we fight against genetically modified organisms but allow experimentation on the human genome and human embryos (LS 136); when we worry about cruelty to animals while justifying the ghastly practice of abortion of our younger, more vulnerable brothers and sisters (LS 117, 120); when we seek to keep natural environment intact as a gift, and care for the male and female members of endangered species, but then think we have absolute power over our created bodies, trying to cancel out human sexual difference through gender ideology (LS 155).
I am reminded of a popular song from the early 70’s by Edgar Winter’s White Trash, Who Will Save the Planet. The song asked urgent questions as relevant then as now:
Who will save our planet, who will volunteer.
Save the planet, don’t you know we love our planet Judgment time is here. Yes it is (yes it is), yes it is, yes it is (yes it is)
(Who will it be) will it be Mr. Black (Who will it be) will it be Mr. White
(Who will it be) will it be Mr. Wrong (Who will it be) will it be Mr. Right Will it be you or will it be me Lord knows who will it be Yes he does, (yes he does), Yes he does, (yes he does) Don’t you know he does.
Save the planet, who will save our planet Who will volunteer Save the planet, don’t you know we love our planet Judgment time is here.
What Archbishop Auza reminds us of is the inseparable link between the garden and the human community. There is no sound ecological policy without sound anthropology. Each person holds a responsibility and speak to the destructive cultural forces that accept infanticide while properly condemning child exploitation, or that embrace barbaric practices while advocating a limited ecology concerned with geography but dismissive of the natural family or the naturally embodied sexuality of the human person.
Humanity cannot divinize the garden and ignore the one for whom the garden was made without disastrous consequence. The plagues of human trafficking, abortion, embryocide, gender reassignment, and the wave of ideological irrationality masquerading behind the cloak of “autonomy” threaten not only the participants, but also the entire planetary community.
Who will save the planet? Those who embrace the integrated vision of ecology.
There is a revolution brewing at the U.S. State Department. If realized to its full potential it will usher in an era of sanity, reorienting international juridical, social, and political norms. It is driven by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who hosted the Second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington on July 16-18.
Not content with the status quo, Pompeo is driving a movement to restore legitimacy to the international human rights agenda. On July 8, 2019 he announced the creation of a Commission on Unalienable Rights. Chaired by Professor Mary Ann Glendon, the Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, the Commission promises a genuine examination of what it means to claim something as a “human right.”
It is a long overdue mission. Earlier this year Princeton University’s Robert George addressed the Institute for Human Ecology at its commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He identified a serious problem undermining the credibility of the international human rights movement. “People will try to win at ideological battles … with the language of human rights. So they’ll inflate claims, whatever they desire, and treat it not as a desire, a want, a feeling, a passion, but a human right.” Examples of the cheapening of the “human rights” lexicon are nowhere more prominent than in the rapidly advancing claims of gender ideology. “We lose our sense of the power and importance of the fundamental rights because of the inflation that happens when you conflate whatever it is you desire, whatever is on your agenda, with rights,” said George.
The Commission will focus part of its inquiry on the nature of unalienable rights – rights that flow from nature of the embodied person rather than political majorities, clever propaganda, or financial deep pockets. The commission should focus on the principles enshrined in the founding document of the Nation, which recognizes the self-evident truth that all “are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The prospect of such an inquiry has enraged the cultural libertines and their political allies. The reason is simple. “Unalienable” suggests intrinsic, and that suggests an objective foundation for human rights, one that flows from the nature of the human person. It has a long and honorable pedigree. It is nothing less than a bold and overdue resourcement of the great inquiry undertaken by the ancient Greeks that traverses the history of western civilization. Secretary Pompeo gets it:
“It’s a sad commentary on our times that more than seventy years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, gross violations continue throughout the world, sometimes even in the name of human rights. International institutions designed and built to protect human rights have drifted from their original mission. As human rights claims have proliferated, some claims have come into tension with one another, provoking questions and clashes about which rights are entitled to gain respect.
I hope that the Commission will revisit the most basic of questions: What does it mean to say or claim that something is, in fact, a human right? How do we know or how do we determine whether that claim that this or that is a human right, is it true, and therefore, ought it to be honored? How can there be human rights, rights we possess not as privileges we are granted or even earn, but simply by virtue of our humanity belong to us? Is it, in fact, true, as our Declaration of Independence asserts, that as human beings, we – all of us, every member of our human family – are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights?”
The chorus of opposition to the commission is eloquent witness to its significance. Hostile objection has been raised by the National Council of Churches, Catholics for Choice, American Atheists, Freedom From Religion Foundation, America Magazine, and various presidential candidates including Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, and Elizabeth Warren.
They fear, with reason, an honest intellectual challenge critically examining the masquerade they label as “human rights”: abortion, same-sex marriage, and an avalanche of sexual and gender identity claims. At stake is the unalienable right to the free exercise of religion. Only by subjecting religious rights to a secondary status may the radical social engineers dismantle the natural family. Witness the efforts to destroy artist, expert baker, and devout Christian Jack Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Persecuted for his refusal to endorse same-sex marriage through his artistic talents, Phillips endured years of government animus. The United States Supreme Court was compelled to slap down the bigoted commission for its “clear and impermissible hostility toward [Jack’s] sincere religious beliefs.” That is but one of the clashes resounding across the nation and the planet as the vocabulary of “human rights” is appropriated by a personal preference agenda that has more to do with feelings and untethered desires than with the nature of the human person.
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It seems certain that Vincent Lambert will be euthanized by a doctor because of his brain handicap. This shameful episode, recently the subject of a L.I.F.E. blog post, has divided a family and exposed to plain view the mandate of enforced euthanasia – more properly defined by Saint john Paul II as a form of murder – which is spreading over the insipid cultures of morbid post-industrialized First World.
In his masterful opus Evangelium Vitae John Paul the affirmed “that euthanasia is a grave violation of the law of God, since it is the deliberate and morally unacceptable killing of a human person. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written word of God, is transmitted by the Church’s Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.” (n. 65)
Vincent Lambert will die because he is disabled and members of his family, excluding his loving parents and a minority of his siblings, have deemed his life not worthy of life. Some say it is his will; that he did not want life on such disabled terms. Regardless of the justification offered, what is happening to Lambert is a crime. John Paul speaks directly to each of these circumstances:
True “compassion” leads to sharing another’s pain; it does not kill the person whose suffering we cannot bear. Moreover, the act of euthanasia appears all the more perverse if it is carried out by those, like relatives, who are supposed to treat a family member with patience and love, or by those, such as doctors, who by virtue of their specific profession are supposed to care for the sick person even in the most painful terminal stages.
The choice of euthanasia becomes more serious when it takes the form of a murder committed by others on a person who has in no way requested it and who has never consented to it. (n. 66)
John Paul went on to describe euthanasia, along with abortion, as “crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize.” No one is obliged in conscience to obey such unjust laws but rather “there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them (n. 73).
God bless the parents of Vincent Lambert who have witnessed to love and fought a courageous battle against the sadness of modern culture which has lost the art of loving.
L.I.F.E.’s recent post on the U.S. Department of Justice and its intervention in the important religious liberty/civil rights action Carson v Makin was still hot off the wires when notice arrived that the District Court judge presiding over the case announced his decision upholding the discriminatory statute born of the disgraceful history of anti-Catholicism rampant in the Nations’ past.
Judge D. Brock Hornby’s decision in Carson was no surprise. More on that below. But two days later the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to decide the same issue in Espinoza v, Montana. That case will finally determine the status of the shameful state constitutional Blaine amendments and similar state laws born of deep hostility toward the Catholic Church. Montana’s constitution prohibits any government funding that benefits “sectarian” schools even when the school is perfectly qualified for an otherwise generally available public benefit. As discussed in L.I.F.E.’s earlier post, “sectarian” was a well-known code word veiling the true anti-Catholic purpose of the Blaine Amendments.
In Carson the District Judge recognized his decision as merely a step on the ladder to potential Supreme Court review. He concluded that the landmark 2018 US Supreme Court decision in Trinity Lutheran left open just enough wiggle room on the precise issue of tuition benefits that other precedent from the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (which governs Federal District Courts in Maine) tied his hands and dictated the result. The validity of that case, Eulitt v. Maine, Dep’t of Educ., is questionable given the holding in Trinity Lutheran, but not to such a degree that Judge Hornby was willing say that it had been clearly called into disrepute – a standard that would have allowed him to escape its application:
I cannot, as a trial judge, say that Eulitt therefore has unmistakably been cast into disrepute. It is certainly open to the First Circuit to conclude that, after Trinity Lutheran, it should alter its Eulitt holding that sustained Maine’s educational funding law, but it is not my role to make that decision. I therefore apply Eulitt to this controversy and do not decide the post-Trinity Lutheran merits, nor the standard of review that should apply in reaching the merits. Based upon the Eulitt decision, I conclude that Maine’s educational funding program is constitutional.
Appeals and Finality and Espinoza
Thus Judge Hornby’s decision did not reach the critical issue presented by Maine’s hostility to religion in light of Trinity Lutheran: may government discriminate in distribution of generally available public benefits – in the form of tuition subsidies – against a religious applicant merely because it/he/she is religious? The judge recognized that his rapid resolution of the case was merely the first step in what was little more than rehearsal for the appellate battles that lie ahead:
My decision not to decide the ultimate question … is no great loss for either the parties or the amici. It has always been apparent that, whatever my decision, this case is destined to go to the First Circuit on appeal, maybe even to the Supreme Court. … I hope that the rehearsal has given them good preparation for their argument in the First Circuit (and maybe even higher).
Two days later, on June 28, 2019, it became apparent that Carson will likely not be the vehicle for a definitive resolution of this decades long saga. On that date the Supreme Court agreed to decide the issue in Espinoza v. Montana.The issue will undoubtedly draw a Justice Department brief similar to that filed in Carson and dozens of amici, or “friend of the court,” briefs by interested persons and organizations. In fact, the United States of America filed an exemplary brief in the Montana Supreme Court supporting the plaintiff’s position against the discriminatory state rule. The case promises to one of those most closely with a decision expected in 2020. Here’s an example of interested party amicus brief that was filed by the excellent Pacific Legal Foundation. Espinoza is poised emerge as a final, fatal chapter in the sordid history of anti-Catholic government bigotry that has penetrated the American political left and is now manifest as a generalized anti-religious zealotry while keeping orthodox Catholics in the cross-hairs. L.I.F.E. will keep a close eye on developments.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is standing up for the Constitution. It recently filed a statement in support of three families who have had enough of the State of Maine’s discrimination against them solely because of religion.
The facts of Carson v. Makin are a shocking testament to the deeply rooted anti-religious malice permeating legal elites, some state legislatures, and many government actors. This time around the tables are turned. First Liberty Institute, one of the real civil liberties organizations on the front line of the religious liberty and human rights litigation, is representing the families.
These parents of school-age children live in school districts that do not operate their own public high schools. Maine law requires those districts to provide an alternative school program – and one of the ways that is done is by paying the tuition at another district’s public school or at a private school of the parents’ choice.
Parental choice. Sounds great. But … there’s a catch. Maine, which makes the funds available to any school that meets legitimate academic and other neutral standards, singles out religious schools for discriminatory treatment for only one reason: they are religious schools. That is a clear violation of both the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
It’s all here in the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Maine.
Now the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division has joined the case and is now at the forefront of religious liberty advocacy. Its statement of interest in support of the parents pulls no punches. Here’s are some choice excerpts from its brief (internal quotation marks and citations are omitted):
“The State … imposes a penalty on the free exercise of religion: it forces students who are otherwise eligible for the tuition program to choose between participating in the program or remaining enrolled at a religious institution. The State may engage in this religious discrimination against students only if it satisfies the most exacting scrutiny. But the State has failed to identify an interest of the highest order to justify its discrimination, much less to explain how this discrimination is narrowly tailored to achieve that interest. Accordingly, the State’s exclusion of students who attend religious private schools from the generally available tuition program violates the Free Exercise Clause.”
“The State’s original justification for banning religious private schools from the tuition program was that including them would violate the Establishment Clause. The State has now wisely abandoned that justification, as it must: as the State acknowledges, under intervening Supreme Court precedent, ‘Maine could design a program that would allow parents to direct public dollars to sectarian schools without violating the Establishment Clause.’ ”
So there was neither need nor legitimate purpose in excluding religious schools from the funding program.
The brief then takes aim at what is really going on and eviscerates Maine’s pretexual concern about avoiding establishment of religion. That bogus argument harked back to an old line of cases disqualifying “pervasively sectarian” groups from some government funding. But the Court has long repudiated that standard as “disavow[ed],” “offensive,” “regret[table],” “born of bigotry,” and as having a “shameful pedigree.” Mitchell v. Helms.
In fact, Mitchell held that the religious nature of a recipient of a government benefit simply does not matter in honest constitutional analysis. The issue is whether the recipient adequately furthers the government’s secular purpose. When it does, then it has not received any special favor because it is religious. Therefore, as Mitchell noted, it would be “most bizarre that the Court would … reserve special hostility for those who take their religion seriously, who think that their religion should affect the whole of their lives, or who make the mistake of being effective in transmitting their views to children.” Ouch!
The brief is a tour de force of outstanding constitutional analysis. It drives in the final nail with a breathtaking coup de grace that should embarrass the Maine Attorney General and the deeply anti-religious ACLU, each of which is shamefully trying to defend Maine’s state mandated anti-religion animus. Mitchell noted that “opposition to religious school funding acquired prominence in the 1870’s … at a time of pervasive hostility to the Catholic Church and to Catholics in general, and it was an open secret that “sectarian” was code for “Catholic.”
That’s right. Maine is using an old anti-Catholic dog whistle to attack religious education. The New England version of this deep-rooted “hostility to the Catholic Church” is an broader animus toward religion that typically manifests itself as anti-christian. Shame on Maine. Shame, shame, shame.
Advocates denied the abortifacient potential in the heated legislative and policy debates in the 2000s in states around the country. Even usually reliable pro-life “experts” were duped by what turned out to be superficial analysis of available data. It was all about the supposedly “extraordinarily rare” potential that EC may not prevent ovulation which could lead to fertilization and subsequent embryocide.
But it was a sleight of hand. Irrefutable finding in 2010 conclusively demonstrated that in the vast majority of cases Plan B does not suppress ovulation when administered in the fertile window. It’s all explained here.
In 2013 leading EC researchers finally acknowledged that Plan B is no more effective at preventing ovulation when administered in the fertile window than placebo!
That leaves the stunning realization that we have long been played by advocates who assure us that Plan B is not an abortifacient. In fact, they don’t know what the primary MOA of Plan B is. But we all know that the likelihood of a post-fertilization MOA, and thus embryocide, cannot be ruled out. Some researchers and medical experts assert that MOA is likely or proven. What is certain is that that there is no moral certitude as to the MOA of Plan B, it is certainly preventing pregnancy after ovulation, and its use is at least a conditional acceptance of embryocide.
The Great Plan B Deception … lives. Stick with L.I.F.E. and learn the truth.
Here at L.I.F.E. we can hardly contain our enthusiasm over the marvelous Potomac Declaration adopted last July at the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom hosted by U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo. The gathering drew more than eighty delegations, including dozens of minister-level representatives from around the world. It addressed challenges facing religious freedom, identified concrete means to address persecution of and discrimination against religious groups, and promoted greater respect for religious liberty for all, including a commitment to promote Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which declares:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance.
Vice President Pence also attended, and announced the creation of the Genocide Recovery and Persecution Response Program to “ensure that religious freedom and religious pluralism prosper across the Middle East as well.” The program will target development in the Nineveh plain in northern Iraq and ensure that U.S. aid is directed toward the minority Christian and Yazidi communities that were the most devastated by the ISIS genocide of recent years. It will balance the misallocation of U.N. aide – mostly supported by the United States – to ensure that the minority religious receive the assistance they need to restore their lives. U.S. Agency for International Development (US AID) Administrator Mark Green explained the troubled history that lead to the Genocide Recovery and Persecution plan in his remarks at the gathering. They offer a useful and poignant lesson in the realities of international relief funding – it’s not the money allocated; it’s how it is spent.
Pompeo also released the Potomac Plan of Action, which sets an ambitions agenda to 1) protect religious liberty, including related parental rights, 2) confront legal limitations on religious liberty, including the repeal of anti-blasphemy laws, 3) advance government advocacy for religious liberty, 4) aggressively respond to anti-religion motivate genocide and mass atrocity, and 5) preserve cultural heritage, and 6) establishing August 3, the first day of ISIS’s Sinjar massacre targeting Yazidis, as a nationally or internationally recognized day of remembrance of survivors of religious persecution.
Read up on these important steps to a more secure international respect for religious liberty.