Friday, February 24, 2012

Religious Freedom and the Catholic Church

Today, I did something few people in this country ever do - I read the document that our President swore to uphold - I read the Constitution. It's amazing what the words actually say. for instance, the First Amendment says this:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Yes, that one amendment, the first in the Bill of Rights, contains the Freedom of Religion, and the Freedom of Speech, and more. Yet, our President has tried to strip us of both Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Speech in the past few weeks as he signed on to the order requiring every Catholic institution not labeled a church to either shut down or offer its employees subsidized sterilization, morning after pills, and free contraceptives.

Had President Obama and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius actually read and understood the words of the First Amendment, they could have saved themselves a lot of grief this past week. But perhaps they do know what our Constitution says, but just don't care. Perhaps this is a deliberate attempt to usurp our rights in a colossal power grab. How else could they be so ignorant of our Constitution?

Nor must they have cared about the recent landmark Hosanna v. Tabor freedom of religion decision in which all nine Supreme Court justices ruled that the Federal Government may not tell churches who they can hire and fire as teachers transmitting the faith to the next generation. This decision should be far reaching, as the Supreme Court unanimously determined the Freedom of Religion to be sacrosanct.

But having no regard for the Freedom of Religion, our President carried out this colossal and unconstitutional overreach. This would cause places like Notre Dame, Boston College, Georgetown, and every other Catholic college and university, and every Catholic elementary and secondary school, every Catholic hospital and clinic, and every Catholic social agency to have to close or violate their Catholic beliefs. This act of federal aggression has to be resisted.

Thankfully, the Catholic Church would not take this without a fight. Good for them! Archbishop Timothy Dolan said,
"In effect, the President is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences. To force American citizens to choose between violating their conscience and forgoing their health care is unconscionable. . . . This represents a challenge and a compromise of our religious liberty."
That is the issue - our religious liberty - The First Amendment to our Constitution - and the one attacking that liberty is our own President.

According to Judge Andrew Napolitano,
"This is not about the morality of contraception. This is about the constitutionality of government coercion, coercion of religious institutions, coercion directly and profoundly prohibited by the Constitution itself. . . This is about whether the Constitution means what it says."
This is also the point where the curtailment of the Freedom of Speech comes in. Archbishop Timothy Broglio, head of the Army's priests, wrote a letter stating the church "cannot - and will not - comply with this unjust law." But the Chief of Chaplains issued an army-wide gag order warning priests not to read the letter from their pulpits. It was too controversial. Now the administration is telling the pulpit what it can and cannot say.

But our President is WRONG! That's why 154 Congressmen from both parties lined up against the President, signing a letter to the White House stating,
"This radical mandate. . . is an attack on the religious freedom guaranteed to all Americans by the Bill of Rights. Religious organizations should not be forced by the Federal Government to pay for abortion inducing drugs, contraceptives, or sterilizations in their health care plans. . . . I'm proud to stand with the vast majority of Americans who respect religious freedom in demanding that the mandate be reversed."
Thank you, Congressmen.

I also wish to publicly thank the Catholics for standing up to this unconstitutional power grab by our President. I want to say, we are with you. This is not just a Catholic issue. This is a Freedom of Religion issue, and it affects every one of us no matter what our denomination. All people of faith have to stand with the Catholic Church on this.

According to Albert Mohler of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,
"The edict from President Obama to religious institutions is this - violate your conscience and bend the knee to the government, or face the consequences."
The consequences could be steep to this country. The Wall Street Journal estimated that just one organization, Catholic Charities alone, would have faced $140 million per year in fines - money going to the government instead of to helping people. One in six U.S. hospitals has Catholic ties. To lose them would be a massive void in health care. To lose them would be a massive blow to our country.

The Catholic Church has already been driven from the adoption business because they refused to place children with homosexual couples. That was one of the first salvos in the Adminsittration's war on the Catholic Church. Newt Gingrish expressed it well,
"Should the Catholic Church be driven out of providing charitable services. . . because it won't give in to secular bigotry? Should the Catholic Church find itself discriminated against by the Obama Administration on key delivery of services because of the bias and the [religious] bigotry of the Administration?"
The answer is NO! Now, realizing that they had bitten off more than they could chew, the President has tried to ease out from under the decree by only requiring insurance companies to provide the mandated services. This is little better, since who gets to pay for the extra cost? The same religious institutions through the rise in their premiums - they get to. But who gave the President the power to mandate this anyway? Certainly not the constitution.

In this battle, we must all stand with the Catholics. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, martyred by the Nazis in World War II, said,
"Silence in the face of evil is itself evil; God will not hold us guiltless. To not speak is to speak; to not act is to act."
We must speak and act by standing alongside our Catholic brothers and sisters.

Bonhoeffer also said,
"First they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew, so I said nothing. Then they came for the Catholics, but I was not a Catholic, so I said nothing. Then they came for the Protestants, and there was no one left to speak for me."
The first attack has been launched against the Catholic Church. We must stand with them, for we may b next. If we don't stand now, who will stand when the attack is directed at us?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Susan G. Komen: A curious case of temporary sanity

Susan G. Komen and their "Race for the Cure" events has been the biggest breast cancer charity around. One can applaud their zeal and their efforts to save lives. But for the past seven years, pro-lifers have had difficulty getting involved without holding their noses. Why? Because part of the money raised by Susan G. Komen every year is given to Planned Parenthood - somewhere in the neighborhood of $600,000.00.

It really begs the question: What is an agency dedicated to saving lives doing in a partnership with an agency that has as its primary cash cow the taking of human lives through abortion? This sounds like insanity. If the goal is to save the lives of women, why would they support an organization dedicated to the taking of unborn lives, half of which would be women?

There is also the well know, if little reported, link between abortion and breast cancer. For decades worldwide, researchers have been pointing out through voluminous studies that induced abortion is a contributing factor. That story doesn't fit into the politically correct template, however, so it is usually ignored by the media. But certainly the Komen foundation knows. What rationale would cause them to associate with the nation's biggest abortion provider?

Someone I was conversing with recently tried to justify the connection by pointing out all the good that Planned Parenthood did in other venues. But as I told them, isn't that like commending a mass murderer because he sent his mother a card on her birthday? I know. That's a bit of an exaggeration, sure, but so is the claim that Planned Parenthood is engaged in a lot of good things. Whether they are or not doesn't change the fact that they are the nation's largest provider of abortion.

And Susan G. Komen came to that conclusion as well, if only temporarily. As the January page on our calendar was flipped, the Komen foundation announced their support of Planned Parenthood was ending.

Since 2005, the justification for the Komen Foundation giving money to Planned Parenthood was that they insisted the money would only be used to fund breast cancer screening, education, and health programs. But the truth has a pesky way of creeping to the top. It seems Planned Parenthood never provided mammograms. So under Komen's new proposed policy their foundation will only award grants to organizations that actually do provide mammograms. That makes sense, doesn't it?

The Weekly Standard's John McCormack writes,
"Why does Planned Parenthood feel entitled to a private charity's donations, especially considering the fact that Planned Parenthood's president falsely claimed on national television that the group provides mammograms? Isn't Komen free to give its money to organizations that provide more than mammogram referrals and breast cancer screening?"
One would think so. Don't they have the right to decide who they fund?

Oh, but not everyone thinks that. Within 24 hours a veritable firestorm of fury was unleashed on Komen by Planned Parenthood and those in the media who support their slaughter of the unborn. How dare Komen politicize the issue, the media cried. Even 26 pro-abortion Senators signed a letter condemning the Komen decision. Who has politicized the issue? Talk about pressure.

In its own defense, the Komen foundation pointed out that Planned Parenthood is under investigation for misusing taxpayer funds; and unlike Congress, Susan G. Komen wants to be a good steward of their donor's funds. Any check of the allegations against Planned Parenthood should cause any legitimate business to back away. I was tickled pink by the decision of the Susan G. Komen Foundation, and I sent them an e-mail thanking them for their brave stand.

Alas, the sanity was short lived. The Susan G. Komen foundation bowed to the political pressure within a couple of days. In spite of the fact that donations were up 100% and in spite of the fact that supporters of the decision outnumbered those who were opposed by 2:1 in the e-mails received, Komen beat a hasty retreat. This was a curious case of temporary sanity.

The moral? Bullying wins again. Planned Parenthood was able to get their way through intimidation. They always will until people have the courage to stand up against the political pressure. Susan G. Komen did not.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Thunder from the Pulpit

That America is on the decline is hotly debated, but that America is losing ground morally and spiritually seems self evident. Don Wildman, of the American Family Association, recently wrote an article for the afa Journal in which he listed items taken from newspapers around the country showing story after story chronicling the attacks on Christianity.

Anyone who reads a newspaper for very long could compile their own list. They could add the attacks against Tim Tebow's faith and the shutting down of adoption agencies across this country for refusing to place babies with homosexual couples. They could add stories of censorship as psychiatry students are barred from their programs if they hold to Christian convictions and students who are called into the Principal's office for writing Christian themed term papers or articles. Even the members of the U.S. House of Representatives were prevented from saying "Merry Christmas" in official mailings. The attacks are everywhere evident.

In his article, Wildman said,
"I don't have to tell you what affect this unrelenting attack on the Christian faith, coupled with the bias and bigotry of the news and entertainment media, is having on the youth."

He didn't have to because George Barna already did. A recent Barna Research Group study showed that young people (16-29) today are eight times less likely to say they have positive feelings toward Evangelicals than the comparative age group a decade ago. Is it any wonder we are losing a generation of our kids? The report added that more than 75% of today's young people say present day Christianity is "judgmental," "hypocritical," "old fashioned." and "too involved in politics." I wonder where they heard that from?

It is obvious that the moral foundations of our country are crumbling, and very few people are doing anything to shore them up. Psalm 11:3 says,
"If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?"
Quoting Don Wildman,
"Unless we Christian pastors and leaders get involved, our nation may soon have no foundation left to repair."

Is there no answer? I believe there is, and Don Wildman hit the nail on the head. Pastors and church leaders are critical to rebuilding the foundations. I believe we can see this from history.

During the Revolutionary War, the British most feared what they called the Black Regiment. It was made up of godly Presbyterian, Baptist, Congregational, and other pastors. It was so named because of the black robes the clergy wore into the pulpit. Their ranks were voluntary, consisting of young and old, quiet and boisterous, urban and rural, rich and poor, and from a wide variety of denominations. But what they had in common was the intestinal fortitude to stand against the British Empire and preach truth from their pulpits. Many even took off their black robes and donned uniforms to fight and die in the Revolution.

Chuck Baldwin, pastor and 2008 Constitution Party nominee for President, writes,
"These were not the acts of wild-eyed fanatics; they were the acts of men of deep and abiding conviction. Their understanding of principles of both Natural and Revealed Law were so proficient, so thorough, and so sagacious that their conscience would let them do nothing else."
Indeed, they provided the moral conviction that allowed an ill-equipped, rag-tag continental Army to triumph over the most powerful army in the world at that time.

Rev. Wayne Sedlak writes,
"The seeds or revolutrion were being sown in the pulpits of America. Without the outspoken, tenacious, and courageous leadership exhibited by the pastors of the Black Regiment, it is doubtful whether American Independence could ever have been achieved."

Now it seems that the voice of the prophet in America has been stilled. We no longer hear thunder from the pulpits, but rather we hear the latest psychological babble or feel good philosophy. And the results are evident. The moral and spiritual underpinnings of America are rotting away.

We need a revival in the pulpits of this land. We need the Word of God to again be preached with power and passion. If we offend, so be it. The life of a prophet was never easy anyway, but preach the Word we must!

The Apostle Paul agrees. In Second Timothy 4:2, Paul specifically commanded us to,
"Preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and teaching."
That is our mandate from God. The out of season times certainly include those times when people don't want to hear, when they would rather have their ears tickled with the latest theological fluff. But those are the very times God's Word is most needed.

Founder John Adams wrote,
"It is the duty of the clergy to accommodate their discourse to the times, to preach against such sins as are most prevalent, and recommend such virtues as are most wanted."
In other words, we should address the issues of the day, giving Biblical answers for the troubles that face us. That is our mandate and duty.

The trouble is, according to Chuck Baldwin,
"America's preachers have taken off the black robes and put on yellow ones."
Baldwin also writes,
"It was the patriot-pulpit that delivered America from bondage during the Revolutionary War, and it is the timid pulpit, on the part of those who do or should know, that is helping deliver America to the brink of destruction and judgment."
We can be timid in the pulpit no longer.

The 19th Century revivalist, Charles Finney, would certainly agree. He stated,
"If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the public press lacks moral discrimination, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the world loses its interest in religion, the pulpit is responsible for it. If Satan rules in the halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it. If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall, the pulpit is responsible for it."
If America is on the brink morally and spiritually, Finney is right: "The pulpit is responsible for it." There needs to be heard once again the thunder of God from the pulpits of this land.

I almost entitled this piece, An Open Letter to Pastors, because I wanted to make an open call to them to once again preach the Word with power and passion. So pastors, do not let the fear of man sway you from following the call of God on your life - and He has clearly called you to PREACH the WORD!
But if we again hear thunder from the pulpits, if pastors boldly again proclaim the truth of God's Word, we might just see another Great Awakening in the land. Revival can come. Pastor, will you help it come? Will you thunder the truth from your pulpit?