Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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It’s more insidious than that

I’ve posted a couple of times in recent days on the debate over the efforts to preserve the religious freedom of groups that accept government money. If you’re one of the three people who read my posts, you know that on an essentially party-line vote, Democrats succeeded in keeping the co-religionist exemption out of the Head Start reauthorization bill.

That’s bad enough, but, as Gregory Baylor points out, the newest version of the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act is even worse, permitting mission-sensitive hiring (when it comes to the moral disapproval of homosexuality) only for "employers that ’ha[ve] as [their] primary purpose religious ritual or worship or the teaching or spreading of religious doctrine or belief.’" Let me translate: only churches and church-like organizations can act on their religious and moral principles in hiring. It’s plausible that religiously-affiliated colleges and universities won’t be able to, nor will faith-based social service organizations. Let me be clear: this has nothing to do with strings attached to government funding and everything to do with government coercion. If something like it passes (and survives a free exercise challenge, which unfortunately isn’t out of the question), morally and theologically conservative denominations will be able to care for the proverbial widows and orphans only at the price of acquiescing in the gay rights agenda.

Discussions - 20 Comments

The intent of some of these people is to marginalize non-approved churches to the point of utter irrelevance in society. It is entirely possible that Americans will be under what amounts to totalitarian rule within the lifetimes of middle-aged people (like me). Questions like this need to be asked repeated at Republican presidential candidate forums, and we must insist on answers. The right answers.

I fear you are correct in your assessment and your fear. The relentless march of the gay rights agenda is so brilliantly insidious that I'm left to conclude the much more powerful dark forces are at work than merely Reid and Pelosi.

I agree with your assessment as well. This legislation, the "Employment Non-Discrimination act IS being used as a cudgel to force societal and legal acceptance of homosexuality.

This is what they do. And by the death of a thousand cuts, they will get what they want unless the rest of us find a way to get this assault on the First Amendment overthrown.

We cannot leave it up to the SJC. They have shown themslelves to be very inconsistent, in my opinion.

Mr. Knippenberg, I'm confused on this one. If the government is taking tax dollars from ALL Americans and channeling them to religious organizations or religiously-affiliated schools, then why should it be acceptable that say, someone who does not share a church's "moral disapproval of homosexuality" and pays taxes should fund a church's, a religious org's, a religious school's "mission-sensitive hiring"? Surely, you do not wish your tax dollars to fund abortions, for example? How does what you describe constitute "coercion"?

It has long been a bugaboo among law profs and the like to try and limit churches' ability to hire and fire for mission reasons. This is clearly a step in that direction.

What's ironic about this effort, though, is that it will provide incentives for religious groups of all sorts to become more sectarian. After all, a smart lawyer will simply advise his organization to insert some language in their particular bylaws that parrot the language in the bill, giving them a decent chance, it seems to me, of surviving a discrimination challenge. (Though the language of the bill looks to be designed to link up precisely with the judicially created "ministerial exemption").

You have a point, Elizabeth, but by the same token should conservative Christians be forced to see their tax money go to groups that embrace gay rights? This is the inevitable problem when we start talking about using government money for what are essentially private purposes. There is no good solution to this, short of getting the government out of it.


The issue here isn't government money, but a law that would compel even privately-funded faith-based organizations to toe the line when it comes to hiring.

Stories like this need to be circulated around the church-going community (especially the evangelicals); churches who are entertaining thoughts of supporting a Democrat for president (Obama comes to mind) need to understand what they might be getting themselves into.

It always makes me cringe to see the government legislating morality, be that in the form of my tax dollars going to religious organizations or forcing privately owned and operated organizations to hire homosexuals. If the gay rights activists want to see more people or organizations accepting homosexuality as a lifestyle which is not contradictory to good morals or ethics (which, in my opinion, would be wonderful), then they need to start at the ground level by convincing their American counterparts on a personal level . . . not through top-down, government mandates.

Good post.

Joe wrote: "The issue here isn't government money, but a law that would compel even privately-funded faith-based organizations to toe the line when it comes to hiring."

And of course they won't be content with that victory. You can be assured that deep within the drive for "hate crime" legislation is the objective of censoring what can be spoken of in church. The first thing targeted will be any anti-gay sermons. Then once they've established that beachhead they'll go for any sermons labeled "divisive." Then God will be labeled divisive, and lawsuits will be filed to prevent uttering His name in church.

Don't laugh. I'm dead serious. I promise you there are bitter atheist ACLU lawyers who dream of such stuff. And not just dream, but think of ways to accomplish it.

Like I said earlier, there are dark forces at work behind all this.

I really hope you're joking, Dan, because that's just paranoid. It sounds like a fundamentalist end times theory. No one is going to ban God from America. Take a step back and look at the political realities.

Incidentally, I'm with Matt here. I support gay rights, but this is a First Amendment issue. This kind of thing is the inevitable result of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The government must not get between employee and employer.

11: "No one is going to ban God from America." That's like saying that you won't drown if you go in the water. As stated, that's perfectly true. You will, however, drown if you go in the water and never get out. You're right, however, that the ADA is a dangerously arrogant, overreaching, Big Brother piece of legislation.

Boo, one can define "paranoia" as: Exhibiting or characterized by extreme and irrational fear or distrust of others. Is it irrational to fear that God will be wiped out of America? People want "In God We Trust" removed from our money because it "offends" them. They want the "Ten Commandments" removed from public display, although they were in fact real tangible laws a given people were to abide by.

When I was in the first grade and learning to write and spell correctly, I was instructed to use the word "love" in a sentence. This was in 1976. I wrote the following sentence: I love Jesus. My teacher marked it wrong and when my mother questioned why, she was told that I could not express my religious beliefs in school because of separation of church and state. Had I commited a hate crime? Was I trying to persuade anyone to believe as I did or force my beliefs on them? No - I was a first grader writing a sentence using the word "love" as I chose to. My mom protested with letters to the principal to no avail and I had to change the word "Jesus" to "Mom" or fail the assignment.

Can you tell me how far removed is too far?


FWIW, your teacher was wrong, even according to the Clinton Administration. Teachers in public schools (properly) can't assign religious topics, but students can respond to an assignment "religiously." In first grade, my son said, in response to an assignment, that he was thankful for his church. The teacher didn't think that was appropriate; I was ready to crawl all over her, but the principal told her that his response was permissible. It is true that, all too often, teachers and school authorities err on what they regard as the side of caution, but they can be set straight pretty easily.

It goes without saying that we shouldn't have to do this, but, at least in this case, the weight of governmental and judicial opinion is on our side.

Really quickly . . .

Is it irrational to fear that God will be wiped out of America? People want "In God We Trust" removed from our money because it "offends" them. They want the "Ten Commandments" removed from public display, although they were in fact real tangible laws a given people were to abide by.

Yes, it is "irrational" because there is no necessary slope from "Get God off my money and out of my courtroom" to "ban mentioning God in churches". The only way I could see any reason for your believing God will soon be "wiped out of America" is if you think that the only way for God to be a part of America is to be a part of our government institutions.

Mr. Mingus: should churches have tax exempt status?

Deb, your teacher was wrong, and cases like that are not the norm. I have experienced many counter-examples. One of the fundamental flaws of our "intuition" is that it likes stories more than statistics. You cannot make an inductive argument from one incident to a national trend.

Also, people rightfully want God removed from our government. I would say that taking God OUT of the government actually helps GUARD your religious freedom. The government encroaches on the Church every time it mentions God, and every time it deletes him the Church regains more ground. An absolute wall between church and state is your best guarantee that God will never be "banned from America."

Mr. Andrew: Hmmm . . . yes. As long as they participate in philanthropic activities, I don't see a problem with it. It's the consequence of the organization the government should look at in regard to such things, not necessarily the beliefs professed from the organization (in my opinion). What do you think?

George Washington and his thumos said that the baby Jesus should be on our money or we'd lose our republican form of government, and that would be an abomination to Nature and Nature's God. And then Abraham Lincoln would invade the South, and people would start saying that we came from monkeys.

Turned out he was right.

Joe Knippenberg, Boo I found your responses to Deb’s story interesting. You tell Deb that the teacher was wrong. Actually, according to the story, both the teacher and the principal were wrong. Yet Deb was forced to change her sentence. Basically she was told to deny her faith. You commented that the school was wrong, but what were the consequences? Was the school punished for being wrong? No. Deb was forced to recant. She was forced to avoid using the word Jesus.

You see, while Deb may have been in the right legally, that had no real-world effect. A lot of people who are religious see your reactions as typical. You pass our experiences off as things that occur seldom; that are the result of people not following the rules. In effect you are telling Deb to suck it up. Stuff happens. Well, that’s not good enough.

Right now followers of the Religion of Peace are killing each other and us in the most brutal and horrific fashion. Many people are wondering about the assumed benevolence of the vast majority of Muslims who, we are told, are not on the side of the jihadists. Many of us would like to see some signs that those moderates do, in fact exist and long for an uprising of the vast peaceful majority. But for some reason they have not appeared. So we wonder whether they in fact exist.

Just so with those who claim that they are all for the free expression of a person’s religious faith. Where is the outrage from the Joe Kippenbergs and Boos when we hear Deb’s story. There isn’t any, because there is no real outrage there. And I expect that that vast peaceful Muslim majority may also be a mirage.

Then what’s really disturbing is the irrational rant that Boo goes into when she says that only if reference to religion is totally banned from public expression in any governmental function (and God knows that even the air we breathe is an issue for Government) will Religion be safe. To your ghetto go! Are you safe from my Church’s sign while driving by on your public road owned and run by the government, or would you like it taken down to protect my religious freedom?

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