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What is "Religious Freedom", also known as "Religious Liberty"?

 

"Nobody may be forced to act against his convictions, nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience in religious matters in private or in public, alone or in association with others, within due limits."
This brief definition of religious freedom is taken from the document "Dignitatis Humanae" of the Second Vatican Council, quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 2106. To read the entire document, visit the Vatican's website: Vatican - "Dignitatis Humanae"
U.S. citizens are guaranteed the right to religious freedom by the First Amendment of the U.S. Bill of Rights, which states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."
 
 
 
 
 
 

What actions has the Trump/Pence administration taken in regard to religious freedom? ... How do they compare to the actions of the Obama/Biden administration?

 

Compare Administrations: Trump/Pence vs. Obama/Biden

 

 

Trump/Pence Administration

2017 to Present:

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February 2, 2017 – At the National Prayer Breakfast, President Trump said the world has a duty to stop the genocide of Christians in the Middle East, that we "must never, ever" stop asking God for wisdom, and he declared that America will flourish "when religious liberty can flourish."

July 31, 2017 - Trump appointed pro-life Kansas Governor Brownback to a religious persecution watchdog post called "Ambassador for Religious Freedom." Brownback will lead the Office of International Religious Freedom and monitor treatment of religious people across the globe. Immediate disapproval came from homosexual activists.

January 18, 2018 - A new division of the civil rights office was established by President Donald Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to enforce conscience protection and religious freedom for healthcare workers. This information is sourced from the website of LifeSiteNews: Click here to read more.

On January 16, 2018, Religious Freedom Day, President Trump's proclamation made it clear that religious freedom was more than "freedom to worship" and articulated the founding fathers' intent, stating, "Our forefathers, seeking refuge from religious persecution, believed in the eternal truth that freedom is not a gift from the government, but a sacred right from Almighty God... Our Constitution and laws guarantee Americans the right not just to believe as they see fit, but to freely exercise their religion.  Unfortunately, not all have recognized the importance of religious freedom, whether by threatening tax consequences for particular forms of religious speech, or forcing people to comply with laws that violate their core religious beliefs without sufficient justification.  These incursions, little by little, can destroy the fundamental freedom underlying our democracy. Therefore, soon after taking office, I addressed these issues in an Executive Order that helps ensure Americans are able to follow their consciences without undue Government interference and the Department of Justice has issued guidance to Federal agencies regarding their compliance with laws that protect religious freedom. No American -- whether a nun, nurse, baker, or business owner -- should be forced to choose between the tenants of faith or adherence to the law." This information is sourced from the website of LifeSiteNews:  Click here to read more.

Obama/Biden Administration

2008 to 2016:

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In the summer of 2012, as the Obama/Biden administration's first four year term was drawing to a close, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (the "USCCB") took the unusual measure of publishing a "FACT SHEET: SUMMER 2012", setting forth grave concerns that religious liberty in the United States was being weakened, concerns that Pope Benedict XVI also noted.

The Bishops' Fact Sheet cited several federal, state and local government actions that wrongfully took away religious liberty. Quoting from this USCCB document:

• The new mandate of the Department of Health and Human Services ("HHS") forces religious institutions to facilitate/fund a product contrary to their own moral teaching (contraception, sterilization, and abortion inducing drugs). The federal government also tries to define which religious institutions are “religious enough” to merit protection of their religious liberty.
• Boston, San Francisco, the District of Columbia, and the State of Illinois have driven local Catholic Charities out of the business of providing adoption or foster care services— by revoking their licenses, by ending their government contracts, or both - because those Charities refused to place children with same-sex couples or unmarried opposite-sex couples who cohabit.
• After years of excellent performance by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) in administering contract services for victims of human trafficking, the federal government changed its contract specifications to require MRS to provide or refer for contraceptive and abortion services, in violation of Catholic teaching.


During the Obama/Biden administration, Pope Benedict XVI noticed the attempts to limit the freedom of religion in the U.S. and saw this as a serious concernThe Holy Father asked for the laity to have courage to counter secularism that would “delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society.”

The complete 2012 Fact Sheet document can be found at the USCCB website: U.S.C.C.B. FACT SHEET: SUMMER 2012: Current Threats to Religious Liberty

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Religious Freedom

On September 21, 2018, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a stirring speech in Washington, D.C. He began by saying, “At the very heart of our mission is the preservation of human dignity.”
“And this administration understands an eternal truth - that each person has an essential worth simply because he or she is human and having been created by God,” said Pompeo.
“And our Declaration of Independence enshrines that self-evident truth,” continued Secretary Pompeo. “We all know this, that each of us is endowed by our creator with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Pompeo said that because Americans believe the principles the nation is founded upon are worth living by, “we proudly raise our banner of self-government, freedom, and human dignity all across the world. We will never accept a diminished role for America on the global stage.”
In direct contrast to former President Barack Obama’s foreign policy of ‘leading from behind’ on the world stage, “We’re going to lead from the front,” said Pompeo to thunderous applause.
“We are assuring human dignity by advancing one of our most cherished and indispensable liberties. It’s enshrined in the First Amendment. It is our religious freedom,” declared Pompeo.
“Since the earliest days of this presidency, President Trump has directed all of us in his administration to advance and defend religious freedom at home and abroad because religious freedom is a universal, a God-given right to which all people ’ all people are entitled,” he said. “Religious freedom is also an essential building block for all free societies, and our founders knew this.”
Secretary Pompeo spoke about what he considers to be the greatest highlight so far of his job: Bringing home three Americans from captivity in North Korea.
It’s emotional still to speak about it. When Kim Dong-chul, Kim Hak-song and Tony Kim got off our plane at about 2:30 a.m. at Andrews Air Force Base, their faces were bursting with tears of joy. They hugged and they wept with their families. And President Trump was on the tarmac to meet them.
I remember my hope and my prayer was that we would be able to deliver these people home. ... I wasn’t emotionally prepared for the moment. And even now, as I speak about it, it reminds me of the greatness of our nation.
“Know this. Know this. President Trump will never forget about our own. And that is one of the greatest American values of all.”
Source: Lifesitenews.com - 9/21/18
Link: Pompeo Speech

The Case of the Little Sisters of the Poor: What is at Risk for All Citizens?

The case of the Little Sisters of the Poor reveals what is at risk for all citizens – and shows the positions of the two political parties:
In August 2011, the Obama/Biden administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a federal mandate as part of the Affordable Care Act. The mandate required employers to provide all FDA-approved contraceptives in their health insurance plans, including the week-after pill, free of cost. Despite the obvious religious liberty issues with a contraceptive mandate, HHS included only a narrow religious exemption—one that did not include religious non-profits like the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic order of nuns that runs homes for the elderly poor across the country. The Little Sisters’ Catholic beliefs about life and contraception meant that complying with the mandate was impossible.
The Little Sisters initially tried to communicate their concerns with the federal government. In good faith, they believed that the government would grant them an exemption, as HHS already exempted thousands of other secular employers whose plans were “grandfathered” in under the new rule—including Exxon, Pepsi, and Visa. Details can be found at the Little Sisters’ website: thousands of other secular employers.
Instead, the Obama/Biden HHS continued to refuse to exempt the Little Sisters, and threatened them with fines of tens of millions of dollars if they did not comply with the mandate.
Finally, in September 2013, the Little Sisters went to court against the Obama/Biden federal government to fight to regain the religious freedom that had been taken away from them. However, they lost their case in lower courts, so they took their case to the Supreme Court.
In May 2016, the Supreme Court unanimously overturned the lower court rulings against the Little Sisters and ordered the Obama/Biden government not to fine the Little Sisters.

During this period, i.e., the 2008-2016 period of the Obama/Biden administration, it was not only the Little Sisters who were suffering from the loss of their Constitutional right to religious freedom. Doctors, nurses and medical students were being forced to choose between their consciences and their careers. Laws to prevent this kind of discrimination were in too many cases simply ignored. Good people suffered, even lost their jobs.

On October 6, 2017, the Trump Administration reinforced religious freedom rights by issuing rules protecting the conscience rights of all Americans, including the Little Sisters. The regulations exempt entities only from providing an otherwise mandated item to which they object on the basis of their religious beliefs or moral conviction.
Here’s a copy of these regulations, on the website of the HHS, www.hhs.gov: Trump-Administration-issues-rules-protecting-the-conscience-rights-of-all-Americans.


Later in 2017, California, Pennsylvania and other States led by Democrat Governors sued to take away the Little Sisters’ religious exemption.

On May 2, 2019 the Trump Administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a regulation which:

• protects the right of diverse faith-based health care institutions from participation in procedures like abortion, sterilization, or assisted suicide.
• ensures that churches and others who oppose abortion are not compelled to cover elective abortion in their health plans
• protects individuals and health care entities from discrimination on the basis of their exercise of conscience in HHS-funded programs;
• ensures that healthcare entities and professionals won’t be bullied out of the health care field because they decline to participate in actions that violate their conscience, including the taking of human life.

 

 

 

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Little Sisters of the Poor v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.becketlaw.org/case/commonwealth-pennsylvania-v-trump/.
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Little Sisters of the Poor v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.becketlaw.org/case/commonwealth-pennsylvania-v-trump/.

On the same day, the 2nd of May, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Chairman of the bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty, issued a statement:

“We strongly commend the Department of Health and Human Services for adopting important new regulations to ensure that existing laws protecting the rights of conscience in health care are known, followed and enforced.
Though these laws were passed on a bipartisan basis and have been policy for years, the previous administration (Obama/Biden) did not fully enforce them, and now they are increasingly being violated. Health care providers like New York nurse Cathy DeCarlo and medical trainees have been coerced into participating in the brutal act of abortion against their core beliefs, while churches and others who oppose abortion are being compelled by states like California to cover elective abortion—including late-term abortion—in their health plans. We are grateful that this Administration (Trump/Pence) is taking seriously its duty to enforce these fundamental civil rights laws, and we look forward to swift action by HHS to remedy current violations in several states.
Conscience protection should not fluctuate as administrations change. It is essential that Congress provide permanent legislative relief through passage of the Conscience Protection Act in order to give victims of discrimination the ability to defend their rights in court. No one should be forced to violate their deeply held convictions about the sanctity of human life.”

Here is the Bishops’ complete statement on the USCCB website, USCCB.org: May 2, 2019 statement

In October, 2019, after losing the case brought against them by the States (in the Third Circuit), the Little Sisters asked the U.S. Supreme Court to close their case once and for all.
On April 8, 2020, House Speaker Democrat Nancy Pelosi joined an amicus brief on behalf of the 186 Democrat Senators and Members of Congress requesting the Supreme Court to remove the Trump administration’s May 2 2019 regulation. Along with this measure, Nancy Pelosi issued a statement, “The Trump administration's despicable rule allowing private employers and health plans to deny women coverage for contraception is an outrageous attack on women's health, women's pocketbooks and women's independence."
• Here is the complete statement, on Nancy Pelosi’s website: speaker.gov/newsroom
• The Democrats’ amicus brief also appears on Nancy Pelosi’s website: an amicus brief
• Here is a 04/15/20 related article in the CNS News website, CNSNews.com: Religious Liberty
More details of the legal battles of the Little Sisters of the Poor can be found here:
• on the website of the Little Sisters’ attorneys, Becket Law: becketlaw.org-littlesisters
• on the Little Sisters’ website: the Little Sisters of the Poor
As of May, 2020, the saga of the Little Sisters continues, with the Supreme Court hearing oral arguments as of May 5. This May 5th article on the website of the National Review provides details: nationalreview.com

“Religious Freedom” versus “Freedom to Worship”

A January 16, 2020 article by Thomas Jipping, "Why American must recommit to Religious Freedom", published on The Heritage Foundation website states:

We celebrate January 16 as Religious Freedom Day, the anniversary of the passage in 1786 of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. Thomas Jefferson, who authored the statute in the Virginia Legislature, listed it on his tombstone as one of his three greatest achievements. 

But what is the “religious freedom” that presidents of both parties have said is so important? Some have attempted to confine religious freedom narrowly to religious “worship.” 

In his 2016 Religious Freedom Day proclamation, for example, Obama referred to the “freedom to worship as we choose.” Yet for Americans, religious freedom always has been much broader than that. From long before America itself was born, this liberty was referred to as the “exercise of religion.” That’s the phrase that America’s founders used in the First Amendment.

In 2018, President Trump correctly described religious freedom as the “right not just to believe as [Americans] see fit, but to freely exercise their religion.” He called it the “right of the individual conscience and religious exercise.”  (In doing so, Trump echoed Clinton, who, in 2000, correctly noted that the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom pledged that no one would “suffer on account of his religious opinions or beliefs.”)

Properly understanding religious freedom in America requires fully appreciating both of these dimensions—the importance and the definition of religious freedom. And that understanding has never been more necessary than today. 

Clashes between the constitutional right to exercise religion and civil or statutory rights, such as freedom from discrimination based on controversial new categories, are multiplying all over the country. Some politicians and political interests are trying to reduce religious freedom to nothing more than an ordinary value or preference and to confine it to personal religious belief or, at most, to religious worship.

In other words, they want to excise religious exercise from American life. Some take it even further, claiming that Americans who exercise their faith are actually a danger, a negative element that should be minimized or shut down entirely.

In 2018, for example, Democrat Senator Kamala Harris of California introduced legislation, the "Do No Harm" Act, to exempt large categories of laws from the nation’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed into law in 1993, sets a tough standard to prevent government actions, including legislation, from interfering with the exercise of religion. 

By contrast, Harris’ legislation, co-sponsored by 31 other Democrats, would exempt laws that relate directly to liberal constituencies, such as labor unions or abortion providers. Neither Congress nor executive branch agencies would have to consider at all the impact on religious freedom of laws or regulations favoring those political interests.

This is a long way from the deep importance and broad definition that America’s Founders placed on religious freedom. 

The above content is from the above-noted article. The entire article is found on the website of the Heritage Foundation. Here is a link to the article on this site: Heritage Foundation- Religious Liberty

A related article by Sarah Torre, "Watering Down Religious Freedom to "Freedom to Worship" is also found on the Heritage Foundation site here: Watering Down Religious Freedom In this article, the author, a policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation who focuses on issues related to religious liberty, argued the difference between “freedom of worship” and “freedom of religion” is significant, stating, “This incorrect view of religious liberty argues that faith should remain a private affair—relegated to personal activities or weekend worship services,” she said. “Step outside the four walls of a home or house of worship and robust protection of religious freedom ends.”

 

 

The Obama/Biden Administration’s Religious Freedom Record

 In a November 1, 2019 statement, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) noted that the Obama/Biden administration’s 2016 regulation (referenced above in the article on the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor) had “threatened to shut out faith-based social service providers, namely adoption and foster care agencies that respect a child's right to a mother and a father. To restrict faith-based organizations' work by infringing on religious freedom—as the 2016 rule threatened to do—is unfair and serves no one, especially children in need of these services."


Referencing this strong USCCB statement, Attorney William Donohue, Ph.D., President of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, stated, “The bishops are right. The 2016 regulation, which was issued by the Obama administration, denied Catholic social service providers the right to reject same-sex parents from participating in adoption and foster care programs. To do so would be to subvert Catholic teachings on marriage, the family, and sexuality, allowing the state to encroach on the religious rights of Catholic providers.”

The foregoing statement is excerpted from William Donohue’s January 21, 2020 submittal as referenced in Section 7 below. For the complete document, visit the Catholic League’s website: Catholicleague.org

In this same document, William Donohue continues his evaluation of the Obama/Biden administration’s treatment of religious freedom:
The Catholic League applauded the administration of George W. Bush for initiating faith-based programs. We did so because the record of religious social service agencies is outstanding, and is indeed superior, to the good work done by secular institutions. That is why we were so dismayed by the Obama-era reforms: they took the faith out of faith-based programs.


On July 2, 2008, I responded to then-presidential candidate Barack Obama's first statement on faith-based programs. Obama was quoted in the New York Times as saying, "If you get a federal grant, you can't use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can't discriminate against them—or against the people you hire—on the basis of their religion." He added that "Federal dollars that go directly to churches, temples and mosques can only be used on secular programs." That same day I branded Obama's initiative a "fraud." It would have meant that a nun in habit, for instance, could be accused of proselytizing young people simply because of her religious garb. It would also mean that it would be impossible to have a Catholic social service agency if it was denied the right to screen applicants on the basis of their religious affiliation. Similarly, what would be the point of having an Orthodox Jewish day care program if they had to hire non-Jews to tend to Orthodox Jewish children?


Here is the crux of the matter. Why is it considered discrimination for religious social service agencies to insist that their employees follow their doctrinal prerogatives, but it is not considered discrimination when the government tells them to cease and desist? The former is an example of the kinds of religious exercises that are central to the definition and identity of religious institutions; the latter is a discriminatory act that violates the First Amendment.
Things got worse once the Obama administration launched its newly designed Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. On February 5, 2009, Joshua DuBois, the person chosen to head this initiative, said that his office would decide on a case-by-case basis whether a funding request would be granted. As I pointed out that day, this was a ruse. "The 1964 Civil Rights Act, in Section 702 (a), specifically allows an exemption for religious organizations in hiring. The legislators who passed this historic act knew that for the government to deny religious organizations that receive public monies the right to determine who should service their constituents would effectively neuter them. That position is as true today as it was then."


On January 12, 2010, Washington Post columnist William Wan reported that a group within the faith-based office was considering whether to ban the display of religious symbols in those religious institutions that receive federal funding. It is this kind of mindset that chilled the religious rights of the faithful. Here are some examples that I detailed on January 15, 2010.
"Last April, the Obama advance team told Georgetown University that the president would not speak there unless they put a drape over religious symbols. Last month, it was reported that a serious debate ensued in the White House whether to display a manger scene at Christmastime. Now they're wondering whether to tell Catholic charitable offices to put a sheet over their crucifixes. We know what they want, and that is good enough to call for the dismantling of all faith-based programs in this administration."


On June 24, 2011, the Obama administration welcomed an appeal by a few dozen left-wing organizations, some of which were no friend of religious liberty, requesting that faith-based programs be barred, by Executive Order, from only hiring people of their own faith. That was it. I called that day for Obama to shut down his faith-based programs. "The goal, obviously, is to convert these religious entities into full-blown secular organizations. It would be better not to let them hijack these programs in the name of assisting them, thus it makes sense to shut them down."


My last news release on this subject occurred on August 6, 2015. The Obama administration released reform proposals that enhanced government oversight of religious social service agencies. Clearly, they were designed to stifle, not expand, religious expression. Religious agencies were asked to report "explicitly religious activities that are privately funded (my italic)." This proposal was unprecedented: it gave the state a green light to encroach on the rights of religious institutions. If this wasn't bad enough, the reform proposals also called for churches to form separate corporations detailing their receipt of federal funds. This scheme was designed to kill small churches. I stand by my conclusion: "The faith-based programs should be defunded and reconstituted by a president who is serious about religious matters." Fortunately, we now have such a president. The proposals as outlined by the Trump administration are important: their implementation would put an end to the kinds of invidious discriminatory policies that marked the Obama administration; they would also safeguard the autonomy of religious institutions.

Use of the Constitution in Judges’ Rulings

"Originalism" versus “Living Constitution”

How the words in the U.S. Constitution are to be interpreted will affect almost every aspect of life in America, and will have significant ramifications for everything from religious liberty to economic freedom.
There are two predominant and significantly different viewpoints regarding the application of the U.S. Constitution:


  1. Originalism” is the legal theory that judges’ rulings should be based on what the Constitution meant as it was originally written. Justice Antonin Scalia was one of the greatest defenders of this viewpoint.

  2. Living constitutionalism” is the term commonly applied to the opposing viewpoint that judges’ rulings should be based on judges’ interpretations as to what the Constitution means in current times, with the understanding that the meaning of the Constitution can evolve over time.

 


While originalism is now a minority view among judges, it was, until about 50 years ago, considered the orthodox method of judicial interpretation. Even the American people had an originalist perspective of the Constitution.

"The Living Constitution kills the actual Constitution" - The insights of Justice Antonin Scalia

Justice Antonin Scalia, who served on the U.S. Supreme Court from 1986 until his death in 2016. He was nominated by President Ronald Reagan and was unanimously approved by the Senate (98-0).


The paragraphs below present a condensed version of Joe Carter’s 05/14/18 article, Justice Scalia explains why the “Living Constitution” is a threat to America, with statements of Justice Scalia in italics.


The entire article is found on the Acton Institute website (acton.org) here: Justice Antonin Scalia


Justice Scalia stated that when originalism was the accepted theory of interpretation, activist judges had to resort to lying about the meaning of the Constitution to get the outcome they wanted. But if the Constitution is considered to be a document that is living and evolving, the courts don’t even have to resort to deception — they can simply interpret the meaning to be anything they want. The result, according to Scalia is:


All sorts of rights that clearly did not exist at the time of the adoption of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights exist today. It’s plain, absolutely plain, that the right to an abortion was not thought to exist in 1791 or at the time that the post-Civil War amendments were adopted, since there were laws against abortions in all the states. It’s absolutely plain that there was no right to die, since there were laws against suicide.


The dividing line is not between liberals and conservatives but between those who think the meaning of the text is fixed and those who believe it continuously evolves to meet the needs of society.


Justice Scalia warns that the Living Constitution replaces our representative democracy with an out-of-touch oligarchy:


Why should nine justices determine how society is “evolving”? If you want somebody who’s in touch with what are the evolving standards of decency that reflect a maturing society, ask the Congress to make the relevant decisions.


What makes you think a committee of nine lawyers ought to tell where we’re evolving to? Originalism confines judges, and limits them to the meaning of the text. But under the theory of the Living Constitution, judges are given the power to govern the American people.


What is the criterion that governs the Living Constitutional judge? What can you possibly use, besides original meaning? Think about that, the Living Constitution kills the actual Constitution — When judges abandon originalism and the original meaning to the text of the Constitution, it is merely a matter of time before the Constitution itself is abandoned.


In the long run, non-originalism triumphant and rampant is the death knell of the Constitution. As I suggested earlier, the whole purpose of the Constitution is to prevent a future society from doing whatsoever it wants to do.


Source: Blog.action.org - Joe Carter - 05/14/18

Trump’s Supreme Court Appointees, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh

Describing Justice Gorsuch’s actions as of June 2017, two months after he began to serve on the Supreme Court, the Acton Institute’s Joseph Carter wrote,
"In his first concurring opinion for the court, Gorsuch has established himself as a champion of religious freedom, and a justice willing to place limits on the power of the state."


Source: 06/26/17 Washington Examiner article by Ryan Lovelace. The entire article may be found on the website of the Washington Examiner: Washington Examiner - Gorsuch

Justice Kavanaugh’s dedication to protecting religious freedom is confirmed by articles on the following sites:
1) National Catholic Register website: Protector of Religious Freedom
2) First Liberty: Kavanaugh’s Record
3) Washington Examiner: Brett Kavanaugh - defender of religious liberty
4) Heritage Organization: Kavanaugh applies constitution

Catholic Church’s appraisal of the Trump/Pence Administration’s Performance

The following content is excerpted from the January 21, 2020 submittal by Attorney William Donohue, Ph.D., President of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. For the complete document, visit the Catholic League’s website: The Catholic League


As president of the nation's largest Catholic civil rights organization, I am delighted to take this opportunity to register my support for President Donald Trump's proposed rules on the status of religious liberty in government programs. The rules, as announced on January 16, 2020, are necessitated by the draconian directives promulgated by President Obama on this issue. I will speak to the role the Catholic League has played in dealing with these onerous and patently unjust strictures, making clear why the proposed rules are welcome. I would like to begin by seconding the statement issued on November 1, 2019 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on the Trump administration's proposed rule changes affecting faith-based programs. "We commend the Administration for acting to change a 2016 regulation that threatened to shut out faith-based social service providers, namely adoption and foster care agencies that respect a child's right to a mother and a father. To restrict faith-based organizations' work by infringing on religious freedom -- “as the 2016 rule threatened to do -- “is unfair and serves no one, especially children in need of these services." The bishops are right. The 2016 regulation, which was issued by the Obama administration, denied Catholic social service providers the right to reject same-sex parents from participating in adoption and foster care programs. To do so would be to subvert Catholic teachings on marriage, the family, and sexuality, allowing the state to encroach on the religious rights of Catholic providers.

The proposals as outlined by the Trump administration are important: their implementation would put an end to the kinds of invidious discriminatory policies that marked the Obama administration; they would also safeguard the autonomy of religious institutions. The Catholic League commends President Trump for his advocacy of religious liberty. The steps taken in these proposals go a long way to restore the First Amendment rights of all Americans, particularly people of faith.


Source: Catholic League’s website: The Catholic League -- 1/21/20

Frequently Asked Questions about Religious Freedom

The following is from the website of The Heritage Foundation: Religious Freedom Questions


1. Religious people can believe whatever they want and worship however they want. Why do they have to bring their beliefs into the public square?

Religious freedom protects people’s right to live, speak, and act according to their beliefs peacefully and publicly. It protects their ability to be themselves at work, in class, and at social activities. Religious freedom is more than the “freedom to worship” at a synagogue, church, or mosque. It makes sure they don’t have to go against their core values and beliefs in order to conform to culture or government.


Religious freedom applies to both individuals and organizations, including charities and businesses. When human beings with important personal beliefs join together to run businesses or charities, the new organization they form is considered a “legal person.” People do not “relinquish” their beliefs or their rights when they form an association or go into business.


Most people, religious or secular, seek to live their lives with integrity by aligning their actions to their beliefs. They shouldn’t have to pretend to be different just because they’re at work or volunteering. Jews, Christians, and Muslims all recognize that their faith should be openly lived out at school, at work, and in public. Freedom of religion not only protects someone’s beliefs, it protects their right to act on their beliefs.


2. Isn’t this just creating special rights for religious believers?


No. Religious freedom prevents the cultural majority from using the power of the state to impose their beliefs on others. This protects everyone--“religious and nonreligious alike--“from the government becoming so powerful that it can tell people what to think and how to act. Conscience is the individual’s most sacred right. A government that intrudes on conscience will not hesitate to intrude our other freedoms.


3. Doesn’t religious freedom allow people to do whatever they want under the cover of religion?


No. The federal government may limit religious freedom if it is absolutely necessary to promote justice and protect the common good. In order to do this, the government must prove that it has a “compelling interest” and that its methods are narrowly tailored. This test limits government’s ability to restrict religious freedom beyond what is necessary to protect people, and prevents harm to others under the cover of religion. For example, freedom of religion doesn’t protect a man from punishment if he abuses his family, even if he claims his religious beliefs made him do it.


4. Aren’t there a lot of cases out there involving businesses using religious freedom arguments to refuse service to LGBT people?


No. The business owners in these cases gladly serve and employ everyone, including people who identify as LGBT. They serve all people but cannot express all messages. They cannot create custom art that celebrates events or expresses messages they disagree with, because it would betray their own religious beliefs. No citizen should be personally and professionally destroyed for declining to embrace a current cultural norm. A government that can force a creative professional to endorse same-sex marriage can force anyone to affirm ideas and messages that violate his or her beliefs.


Source: The Heritage Foundation: Religious Freedom Questions

President Trump Visits St. Pope John Paul II Shrine

  • “President Donald Trump's visit to the shrine was meant as a "lead in" to something he did later in the day, which was very much in accord with the mission of the shrine honoring the late Pope (1978-2005) who was made a saint in 2013 -- “ the signing of an executive order to advance international religious freedom.” - John Gizzi, Newsmax.com

 

  • The fact that the President of the United States chose the shrine of Saint John Paul II to announce a new Executive Order protecting religious minorities should have been celebrated by all those who love the Church, religious freedom, and the courageous example of St. John Paul II…. Millions of Catholics in the United States, including many within the Archbishop’s own flock, are grateful for today’s Executive Order.” - Brian Burch, CatholicVote.org

 

  • “Underscoring that the cause of international religious freedom "receives widespread bipartisan support," the Shrine called for unanimous passage of legislation in defense of persecuted Christians and religious minorities around the world.” - John Gizzi, Newsmax.com

 

  • “…the Shrine said it welcomes all people to come and pray and learn about the legacy of Saint John Paul II." - John Gizzi, Newsmax.com

    Sources: Newsmax.com: John Gizzi --’ 6/2/20
    Catholicvote.org: Brian Burch --’ 6/2/20

 

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Executive Order on International Religious Freedom

 

  • Requires the Department of State and USAID to deliver long-term strategic plans to implement the advancement of the cause of international religious freedom in U.S. foreign policy;
  • Provides $50 million per year for programs that advance international religious freedom;
  • Requires international religious freedom efforts be integrated into U.S. diplomatic efforts. Specifically, the EO would require the Secretary of State, along with Chiefs of Mission, to develop international and country-specific action plans for prioritizing religious freedom and would make religious freedom a priority in bilateral and multilateral fora (i.e., forums);
  • Requires international religious freedom training for all personnel assigned to positions overseas;
  • Provides flexibility for the use of economic tools --  "including the realignment of foreign assistance, visa restrictions, or sanctions..." -  to advance the Administration’s International Religious Freedom agenda and priorities.

Link to read Executive Order: Religious Freedom Executive Order