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Stevens Point Rally a Big Success!

Posted by JenDunnett (November 6, 2012 at 2:53 pm)

100 people of all walks of life and religious affiliation took time out of a beautiful sunny Saturday to attend the Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally Saturday, October 20 in Stevens Point, WI.

Jennifer Dunnett, Rally Captain and Full-time Volunteer for the Servants of Our Lady of Guadalupe introduced Pastor Matthew Mallek of Good New Fellowship Church to start off the event with opening prayer and a few comments.  Pastor Mallek stated:

“Our Nation was founded on religious freedom, when our government threatens that freedom we must stand up, thank you for your participation in today’s rally. Your presence here is significant to defend our religious freedom.”
He continued, “We have a responsibility to pray and then go the the polls and vote our Biblical Values; Pro-life, Pro-family and Pro-marriage. Never before has the choice been made more clear.”
“First Timothy exhorts us to pray for those in authority, so we must:
First Timothy 2:1-5  First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” NAS
Next, the Tritz Family motivated the crowd singing the Star Spangled Banner.
Tom Glavin, representative of Pro-life Wisconsin Portage County, read a letter from Bishop William Callahan from the Diocese of La Crosse.
Bishop Callahan wrote: “We insist, along with the Founding Fathers of this great nation who gave us the First Amendment, that we be free to live according to our teachings and our consciences. Church institutions – along with religiously motivated business owners – will continue to seek every remedy to this violation. Efforts continue through the courts as well as through legislation, and with God’s help, and the prayers and witness of people like you, I am confident we will prevail.”
(You can find Bishop Callahan’s letter in it’s entirety  at the bottom of this document)
He then introduced Will Goodman of the Servants of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Keynote speaker for the event. Mr Goodman has worked for the past 19 years to promote respect for human life and human rights.
  Mr Goodman had this to say, “Today in 145 cities across our great land the beacons of liberty are lit.  People the country over have come out to shine as living flames, from their homes, their churches, schools and places of employment– to stand up for freedom.  Let that light continue to burn… shining brightly and witnessing to the American ideal to be free–free to worship and practice and live our faith without government intrusion, free to follow one’s conscience, free to work for the common good, while defending the rights of each individual without prejudice.  Let us stand as one nation, under God… and realize that we do not stand alone.”

He also reminded us, “Two grave concerns mark this mandate: participation and identity.  The mandate commands participation in the payment of abortion-inducing drugs as well as other drugs and activities which offend against conscience.  Such mandated participation, without conscience protection, violates basic human rights as well as the Constitutional rights of Americans.  Further, the mandate sets extreme limits on the identify of religious groups– making them ineligible for government exemption if their ministry serves any people in the broader community outside of their faith.  Thus, if you reach out to help others who do not practice your faith, you lose your religious designation.  Such an unjust re-definition strikes at the very heart of what it means to be a religious organization… and an American.”
(A copy of Mr Goodman’s full talk is provided at the bottom of this blog along with a YouTube link for a recording of a portion of  his talk)
The rally ended with the Tritz family and rally participant singing God Bless America with great emotion, along with some inspiring closing comments and a prayer from Pastor Matthew Mallek….  “We have a great challenge and responsibility before us to defend freedom, I am reminded of David when he faced Goliath. We are facing a Goliath, a huge giant, yet we may seem small, but we can defeat him. David defeated his giant because he knew his God and how great He is. He also knew who he was, God’s servant whom He could use, and he knew his enemy and was willing to fight him. We can defeat this giant because God is with us.”
GROUP PHOTO OF SPEAKERS AND RALLY TEAM
L-R: Will Goodman, Jen Dunnett, Tom Glavin, Rose Ross, Theresa Glavin, Pastor Mallek
(PHOTO CREDITS: KAMI PEETERS)

___________________________________________________________

LETTER FROM BISHOP WILLIAM CALLAHAN OF THE DIOCESE OF LA CROSSE, WI

DIOCESE OF LA CROSSE
+
Office of the Bishop
Letter to Participants in October 20 Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rallies
My Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I commend you for standing up for religious freedom today in rallies in
La Crosse, Eau Claire and Stevens Point. Once again, you are part of a vast
wave of rally participants in towns and cities all across the United States.
The cause around which we rally is the First Amendment right to the free
exercise of religion, and so it touches people of every faith.
As believers, we do not seek to impose our will on anyone. Rather, it is the
government that is seeking to impose its will on us through the HHS
Insurance Mandate, telling us that we must violate our consciences through
the provision of sterilization, contraception and abortion-causing drugs.
We insist, along with the Founding Fathers of this great nation who gave us
the First Amendment, that we be free to live according to our teachings and
our consciences. Church institutions – along with religiously motivated
business owners – will continue to seek every remedy to this violation. Efforts
continue through the courts as well as through legislation, and with God’s
help, and the prayers and witness of people like you, I am confident we will
prevail.
Once again, thank you for your public witness on behalf of religious liberty.
Remember to exercise your right and duty to vote on November 6. God be
with you!
+
Bishop William P. Callahan
3710 East Avenue South P.O. Box 4004 La Crosse, Wisconsin 54602-4004 608-788-7700 Fax 608-788-4689

_________________________________________________

Below is the YouTube link for a portion of Mr Goodman’s talk. The full version is provided below this link.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MegqNjCi7ZU&feature=share&list=UUc37fK6Ep-QM-9iR5p5oFcQ

COPY OF WILL GOODMAN’S SPEECH

+

Standing Up for Religious Freedom, By Will Goodman

We gather…  as a multitude of people with different faiths, backgrounds and beliefs; and still, we gather as a single people- Americans—united in an alliance for the protection of Constitutional Rights and liberties.  We find no conflict in being both believers in God, and Americans, rather we recognize this as essentially complementary.  We do not stand alone.  We stand in solidarity with thousands of others at this very moment, in over 145 cities across 43 States in our land from coast to coast, all standing up for religious freedom!  People coming together for a noble cause- united by the common belief that the Constitution of the United States of America and the Bill of Rights are documents of supreme and lasting value, providing a sure guide and limit for our government so that it might be at the service of the common good and all our citizens without exception.

And yet…   We stand…  at a crossroads…  a choice…  lays before us.  Choices in our day between two vastly different world views: a view that is respectful of the sacred and a view that is thoroughly secular.  We must choose, at every moment, to be aware of our liberties and our responsibilities as citizens- before God and all humanity.  Vigilance and intelligence are necessary in the exercise and defense of our rights, lest they be taken away.  The consequences for our personal decisions or omissions are nothing less than the very realities of life and death… for our conscience… for our rights… for our most vulnerable… and for our nation.

Life and death…      I was reminded of these this week as I did something I seldom if ever do…  walk through a cemetery.    …I saw the names… the dates…  the lives lived… the flags blowing in the breeze against a gray sky.  ….Veterans from the 1st and 2nd World Wars, Korea, Vietnam… I wondered what they had thought about freedom, about our Constitution and our country.  Did they have love of these?

I thought deeply.  And I believed they did.  That many left our shores believing that while our nation is not perfect, there is something unique and special in this great land.  I think they perhaps better than most understood the value of liberty, a sacred good worthy of valor and sacrifice.  …and pondering upon the flag, I was prompted to do something else I hadn’t done in a long, long time… something I used to do every morning in my grade school amid the corn fields of central Illinois—to make a pledge.   A deliberate pledge of my allegiance to our republic.  As I did, I felt a surge of respect for those who have gone before me, generations of Americans who deeply believed in truths we commonly hold to be self-evident, that we are endowed by our Creator with certain, inalienable rights to life, to liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I now invite you to please join me in this pledge of allegiance, for our nation’s people and its ideals which are very lovable in so many respects.    “I pledge allegiance…”

We are “one nation, under God.”  But this nation faces several grave challenges, and we assemble today to focus on one: the right to religious liberty.  Now it’s fair to ask a serious question that is not terribly uncommon in our day: Why be worried about Religious Freedom in the US?   …people can go to church, right?!     …are you not free to pray and live your faith as you please?

Recent answers to this central question, by both people with and without faith, is simply this: the Constitution is under attack, not from without–  but from within, and religious liberty is a most necessary component of our Constitutional rights which are currently imperiled.

This is a bold statement.  So  consider the following actual cases as examples:

1)  The freedom of speech is often curtailed, especially where politicians gather or where abortions are performed.  (So-called ‘free-speech’ and buffer zones restricting the first amendment.)  There were peaceful and orderly protestors of the HHS mandate arrested on public sidewalk outside White House because some of them either held a paper sign or knelt in prayer.

2)  Those who non-violently protest the government’s foreign policy or abortion are placed on “watch lists” and even categorized as security threats or domestic terrorists to be investigated by the Department of Homeland Security  (this happened here in our State to Pro-life Wisconsin a couple years ago.)

3)  Efforts by States, like Connecticut, to forcibly restructure churches according to the mind of political officials; and the federal government’s work to redefine who is/is not a religious minister, and thus who can be hired/fired [prompting a Supreme Court victory earlier this year in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission)].

4)  A 2nd grader in NJ was told she can’t sing the song “Awesome God” at a school talent show.  Nationally, elementary & high school students are routinely told they cannot wear either Christian or pro-life/pro-marriage t-shirts to school.  In higher education, similar discrimination abounds towards students and faith-based organizations alike, e.g., at the University of California- Hastings College of Law, in its 100 year history the college has only denied student organization status to 1 group: the Christian Legal Society since they required their leaders to be Christian.  In Missouri, a student at a public university was threatened to have her degree withheld because she refused to sign a letter to the state legislature in support of homosexuality—violating her beliefs.

5)  A Pastor in Arizona was told by state officials he cannot have meetings or Bible studies in his private home.  5 Christians were threatened with arrest for politely sharing the faith on a public sidewalk in Virginia.  An evangelical band with proper legal permits performed in a public area in San Francisco when they were surrounded by an angry mob of 200, yelling death threats and assaulting 1 band member.  Riot police had to evacuate them from the scene—yet no charges were filed.  You can find this on Youtube.

6)  A Christian nurse in NY was forced to participate in a late-term abortion even though her workplace had agreed in writing to honor her religious convictions.  Meanwhile, there are numerous reports of medical school students who face many obstacles in their education because they believe that life is sacred before birth.

7) Discriminatory actions by the current administration against Catholic humanitarian services who aid victims of human trafficking, requiring the national faith-based group to provide or offer referrals for contraception and abortion.  After years of helping countless victims, the government severed all former contracts—an egregious violation which was then upheld by a federal court in Massachusetts stating that government violates religious liberty by allowing such organizations to participate in a manner consistent with their beliefs.  (Turing Constitutional rights on their head!)

8) State immigration laws, like the one in Alabama, which make it illegal for church organizations to care for illegal immigrants: such as permitting them to attend Bible studies, church services of any kind, receive clergy counseling or attend AA meetings or other recovery groups at a church, some even going so far as to insist that ministers check valid identification for anyone who appears to be foreign.

9)  In a rule enacted by New York City, the Bronx Household of Faith and 60 other small churches were barred from renting public space on weekends for worship services that they had used, even though non-religious groups were free to rent and utilize those same public spaces—clearly discriminating against religious believers.

10)  Adoption and foster care by Jewish, Catholic, Lutheran and other religious organizations have had their funding and/or licenses revoked by different states simply because they are seeking to place children in homes with a mother and a father.  This year in the state of Illinois, over 300 employees of Catholic Charities lost their jobs and thousands of children/families were negatively impacted by a new law aimed at re-defining marriage.  Losing court challenges, they were driven out of business and in some cases even had the State take over the offices that were formerly used in their adoption services.

11)  A New Jersey judge said that a Methodist ministry violated state law when they declined to hold a same-sex union ceremony on private property; and a civil rights complaint has been filed against a Catholic church in Hawaii after declining a request for a similar ceremony.

12)  Pro-life pregnancy resource centers, clinics, and maternity homes run by religious organizations targeted with politically motivated laws and ordinances designed to strip or restrict their rights to free-speech and free-association.

13)  Censorship of military chaplain’s homilies and sermons by government agents if deemed critical of the morality of our current administration’s policies.

14)  Pharmacists told they must participate in the administration of abortion-inducing drugs or they will be in violation of the state’s “standards of practice” and face administrative penalties, including fines and loss of license.

….And if that is not enough, now comes the HHS Mandate…

In January, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a mandate, with the aid of Executive Orders, under the Affordable Care Act that requires essentially all private and religious employer health plans to fund and facilitate free contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs, regardless of any moral, conscientious or religious objections.  It went into effect on August 1 of this year for private businesses.

The ministries of religious institutions like faith-based schools, hospitals and charities—who educate our young people, care for our sick, feed the hungry—are not considered sufficiently religious to qualify for the Mandate’s narrow “religious exemption.”     Not only will such institutions be forced to provide drugs and devices that directly contradict the teachings of their faith, but—quite alarmingly—the federal government is claiming the power to decide for religious institutions what constitutes their ministry.  The mandate is set to go into effect on August 1, 2013 for religious organizations.

…Some have said: “So what’s all the fuss?”

Our Founders spoke of ‘taxation without representation’, and while that pertains here too, we might call the mandate ‘bureaucracy without democracy’– since there has been no openness to dialogue with people of faith and conscience shown by this administration.  The mandate is being imposed by brute force and this provision was enacted by an un-elected, pro-abortion HHS Secretary.

Two grave concerns mark this mandate: participation and identity.  The mandate commands participation in the payment of abortion-inducing drugs as well as other drugs and activities which offend against conscience.  Such mandated participation, without conscience protection, violates basic human rights as well as the Constitutional rights of Americans.  Further, the mandate sets extreme limits on the identify of religious groups– making them ineligible for government exemption if their ministry serves any people in the broader community outside of their faith.  Thus, if you reach out to help others who do not practice your faith, you lose your religious designation.  Such an unjust re-definition strikes at the very heart of what it means to be a religious organization… and an American.

The first major concern for religious leaders and people of conscience is: who must pay and who must participate.  Arguments regarding “access to” or “approval of” something within the mandate, do not address the real problem of having it paid for by someone else—especially when it’s against their moral convictions.  As attorney Fred Manion of the American Center for Law and Justice pointed out in their lawsuit against the US government on behalf of a private business owner, there is a big difference on the one hand between an employee using their salary to buy things objectionable to the employer, and on the other hand, having the employer, forced by the government, to buy those objectionable things directly and hand them to the employee.  The mandate does the later and violates the Constitutional rights of any employer, religious or not.  The American ideal of religious liberty is at stake.  As one commentator stated, “I believe in the right to bear arms, but that does not mean my employer has to provide me a gun for free, even if against their will or beliefs.”  This dimension of the debate isn’t really about contraception at all—it’s about the First Amendment.

But the HHS mandate does not stop with free contraceptives: it also requires employer health plans to provide free sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs, such as “the morning after pill” and Ella- a chemical abortion agent that destroys a human person in the first weeks of their life.  Clinical testing trials called the agent’s chemical composition: “embryo-toxic”—meaning it kills the small, growing human life.

Some ask: “Didn’t the President work out the objections?  And did not Vice President  Biden say in the debates last week that no religious organizations would be threatened by the mandate?”

We have to be careful here.  The President did say on February 10 that the insurance company, not the religious organization, would provide for the morally objectionable items—and do so without cost.  But does anyone really believe that the insurance companies will do this for free?!  (Millions of $$)  No.  It is an economic “shell-game” whereby the costs are merely shifted, not removed.  That is why on February 20, the Family Research Council, an interdenominational public policy organization released a letter signed by more than 2,500 Evangelical, Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and other religious leaders calling on the President to totally rescind the mandate.  The so-called accommodation only accommodates the gullible.

At a press conference, FRC President Tony Perkins declared, “Every pocket of religious America is linking arms at the front lines of this war on religious freedom.  No Church should be forced to concede their faith to kneel at the altar of government.  We unite with our allies in diverse faith traditions in demanding what George Washington called ‘the invaluable rights of free citizens’.”

Last week on October 10th, the day after the Vice Presidential debate, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and numerous other organizations put out a statement that the HHS Mandate remains in full effect, without offering any conscience rights or protections, despite the assurances of the smiling Vice President.

Regarding the erroneous claim in the debate, Kyle Duncan General Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty had this to say:

“The facts are exactly the reverse.  Under the mandate, nearly every Catholic hospital, charity, university and diocese in the United States—along with (thousands) of institutions of other faiths—must refer for, pay for, and must act as a vehicle for contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs.  If they do not, they face millions in fines.  That’s a fact.”

The counselor is speaking from firsthand experience as his organization has been in federal court representing Wheaton College, Belmont Abbey, EWTN, and two Baptist universities in Texas.  He and his colleagues have been listening to the arguments of the administration’s attorney’s who are insisting upon these very forms of participation which are at odds with people of conscience- and the words of Vice President Biden.  One thing is being said in front of the cameras, and other in the courtrooms.

At the moment there are over 35 lawsuits against the Department of Health and Human Services, with more than 100 plaintiffs being represented—including 13 states, the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons, the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Pharmacists for Life, the National Association of Pro-Life Nurses, numerous churches, dioceses, faith based colleges & universities, hospitals, religious organizations, and private businesses.

One lawsuit received a recent ruling by U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton decided that Tyndale House, a Christian publisher best known for its New Living Translation of the Bible, is not sufficiently religious in character to bring suit against the HHS mandate.  Apparently, publishing Bibles and religious books is not religious in the eyes of temporal power, so Tyndale must embrace the mandate.  The private corporation Hobby Lobby has their hearing on November 1– whose founder and CEO David Green says that the mandate would force the company to choose between “following the laws of the country that we love or maintaining the religious beliefs that have made our business successful.”   While most cases are awaiting the courts, and 3 cases are on appeal, there has been one victory in Colorado in Newland V. Sabelius.  Here a federal judge (democratic appointee) found that the private company owned by a devout family had proven there is a significant risk of losing Constitutional rights by the implementation of the mandate:

“The balance of the equities tip strongly in favor (of the plaintiffs).  Because this case presents ‘questions going to the merits . . . so serious, substantial, difficult, and doubtful as to make the issue ripe for litigation …’ I find it appropriate to enjoin the implementation of the preventive care coverage mandate as applied to Plaintiffs.”  Judge John Kane, Senior US District Court Judge.   (This means the court recognized that the private citizens owning their business had much to lose in terms of Constitutional rights whereas the government did not.)

In response to this defeat, President Obama’s legal team is pressing on with an appeal to force the business to do their bidding.         ….Matt Bowman, the attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom who represents the private business, had this to say last month after the Department of Justice filed their appeal:

“Every American, including family business owners, should be free to live and do business according to their faith.   The Obama administration claims ‘unwavering’ support for religious freedom, but this appeal demonstrates that the only thing unwavering is the administration’s tenacious opposition to that freedom…  The cost of religious freedom for this family could be millions of dollars per year in fines that would cripple their business and potentially destroy jobs if the administration ultimately has its way.  In filing its appeal…, the administration sent a clear message that it wants to force families to abandon their faith in order to earn a living. That’s the opposite of religious freedom.”

Penalties for violating the mandate are $100/employee/day.  This are huge fines!  The annual penalty for the Archdiocese of Chicago, for example, would be $5 million—all payable to the federal government.  If a company or organization decides to drop insurance coverage, the government fines are $2000/employee.  Such crippling punishments for schools, churches, hospitals & clinics, social organizations and agencies on an already tight budget may be the difference between whether or not they can survive.   …That would seem to be the intent.

This leads to the second serious concern stemming from the mandate—and that is the issue of Identity for religious institutions.

Another gravely problematic element in the HHS mandate is the extremely narrow religious exemption.  To qualify, a church or religious organization must only employ members of their faith, serve only members of their faith and have the inculcation of religious values as the purpose of the entity.   (Some have remarked that even Jesus and His apostles would not qualify as “religious”.)

Responding to this unjust limitation, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America issued the following statement earlier this year:

“Most troubling, is the Administration’s underlying rational for its decision, which appears to be a view that if a religious entity is not insular, but engaged with broader society, it loses its ‘religious’ character and liberties.  Many faiths firmly believe in being open to and engaged with the broader society and fellow citizens of other faiths.  The Administration’s ruling makes the price of such an outward approach the violation of an organization’s religious principles.  This is deeply disappointing.”

So if you reach out to help others in the community—your organization is not religious!

In the founding years of our nation, there was rightfully opposed the “Divine Right of Kings” to arbitrarily determine things like what it means to be or not be religious.  To borrow a phrase from the noted author GK Chesterton, maybe what we see here is the usurping of religious liberty by a newly founded “Divine Right of the State”?!

…And yet, after talking to various people about this crisis, I still hear a common, generally secular objection: “I have no problem with any of this, so I see no problem with the mandate.  What’s the big deal!?”

We must honestly confess that sometimes it is difficult for us to appreciate a different perspective, in this case, namely those who claim the mandate violates religious liberty.  Many thousands of religious leaders and groups are saying that this is a big deal, an injustice.  Others just don’t see it.  Yet.  Perhaps we should recall from the Civil Rights movement the differences in perspective of those in the ethnic minority verses the majority.  Personal perspectives matter, when the injustice is happening to you.  As with racism, so too with religious bigotry- perspective along with compassion matters… and matters greatly.  It is important to listen to the voices of the oppressed.

Research has shown that the HHS mandate’s provision for abortion-inducing drugs and other devices as “preventative medicine” came from the Institute of Health who was lobbied and directly influenced by “Planned Parenthood”—the nation’s biggest abortion corporation committing over 350,000 surgical abortions annually and receiving nearly half a BILLION of taxpayer dollars last year!

Abortion is a hot-button issue, imagine if the mandate covered things less controversial.

An analogy: Institute of Health is lobbied by pork producers and wine makers so that new rules require pork & wine to be covered as “preventative medicine”.  Now a Jewish Deli must buy/sell/counsel pork sandwiches; and a store owned by Baptist family must buy/sell/counsel wine/alcohol.  If those with Jewish or Baptist faith refused on religious grounds to participate in such a mandate, would it be right to call their action “a war against pork eaters or brewers?!”  No.

You may enjoy pork chops, you may even enjoy a glass of wine or a pint of beer on occasion, but is it the role of our government to force those with religious objections to go against their conscience by way of federal mandate?  If you believe in religious liberty, the answer is no.  If one has no time for religion, one will probably go with the government and wonder what all the fuss is about.  I like pork sandwiches with a beer, but I would fight against the government’s insistence that Jews and Baptists sacrifice their religious liberties to my own desires, and even more importantly- to the government who is entrusted with safeguarding those protections guaranteed by the Constitution.

Considering Constitutional rights, this is our nation’s first freedom:  The Freedom of Religion.  Looking at the First Amendment, it familiarly reads as follows:

“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.”

In August 20, 1789, the conference committee chaired by James Madison worked to achieve this final wording which was ratified in 1791.  Madison’s original proposal for a bill of rights provision concerning religion read: “The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretence, infringed.” [1 Annals of Congress 434 (June 8, 1789)]

Studying the writings of our founding fathers one discovers that our country was founded upon respect for faith in God with a commensurate respect for individual conscience.  John Adams said that our conscience is our “most sacred property”.  Our freedoms and rights of conscience derive not from a government—who could capriciously take them away, nor from the arbitrary opinions of man—that can change, but from God.  This places intrinsic limits upon the reach of government.  In this context, America was uniquely established such that there would be freedom FOR religion, rather than freedom FROM religion.  Religion was recognized early on as a condition for a virtuous society and those who are religious must be free from coercion.  In fact, the relationship between religion, liberty and public morality was considered indispensable.  George Washington confirmed in his famous Farewell Address that religion and morality are “indispensable supports for our political prosperity” further admonishing that “reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can be retained without religion.” (Published September 19, 1796).

The self-evident truths enumerated in the Declaration of Independence essentially relate our freedoms to the Creator who made us.  Those who wish to strip from our national heritage any reference to the Creator will no doubt unmoor the American foundations of liberty, ultimately running the risks of reaching towards either extreme of eventual state despotism or unraveling anarchy.

Thomas Jefferson himself recognized: “God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God?” (Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVIII, p. 237)        …Strong words.

The First Amendment grants the “free exercise” of religion.  For most people of faith, to “exercise” their religion means the freedom to do good and avoid evil- which includes the freedom not to participate, facilitate or cooperate in the evil that is to be avoided.  This is a basic human right in accord with human personhood and dignity.

Jefferson also stated that “The first duty of Government is the protection of life, not its destruction.  The chief purpose of government is to protect life.  Abandon that and you have abandoned all.”

The opposition to the HHS mandate however, is not limited to the threat against religious freedom—as if a complete faith exemption would solve all the problems.  The mandate is also a threat against the right to life, the foundation upon which all other human rights are based.  There are many points of connection between the conscientious freedom and the protection of life, rather than its destruction.

At the end of this past June, members of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod convention adopted a resolution in strong opposition to the HHS mandate and the need to take human life in the womb seriously.  In reflecting that people of faith should not just seek a religious exemption to the mandate, but fight it in its entirety, Rev. Robert Fleishmann, National Director of Christian Life Resources gave the following address:

“What about the unborn children who will die once the (HHS) provision is enforced?  Will Christians…  bask in.. (an) exemption? You and I are not supposed to sin.  We do not take the lives of unborn children.  But we are also tasked to care for others and speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.  Religious agencies may finagle a way to exempt themselves from paying for abortifacients as part of their insurance premiums, but does this mean we win?  Quite the contrary.  History unfortunately shows that we tend to follow the path of least resistance—to the peril of those left behind.  There is a place for the government to respect the religious convictions of people.  But if the conscience is only sensitive about oneself and not others, then we fail miserably.  If we (who know better) don’t speak up—who will?  Don’t settle for the easy way out.  This provision of the national health care plan is flawed in its essence, and we need to speak against it.”

Now is the time for speaking, now is the time for action!  We can all do something.  We must do something!

Here are some concrete suggestions:

1)      Read and Hand out the HHS Fact Sheet.  Speak respectfully to those who may disagree.

2)      Call your Congressmen and ask them to support religious freedom by supporting the Rights of Conscience Act, HR 1179.  The Rights of Conscience Act is currently before the House of Representatives.  This measure would protect the rights of conscience of all employers—not just religious ones.  Over 200 Representatives have signed on.

3)      Women can join the “Women Speak for Themselves” campaign and sign the open letter to President Obama and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sabelius and Congress—signifying your support for both religious liberty and women’s health.  This has been organized by Helen Alvare, a Professor at George Mason School of Law, who along with former US Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon, Professor of Law at Harvard, are among the leading voices opposing HHS on the grounds of health and liberty.

4)      Openly challenge and hold accountable all politicians who are working against religious freedom, regardless of their political party.

5)      Support public-interest law groups that defend American’s right to religious liberty, such as the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the American Center for Law and Justice, the Thomas More Law Center, among others.

6)      Show solidarity with those who are suffering under unjust laws and the criminalization of conscience.

7)      You also should be asking what impact your vote on Nov. 6 will have on putting this controversy behind us.  This point cannot be emphasized enough!  Make a choice for liberty… for freedom!

8)  As people of faith, we can and should pray & fast—that our God-given right to life and our God-given right to religious liberty would be respected by all.

I look upon the American flags, and go back to the pledge of allegiance made at the beginning of this presentation and consider the words “one nation under God.”  President Ronald Reagan once said:   “If we ever forget we’re one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”   …Let us never forget.

…We have a choice.  Do we want our families to live in “one nation under the government”, or “one nation under God”?  Do we wish to be a land that truly respects diversity, rights of conscience and religious liberty—or not?  Do we recognize the current threats and corresponding alarm—or do we turn away?

Today let us take courage, and decide that we stand together for freedom!  …That we are Americans who take seriously our God-given rights, and we are honored to defend them… respectfully… with civility… and with determination.

Today in 145 cities across our great land the beacons of liberty are lit.  People the country over have come out to shine as living flames, from their homes, their churches, schools and places of employment to stand up for freedom.  Let that light continue to burn!   …Shining brightly and witnessing to the American ideal to be free—free to worship & practice & live our faith without government intrusion, free to follow one’s conscience, free to work for the common good, while defending the rights of each individual without prejudice.

Let us stand as one nation, under God… and realize that we do not stand alone.

+God bless you.

Sources & Resources: www.alliancedefendingfreedom.org/issues/religious-liberty

www.frc.org/issues

www.standupforreligiousfreedom.com/

www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/

www.becketfund.org/hhs/

www.womenspeakforthemselves.com/

www.kofc.org/un/en/news/legislative/detail/contraceptive_mandate.html

 

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