October 2009

Volume 3 – Number 10
 
 
CALENDAR











 
FREEDOM'S RING BROADCAST SCHEDULE










Church State Council Launches New Website

We are very excited to announce the launch of the new Church State Council website, www.churchstate.org. This site is designed to provide abundant resources to church and community leaders to become active and effective in religious liberty ministry. The site is rich in content, and is deserving of a lengthy browse. One of the goals of the site is to represent to the world the significant commitment and contribution the Seventh-day Adventist Church is making to religious freedom. Among the many features, check out:

  • Help for those facing religious liberty conflicts
  • Learn about important current legislation
  • Listen to Freedom’s Ring Radio programs
  • Book a guest speaker for your church or community from our Speaker’s Bureau Calendar of upcoming events
  • Read current news articles about religious freedom
  • Sign up for our monthly newsletter
  • Find a good book about religious liberty by perusing our extensive book reviews
  • Join the North American Religious Liberty Association!

 

Take Action Now!!!

Legislative Alert!

Send Letters to Congress:
Re-Introduce Workplace Religious Freedom Act

NARLA Executive Director Barry Bussey’s latest blog urges everyone to send their e.mails and letters to Congress asking that WRFA be reintroduced. Read his blog at: So, You Want ENDA? What about WRFA?

NARLA West Conference Calls –Time for Religious Liberty Leaders to Call Us!!!

Calling all religious liberty leaders, interested church members and pastors, and members of the North American Religious Liberty Association. Or should I say, it is time for you to call us.

On September 21st, about two dozen members or the North American Religious Liberty Association West met together for the first of what are intended to become monthly conference calls to hear the latest updates and reports on religious liberty.  Read more

Barry Bussey, Executive Director of NARLA, burned the midnight oil in the eastern time zone to update us on his efforts to gather stories of those who have suffered religious discrimination in the workplace, in order to support efforts to pass the Workplace Religious Freedom Act.

Alan Reinach reported on his plans to introduce legislation in California to tighten up state laws requiring religious accommodation.

There was also discussion of the likelihood of a ballot initiative calling for a California Constitutional Convention, and the risks and opportunities posed by such a convention.

Finally, we received reports from chapter activities in Arizona, San Diego, Los Angeles,  Fresno, Riverside and Loma Linda. These reports were very encouraging.

Our next scheduled conference call will be on October 19th at 7:00 p.m.  The purpose is to help develop and build local religious liberty teams/chapters/ministries. If you are interested in participating, call Pat at 916-446-2552, or e.mail to pat@churchstate.org, for information on how you can join the conference. Conference attendees are expected to be, or become, active members of the North American Religious Liberty Association. Check it out! Be informed! Get involved!

Stories of Religious Discrimination Needed Now!

We need stories from those who have suffered religious discrimination at work.

Barry Bussey, legislative affairs director for the Seventh-day Adventist Church, has been working closely with a coalition of more than 40 groups in Washington, D.C. to press for passage of the Workplace Religious Freedom Act, a bill to strengthen Federal civil rights laws to protect against religious discrimination, and require religious accommodation.

The Coalition is preparing for a new legislative push this fall, and has asked for stories from those who have suffered religious discrimination, and whose requests for workplace accommodation – for example, scheduling accommodations to avoid working on Sabbath – have been denied. Read more

If you or anyone in your church has suffered religious discrimination in an employment setting, we need your stories now! Please send us a write up, and include as much of the following as you can:

  • Name
  • Short bio of where you are from, etc.
  • Your religious affiliation and why was there a problem at the workplace
  • What happened when you requested accommodation for your religious practice
  • What fears did you have
  • When you lost your job how did that affect your family?  Your relationships with fellow workers?
  • What struggles have you faced in seeking other employment?
  • A picture of yourself

Please send this information directly to the Department of Public Affairs & Religious Liberty of the Pacific Union Conference, 2686 Townsgate Road, Westlake Village, CA 91361, or e.mail to: mrliberty@churchstate.org. For more information, call: 805-413-7396.

Your help is really needed now, so that we can pass this urgently needed bill!

Prayer List

Friends, religious liberty is not just a principle or a cause – it is a ministry, and we care about the people we serve. We want to include you in this ministry, and one way you can really help is to bless those who have suffered religious discrimination, or who are active in this ministry, with your prayers.

  • Enrique – recovery from heart attack
  • Makayla , an 18 year old in ICU
  • Eric, who was hired and fired on the same day, fired, when he informed management that he could not work on Sabbath.
  • Rocci, a prisoner who is seeking to secure an adequate vegetarian diet.
  • Sandra – to find work after being fired for refusing to work on Sabbath.
  • Teresa – to find witnesses to support her case, and another job.
  • Bruce – strength to endure ongoing harassment.
  • Anthony – for blessing in his work selling used cars.
  • Judy – success with her appeal.
  • Scott, David and other postal service workers – for help in obtaining or retaining Sabbath accommodations during a time of upheaval and transition.
  • Esteban – guidance for the administrative judge deciding his case.
  • Willie – for wisdom to guide the lawyers handling his case.
  • James – to find new work while his complaint is processed by the EEOC.
  • Richard – for his job to be restored and religious discrimination to be remedied in management.
  • Rajina - that she would be accommodated for the Sabbath.

Praise list

The Santa Barbara County Attorney dismissed the citation to a student leader in the summer literature evangelism program, issued in Lompoc, and will inform its code enforcement officers of the statutory exemption for religious activity.

On a personal note, this ministry has suffered many attacks, both professional and personal. We were gratified, recently, that the Lord saw fit to repel a personal attack on my wife, Christa, who had been suffering intense pain in her right arm for weeks. After expert medical treatment failed to alleviate the problem, and following a day of fasting and prayers of repentance on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, our pastors and head elder came over to anoint her with oil, and to pray for healing. The Lord graciously answered our prayers, and Christa has been pain free ever since! We solicit your continued prayers for this ministry. We are tempted to be overwhelmed, at times, with the needs of those facing religious discrimination problems, and requiring legal assistance, but we are trusting God day by day for His blessing, wisdom and protection.

 

In the News

Marriage Facts

The following is a review of a recent article in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy circulated by Ron Prentice, director of ProtectMarriage.com, the California based organization working to preserve traditional marriage.

In our continued effort to preserve and protect traditional marriage, we have set out to show the damaging effect of homosexual marriage and the consequences to society should it evolve into an accepted cultural norm.  And while the consequences of gay marriage can be summed up in easy-to-understand short “snippets” – children will be taught in public school that a “marriage” between two “mommies”  is on par with a marriage between a mother and father; that individuals, small businesses and religious organizations could be sued for refusing to provide services to gay couples on the grounds of discrimination; that licensed professionals are in jeopardy of losing their license for exercising their religious objections – the facts of traditional marriage warrant a more thorough examination, particularly in light of same-sex marriage supporters’ assertion that the issue is only about fairness and equality under the law.

One of the more interesting papers on the constitutional basis for traditional marriage is from the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy.  It is important to understand that this article looks at the institution of marriage from a purely legal standpoint, but it raises and confirms several key points that ProtectMarriage.com advances.

On the one side are those who want to legally redefine the word marriage in such a way as to make the gender of the couple irrelevant, or put another way, to create a genderless union.  On the other side are those who consider the legal issue in a much broader sense and want to preserve the definition of marriage between a man and a woman as central to the institution of marriage. The author acknowledges that marriage is much more than just a word to be redefined.  Rather, it is a vital social institution which “affects individuals profoundly” and comprises “meanings and norms that teach, form and transform individuals, supplying identities, purposes, practices and projects.”

The meaning of the institution of marriage, then, becomes part of the societal good, and those societal goods lead to the perpetuation of the institution itself.  If we abandon the institution of marriage – and redefining it requires that we abandon it – we lose the societal good that goes along with it.

What are some of the societal goods that only a marriage between a man and woman provide?

  • It provides the only environment for a child to know and be raised by his or her biological parents;
  • It lays the foundation for child-rearing that results in optimal outcomes for the child, and as a result, society;
  • It provides the only modeling for a male transformation into our society’s valued husband/father role and a female’s transformation into the role of wife/mother; and
  • It is a pre-political institution that has passed the test of time and elevated the common good, unlike the untested experiment of homosexual marriage.

These are examples of social goods that have been valued throughout time which homosexual marriage, by definition, simply cannot provide. And the fact is that society cannot have a social institution that is called “marriage” be defined simultaneously as between a man and a woman and between any two consenting adults. When the meaning of the institution is fractured, the societal good received from that institution is reduced.

As the Harvard article so compellingly states:  “A lifestyle without institutional context is like Monopoly money.  It resembles true currency, but lacks the essential shared meaning that provides its value.”

California “Con Con” Likely

Even the most laid back Californians suspect something is seriously amiss with state governance.  Those who are paying attention know the state’s budget deficit is not simply the result of the current economic situation, but is payback time for years of deferred budgetary reality.  So it should come as no surprise that polling indicates very strong support for anticipated ballot measures to would authorize a constitutional convention.

In an editorial supporting such a convention, the L.A. Times identified various structural impediments to good governance. These include the super-majority requirement for budget approval; safe electoral districts that encourage the election of extreme partisans in each party; and the dominant influence of both corporations and labor unions, especially those representing state employees such as the prison guards and teachers unions.

Constitutional conventions [“con cons”] are inherently risky. Everything is up for grabs. Con cons subject even the most fundamental rights to the democratic process, with no guarantee that our most basic rights will continue to be respected.

We are beginning to hear concerns about how a con con may impact religious freedom. This is a good news/bad news scenario. There are both risks and opportunities. To understand them, we must first take stock of existing constitutional norms.

The constitutional protection for the free exercise of religion is in a state of almost complete disrepair.  The problem is not with the existing constitutional text:

Article I, § 4 of the California Constitution reads, in pertinent part:

Free exercise and enjoyment of religion without discrimination or preference are guaranteed.  This liberty of conscience does not excuse acts that are licentious or inconsistent with the peace and safety of the State.

The problem is with the California Supreme Court. While declaring it does not know what this language means, the court insists it does not mean what it says. What the text says is that religious activity is protected until and unless it seeks to justify acts that are licentious or implicate peace and safety concerns.

The court has been influenced by the U.S. Supreme Court which reduced the First Amendment’s free exercise clause to a virtual dead letter in the infamous peyote case in 1990. The result is that religious freedom is no longer protected as a fundamental right either by the U.S. or California constitutions.

The good news, then, is that a con con would give us the opportunity to improve a currently dismal situation. The bad news is that a con con could ratify the status quo, and permanently reduce the status of religious freedom.

When and if the time comes for a con con, the active involvement of those who care about religious freedom will make all the difference. Eternal vigilance remains the price of liberty. The best way to stay informed, and to become actively involved is through your religious liberty membership organization, the North American Religious Liberty Association. You can join on the web, at: www.religiousliberty.info.

 

Resources You Can Use

Order CDds of conference: Marriage, Homosexuality and the Church.

If you can’t make it to Andrews University for this historic conference discussing, in part, the religious liberty and public policy implications of same-sex marriage, you can still listen in to what the lawyers, theologians, and experts have to say. Obtain CDs from: www.americanchristianministries.org.

Sign up for Liberty Express

Liberty Express is the monthly online newsletter of the Northwest Religious Liberty Association (NRLA) today.  http://www.nrla.com/newsletter_editsub.php?n=1.

Liberty Express utilizes the most reputable religious, political, journalistic and historical sources in its endeavor to make sense of current domestic and foreign policy trends in the United States and the world. Read more

The rest of this is the “read more”

Far more than just a source for news and information, it is an educational and spiritual resource seeking to defend religious freedom as an eternal God-given principle at a time when other forces, spiritual and profane, are systematically challenging it.

NRLA’s PHILOSOPHY

We believe in freedom of religion, not freedom from religion or freedom to enforce religion, particularly acts of worship. This means upholding both the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses of the First Amendment to a high constitutional standard against powerful forces. Using this standard, government neutrality means that religion and religious institutions must be allowed to thrive freely, but without its official endorsement.

The First Amendment, in part, states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Today, some seek to reinterpret the no Establishment provision separating Church and State in ways that would require government to financially support their institutions and enforce their dogmas so as to solve the moral ills of the nation. Others seek to marginalize the Free Exercise of Religion in favor of placing a higher level of protection on lifestyles destructive to the traditional moral fabric of society. Both are extremely harmful to our constitutional health.

We believe the Nation’s Founders anticipated this tension. That is why they created an internal check and balance within the very wording of the First Amendment in order to prevent the Country from being overrun by either extreme in the great church-state debate (a puritanical vs. godless society). Remove this balancing safeguard and our nation’s constitutional guarantees will be lost, and with it our civil and religious freedoms.

KEY QUOTE

“The religious zealot and the theocrat frighten us in part because we understand only too well their basic impulse. No less frightening is the totalitarian atheist who aspires to a society in which the exercise of religion has no place.”
— Sandra Day O’Connor

EDITOR

The focus and credibility of Liberty Express reflects Greg Hamilton’s education and professional backgrounds in communications, journalism, religion and philosophy, and church-state constitutional law and history. He believes that careful evaluation of the current shift in the balance of power between church and state in America is central to understanding today's religious, political, and constitutional trends both here  and abroad.