Archive for the ‘#religiousfreedom’ Tag

Bernie Sanders’ Religious Test   2 comments

I am currently in the throes of polishing a short story for submission and trying to finish the draft for A Threatening Fragility while also enjoying the midnight sun, so the blog is mostly advanced-written stuff, but Bernie Sanders threatened me this past week and I just have to vent about that.

Russell Vought, President Trump’s nominee for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, is standing for confirmation hearings in the Senate. Vought is an alumnus of Wheaton College, a Christian evangelical institution. In 2016, when Wheaton faced opposition for firing a Muslim faculty member for asserting that Christians and Muslims worship the same god (little “g” intentional), Vought wrote an article defending his alma mater in which he said that Muslims hold a deficient faith … “they do not know God because they reject Jesus Christ as Savior.” In the article, Vought discussed a range of doctrinal issues, including the theological status of non-Christians.

Image result for image of bernie sandersUnderstand that Christianity is an exclusive religion. That’s not my choice. That’s God’s rules. “You shall have no other gods before Me” and “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through Me” are directly from the Bible. Christians cannot say that Allah is the same god as Yahweh because the Bible draws a sharp distinction between the One True God and all other gods. To obfuscate and use double-speak to get around that distinction for political correctness is blaspheme for the Christian. Our spiritual forefathers walked into coliseums to be torn apart by lions because they wouldn’t compromise that principle. Must have been pretty important to them. Can I as a 21st century do less? The Atlantic has a surprisingly balanced discussion of this topic.

So, now, during a Senate confirmation hearing for a position having to do with the country’s finances, Senator Bernie Sanders tried to shame Vought for his religious convictions and asserted that Vought is unfit for public office because he is a Christian.

Image result for image russell voughtLet’s set aside my growing doubts that Christians ought to be involved in politics … the US Constitution explicitly says there shall be no religious test administered for public office. Yet, the man who many believe should have been the Democratic nominee for President used the article and the hearing as a way of publicly inquiring into Vought’s religious beliefs and claiming that those beliefs make him unfit for office.

Sanders’s public questioning of the religious beliefs of a candidate for office remind me of some of the worst aspects of 17th-century religious politics. The early modern era experienced marked violence among religious groups. Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and Muslims were all exiled, tortured, imprisoned, and killed at various times and in various countries, by each other, depending on who was on the throne. Much of the bloodshed ceased after the English Civil War, religious conflicts did not disappear. For example, the English Parliament issued a series of Acts requiring oaths of religious orthodoxy and attendance at and performance of orthodox (Anglican) religious rights for those who wanted to hold public office or graduate from Oxford or Cambridge. The last of these acts was passed in 1829, really not that long ago.


We should all be familiar with Locke’s Letter Concerning Toleration, which argues against these Acts and similar laws constraining religious belief. Many of these Acts were specifically written in order to keep Catholics from holding public office because Anglicans feared potential “divided loyalties” of those who served both the English King and the Pope. These Acts also effectively excluded members of non-orthodox Protestant sects (Baptists, Quakers, etc) from public office, but they also kept Jews from holding the same offices. Bernie Sanders is Jewish and it deeply disturbs me that he would suggest that someone’s religious beliefs could and should render him unfit for office.

Vought’s beliefs about whether Muslims are saved or not have no bearing on his ability to serve in the office of Management and Budget. There is no interface with religion in that government agency. A Jewish Senator creating a 21st century “religious test” that requires inquiry into such beliefs is no less a lousy idea than Vought, Vice President Pence or any other believing Christian to suggest that a Jewish nominee should be kept from office because he believes that Christians are wrong and that the Messiah has not yet arrived.

Pretty much all religions hold doctrines that exclude or set apart those who do not accept those doctrines and beliefs. Those of us who are familiar wit the complex religious environment of modern America work every day with people who believe we are outside of the will of their god and some who may believe we are condemned for eternity. As a Baptist, I believe certain things that others may disagree with and those others may hold certain beliefs that I think are patently wrong. And this does not affect how we do our jobs.

I’ll repeat that: Our differing religious beliefs don’t affect how we do our jobs.

How do we manage that? We self-compartmentalize. Our work community need not be a carbon copy of our faith community. At the office, I am focused on getting our mutual mission accomplished. While attending church, I focus on our mutual mission there, which is not the same as my employer’s mission. So long as my employer does not ask me to violate my faith, the two need not interact.

And that, by the way, is what happened at Wheaton College. A Christian university with a statement of faith that faculty are required, at least in public, to adhere to. Dr. Larycia Hawkins violated that statement of faith and Wheaton’s board acted upon their theological underpinings because it is the mission of Wheaton College to provide a Christian education.

Bernie Sanders asked Mr. Vought was a theological question., basically asking “Do you think that non-Christians are saved?” He had no authority to ask such a question. He should have instead asked “Do your religious beliefs require that you treat non-Christians as lesser people, with fewer rights than Christians?”

Most Christians I know would not be able to answer that non-Christians can be saved because the Bible is clear they must obey God and accept Jesus Christ as Savior. But how does that affect being a deputy director of OMB?

Most Christians I know would answer the second question with an emphatic negative. Biblicly-based Christianity requires that we treat all people as made in the image of God. And it is that principle that functions in our interactions with civil society, which is what would positively affect Vought’s ability to be deputy director of OMB.

Bernie Sanders’ insertion of a religious test into the Senate confirmation process for Vought concerns me because if his attitude takes hold, it could lead to increased persecution of Christians and any other religious groups who don’t measure up to political correctness standards.


Seek Ye First the Protection of Property Rights   1 comment

When Screwtape, depicted by C.S. Lewis as a mid-level administrator in hell’s Lowerarchy, gloated that “Prosperity knits a man to this world,” he might well have been thinking of tax-exempt religious corporations.

The “Utah Compromise” on religious liberty, which was enacted with the conspicuous support of the LDS Church, offers a splendid case study of the depths of cravenness to which a corporate church will descend in order to preserve its tax exemption. The headline selected by the LDS Church-owned Deseret News captures the import of that ignoble legislation: “LDS Church’s chief lawyer says not all religious freedoms should be defended the same.”

When “rights” become the subject of triage, they cease to be rights and mutate into conditional, revocable privileges. All legitimate rights are property rights, and all property rights are absolute. They can, and must, be exercised simultaneously by believers, agnostics, and atheists alike, and are reconciled through commerce and contract.

Source: Seek Ye First the Protection of Property Rights

Posted July 26, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

Why Religious Liberty Is Important to Me?   5 comments

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If I had to name THE most important principle in my life after my salvation and my family, it would be my religious liberty. Anyone who has read my blog should know by now that I take Christ with me in EVERYTHING I do. I don’t just worship Him in church, I worship Him with my life. It colors how I treat people, how I conduct my business, how I vote, what I do with my leisure time, even what I choose to spend my money on.

I don’t segregate God into a little corner of my life labeled “church worship” because I can’t. My relationship with Jesus informs every aspect of my life.

Not everyone knows that about me. If you’re a casual acquaintance you won’t see a Bible on my desk, hear endless Scripture quotes from me, or see a cross around my neck (though I do have some pretty jade earrings I wear occasionally). I don’t immediately lead a conversation with my faith insights. You can probably figure out that I go to church if you’re around me for a while, but I don’t hang my faith around my neck like a signboard.

My closest friends are Christians, but I have many friends who are not. Alaska is more unchurched that the New England states, so it’s impossible not to have friends (and family) who are not Christians. To be “in the world but not of it” when you’re surrounded by non Christians requires that Christians exercise a high degree of toleration for the non-Christian behaviors of their neighbors, but that word “toleration” has been hijacked by the postmodernists. This radical breed of skeptics rejects any idea of truth and often follows up their rallying cry with an appeal for “tolerance.”

The “tolerant” person allegedly occupies neutral ground, a place of complete impartiality where each individual is permitted to decide for him or herself. No judgments allowed. All views are equally valid.

Of course, if you’re a Christian living in 21st century America, you know that this definition of tolerance is s a myth! While relativist is freely encouraged to assert:

  • All views have equal merit and none should be considered better than another.

The Christian will be labeled “intolerant” if she asserts:

  • Jesus Christ is the Messiah and the only way to heaven.

Postmoderns view the first statement as truth and the second statement as violating the first statement, but anyone trained in logic knows that the second statement is itself a view, so ought to fall under the first statement, but it is deemed “intolerant” because it is telling someone who believes differently that they are wrong, which is disrepectful and now gives society authority to treat Christians with disdain for holding wrong views.

Yes, the serpent can eat its own tail.

It really comes down to a failure to understand that while all people have value and should be afforded respect and dignity in their interactions, not all ideas are equal. You’re welcome to reject what I believe as I may reject what you believe. But that doesn’t make either of us of less value than the other person and it should not be an excuse for society to marginalize those who believe differently or to coerce them into violating their beliefs.

In the classic view of tolerance, people were egalitarian regarding persons, but elitist regarding ideas. We treat others as having equal standing in value or worth, but we recognize that not all ideas have the same merit.

When we do that, we recognize the right of people to hold their own ideas and to share them with anyone who is willing to listen. We may not agree with those ideas, but we acknowledge the right of other human beings to agree with them. As well that door swings both ways. There can be no tolerance if we don’t allow others to hold ideas that differ from our own.

But allowing them to hold divergent ideas does not obligate us to accept or approve those ideas, nor participate in behaviors stemming from those ideas, because the person being forced to accept, approve or participate is then subjugated to the will of the one doing the forcing. One becomes the slave while the other becomes the master. People become unequal.

Of course, we’re talking hypotheticals if we don’t take the conversation down to the brass tacks. I’ve got examples. In the marketplace of ideas, there are some ideas that are patently ridiculous. If someone came to us and said they could fly without an airplane, we would usually suggest they need mental health treatment. There are economic theories that have shown themselves to be utter failures, collapsing the economies the countries that have tried them. There are all manner of “snake oil” medicine that reasonable people realize is just so much placebo. Yet, the mentally ill person, the foolish economist and the medical con artist all deserve to be treated with dignity as human beings. They should not be treated as “less than” just because we disagree with their ideas. It’s their ideas that require opposition. And, while it is not fun to have your ideas opposed by others, it is far preferrable than being forced to surrender your will to the will of others.

The free exercise of religion presents some complications. We can’t all be right. There is no way the atheist and the devout Christian are ever going to agree. Despite what atheists want to believe, there is no scientific evidence they are any more right than Muslims. A lack of evidence is not an argument for non-belief any more than it is an argument for belief. Everyone has a right to the free exercise of religion to the degree that that exercise is not harming anyone else. What does not break my leg or pick my pocket is none of my concern. Ah, but … the right of conscience is self-evidently inadequate if believers are prevented from acting upon their beliefs.

Examples, religious liberty would be inadequate were Jews free to believe that sons must be circumcised on the eighth day after birth if American law concurrently prohibited circumcision. That was actually a proposed initiative in San Francisco that was struck from the ballot. But such initiatives have a habit of returning. Efforts to ban circumcision and the kosher slaughter of meat are having some success in Europe. If measures such as that pass, then observant Jews become slaves to the consciences of those who consider themselves better than observant Jews. Freedom of religion becomes a mockery … a meaningless sentence on a parchment barrier that means about as much as the wind sighing through trees.

Why? Let’s look at it closely. The logic goes something like this. Jews have their beliefs, but it is wrong to mutilate the body of an infant who cannot consent. Similarly, the argument goes, animal-rights laws are broadly and equally applicable. There is no reason to give special exemption from the law to anyone. After all, the law applies equally to all citizens. Pierson versus Smith is a US Supreme Court case that ruled that.

Should a Muslim restaurant be forced to prepare pork dishes or serve alcohol because their customers demand it? What if a law were floated to demand them to do so?

In years past, I had a pastor who would not conduct weddings unless both parties were professing, church-going Christians. This was a very firmly held belief of his that is not universally embraced among Christian churches, but does have support in the Bible. Should he be forced to violate that belief because some non-Christians or marginally churched folks want to get married?

It really comes down to a fundamental question of “Can Americans be free to pursue happiness if the government makes it impossible to work peacefully at one’s business, to conduct that business according to one’s conscientious beliefs, to raise one’s children according to those same beliefs?” The answer is clearly “No!” If the government can tell you what you are allowed to believe and how you may worship your god, then there is no freedom of conscience and religious freedom is a hoax.

Tolerance (in the classical sense of the word) makes it possible for us to truly be free, but only if we take a PAUSE and realize that just because we believe something is a net good that everybody ought to get on board with does not mean that people have to agree with us. Tolerance is minding your own business and allowing the other guy to mind his.

My fellow blog hoppers are also discussing this same topic. Check it out.

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