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Randall Krause filed a lawsuit against the Tulsa County Library Commission. Evidently, the Commission maintains a recycling program and, according to Krause, it constitutes an undue burden on the Free Exercise of his environmentalism. Learn what criteria the court uses to decide what constitutes a religion at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

A Federal Court in Oklahoma has ruled that despite the religious ardor of some of its adherents, Environmentalism is not a religion.

Randall Krause filed a lawsuit against the Tulsa County Library Commission. Evidently, the Commission maintains a recycling program and according to Krause, it constitutes an undue burden on the free exercise of his “Environmentalism”.

Krause alleged that the Commission had placed “fake recycling bins” throughout town, victimizing him and other adherents to Environmentalism.

Well, the judge didn’t buy the argument.

Environmentalism is not a religion

Image: Chris White

Dismissing the case, the court explained that Krauss had failed to establish that his Environmentalism was anything more than personal preferences and secular believes without foundation in any religion. And, even if it were, the “fake recycling bins” placed around town did not amount to a course of law meriting protection by the First Amendment.

Determining what is religion is difficult for any court. But, as the Supreme Court has explained, religious beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent, or comprehensible to others in order to merit First Amendment protection.

But the court does require beliefs to be rooted in a religion in order to trigger protection under the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment.

For now, at least in Tulsa, Environmentalism does not constitute a valid religion. But it leaves me with one nagging question: Is a “fake recycling bin” just a trash can? 

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

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The Supreme Court declared that the Bible was “worthy of study” and could be “presented objectively as part of a secular program of education” in the public schools.

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

Recently, we discussed the case of Abington vs. Schempp. I explained that the Supreme Court declared that the Bible was “worthy of study” and could be “presented objectively as part of a secular program of education in the public schools.”

But, as I said at the conclusion, exactly how that happens is a more difficult question.

Several groups, including the American Jewish Congress, National Bible Association, and the People for the American Way have agreed that the Constitution permits schools to teach about religion and the Bible without resorting to indoctrination in violation of the First Amendment.

How Public Schools Can Teach the Bible

Image: ABBY CARR

Here’s how:

  • The schools approach to religion should be academic not devotional.
  • The school should strive for student awareness of religions, but should not press for student acceptance of any religion.
  • The school may sponsor study about religion, but may not sponsor the practice of religion.
  • The school may expose students to a diversity of religious views, but may not impose, discourage, or encourage any particular view.
  • The school may educate about all religions, but may not promote or denigrate any religion.
  • The school may inform the student about various believes, but should not seek to conform him or her to any particular belief.

While it may be difficult to teach a course on the Bible at a public school, it is neither impossible nor illegal.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

 First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Many employers provide religious accommodation for their employees but are they required to? Learn about Linda Tisby’s case at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

Linda Tisby worked as a corrections officer for the Camden County Correctional Facility in New Jersey. In 2015, she became a member of the Sunni Muslim faith. When she showed up to work as a Muslim for the first time, she was wearing a khimar – a religious head covering. Her supervisor said that that did not comply with the uniform policy; but Tisby refused to remove it.

Are Employers Required to Accommodate the Religion of Their Employees?

Image: Joey McGuire

She was sent home with disciplinary charges and eventually, she sought a religious accommodation from the department. But the warden refused, stating that the allowing of such a head covering would be an undue hardship for the facility. She refused to comply with the uniform policy and she was fired.

The warden maintained throughout the litigation that followed that the uniform policy applied uniformly and that no exceptions had been made to allow religious head coverings. The court recognized the sincerity of Tisby’s believes but agreed with the warden, finding that his concerns for safety and security were legitimate, nondiscriminatory, and any accommodation would pose an undue hardship on the correctional facility.

Employers are not required to sacrifice the safety and security of their employees to accommodate the religion of their employees. But, it is good to know that the law provides such deference to an employee – that an employer has to show that they did everything they could to accommodate an employee’s religion.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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A court found that a Catholic Diocese in Indiana had the right to make staffing decisions according to their religious mission.

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

Mary Beth Ginalski was hired by the Catholic Diocese of Gary, Indiana to be the Principal for Andrean High School. Her contract specifically noted that the job of Principal of a Catholic High School is a ministry. It went on to explain that such a ministry is witnessed not only in the manner in which the Principal performs his or her tasks, but also in the example the Principal sets for the teachers and students both in and outside the school and parish. Further, the contract noted that the Principal coordinates faith-building opportunities within the school community, oversees the Theology Program, and ensures that the Catholic Faith is integrated with the learning process in coordination with the Campus Chaplain.

Diocese in Indiana had the right to make staffing decisions

Image: John J. Watkins

So, when Ginalski sued the Diocese over her termination, the question became whether the Diocese could choose its ministerial leader and, therefore, be exempt from employment laws that would have otherwise presented a legal burden to the school.

The Court found Ginalski to meet the definition of “minister” and that the Diocese was entitled to use the same ministerial exception that permits churches and other religious organizations to ensure its ministry is non-hindered by those it believes may not fully advance its ministry objectives.

Religious Freedom means that religious ministries should be able to direct their religious mission, which includes staffing decisions, without interference by the State.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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The Liberty Christian Center in Watertown, New York, asked for permission to use the Watertown High School Cafeteria for its religious services. The local school board denied the application and use of school property.

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

The Liberty Christian Center in Watertown, New York asked for permission to use the Watertown High School Cafeteria for its religious services. As their application stated, the worship services to be conducted in the public school cafeteria would include activities of: music, religious instruction, and Christian testimony.

Can Religious Organizations Use Public School Grounds for Religious Activities?

Image: Watertown School District

But, the local school board denied the application, stating that since New York law did not specifically authorize religious organizations to utilize public school buildings, the application has to be denied.

The court reviewed previous uses of the public school cafeteria. It found that, among other uses, the school had been used to host a local talent night, which featured religious music, religious instruction, and even Christian testimony.

Since both the worship service and the local talent show shared a religious purpose and context, it was unlawful for the school to permit the talent show but deny the use of the facility for a worship service.

Some decry the use of a public school by a religious organization as a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. That is simply not true. The First Amendment demands that the school board be neutral toward religion, letting the secular organization use school property but denying a religious organization the same use is not neutrality, it’s hostility.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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The wait for the Supreme Court nomination is now over. His qualifications for the office are unquestionable. But what does his record reflect on the issue of religious liberty?

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

The long wait to see what kind of a judge President Trump would appoint to the nation’s Highest Court is now over. Just ahead looms the confirmation battle for Judge Neil Gorsuch. His qualifications for the office are unquestionable. With degrees from Columbia, Harvard and Oxford, there can be little doubt about his intelligence.

Supreme Court Nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch's Record on Religious Freedom

Image: Alex Wong

But what about his record as a judge?

Well, at First Liberty Institute, we have one criterion for evaluating judicial candidates: Does his record reflect a history of upholding the Constitution, especially as to religious liberty?

Well, I’m happy to say that it does!

Judge Gorsuch wrote in joined opinions supporting the rights of ministries like Little Sisters of the Poor and closely held family businesses like Hobby Lobby to be free from the burden imposed by the Health and Human Services’ abortion pill mandate.

He wrote or signed opinions upholding the Constitutionality of the public display of Ten Commandments monuments and even wrote an opinion defending the existence of cross-shaped memorials for fallen state troopers.

Whether Neil Gorsuch will adequately fill the shoes of the late Justice Scalia is impossible to fully predict. What we can say with some confidence is that Judge Gorsuch has a history of defending the First Amendment from the bench.

We hope that Justice Gorsuch which will live up to the American people’s expectation and strongly protect our Constitutional freedoms.

 

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Many of the stories you hear on the First Liberty Briefing come from the cases we are working on at First Liberty Institute. Others are drawn from the body of cases that we use to ply our religious liberty trade. But, many of the stories that we tell are drawn from Undeniable, our annual survey on religious hostility in America.

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

On the occasion of our 100th episode, let me give you a peek behind the curtain of this program.

We started the First Liberty Briefing because we wanted to tell the story of Religious Liberty in America. Most of us know something about the First Amendment and others have heard about various protections in the law for our Religious Liberty, but unless you’re paying careful attention you may have missed how Religious Liberty unfolds in everyday life.

At First Liberty Institute, we protect Religious Liberty for all Americans. That is why we sample stories from each of our four areas of focus: Religious Liberty in the Church, the schools, military, and public square.

But perhaps you’ve wondered where we get all of these stories. Well, many of them come from the cases that we’re working on – real clients facing real threats. Others are drawn from the body of cases that we use to ply or Religious Liberty trade.

A Peak Behind the First Liberty Briefing

Image: Olivier Douliery

But, many of the stories that we tell are drawn from Undeniable – our annual survey on religious hostility in America. For the last several years, we’ve collected and published a sizable book cataloging the annual threats our Religious Liberty faces.

So, whether you read Undeniable or listen to The First Liberty Briefing, thanks for partnering with First Liberty to preserve and defend Religious Liberty.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

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Last week, Donald Trump recited the Oath of Office, ending with the traditional declaration, “So help me God.” Some question whether George Washington actually said “So help me God,” starting a tradition maintained by most of our presidents. But, we do know Washington’s other words.

Every four years, Americans experience and national transition as a new Executive is inaugurated. Donald Trump recited the Oath of Office, ending with the traditional declaration, “So help me, God.”

Some question whether George Washington actually said, “So help me, God”, starting a tradition maintained by most of our Presidents. But we do know Washington’s other words.

Moments after taking the oath, Washington retreated inside Federal Hall and offered his Inaugural Address. As he remarked,

The Tradition Behind “So Help Me God” in our Inaugural Address

Image: Kristin Hopper

“It would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official Act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe, who presides the Councils of nations, and whose Providential aids can supply every human defect that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the People of United States.”

He continued addressing his “homage to the great Author of every public and private good”, by reminding his audience that “No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand, which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of United States.”

These are the words of the same man who would remind our nation at the end of his presidency that “…both religion and morality are indispensable supports of political happiness.”

So today, our nation joins President Trump as he implores God’s help while in office.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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City elders in City of Port Jervis, New York passed an ordinance that banned houses of worship to use land within a designated business district. Learn more about how the Department of Justice intervened atFirstLiberty.org/Briefing.

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

The City of Port Jervis, New York had to act quickly when it was sued by the United States Department of Justice. Port Jervis maintained a zoning scheme that allowed churches to occupy a facility within what it called the Central Business District.

City Ordinance Discriminates Against Houses of Worship

Image: Elaine Ruxton

So, Goodwill Evangelical Presbyterian Church entered into an agreement to purchase property within that district. Soon after, the City elders passed a new ordinance that banned the use of land within the Central Business District for purposes of places of worship. The City rationalized the ban on all houses of worship, regardless of religious tradition, by noting that the presence of a house of worship would cause problems of parking, commercial development, and liquor licensing.

That’s when the United States Department of Justice decided that it should intervene. Two days after the DOJ filed its lawsuit alleging that the City had treated religious institutions differently from secular institutions that would have had a nearly identical effect, the City of Port Jervis gave up. The City agreed to rescind the law, engage in religious land use training, and allow the Department of Justice to monitor future applications.

Cities are welcome to make zoning decisions, so long as they do so in an equal, nondiscriminatory manner. It is unlawful for a city to preclude a house of worship while allowing a secular organization to proceed in a similar manner. Cities must treat churches in the same way that it treats theaters, veterans halls, and nonprofit organizations.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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MORAL LOGIC IN FL MARRIAGE LAW DEFIES LOGIC OF THE SEXUAL REVOLUTION TO PROTECT CHILDREN

The front page of yesterday’s edition of The Palm Beach Post included one of those articles that get your attention precisely because it first appears so very odd, so very out of sync with our contemporary times and on the other side of this moral revolution. Jane Musgrave was the reporter. The headline,

“Biological dad has no rights to child born during affair.”

“When Christopher Farrell learned his girlfriend was pregnant, he was ecstatic. He painted the walls of a bedroom in his Loxahatchee house blue and filled them with lovable characters from the Disney classic, ‘The Lion King.’

“Weeks before his son’s August 2015 birth, he summoned his family to a baby shower to have them celebrate his good fortune. His girlfriend, who was at the top of the guest list, never showed up. Inexplicably, she didn’t return his phone calls or texts.

“While Farrell didn’t know it at the time, it marked the end of his hopes of experiencing the joys of fatherhood.”

She explains that even though there is no question that Farrell is the child’s biological father, he has absolutely no right to see him, to talk to him, to support him or to help raise him. Why? Because Farrell’s girlfriend was married by the time the child was born and, according to Florida law, if the mother and her married husband intend to raise the child and take responsibility for it, the biological father has absolutely no rights whatsoever.

Marriage Laws, LGBT Rights & Religious Freedoms

Image: Palm Beach Post

This kind of story makes the front page of a newspaper because it seems to make news. In other words, it is intended to signal the fact that it would be news to the people who read the paper, to the citizens of Florida, to know that their state privileges marriage to such an extent that if a woman bears a child and her husband recognizes it, it really doesn’t matter what the genetics might demonstrate and it really doesn’t matter if another man is the biological father. That biological father, because of the preeminence of marriage in Florida law, has absolutely no standing whatsoever.

Musgrave also has to explain the reason behind the law, this very long standing law. That reason, of course, is the state of Florida’s interest in children being recognized as legitimate. The article cites a family law attorney in Orlando, Susan Savard, who said, 

“If the child is born in an intact marriage and if the husband and mother want to remain married, the biological father has zero rights.

“It’s well-settled law, said Elisha Roy, a West Palm Beach family law attorney. It might seem quaint to quibble about out-of-wedlock births in 2017, when divorce is common, 40 percent of children are born to single mothers and the country has embraced various non-traditional families, including those headed by unmarried, transgender and gay couples. But, antiquated or not, Florida law is steeped in the notion that no child should suffer the stigma of illegitimacy.”

Attorney Roy explained, “The big issue, the underlying theme in Florida, is about a child’s right to legitimacy, so no one should be able to come in and disrupt the sanctity of the marriage.”

He went on to say, “It’s not the dad’s right to be a dad, it’s the child’s right to have legitimacy.”

That’s an amazing statement, and the paper is exactly right. This law, given the contemporary moral revolution we’ve been experiencing, does seem to be rather quaint. It does seem somewhat out of step that the state of Florida should hold to such a conservative position when it comes to the question of whether a biological dad can have any kind of parental rights when the state of Florida recognizes same sex unions and allows gay adoptions and any number of other permutations, but nonetheless, this story made the front page for precisely that reason.

The biological father, in this case the man who is being denied absolutely any parental rights, is making the very point that the moral revolution renders this law sadly out of date. We can understand, at least in theory, even if we surely do not sympathize with this man’s argument, that this particular statute in Florida law is out of step with the rest of the state’s joining of the moral revolution.

The state recognizes same sex marriage, has done so ever since the Supreme Court’s of Obergefell decision. The state allows openly gay adoptions. The state allows test tube babies. The state allows any number of new reproductive technologies, but the state does not allow a biological father to claim a parental right if the mother is legally married at the time the child is born and if her husband takes responsibility with the woman to raise the child.

A Florida judge recently rejected Farrell’s plea for parental rights stating,

“Where the paternity of a child born into an existing marriage has been so acknowledged and where the husband and wife have decided to raise the child of their marriage and to accept all the rights and responsibilities of parenthood, a man who may have contributed his DNA to a child has no statutory or constitutional right to intrude into the private decision.”

Finally it’s also interesting in this story to note that no one on either side of the argument expects the law in Florida to be either revised or openly challenged any time soon. Why? Because this particular statute and the moral logic embedded in it, the privileging of the rights of the child to be legitimate, is an overriding concern that no one basically wants to take on politically in the state of Florida or likely elsewhere. That, of course, from a worldview perspective raises a most interesting dimension. There is a moral logic embedded in this law. There is a great deal of understanding concerning the rights of the child as being paramount and the institution of marriage as being fundamental. Put them together and the right of the child to be legitimate and the rights of a husband and a wife to the integrity and sanctity of their marriage overrides virtually everything else.

The reason I raise this is simply to make the observation that that moral logic that stands in this statute, a moral logic that is rather unassailable in the statutory law of Florida, reflects a moral wisdom that would have found its way in virtually every human society we know of, even before this case was ever envisioned. The reason for that is very clear. At the center of this case and of the moral logic of this statute is the integrity and sanctity of marriage and the wellbeing of the child and the right of the child to have parents, legally married parents.

Consider the fact that this statute now stands and not only does it stand, it has been very clearly applied. Then understand how we have rejected the very same moral logic, how we have undermined marriage and how we have sidelined the interest of the child in favor in other cases of the interest of adults.

Remember that line, “It’s not about the right of a dad to be a dad, but instead about the right of a child to be considered legitimate”? Just consider how we have rejected that very same logic when it comes to any number of other fronts in the moral revolution.

RELIGIOUS LIBERTY IN THE MILITARY: CHAPLAINS SHOULDN’T HAVE TO CHOOSE WHETHER TO SERVE GOD OR THE ARMY

Next I turn to yesterday’s edition of the New York Times Sunday magazine. On the back page of every weekly edition of that magazine there is generally a personal feature. In this case it was an interview conducted by Ana Marie Cox of a woman by the name of Sue Fulton. She’s identified as chairwoman of the US Military Academy Board of Visitors. She was, we are told, a founding member of OutServe, an advocacy group for LGBT soldiers. Now keep that in mind, remembering that Fulton is chairwoman of the US Military Board of Visitors, and then consider what’s at the very end of this interview. The question is this:

“The Vice President elect,” of course that’s Governor Pence, “has a position on what he calls religious liberty which allows citizens to refuse to do business with people with whom they have a sincere religious objection. This has also popped up in the military, right?”

That’s the question posed by Ana Marie Cox to Sue Fulton. Now, just notice that in the question we are told that religious liberty is what Vice President Michael Pence calls the reality. It’s what he calls religious liberty. Fulton then answers,

Marriage Laws, LGBT Rights & Religious Freedoms

Image: Andrew T. Warman

“Yes. One estimate indicates that nearly two-thirds of military chaplains identify as evangelistic Christians”—at this point we have to say, we think she means Evangelical Christians—she continued, “and only about 15 percent of service members do.

“We’ve had a number of instances in which a gay or transgender troop will visit a chaplain and hear, ‘Well, I can’t talk to you unless you confess your sin and turn straight or be who God made you to be.’”

At this point I simply have to say, I don’t believe that any chaplain has probably spoken in this exact language. But nonetheless, there’s something else that’s embedded in her answer where she says that it’s estimated that nearly two thirds of military chaplains identify as Evangelistic— again Evangelical Christians—and only about 15% of service members do. Looking at those numbers, here’s what’s interesting. That 15% is basically made up of those who use the language Evangelical Christians. The actual number of Evangelical Christians in the military, the actual percentage, is far higher. By the way, that percentage is particularly significant when you go to the service academies themselves.

The truly astounding section of Sue Fulton’s interview comes at the very end, and it’s likely that even most of the readers of the Sunday magazine in the New York Times will not find their way all the way to what’s the last paragraph in the entire magazine.

“What people fail to understand is that chaplains give up some of their rights as ministers when they become military chaplains, just as soldiers give up some of their free speech to defend free speech. Some chaplains argue: ‘My first responsibility is to God.’ Well, if your responsibility is to God and not the Army, you need to get out of the Army. That sounds cold — of course your first responsibility is to God — but you take on these obligations, and if your responsibility to God doesn’t allow you to fulfill them, you’re in the wrong place.”

Especially under the administration of President Barack Obama, the military as one representation of our government, has become particularly aggressive in pressing the LGBT revolution. Here you have a woman serving as chairwoman of the US Military Academy Board of Visitors who basically says that chaplains must understand that they give up some of their religious rights when they become military chaplains, and it’s very clear that she considers any understanding consistent with traditional biblical Christianity as simply out of place, out of bounds, and probably out of Constitutional muster when it comes to the United States Military.

We can only wonder at what point in the nation’s history it would make sense for a woman in this kind of responsibility to say, let me quote again,

“Well, if your responsibility is to God and not the Army, then you need to get out of the Army.”

We’ve been watching the moral revolutionaries take a take-no-prisoner approach. Now it’s evidently a take-no -chaplain as well.

RELIGIOUS LIBERTY IN THE BALANCE: WHY THE FAIRNESS FOR ALL CAMPAIGN IS A THREAT TO RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

This revolution demands nothing less than total capitulation, and that takes us to another couple of articles—one of them appear just before the weekend at Religion News Service by Kelsey Dallas. The headline,

“Religious freedom advocates are divided over how to address LGBT rights.”

A very similar article appeared at almost the same time at the evangelical magazine Christianity Today. Dallas writes,

“Major players in the ongoing battle over religious freedom and LGBT rights will meet at Yale University this weekend to discuss conscience rights, LGBT protections and legislation needed to balance those competing interests.

Those who are meeting at Yale over the weekend include those in the Fairness for All camp.”

As Dallas explains, this group is, “working with lawmakers across the country to enact laws, like the Utah Compromise, that balance sexual orientation and gender identity, or SOGI, anti-discrimination laws with exemptions to protect the conscience rights of faith communities and religious business owners.”

On the other side, she says, it’s populated by “prominent scholars and traditional married supporters who reject SOGI protections calling for stronger religious freedom laws rather than fairness for all legislation.”

This takes us back to the so-called Utah Compromise. That came about just a couple of years ago when lawmakers in Utah adopted legislation that was supported, at least in part, by both religious leaders and by LGBT activists. But there’s a very important footnote there. The religious leaders in Utah, especially included leaders of the Mormon church, and the LGBT activists who were included where those who tended towards compromise. One of the things we need to note is that the so-called compromise legislation called here as the movement Fairness for All claims to balance SOGI laws, that is “sexuality, orientation, and gender identity,” with religious liberty. That’s an interesting balancing act. As a matter of fact, it’s a balance that doesn’t really exist.

Marriage Laws, LGBT Rights & Religious Freedoms

Image: Joshua Roberts

For one thing, throughout American history religious liberty, in terms of a Constitutionally respected right, was not balanced in terms of some other claim of identity and right as is now the case. The other thing we need to recognize is that the LGBT revolutionaries aren’t going to settle for this kind of compromise. The compromise in Utah basically meant that Mormon leaders would not oppose the Utah legislature adopting anti-discrimination language and recognizing sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected class, so long as there were exemptions carved out for religious institutions and churches. That exemption is overly narrow. It doesn’t extend to religious employers and, furthermore, those in the LGBT movement had made very clear that even if there are some who are willing to accept this kind of compromise now, an enduring compromise is unlikely to last. They’re not going to settle for this for long, even if it’s the most they think they can get in some conservative states for now.

Evangelicals and others opposing the so-called Utah Compromise were the subject for the article in Christianity Today. She writes,

“Compromises designed to safeguard both religious freedoms and LGBT rights won’t fly among many of America’s most influential conservative Christians.”

She explains, “Leaders of nearly 90 evangelical seminaries, publications, ministries, and churches, as well as Catholic and Orthodox clergy, signed a statement last month rejecting any legal efforts to protect sexual orientation and gender identity.”

The preserved freedom statement released last month makes very clear, and the signatories agree, that any form or these SOGI laws, once enacted, will inevitably lead to the compromise, if not the collapse, of religious liberty. I am a signatory to the statement. As this statement expresses the concern,

“We have seen in particular how these laws are used by the government in an attempt to compel citizens to sacrifice their deepest convictions on marriage and what it means to be male and female, people who serve everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, but who cannot promote messages, engage in expression, or participate in events that contradict their beliefs or their organization’s guiding values.”

That’s exactly what is at stake. That statement came out last month and it’s going to lead to a very vigorous conversation. One indication of this is the fact that at least two groups, including the National Association of Evangelicals and the CCCU, the Coalition of Christian Colleges and Universities, had at least expressed interest in the Fairness for All kind of approach.

The concern on the part of those of us who signed this statement is the fact that the Fairness for All campaign will not lead to fairness of all, but will be one way of undermining religious liberty. As illustrations of what we’re concerned about here, just consider the current pressure being brought upon Christian colleges and universities and open threats as we saw just recently in the State of California. For that matter, just think about that final paragraph in yesterday’s edition of the New York Times Sunday magazine.

WHAT THE DECLINE OF THE AMERICAN MALL SAYS ABOUT OUR CHANGING AMERICAN SOCIETY

Next, changes in the economy often reflect far larger, perhaps more subtle but still seismically important changes. A weekend edition of the Washington Post included an article by Yoo Yung Kim. It’s entitled,

“American malls are declining. Their loss is a tragedy for me and my family.”

Kim writes about growing up with a family that ran a teriyaki stand in a Washington state mall. She writes,

“Two major retail companies dropped bombshells four days into 2017. After posting disappointing holiday sales, Macy’s released a list of 68 stores it will close by mid-2017. Sears followed suit by announcing that 42 stores would be shutting down within the year. More than 10,000 jobs will be cut at Macy’s alone, but the consequences will reverberate beyond the walls of shuttered department stores. Many Macy’s and Sears locations are attached to shopping centers as anchor stores — and when an anchor sinks, it drags down the smaller businesses that depend on the steady foot traffic it draws.” 

The headline of the story, once again, is about the decline and collapse of the American shopping mall. This is really not a new story, but this particular article was getting a great deal of attention. I’ve been talking about the decline of the shopping mall as a metaphor for fundamental changes in our society for well over a decade now.

Marriage Laws, LGBT Rights & Religious Freedoms

Image: Bill O’Leary

Anyone following these trends knows that the trend itself is well over 10 years old. American consumer habits have been shifting in two ways away from the shopping mall. The first way is towards more regional store front centers, so-called aspirational or leisure centers, and the second is away from any physical store whatsoever. The first trend was impactful enough, but it’s the second trend toward the digital revolution that may eventually spell the end all together of these malls. It’s not just the anchor stores that are collapsing, it’s the very idea or conception of a mall in the first place.

The shopping mall was not an entirely new and certainly not an entirely American concept. It can be argued that the early modern age in Europe saw the rise of something like shopping malls and the vast enclosed shopping spaces of cities like Naples and Milan. The rise of the American shopping mall really is an American phenomenon, the idea that you would have these massive retail centers, sometimes with hundreds and hundreds of stores, anchored by massive brand name department stores, that the mall would have the primary identity, not the stores they’re in, and that one could simply enter the mall as if entering an alternative neighborhood or community. All of that fit a certain moment in American history. It’s at least worth noting that the mega church and the mall came along just about the same time in terms of American culture and the suburban expression of that culture.

There is a very real human dimension to these mega changes, including the decline of the mall. That’s made clear in this Washington Post article. At least one significant aspect of this impact has to do with employment. Consider Friday’s edition of the New York Times. The headline,

“Amazon will add 100,000 jobs as brick and mortar stores turn to rubble.”

Reporters Nelson Schwartz and Nick Wingfield point out that it’s certainly big news that Amazon intends to add 100,000 new jobs and to do so rather quickly. That’s big news, and 100,000 is a very large number. But as these reporters point out, that gain of 100,000 jobs doesn’t come anywhere close to the losses of American jobs that came before the announcement. As the Times states, and I quote,

“The company’s hiring plans are certainly good news, but to understand the forces roiling the American economy, it’s key to remember that online retailing has destroyed many times that number of positions at malls and shopping centers across America.”

This is not to state that there is a moral question behind the decline of the mall and the rise of the digital economy. That’s not some kind of moral revolution in and of itself. The dislocation of so many Americans from work, that is a big moral issue. The decline of the shopping mall is about more than changes in consumer habits in the United States. It’s about even larger changes in our society.

Thinking carefully about a headline like this and looking at these stories together, even looking at the larger pattern over the last several years, indicates that when we see something like the decline of the mall, we’re actually seeing more than meets the eye. American churches in particular ought to pay close heed to what’s happening at the shopping mall, because it’s not just a story that will end with these headlines.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information, go to my website AlbertMohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to @albertmohler.For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College just go to boycecollege.com.

(This podcast is by R. Albert Mohler, Jr. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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