According to polling recently released by Rasmussen, large percentages of Americans want more religion manifested in the public square and in public life.
76% believe Christmas should be celebrated in public schools, and 54% say there’s not enough religion in the public schools. Of those adults “with school-age children at home, 82% favor celebrating Christmas in public schools, and 61% believe there should be more religion in those schools.”
Interestingly, “[s]ignificant majorities of adults across most demographic categories believe Christmas should be celebrated in public schools.” 80% of adults who celebrate Christmas in their family support it being in schools, compared to just 27% of those who don’t celebrate the holiday, and 60% of adults 40 and over think there is not enough religion in public schools. 71% think Christmas should be “more about Jesus Christ than about Santa Claus.”
57% of Americans favor prayer in public school, and 73% support “giving parents a choice between a school that allows prayer and one that does not.”
Americans largely support religion playing a prominent role in public life: 57% say it is not possible to have a healthy community without churches or a religious presence. 71% of Americans say their religious faith is important in their daily life, and 49% consider it “very important.”
Americans also appear to be tiring of government’s over-sensitivity to political correctness. 42% of U.S. voters believe that “when it comes to the concerns of racial, ethnic, religious and social minorities in America, the government is too sensitive.” 29% say the government is not sensitive enough to those groups, and 18% think the level of government sensitivity is about right, while 12% are not sure.
While governments and activist groups may want to scrub the public square of religion, the American public itself doesn’t want that. Any way you slice it, people are voicing the view that religion has a role to play in our society, and it isn’t going away.
The Obama administration has made a huge investment in advancing gay rights as part of its foreign policy. According to today’s New York Times:
“In late 2011, the Obama administration made the promotion of gay rights an integral part of American foreign policy. Since then, it has pushed for the decriminalization of homosexuality overseas, working with the United Nations and private groups. Since 2012, U.S.A.I.D. has spent more than $700 million on the effort globally, starting new programs related to gay rights and incorporating the promotion of such rights into existing ones, according to American officials. Agency officials declined to release details of the programs in Africa, citing security concerns.”
President Obama and his allies see this as an effort to defend homosexuals from persecution. This is, in itself, a noble goal; no one should be brutalized or dehumanized in law or practice.
However, countries have every right to affirm that certain types of sexual acts are or are not commensurate with the moral values they regard as absolute and that historically have been affirmed by the Western powers under whose auspices Christian faith (and its teachings concerning the immorality of all non-marital, heterosexual forms of sexual intimacy) came to them.
Instead, the administration is now in the business of lecturing other countries—almost invariably, nations in the developing world—about their laws concerning homosexual conduct. As the eminent constitutional scholar and Supreme Court attorney John Eastman said during a lecture here at FRC earlier this year, “This agenda is now substituting for any other goal at the U.S. Agency for International Development.” Eastman and others have characterized the Obama approach to foreign policy as little more than “cultural imperialism.”
Writing in National Review, Josh Craddock summarizes it this way: “The Obama administration has made abortion and LGBT ‘rights’ cornerstones of America’s foreign policy, to the delight of the U.N.’s development agencies and the chagrin of the developing world. Despite a lack of domestic consensus on issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and ‘gender identity,’ the sexual revolution is now America’s biggest export.”
Mr. Obama’s cultural arrogance is embarrassing to our country. He has been rebuked publically by the leaders of Nigeria, Kenya, and Senegal. And as the title of the New York Times story cited earlier says, “U.S. Support of Gay Rights in Africa May Have Done More Harm Than Good.” Specifically, the article says that “Fierce opposition has come from African governments and private organizations, which accuse the United States of cultural imperialism. Pressing gay rights on an unwilling continent, they say, is the latest attempt by Western nations to impose their values on Africa.”
“Let us be on guard against colonization by new ideologies,” Pope Francis said earlier this year. Those are wise words for Mr. Obama to consider as he thinks about U.S. diplomatic priorities. Let us pray that he will.
Writing in Breitbart.com, Donna Rachel Edmunds notes that “There are approximately four million Muslims currently living in Germany, three quarters of whom are Turks who arrived in the country in the 1960s and 70s under Germany’s ‘guest worker’ scheme. However, half of that group have failed to integrate, and the speed of the current influx poses similar problems for integrating the new wave of one million asylum seekers.”
“Freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly are just three of the main rights secured by the (German) Basic Law,” (the host) tells viewers, with the Reichstag parliament building in the background.
The three fundamental rights are particularly sacred in Germany given that its history is scarred by the “horrors of dictatorship,” he continues. The Basic Law (Grundgesetz in German), (the host) says, was the foundation of the new democratic Germany established after World War Two.
The episode is filmed in Berlin’s government quarter where Deputy Finance Minister Jens Spahn, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats, explains what freedom of expression looks like in Germany.
“Freedom of speech means everyone may say what they think. Freedom of the press means you may make jokes, even about religion,” Spahn says. “Even when jokes are made about the Koran, this must be tolerated.”
The German effort is impressive: gracious in tone, clear in explanation, surefooted in content. As America takes in immigrants and refugees from the world over, should we not have a similar and perhaps even mandatory program for them to watch in order to understand some of the core principles of our republic and the nature of freedom itself? Perhaps even an explanation that as the Declaration of Independence argues, our rights come from our Creator, not the state, whose duty it is to guard those rights?
How would the Left respond to such a thing—with accusations of indoctrination and ominous warnings about right-wing propagandization?
A Massachusetts state court has held that a Catholic school cannot decide whom to hire or fire based on the school’s religious beliefs regarding homosexual conduct and court-created same-sex marriage. While courts have for some time issued decisions which infringe more and more on private religious institutions’ autonomy, we are now seeing the rising tide of infringement of religious beliefs regarding same-sex conduct. Prepare for the deluge.
Predictably, the court flatly rejected the school’s claim to be able to hire based on its core religious beliefs. The Massachusetts employment statute at issue did contain a religious exemption, but the court read it narrowly, and held that Fontbonne Academy did not fall under the exemption. Thus, the school was bound by the statute’s provisions prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which the court easily found to have been violated.
One portion of the opinion is particularly revealing. The court observed that the school did not require prospective employees to hold to Catholic beliefs except for some positions — the position at issue here not included. Yet the court acknowledged that the school asked the employee here if he could “buy into” being a “minister of the mission” of the school — which included promoting the school’s religious beliefs, as required of all employees. He said he could!
Aside from brushing past this misrepresentation (the employee could not “buy into” a mission when his own life contradicted some of its core moral tenets), the court misses the point that the mission the employee was asked to promote, which includes the Christian teaching on marriage, and the understanding that homosexual conduct is wrong — is required of Catholic and other traditions within Christianity (and, indeed, other religions entirely). The court jumps through hoops to construe the statute in a way that avoids recognizing this is the exact type of religious mission that religious employment exemptions are meant to protect. The court similarly engaged in logical and legal contortions to dismiss the school’s other claims.
This decision is very problematic for religious liberty. Hopefully the school will appeal.
The great celebration of the birth of Christ is quickly approaching. In the spirit of the season, it seems appropriate to reflect on our humanness and what it all means. After all, God created us in His own image, as the Book of Genesis tells us. He then proceeded to come to us in the form of a newborn baby in Bethlehem. We can infer from this that being human is something incomparably unique and of the utmost importance in all of creation. What, then, is our purpose for existing? Much of this question can be deduced by what’s inherent in our very physicality, in the bodies that we’ve been given.
What seems most obvious is that we are not animals. We have fingers with soft, rounded tips, not claws. We have teeth with smoothed edges, not sharp-pointed fangs. Our delicate feet must be protected by artificial soles against the thorns and rocks of the ground, unlike hoofs or paws. Our bodies are swathed in sensitive, malleable skin, not a hardened shell or thick fur—we must wrap ourselves in manufactured protective layers against the elements. This inherent vulnerability in all of us makes it clear that we’re not meant to prey upon each other in a survival-of-the-fittest free-for-all as the animals do. So what are we meant for?
Let’s dig a little deeper. We’ve been given brains that are far more powerful than any computer, capable of both grounded logic and abstract reasoning. To express what we process there, we’ve been given a voice box unique among all living things, capable of articulating language at a level of sophistication and nuance that is unmatched. What is most immediately expressive, however, are our eyes, which convey emotions and feelings with such clarity and depth that by the observation of them alone, a window into the soul of another is opened.
Perhaps, then, we are made for the other, for love. Why? Because everything we think, say and do loses all meaning if there is not another to receive it, and our bodies are thus designed to give and receive in love. Our hands are for tender caresses and firm support; when we swing and hit with clenched fists, the result is fractured knuckles. Our voices are for strong proclamation and kind encouragement; when we shout angrily, our throats become hoarse. Furthermore, even the most intimate parts of us, our male and female sexual faculties, must be given and received in complementary mutual love to have any meaning. Indeed, even our most intimate prayers and longings of the heart are directed to another person—God the Son.
What does all this reveal? At the most fundamental level, this tells us that our lives are not ours. In cooperation with God the Father, our mother and father brought us into existence in an act of love. We did not choose to come into existence—it is a gift freely given to us. Therefore, we are called to be grateful and satisfied with the body and the life that we are given, and to resist the temptation to grasp at what we think we deserve. Since our lives are a gift freely given, we must in turn freely give it away, as Christ did. As Christians throughout history can attest, the greatest freedom and joy can be found in this.
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Over the past few days, we’ve learned the story of a newborn baby left in a Nativity scene at the Holy Child Jesus Church in Queens, New York. The babe was found lying in a manger, wrapped in towels. Sound familiar?
Thankfully, the baby was found within an hour of being left in the crèche, discovered by a custodian. It’s good to know that “under NY safe haven law, which permits a parent to leave a child in a safe place (such as a hospital or church) with hope of their being taken care of, (the baby’s mother) will not be charged with child abandonment. And as it turns out, there are parents in the parish who have already asked to adopt the baby.”
A baby rescued in the representation of a manger. Of course, another Baby came to a manger, but the difference in the stories is that Jesus came to rescue us. As Paul the apostle wrote the church in Galatia, Jesus “gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (1:4). Born in a stable, laid in a feeding trough, the Lord of the universe came to us as a baby. Fragile, vulnerable, tiny. No words can capture the dimensions of this miracle.
Last week, we were reminded that the fragility of human life is not limited to the little ones among us. A maddened shooter murdered three people at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado. Ironically, one of them was police officer Garrett Swasey. In addition to his service protecting and defending his community, Officer Swasey also served, part-time, as a pastor (take a few moments to listen to his compelling, Gospel-rich last sermon).
Those murdered in Colorado were as precious as the baby found in Holy Child Jesus Church. So were those aborted in the clinic in which the victims were killed. So are their mothers. So is every life, within the womb and outside it. As FRC President Tony Perkins said last week, “Only through peaceful means –not violence— can we truly become a nation that once again values all human life, born and unborn.”
Sincerely, Rob Schwarzwalder Senior Vice-President Family Research Council