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Religious-Liberty Attorney . . . Warns About Rising Discrimination Against Christian Conscience

November 1, 2017 Frontpage No Comments

By DEXTER DUGGAN

PHOENIX — Holding to God’s truths today can “make us strangers in this world,” as pressures against faithful Catholics increase in society, the founder of the internationally active Alliance Defending Freedom, Alan Sears, told parishioners at St. Thomas the Apostle Church here.
After citing hostility against Catholics going back to the colonial era in North America, before the United States began, Sears referred to remarks earlier this year by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito speaking to the Advocati Christi organization of Catholic attorneys and judges.
A mid-March story by the Associated Press said that at a talk in Madison, N.J., sponsored by the organization, Alito “discussed the hostility faced by Catholics in the U.S. over the centuries,” and he said, “A wind is picking up that is hostile to those with traditional moral beliefs.”
Alito sounded a similar theme in May at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s St. Charles Borromeo Seminary commencement ceremony, according to The Daily Caller website, which reported the Catholic justice “warned…that a concentrated effort to erode ‘traditional moral values’ could confine Catholics and other religious believers to the margins of society….
“Alito has made similar remarks in other public forums,” The Daily Caller said. “Alito told the Federalist Society’s 2017 National Lawyers Convention that religious liberty was one of the three most consequential issues facing the High Court. ‘It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there,’ he said, in a nod to Nobel laureate Bob Dylan’s 1997 song Not Dark Yet.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom, headquartered in Scottsdale, Ariz., is a Christian legal-activist organization defending traditional morality and religious liberty.
After morning Mass on October 21, Sears told St. Thomas the Apostle parishioners how Catholics faced strong discrimination under the British Empire, including in the territory that was to become the early U.S. once the American Revolution occurred.
Beginning in the 1730s, the only place where the Catholic Mass could be celebrated in the British Empire was Philadelphia, Sears said, and, until 1829, no Catholic in the British Empire could hold public office or vote.
Sears said he recently visited the Christian Heritage Center at England’s Stonyhurst College, which memorializes “those who were denied the ability to worship God as they were led,” and he saw relics of the martyred St. Thomas More and St. Edmund Campion, SJ, and Companions.
“Like many of you,” Sears told the Phoenix listeners, he has been watching current changes on the political and legal landscape that raise the question of whether it will be possible “to remain as a true Catholic” and witness to God’s truth.
He recalled that University of Notre Dame law professor Amy Coney Barrett, nominated by President Trump to be a judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, was “subjected to a brutal attack” in questioning by three U.S. senators because of her Catholic faith.
She was questioned whether she was an “orthodox Catholic,” with the implication she was “unfit” to hold the judgeship, Sears said.
Showing hostility similar to that of other Democratic Party senators, California’s Dianne Feinstein had clucked at Barrett, “When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country.”
Sears began his presentation by showing a video of some Christians under attack legally because they won’t compromise their beliefs for the secular world, even if those beliefs shouldn’t impinge on the issue at hand. Alliance Defending Freedom is representing them.
One example is Steve Tennes, an organic farmer in Michigan, who was told by city officials that his Country Mill Farms no longer was welcome to sell produce at a farmer’s market in East Lansing because he posted on Facebook that he believes marriage is between one man and one woman. However, he continued to sell to customers there.
So, Sears told the audience, even though his farm was 22 miles outside the city’s jurisdiction, the officials created a law banning people from coming into the city to sell items who held such views.
However, Sears said, a federal judge recently entered an injunction against this restriction while the case continues, so Country Mill Farms’ goods have returned to the market.
A different case involves former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran, who was dismissed from this position that he had dreamed of having because he privately published a book for his men’s Bible-study class expressing traditional moral views — even though he received official permission to publish it.
Speaking ironically, as if he were an Atlanta official opposing Cochran, Sears said, “We have to embrace tolerance, and we can’t do that unless we can fire people who disagree with us.”
Cochran is old enough to have experienced discrimination on a wide front against blacks as a young man, but now his traditional religious views brought about discrimination causing his job dismissal.
Another person in the ADF video is Norvilia Etienne, a student at City University of New York Queens College, whose application was denied to have a Students for Life club on campus, even though the application met all requirements and there already were multiple pro-abortion clubs recognized there.
After ADF attorneys filed suit in federal court, Queens College officials granted the pro-life club recognition, but didn’t allow it the same access to funding from mandatory student fees that the pro-abortion groups have, so pro-life students continue their effort for equal treatment.

Eternity Is Long

Sears told the St. Thomas audience, “For many Catholics, it’s easier to think things haven’t become as bad as all that….The temptation is to think these faithful Christians” in the video are different from other people, and all will be well for those who keep their heads down.
But various people in the video — including others not mentioned in this article — are all good people and good citizens who had done nothing wrong, Sears said, but government is being urged to take away their livelihoods, property, and savings because of their religious conscience.
He cited the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter From Birmingham Jail, written to other pastors in 1963 about religious conscience and freedom as the civil-rights movement opposed segregation.
“Segregation distorts the soul,” Sears quoted King as saying, so that it gives a false sense of superiority to the segregators and false sense of inferiority to the segregated.
Sears urged that people read the Letter if they hadn’t already done so.
Considering new discrimination developing now, “I would submit he (King) was not talking to us in the past . . . but in the future,” Sears said.
He noted that the St. Thomas the Apostle pastor, Fr. Steve Kunkel, commented earlier in the day on the brevity of the passing moment versus the everlasting consequences of one’s actions, “This life is short, and eternity is long.”
While Sears spoke in the parish’s Institute of Catholic Theology classroom after the morning Mass, others from the Mass headed out with the parish’s Mercy for Life pro-life group to pray the rosary and chaplet of mercy outside a local abortuary, then returned to the church for a holy hour and benediction conducted by associate pastor Fr. Thomas Kagumisa.

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