Tuesday 12th December 2017

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Zero-Sum Games, A SCOTUS Reprieve, And An Asylum Turnabout

November 27, 2017 Frontpage No Comments

By MIKE MANNO

Mat Staver, founder and CEO of Liberty Counsel, once told me during a radio interview that in terms of homosexual rights, the leaders of the LGBT community saw their struggle as a zero-sum game in which, in their minds, issues are reduced to mathematical concepts so that a gain for one side must equal a commensurate loss for the other.
Thus, for them, there can be no realistic compromise with supporters of traditional values for if they win on an issue, the other side must lose since there is no other available outcome. Over the years I’ve found that Mat was right and his theory plays out in the public square, the media, legislative halls, and courtrooms across the country for all to see.
The latest example of this is the attempt by the ACLU to attack Michigan’s statutory protection of faith-based adoption agencies. The law, which went into effect September 9, 2015, states in part:
“Private child-placing agencies, including faith-based child-placing agencies, have the right to free exercise of religion under both the state and federal constitutions…[and] have long and distinguished history of providing adoption and foster care services for this state. . . .
“To the fullest extent permitted by state and federal law, a child-placing agency shall not be required to provide any services if those services conflict with, or provide any services under circumstances that conflict with the child-placing agency’s sincerely held religious beliefs contained in a written policy, statement of faith, or other document adhered to by the child-placing agency.”
The law, of course, was in response to laws and ordinances in 17 states that prohibit adoption agencies from refusing to place children in homes with “same-sex parents.” This includes Catholic Charities of Boston which was forced to shut down its adoption services due to a law barring “sexual orientation discrimination.” Catholic Charities in San Francisco; Washington, D.C.; and Illinois were similarly closed due to “nondiscrimination” laws, leading Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., to quip, “In the name of tolerance, we’re not being tolerated.”
The lawsuit, unlike the laws cited above, does not attack the right of a private, faith-based agency from following its beliefs in placing children. What it attacks is Michigan’s system of using private agencies to place the nearly 13,000 children who are in the state’s foster-care system. This challenge centers on the funding of those services. In Michigan the state contracts with private adoption agencies to place these children.
“[P]rivate agencies performing a public function with taxpayer dollars and under contract with the State cannot perform actions that would be unconstitutional if performed directly by the state,” the lawsuit argues.
Of course, this begs the question of why it would be permissible for the state to deny participation on the basis of religious belief, but we digress.
“The State’s practice of funding and contracting with private religious organizations that use religious criteria to screen potential foster and adoption applicants is not a permissible accommodation of religion because it fails to take adequate account of the burdens imposed on children — specifically, the children whom the State hires these agencies to serve,” it claims.
Again, this begs the question since the criterion used is not “religious” as much as it is tradition, family, and best interest of the child, but we digress again.
The suit also asserts that faith-based agencies are in violation of their contract with the state which mandates that the agencies “will not discriminate against any individual or group because of race, sex, religion, age, national origin, color, height, weight, marital status, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, political beliefs or disability.”
The plaintiffs include two lesbian couples and a former foster-care child. The suit alleges that the lesbian plaintiffs had called a Catholic adoption agency and were told they could not adopt through that agency. One couple also admitted that the agency referred them to another agency that the couple found “was far away.” Apparently, “far” was 11 miles.
The suit has just been filed, it names the state and several state officials as defendants, and it asks the court to enjoin the state from providing taxpayer funds for those agencies that practice “sexual orientation” discrimination. My guess is that it will not take the court long to make an initial decision — either granting or denying a preliminary injunction. The real fireworks will start sometime thereafter.
Two other legal matters are offering a reprieve for Christians attempting to live out their faith.
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review pro-life challenges to California’s Reproductive FACT Act which requires licensed pro-life medical centers to post a disclosure saying that the state provides free or low-cost abortions. The notice must include a phone number for a county office that refers callers to Planned Parenthood and other abortionists. Similar laws in other states and communities have been invalidated by the courts, but California’s law survived a legal challenge and was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
“Forcing anyone to provide free advertising for the abortion industry is unthinkable — especially when it’s the government doing the forcing. This is even more true when it comes to pregnancy-care centers, which exist specifically to care for women who want to have their babies,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot.
According to the petition filed with the Supreme Court, “California enacted the Reproductive FACT Act with the stated purpose of targeting pro-life ‘crisis pregnancy centers’ based on their viewpoint that ‘discourages’ abortion.”
“Over two thousand crisis pregnancy centers in the U.S. offer all sorts of assistance to pregnant woman who want to welcome their children into the world….We fully expect the Supreme Court to free the volunteers who work at these centers from being compelled to choose between their conscience and their pro-baby, pro-woman mission,” said Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, policy adviser to The Catholic Association.
Finally, in the June 29, 2017 edition of The Wanderer I brought you the story of a Chinese national who had his request for asylum denied by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. The denial came after the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) had granted asylum to Ting Xue. Xue had alleged that he had been confined to unsanitary conditions, beaten by interrogators, and fined half his annual salary for the crime of practicing Christianity. In order to practice his faith, he claimed he had to do so in hiding. Nevertheless, the court of appeals found that this did not necessarily rise to the level of religious persecution.
While Mr. Xue’s appeal was pending before the Supreme Court, Attorney General Jeff Sessions decided to reopen the case and remanded it to the Board of Immigration Appeals where, if the BIA follows its earlier opinion, Xue’s asylum request will be approved; and this time the Trump administration — unlike the Obama administration — will not appeal.
“Since America was founded, people facing religious persecution on other countries have fled here so they could freely practice their faiths,” said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute.
“The whole point of religious freedom is that you’re free to practice as publicly or privately as you see fit — you don’t have to stay in the closet that so many countries have succeeded in pushing Christians into.”

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