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The Dangers Of Political And Social Apathy

September 28, 2017 Frontpage No Comments


“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Those are the words of Martin Niemoller, a German Lutheran pastor and theologian, writing about the Nazi regime.
I don’t know about you, but one of the my biggest frustrations is when people, and I mean good people — many very devoted Catholics — express little concern about the state of our political souls. Unfortunately, as a lawyer I often run into people who pass off the latest indignity to one group or another as “that’s just the way it is,” or “what can I do about that?” Or even more egregiously, “I didn’t know that.”
As someone who has spent much of his life following politics and religion, and where they intersect, I am continually mindful of Niemoller’s words and see in them the seeds of destruction for our own liberties. This is not because of any great insight on my part, but because of my curiosity about such things; a curiosity that, I am sorry to say, does not seem to be shared by a majority of my fellow citizens.
Oh, I know, we all (or almost all) react to stories about the Little Sisters of the Poor, and Hobby Lobby, and we cheer on our adopted legal teams and take satisfaction in their victories. We vote for as president a man of questionable credentials and unknown political philosophy because we see him as a champion in our efforts to save the courts and our religious liberties.
But beyond that we too oft take little notice of all the things happening below the radar that have a profound impact on our religious freedom, and on shaping our children’s future.
I’m reminded of this because just recently the First Liberty Institute, organized to protect and promote religious freedom, has published its 2017 edition of Undeniable: The Survey of Hostility to Religion in America. President and CEO Kelly Shackelford in the preface of the edition reports that during the past five years there has been a 133 percent increase in attacks on religious liberty in the United States.
“To deny that religious freedom is in crisis in America is to deny the obvious,” he writes. “And yet there are deniers. Ironically, they include those who launch the very attacks that have caused the crisis itself. The American people, however, deserve the truth.”
He continues, “International Christian Concern (UCC), a respected global watchdog that monitors persecution, listed the United States for the first time in its annual ‘Hall of Shame’ report in January 2017, noting America’s alarming rise in hostility toward Christians. Their report stated, ‘while there is no comparison between the life of a Christian in the U.S. with persecuted believers overseas, ICC sees these worrying trends as an alarming indication of a decline in religious liberty in the United States’.”
The Family Research Council (FRC) also put together its own compendium of threats to religious liberty: Hostility to Religion: The Growing Threat to Religious Liberty in the United States.
“[H]ostility to religious expression in the public square is reaching levels unprecedented in the history of the United States. Since the first edition of this report came out about three years ago, the problems have only grown. Militant atheists and progressives continue to target long existing crosses and historical markers of America’s religious heritage in public places. Teachers tell young schoolchildren they can’t read their Bible in school. Private citizens and the government alike are attacking religious expression by other citizens. Whether it’s a media backlash to merely expressing a faith position on sexuality, or the use of nondiscrimination laws to punish religious business owners for their decisions, threats to free speech and free exercise are heating up both in the courts and the public square.”
These concerns led the American bishops to make their ad hoc committee on religious liberty a permanent committee of the conference in their meeting last June. Baltimore Archbishop William Lori, chairman of the committee since its inception in 2011, said at the time, “The very idea of religious freedom and its roots in human nature is challenged along with the right of religious people and institutions to raise their voices in the public square and to perform ministries that serve the common good in accordance with their religious and moral convictions.”
To give you some idea of the cases that fly below the radar, consider:
Marcia Walden was a counselor for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) who, due to her religious beliefs on the issue of marriage, referred clients with same-sex problems to other counselors. During one referral she told the client that she was making the referral because her personal values would interfere with a client-therapist relationship. The client complained, Walden was fired and she ultimately lost her lawsuit against the CDC.
A nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, Catherina Lorena Cenzon-DeCarlo, was threatened with termination and loss of license if she did not participate in a late-term abortion. In her lawsuit she claimed that when she was hired she signed a form given her by the hospital that indicated her unwillingness to participate in abortions pursuant to the hospital’s written policies, and that she suffered serious emotional harm from being forced to participate in the abortion. The federal district court dismissed the case and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal.
Sean Jauch was a policeman in Janesville, Wis. He posted an announcement for his prayer group on the department’s bulletin board which contained a biblical quote, “But without faith it is impossible to please him, for anyone who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Heb. 11:6). After receiving a complaint that the post was offensive, the police chief banned Jauch from posting.
Los Angeles County had a seal that contained a cow, a tuna fish, a Spanish galleon, the Hollywood Bowl, the Goddess Pomona, and a cross. The cross represented the historical fact that the area was settled by Catholic missionaries. A threat by the ACLU caused the board of supervisors to change the seal and remove the cross; however, it later reversed itself and restored the cross to the seal.
Many schools support the annual “Day of Silence” which endorses and supports pro-LGBT policies. In response student Benjamin Arthurs wore a “Day of Truth” T-shirt. The Sampson County Board of Education in Wilmington, N.C., suspended Arthurs for “pushing his religion on others.”
When David Parker of Lexington, Mass., found that his five-year-old had been given a book about same-sex couples raising children, he met with school administrators who refused to promise that they would give him advance notice when sexual matters were being discussed. Without such assurance he said he would not leave. He was arrested and spent the night in jail.
At Clemson University, a man held a sign that said “prayer” and a graduate student sat down next to him and they both prayed. They were then told by the school administration that they could only pray in designated free-speech zones. The official said the sign made prayer a “solicitation” that must be approved by the university.
I think you probably have gotten the message by now. There are serious efforts to stem the ability of people of faith to express themselves. But the examples above hardly run the full gamut of religious freedom.
Far too often churches are prevented from building or expanding due to local zoning and traffic ordinances which are used to block them. Numerous schoolchildren have been told that it is “illegal” for them to pray over their lunch; others have had papers and reports returned because the student wrote about God or religion, and Planned Parenthood is often allowed to develop curriculum for middle and high school sex-ed classes.
Governments across the nation are passing laws restricting what emergency pregnancy clinics may say, and in many cases the clinics are forced to inform their patients where they can get a free abortion.
The problem, of course, is that much of this does fly below the radar. “[W]e must first become aware of religious liberty violations. Then we can focus on legal, policy, and cultural responses to these violations. Liberty does not maintain itself. Only as we become more fully aware of and engaged on the issue of hostility toward religion, can we effectively defend civil liberties and restore religious liberty to its proper place in American society,” says the FRC in the conclusion to its report.
And we are charged to do so in Scripture: “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Our mission, if we accept it, is to understand that the roaring lion may be the school board member, or city councilman just trying to do an honest job, but is caught in the snare of political correctness. Remember, even the simplest things can cause the building to rot.
They first came for the….

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