Saturday, July 19, 2014

Canary in the Coal Mine- Religious Liberty Attack On Vancouver Catholic Schools

Well what can you say to this except as Rod Dreher says thank goodness for the First amendment that FOR NOW offers Americans religious some protection . See Bullying Canada’s Catholic Schools .

Friday, July 11, 2014

It's Good Bobby Jindal Is Silent On Louisiana Catholic Confession Case ( For Now )

What a issue and post to try to get back into more active blogging. The Louisiana Catholic Church has a crisis down here dealing with the seal of confession and the Louisiana Supreme Ct.

The background on this crisis and Bobby Jindal 's silence on this ( so far ) can be found in this article from the New Orleans Times Picayune Bobby Jindal declines to take a stand on Louisiana religious liberty .

I have no idea or insight on what the Governor thinks of the Louisiana Supreme Court's Opinion on this matter that was just released . For all I know maybe he thinks the Court is right !

However if Jindal does not think the Court opinion was correct I am glad he is not rushing to a microphone right now and that might be by design.

Needless to say when a issue involves sex abuse the response must be delicate and well planned . We have that here is spades. The Catholic Bishops need to consult with Jindal as well as other key folks in the legislature . I presume there will be some attempt to introduce legislation to counter the Louisiana Supreme Ct opinion. I have to think well before the next legislative session  that the Bishops will have perhaps some news conference where some proposals will be  talked about .

From the Catholic standpoint I want to make sure we all have our ducks in a row before any Jindal comment is blasted across the national airwaves. That is a particular concern in an environment that is becoming more hostile to the rights of Faith and Church. The Louisiana Bishops are reeling as to to this development. Before Jindal makes this a talking point MSNBC issue we need some time to key our response. In other words  in an era where every thing is made a national issue  we must be ready for the PR campaign  for hearts and minds.

Now that does not help resolve the situation of the Priest in Baton Rouge that needless to say can't wait for the next legislative session for some relief. However a Jindal comment today or this week or the next is not going to help him either. There is a little time yet to try consider options as to his immediate predicament

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Why Popes Resigning Should Be Rare

Over at Patheos there is is a post  Popes Should Resign More Often  that is worth a read . One Priest from South Carolina has registered some agreement with it .

This argument has some merit . There is no doubt in my mind a combination of ill heath and the Vatican natural machinery to slow down when a Pope is in his final years contributed to John Paul the II not being able to deal with the sexual abuse crisis. However a crisis of that magnitude I think is the exception not the norm. Unless we are dealing with that situation or case where old age has caused mental problems with a Pope resignations should be rare.

Here are my reasons.

There is a numerous dangers and problems with the treating  the Pope as it he was akin to a secular CEO of the Catholic Church. From the Catechism :

895 "The power which they exercise personally in the name of Christ, is proper, ordinary, and immediate, although its exercise is ultimately controlled by the supreme authority of the Church."427 But the bishops should not be thought of as vicars of the Pope. His ordinary and immediate authority over the whole Church does not annul, but on the contrary confirms and defends that of the bishops. Their authority must be exercised in communion with the whole Church under the guidance of the Pope.

There are benefits to the " Lame Duck " time of a Papacy when a Pope is in his declining years. First I do think it allows the important relationship between a Catholic and his Bishop to come more into focus. A Papacy full of news , and  new grand plans and marching orders works against this I think. While I am for a strong Papacy in governing the Church I do have concerns about a dynamic of ROME ALL THE TIME . That Rome all the time dynamic I think also gives a wrong impression to non Catholic about what the Catholic Faith is all about .

Further in this media environment we really must consider what the effect of retiring Popes would have . Already the media throws out absurd notions of what a Pope might do. For example will the next Pope make abortion ok etc . It does not give a helpful  impression of stability and truth of the Catholic faith. . That is a media reality that has to be realized. Dealing with that every 6 to 7 years just exhaust me to think about .

Last but not least  in a world of   4 or 5 retired Popes there is no guarantee  they will all act like President Ford and to a large degree the Bushes. That is out of site out of mind or at the very least not commenting on essential affairs of governing and doctrine.

We very well could have ex Popes like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton that are not shy about popping up here and there and giving opinions.  When you add a spiritual dynamic to this it becomes even more dangerous. As we have seen in the Catholic Church there are many retired Bishops that are not shy about giving their two cents.

I have other reasons why I think a trend of retiring Popes has more negative than positives but these are my reasons that top the list .

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Decline of Southern Baptist Baptisms and Rural Life

There was interesting article up at the Associated Baptist Press by George Bullard All denominations should care baptisms are down among Southern Baptists . Let me add that Catholics might want to take a look at this also.

As Bullard points out one reason for concern is that Southern Baptist are not exactly sitting on their duffs in getting converts. Yet we still see this decline. There are many reasons for this but let me hit on an aspect of this that is a issue for all. That is the decline of rural American .

The backbone of the Southern Baptist Church has often been it's presence in rural communities. The problem partly is rural America is in a bunch of trouble. The once proud football team is struggling. There is not enough  kids to get a band together. The Walmart has left and people are forced to travel 30 miles to the the Super Walmart . It has been replaced by a rather sub par Freds or Dollar General that now are doing a booming business . Community festivals and events that once were packed are on their last legs.

The issue is that many people have abandoned their rural communities for the city. A huge part of this exodus were the areas best and brightest and best wage earners. They were the folks that often made things happen in business, civic , church , and cultural life.

In the Deep South the Southern Baptist Church was  often at the center of spiritual and social life in the community. It had competitors in its doctrinal orbit but the Southern Baptist Church was supreme. Part of this was funding . It could often fund  very competent minister , a competent director of music ,  and most importantly it had a Youth Group that did things.

The problem is for Southern Baptist once the kids move to the city their competition becomes more intense even within their doctrinal orbit. The issue of why perhaps Southern Baptist seem to be having a brand loyalty problem when this happens is something I am not competent to address.

Returning to the rural areas despite the exodus we have seen it is not quite a barren wasteland. There are still a great number of " unchurched " . In fact that number has increased in my opinion  .

The problems  see happening to the Baptist Church is happening the to UMC , the Presbyterian Church , and even my Catholic parish in my hometown.

The problems are complex. With various secular and civic outlets in rural life breaking down spreading the Word takes a hit . It is hard to spread the Gospel if opportunities to know your neighbor break down.

However I see the biggest problem as a general malaise that sinks into Church life . The town is not doing well which means business is not doing well . This leads to problems with funding schools which leads to further problems in attracting industry. It seems a vicious cycle.  The Church is very infected by this on a local level sadly . There are again many un churched  in the area but the critical lay leadership that gives the energy to reach them seem to be lacking. It seems we are just paddling in midstream not going anywhere hoping for some miracle to happen.

There are many reason for denominational decline that we see in the United States. I just hope that any plan to reverse this does not rely totally on an urban blueprint  and thus forget the rural Churches a. There are still some significant numbers out here that really add up. How to meet the challenges of rural life needs to be part of any endeavor to stop the decline .

I am not saying this dynamic is the only reason for the decline in Southern Baptist Baptisms but I think it plays a part and plays a part in other Faith communities problems

George Bullard
George Bullard
George Bullard

Friday, May 16, 2014

Not A Redneck Joke - The Catholic Nuns That Live In A Trailer Park

And in a double wide at that ! There are so many inspiring things happening in the Archdiocese of Atlanta . See this very good story Sister Margarita Martin in Athens: Bringing ‘church to the people’

Can A Student At Liberty University Believe in First Amendment Values

One of my favorite Louisiana reporters and columnist  Mark Mosley has a rather scathing piece on Governor Bobby Jindal's Religious Liberty speech at Liberty University . See Jindal dances around the truth, disguising anti-gay bigotry as freedom of speech .

My main purpose here is not to talk about the gay discrimination issue but something else. However I think I need to address a few points.

I am a little frustrated that I have not seen the entire speech yet or a link to it. Most critics are focusing on certain excerpts that were released  last week . I suspect with the wide range of attacks on religious liberty the " discrimination " against gays was not the only topic. See HHS mandate cases and other matters .

Let me say that as to " discrimination " I think a lot of Christians and others that think that homosexuality is wrong are also against unjust discrimination.  However these same Christians , and in fact many that support the civil right of same sex  marriage , have trouble with cases of compelled speech. Such as a wedding photographer or a baker being forced to service a same sex wedding and other similar cases that we see in the courts nowadays.

Mosley is perhaps right that Jindal needs to be pushed into what he sees as just or unjust discrimination and state it on the record. However Mosley I think is guilty as Jindal in not stating the complexity of the situations and the collision of rights.

What struck me however  was Mosley 's assertion that these folks at Liberty University could not believe in First Amendment values because of the schools honor code among other things  . In fact MY GOD they don't even allow dancing !

I have to agree there are certain things I don't agree with at Liberty University . Still I think his assertion is false or the leap he seems to be making is false

I am big advocate of First amendment freedoms on the college campus both public and private .  As to public universities I hold them to the highest standards. As to private universities it largely depends on how they sell themselves.  In fact how a private college has sold itself to a student is critical in the inquiry .

A private college  , whether religious or not  , has I argue a moral and indeed a legal obligation to perform by the promises they made in the student handbook. So if a private university has promised to be a bastion of freedom of thought , ideas , and expression they better perform on it .

Needless to say Liberty University does not sell itself as Wake Forest that has a much more lose Baptist affiliations nowadays . Student know what they are getting into and in fact have purchased the right  ,with a lot of money usually ,   to be in that environment . In the end I give a Liberty University a lot more rope than lets say a place like Tufts  . See Can Tufts Handle Religious Pluralism?

I have no doubt that at Liberty University  there are many  libertarians that have strong feelings on the the freedom of speech and First amendment values. Mosley seems to be making  a leap that Liberty University students would be happy with how their campus treated expression and speech to be in the public square. I find that rather doubtful on a whole range of matters . Especially among American  Baptist where religious liberty is often in their DNA .

We can look at other situations. For instance many people that go to military academies have all sorts of the First amendment expression curtailed. But it would be silly to say that because of that they are can't respect the First amendment.

Look at my views. If I ran Catholic Colleges  I would be cracking the whip more on student groups and other activities that run very contrary to the Catholic Faith. A Pro Choice group on a Catholic college campus are you kidding ?  Of course one problem is the lack of Catholic ID on campuses. Also some Catholic Colleges via their student handbooks seem to not to have laid down what is expected . That problem needs to be addressed there.

However those views do not stop me from advocating for the right of pro choice groups on public campuses  from  not having their speech curtailed .  I don't think I am alone in that and those views I suspect are at places even like Liberty University.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

I Was Part of the New York Times Flawed Poll On Louisiana Senate Race

I differ from most people that think telemarketers and pollsters should have a place in hell reserved for them where the flames burn a little hotter.

First I think political polling plays a critical importance in our nation.

 Second I have actually done what these folks calling are doing.. I cringe thinking of the verbal abuse I got from folks for a job that was not paying megabucks to say the least.. So when a poll taker gets me on the phone it's their lucky day. I also get that the poor guy  on the other end of the line does NOT get paid unless he or she gets complete responses. So no matter who is running the poll I always complete it no matter who is running it.

I got called last week to take part in a rather extensive poll .

I took particular interest in this poll since it was done by the New York Times. The results of this poll taken in several Southern States where Senate races are hot are in.

See Poll Shows Tight Senate Races in Four Southern States .

As to two of these southern states I think I have some familiarity with the current political dynamics . The first being Louisiana of course and the next to some degree Arkansas since I am just 30 minutes from the border.

 The poll  results today I think show while polling is needed it is still a very tricky business

The results of the polls on the Senate races drew some pretty quick reactions of disbelief in some Republican quarters. Pryor ahead in Arkansas by 10 points ? Mary Landrieu beating Congressman Cassidy 42 to 18 percent ? What ? From what I know this does not depict a reality any of these campaigns think are happening on the ground.

So what happened. First as the Weekly Standard  notes the voting sample used shows a voting public that does not match reality. They say in part :

In other words, the Times and Kaiser have produced a sample in Arkansas that reports they voted in 2012 for Romney over Obama--by one point. But Romney carried Arkansas in 2012 by 24 points. Similarly, the Kentucky sample is +3 Romney when reality was +23. The Louisiana sample is +3 Obama in a state Obama lost by 17, and the North Carolina sample is +7 Obama in a state he lost by 3.

Now how did this happen ?

First this poll had to be one of the longest polls I ever took. It ran close to 30 minutes and I was counting the minutes because the LSU baseball game was on at the time which I was of course missing.

The vast majority of questions were about Obama are / ACA and related Louisiana issues of Medicare expansion. Strangely these questions do not appear in the list of questions that were asked that is provided by the New York Times.

The questions on Obama care related issues seemed to take on a push poll like quality. A push poll is when the questions are phrased in a way to get a result. I am not sure that was the intention but that was I thinking .

I think this might have been an effect of just the cumulative nature of the questions . Further the questions were very detailed at times and the pollster seemed not interested in me putting things into a undecided or don't know category . The pollster was doing what is called a hard sell. He wanted you to make a choice.

I was starting to feel some aggravation at this as this poll went on and on. I can just imagine how some that are not pollster friendly were feeling. This becomes critical because  the who you were going to vote for Senate question came up fairly late.In fact it seem just a sideline of the overall poll itself.

I suspect a good many  of anti Obamacare , and conservative leaning voters bailed on this poll before it was completed and thus their responses were thrown out. . LIKE HEY YOU HAVE TAKEN ENOUGH OF MY TIME sort of thing.

On the flip side if you really are invested in the success of Obamacare /ACA I think it was more likely you would answer questions all day as to the way this poll was set up.Thus you got to the Senate question and had your entire poll answer counted.

So at the end of the day we get a voting sample that just seems so out of whack with reality. If the poll had fewer questions or perhaps more questions on a variety of topics we might have got a poll that seems to reflect in a Louisiana voting public ( the folks that actually vote )  reality.

Again polling is a tricky business.

That being said the fact that Mary Landrieu is only running in the low 40's in a voting sample of Obama + 3 can't be the best news of the day for her.

Can LGBT Rights and Freedom of Association Rights Live In Peace ?

I am getting more invested all the time in finding a sweet spot that reconcile LGBT rights, freedom of association , religious liberty , and other crucial First amendment speech protections. However I fear finding it is going to be some time off.

In the socially conservative leaning town of Shreveport Louisiana there was recently a significant victory for folks with varying degrees of same sex attraction and unjust discrimination. I had no huge problems with the law thought I would added a few amendments if I was in a position to do so .I also got a sense that many in Shreveport were quite fine with the law , as shown by the City Council vote , and these included people across the political and religious spectrum.

In the State of Louisiana Legislature  though a package of bills that deal with LGBT discrimination are going nowhere fast. For instance see here and here .

Now there are many reason for this I suppose. There are those that for various legal reasons do not think we should be extending another suspect classification to another group of people. There is no doubt some of this pressed by people that have a real problem with gay folks. Also I suspect there are great number of business people that while not holding any animus as to gays fear being dragged into Court if they happen to fire someone that is LGBT or fails to hire them for various valid reasons.

However I am wondering if we are seeing something else. That is a push back and  a concern by many because of what they read in the media each day. In other words people that might be open to various pro LGBT bills are worried about being taken for fools five or ten years down the road.

There is no doubt in my mind that one reason for success of gay marriage has been a somewhat Libertarian outlook by many. What does gay marriage have to do with you , or  the people have the right to be left alone to live their lives argument . In other words you  morality police stay out of people's private lives. I have to admit as someone that has some Libertarians leanings this argument has had some appeal to me at times .

However as we are quickly learning  one side did not have a monopoly on being the morality police and they in certain states are attacking with a vengeance.

In California this morning we hear this news that Judges may be prohibited from being involved with the Boy Scouts . This comes right after Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich had to step down following uproar over his apparent opposition to gay marriage. Despite the fact there is no evidence that Mr Eich every discriminated against anyone LGBT !

Then we have news that a politico in New York wants to starts Chick-fil-A war part II .On that issue I think the Anchoress uses that story as a perfect vehicle of what is so so  very wrong about this state of affairs. See her must read post Chick-fil-A! Lay Thyself Toward the Idol or Be Damned!

None of these and   many more incidents that we are seeing don't have a sense of a " right to be left alone " ethos that partly led to the adoption of gay marriage in many states . What does Gay marriage have to do with you was the old question. Well it appears a good bit in certain jurisdictions .

Add to that the whole debate over various efforts to put Freedom of Religion Restoration Acts in various states. Some of these statutes were flawed however others have been unfairly called out as Jim Crow. This is part due to a coalition of LGBT and reproductive right activists that I think were unfair in the criticisms.

All these are of course tough issues and its going to require some leadership on both sides to resolve. However people in all these factions are going to have to finds a way that gives real legal protection to everyone's views and not just give lip service to them . Perhaps I am deluded and there can be no living together and so we shall  endure the battles of all battles over what some call the culture war. However if that is the case there are going to be some real casualties .

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Welcome 2014 Holy Saturday Catholic Converts - Some Of Their Stories

There is some evidence of a Pope Francis effect on converts in Arkansas.  This is seen among folks from " bible churches " and the lapsed.

In San Francisco Vietnamese immigrant, tech entrepreneur finds Catholic faith .

Interesting fact.It was the Africans who pushed for the re-establishment of the catechumenate which every Catholic now knows as “the RCIA” .

This is a interesting convert story from the Diocese of Fort Wayne - South Bend of a person's dad that became Catholic. It turns out his doubts over the doctrine of the Eucharist he had during the RCIA process came to a end in an unexpected way.

In the Diocese of Phoenix the resolve by couple to give their  marriage a second chance leads his wife to the Catholic Church and receiving the Sacraments tonight.

This is such an interesting story about Catholic converts that makes me pause how my Parish is approaching thing. In the Diocese of Nashville many prisoners including those on Death Row have become Catholic and are MEMBERS of the local parish.

Four different paths and 4 different Converts from the Archdiocese of Toronto who will be received into the Church tonight.

This is pretty neat. From the Diocese of Baton Rouge a family of nine from ages 10 months to age 40 are entering the Catholic Church tonight

A small largely Protestant Missouri town has got 24 Catholic converts this year. Including a 78 year old woman

Friday, April 18, 2014

2014 Catholic Converts- Homeless Man Looks Forward to Easter Baptism

Continuing with our 2014 folks that are entering the Church this Holy Saturday a nice story from San Francisco . See Homeless man awaits Easter baptism . 

What a story.

2014 Catholic Converts - Family of Five Enters Church This Week

In my early college days I converted to Catholicism so I take great interest in folks coming into the Church on Easter Saturday. I hope to highlight those stories today and tomorrow.

Here is a interesting one from the Archdiocese of St Louis that is about a whole family  ( all 5 of them ) that will enter the Church this Saturday .

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Will Christians For Expanded Government Regret Stance On Religious Liberty ?

Law Prof Greg Sisk had an interesting post up at MOJ yesterday. See The Spirited Debate About the Role of Government and Religious Liberty Will Continue Well into the Future .

He mentioned something that I have been thinking about when he says " To be sure, specific issues that dominate today's political debates -- such as whether to repeal or reform Obamacare and even the rise of same-sex marriage -- may fade. But the central questions of whether we as a people want a bigger government and, important to the readers of this blog, whether big government can be reconciled with religious liberty are not going away."

 Elsewhere he states " To the chagrin of many progressives of faith that I know, the Obama Administration has heightened the perception that liberal government comes at the expense of religious liberty by taking rather extreme positions on these issues, including before the Supreme Court " .

I think this is very critical and will in fact not only have an influence on Church State relations , but also relations  between Faith Community themselves.

It does seem on a host of issues much of the Protestant Mainline , a growing chorus of progressive Evangelicals,  and indeed some Catholics seem not to be thinking long term about some of their positions.

From various LGBT issues to " reproductive rights " issues it seems they view their cause so just so right that critical First Amendment and religious liberty questions don't enter their mind. For instance are progressive Christians really that comfortable with placing such a divide between Faith and work which goes against the worldwide grain?

I think there is wide agreement that there should not be unjust discrimination against LGBT folks.  However many are actively opposed to any exemptions that would allow dissenting folks of Faith not  to have to contribute to a same sex wedding ceremony such as in the case of a wedding photographer. This has both religious liberty and compelled speech issues. However for many Progressive Christians it seems the use of Government power to stop what they view as an evil is so unlimited there are few qualms about these problems.

The problem seems to be two fold.

 First as a " conservative Christian " too many times it has been so easy not to call out friends I am allied with when they are wrong . I think Progressive Christians have the same problem. It is a pretty natural response.

Second as to the Protestant mainline it seems that many special interest groups , for instance LGBT and Feminists , have a huge stranglehold on key parts of the power structure in various Faith communities. This seems evident when you watch them at their annual national meetings / conventions .

I come from a Catholic tradition that quite frankly both as a theological and practical matter seems to envision a expanded role for Government in people's lives. However the deal was that the Church and State were partners , or at the very least there was limits to where the Government could go on infringing on rights of the faithful. This agreement  looks in peril.

Regardless as Prof Sisk indicates these issues are not going away , and who knows that the next collision of Church and State will be.

However history has shown that regimes that don't respect objector rights and freedoms don't fare well over time. I do fear that progressive Christians  , just like  their secular progressive counterparts  in the early 20th century , are going to regret not giving attention to certain natural rights and / or protections we see in the Bill of the Rights that have been part of our tradition.

Regardless of the future if one sees a expanded role for Government in people's lives as a matter of faith then paying attention to the religious liberty question is going to be important. If not then we are going to have quite a few heated disputes that is going to distract from our core mission of bring folks to Jesus.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Is the Social Justice Left Abandoning The First Amendment Revisited

I am going to talk about the " Religious Left " and the First Amendment hopefully later today. However I wanted to update my last post A Liberal Academic Concerned " Social Justice " Left Is Threat To First Amendment and Expression .

In that post I link a Academic from the left that has great concerns that social just folks from the left are not giving the First Amendment the attention and respect it deserves. That prompted his discussion was rather outrageous criminal conduct by a University of California, Santa Barbara Feminist Studies Prof on a pro life protester . This was conduct , to make matters worse , that she got her students involved into to some degree

 The Professor so far via her social media seems not to get what she did wrong . Now we have the University of Santa Barbara issuing a statement that leaves a lot to be desired. Free Speech advocates were not pleased . See Free Speech Advocates Unsatisfied with UC Santa Barbara Vice Chancellor’s Mixed Messages .

To say the least that the tones of the University's  response is troubling .

Returning to the Professor in the Feminist Studies Department  that seems wonder what all the fuss is about her actions, there was an interesting post on this subject at the Volokh Conspiracy .See The UC Santa Barbara Department of Feminist Studies . 

To quote a part of that post :

.....In principle, having a Department of Women’s Studies may make good sense for an academic institution. Traditional department boundaries — history, psychology, anthropology, sociology, law, and the like — are often useful, because each field has its own intellectual toolkit that is often worth teaching separately. But at the same time, the department boundaries often make it harder to effectively study a particular subject area. The role of women in society, for instance, is an important question that is raised in many different fields of study. Having a department that’s focused on that subject rather than on a particular academic discipline could be useful, though, as with all such things, it could be implemented poorly.

 But a Department of Feminist Studies, it seems to me, by definition limits itself not just to a single subject of study, but to a single ideology or closely connected bundle of ideologies. It means that the department is guaranteed to exclude faculty and even students of other ideological views. (Ideologically skewing happens to some extent in lots of contexts already, but here it seems to be baked into the definition of the department in a particular sharp way.) And it puts the university’s scholarly imprimatur on one ideology — and perhaps even just particular versions of that ideology — to the exclusion of its rivals. 

 It means that other views are automatically defined to be outside the department’s area of focus — the possibility that there are women who aren’t feminists (or who disagree with most of the modern academic feminist movement on questions such as abortion) who are worth studying and whose arguments are worth considering is defined away. Ideological homogeneity and lack of engagement with contrary views is always a danger in many human institutions. But a department of feminist studies seems to be tailored to maximize these dangers.....

I think this well put . I also wonder if this dynamic we describe here is seen various important religious faith communities in the United States. More on that in my next post


Friday, March 28, 2014

A Liberal Academic Concerned " Social Justice " Left Is Threat To First Amendment and Expression

There is no doubt that as to some core First Amendment issues such as speech and association all of us are not consistent as we might like to be. Part of this is because of the people we ally with that we considered our friends . For instance if you find the issue of LGBT  righat of paramount importance that it cries out to the heavens to be resolved ,  you might be ok with censoring a little campus speech and campus groups

On the flip side you might have certain strong feeling about sexual morality therefore you might  put some blinders on as to those that wish to punish the Univ of Tennessee for Campus Sex week . Another rather horrid example is perhaps you feel so strongly about gun rights that you might support legislation that is a huge wound on the First amendment . This happened in my State of Louisiana last year.

However I do have concerns that as to these issues that both the secular left and indeed the progressive religious left is becoming much more a danger to basic First Amendment freedoms. This is more concerning because such things as " entertainment "and media are often leftward focused. So some traditional guardians of First Amendment freedoms that raise alarm bells to the public will be AWOL .

I am going to hit the progressive " social justice " religious  folks  issue and how they play a role in all this later in another post.

An voice  of the left just brought out these concerns in two blog posts that is where worth your reading time as to what he is seeing. That is perhaps if you thought the real problem with the morality police was on the Right you might be mistaken.

See from Purdue University read Fredrik deBoer two posts is the social justice left really abandoning free speech? and an addendum on social justice and free expression .

I have to say I agree with this observations and it scares me to death  .

Next I will talk the role of the religious left in all this.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Hopeful Hobby Lobby Will Prevail After Supreme Court Arguments

It might seems strange to some that after posting so much the HHS contraception mandate , religious liberty , and the " Hobby Lobby case I have nothing to say yesterday. I wanted to digest the transcript and I hope to have a few posts on it this week.

I am slightly optimistic the Court will rule in  Hobby Lobby's andthe  other parties favor. Still I am little nervous . It seems it will come down to Justice Kennedy though Breyer might be in play on some important issues.

The Government 's case went as I expected. That is the weakest link being the least restrictive means part of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act test . That is can the Government provide all this birth control by some other means without violating those who are bring these RFRA claims. Even Justice Breyer asked about that .

However there were two areas that  I was thrilled the Court got into some detail with one of which might be huge for Justice Kennedy .

For these I recommend a series of post from Law Profs Ann Althouse and Josh Blackman who I think had the best interactions with the SCOTUS oral transcript.

Ann Althouse has a excellent review of yesterday's arguement here .

I dealing with a part of Justice  Kennedy  remarks that I am hoping in part delivers the day in which he said :

Now, what ­­ what kind of constitutional structure do we have if the Congress can give an agency the power to grant or not grant a religious exemption based on what the agency determined? I recognize delegation of powers rules are somewhat more abundant insofar as their enforcement in this Court. But when we have a First Amendment issue of —­­ of this consequence, shouldn't we indicate that it's for the Congress, not the agency to determine that this corporation gets the exemption on that one, and not even for RFRA purposes, for other purposes.

Ann Althouse comments on these remarks at some length :

This is extremely important. The topic finally becomes the role of HHS, which is making the decisions here, not Congress, and Kennedy is disturbed by the agency making some but not other exemptions. This is a problem quite apart from the RFRA claim for an exemption. There is something structurally awry about this lawmaking. Kennedy observes that the agency's exemptions were given "without reference to the policies of RFRA." So "what were the policies that you were implementing?" Churches got exemptions, and businesses with less than 50 employees got exemptions, and then there were the grandfathered plans. How do you argue a compelling interest in no exemptions when the government has made all those exemptions? Roberts badgers Verrilli about how long the grandfathered plans are going to stay grandfathered.

Law Prof Josh Blackman  had a series of post on the oral arguments yesterday.

At his his post The Non-Delegation Doctrine and the First Amendment , Prof Blackman engages more of what Justice Kennedy was thinking on this subject mentioned above :

The aspect lost in the entire Hobby Lobby debate is that Congress did not specify that employers must provide certain types of contraceptives. They required that employers provide “essential care” and delegated to HHS the responsibility for defining what drugs are included.

 HHS then specified that certain products must be provided. Initially only churches were exempt from the mandate, but after an uproar, provided a way for religious organizations, such as the Little Sisters of the Poor, to opt out of the coverage. But this was done as a political compromise. 

HHS did not assert they were required to do so under RFRA, or the First Amendment. As Justice Kennedy noted twice:

 JUSTICE KENNEDY: But you gave this exemption, according to your brief, without reference to the policies of RFRA. What ­­ what were the policies that you were implementing?

 JUSTICE KENNEDY: I still don’t understand how HHS exercised its judgment to grant the exemption to nonreligious corporations if you say it was not compelled by RFRA. 

Justice Kennedy raised the non-delegation doctrine in an interesting context–can we let administrative agencies decide the scope of the First Amendment?

 JUSTICE KENNEDY: Now, what ­­ what kind of constitutional structure do we have if the Congress can give an agency the power to grant or not grant a religious exemption based on what the agency determined? I recognize delegation of powers rules are somewhat more abundant insofar as their enforcement in this Court. But when we have a First Amendment issue of ­­ of this consequence, shouldn’t we indicate that it’s for the Congress, not the agency to determine that this corporation gets the exemption on that one, and not even for RFRA purposes, for other purposes.

 In other words, it may even be outside the ability of Congress to delegate this type of authority to an agency–or at the least, it must be given with some serious guidance.

I think this is a huge issue the media , that perhaps had gotten used to executive rule making run amok , has missed.

There is something downright screwy how this contraception mandate as well as other things have gone down since the ACA was passed. I thought Roberts would bring it up , but I was very pleased to see it high on the radar of Justice Kennedy himself.

The other area where I am glad Justice Breyer got involved was the whole issue of standing  to even be able to bring a claim that your RFRA or First Amendment rights have been violated .

 See Josh Blackman's post Justices Alito, Kennedy, and Breyer Pose My Hypothetical About Ban on Kosher Slaughter and RFRA .

Those that oppose Hobby Lobby position like to go Corporations have no rights they are not people. I don't think they have thought though this ,and very much intentionally ignore many  small business are in the form of a Limit Liability Corporation. In fact I think it is almost malpractice not to urge your typical small business to take this form .In most states most small business owners just download the form , send in the fee , and poof they are a corporation.

Read the whole post of Josh Blackman to see how this KOSHER hypo is based on some real world religious liberty issues.

Getting back to the issue of even being able to have your day in court , Blackman writes says in part

..Could the government’s position really be that no one–not a single incorporated butcher–could bring suit? I raised this question to a lawyer who litigates in the field of religious liberty, though in Hobby Lobby opposed allowing corporations to state a claim under RFRA and the Free Exercise. I found that he hadn’t considered this hypothetical, and would only say that individual people who eat Kosher could bring suit. But that ignores the issues of the hypothetical as posed.

I was thrilled to see Justice Alito pose just this question to General Alito during oral arguments in Hobby Lobby.

JUSTICE ALITO: What about the implications of saying that no for­ profit corporation can raise any sort of free exercise claim at all and nobody associated with the for­ profit corporation can raise any sort of free exercise claim at all? Let me give you this example. According to the media, Denmark recently prohibited kosher and halal slaughter methods because they believe that they are inhumane. Now, suppose Congress enacted something like that here. What would the ­­ what would a corporation that is a kosher or halal slaughterhouse do? They would simply ­­ they would have no recourse whatsoever. They couldn’t even get a day in court. They couldn’t raise a RFRA claim. They couldn’t raise a First Amendment claim.

And the Solicitor General’s answer confirmed my suspicion. First he hinted at a Church of Lukumi analysis, but this ignored the fact that the law was truly motivated for concerns about animal welfare (which in this case trumps religious liberty).

 GENERAL VERRILLI: Well, I’m not sure they couldn’t raise a First Amendment claim, Justice Alito. I think if you had a targeted law like that, that targeted a specific religious practice, that ­­ I don’t think it is our position that they couldn’t make a free exercise claim in that circumstance and so

JUSTICE KENNEDY: Well, but you’re getting away from the hypothetical. Say ­­ Justice Alito’s hypothetical was that the impetus for this was humane treatment of animals. There was no animus to religion at all, which in the Church animus to the religion. So hypothetical. 


Verrilli, then said that the individual customers can raise this claim.

 JUSTICE ALITO: Well, they say no animal may be slaughtered unless it’s stunned first, unless the animal is rendered unconscious before it is slaughtered. 

GENERAL VERRILLI: Well, I think in that circumstance, you would have, I think, an ability for customers to bring suit. I think you might recognize third party standing on behalf of the corporation ­­ on the corporations, on behalf of customers. So a suit like that could be brought. 

The General then changed the topic and talked about burdens on third parties. But Justice Breyer, getting irate at the General’s dodging of the question, continued the slaughter (rimshot!): 

JUSTICE BREYER: I mean, the point that Justice Alito was making is that ­­ take five Jewish or Muslim butchers and what you’re saying to them is if they choose to work under the corporate form, which is viewed universally, you have to give up on that form the Freedom of Exercise Clause that you’d otherwise have. Now, looked at that way, I don’t think it matters whether they call themselves a corporation or whether they call themselves individuals. I mean, I think that’s the question you’re being asked, and I need to know what your response is to it. 

The General replied around the question, and basically conceded the incorporated butcher could not raise the claim:

GENERAL VERRILLI: Well, I think our response is what the Court said in Part 3 of the Lee opinion, which is that once you make a choice to go into the commercial sphere, which you certainly do when you incorporate as a for ­profit corporation, you are making a choice to live by the rules that govern you and your competitors in the commercial sphere. 

 The government’s position is loud and clear. If you are incorporated, you have no free exercise rights under the First Amendment or RFRA. Such an absolute position didn’t pan out well in Hosannah-Tabor. I don’t think it will win the day here. And what about churches and non-profits that are incorporated?

 GENERAL VERRILLI: No. No. Religious non­profits get an accommodation in which their employees get the contraception. 

But we are not drawing a line between for­profit and profit. They, again, are only given an exemption by the grace of HHS, and not by the requirements of the First Amendment or RFRA.

Again read  all his post . Blackman think Justice Breyer takes this question very serious so watch out for that.

More later on other themes of the Hobby Lobby oral argument day.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Do Louisiana Baptists Care About Louisiana College ?

Cenlamr has a good blog post up about some rather important events that happened at Louisiana College this past week.

 See Louisiana College President Joe Aguillard’s Vainglorious (And Terrifying) Attempts To Stifle Dissent.

There is much controversy at Louisiana College and as a non Baptist I walk carefully in commenting on how a faith community runs their school. For instance there are some issues dealing with academic freedom at Louisiana College that deal with the Calvinism issue that I view as an  internal theological matter.

However Louisiana College is an asset to the State of Louisiana Baptist and non Baptist alike. Thus what appears to be an increasing  level of incompetence , mismanagement , and perhaps well lying by it's President seems to be a concern. The list of grand promises , plans , and grants  that Cenlamr list that have been made but never seem to materialize is not an exclusive one.

The question is does the average Louisiana Southern Baptist ( lay or pastor ) outside the Alexandria area seem to care. The Louisiana Southern Baptist Convention has some degree of oversight and influence over the college. Over the past few years when I have engaged Baptists over the issues at Louisiana College I just get vacant looks. There does not seem to be a connection , a sense of pride , or indeed ownership between the average Louisiana Baptist and their " State " College . This seems different than some other states.

If this disconnect is indeed widespread that probably does not fare well for the future of Louisiana College. Still it is an asset that Louisiana Baptist might want to take advantage of in the future and the need to listen to the students there seems to be becoming more compelling .

Friday, March 21, 2014

IF A Corporation Can Have Race Why Can't It Practice Religion ?

A very good article at Public Discourse . See If a Company Can Be African American, Can’t It Be Religious? The Hobby Lobby cases will be heard next week by the Supreme Court .

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Does LT Governor Jay Dardenne Have Little Choice But To File Suit Against ?

An interesting legal issue has arisen in Louisiana dealing with a wide diverse list of issues from Louisiana tourism , medicare expansion, the First Amendment , and Bobby Jindal.

At issue is is a billboard campaign that takes aim at Governor Bobby Jindal for not expanding the Medicare program in Louisiana. . The problem is that the billboard campaign pretty much just appropriates a Louisiana tourism campaign in which the State of Louisiana has spent nearly 70 million dollars on. In Louisiana one of the duties of the LT Governor is tourism and this campaign is pretty much under the direction of Lt Gov Jay Dardenne. He has filed suit.

See Louisiana sues over Bobby Jindal billboard .

Needless to say we have a First Amendment issue at stake. Under trademark law courts have under the theory of satire and parody have often sided with the defendants in these cases especially when the plantiff is a Government and/or  political actor. So from the outset it is a tough case for the LT Gov to win. Court's default position seem to be allow such parodies and many ways the burden is on the plaintiff to prove otherwise.

However as one New Orleans attorney pointed out to me this morning the Lt. Gov really has a duty to sue in this case. That is if one does not take efforts to defend your copyright or trademark you in fact might lose the right to it later. As he pointed out there is a problem of laches that Lt Jay Dardenne must deal with for instance  . If the State of Louisiana has spent 70 million dollars on this campaign then the Lt. Gov does seem to have a obligation to defend it in Court. states this lawsuit  " frivolous  " . This is not really an area of law I am familiar with , but I am not sure it is right to say this is  frivolous for various reasons.

 Here is the Lt Gov complaint that was filed in Federal Court on Friday . Among  the arguments the Lt. Governor brings ( see Section 25 ) is that under the law " parody " must deal with the authors work. The campaign deals with Jindal opposition to expanding medicare in the state of Louisiana. The Lt. Governor points out that the Jindal is in no way connected with the tourism campaign which is something that comes under his jurisdiction as an elected official. That is it can't be a parody because Jindal  cannot be in anyway seen as an author of this particular work and effort..

I find this argument at the very least legitimate and thus I don't see the suit as frivolous. Thus the Lt Governor does have a duty on behalf of Louisiana that has spent  70 million so far on campaign to protect to their proprietary interest.  Could use a campaign that promotes Louisiana fruit ( under the direction of the Sec of AG another elected office distinct from the Governor or Executive  ) to parody Jindal. What about another State organ that is acting in the stream of commerce? Could they use a  effective LSU marketing campaign to mimic Jindal on medicare .

I don't know how the Court would rule on all these issues but I expect there is some limitations.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Alcoholic Priest and the Souls In Purgatory

Rod Dreher for lent is going through Dante's Purgatorio, the second book in Dante’s Divine Comedy trilogy , for Lent via his blog. He took yesterdays Canto and applied it to a interesting story from the Russian Orthodox tradition.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Catholic Angle of the NFL Combine

I actually feel a tad in the land of the living today so I can work on my goal of blogging more during lent. I have been far more on twitter lately and I hope to devote more attention to blogging. Unlike some Catholics I am not one to take a social media fast .

Being sick today at home I had an opportunity to listen to former LSU's QB Zach Mettenberger on how INTENSE the NFL combine was . Just by chance I saw a neat little article on a Catholic angle of the NFL Combine . See NFL coaches, team officials gather for Mass, dinner and fellowship

Devout Catholic College Football Player's Career To Continue After LSU

If you have watch LSU games you might have notice the LSU player that does the kickoffs doing the sign of the cross before each kick.

 That person is James Hairston a product of the the Dallas area and a Jesuit grad. It appears he will be extending his college career at another school after graduation in order to try to do field goals. See James Hairston transferring, wants chance to kick field goals .

No matter where he goes it is a blessing that I have no doubt the witness of his Catholic faith will be a benefit to any football program and student body that has him.

See  from the Baton Rouge Catholic Newspaper LSU Tiger kicker deepens faith, gains family through team and Pre-game talks inspire LSU kicker from the Texas Catholic.

The Blessings of Good Health During Lent

Since Tuesday I have been pretty much sidelined by a nasty respiratory infection that has been going around. Bone shattering coughs , fatigue , fever , etc . My main goal since getting this nagging thing is just to do anything to do anything to halt its progression before it becomes something more serious. There has been a lot of bed rest. Needless to say my LENT is off to a slow start.

So for the first time that I can recall I could not go to Ash Wednesday services. Today my mother brought me one of my favorites round steak and rice for Lunch. My mother is not Catholic so had no idea of what my typical Lenten obligation would be as to meat. However being sick I felt exempted and I was not going to deny the effort she made to get me better. Plus at this point anything that make me eat is a priority especially if I have any hope of getting to Mass tomorrow.

All this started to make me think about the blessings of health in general and during Lent . It is a joy to be able to do voluntary prayerful sacrifices . Our fasting is of course little league compared to the Eastern Christians but it is still a beneficial practice. Also I have to admit I have felt a little but out of sync with the Church Universal and Christians from all over the world.

Social media is often a very young enterprise , and I think we are too apt to forget about those in hospitals or those that because of sickness are home bound . Liturgical seasons are important for a Catholic . Its like a cycle of life that repeats every year. Lets recall  and try to be assistance to those that for whatever reason are not able to practice the beloved  rites of their Faith to the same extent they were for decades because of health issues.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

When Opposing Discrimination is Opposing Freedom

I am becoming more and more concerned that the use of discrimination laws are having a dangerous impact on some fundamental civil  liberties. In fact there appears to efforts in some places to use the fight against discrimination as a way to make certain political and social views to go away. We see this as to Campus student groups where that battle is hot right now and where perhaps the ultimate trend of who will win in that battle is in doubt.

The question of what is just discrimination and what is unjust discrimination is not always clear. Because the fact that it is not always clear that is good reason in my mind to be wary of enforcing Government sanction against without thinking that course through.

Law Prog Greg Sisk over at Mirrors of Justice had two good post over the weeked that are worth reading. See On the Pain of Discrimination and the Role of Law and Government (Part One)  and On the Pain of Discrimination and the Role of Law and Government (Part Two).

In part II Prog Sisk describes a discussion he has been having with other on this question and the areas of agreement. As to the area of disagreement :

....Now, and here I return to the point where consensus has not been reached, I would submit that some of the same or similar characteristics or principles that define this second category of free choice also encompass the case that has been highlighted of the wedding photographer who declines to photograph a ceremony with which she disagrees. 

Similarly, an attorney may choose to represent only plaintiffs who allege they are victims of sexual abuse and simply refuse to represent defendants who are accused of sexual abuse. An advertising agency may refuse to work up a promotional campaign for a Republican politician. A public relations firm may refuse to take on a Catholic archdiocese seeking to counter negative publicity related to priest sexual abuse. A psychologist may specialize in counseling women who have suffered abuse, while choosing not to accept male clients. A couples therapist may focus on gay couples, while not choosing not to work with straight couples. Now each of these examples could be described as involving “discrimination.” But we have also used another term to describe these choices: Freedom. 

What I would argue distinguishes these business choices from the general prohibition on discrimination in goods and services is that the service or good provided is inextricably intertwined with a message or perspective that the provider may or may not wish to endorse. In these examples, the services are being devoted directly or nearly so to the promotion of a message, which thus implicates freedom of thought at its most critical. Moreover, because of the personal nature of these kinds of services, the service-provider necessarily must identify with the client, becoming a partner with the client in directly advancing the client’s goals. The connection between the provider of goods or services here is anything but collateral to the message, ceremony, position, etc.

 To use the law to require the service-provider of this distinctive nature to become involuntarily tethered to a viewpoint that he or she does not endorse is simply not compatible with fundamental liberty principles. That we may not agree with those choices, or even find one or another choice repugnant, cannot be the measure of our response, if freedom is have any purchase. Here at least, we should say that the law may proceed no further.

I think the part I put in bold is where the critical distinction and discussion needs to be focused on these matters.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Want Religious Liberty ? Then Include The Lawyer Aristocracy

In the debates over bakers , wedding photographers and gay weddings there is a constant argument. It goes well did they do a wedding of someone that was divorced , do they sell unhealthy foods to someone that has obvious problems with the sin of gluttony; etc etc . HYPOCRITES ALL OF THEM .

 As Cardinal Newman said conscience has rights because it has duties .In the debate among Christians if Jesus would bake a wedding cake the aspect of the State overriding a person's conscience and putting many people of Faith in hard spot is often overlooked.

There is I have to say among some Christians an amazing lack of empathy in this regard.

 All this made me think about the people , the privileged in our society , that both formally and informally get to discriminate. That is Lawyers !

I have not heard many calls that Christian Lawyers call to " service " involves taking every case that comes through the door even thought they might have moral qualms. Here is a example.

 If someone came to me and said I need your legal work to set up a gay bar I might have a problem. If was it just a bar where likely people of same sex attraction might hang I might have not problems. However if it was a REAL GAY BAR rivaling some famous places on Bourbon Street I very well would object and not take their case. Further regardless of what kind of gay bar it was I might take their case if the City was placing fast and loose with the zoning laws in order to prohibit it being being built.

Now some Christians and non Christians would think this distinctions I make are crazy and inconsistent. However according to my conscience this  iswhere I draw the line. Of course my conscience can be overridden by a compelling state interest. For instance I am free not have to set up a couple civil like union through various means. However in a criminal case I would not be free not to represent a gay person if the court appointed me  . For instance though I oppose gay marriage I would feel obligated to give the best defense including the argument of spousal privilege. We can go on and on.

 For instance a lawyer that is part of the Freedom from Religion crowd should not be compelled to have to set up a Church as a corporation. At least that is my view.

 The fact is in most States as a formal and informal matter Lawyers don't have to take every client that comes through the door that has a valid case. Why then is a lawyer's talent, industry etc so different from a bakers or wedding photographers . Why is a Lawyer objector rights so much more privileged than a bakers ?
Include the Lawyers in this argument and you might see a different attitude .

Thursday, February 27, 2014

If You Like The Religious Freedom Restoration Act Better Fight For It

Last mights veto a bill that did amendments to the the AZ version of the RFRA was maddening on how the AZ bill was characterized. How the media just went along with this is infuriating

See The veto, coverage, and misrepresentation of AZ 1062 by Law Prof Rick Garnett.

There is much more hostility to RFRA law bills than they were in the past. Major voices are even muttering what was unthinkable a couple of years ago.  That  isthe Federal RFRA should be eliminated !

Much of the hostility about the RFRA comes down because its viewed as a threat to the march of " positive liberty " . See the Hobby Law like cases where there is much sound and fury by many.

Expect more of this.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Respecting Now Dead Snake Handling Preacher Jamie Coots

The death of a rather famous snake handling preacher has been in the news. I find my self in sort of the same position as this writer in having some awe and respect as to him . See THEY WILL TAKE UP SERPENTS via First Thoughts.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Animal Rights Used As Pretext To Run Over Religious Liberty ?

Robert Delahunty's , Associate Professor at University of St. Thomas in Minnesota , has a rather disturbing article about events in Denmark . See Animal Rights Trump Religious Rights

Things likes this seem to be a growing trend in part of Europe and its seem such things as " animal rights " are being used as a pretext to run over religious liberty. I do agree with him that Americans should contact the Danish Embassy and lodge a complaint.

Hobby Lobby And Inmate Religious Liberty Rights

Ann Althouse highlighted a interesting case  that is being considered to Supreme Court Review. See "[W]atching his hair fall to the floor during a mandated haircut in prison led him to feel that 'most of me was laying on the floor.'" . This of course deals with the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act .

I left this comment :

I think personally this dispute is pretty easy under the 3 prong test. The Indian wins.

 Its interesting to see how this case and the legislative history of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ( Hobby Lobby ) are related. The language between Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and the RFRA are similar. 

In fact in one brief that is in front of the Court as to Hobby Lobby the legislative debate of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized act is used to help illuminate what the RFRA means. 

Both had a coalition of conservatives , evangelicals, liberals , ACLU types that joined with the respective administration to overturn a Fed Court opinion. 

 In the Hobby Lobby cases there is a segment that wants the entire RFRA declared Unconst ! See recent NYT Op - Ed. It needs to be remembered such logic on the RFRA would have dire results on people protected under the law mentioned here. Including but not limited to Prisoners .

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Louisiana Catholic Bishop on Sports Illustrated and Our Porn Problem

I am a general fan of Southern Baptist Russell Moore whose columns have engaged me on various spiritual , political , and social levels. One column that still sticks in my minds was What’s at Stake with Internet Pornography . He said in part :

There’s a situation in counseling I come across all too often: a couple will typically tell me first about how stressful their lives are. Maybe he’s lost his job. Perhaps she’s working two. Maybe their children are rowdy or the house is chaotic. But usually, if we talk long enough about their fracturing marriage, there is a sense that something else is afoot. The couple will tell me about how their sex life is near extinction. The man, she’ll tell me, is an emotional wraith, dead to intimacy with his wife. The woman will be frustrated, with what seems to him to be a wild mixture of rage and humiliation. They just don’t know what’s wrong, but they know a Christian marriage isn’t supposed to feel like this.

 It’s at this point that I interrupt the discussion, look at the man, and ask, “So how long has the porn been going on?” The couple will look at each other, and then look at me, with a kind of fearful incredulity that communicates the question, “How do you know?” For a few minutes, they seek to reorient themselves to this exposure, wondering, I suppose, if I’m an Old Testament prophet or a New Age psychic. But I’m not either. One doesn’t have to be to sense the spirit of this age. In our time, pornography is the destroying angel of (especially male) Eros, and it’s time the Church faced the horror of this truth.

Which brings us to an occasion where I can talk about my  little Diocese in the Sticks that is led by a very competent Shepherd. See Louisiana Catholic Bishop Compares Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition to Child Abuse, Sex Trade

I guess some reaction will be oh there goes Catholic Bishops obsessed about sex again what about the poor the unemployed etc. For those that say that they don't know Bishop Duca very well who in his tenure has brought Catholic Charities to the Diocese and has done a good bit to upgrade our immigration related services..

Bishop Duca uses this as an lead in to the problem of porn addiction.

Porn is a problem no one wants to talk about though study after study shows its a serious problem. This is seen everywhere among Christians.  It is rare I see a column from LGBT Christian activist on the problem of gay porn. It is rare I see the cool Christian progressives talk about it. It is rare that I see the " conservative " Orthodox Christians talk about it.  Why is that ? Because I expect a good many Christians that want to serve God are dealing with this addiction and often fall and fail in trying to overcome it.

It is a tricky problem. It is very vogue to throw out the word hypocrite and Pharisee in today's world.  Thus people that are dealing with a serious sin / addiction like Porn but have a mission to comment on other matters just keep the subject off the table. It is a very lonely place when dealing with this problem.

Which leads me to this to rather mind blowing column by a Catholic group that wonder if the Bishops are wasting their time on an upcoming Pastoral on Porn and the Family. The fact that the poster for this group is writing for a group that proclaims itself  to " amplify the voices of a younger generation and provide insight and analysis on the issues that matter to this generation " is even more troubling. 

The fact is for most Catholic men ( and women ) the only counseling they get on their porn addiction is 5 minutes in the confessional. Porn addiction  like AA groups are rare in Catholic Dioceses which lead Catholisc to have to find some program in an Evangelical Church that in the big scheme of things are even rare there. I am sort of Debbie Downer on American Bishop Pastorals since it seems few people read them and just pull them out when they want to cherry pick a point. However if this pastoral can lead some Bishops to get programs in their Diocese to really deal with this problem well God love them.

We need to quit being in denial. People are hurting and lives are being affected. So while people can debate what role SI has in all this I hope people get Bishop Duca's bigger point.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Does White Privilege Exist ? You Bet !

During the recent Duck Dynasty episode one of the main character said some things about racial relations in his youth that had many people scratching their heads. It is too bad in the internet social media damning culture an opportunity was lost for the most part to discuss that.

On one level I sort of get what I think Phil Robertson was trying to talk about .See In Praise Of Phil Robertson’s American Wilderness .

Some of what I THINK Robertson was trying to get at I have seen discussed by  many black people of his generation.

I also get that Phil Robertson like all of us at a certain age start having a good bit of confirmation bias about the good ole days. Add to this there appears to be some real wounds dealing with class and economics as to Phil Robertson. that no doubt really play a part. In fact I think that play a huge role in many of us thinking any concept of white privilege is a myth.

Those complex issues got swept aside and in this overly political world yet another opportunity was lost to talk about issues from both a Christian and secular actor point of view.

It does not help matters that SOME  that bring up the issue of " white privilege " are causing more damage than good. Instead of a opportunity for discussion it is used as a hammer  of raw power. Sit down shut up as it were your views are not valid .

This gets more troublesome when the issue of white , Christian , or religious , or male , or heterosexual ( the list seems never ending ) is used to try to blacklist as illegitimate a wide variety of political, social , and indeed economic theory  or views. To be blunt some use the invocation of " x " privilege to take a lot off the table of discourse and possible solutions,.

It fact what is perhaps the most troubling is often  invocation of the " x " privilege argument by is causing some major damage to civil rights protections , due process protections  ,  and First Amendment protections and values.

Still it exist and Christians have a special responsibility to deal with it. We should not  let abuses of the complaints about " privilege " blind us to the fact that in many cases it exists.

Which brings me to an excellent post by Anthony Bradley an African American Professor at Kings College  and who blogs at the Action Inst. See his post No Racial Reconciliation Without Intersectionality and Privilege

I think Prof Bradley hits some points right on  and I think especially as people of Faith  we need to look at them.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Reminder To LGBT Leadership Of Importance of the First Amendment In Their History

One of the extreme ironies of American Catholic history happened in Colonial Maryland. Maryland was established in part to give a great degree of religious toleration to Catholics . Many dissident Protestants came to Maryland to take advantage of this state of affairs. Soon however the welcoming that these Catholics gave was turned on its head as these same folks played a part in disenfranchising Catholic Civil Rights in Maryland to a great degree.

 This dire situation can be seen by the distress of the Father of Charles Carroll of Carrollton . Charles Carroll of Carrollton of course was a Catholic Signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Charles Carroll of Annapolis was perhaps the richest man in Colonial America at the time and had great influence. However the fact that Colonial Assembly would have to exempt him from various anti Catholic laws each year really started to grate on him. It was of such distress to him that he wrote his son studying abroad that he wanted to give up everything and start up again in what is now Arkansas. His son having faith in what he viewed as the unique emerging American experience that has happening in this British Possession happily for all of us opposed this move.

 Jonathan Rauch , who is Jewish and Gay ,  had an interesting post yesterday called The unknown Supreme Court decision that changed everything for gays .It is an example of how First Amendment rights of speech and association played a role in giving cvil rights to those that have various degrees of same sex attraction.

As they often say history repeats itself and those that benefited from Civil Rights gains then use their influence to deny others. The college campus is ground zero in this as can be seen just last week in the State of Colorado .

I say leadership of LGBT because I am not convinced how many actual LGBT folks are on board with all this. Just like I am not sure that many are fully on board by making those have objections to gay marriage have to service gay wedding ceremonies which also has compelled speech issues.

Anyway I thought a interesting article by Mr Rauch.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Mark Silk Says Pro Lifers Should Support Contraception Mandate - A Response

Prof Mark Silk has a column up at Religion News Service called Anti-abortion movement should support contraception mandate.

He says in part :

 But Catholics consider abortion a far greater evil than contraception. And most other religious opponents of the mandate think contraception is just fine, at least for married women. So if there’s strong empirical evidence that contraception use reduces abortion, why fight the mandate all the way to the Supreme Court? Isn’t the anti-abortion cause worth a little religious liberty?

First Prof Silk just bypasses the fact that a part of the dispute is that many think a few of the drugs and procedures mandated actually cause a termination of a life. However lets skip that rather glaring omission.

Has Prof Silk been listening to the legal  arguments for the HHS contraception mandate recently ? The arguments being an employer has no  right to make choices as to private matters involving a woman's reproductive health for instance. That a employee's religious liberty is being interfered with by of the employers religious views. In essence some wish to make a  business a state actor.

No matter what you think about the Affordable Care Act ,  aka Obamacare , there is no doubt that what it did was very novel in many ways as a matter of law . This has implications here.

As Law Prof Josh Blackman recently stated in his post Is Hobby Lobby Imposing its Religious Beliefs on Its Employers?

But nowhere did I see any mention of a really important fact–the state action doctrine! All of these cases involve laws passed by the government that burdens religion. Here, we are talking about the actions of Hobby Lobby, a private corporation, that owes absolutely zero constitutional duty to the religious beliefs of its employees. Zip. None. They have to comply with any applicable nondiscrimination laws, and cannot discriminate against employees based on their religion, and must make reasonable accommodations for religion. But this does not translate to some sort of constitutional protection against establishing a religion in a craft store.
Another point not mentioned in this debate is that no one is forced to work for Hobby Lobby. If the package of benefits (and that’s what we are talking about) at Hobby Lobby is so insufficient, the employees are free to work anywhere else. In contrast, of course, one cannot avoid the long arm of the government if you do not like its policies (other than foot voting).
What’s lurking underneath this column is a point made several times at Balkinzation. That the ACA changed everything! That we have a new “baseline.” Now healthcare is not merely some fringe benefit, but a legal right. And to deny employees this right is so significant. Specifically, as Joey Fishkin argued, in the “post-ACA world,” Hobby Lobby is “acting partly on behalf of the federal government.”
You see what happened there? This logic makes the WaPo argument work. Hobby Lobby is not some mere private actor, but is in essence a cog in the federal machinery that guarantees healthcare to anyone. Employees should no longer treat health insurance as some sort of benefit, but now must demand it–and the employers’ religious liberty should not stand in that way.
I see strong parallels to arguments concerning the ability of religious employers to terminate non-religious employees for religious reasons. Though, employment in that context is not (yet) viewed as some sort of right that the employer must offer. (In many countries in Europe, this is the prevailing wisdom).
The significance of Hobby Lobby, I have come to realize, goes far beyond RFRA or birth control pills. Instead, the ruling would either legitimize or challenge the consolidation of the relationship between the individual, the employer, and the state, under the auspices of the ACA, in a way we have not yet seen.
That I think is very correct. Be sure to his follow up post here on the vast implications of creating a Private Establishment Clause . Despite Prof Silk assertions  we are dealing with more than just " a little " religious liberty that could be lost .

The legal and political winds of abortion politics are very much in flux.  The Pro Life movement correctly understands that if a certain precedent is set in the HHS contraception mandate cases it could very well open up the door to employers having to pay for abortions. That I don't think is an absurd slippery slope argument when we consider many of the LEGAL  arguments for the HHS contraception mandate that are being made now.

The real fear the anti abortion movement is what happens after the HHS Contraception mandate. I think its very reasonable the forces of " reproductive justice " will seek both legal and political means to expand this mandate to abortion.

Last but not least Prof Silk ends his piece with this little parting shot.

You’ve got to think that it’s not just the termination of fetal life that concerns those opposed to abortion rights. It’s anything that gives freer rein to women’s libidos. Like Mike Huckabee said.

We shall let pass that Prof Silk is not really giving the Huckabee quote in context.

 However it should be noted that the majority of non Catholic plaintiffs in these suits have no problem covering most forms of birth control. In fact Hobby Lobby covered and still has no objection to most forms of FDA approved birth control. The fact is public opinion polls shows a vast number of people have huge reservations about the HHS Contraception mandate. No doubt a vast number of these people and families that have objections  have used or currently use birth control.

While Prof Silks parting shot is a great one liner  it is not very illuminating of reality.

Vatican Releases Pope Francis 2014 Lenten Message

HERE IS THE ENGLISH TRANSLATION. Nice message by our Pontiff .

Monday, February 3, 2014

Saturday, February 1, 2014

SNAP Wants Religious Freedom Restoration Act Declared Unconstitutional !

SNAP of course is the organization that advocates for survivors of clergy sexual abuse . They filed a friend of the court brief that was joined by similar orgs as well as the Freedom from Religion Foundation..

See Bold challenge to a law on religion .

Indeed I find it a bold move to advocate that an important piece of civil rights legislation that passed by huge majorities  should be overturned. I will try to read the brief later today.

So We Can't Say Vagina Anymore ?

It is so hard to keep up nowadays about what is off limits. Saying vagina who knew ?

Ann Althouse has Online feminism is full of "essays by people who feel emotionally savaged by their involvement in it — not because of sexist trolls, but because of the slashing righteousness of other feminists."  

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Divorce And A Confession Caused Engineer To Have New Life and Career In the Church

This is a pretty uplifting story both as to the power of just one confession and the fact that something as traumatic and regrettable as a divorce can lead to good things. See A change he didn’t see coming .

Cajun Catholic Youth Revel In Snow For First Time & March For Life in D.C.

I was reading another article from the Diocese of Arlington newspaper and just happened to see this article with some pics . See Wintry wonder: Louisiana pro-lifers delight in snow which involves youth that made the long trip from the Diocese of Houma - Thibodaux .

On Party Line Vote Efforts to Protect First Amendment Rights of College Students in Colorado Fail

This is a shame. This involves religious liberty but it also involves some core rights of association rights that people faith or no faith should be concerned about.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Despite Electon of Prope Francis Destruction of Catholic Church In China Continues

Depressing !  I am hoping this item is on the agenda when Obama meets with Pope Francis .

Vatican Insider has Cardinal Zen says destruction of the Catholic Church continues in China

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Response To the Catholic Case For Contraception Coverage Article

There is a horrific flawed article at Religion News Service by Catholics For Free Choice entitled COMMENTARY: The Catholic case for contraception coverage

The article does not deliver on the headline. There is no Scripture, no Church Tradition, no Church Fathers , no Saints ,  no Catholic Moral Theology , no Council or Papal teaching ,  to  give a Catholic case for the  contraception mandate. One would think to make a Catholic case for the HHS Contraception mandate the sources of revelation would have to be cited . He throws in a vague reference to  “conscience” and is it. 

 Further there is no engagement of the Compendium of Social Justice or for that matter Catholic legal theory to give a case for the contraception mandate.

The article is basically Bishops this and Bishops that  despite the fact that this was fight the Bishops were not looking for. Also there is glaring absence of the fact that this fight has been joined by a lot of people that are not Bishops that have no problems with most forms of birth control. The fact that the two cases to be heard in front of the Supreme Court involve non Catholics !

What is also astonishing is there is really no engagement with the law. That is the 3 prong test of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act which these claims rest on for the most part. Is there a Catholic case to just ignore the law ?

I think this piece has some very questionable stats . However rights under the law are not overridden by opinion polls .

Further Mr O ' Brien should question where the State actor is in this case. That is usually for a violation of rights it has to be an action of the State. See recent Duck Dynasty fracas where A & E if they wanted to could fire Duck Dyansty guru and not violate the First amendment. How exactly is Hobby Lobby or the Mennonite  that has a case in front of SCOTUS a state actor that is violating people rights under either secular or Catholic legal theory?  

Is Mr O' Brien all on board with a now establishing   " private establishment clause " ? I have to think a lot of pro choice pro abortion folks would be wary of that because of its implications.

This case is not about birth control but religious liberty and very much a possible radical expansion of Government power over the individual and our lives . The fact is the Federal Govt has been funding birth control for years through Title X which has even got the votes of Catholics like Rick Santorum. Needless to say the Bishops, Protestants , Catholics, and a good many others see a deeper and more troubling issue here.

The issue here is not contraception. If you think contraception is the best thing since sliced bread that is fine. The issue is how that means is accomplished. The issue is not Bishops but Government power that can put you out of business if you don't comply