Supreme Court Ruling for Christian Baker Upholds First Amendment as the Founders Intended

In Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the Supreme Court upheld Jack Phillips’ constitutional—and natural—right to freely exercise his faith.

This important 7-2 decision dealt a blow to the inquisitorial and intolerant secularism that targeted the Constitution’s free exercise clause for radical redefinition.

As I argued in a 20-state brief to the court, the newly minted constitutional right to same-sex marriage that Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote into the Constitution two years ago should not abolish the long-standing constitutional right—free exercise of religion—that the Framers themselves placed at the top of the Bill of Rights.

This week’s decision is a victory for the First Amendment, which is specifically designed to protect—not persecute—religious faith.

We should thank God for this victory and the measure of relief it delivers for Phillips and those like him, but the onslaught nevertheless rages on. Defenders of religious freedom must not deceive ourselves about the nature of the fight. This is a clash of worldviews, and our opponents are not interested in compromising.

The other side is not simply asking for tolerance. It deceptively employs the language of “separation of church and state”—a phrase that does not actually appear in the First Amendment—to enforce rigid moral conformity using the coercive power of the state.

This is a strange inversion of the First Amendment’s purpose, which in fact was intended to accomplish the exact opposite: namely, to protect from government infringement the natural, unalienable right to worship our Creator and to live our lives in accord with his commands.

This inversion amounts to nothing less than the attempted establishment of a kind of secular orthodoxy that punishes dissent. What else are we to conclude when its advocates attempt to force a Christian baker to violate his moral convictions by publicly participating in a same-sex wedding?

This is not tolerance. It is the aggressive, punitive enforcement of secular dogma. It not only flies in the face of the free exercise clause of the First Amendment but also represents an outright rejection of the Founders’ own worldview.

The freedom of religion comes first in the Bill of Rights for a reason: It is foundational. It springs from the duties we owe to our Creator and therefore imposes on the state the legal responsibility to protect religion from public persecution.

Virtually to a man, the Founders were men of faith, and that faith was not merely private but infused their public lives as well. They understood that a flourishing America would be impossible without vibrant religious faith.

Their view, however, simply is not consistent with the new secular orthodoxy. As attorney general of Texas, everywhere I look people are being forced to choose between their reasonable moral convictions and invasive new dictates from activist judges.

The bullying of Phillips is only the most high-profile example. Innocuous expressions of Judeo-Christian piety are now wildly denounced, tried in court, and hounded from public view.

Even as we celebrate the victory in Masterpiecewe cannot forget the many other beleaguered Americans being subjected to the same attacks levelled against Phillips. Their cases are the next battlegrounds for religious freedom, and their legal defense will continue to be a defining characteristic of my tenure.

The details of these cases may vary, but the crux of the issue is always the same. Religion—particularly those in the Judeo-Christian tradition—falls afoul of the prevailing secularist convictions of our cultural elites.

This intolerant secularism then attempts to twist the Constitution’s straightforward protection of the “free exercise” of religion into its opposite: a weapon to bludgeon faith and expel it from the public square. George Orwell couldn’t have drawn it up any better.

Fortunately, the Constitution is a stubborn thing. The First Amendment does not lend itself easily to being marginalized. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump continues to appoint qualified, constitutionalist judges to the federal bench who will read the First Amendment’s protection of religious believers as it is plainly written.

Defenders of religious freedom must capitalize on this momentum: We must fight to apply the underlying principle that won the day in Masterpiece—the free exercise of religion—to similar cases all over the country. As attorney general of Texas, I will not budge in my defense of this most precious freedom from the onslaught of secularist orthodoxy.

COMMENTARY BY

Portrait of Ken Paxton

Ken Paxton is the attorney general of Texas. Twitter: .

Here Are 5 New Signs Social Security Is Going Insolvent

The Social Security Administration released its annual trustees report this week, and the prognosis is not good.

Trust fund depletion—the date when Social Security’s reserves will be exhausted and the program will only be able to spend what it receives in payroll taxes at that time—is approaching at a rapid pace. This year, Social Security will dip into its reserves for the first time since 1982.

Simply put, the trust fund is being drained.

The Social Security trustees report is a key pulse check on the single largest federal government program—the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance program—and its sibling, the Disability Insurance Program.

Americans should be made aware of the true state of Social Security so they can better understand why reforming the program is not only necessary, but absolutely essential.

Here are five takeaways from the most recent financial report:

1. $41 billion cash-flow deficit in 2017.

Social Security is still considered solvent and able to pay full benefits because it has accumulated a $2.9 trillion trust fund, but since the entirety of its trust fund consists of IOUs, cash-flow deficits must be financed by general revenue taxes or new public borrowing.

Since 2010, the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance program has taken in less money from payroll tax revenues and the taxation of benefits than it pays out in benefits, resulting in cash-flow deficits.

2. $16.1 trillion in unfunded obligations.

The trustees report that Social Security’s unfunded obligation has reached $13.2 trillion. That’s the difference between what the program is expected to receive in income, and what it’s expected to spend over the next 75 years.

But this figure assumes that the $2.9 trillion in trust fund reserves are available to be spent. The problem is that these reserves represent liabilities for the U.S. taxpayer.

The payroll revenues have already been spent and the trust fund has been credited with U.S. bonds, which represent claims on the American taxpayer. So, the actual unfunded obligation is $16.1 trillion.

3. Insolvent by 2034.

Social Security is only legally permitted to spend more than it takes in until its trust fund is depleted. And, based on current projections, the Social Security Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance trust funds will be depleted by 2034.

When that happens, Social Security payouts will automatically be cut to the amount the programs will receive in revenues, regardless of benefits due at that time.

4. Automatic 21 percent cut in benefits.

Once both Social Security trust funds are depleted, the programs will only be able to pay out 79 percent of scheduled benefits, based on payroll and other Social Security tax revenues projected at that time.

What this means for beneficiaries is that in the absence of congressional action, benefits could be delayed or indiscriminately cut across the board by 21 percent.

5. Delaying reform comes with a high cost.

In their report, the trustees highlight that if Congress waits until the trust funds become exhausted, the cost of making the program solvent will be as much as 40 percent higher. That means much deeper benefit cuts and higher tax increases for workers and beneficiaries.

If Congress opted to raise the payroll tax rate to cover the shortfall, without adjusting benefits, workers would need to part with 16.3 percent of their covered earnings, up from the current rate of 12.4 percent.

What Congress Can Do

There are several key reforms Congress should pursue in order to preserve benefits for the most vulnerable beneficiaries, without increasing the tax or debt burden on younger generations. The longer Congress waits the act, the more painful the changes will be down the road to address Social Security’s looming insolvency.

The Social Security Reform Act of 2016, introduced by Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, presents a reasonable, targeted, and fiscally responsible approach to begin reforming Social Security.

Johnson’s plan would enhance the progressive features of the Social Security benefit formula, focusing benefits on American workers with lower incomes, while reducing benefits for upper-income earners who are better able to provide for their own retirement needs through savings and investment.

Johnson’s proposal would also gradually raise the full retirement age to 69. Americans would be encouraged to work longer, if they can, through the accrual of higher benefits for those who wait until 72 years of age to collect benefits.

These and other policies in the Johnson bill demonstrate that commonsense reform is possible and can be done without requiring higher taxes.

The growing Social Security crisis is not going away, and the president and Congress must work together to begin to resolve it. Social Security benefits should be more appropriately targeted, and Americans of all income levels should be empowered to own more of their retirement by reaping the gains from economic growth in their personal nest eggs.

The trust fund is steadily being drained. Social Security reform is both urgent and essential.

COMMENTARY BY

Portrait of Romina Boccia

Romina Boccia focuses on federal spending and the national debt as the deputy director of Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies and the Grover M. Hermann fellow in federal budgetary affairs at The Heritage Foundation. Read her research. Twitter: .

Dear Readers:

With the recent conservative victories related to tax cuts, the Supreme Court, and other major issues, it is easy to become complacent.

However, the liberal Left is not backing down. They are rallying supporters to advance their agenda, moving this nation further from the vision of our founding fathers.

If we are to continue to bring this nation back to our founding principles of limited government and fiscal conservatism, we need to come together as a group of likeminded conservatives.

This is the mission of The Heritage Foundation. We want to continue to develop and present conservative solutions to the nation’s toughest problems. And we cannot do this alone.

We are looking for a select few conservatives to become a Heritage Foundation member. With your membership, you’ll qualify for all associated benefits and you’ll help keep our nation great for future generations.

ACTIVATE YOUR MEMBERSHIP TODAY

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is by GetUpStudio/Getty Images.

Tens of Thousands in New York Cheer Israel’s 70th Anniversary

Seventy years  since the Jewish people with almost half their population was murdered in Nazi death camps the surviving Jewish people created a modern day miracle called Israel. No other country in modern times has ever survived a siege by its enemies for 70 years and survived, prospered and given so much to humanity.

Israel and the blue and white flag with its Star of David represents  the Judeo-Christian ethic and the Torah which is the basis our American forefathers used to create the Constitution.

Is there any question why so many people in America feel a connection to Israel and their people who struggle every day to survive against their enemies.

‘70 and Sababa’: Tens of thousands in New York cheer Israel’s anniversary with signs, song and wonder

The 54th annual “Celebrate Israel” parade in New York City on Sunday drew tens of thousands of people, who waved blue-and-white flags and sang Hebrew songs in support of Israel.

BY SHIRYN SOLNY

 Beautifully crafted and decorated signs were in full display on June 3 at “Celebrate Israel” parade, many of them paying homage to this year’s theme of “70 and Sababa!” Others held by the tens of thousands of people from the New York and elsewhere focused on Israel’s unity, strength and freedom. One sign read “Israel @70: Still Putting Its Stamp on the Future,” while another said “70 Years a Free People in Our Own Land.” Some marchers held signs that said “70” or “SABABA” in big, bright letters, while others held posters that depicted Israel’s innovations, such as the navigation app Waze. Another group of marchers held a banner that featured pictures of Israel’s popular sites, such as the Western Wall, Dead Sea and the open-air Middle Eastern marketplaces known as “shuks.”

The America China Public Affairs Institute had a float that boosted Israel’s friendship with China by featuring an enlarged photograph of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and China’s President Xi Jinping. Another banner held by marchers read “70 years of turning desert land into green land,” and one group towards the end of the parade held signs with the pictures of Lt. Hadar Goldin and Sgt. Oron Shaul—two Israel Defense Force soldiers killed in action by Hamas during Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” in 2014. Written on the same signs was a popular Jewish phrase that translates to: “All of Israel is responsible for one another.”

Read more.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image of a large group of Jewish teenagers celebrating Israel’s 70th anniversary with a banner featuring Israel’s ReWalk, a bionic walking assistance system. Credit: Shiryn Solny.

Sweeping DNA Study Supports Creationism?

In May, 2018 Mark Stoeckle Senior Research Associate in the Program for the Human Environment at Rockefeller University in New York and Dr. David Thaler Center for Molecular Life Sciences at the University of Basel in Switzerland published the results of a study in which they compared five million gene snapshots (DNA bar codes) collected from 100,000 animal species by hundreds of researchers around the world and deposited in the U.S. government-run GenBank database.

What Stoeckle and Thaler found upends evolution theory and appears to support creationism in several ways.

Stoeckle and Thaler reported:

  1. For the planet’s 7.6 billion people, 500 million house sparrows, or 100,000 sandpipers, genetic diversity “is about the same.”
  2. That species with large, far-flung populations—from ants, to rats, to humans—do not become more genetically diverse over time.
  3. That nine out of 10 species on Earth today, including humans, came into being 100,000 to 200,000 years ago.
  4. In analyzing the bar codes, across 100,000 species, found a telltale sign showing that almost all the animals emerged about the same time as humans.
  5. Species have very clear genetic boundaries, and there’s nothing much in between.

Elizabeth M. Economou in an article titled “New DNA Findings Raise More Questions About Theory of Evolution” reported:

“This [study’s] conclusion is very surprising, and I fought against it as hard as I could,” Thaler also told AFP (Agence France-Presse), the international news agency headquartered in Paris.

“What’s astounding to me in hearing about this study is that although evolutionary science is still not totally established, it is taught as unwavering fact in grade school through college,” a mortgage professional from North Carolina told LifeZette. “I questioned evolution and defended creationism in high school and was basically mocked by teachers. Now it turns out there is so much more to learn — and each step seems to strengthen creationism’s case.”

In his 1859 book, “On the Origin of the Species,” widely considered the foundation for evolutionary biology, Charles Darwin himself wrote, “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ [structure], existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modification, my theory would absolutely break down.”

Experts see more questions ahead for those who support evolution theories.

“There’s a great danger to the evolutionary model in this study in ways they don’t quite realize yet,” Dr. Nathaniel Jeanson, a research biologist for Answers in Genesis, told OneNewsNow of evolutionary theorists.

It appears that science now gives greater credence to Genesis 1: 20-24,

20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.

24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

The truth is being revealed.

At SCOTUS, a Make or Bake Moment

It doesn’t seem that long ago when I sat down with CBS’s “Face the Nation” and told a very surprised Bob Schieffer about the battle for religious freedom that was raging. Like many people, he seemed astonished to hear that any American — let alone the wedding industry — would be punished for their mainstream views on marriage. “I must say this is under my radar. I haven’t — I haven’t heard this.” Today, almost three full years into Obergefell, nearly everyone has heard their stories. And this morning, in the same court that created the mess of same-sex marriage, at least one of them has a happy ending.

For Jack Phillips, the national nightmare of June 26, 2015 came long after his own personal one. It would be two years until five justices on the Supreme Court empowered themselves to redefine an institution as old as civilization itself. Even then, the war for the freedom of dozens of bakers, florists, and wedding photographers had already begun. His own chapter in the broader drama started like so many others already had. Two men walked into his bakery and tried to order a custom cake for their same-sex wedding reception. As he had done before, Jack politely explained that as a Christian, he didn’t make cakes for activities that violate his conscience. Halloween, for instance. Divorce parties, for another. And yes, same-sex marriages.

“Everyone is welcome in my shop,” he tried to explain in an op-ed for the Washington Post, “be it homeless folks (many of whom I’ve befriended over coffee, cookies and conversation), the two men who are suing me, or anyone else who finds their way in. The God that I serve, whose arms are open to all, expects that of me, and it is my joy to obey Him. But creating a cake that celebrates a view of marriage in conflict with my faith is not something that I can do.”

The men sued — and in a case that took five years to resolve, the justices finally gave Jack his freedom back. In a 7-2 ruling, the Supreme Court agreed: Colorado’s treatment of Masterpiece Cakes was “inconsistent with the state’s obligation of religious neutrality.” “The government, consistent with the Constitution’s guarantee of free exercise, cannot impose regulations that are hostile to the religious beliefs of affected citizens and cannot act in a manner that passes judgment upon or presupposes the illegitimacy of religious beliefs and practices,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote on behalf of the court.” The Colorado Civil Rights Commission, in its obvious contempt for Jack’s beliefs, “was neither tolerant nor respectful of his religious beliefs.” The judgment, they concluded, “is reversed.”

For the Phillipses, who suffered through a half-decade of harassment, business losses, death threats, and everything else from the extreme Left’s playbook, the outcome was worth the wait. “It’s hard to believe that the government punished me for operating my business consistent with my beliefs about marriage. That isn’t freedom or tolerance,” he said. “I’m so thankful to the U.S. Supreme Court for this ruling.” Although the ruling was limited to Jack’s case, it’s an incredible victory — not just for the Phillipses, but for America’s long-cherished freedom to believe.

No one — and certainly no American — should be forced to compromise their views just because they’re unpopular with the government entity in charge. The newest member of the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, touched on this in his own concurrence. “… No bureaucratic judgment condemning a sincerely held religious belief as ‘irrational’ or ‘offensive’ will ever survive strict scrutiny under the First Amendment.” In this country, he writes, “the place of secular officials isn’t to sit in judgment of religious beliefs, but only to protect their free exercise… Popular religious views are easy enough to defend. It is in protecting unpopular religious beliefs that we prove this country’s commitment to serving as a refuge for religious freedom.”

Like us, Justice Clarence Thomas knew this crisis was coming. “In Obergefell, I warned that the Court’s decision would ‘inevitabl[y]… come into conflict’ with religious liberty, ‘as individuals . . . are confronted with demands to partic­ipate in and endorse civil marriages between same-sex couples.’ This case proves that the conflict has already emerged. Because the Court’s decision vindicates Phillips’ right to free exercise, it seems that religious liberty has lived to fight another day. But, in future cases, the free­dom of speech could be essential to preventing Obergefell from being used to ‘stamp out every vestige of dissent’ and ‘vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.’ If that freedom is to maintain its vitality, reasoning like the Colorado Court of Appeals’ must be rejected.”

The time is coming — and soon — when the court will have to wade into the bigger clash between religious liberty and same-sex marriage. When it does, let’s hope it agrees with the majority of Americans, who understand that — regardless of what you think about marriage — no one should be forced to violate revealed and established biblical truth. “Now that the decision has arrived, I can see the sun once again,” Jack wrote in an emotional response today. How much longer until dozens of other Christians can see theirs?

For more analysis on the Masterpiece ruling, check out this post from FRC’s Travis Weber.


Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.


RELATED ARTICLE: Black to Basics on School Shootings

PODCAST: The Legal Grounds on Which Jack Phillips Won Supreme Court Case

The Heritage Foundation’s Emilie Kao joins us to discuss the Supreme Court ruling Monday on the case of Jack Phillips, a Christian baker who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. Plus: Bill Clinton gets defensive about Monica Lewinsky and the #MeToo movement.

COMMENTARY BY

BREAKING: Jack Phillips Wins His Case

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor today of Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado, who declined to bake a custom cake to celebrate a same-sex wedding because of his religious beliefs.

Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission is a historic case involving religious liberty, LGBT rights, and the First Amendment.

In the 7-2 ruling, the high court said the Colorado Commission of Civil Rights, which had ruled against Phillips, demonstrated “clear and impermissible hostility” toward the baker and cake artist’s Christian belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.

“The Civil Rights Commission’s treatment of his case has some elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs that motivated [Phillips’] objection,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy in the majority opinion.

As The Daily Signal previously reported, in 2014 Colorado Civil Rights Commissioner Diann Rice compared Phillips’ not making a cake to slavery and the Holocaust. Rice apparently didn’t know that Phillips’ father fought in World War II and was part of a group that helped liberate Buchenwald concentration camp.

“For her to compare not making a cake to the Holocaust, knowing what my dad went through, is ludicrous, and personally offensive,” Phillips, 62, told The Daily Signal.

“This is a big win for the religious liberty of all Americans,” says Ryan Anderson, a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation. “The Court held that the state of Colorado was ‘neither tolerant nor respectful’ of Jack Phillips’s beliefs about marriage. But as the Court also noted ‘religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression.’”

“Americans should be free to live their lives, including at work, in accordance with their belief that marriage unites husband and wife. Congress and the states should make this crystal clear by passing legislation, such as the First Amendment Defense Act, which explicitly prevents the type of government intolerance that took place in Colorado,” Anderson added.

This story is breaking and will be updated.

COLUMN BY

Portrait of Kelsey Harkness

Kelsey Harkness

Kelsey Harkness is a senior news producer at The Daily Signal and co-host of “Problematic Women,” a podcast and Facebook Live show. Send an email to Kelsey. Twitter: @kelseyjharkness.

RELATED ARTICLES: 

In Baker Decision, Justice Kennedy Stresses the Importance of Religious Freedom

After Declining to Make a Wedding Cake, He’s Going to the Supreme Court. Here’s How That Journey Challenged His Faith.

4 Highlights From Christian Baker’s Wedding Cake Case at Supreme Court

Meet the Lawyer Who Argued at Supreme Court for Christian Baker’s Right to Free Speech

Underreported: Christian Baker Reacts to Government Official Comparing Him to a Nazi

Christian Baker Fears Loss of ‘Everything’ Unless Supreme Court Upholds Right Not to Make Cakes for Gay Marriages

Dear Readers:

With the recent conservative victories related to tax cuts, the Supreme Court, and other major issues, it is easy to become complacent.

However, the liberal Left is not backing down. They are rallying supporters to advance their agenda, moving this nation further from the vision of our founding fathers.

If we are to continue to bring this nation back to our founding principles of limited government and fiscal conservatism, we need to come together as a group of likeminded conservatives.

This is the mission of The Heritage Foundation. We want to continue to develop and present conservative solutions to the nation’s toughest problems. And we cannot do this alone.

We are looking for a select few conservatives to become a Heritage Foundation member. With your membership, you’ll qualify for all associated benefits and you’ll help keep our nation great for future generations.

ACTIVATE YOUR MEMBERSHIP TODA

Unmasking The Error Of The Never-Trump Evangelicals

When did we who are Christians decide that we could not support a politician who was not holy enough? When did we arrive at the point where we would not support an apparent unrepentant sinner — perhaps, say, a non-Christian — even if his policies are overtly and measurably returning us at least in small part to our Judeo-Christian heritage and improving the state of the nation?

The answer? Apparently at the election of Donald Trump. This is not a hard case to make.

There are two bookends to the case.

First, evangelicals who voted for Trump in November and support Trump now are charged with being idolaters, heretics and unfaithful by prominent never-Trump evangelicals. Because we support him and his policies as president, that means we are OK with the morals in his life, including sex outside marriage with a prostitute, or his incautious language at times, including on Twitter.

But this is a fallacious position, as shown when it is flipped. If they did not vote for Trump, then by their conflation they are OK with tacitly supporting abortion and funding Planned Parenthood. If evangelical Trump voters are not allowed to separate the man from his policies, then why should they be allowed to separate not voting for Trump with the concomitant immoral policies that follow.

Second, is the standard which they hold evangelicals to with Trump the same as they hold themselves to with all of the rest of elected officials? Is this requirement of Biblical purity being applied at every level of office? Are the people they support at the city, county, state and Congressional level meeting this standard? If they are not, do these people similarly disdain and attack supporters of those people?

The answer is self-evident. Too many of my evangelical Christian brethren, who are conservatives as I am, have moved the goal posts — or flat out changed the rules of the game — to accommodate their personal dislike of and opposition to Trump, and to ground their attacks on those of us who do support him because of his solidly conservative policies and appointments.

Those two applications of their philosophy bookend the middle problem, which is the use of straw men in their attacks. So let’s take a match to the most absurd straw man that is constantly used and undergird both bookends: By supporting Trump’s policies, Christians are turning a blind eye to his moral failures, or worse, accepting them as not a big deal.

This is false to the point of being injurious libel. Yet this is the ground that has been staked out by some prominent and angry-sounding evangelicals.

New York Times columnist and anti-Trumper Ross Douthat sums up two of these straw men approaches:

“…on the influential Gospel Coalition site, Jared Wilson described younger evangelicals as ‘basically a bunch of theological orphans,’ betrayed by older pastors who insisted on the importance of moral character and then abandoned these preachments for the sake of partisanship — revealing their own commitments as essentially idolatrous, and leaving the next generation no choice but to invent evangelicalism anew.

Wilson like the rest seems to conflate any support of Trump due to Trump policies and appointments as “abandoning” our beliefs. But would he apply the same straw man logic to himself?

If Wilson did not vote for Trump, then that means he has abandoned his morals with regard to abortion and maybe 72 genders. Because if Wilson, Douthat and the others philosophically do not allow me to separate Trump policies from Trump, then I why should I let them separate not supporting Trump from non-Trump policies — that is, Hillary Clinton?

I’ll tell you why: Because I don’t believe that of them. I don’t think they have abandoned their social morals because they did not vote for Trump. They weighed and chose one way and I have always granted conservatives that space. But they will not grant me that space, because apparently, they know I have abandoned my faith and principles — which of course, they cannot know.

Further, what they propose in their pronounced judgement of fellow Christians is a terrible and divisive philosophy that digs the foundations of purity tests as requirements for candidate support — and Wilson and Team Anti-Trump will clearly be the arbiters of what those requirements are and when they are met.

Here’s another example from Douthat’s column:

“In a somewhat different vein, the Baylor professor Alan Jacobs responded to a question (from me) about where younger evangelical intellectual life is going by saying that “as far as I can tell, where young evangelicals are headed is simply out of evangelicalism.” Meaning that they will either go along with the drift of their elders and become church-of-American-greatness heretics, or else they will return to “older liturgical traditions,” Catholic and Orthodox and Anglican, and cease to identify with evangelicalism entirely.”

Wilson knew I had abandoned my principles because I disagree with him politically on this president. But Jacobs knows even more; that I am now a heretic. But see above why he would have to be also, if judged by the same test.

David French, one of the most prominent and loudest evangelical never-Trumpers, recently castigated in the harshest terms evangelical support for Trump:

“It’s sin, and it’s sin that is collapsing the Evangelical moral witness…all too many fellow believers have torched their credibility and exposed immense hypocrisy through fear, faithlessness, and ambition. Soon enough, the “need” to defend Trump will pass. He’ll be gone from the American scene. Then, you’ll stand in the wreckage of your own reputation and ask yourself, “Was it worth it?” The answer will be as clear then as it should be clear now. It’s not, and it never was.”

Or maybe a major threat to evangelical Christianity will be seeing prominents such as French, Douthat, Wilson, Jacobs and others viciously attack the very being of the faith of evangelicals who disagree with them politically. That is a uniquely ugly presentation of Christian unity and charity.

I will not attack these people on the logic of their horrible straw men depictions of Christian Trump supporters. Nor will I attack them on the grounds of knowing their hearts — as they clearly do with me. Dozens of Bible verses compel me otherwise. Let’s take one:

“Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the hearts.” Proverbs 21:2

The Lord weighs our hearts. Not anti-Trumpers. Not pro-Trumpers. They take that upon themselves at great peril.

It is soundly unChristian to denounce the hearts of other believers over political choices. Did they do that over the Christians who supported Obama and Clinton, despite the deeply anti-Christian policies of those two? I sure don’t remember it. I did not and will not. Vigorous disagreement on the substance of issues is warranted. Condemnation is well outside the Christian pale.

These are passionate times and we all make mistakes. We are all fallen. We all sin. Pundits to presidents.

And here’s something I think they err on greatly. The emphasis on morals is right. It’s right for us before God and to teach our children. But it’s not the first thing because it is a distinctly Christian doctrine that we cannot be saved by our own works, but only through the grace offered by God. So before being moral is the need for salvation through Christ for the evangelical Christian, particularly. While my fellow Christians surely believe this, they do not sound it. They want to judge Trump — and Trump policy supporters — on morals in a way they would not allow to be turned back on them.

But what if Trump is not a Christian? Then all of their protestations are out of order, and their libel against brothers and sisters is more than unwarranted, its unloving.

I understand the dislike. But the opposition is wrong in my opinion, although I accept we can disagree without me condemning their hearts. Their attacks on evangelicals such as myself are unbecoming — and create this internecine battle among people who agree on virtually all the major political issues, and presumably on the core of the most important issue: the centrality of Christ.

I will always have an olive branch out for my brothers and sisters in Christ who are so determined to tell me I am a disgraceful idolator ruining the witness of Christ. I am also open to debating and discussing this in any civil environment. It seems as though civility should not be a prerequisite, but the anger and bitterness in some of these words suggest it needs to be.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The Revolutionary Act.

Second Thoughts on First Amendment?

If there were a book on how to agitate an anti-faith extremist, chapter one would almost certainly recommend talking about the importance of religious liberty in America. That definitely worked on LA Times’s opinion writer Michael McGough, who was so perturbed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s speech on international religious freedom report that he spent 446 words quibbling over the order of our First Amendment.

What did the secretary say that was so offensive, exactly? Nothing that isn’t common knowledge to everyone who’s taken fifth grade history. “Religious freedom is in the American bloodstream,” Pompeo said. “It’s what brought the pilgrims here from England. Our founders understood it as our first freedom. That is why they articulated it so clearly in the First Amendment.”

McGough, who must have missed the class on religious persecution in 17th century England, took issue with Pompeo’s observation that religious liberty was the key to all other freedoms. “Not quite,” he fired back.

“[B]y linking ‘first freedom’ to “First Amendment,” the secretary of state seemed also to be suggesting — erroneously — some connection between the two ‘firsts.’ If so, he wouldn’t be alone. In 1993, during a debate on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said: ‘It was no accident that the Framers of our Bill of Rights chose to place the free exercise of religion first among our fundamental freedoms.'”

“It’s true that the 1st Amendment mentions religion before it moves on to guarantee freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances… But the idea that this makes either the First Amendment, or freedom of religion, more important than other constitutional rights is a pious fiction.”

Of course, the freedom of religion was of preeminent importance to the framers. They were only a century and a half removed from the nightmare that drove 102 people to take a two-month journey to an unforgiving land on a ship the size of a volleyball court. They didn’t do that because they were adventurers — or in search of great riches. They came here for the freedom King James I denied them: the ability to worship freely and in peace. Years later, Samuel Adams talked about the relationship between these liberties when he said, “Driven from every other corner of the earth, freedom of thought and the right of private judgment in matters of conscience direct their course to this happy country as their last asylum.”

If McGough wants to squabble over the order of our First Amendment freedoms, let him. But that still doesn’t alter the reality that a free society hinges on free religion. And, ironically, by invoking Jerrold Nadler (who is as liberal as they come), McGough is exposing just how far outside the mainstream his position really is. If the importance of religious liberty is acknowledged by even the fiercest of New York Democrats, then this reporter is only marginalizing himself by attacking it. That — not Pompeo — is the real extremism.

Religious liberty is for everyone — not just for conservatives, and certainly not just for Americans. It’s a human right on which all other freedoms are built. “God who gave us life gave us liberty,” Thomas Jefferson said. “And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God?”


Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.


RELATED ARTICLES:

Obama Reflects: Hope, Change, and Confusion

‘I Have Set Watchmen on Your Walls, O Jerusalem…

Setting Brushfires of Liberty

5 years in the making, filmed in 25 states with over 40 patriot super stars, REVELATION Dawn of Global Government is resonating with Christians and conservatives alike. Although highly unusual for a conservative Faith based film to release in theaters, REVELATION, was 7th in the nation for box office. Hundreds of enthusiastic fans have written reviews urging concerned Americans to watch this critically important film and share it as a tool to educate their own families and friends.

Watch the trailer by clicking here.

Here’s what people are saying:

“This was exceptional! Anyone who truly loves this country will take an hour and a half out of their life to go and learn. I knew a lot but it sure connected the dots for me!

“I spent many years in television news and one of the best things that I took away from that experience is… Nothing makes a huge impact like a film can! During my career, I saw many small groups do wonderful things. This is one of those!! May God bless you all.”

“We went last night to see REVELATION….. Amazing!!! My spirit was Sooo stirred…. we live evil times and this was eye opening on so many levels! WE need to get this message out to the public! GO see this movie!!!”

“Like drinking from a firehose!”

“My husband and I saw it and it was EXCELLENT !! I hope and pray it goes well spreading the word for all to see it!! This is so well put together. A MUST-SEE if you love America!”

Now this beautifully produced film is available on FREE beginning JUNE 8- 17!

The home spun wisdom and common sense of Country music legend Charlie Daniels is woven through out this riveting story as the narrator. Sitting in an old Tennessee log cabin, fiddle in hand Charlie reminisces:

“When I was a boy, things were pretty much like those wonderful Norman Rockwell images of 30’s America. But today, something’s wrong and we all know it!”

Mr. Daniels goes on to explain and introduce the main themes in this 5 star “must see” film which connects the dots on what has happened to our once mighty nation. Our Republic, originally blessed because of our Christian founding principles and heritage, is in a fight to the death involving the unseen realm of spiritual warfare.

Co-Star Lt. General “Jerry” Boykin proudly served this nation in the uniform of the U.S. Army. Most of his time was spent in Special Operations. He was one of the original members of the Army’s Delta Force. He commanded all of the Army’s Green Berets. He served a tour at the Central Intelligence Agency and finished his career as the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence. General Boykin was the commander of Delta Force during the tragic events of “Black Hawk Down” He is a devout Christian and serves on President Trump’s evangelical advisory team.

General Boykin explains the many facets of Marxism and Socialism increasingly popular in our nation, as he witnessed them in other countries around the world. The fascinating true life story Elena Chitta who escaped from a totalitarian Romanian communist regime is interwoven with General Boykin. The 73-year-old soft spoken Chitta feels called to sound the alarm by comparing her experiences to what she sees today.

Edward Griffin succinctly explains the birth of the Federal Reserve and how our Republic was secretly subverted during the infamous meeting at Jekyll Island.

He also explains Collectivism, which many people foolishly believe is our system of government!

Ex Muslim Brotherhood member, Kamal Saleem was sent to America as a sleeper cell and exposes the stark reality of the Islamic threat which goes to the heart and foundation of our civilization. Sharia law is not compatible with our form of government!

We then go on a wild ride through history with General George Washington and several very realistic historical reenactments reminding us of our Nation’s great moments of courage and sacrifice including the faith of our founding fathers and the Black Robed Regiment so named during the American Revolution.

Many other critical subjects are introduced by host Alex Jones of InfoWars.com including the Globalist Agenda and its incompatibility with our hard won and God inspired Constitution. The goal is to create a one world government. It’s as old as time itself. National sovereignty is a firewall against a globalist takeover.

At one time, mention of the New World Order was considered conspiracy but REVELATION exposes the roots, which go back to the time of biblical Nimrod and the battle for world control continues today. The latest and most diabolical plan, developed by the UN, is called Agenda 21. Every American citizen needs to understand and protest the implementation of Agenda 21 which is antithetical to our Constitution. The underlying premise is that private property rights, the backbone of our Constitution, are to be abolished!

The Second Amendment Right to bear arms is explored by several speakers including our own founder Stewart Rhodes.

Rock star Ted Nugent emphatically states “We the people have the right to keep and bear arms so that no king or emperor, or slave driver, ever rises up again and stops this sacred, unique unprecedented experiment in self government.”  Larry Pratt executive director of “Gun Owners of America” explains how we must be working to roll back much of the legislation put in place unconstitutionally.

Randy Weaver of Ruby Ridge notoriety, in an extremely rare and candid interview gives his heartbreaking testimony of a militarized police out of control. His young wife and nursing baby were shot and killed by an FBI sniper along with his 11-year-old son, Sammy. You will cry with him as he states “I’ve always loved this country; I still do”

The unique design of our Constitution is based on the concept that our rights come from God, not man. We the people, of the United States, then delegated 17 enumerated powers to this newly established federal government. For many decades now, the federal government has continued to get outside those bounds. It is the states’ responsibility to stop that overreach. We need to educate people about the 10th amendment and how the states have a rightful role to say “no” to corruption from the federal government. The states, who created the federal government to begin with, must be the ones that say, “Enough.”

When our forefathers, just a few years after having fought for liberty from tyranny, decided that they needed to establish a federal government, they were scared to death of reestablishing another tyranny.

This film is the “Common Sense” of our time.

Oh ye that love mankind, ye that oppose not only tyranny, but the tyrant. Stand forth. Thomas Payne, Common Sense, 1775.

We have been given a short reprieve with the election of Donald Trump but now is not the time to rest. We need to be more vigilant than ever in preparing for the next huge battle on the horizon. Obama has set up camp just blocks from the White House in an effort to undermine President Trump and our liberty with his “Organizing for Action”501 c3. Armed with the databases collected during his own presidential campaigns, OFA is strong, organized and well funded. As Charlie Daniels puts it “Kind of like the Trojan horse, you roll it inside the gates and all the bad guys slither out in the dark of night.”

After educating yourself and those around you by watching this film you will conclude as Samuel Adams did “It does not take a majority to prevail… but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.”

The film may best be summed up by the lyrics to the original theme song written by Charlie Daniels below:

There was a mighty nation, blessed above all of creation, it was a rare and precious pearl.

Conceived in faith and liberty, home of the brave, land of the free, it was the envy of the world.

But this shining city on a hill has turned from the Creators will and let evil take control…now the reckless men who lead them want to strip away their freedom and steal their very souls.

Now it’s smoke and mirrors, switch and bait, criticize and confiscate, and let the guilty walk away.

In this once righteous Godly nation, in the halls of education, they forbid a child to pray.

They say we need to spread the wealth, they pretend to guard the health of the feeble and the poor, while the hand they hold behind their back confuses and conceals the fact that the wolf is at the door!

There’s an unseen hand that pulls the string and makes his little puppets dance to every song he sings.

The night rolls in on a rising tide, look beyond the shadows…Behold A Pale Horse rides!

They claim to seek a New World Order, nations without borders, but don’t believe the lie!

Even in this wealthy nation it can come down to starvation in a twinkling of an eye.

They tell us there will soon be peace, our lives will be an endless peace but they lead us toward the dark.

In the distance sabers rattle and armies train for battle as the beast prepares his mark.

There’s an unseen hand that pulls the strings and makes his little puppets dance to any song he sings.

The night rolls in on a rising tide, look beyond the shadows…Behold A Pale Horse rides!

It’s time for every righteous man to step up tall and take a stand there is so little time.

For if we hear and hesitate soon it will be too late, we are the last hope for mankind.

Time hurries on, the shadows fall, the hand is writing on the wall but even now there is still a chance.

For if the ones called by God’s name repent of sin and seek his face he will hear and heal the land.

There’s an unseen hand reaching from above and the gentle voice that beckons us to the shelter of his love.

Come on home my wayward child cause out on the horizon there is a…Pale Horse Running Wild!

America my wayward child can’t you hear the thundering hoof beats of a…Pale Horse Running Wild.

Pale Horse running wild…

Pale Horse running wild…

Pale Horse running wild…

VIDEO: The real story behind the Gaza riots

What’s the real story behind the Gaza riots?

Are they peaceful, are demonstrators being shot indiscriminately by the IDF Israeli soldiers, or are the demonstrators terrorists using women and children as human shields.

Is the opening of the American Embassy in Jerusalem to blame or the bloodthirsty intentions of Hamas to destroy Israel. You decide.

EDITORS NOTE: Please visit www.clarionproject.org for real commentary!

A Lessen of Liberty in North Korea

The worst part of the State Department’s new report on international religious freedom isn’t the stories it tells, but the ones it doesn’t.

In some of the darkest corners of the world, a lot of people aren’t even captured in the statistics. They just vanish — victims of a brutal war that’s been waging for centuries on faith.The West has seen flashes of the cruelty in places like North Korea, where the simple act of bowing your head could be all the evidence the government needs to ship you to prison camp. There, refugees warn, you’ll be beaten — sometimes to death — or die from something as simple as diarrhea because there’s no access to medicine. It’s a country where Christians trust no one. Kim Jong Un’s spies are everywhere, trained to “uncover religious people.” Even a secret prayer meeting could be a trap, organized by state officials to catch believers. Some Chinese pastors are even recruited and paid to turn in North Korean believers.

The ones who are caught talk about the torture, the brainwashing, and executions. “The government continued to deal harshly with those who engaged in almost any religious practices,” the State Department report read. “An estimated 80,000 to 120,000 political prisoners, some imprisoned for religious reasons, were believed to be held in the political prison camp system in remote areas under horrific conditions.” Children grow up never knowing their parents were believers, a fact that’s hidden from thousands of young people for their own protection.

Christians like Han-me flee to China, only to be captured and sent back with a virtual death sentence. “Some defectors [on the train] had been arrested before,” she says. “They told me: ‘When you’re interrogated, there are two questions you should never answer ‘yes’ to. The first one is: Have you been in touch with Christians? The second one is: Have you read in the Bible?’ It turned out to be true. In prison, the interrogators tied me to a chair and beat me with chains and a wooden stick wrapped up in a newspaper. They pressed me to confess I had been in contact with Christians. I told them I hadn’t met any Christians while in China. It was a lie, but I wanted to survive. It was all I could think of.”

Higher profile Christians are the targets of assassination. After one Christian, who was heavily involved in an underground railroad for refugees, was murdered, South Korean intelligence officials stepped up their surveillance of people crossing the border. They called one local man and warned him not to meet up with a North Korean acquaintance. “This man will attempt to murder him, they say. Not much later at a train platform, South Korean police arrest the North Korean agent carrying needles and poison.”

Over the last seven years, the crackdown has only gotten worse. When Kim Jong Un succeeded his father in 2011, the already-brutal regime became the stuff of real-life horror. More house raids, more spies, more killings. “Every Christian in my country has the spirit of martyrdom in him,” said the friend of one detainee. “If you lose that spirit for one second, you cannot carry the burden of being a follower of Jesus.”

Unfortunately, this is the grim backdrop U.S. officials face in their high-stakes negotiations with North Korea.”Religious freedom is in the American bloodstream,” Secretary Mike Pompeo told reporters yesterday during the flurry of behind-the-scenes work to salvage talks with Kim Jong Un. “The release of the report is critical to our mission to defend religious liberty, and brings to light the state of religious freedom all over the world.”

From more allied countries like Saudi Arabia to known enemies in Iran and Nigeria, the report outlines the tall — but not impossible — task of Pompeo and U.S. Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback. In hot spots like Myanmar, the attacks seem to be growing right along with worldwide outrage. Extremists are burning, raping, and killing their way through the Rohingya Muslim population with a ferocity world leaders are desperately trying to stop. In a dramatic turn from the Obama years, Trump’s State Department was quick to label the campaign “ethnic cleansing.”

“It’s extraordinarily significant when the United States formally designates something as ethnic cleansing,” said an advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. “Ethnic cleansing is a crime against humanity.” Almost a quarter million Rohingya have already fled to Bangladesh, the report points out, where the situation is just as dire. Mudslides continue to wipe away makeshift shelters, stripping families of whatever peace of mind they had leaving the turmoil at home.

Fortunately for the Rohingya — and every persecuted faith group — they have an ally in this White House. “Our goal is to protect the freedom of conscience for all people. That means protecting a Muslim, Buddhist, Falun Gong practitioner or Christian in China and their ability to pray and live out their life,” Ambassador Brownback said. His partner in the effort, Secretary Pompeo, told reporters what most Americans already know: “Religious freedom is, indeed, a universal human right that I will fight for.” The world has made important strides, he went on, “but we still have a lot of work to do.” Thanks to this report, they know exactly where to start.


Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.


RELATED ARTICLE: We’ll See You… in September!

State Department Reviews Religious Freedom around the World

The State Department’s 2017 International Religious Freedom Report was released today. Issued under the direction of Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, with guidance from other senior officials in the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL), the report serves as a guide to the work yet to be done on this issue in many places around the world.

The places which one might expect to be covered in detail (North Korea, Iran, Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, etc.) featured discussions of the major persecution taking place within their borders. Yet countries less well-known as religious persecution hot spots were featured too. For example, the report notes that in Burkina Faso, several individuals were killed and others threatened “if they did not start teaching the Quran in schools instead of the regular curricula,” and the discussion of the Comoros observes the strict enforcement and preference for Sunni Islam in law.

Muslim/Christian interreligious conflict continues to simmer at a lower level in a number of sub-Saharan countries, in some worse than others. Discomfort and conflict persists within these communities when one is seen as having the upper hand in government or society. While the concerns in these countries are often relatively less serious, it is important to address them before they flare up into larger, more destabilizing situations. And regardless, all religious freedom violations, however small, deserve to be addressed as a matter of principle.

Human rights and humanitarian concerns drive much of the State Department’s reporting on international religious freedom which we see reflected in the 2017 report. Very often, in each country’s section of the report, there is a note stating that the U.S. embassy or its officials in that country hosted meetings or met with religious or government leaders to raise religious freedom concerns. While this attention is good and helpful, there is much more to the story of religious freedom. Not least in this story is the emerging proof of religious freedom’s benefit to security and economic prosperity — proof which is not being raised by our diplomats and foreign policy professionals, whether in Foggy Bottom or around the world.

As long as religious freedom is seen merely as a humanitarian issue, governments and leaders who see nothing in it for themselves will be reluctant to address it, and we will be resigned to continue the worldwide backsliding on religious freedom that has occurred in recent years. But when the United States seriously and systematically begins to show others around the world that religious freedom is in their interest — their security and economic interests — we can begin to make headway.

Raising religious freedom as a human right is the right thing to do. But we have only achieved so much with this approach. If we increasingly explain the many benefits of religious freedom to those who otherwise wouldn’t care about it, they may begin to see a real shift towards protecting it. Whatever else, doing what we can to protect religious freedom for the maximum number of people around the world is always the right thing to do.


Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.


RELATED ARTICLES:

Decision America California Tour Spreads Real News — the Good News

Chaplains: Bringing God to Our Troops and Legislators

President Trump to U.S. Naval Academy graduates: ‘You are now leaders in the most powerful and righteous force on the face of the planet’

President Donald J. Trump addressed the graduating class of the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland on May 25, 2018. At the beginning of his remarks the President of the United States used the words “righteous force.” The word righteous appears in Bible 493 times. From Genesis to Revelation righteousness is used to show how evil is defeated. Revelation 15:4:

Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

Here are some excerpts (watch the full speech below):

You are now leaders in the most powerful and righteous force on the face of the planet: the United States military. Each of you will make your own mark on the Navy, the Marine Corps, the military, and the history of our great nation…There is no hill our Marines our can’t take and there is no stronghold the SEALs can’t breach. There is no sea the Navy can’t brave.

Together you are the tip of the spear, the edge of the blade and the front of the shield defending and protecting our great country. America is the greatest fighting force for peace, justice, and freedom in the history of the world.

[ … ]

Together their is nothing America can’t do. Absolutely nothing. We are all in for America like never before. We are all in for our great country.

Strive for excellence, live for adventure, think big, dream bigger, push further, sail faster, fly higher, and never, ever stop reaching for greatness. As long as we are united with the same mission, the same purpose, the same patriotic heart, we will win because we are one people, one family, and one glorious nation under God.

President Trump understands that our military must be righteous in order to be a “glorious nation under God.”

Learning the Lessons of Chile

Fr. Gerald E. Murray writes that the resignation of Chile’s bishops reminds us that removal of abusers from the priesthood is a necessary and unmistakable rebuke.

The surprise announcement by all the bishops of Chile of their submissions of resignations to Pope Francis is a stunning development. I did live television commentary for the Brooklyn Diocese’s NET TV of Pope Francis’ January apostolic voyage to Chile and Peru. At that time, we discussed, at length, the pope’s strong rebuke of people who accused Bishop Juan Barros of having enabled the sexual abuse of minors by his friend and mentor Fr. Fernando Karadima.

Five months later, the entire Chilean Bishops’ Conference, after a three-day meeting in Rome with Pope Francis, concluded that their collective departure would please him, and would allow him the greatest freedom to rebuild the confidence of Chilean Catholics by installing new bishops throughout the country. How did we arrive at this point?

At the press conference announcing the mass resignation, Bishop Fernando Reyes, the Secretary General of the Chilean Episcopal Conference, said:

In this context of dialogue and discernment, various suggestions were presented as to how to deal with this great crisis, and furthermore the idea developed that, in order to be more in tune with the will of the Holy Father, it was appropriate to declare our absolute readiness to place our pastoral charges in the hands of the pope. In this way, we were able to make a collegial gesture of solidarity to take responsibility – not without sorrow – for the grave things that occurred, and so that the Holy Father could freely decide how to proceed regarding all of us.

The Chilean bishops seem to have thought that the pope wanted their resignations. This turn of events was unthinkable back in January. What happened? Outrage by victims of sexual abuse and by ordinary Catholics exploded in Chile, combined with persistent media coverage of this conflict.

The pope took to heart the vehement reactions to his dismissive comments. He sent two outside investigators to Chile to gather evidence and report back. Then he called the Chilean hierarchy to Rome.

He then laid out the evidence gathered by his investigators in a letter (later leaked to the press) given to the Chilean bishops when they arrived in Rome. The manifest wrongdoing cited by the pope rings true, given similar experiences in other countries: destruction of evidence; transfer of accused priests without concern for the minors who would come under their influence; delaying tactics and superficial or non-existent investigations of complaints received, pressure put upon those carrying out the canonical investigation of alleged crimes; and the placement by bishops and religious superiors of priests suspected of being active homosexuals in seminaries and novitiates.

The investigators, it’s no surprise, discovered this familiar pattern in Chile. The self-reporting to Rome by the Chilean hierarchy in these matters was gravely deficient and even deceptive.

The lesson here is clear: if the Holy See wants to root out the sexual abuse of minors by clergy, and also put an end to the associated cover-ups by senior clergy and bishops, then it must use the same means in other places that it used here. Vatican designated investigators with no ties to the local church under investigation should be sent to gather evidence when complaints of sexual abuse and cover-ups are received.

The self-policing and self-reporting system has been shown to be completely inadequate in the Chilean case. The effectiveness of canonical provisions governing the handling of accusations of sexual abuse of minors by priests depends on the full and vigorous cooperation of the local hierarchy. Absent that co-operation justice is not done. Such co-operation is often absent.

The sad reality is that the exposure of the crime of sexual abuse of minors and the widespread efforts by bishops and religious order superiors to hide the facts from the public was not the result of actions initiated by the Church herself. That exposure came by way of the police, the courts, and the media in various countries.

In the case of Chile, victims of sexual abuse only got a fair hearing in Rome by insisting on the truth of their claims in the face of both episcopal and papal rejection. Pope Francis decided to have another look at the matter and what he discovered is that he had not been given the complete story.

He should also review the record of the various Roman curial departments that were involved in monitoring the situation in Chile for the past thirty years. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith found Fr. Karadima guilty in 2011 of the sexual abuse of minors. He was forbidden to exercise priestly ministry and commanded to lead a live of prayer and penance. He is reported to still claim his innocence. Was this enough?

By not removing him from the priesthood and returning him to the lay state, the gravity of his crimes was not sufficiently recognized. As in the case of Fr. Marcial Maciel, who also was not removed from priesthood despite his multiple and grave crimes, a life of prayer and penance becomes the functional equivalent of forced retirement and does not deprive the sexual predator of the state of life that allowed him to have easy access to his victims.

Removal from the priesthood unmistakably rebukes him for the grave offense he has given to Christ and to Christ’s little ones, and also clearly communicates to the whole world that the Church considers him to have completely forfeited his right to exercise the office of the priesthood that he so badly misused.

Roman action on Chile was necessary and purgative. The Church’s mission is to uphold the Gospel. That includes doing all that is possible to protect the innocent and punish the guilty. This is not vengeance. This is justice.

And now is the time to take a similar look at other countries where there remain similar questions about the proper handling of accusations of sexual abuse and cover-ups.

Fr. Gerald E. Murray

Fr. Gerald E. Murray

The Rev. Gerald E. Murray, J.C.D. is a canon lawyer and the pastor of Holy Family Church in New York City.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is of Pope Francis with the Chilean bishops. © 2018 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to: info@frinstitute.orgThe Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.