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Obama's LGBT Order Re-Ignites Religious Liberty Debate
by Ben Lawson
On Monday, President Barack Obama signed an executive order that prohibits federal contractors from discriminating based on gender identity or sexual orientation. The White House touted the order as a step toward equality. (Via The White House)
But Obama ignored pleas to include a religious exemption for faith-based groups in his order, re-igniting the gay rights versus religious freedom debate once again. (Via Getty Images)
News that Obama was working on just such an executive order broke last month and it had a great deal of support — provided it had language giving religious groups a pass.
Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch said he would support such an order as long as the exemption was included. (Via Getty Images)
The Salt Lake Tribune quotes Hatch saying: "In seeking to curtail unjust discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, we must ensure that legal protections do not trample upon basic religious liberties."
So why did that language not make it into the order? There are a couple of theories on that.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State said it boils down to how taxpayer money is spent. "Faith-based groups that tap the public purse should play by the same rules as everyone else and not expect special treatment.”
But conservative columnist Todd Starnes, writing in Fox News, says the whole point of the order is to bully religious groups. "This administration believes gay rights trump everyone else's rights — including religious rights."
The debate comes just weeks after the Supreme Court's ruling in the Hobby Lobby contraception case, which pushed the religious freedom argument to the forefront. (Via WTTG)
But while the right accuses the president of bullying and curtailing religious freedom, some on the left argue the order doesn't go far enough.
The president of Interfaith Alliance criticized Obama for choosing not to "undo the provisions that President George W. Bush signed allowing for religious organizations to discriminate against people of other religions in their hiring."
A former faith adviser to Obama says he's grateful the president kept that Bush policy. Though he also tells The Washington Post the executive order on LGBT discrimination leaves room for interpretation and will lead to litigation.
Eighteen states and the District of Columbia already have laws that protect LGBT workers from discrimination but this order provides that security to the entire nation, but only for federal workers.
Obama's LGBT Executive Order endangers religious liberty
by Todd Starnes - Fox News
President Obama signed an executive order Monday barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity – ignoring the pleas of Christian and other faith leaders to include an exemption for religious organizations.
“Thanks to your passion and advocacy and the irrefutable rightness of your cause, our government – the government of the people, by the people and for the people – will become just a little bit fairer,” the president told a gathering in the White House.
The executive order would prevent Christian and other religious organizations with federal contracts from requiring workers to adhere to the tenets of their religious beliefs. Christianity Today reports the order could impact religious non-profits such as World Vision, World Relief and Catholic Charities.
“If religious organizations cannot require that their employees conduct themselves in ways consistent with the teachings of their faith – then, essentially, those organizations are unable to operate in accordance with their faith,” Peter Sprigg, Senior Fellow for Policy Studies at the Family Research Council, told me.
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He said the president’s order forces employers to put aside their principles in the name of political correctness. “This level of coercion is nothing less than viewpoint blackmail that bullies into silence every contractor and subcontractor who has moral objections to homosexual behavior,” Sprigg said.
“The mask is coming off of the homosexual movement’s agenda. They really do not believe in religious liberty. They want forced affirmation of homosexual and transgender conduct to trump every other consideration in the workplace – including religious liberty.”
A group of prominent religious leaders, including Rick Warren, founder and senior pastor at Saddleback Church, wrote a letter to President Obama urging him to include a religious exemption.
“In a concrete way, religious organizations will lose financial funding that allows them to serve others in the national interest due to their organizational identity,” they wrote. “When the capacity of religious organizations is limited, the common good suffers.”
Not surprising, the president’s executive order was warmly welcomed by left-wing organizations like Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
“Religious groups have no right to accept taxpayer money and engage in rank forms of discrimination,” said executive director Barry Lynn. “Faith-based groups that tap the public purse should play by the same rules as everyone else and not expect special treatment.”
But that’s really not the point. This is about the federal government bullying religious groups that hold viewpoints it deems inappropriate.
As I wrote in my new book, “God Less America,” this administration believes gay rights trump everyone else’s rights – including religious rights.
Vice President Joe Biden went so far as to declare as much during a speech to international gay rights activists.
“I don’t care what your culture is,” he said in remarks covered by Associated Press. “Inhumanity is inhumanity. Prejudice is prejudice is prejudice.”
That explains why a Christian baker in Colorado was ordered by a state commission to undergo re-education training after he declined to participate in a gay wedding celebration.
That explains why a Christian photographer in New Mexico was found guilty of discrimination for refusing to photograph a gay wedding ceremony.
That explains why Democratic lawmakers in multiple states tried to shut down Chick-fil-A because of the owner’s privately held beliefs about traditional marriage.
And I as detail in “God Less America,” that explains why Billy Graham – “America’s pastor” – was subjected to an Internal Revenue Service audit after he supported a traditional marriage amendment in North Carolina.
The Obama administration and its militant cronies want to tell Christians whom to hire, how to run their business and how to think.
And now the president has decreed that any religious group that holds viewpoints divergent from the LGBT agenda is not worthy of federal tax dollars.
Last month, National Security Adviser Susan Rice told a gathering at the White House Forum on Global LGBT Human Rights that it was their responsibility to sway theological thinking on the LGBT issue.
“For the faith community, how can we reinforce to religious groups that God loves all the children of his creation equally?” she asked the crowd.
“Change will come,” she went on to say. “It’s already coming.”
Indeed, it has. And it appears the president has decided to “reinforce” the government’s theology on Christians by using his pen and phone.
And woe be to any Christian American who refuses to comply.
Denny Burk, professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. addressed the issues at hand in an essay titled, “Are Christian Colleges Free to be Christian?”
“There are people who are willing to use whatever means necessary to force religious institutions to conform to the new sexual morality,” he wrote. “Any individual or institution that refuses to comply will have to face the consequences.”
So what is the next logical step in the government’s systematic effort to marginalize Christianity? Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, suggests to me that churches might want to play close attention to their tax-exempt status.
“The problem with this executive order is that it paves the way for the next one – which could withhold the tax-exempt status or broadcast licenses for religious organizations holding biblical beliefs with which the administration disagrees,” Jeffress told me.
The Obama administration seems hell-bent on forcing Christians to assimilate to the militant LGBT agenda. Resistance is futile.
Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard on hundreds of radio stations. Sign up for his American Dispatch newsletter, be sure to join his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter. His latest book is "God Less America."
Obama White House's chilling attempts to stifle its detractors
by Judge Andrew P. Napolitano - Fox News
“Chilling” is the word lawyers use to describe governmental behavior that does not directly interfere with constitutionally protected freedoms, but rather tends to deter folks from exercising them.
Classic examples of "chilling" occurred in the 1970s, when FBI agents and U.S. Army soldiers, in business suits with badges displayed or in full uniform, showed up at anti-war rallies and proceeded to photograph and tape record protesters. When an umbrella group of protesters sued the government, the Supreme Court dismissed the case, ruling that the protesters lacked standing -- meaning, because they could not show that they were actually harmed, they could not invoke the federal courts for redress.
Yet, they were harmed, and the government knew it.
Years after he died, longtime FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover was quoted boasting of the success of this program. The harm existed in the pause or second thoughts that protesters gave to their contemplated behavior because they knew the feds would be in their faces -- figuratively and literally. The government’s goal, and its limited success, was to deter dissent without actually interfering with it. Even the government recognized that physical interference with and legal prosecutions of pure speech are prohibited by the First Amendment. Eventually, when this was exposed as part of a huge government plot to stifle dissent, known as COINTELPRO, the government stopped doing it.
Now, the government fears the verbal slings and arrows of dissenters, even as the means for promulgating one’s criticisms of the government in general and of President Obama in particular have been refined and enhanced far beyond those available to the critics of the government in the 1970s.
So, what has the Obama administration done to stifle, or chill, the words of its detractors? For starters, it has subpoenaed the emails and home telephone records of journalists who have either challenged it or exposed its dark secrets. Among those journalists are James Risen of The New York Times and my colleague and friend James Rosen of Fox News. This is more personal than the NSA spying on everyone, because a subpoena is an announcement that a specific person’s words or effects have been targeted by the government, and that person continues to remain in the government’s crosshairs until it decides to let go.
This necessitates hiring legal counsel and paying legal fees. Yet, the targeting of Risen and Rosen was not because the feds alleged that they broke the law -- there were no such allegations.Rather, the feds wanted to see their sources and their means of acquiring information. What journalist could perform his work with the feds watching? The reason we have a First Amendment is to assure that no journalist would need to endure that.
Two weeks ago, a notorious pot stirrer in Norfolk, Neb., built a mock outhouse, put it on a truck and drove the truck with permission in a local Fourth of July parade. In front of the outhouse, he placed a mannequin that he claimed looked like himself, and on the outhouse, he posted a sign that stated: “Obama Presidential Library.”
Some thought this was crude, and some thought it was funny; yet it is fully protected speech. It is protected because satire and opinion about public figures are absolutely protected, as well as is all criticism of the government. Yet, the Department of Justice has sent a team to investigate this event because a local official called it racist. Such an allegation by a public official and such a federal investigation are chilling. The reason we have a First Amendment is to ensure that the government stays out of investigating speech.
And just last week, Attorney General Eric Holder, while in London, opined that much of the criticism of Obama is based on race -- meaning that if Obama were fully white, his critics would be silent. This is highly inflammatory, grossly misleading, patently without evidential support and, yet again, chilling. Tagging someone as a racist is the political equivalent of applying paint that won’t come off.
Were the Democrats who criticized Attorney General Alberto Gonzales or Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice racists? Is it appropriate for government officials to frighten people into silence by giving them pause before they speak, during which they basically ask themselves whether the criticism they are about to hurl is worth the pain the government will soon inflict in retaliation?
The whole purpose of the First Amendment is to permit, encourage and even foment open, wide, robust debate about the policies and personnel of the government. That amendment presumes that individuals -- not the government -- will decide what language to read and hear. Because of that amendment, the marketplace of ideas -- not the government -- will determine which criticisms will sink in and sting and which will fall by the wayside and be forgotten.
Surely, government officials can use words to defend themselves; in fact, one would hope they would. Yet, when the people fear exercising their expressive liberties because of how the governmental targets they criticize might use the power of the government to stifle them, we are no longer free.
Expressing ideas, no matter how bold or brazen, is the personal exercise of a natural right that the government in a free society is powerless to touch, directly or indirectly. Yet, when the government succeeds in diminishing public discourse so that it only contains words and ideas of which the government approves, it will have succeeded in establishing tyranny. This tyranny -- if it comes -- will not come about overnight. It will begin in baby steps and triumph before we know it.
Yet we do know that it already has begun.
Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel. He joined FNC in January 1998. Judge Napolitano has written seven books on the U.S. Constitution. The most recent is “Theodore and Woodrow: How Two American Presidents Destroyed Constitutional Freedom.” To find out more about Judge Napolitano and to read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
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