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I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Today, three questions: who decides if a judge is well-qualified, can we separate art from the artist and what is really comprehensive about comprehensive sex education?

Who decides if a judge is well-qualified? Politicization of ABA exposed in recent evaluation of judicial nominee

Every culture requires certain central institutions, pillars, foundations of the culture that make the culture itself possible. In terms of American society, American culture, government is one of those essential pillars. It’s only one, but nonetheless it is a very important pillar that makes our culture possible. And within government the role of the courts is extremely important. The courts and thus judges and justices fulfill a very important responsibility of stewardship on behalf of the entire society. The rightful functioning of the courts is a prerequisite then for the rightful functioning of the entire society. But that raises a crucial issue, who will sit on those courts? Who will be the judges and the justices?

Now from the very beginning this has been not only a constitutional and legal question. It has been a political question. And here is where in terms of worldview analysis we need to think very carefully. The founders and framers of the American constitutional order did not say that it would be right and healthy if judges and justices were appointed by members of the bar in particular, looking to the profession of lawyers and saying you choose from amongst yourselves who you believe should serve on the courts. Rather appointments to the courts of judges and justices, that authority was put in the hands of elected representatives most importantly in the constitutional responsibilities of the president of the United States, but not to the President alone. Our Constitution requires not only that the president would nominate, but that the United States Senate must confirm anyone appointed to a federal judgeship or ultimately to the United States Supreme Court.

Before even entering into contemporary controversies, we need to recognize just how wise that system is, and also what was intended, what was made very clear in terms of that constitutional system and requirement. What is made clear is that the courts belong to the people, and ultimately the people get to decide who will be the judges in the justices because the people will elect the representatives and the chief executive of the nation who will make the nomination and then proceed to the confirmations. In the late 1700s when the American constitutional order was coming into being, there were three very central professions to every Western society. They were the clergy and the lawyers and the doctors. Law, medicine and ministry were the three central professions. Since then, of course, there has been a multiplication of vast expansion of the number of recognized professions, and since then something else has happened. The professions have become increasingly self-designated, self-policed and self-defined.

Now from a Christian worldview analysis even at this point, one of the things we should think about is the fact that when you’re looking at these professions you are looking at professions that for the most part became exceedingly, explicitly secular over the course of the 20th century. And in the case of many of these professions, they moved in a decidedly liberal direction, sometimes with no apparent tie to their own professional identity and responsibility. The next observation in terms of worldview is that the professional societies, associations and organizations thus have in our contemporary culture an outsize influence. And sometimes an influence that isn’t well known by the American people. Here is an example drawn from contemporary headlines of controversy. Here you have the Wall Street Journal reporting and I quote,

“The American Bar Association has been a key gatekeeper for the federal courts since it began evaluating judicial nominees in the 1940s, but,” says Joe Palazzolo, reporter for the Wall Street Journal, all this is changing.

But for that matter it’s not a particularly new controversy. It has been a controversy building for a matter of years. Later in the article he writes,

“For decades, the ABA’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, the evaluation committee’s formal name, has evaluated judges for their competence, integrity and judicial temperament, issuing grades that range from ‘well qualified’ to ‘not qualified.’”

He then summarizes and I quote, “The ratings are meant to help presidents and senators, who may not be familiar with individual judicial candidates, make informed nominations and votes.”

But over the course of the last several decades, the American Bar Association has moved progressively and very clearly to the political left. And for that reason, President George W. Bush and now President Donald Trump have derecognized the American Bar Association as having a first word in terms of certifying and evaluating presidential nominees to the federal courts. That has of course not stopped the American Bar Association and its standing committee from issuing its grades and its evaluation of nominees to the federal courts. That’s what leads to the most immediate controversy. It has to do with a judicial nomination from the state of Nebraska. In this case the nominee to the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis from Nebraska is the former Deputy Attorney General of that state, Steven Grasz.

As Palazzolo reports,“Tensions between Senate Republicans and the association, the largest organization of lawyers in the nation, have escalated in recent weeks after the ABA pronounced a Nebraska lawyer unfit to serve on the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals,” why? Because of his, “‘deeply-held social agenda.’”

Palazzolo then tells us that in his submission of papers to the Senate panel Mr. Grasz wrote that a member of the evaluation committee that interviewed him for the American Bar Association repeatedly referred to Republicans and conservatives as you guys or you people and also asked for Mr. Grasz’s personal views on abortion, the death penalty and adoption by same-sex couples. The interviewer for the Bar Association said the lawyer tried to pressure him to admit that his personal views would infect his judicial work. William McGurn writing in the Main Street Column for the Wall Street Journal summarizes the issue this way,

“The object of the ABA’s attention is Leonard Steven Grasz, a former Nebraska chief deputy attorney general who’s been nominated for a seat on the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The ABA has slapped Mr. Grasz with a ‘not qualified’ rating, saying he’s too biased and too rude to be a judge. Given that much of this rating,” says McGurn, “is based on accusations that are not detailed and from accusers who remain anonymous,” he says, quite rightly, “it reveals more about the organization that issued it than it does about,” the man at the center of the report.

Now it’s interesting that just about everyone who is writing about this controversy mentions that the word rude appears in this report without any particular documentation whatsoever. It’s not even defined. There is no elaboration. It’s also increasingly clear that the judgment of the Bar Association against this particular nominee has virtually nothing to do with his judicial temperament, but everything to do with his views, his personal views on controversial moral and social issues. Views that are clearly at odds with the American Bar Association, but views that also we must recognize represent tens of millions of Americans and furthermore represent the Chief Executive of the nation, the President of the United States, who is entrusted by the Constitution with the right to make such nominations. Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse has openly condemned the American Bar Association for what he sees as a personal assassination attempt. He said and I quote,

“The ABA is running a smear campaign based on the idea that Steve is a kale-hating, puppy-kicking monster,” but says the Senator, “no one in Nebraska on either side of the aisle recognizes that man.” That is, the man described by the American Bar Association.

The Senator also said in recent comments on the floor of the Senate, “We should completely dispel with the fiction that the American Bar Association is a fair and impartial arbiter of facts.”

Once again, we need to remind ourselves that the American Bar Association Committee accused this nominee of holding to a, “passionately held social agenda.”

You put that together with the fact that the interviewer for the Bar Association spoke to this nominee in terms of you people, and we have a pretty good idea of just how antagonistic the Bar Association is to conservative nominees precisely because they are conservative nominees. And we should note holding to positions that are anathema to the Bar Association on issues such as, most importantly, abortion. In terms of the maximum influence of the ABA in this process, we date that back to the invitation granted to the Association by President Dwight Eisenhower, but that was the 1950s. That was when professional societies and organizations when the professions themselves were growing vastly in terms of influence and authority in our society. But we now know in retrospect that was also the very era when they began to swerve politically, and almost every one of them swerved significantly to the left. As Christians think about our society and how it actually works, here’s a pretty good lesson for us all. A lesson that comes in just a couple of words from an American Bar Association interviewer to a presidential nominee, speaking of “you people.”

Can you separate the art from the artist?

Next, given all the controversy and debate over art and artists and well a new avalanche of sexual and moral accusations, the New York Times asked a question that really must be asked, and we have to think carefully as Christians about the answer. The question is this: can you separate art from the artist? Now we need to keep in mind that the fundamental argument about separating art and the artist has come from the cultural left rather than from the cultural right, but it is a question that gets pressed upon every single one of us when it comes to our own engagement with entertainment and art, or for that matter, with many other aspects of our lives and culture as well. But just considering what’s happened in the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein accusations and those related to actor Kevin Spacey and so many others, of course historically, the Roman Polanski charges going back several decades in the United States, the question has been, can you actually separate art and the artist in such a way that you can appreciate the art, you can appreciate the movie, you can continue to watch the television program while being filled with moral repulsion against the artist or the actor or whoever is involved in this particular dimension of art?

Amanda Hess writing in the Critics Notebook column of the New York Times raises this issue anew, and even as she writes the article, it’s clear she understands that the terms of debate have fundamentally changed just in the course of a few years. In her article asking this question, she points back to a roundtable published in 2009 by the very same newspaper, her newspaper, the New York Times. At that time, the center of the controversy was about Roman Polanski who committed a horrible sex crime against a young girl, and yet he was protected by the artistic class and furthermore still celebrated even to the point of being given an Academy award after all of this was well known. That was back in 2009, and in this roundtable several people prominent in American culture and the cultural elites at least defended to some extent the idea that you can fundamentally separate art and the artist. Jay Parini, a well-known writer who taught then at Middlebury College asked the question, can one really separate the art from the man or woman who creates that art? Then he answers, the answer is yes, definitely. He then expanded to say there are many examples in history, too many great artists who were terribly flawed human beings, behaving very badly and hurting those around them. If anything, audiences easily make this distinction, he said. Nobody looks at a Picasso painting in a museum and says quote,

“I should not take this work seriously because Picasso cheated on his many wives and was abusive to his son.”

Now at this point I have to interject from a Christian worldview perspective, the fact that Mr. Parini misses the point that most of the people looking at that painting, for instance a Picasso at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, will be unaware of the moral context. The elites have access to that information when, especially when it comes to elite art, the rest of us simply do not have. But I would also want to make a point from a Christian worldview perspective that when it comes to an artist like Picasso, those particular accusations were actually of a piece with his larger commitment to what we would call the overthrow of traditional Christian sexual morality. Damon Lindelof, a television producer, said that he had recently considered this question back in 2009 when he was walking through a major European art museum, and as he considered art and the artist, he thought to himself, “Man oh man, what a load of perverts.”

And yet Lindelof said he went on to consider that the art was still beautiful. He said, “It is still eternal.”

So even as he seems to understand there is indeed a moral dimension, especially to the artist, he’s suggesting that we can look at the art independent of the artist. But here again, just keep in mind the fact that he admits that as he walked to this museum his first thought was, “what a load of perverts.”

Mark Bauerlein who teaches at Emory University actually makes an argument suggesting that,

“The moral scruples that constrain bad behavior work precisely against the artistry needed to describe,” he means for example, “Satan corrupting Eve and to portray a rebel without a cause.”

Bauerlein went on to say, “People understand that, and so they judge the sins of artists and writers more lightly, perhaps taking a vicarious pleasure in them. Only,” he says, “when the artist goes too far does a moral push-back arise.” He summarizes, “it’s a delicate compromise, ever-shifting as general social standards evolve.”

Well we’re talking about a roundtable, the New York Times in 2009 and let me tell you those moral standards have evolved even amongst the cultural elites in terms of what they now believe is moral and is to be expected in terms of moral judgment when it comes to artists or actors or producers or at least they say that moral judgment is changed or it has at least changed for some time for some people. Jonathan Gilmore in the roundtable who taught philosophy and humanities at Yale University at the time said,

“One may condemn an artist for her odious views without that compromising one’s defense of the art in which those views are revealed.”

I understand the argument, but I don’t think it’s quite that simple. I think as we are walking through a museum, or reading a book or we are, for that matter, observing a movie, the reality is we inescapably make these judgments if we have the information. At the very least, we understand you can’t completely separate art and the artist. You don’t have the art without the artist, and furthermore as Amanda Hess makes clear in her recent article of the Times, the reality is that we tend to play up the role of the artist in interpreting the art. She candidly points to Hollywood, suggesting that if you can understand this principle anywhere, you can understand it there where Hollywood plays up the role of the artist in the art. As she says,

“Meanwhile, the entertainment industry seems quite interested in conflating the art and the artist as long as it helps sell movie tickets.”

So recognizing the fact that we can never completely sever art in the artist, this doesn’t mean that we go through the great museums of the world taking down paintings. It does mean that we as Christians understand that we have no art without the artist, and you never have an artist of any kind because you never have a human being of any kind who is not a moral creature. And that morality is going to show in every dimension of the individual’s life. Amanda Hess seems to recognize in her more recent article in the New York Times that the fundamental separation of the art and the artist is impossible even as the cultural left has been arguing for that separation for decades now. From a Christian perspective perhaps we should put it this way, we understand that you really can’t understand art, you can’t rightly understand the meaning of art without understanding the artist. And once you understand the artist, you can ever separate the artist from the art.

Comprehensive sexual revolution in the name of comprehensive sexual education

Finally, headline news out of Lexington, Kentucky, coming from the Lexington Herald Leader, the headline, “Abstinence, birth control, intimacy? What should Lexington sex education classes teach?”

Well, it turns out that the catalyst for the article is the formation of a group known as Lex Ed, which is committed to bring, “comprehensive sex education to Lexington.”

The purpose statement of this alliance is,

“We believe that Lexington’s schools deserve comprehensive sex education including medically-accurate information about reproduction and preventing pregnancy, STI prevention, healthy relationships, sexual violence, consent, self-esteem, LGBTQ health and identity, and domestic violence.”

The organization’s coordinator said that sex education across public schools in Kentucky, well, she says it’s inconsistent. She went on to say, “many schools center their sex education around abstinence.”

I’m not going to go into any details of any sex education curriculum. I’m simply going to say that by now we know exactly what we’re dealing with when we see the term comprehensive sex education. It sounds good. Who would want a sex education that isn’t comprehensive? But what we need to understand is that that is now well recognized code language for bringing the sexual revolution, a moral revolution to a public school classroom K-12 near you. That purpose statement pretty well indicated the commitment of this organization to that sexual revolution. But just in case we missed the point, the allied organizations behind the coalition include the National Organization for Women, the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and the Fairness campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy organization in Kentucky. It’s being presented to the people of Kentucky as if what we really need is just a more comprehensive sex education. But what this really represents is a comprehensive sexual revolution. And this is where Christians have to remind ourselves over and over again when you say sex education you’re saying morality. The only question is whose morality?

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information, go to my website AlbertMohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to @albertmohler.For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College just go to boycecollege.com.

(This podcast is by R. Albert Mohler, Jr. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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There are too many myths being propagated about the Supreme Court case involving Jack Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop. It’s time to set the record straight.

On December 5, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Masterpiece Cake Shop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission—which could be one of the most significant cases in our nation’s history involving freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

The Case of Masterpiece CakeshopIf your only source of information were mainstream media outlets, you’ve probably heard the case described along these lines: hiding behind a specious claim to religious freedom, anti-gay baker Jack Phillips refused to serve a same-sex couple in his store. The couple reported this hateful discrimination to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which rightly fined Phillips.

There’s only one problem with this description of what happened. It’s hogwash.

Here’s what you need to know about Jack Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop—what you need to know and tell your friends, family, and co-workers when the topic comes up.

First, Jack is a cake artist, something that’s become more famous since reality television shows like “Cake Wars.” He doesn’t just bake cakes; he custom designs master cakes. However, from the beginning Jack has seen his business as an expression of his faith (hence the name), and that has led him to reject business throughout his career. For example, he’s refused to make custom cakes for Halloween and divorce celebrations, and he’s turned down requests for lewd cakes for bachelor and bachelorette parties.

Back in 2012, two men asked Jack to design a cake for their same-sex wedding. Now mind you, back in 2012, the state of Colorado didn’t even recognize same-sex weddings. Jack told them that he would gladly sell them any item in the store—including cakes—but that he could not, due to his religious convictions, use his cake-design talents to participate in the celebration of their ceremony.

The couple left fuming. Vile phone calls started pouring in—even death threats. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission not only fined Jack, but ordered that if he made custom wedding cakes for heterosexual couples, he also had to do it for same-sex couples. Then the Commission—behaving like some communist dictatorship might—ordered Jack and his employees to go through a “re-education” program and provide quarterly compliance reports.

Obviously Jack appealed, and his case has made it to the Supreme Court. Jack has stopped selling wedding cakes, and has lost 40 percent of his business, and has had to lay off employees.

Now those are the facts. You can find them at ADFLegal.org—the website of the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing Jack.

Nonetheless, the media, the LGBTQ lobby, the ACLU, and even members of Congress continue to misrepresent the case and smear Jack Phillips.

At a recent press briefing, Maryland Congressman Stenny Hoyer told the cameras,

“We’re better than exclusion, we’re better than hate, we’re better than prejudice. We respect each and every one of our fellow citizens.”

Well, each and every citizen except, I suppose, Jack Phillips.

The liberal website ThinkProgress (which by the way calls the Alliance Defending Freedom an “anti-LGBTQ hate group”) wrote that Phillips refused to sell the gay couple “any product.”

That’s simply not true. He offered them anything in the shop that was already made.

I could go on and on with the misrepresentations—and the omissions. But the facts are Jack was not singling out gay customers. He simply refuses to use his artistic talent in a way that would violate his core convictions.

Today on the BreakPoint podcast, you can hear Jack’s attorney Kristen Waggoner and the Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson describe the details and significance of this case, and how you can support Jack Phillips. Come to BreakPoint.org to find out more.

Visit Breakpoint.org to get further information about the many great books and other resources available there and you can link up to our social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

 

Resources

The freedom to make decisions based upon our faith is being challenged

  • Alliance Defending Freedom | Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission

Gay couple to anti-gay baker: This is how nondiscrimination laws are supposed to work

  • Zack Ford | thinkprogress.org | October 25, 2017

Hoyer Remarks at a Press Conference Announcing Amicus Brief in Landmark LGBT Equal Rights Case

  • Press Release | Steny Hoyer | November 1, 2017

By Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.

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Justice Alito Challenges Americans to Protect Religious Freedom

Justice Alito is a proven defender of religious liberty. You may recall he authored the court’s opinion in Hobby Lobby, protecting the religious consciences of family-owned businesses. Learn how he’s challenging Americans to protect religious liberty at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito recently gave remarks to a group in New Jersey. His 45-minute presentation proved to be quite sobering.

Justice Alito Challenges Americans to Protect Religious Freedom

Image: Chip Somodevilla

Justice Alito is a proven defender of religious liberty. You may recall he authored the court’s opinion in Hobby Lobby, protecting the religious consciences of family-owned businesses. In other opinions, he has warned of the impact the sexual revolution may inflict upon the religious liberty of Americans.

In his latest remarks, however, Justice Alito told the audience, “You don’t need to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. A wind is picking up that is hostile to those with traditional moral beliefs.”

But, the good justice ended with a word of caution and challenge. He said, “We are likely to see pitched battles in courts and Congress, state legislatures and town halls. But the most important fight is for the hearts and minds of our fellow Americans. It is up to all of us to evangelize our fellow Americans about the issue of religious freedom.”

That’s where you and I come in. Freedom—and especially religious freedom—is not a given in human history. It is something each generation must renew for itself. Telling the story of religious liberty, and its blessings, to one another is part of our responsibility as Americans. It’s also how we preserve liberty.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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When the government’s interest in timbering led to the destruction of land traditionally used by Native Americans for religious purposes, the Supreme Court ruled against the Native Americans. The opinion read, “Whatever rights the Indians may have to the use of the [land in question did] not divest the Government of its right to use what is, after all, its land.”

To learn more: FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

Government Actions Violating the Free Exercise of Religion Require Scrutiny

In 1987, the Supreme Court was asked whether timbering operations within a National Park over a portion of land traditionally used for religious purposes by Native Americans violated the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause.Government Actions Violating the Free Exercise of Religion Require Scrutiny

Justice O’Connor’s opinion in Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Association concluded that:

“Whatever rights the Indians may have to the use of the [land in question did] not divest the Government of its right to use what is, after all, its land.”

But, not all the justices agreed. Justice Brennan, joined by Justices Marshall and Blackmun, disagreed. He reasoned that the timbering in question threatened the “very existence of a Native American religion.” He concluded on a somber note:

“Today, the Court holds that a federal land-use decision that promises to destroy an entire religion does not burden the practice of that faith in a manner recognized by the Free Exercise Clause . . . I find it difficult, however, to imagine conduct more insensitive to religious needs . . ..”

Thirteen years later, Congress would pass the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. At the least, RLUIPA would’ve required the government to demonstrate that its actions were the least restrictive in pursuit of a compelling government interest. RLUIPA, like RFRA, insists that government actions substantially burdening the free exercise of religion receive heightened scrutiny.

That protects all of our religious liberty.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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A small New Jersey congregation rented from a local school building until the rent increased. The twenty-five congregants couldn’t afford the new price and used Reverend Robert Cameron’s house as a new meeting place. Learn how this congregation fought all the way to the State Supreme Court against unfair zoning laws by visiting FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

How a Small New Jersey Congregation Fought Against Unfair Zoning Laws

Robert Cameron was a minister without a home. Well, that’s not quite right. Rev. Cameron actually had a home, a house much like any other in Franklin Township, New Jersey.

Actually, Rev. Cameron, and his congregation at the Mount Carmel Reformed Episcopal Church, had no home for their church. They had been renting a local school building, but someone hiked the rent. The twenty-five congregants couldn’t afford the increase. So, they decided to meet in Rev. Cameron’s house until they could find a new meeting place.

You would think that would be uncontroversial, but town officials told him he was violating the town’s zoning laws. A judge agreed and, for the crime of holding a worship service in his home, he was given a $500 fine for every time the church would meet in his home.

Rev. Cameron didn’t give up. He appealed that decision and the Supreme Court of New Jersey acknowledged that the zoning ordinance was vague and its focus on religious activity alone led to unfair and inconsistent results.

It had to go.

State v. Cameron was decided in 1981, two decades before Congress would pass the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. Today, RLUIPA provides a critical defense for pastors, churches, and religious organizations against cities and towns that would substantially burden the free exercise of religion in the religious use of their property. 

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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President Trump issued an executive order on religious liberty. But does it go far enough?

KEVIN HARRIS: Dr. Craig, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen this much divisiveness in politics and around a presidential election. Donald Trump has been in office five or six months at the recording of this podcast.

DR. WILLIAM LANE CRAIG: It really is incredibly divisive, isn’t it? Particularly alarming is the vitriol and the violence on the left. We normally associate the political left with tolerance and openness, and yet it has shown itself to be just as bigoted and closed-minded and even resorting, as I say, to violence and shutting down free speech in order to oppose Trump’s initiatives. It really is very alarming.

KEVIN HARRIS: One of the promises that Donald Trump made to his supporters was that he wanted to protect religious liberty and free speech. This executive order that he just enacted doesn’t quite get there according to Christianity Today and some other commentators. It says it gives place to a lot of things that conservatives and evangelicals in particular wanted to see happen in the country but did not cover all of them. Is that the impression you get?President Trump's Religious Liberty Order

DR. CRAIG: Yes. I think it is tremendously ironic that someone as narcissistic and materialistic and unspiritual as Donald Trump should emerge as a champion of religious liberty in this country. Yet he does seem to be taking steps in that direction. He is at least promising to address these issues of religious liberty. I do think that these are the most important issues that will be coming up before the Supreme Court in the coming years – issues concerning the degree to which one can be exempted from federal laws or regulations because of matters of religious conscience. This has become extremely important, for example, in federal mandates to provide health care that would include “women’s reproductive services,” aka abortion and contraception. Many Christian organizations as well as other religious organizations (this would affect Muslims as well) cannot in good conscience agree to provide these sorts of services and therefore want to be exempted on the basis of religious liberty considerations from these regulations. The claim is that to require them to violate their religious conscience would be an example of the state imposing religious beliefs upon them. It would violate the free exercise clause of the Constitution.

Another area where this comes up is the Supreme Court’s now redefining marriage so that marriage is no longer a heterosexual union but two men can marry each other or two women can marry each other. This might force Christian organizations to recognize such unions even though they would have religious objections to them. Or, in the case of LGBT persons, not to discriminate against them in hiring so that your church or your religious organization would have to hire a practicing homosexual even though that would violate the standards of conduct that your religious organization adheres to. These religious liberty issues are enormous and of great significance. These will be coming before the Court in coming years which is why Trump’s appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Court is so important to preserve a constitutionalist perspective that Antonin Scalia could be counted on to articulate. The next appointments to the Supreme Court will be battles-royale because that would then begin to shift the balance on the Court whereas Gorsuch’s appointment didn’t really shift anything.

All of this is to say that this is an important issue and that Trump wants to, and claims to, be a champion of religious liberty for which Christians can be very grateful.

Unfortunately, this order that he issued really disappoints in that respect. It doesn’t say anything about providing exemptions for religious groups who are opposed, for example, to practicing homosexuals on their staff or to provisions of health care that would require employers to provide abortifacients for female employees. The only thing this does is to extend political speech protections for pastors and religious organizations so that they can talk about political issues, for example from the pulpit. Well, this is really kind of a non-issue. As I understand it, black churches have been doing this for years. They have political candidates come and speak from their pulpits. Pastors in black churches regularly address political issues and political candidates. The IRS doesn’t chase them down and try to hunt them down and remove their tax exemptions. So this order by Trump, though it is a step in the right direction, I don’t think really significantly impacts the concerns that evangelicals and Muslims as well would have.

KEVIN HARRIS: That is right. It is a non-issue for that reason – that only 14% of evangelical pastors and 9% of mainline pastors approve of any kind of pulpit endorsements. It is very small. Evangelicals themselves – only 29% – in fact most say “don’t do it.”

DR. CRAIG: Right, they are not interested in hearing politics preached from the pulpits.

KEVIN HARRIS: So this doesn’t do anything as far as that. Before we continue, let me just say in a way you have been put into this position to comment on this by our listeners. They want to hear what you have to say about it even though our emphasis is on your work, apologetics, philosophy, and we talk about science and theology and things. The apologetics bloggers – the philosophy and apologetics social media – is just lit up with social issues right now. It is just unavoidable. This is why we are commenting.

DR. CRAIG: I think the reason is that these issues are not merely social or political. If they were merely political I would avoid talking about them. But I see these as ethical issues which must be addressed by the church. Issues of religious liberty are important constitutional and ethical questions. We must not sit idly by while our constitutional rights to freedom of religion are eroded by a big brother government that would impose upon religious organizations and churches stances to which they object on religious grounds.

KEVIN HARRIS: The President said, “I am signing today an executive order to defend the freedom of religion and speech in America. The freedoms that we wanted. The freedoms that you fought for so long.” He said that at the Rose Garden ceremony. “The federal government will never ever penalize a person for their protected religious beliefs.”

DR. CRAIG: That is a very sweeping statement which is welcome. But unfortunately the executive order itself, as I understand it, didn’t specifically mention those sorts of issues but simply restricted itself to issues of free speech or political speech. This would be very relevant in Canada where the speech police are so oppressive that people can be prosecuted as uttering hate speech merely for enunciating the view that, for example, homosexual activity is immoral, which is what the Bible teaches. To engage in homosexual relationships, homosexual activity, is immoral just as adultery is immoral or premarital sexual activity is immoral. That is unacceptable in Canada because the politically correct speech police deem that to be hate speech.So these protections that are enunciated here are important in preventing us perhaps from sliding further in the direction that Canada has gone but they don’t address the really burning issues that I think the church faces and that will come before the courts in future years.

KEVIN HARRIS: Yes. And the indication was that the executive order would make allowances for religious conscience in regards to the LGBT issues. Yet that did not make it into this executive order. One wonders why. Why is that left out?

DR. CRAIG: I am not surprised by this because I remember seeing speeches given by Donald Trump when he was on the stump as a candidate. I got the very distinct impression that for him lesbian, homosexual, bisexual, transgender activity is not really immoral. He really doesn’t see anything wrong with it. He sees this as just a personal lifestyle choice and does not share the biblical perspective that this is something proscribed by God and therefore morally wrong. I have a feeling – and it is just a hunch – that he doesn’t have any ethical problems with this kind of behavior. So I am not really all that surprised to see that these protections are missing from this executive order.

KEVIN HARRIS: One of the reasons I think that this needed to be in there regarding LGBT was not to discriminate against our LGBT friends but because LGBT activists are pushing so hard radically into the very areas of ministries and churches in order to take advantage of the Supreme Court ruling.

DR. CRAIG: We’ve seen that, for example, on college campuses where local chapters of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship are being told by the universities that they must allow, for example, practicing homosexuals to serve as officers in the InterVarsity chapters even though this violates InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s standard of conduct. InterVarsity has taken a strong stand on its support for biblical ethics. It has taken tremendous heat and pressure because of this. This sort of concern can be very widely extended. I know a friend from Talbot where I work who had a wonderful cake-making business. She made the most gorgeous cakes. They were artistic creations, not just something to eat. She would do this for weddings and so forth. She has now closed that business because she could not in good conscience make wedding cakes for a homosexual wedding. Yet she knew that if her business continued inevitably, sooner or later, she would be called upon to do such a thing, she would decline, and she could be dragged into court because of it. So this Christian entrepreneur has in effect been put out of business precisely because of these sorts of rulings or the imposition of values that are contrary to her own religious conscience.

KEVIN HARRIS: Many are saying that this is a step in the right direction.

DR. CRAIG: Yes.

KEVIN HARRIS: But it falls short. More needs to be done. Another thing that has been pointed out is that anything done by executive order can be undone by executive order by a future president. Threats to religious freedom in American need to be addressed through legislative action that protects religious liberty for all Americans. There are some bills out there that are kind of heading in that direction. The Free Speech Fairness Act. We are going to have to come to that because free speech is under fire right now, especially on college campuses. We’ll do a future podcast on that about how free speech is being shut down violently by those who oppose you. Not by debate. Not by dialogue. Not by winning an argument or saying, Here is why we don’t agree. It is, You cannot speak. It is one of the scariest things on college campuses.

DR. CRAIG: I agree. It is shocking and deeply troubling. As you say though, at least this is a step in the right direction.It is a reversal of the policies under the previous administration. Let’s hope that Christians will continue to exert pressure on the executive so that we see additional steps to protect religious liberty.

(This podcast is by Reasonable Faith / William Lane Craig. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Is Opening a City Council Meeting with Prayer An American Tradition?

In 2012, the Mt. Vernon City Council received a complaint for opening the meeting with prayer. In an effort to satisfy everyone, the prayer took place two minutes before the meeting officially started but that ultimately caused uproar. Learn more about the case at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

Back in 2012, as the Mt. Vernon City Council officially gaveled in their monthly meeting, someone offered a prayer.

That’s not terribly out of the ordinary. But, something was different this time.

This prayer took place at 7:28.

The meeting officially started at 7:30.

Everyone noticed the change.

You see the city council had received a complaint from a local atheist questioning and disparaging the practice. He even told the local press, “Having a prayer of any faith creates an atmosphere of exclusion.” In response, the council took the prayer off the agenda and moved it ahead two minutes, before official business began.

No one was satisfied.Is Opening a City Council Meeting with Prayer An American Tradition?

To the atheist, it was still exclusionary. To the rest, it was one more capitulation of driving religion from the public square. The uproar was so great that the city council was compelled to pass a resolution restoring the prayer to the agenda.

Well, the whole thing was avoidable.

City councils have been opening their official business with prayer since our country’s beginning. The Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed this tradition, most recently explaining in Greece v. Galloway that legislative prayer is “meant to lend gravity to the occasion and reflect values long part of the Nation’s heritage.”

In other words, cities opening their meetings with prayer are part of who we are as a country.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central

and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Does the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) protect religious acts of protests outside of the Supreme Court? Learn how a U.S. District Court decided the case at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

Sometimes the substantial burden on a person’s religious exercise comes literally to the steps of the Supreme Court.Does RFRA protect religious protests outside of the Supreme Court

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia recently dismissed a lawsuit alleging that preventing anti-war activists from demonstrating outside the Supreme Court violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  The activists noted in their complaint that as a “post-denominational Christian” and “Unity Christian,” their religious beliefs compel protests against war. They insist on living out their spirituality through prayer vigils and peace walks, sometimes on the Supreme Court’s steps.

Interestingly, the court never questioned the sincerity of their beliefs, no matter how odd they seem.

Nevertheless, the court determined that RFRA did not protect their religious acts of protest.

Why?

Because the rule restricts “only one of a multitude of means by which Plaintiffs could engage in their religiously motivated activity.”

According to their own words, the steps of the Supreme Court are not the only place in which to exercise their beliefs; it’s just one of the places they exercise their beliefs. So, while the rules might burden their religious exercise, it’s not a substantial burden since there are many avenues left open to their religious exercise.

RFRA provides broad protection to those who seek to exercise their religion, even when they attempt to do so in public. This case reminds us that RFRA correctly balances that right against the legitimate needs of government to govern.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

 First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central

and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Church wrongly accused of violating ‘separation of church and state’ for renting space from local school district. Learn more about religious liberty rights of churches and other houses of worship at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

Massachusetts Church Faces Religious Discrimination For Renting Public School Space

A Massachusetts church is accused of violating the separation of church and state because it rents space from the local school district.

Church Faces Religious Discrimination For Renting Public School Space

Iglesia Casa de Destino

Town leaders of Southbridge, Massachusetts have raised concerns about Iglesia Casa de Destino’s rented use of a public school in its town.  The church pays the standard rate to use the school’s auditorium once per week, like many churches do across the country.  But, the church is known in the community for its conservative, religious beliefs.

One of the town councilmen is openly questioning whether the church should have a standing agreement to use the property.  Not only is the building expensive to operate, the councilman suggested that the agreement could violate the so-called separation of church and state.

Well, not likely.

The Supreme Court has twice upheld the practice.

A town is, of course, under no obligation to rent its facility to anyone.  But, historically, publicly owned schools have been used and rented by a variety of organizations, including churches. Once a school district decides that it will rent its facilities to the community, it would be unlawful religious discrimination to prevent churches from renting the space.

As the Supreme Court observed in the 1981 decision of Widmar v. Vincent,

 “The Constitution forbids a State to enforce certain exclusions from a forum generally open to the public, even if it was not required to create the forum in the first place.”

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

 First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central

and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Christian Worldview and “The View” – Revelation vs. Majority Opinion

Here’s a hard saying for some: Just because you think Jesus would do something doesn’t mean He would.

Jack Phillips, owner of the Masterpiece Cake Shop, is a brave man. Because he refused to decorate a cake for a same-sex wedding ceremony, he was hauled before the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. He was fined, and faces financial ruin. But he’s still standing fast. And the Supreme Court has agreed to take up his case.

Perhaps even braver than appearing before the Supreme Court was agreeing to appear before another august panel about his Christian beliefs: I’m speaking of the daytime TV show “The View.”Christian Worldview and “The View” - Revelation vs. Majority Opinion

Paula Faris got the ball rolling. “Did you ever ask yourself what Jesus would do in this particular situation?” she asked, and then added knowingly, “Do you think Jesus would have said, ‘I don’t accept this, but I’m going to love you anyway.’”

Of course, the audience applauded, knowing that nothing says “I love you” like baking a cake.

Phillips’s reply was pretty straight-forward: “I don’t believe He would have because that would have contradicted the rest of the biblical teaching.”

“Oh c’mon,” one hostess interrupted to more applause, “Jesus would have made the cake. Jesus can turn water into wine. He can do whatever He wants.”

And then resident theologian Joy Behar jumped in, “You’re supposed to believe the Bible and everything but … that’s a deal breaker. Jesus is gonna make the cake,” then she tosses her palms up like, “what’s the matta’w’you?”

Look, I have no insider information about the faith or theological training of the cast of “The View,” but I’m struck by their certainty that they know exactly what Jesus would do.

But then again, that’s not at all unusual these days, is it? How often do we hear atheists, agnostics, or members of other faiths pronounce confidently exactly what Jesus would do in any given situation?

And almost always it’s, “Jesus is all about love.” And by “love” they mean accepting and affirming whatever someone says, wants or does. It’s called “radical inclusion.”

Now of course, what’s missed in all of this is that God’s love for us is inseparable from God’s sovereign purposes in the world He made. As Abraham Kuyper so helpfully clarified, Jesus is not doing something new or different than God the Father. Redemption doesn’t reject creation, it fulfills it—it completes it. In Christ, God hasn’t changed His plan, He’s fulfilling it, which includes bringing us into full communion with Him and into conformity with His grand story of all that is, all under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Our personal opinions about God’s love and God’s plan don’t change that reality one bit.

But sadly, even many believers miss this point. They get upset when you say that a belief they hold contradicts Scripture, or that an idea they embrace contradicts or is inconsistent with a Christian worldview.

Look, Christians disagree on many things, and there is room on many issues for disagreement within the bounds of orthodox belief. But not all.

Here’s the point, one that Doug Wilson made at his blog recently:

“A Christian worldview is not the sum total of what all the people who are going to Heaven think. It is the system of truth and life that is revealed to us in the Bible. We find out what that is by careful and submissive study, and not by counting available extant interpretations.”

He’s right. We can debate all we want the reliability of Scripture, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the existence of hell, and the biological fact of the difference between men and women as created by God. Fine. But our debates and opinions don’t change revealed Truth.

When we lose sight of that, what we get is not a Christian worldview at all, but more of a circus like “The View.

Visit Breakpoint.org to get further information about the many great books and other resources available there and you can link up to our social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

By Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.

Christian Worldview and “The View”: Revelation vs. Majority Opinion

As John has often pointed out, our view of the world informs our view for the world. We live out what we believe through the lens of our worldview, and by reading and meditating on Scripture, we discover God’s revealed will and purpose.

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