Advancing Religious Liberty

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Posted 8/20/14 at 1:04 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

The Growing Worldwide Threat to Religious Freedom

AUTHOR: Alliance Defending Freedom President, CEO, and General Counsel Alan Sears

“It is not one world,” Paul Harvey used to remind his listeners, and events of recent weeks have underscored that in heart-breaking ways, as word pours in of increasingly vicious and aggressive assaults on religious freedom all over the globe.

Like me, you’ve probably read how the Islamic State – which controls much of northern Iraq and eastern Syria – ordered Christian citizens of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, to pay a protective tax, leave the city within 24 hours, or be executed. Most fled. These people make up one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, dating back 1,700 years. And yet, virtually overnight, their freedom to follow that faith in their ancient homeland is gone.

A few months ago, I wrote of the thousands of Christians in Wenzhou, China, who had come out in support of their new church, which had drawn so much positive attention that a local Communist leader ordered it destroyed. Despite the believers’ best efforts … despite the fact that the church is part of China’s official, government-controlled Protestant church … despite the fact that the Chinese constitution defends religious freedom … despite the fact that the building was approved by city officials … the church was demolished. FULL POST

Posted 8/19/14 at 12:12 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom |

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The Giver: The Danger of Removing Emotion from Life Issues

AUTHOR: Alliance Defending Freedom Web Writer Marissa Poulson

I couldn’t help but recall Beryl Otieno Ngoje’s story as I watched the movie The Giver, based on the Newbery Medal winning book by Lois Lowry.

The particular scene that jumped out at me was the most difficult to watch, but stuck with me long after the movie ended. The protagonist, Jonas (played by Brenton Thwaites), watches his father kill a baby under the disguise of “release.” The raw emotion Jonas feels as he realizes that his father took a life—had taken many lives and would continue to do so—is heart wrenching.

It’s how I imagine Beryl felt when her manager, who was also a nurse at Same Day Surgery Unit at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, excitedly ran up to her at work one day, clenching her fist. When she opened her hand—to Beryl’s dismay—she saw the form of tiny baby that had just been aborted. FULL POST

Posted 8/18/14 at 11:39 AM | Alliance Defending Freedom

The Future of Marriage and Family, According to The Giver

AUTHOR: Alliance Defending Freedom Director of Digital Marketing Eric Porteous

“Do you love me?” Jonas asks his father hesitantly.

Love?” Jonas’s little sister asks, “What’s ‘love’?”

“Precision of language!” their mother snaps. “Jonas is using a word so antiquated, it has no meaning in our society.”

His father seems puzzled. “If you mean, am I proud of you for your accomplishments, then yes.”

Jonas’s face falls.

What happens when everyone is viewed not just as being equal, but the same?

No need for diversity. No need for emotion. No need for love. Just plain, passionless people whose sole purpose is to protect a community of sameness disguised as perfection.

This is the glimpse of what such a society could look like in the movie The Giver, now playing in theaters. It’s a society that, for the sake of avoiding conflict and all that comes with it, everything is decided for you.

  • Spouses are assigned to each other, and babies are separated from their birth parents and assigned to “family units.”
  • These “family units” live together in identical “dwellings,” in perfectly planned “communities.”
  • Sexual urges or “stirrings” are controlled by pills.
  • And “love” is an antiquated term with no meaning.

As far as the Elders are concerned, all of this is acceptable. After all, in their eyes, sacrificing these things is a small price to pay to rid the community of rejection, pain, and suffering. So while there’s no potential for divorce, there’s also no possibility for strong, healthy marriages that lead to strong, healthy families that lead to a strong, healthy society. FULL POST

Posted 8/15/14 at 1:04 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

The Giver: We’re Not As Far Off As You Might Think

Movie poster for The Giver

AUTHOR: Alliance Defending Freedom Social Content Editor Emily Conley

At first, it looks like Utopia – war, violence, and diseases have been eliminated. Every family has a wife, husband, and children living in picturesque “dwellings” in perfectly ordered communities. Everyone and everything has a purpose. But something is … wrong.

First, the world has quite literally lost its color. And everything is the same.

It’s by design. In the fictional world of The Giver, the Elders have enforced “Sameness.” In order to eliminate war and violence, they had to first eliminate hate. To eliminate hate, they eliminated all diversity … leaving a society where all emotion, art, creativity, faith, race, freewill, and freedom is gone.

The Elders assign spouses, assign babies to the spouses, and assign occupations once children come of age. There is no right to choose. The Elders govern all speech and behavior.

But of course, no one wants war and violence, so everyone willingly submits to the daily injections that suppress emotion and free will.

Until Jonas. As the Receiver of Memory, he and The Giver are the only people with memories of the past, and are haunted by a time when life was different … “more complete.” FULL POST

Posted 8/14/14 at 11:48 AM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Restoring Free Exchange to the Academic Marketplace

AUTHOR: Alliance Defending Freedom President, CEO, and General Counsel Alan Sears

You’ve seen open air markets. They come in many forms: food bazaars, swap meets, flea markets, trade shows. People set up their booths and tables of fruits and vegetables, gizmos and knick knacks, knock-offs and antiques, and the shoppers and the gawkers and the curious are free to surge through and around the various displays, sorting out the deals from the steals, the legitimate sellers from the hucksters. It’s a tradition as old as human history … the right of a seller to present his products, the right of the buyer to beware.

Colleges and universities are often described as “the marketplace of ideas.” Professors and fellow students present their philosophical wares, which impressionable young minds have an opportunity to freely sample, examine, embrace, or reject.

That’s the way it’s supposed to work … but on too many campuses in America today, professors and administrators are less interested in providing a free market than in making students “an offer they can’t refuse.” Enforcing speech codes designed to restrict what students say and speech zones designed to limit where they can say it, public universities are now run like Socialist government stores, presenting their “customers” with a one-size-fits-all line of intellectual clothing tailored to suit the current cultural and political fashions. FULL POST

Posted 8/13/14 at 4:06 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Supreme Court Has Opportunity to Take Up Marriage Case

Photo: Flickr/David - Creative Commons
United States Supreme Court building

On August 6, our attorneys representing Sally Howe Smith, a county clerk in Oklahoma, asked the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the freedom of Oklahomans to affirm marriage as the union of one man and one woman in their laws.

The story:

In 2009, a same-sex couple allegedly asked Smith’s office to issue a marriage license to them. She, however, cannot legally issue a marriage license to two people of the same sex, so neither she nor her office could honor that request.

In our petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, we explained that while some are seeking to redefine marriage from a gendered (man-woman) institution, others want to preserve marriage as a gendered institution because redefining it would risk undermining its still-vital purpose of connecting children to both their mother and their father.

The decision that we asked the Supreme Court to review, if allowed to stand, would end this political debate. That court held that States may no longer define marriage as a man-woman union. FULL POST

Posted 8/13/14 at 2:42 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

4 Stories You Need To Know: Airstrikes in Iraq, Planned Parenthood Scandal, and More

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Photo: Patrick Hoesly - Creative Commons

AUTHOR: Alliance Defending Freedom Social Content Editor Emily Conley

1. U.S. Takes Action Against ISIS as Attacks Continue on Christians and Religious Minorities

By far the biggest story of the day: U.S. fighter jets bombed ISIS (now known as Islamic State) militants in Iraq this morning, and according to CNN, “U.S. warplanes patrolling the skies over northern Iraq have a ‘green light’ to go after perceived ISIS threats to the Kurdish capital, Irbil, or to minority populations, said deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes.”

Those “minority populations” could include bringing military aid to the Yazidi, a religious ethnic group who fled to Mount Sinjar. These thousands of refugees have been trapped without food and water for days. On Thursday night, two U.S. military cargo planes airdropped gallons of water and meals.

According to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, “[The Islamic State's]‘campaign of terror against the innocent, including the Yazidi and Christian minorities, and its grotesque targeted acts of violence show all the warning signs of genocide.’” Read more coverage here. FULL POST

Posted 8/7/14 at 7:28 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom |

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European High Court Says No "Right" to Same-Sex Marriage: What Does This Mean For the U.S.?

No spelled with puzzle pieces
Photo: Flickr/Horia Varlan - Creative Commons

AUTHOR: Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Joseph La Rue

As the debate over the definition of marriage rages across the states, the European Court of Human Rights (kind of like a “Supreme Court of Europe”) has decided that the European Convention on Human Rights (kind of like our Constitution) does not require that nations recognize same-sex marriage.

This is a monumental decision, and could have a major impact as our Supreme Court is expected to take up a marriage case in the coming term.

Our Supreme Court Justices have looked to this court before; in fact, Justice Kennedy relied upon the European Court of Human Rights when deciding the Lawrence case that ruled the ban on sodomy unconstitutional.

The facts:

  • Man marries woman; Man decides he’s female; Man has “sexual reassignment surgery” to “become” female; Man tries to change his legal status to female.
  • Finland has law restricting marriage to one man one woman unions; Finland declines to change Man’s legal status unless Man and Woman agree to dissolve their marriage and enter domestic partnership; Man and Woman do not want to do that, arguing that divorce is against their religion and their children would be disadvantaged, having lesser status than they do as the children of a married couple.
  • Man and Woman therefore demanded to have Man’s legal status changed to female while leaving Man and Woman in a marriage, even though Finland does not recognize marriages between two females.

The Court held by a 14-3 vote that the European Convention on Human Rights does not require countries to recognize same-sex marriages. FULL POST

Posted 8/6/14 at 12:02 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Planned Parenthood – Profit. No Matter What

Photo: Fibonacci Blue - Creative Commons
Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Paul, Minnesota

AUTHOR: Alliance Defending Freedom Director of Digital Marketing Eric Porteous

You work hard for your money, and as a good, upstanding citizen, you pay your taxes, trusting that those dollars will be used to benefit the greater community. They should not be wasted. They should not be abused. And it’s reasonable to believe that any organization that benefits from those dollars should not be caught up in potential fraud.

But, if actions speak louder than words, that’s clearly not how Planned Parenthood sees it.

We recently released our Annual Report on Planned Parenthood Affiliates and State Family Planning Programs. So, what did we find?

A large number of federal and state audits have documented that improper practices from Planned Parenthood and state family planning agencies have resulted in a minimum of $115 million in losses to American taxpayers.

A minimum of $115 million…lost.

What else could those tax dollars have gone to? They could have been used to help the homeless, improve education, or support foster or adoptive families. Perhaps they could have been used to help the economy or support our veterans. Instead, they went to support waste, abuse, and potential fraud by Planned Parenthood and other state family planning programs. FULL POST

Posted 8/6/14 at 11:57 AM | Alliance Defending Freedom

FACT: No One Wins When Pulpits Aren't Free

free speech
Photo: Flickr/John Morton - Creative Commons

AUTHOR: Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Web Writer Marissa Poulson

On July 17, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) claimed “victory” in a press release announcing its settlement with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) over the agency’s failure to investigate churches for political activity.

According to FFRF, “The IRS has now resolved the . . . issue necessary to initiate church examinations.”

In other words, the IRS is looking to “examine” your pastor’s sermon to make sure it meets the IRS’ interpretation of the tax code.

To give you some background, the tax code mandates that tax-exempt organizations may not “participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.” According to the IRS, this statement, known as the Johnson Amendment, can be applied to a pastor’s sermon from the pulpit.

In reading more about the history of the Johnson Amendment, I came across a statement that said “It is a well-known fact that churches cannot endorse or oppose political candidates.” It just so happens that this “well-known fact” is also unconstitutional, and it ignores other facts—facts that we, as Americans, can’t ignore. FULL POST

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