Category : Church/State Matters

IRS commissioner promises not to revoke tax-exempt status of colleges that oppose same-sex marriage

After the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage, religious leaders feared that religious universities, nonprofits and other institutions could lose their tax-exempt status. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen has promised the Senate Judiciary Oversight Subcommittee that his agency would not go after the tax-exempt status of religious colleges and universities that oppose gay marriage.

During a hearing Wednesday conducted by the Senate Subcommittee on Oversight, Agency Action, Federal Rights and Federal Courts, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) asked Koskinen whether the IRS would “not, in the absence of a directive by Congress or by the courts,” take action to remove religious schools’ tax exemption.

“I can make that commitment,” Koskinen said, explaining that “we see no basis for changing our examination criteria as a result of this Supreme Court case.”

Read it all from the Washington Post.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Church/State Matters, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Taxes, Theology

Bishop Richard Chartres–The Tenth Anniversary of the London Bombings: A Service of Commemoration

Soon after 7/7 the families and the friends of the victims compiled a Book of Tributes. It is a taste of the ocean of pain surrounding the loss of each one of the victims. The tribute book is also very revealing about the character of the London which the bombers attacked.

The majority of the victims were young. They came from all over the UK and all over the world. There were Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Humanists. There are in the book tributes in Italian, French, Arabic, Turkish, Hebrew, Tamil, Polish, Farsi, as well as English.

London is an astonishing world-in-a-city but beyond the diversity the book also conveys a unifying agonised outcry ”“ this was a terrible crime which robbed us of beloved sons and daughters, partners and friends.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Church/State Matters, CoE Bishops, England / UK, Eschatology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(First Things) Dominic Bouck–An America Without Churches?

As the Supreme Court prepares to announce its decision on same-sex marriage, religious people are wondering: will we lose our tax-exempt status for our religious institutions? Justice Samuel Alito raised this question during the oral arguments, citing the 1983 Supreme Court case that ruled Bob Jones University could lose its tax-exempt status if it continued to oppose interracial dating and marriage.

The solicitor general, arguing the case for same-sex marriage, responded that it would “depend on how states work out the balance between their civil rights laws.” This sort of reply should do nothing to calm the nerves of those who object to same-sex marriage. When the conscientious objectors become a minority of the voting population, will our rights be protected?

The issue of the tax-exempt status of religious organizations is already a hot topic in some quarters. Those in favor of taxing religious organizations point out the huge financial impact that it would have, anywhere from tens to hundreds of billions of dollars per year.

The confiscation of church property is no new thing.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Church/State Matters, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Taxes, The U.S. Government, Theology

(Irish Times) Voting underway in landmark Irish referendum

Voters will be given two ballot papers: a white ballot paper for the marriage referendum and a green ballot paper for the age of presidential candidates referendum.

In the marriage referendum people may vote Yes or No to the proposal to include a new clause about marriage in the Constitution.

This new clause provides that two people may marry each other regardless of their sex.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Children, Church/State Matters, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ireland, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

(GC) Trevin Wax–Why Christian Pastors Are Divided On “The Marriage Pledge”

In Romania, the civil and religious ceremonies of marriage are not the same, due primarily to the fact that evangelical ministers do not have the authority to act as ministers of the state. (And I don’t think my Baptist friends there would accept the authority if it were offered to them.)

Our December 6 journey to the Courthouse with friends, family, and witnesses was a hoop to jump through. We’ve never considered the 6th to be our anniversary because the civil ceremony was simply a precursor to the real moment of marriage, which took place in Corina’s church.

I’m not saying that now is the time for a divorce between civil and Christian marriage. I haven’t signed the pledge. (I’m with Tolkien, not Lewis on this issue.) But I do think we can learn something from brothers and sisters in other parts of the world who have never had nor sought the ministerial privileges of authorizing civil marriage.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Church/State Matters, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Sunday Telegraph) Anglican clergy support greater separation between church and state

More than four in 10 Anglican clergy would support loosening ties between church and state or severing them altogether, a major new study on attitudes in the pulpit in the UK shows.

The research also found that a significant minority of serving clerics would support breaking up the 80 million-strong worldwide Anglican Communion and even the Church of England itself along doctrinal lines amid disputes over issues such as homosexuality and the interpretation of the Bible.

Polling by YouGov for the Religion and Society Programme, an academic unit based at Lancaster University, also found that just over half of serving Anglican clergy believe Christians in Britain are suffering discrimination from the Government through the application of equality laws.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Church/State Matters, Ecclesiology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Theology

[Christianity Today] "The Wrong Kind of Christian"

A powerful article at Christianity Today by Tish Harrison Warren. The subtitle: “I thought a winsome faith would win Christians a place at Vanderbilt’s table. I was wrong.” It’s an excellent read from one who was at the center of Vanderbilt University’s decision to rescind recognition of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and other Christian groups.

Kendall posted several entries on the Vanderbilt situation in 2011-2012. Links here, here, and here.

Tish Harrison Warren/ August 22, 2014
The Wrong Kind of Christian

I thought I was an acceptable kind of evangelical.

I’m not a fundamentalist. My friends and I enjoy art, alcohol, and cultural engagement.
We avoid spiritual clichés and buzzwords. We value authenticity, study, racial reconciliation, and social and environmental justice.

Being a Christian made me somewhat weird in my urban, progressive context, but despite some clear differences, I held a lot in common with unbelieving friends. We could disagree about truth, spirituality, and morality, and remain on the best of terms. The failures of the church often made me more uncomfortable than those in the broader culture.

Then, two years ago, the student organization I worked for at Vanderbilt University got kicked off campus for being the wrong kind of Christians.


At first I thought this was all a misunderstanding that could be sorted out between reasonable parties. If I could explain to the administration that doctrinal statements are an important part of religious expression””an ancient, enduring practice that would be a given for respected thinkers like Thomas Aquinas””then surely they’d see that creedal communities are intellectually valid and permissible. If we could show that we weren’t homophobic culture warriors but friendly, thoughtful evangelicals committed to a diverse, flourishing campus, then the administration and religious groups could find common ground.

But as I met with other administrators, the tone began to change. The word discrimination began to be used””a lot””specifically in regard to creedal requirements. It was lobbed like a grenade to end all argument. Administrators compared Christian students to 1960s segregationists. I once mustered courage to ask them if they truly thought it was fair to equate racial prejudice with asking Bible study leaders to affirm the Resurrection. The vice chancellor replied, “Creedal discrimination is still discrimination.”

Feeling battered, I talked with my InterVarsity supervisor. He responded with a wry smile, “But we’re moderates!” We thought we were nuanced and reasonable. The university seemed to think of us as a threat.

For me, it was revolutionary, a reorientation of my place in the university and in culture.

I began to realize that inside the church, the territory between Augustine of Hippo and Jerry Falwell seems vast, and miles lie between Ron Sider and Pat Robertson. But in the eyes of the university (and much of the press), subscribers to broad Christian orthodoxy occupy the same square foot of cultural space.

The line between good and evil was drawn by two issues: creedal belief and sexual expression. If religious groups required set truths or limited sexual autonomy, they were bad””not just wrong but evil, narrow-minded, and too dangerous to be tolerated on campus.

The whole article is highly recommended

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Church/State Matters, Education, Law & Legal Issues, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Religion & Culture

Peter Berger–Archbishop Welby Smiled; some thoughts on the recent Women Bishops' Decision

Grace Davie, the distinguished British sociologist of religion, has proposed an interesting idea: A strong establishment of a church is bad for both religion and the state”“for the former because the association with state policies undermines the credibility of religion, and for the latter because the support of one religion over all others creates resentment and potential instability. But a weak establishment is good for both institutions, because a politically powerless yet still symbolically privileged church can be an influential voice in the public arena, often in defense of moral principles. Davie’s idea nicely fits the history of the Church of England. In earlier centuries it persecuted Roman Catholics and discriminated against Nonconformist Protestants and Jews. More recently it has used its “bully pulpit” for a number of good causes, not least being the rights of non-Christians. Thus very recently influential Jewish and Muslim figures have voiced strong support for the continuing establishment of the Church of England, among them Jonathan Sacks, the former Orthodox Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, and the Muslim Sayeeda Warsi, currently Minister of Faith and Communities in David Cameron’s cabinet.

Of course it would be foolish to recommend that the British version of state/church relations be accepted in other countries””as foolish as to expect other countries to adopt the very distinctive American form of the separation of church and state. However, as I have suggested in other posts on this blog, the British arrangement is worth pondering by other countries who wish to combine a specific religious identity with freedom for all those who do not share it. For starters, I’ll mention all countries who want legislation to be based on “Islamic principles” (not full-fledged sharia law); Russia, struggling to define the public role of the Orthodox Church; Israel trying to define the place of Judaism in its democracy; India, similarly seeking to fit hindutva into its constitutional description as a “secular republic”. In a globalizing world, cross-national comparisons can be surprisingly useful.

Read it all from the American Interest.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, - Anglican: Commentary, --Justin Welby, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), Church/State Matters, CoE Bishops, History, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Theology, Women

(Independent) Stefano Hatfield–Complete disestablishment of church and state necessary

Being more cynical, one might buy into the famous Marx quotation: “religion is the opium of the people”. While it’s true that Marx was articulating his belief that religion was a way of “power” saying “don’t worry if you’re downtrodden in this life, you will find a reward in the next”, in the wider quotation from which those words are taken, he was actually being more sympathetic: acknowledging the potential of religion to give solace where there is distress.

That’s how I feel when I look on in bemused fascination at members of my own family’s religious devotion despite their never-ending series of trials in this life. As a callow, arrogant youth I would try the Marx line out on them, only to be dismissed. And rightly so, because back then I was merely trying to provoke them.

Today, the conversation is different. I respect their beliefs because I can see the solace they have brought them, whilst absolutely rejecting any attempts to continue to force those beliefs upon others, or to marry them to the state.

The need for complete dis-establishment of church and state not only in this country, but in all countries, appears so obvious in the face of the many inequalities that accompany “establishment” that it is mystifying that in the 21 Century that there can be any argument against it. But then, what do I know? Apparently, my heart is closed.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Church/State Matters, England / UK, History, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Theology

(RNS) IRS agrees to monitor churches for electioneering

The Internal Revenue Service said it will monitor churches and other houses of worship for electioneering in a settlement reached with an atheist group.

The settlement was reached Friday (July 18) in federal court in Madison, Wis., where the initial lawsuit was filed in 2012 by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based atheist advocacy group that claims 20,000 members nationwide.

The suit alleged the IRS routinely ignored complaints by the FFRF and others about churches promoting political candidates, issues or proposed legislation. As part of their tax-exempt status, churches and other religious groups are prohibited from engaging in partisan political activity.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Church/State Matters, Economy, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Taxes, The U.S. Government

A Little Noticed Alan Jacobs Post on where Faith and the Public Square may be Headed in America

I care very much about the future of religious liberty, and I don’t think, over the long run and in this country, there will be much of it…American liberalism more generally, is committed to the idea that freedom to worship is sufficient, and is trying, gradually but consistently, to discourage Christians and other religious believers from acting out their religious convictions anywhere outside the walls of the church ”” at least, in any ways that might interfere with the power of the State to arbitrate and dispense justice and charity.

It’s possible that in the coming years there will be at least a temporary slowing in the erosion of religious liberty, but I can’t see the long-term trends altering. All Americans, including those who call themselves conservatives, are gradually growing accustomed to the elimination of the “third sector” of civil society and will find it increasingly difficult to understand why either the free markets or the State should be restrained from exerting their powers to their fullest. I expect that quite soon most Christians will cease even to ask for anything more from the State than freedom to worship.

For those of us who believe that civil society should be stronger, not weaker, and especially if our primary concern is for the health of religious institutions as the most important mediating forces in society, this change will pose a wide range of problems. For instance, the removal of tax breaks for religious institutions will surely be complete within a generation, and a range of policies will discourage charitable giving, which will make generosity harder ”” but not impossible for most of us. That’ll be a way for us to discover what we are made of.

–from his Snakes and Ladders blog; I encourage you to read it all. This was quoted in the late sermon this morning by yours truly in worship–KSH.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Church/State Matters, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Taxes, Theology

The Full Text of Lady Hale's Address at Yale's Comparative and Administrative Law Conference

England (and I mean England) is a paradoxical country when it comes to religion. We have an established church. This means that our head of state, the Queen, is also head of the Church of England and 26 of its bishops have seats in the upper House of Parliament. The Church of England also has special privileges and duties in relation to marriages and to burials. Until recently it also enjoyed the special protection of the law of blasphemy. But England is one of the least religious countries in Western Europe. According to the British Social Attitudes Survey (No 28, 2011), half the population do not belong to any religion and affiliation to the Church of England fell from 40% in 1983 to 20% in 2010. Politicians are not encouraged to wear their religion , if any, on their sleeves. Religious observance is much more common amongst minority communities than it is amongst the majority, who would once unhesitatingly have described themselve s as “C of E” even if they never went to church. One reason for this loss of interest, of course, could be that the Church of England is a very undemanding church. It has no dietary
laws, no dress codes for men or women, and very little that its members can say is actually required of them by way of observance….

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Church/State Matters, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, History, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Andrew Goddard) CofE HOB’ Pastoral Guidance on Same-Sex Marriage Part II ”“ Qtns and Challenges

The sad reality is that a house divided against itself cannot stand. Although it is reported that only one bishop voted against the guidance, it is also being claimed that a significant number, even a majority, are not personally happy with it. The reactions to the guidance make clear just how extensive the divisions are in the wider church and thus how difficult the environment for the facilitated conversations is going to be. They also perhaps highlight two areas where the conversations need to focus their attention but which were largely unaddressed by the Pilling Report:

(1) What doctrine of marriage should the Church have and how should it then bear faithful witness to that in ordering its own life and in mission in a wider society which recognises same-sex marriage? and

(2) What is to be done, what new church structures may be needed, so that those who find themselves unable to accept the conclusions on the doctrine of marriage and its practical implications can faithfully bear witness to their understanding of marriage without undermining the mind of the majority or condemning the Church of England to continuing destructive conflict over this issue?

Read it all and Pt I is here.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, - Anglican: Analysis, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Provinces, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Church/State Matters, CoE Bishops, Ecclesiology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Local Paper) Coastal Crisis Chaplaincy celebrates 25 years counseling those facing life's traumas

It all started when the Rev. Rob Dewey, police officer turned Episcopal priest, saw a need for chaplains at police scenes to counsel and support those affected, from first responders to victims and their families.

The need became an unfunded dream that became Coastal Crisis Chaplaincy, a growing nonprofit Judeo-Christian ministry turning 25 years old.

Its chaplains have counseled countless residents who have landed, by choice or by fate, at the doorstep of violent death and life’s other most devastating traumas.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * South Carolina, Church/State Matters, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Police/Fire

A NY Times Editorial on the Case Coming to the Supreme Court this Week–A Prayer in the Town Hall

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled for the plaintiffs. While prayers before legislative sessions do not necessarily violate the Constitution, the court said, the “overwhelming predominance” of the prayers was explicitly Christian, leading a reasonable observer to understand the town to be endorsing that religion over others, regardless of the town’s intent. (After the suit was filed, the board invited representatives of other religions, including Judaism, the Baha’i faith and Wicca, to deliver the prayer, but after four months the prayers were almost exclusively Christian again.)

Defenders of the board’s practice rely on a 1983 Supreme Court case that upheld prayers before legislative sessions ”” including those of Congress ”” because they are “deeply embedded” in American history. The prayers in Greece are constitutional, the defenders say, because they may be delivered by anyone, and the town does not compel citizens to pray.

But compulsion is not the only issue. As Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote in a 1984 case, when a government appears to endorse one religion, it “sends a message to nonadherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community.” After the Greece lawsuit was filed, one of the plaintiffs received a letter, signed “666,” that read, “If you feel ”˜unwanted’ at the Town of Greece meetings, it’s probably because you are.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Church/State Matters, City Government, History, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Rural/Town Life, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology