Category : Politics in General

(NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat–Can Americans break the cycle of incomprehension and aggression tends to destroy republics? The Masterpiece Bakeshop Case provides an Opportunity

Democratic life requires accepting that your own faction may be out of power roughly half the time. But in a culture this diverse and divided we trust our fellow citizens less, we share less with them, and we fear that any political defeat will leave our communities at their mercy, that if we lose power we will be routed and destroyed.

Meanwhile because we are so distant from our rivals, we cannot recognize that they share the same fears about what will happen if power is in our hands — or else we dismiss those fears as the pleadings of a wicked claque whose destruction is entirely merited.

As a conservative Catholic who works in a liberal milieu, I watched this happen after Obergefell v. Hodges. For its opponents, the same-sex marriage ruling was less frightening for what it did than for what they feared might follow: not just legal same-sex nuptials, but a sweeping legal campaign against the sexual revolution’s dissidents, in which conservative believers would be prodded out of various occupations, while their schools and hospitals and charities would be fined and taxes and regulated and de-accredited to death.

And liberals who felt ascendant in the Obama years simply couldn’t accept this fear as something to be managed and assuaged; to them, it was either ridiculous alarmism or a cloak for bigotry. So while the Obama White House was requiring nuns to pay for abortifacients and the A.C.L.U. was suing Catholic hospitals for not performing sterilizations and state bureaucrats were trying to punish a handful of Christians in the wedding industry, what Rod Dreher called “the law of merited impossibility” dominated the liberal mind: Religious conservatives were worrying about attacks on their institutions that would never arrive, and when the attacks did arrive they obviously deserved it.

Which in turn encouraged [some] religious conservatives to vote rather desperately for a celebrity strongman named Donald Trump….

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Sunday [London] Times) New Bill could allow unmarried men and women to enter civil partnerships

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Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Men, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Women

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s speech on the role of education today

We have neglected the value of further education within our overall educational landscape for far too long, over numerous Governments and at least since the 1944 Education Act. That neglect is a legacy of the class system, especially in England. The children of privilege are continuing to inherit privilege and this is true not only in our educational institutions but the whole country. It is also true globally, by the way, as seen in the USA and China. Unless we embark on cultural change, involving partnerships in education between businesses, local and national government and the entirety of our education services, I see little prospect of remedying this wrong. Human flourishing, and an opportunity for fullness of life for all those in education, requires flexible and imaginative training that is based on aptitude.

Our trend towards a more inclusive approach to those with disabilities or special educational needs is witness to the way that comprehensive education has improved, and is a welcome step towards an education that seeks the fullest and most abundant possible life for each human being, regardless of their ability—one which draws the best out of every person and leads them out into life. But the academic selective approach to education, which prioritises separation as a necessary precondition for the nurture of excellence, makes a statement about the purpose of education that is contrary to the notion of the common good. At its best, education must be a process of shaping human beings to reach out for and enjoy abundant life, and to do so in such strong communities of widely varying ability but distinctive approaches to each student that they and all around them flourish. An approach that neglects those of lesser ability or, because of a misguided notion of “levelling out” does not give the fullest opportunity to those of highest ability, or does not enable all to develop a sense of community and mutuality, of love in action and of the fullness and abundance of life, will ultimately fail.

One area that I am most concerned about, which we on these Benches see most clearly through our parish system across the whole of England, and which was highlighted in Dame Louise Casey’s review into opportunity and social integration in December 2016, is how the handing down of poverty and deprivation between generations presents a barrier to achieving social cohesion as well as social justice.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Children, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(CT) Evangelical vs. Born Again: A Survey of What Americans Say and Believe Beyond Politics

For all the handwringing over what the term evangelical means in the political moment of Donald Trump and Roy Moore, only 1 in 100 Americans would take on the term if it had nothing to do with politics.

Meanwhile, the label is primarily a political identity for only about 1 in 10 self-identified evangelicals.

Overall, 1 in 4 Americans today consider themselves to be evangelicals. But less than half actually hold evangelical beliefs.

And when defined by beliefs and not by identity, evangelicals are less white (58% vs. 70%), more black (23% vs. 14%), and more likely to worship weekly (73% vs. 61%). However, they are not more likely to be Republican or Democrat.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Evangelicals, Media, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sociology

(ABC) In Australia Same-sex marriage signed into law by Governor-General, first weddings to happen from January 9

Same-sex couples who have already married overseas will have their relationships recognised in Australia from midnight tonight.

After the drama and excitement of the same-sex marriage bill passing the House of Representatives chamber yesterday, the Governor-General signed off on it this morning.

Attorney-General George Brandis said couples had to give a month’s notice of their intention to marry, so the first same-sex weddings will be able to happen from January 9.

Senator Brandis said he became quite emotional when the bill passed and the public galleries erupted with cheers and singing.

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Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Australia / NZ, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

How One Anglican Congregation Asserted its First Amendment Rights amd Effected a Change in City Policy

The city’s policy did not expressly prohibit use of the park for religious activities or by religious groups. Instead, the city’s denial of the application was based on unchecked, arbitrary discretion – which is Constitutionally invalid.

Under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, religious expression and speech are protected in traditional public forums such as public parks like that of Old Town Square in Fairfax. City restrictions on such freedoms are heavily scrutinized and must not discriminate against a particular viewpoint. Further, in traditional public forums, state actors cannot censor people or groups based on the content of their speech, except when there is a compelling state purpose and the restriction is both necessary and the wording narrowly tailored to achieve that purpose. Accordingly, the Supreme Court has ruled in other similar cases that in circumstances like these in which the forum is available to others and the event is open to the public, there is no Establishment Clause conflict. Additionally, in order for the state to require permits (i.e. approval) as a prerequisite for individuals or groups to engage in protected speech, it must follow very strict and objective criteria in decision making. To base such permits on vague discretion by officials making the individual decisions may be considered a prior restraint on protected speech and a violation of the First Amendment.

Fairfax City’s denial of Shepherd’s Heart’s application “was classic prior restraint, which is exactly what the Founders wanted to prevent when they drafted the First Amendment,” explained Gorman. “We used the Freedom of Information Act to get access to the city’s park policies. Even though they said it wasn’t allowed, there was nothing in writing to back it up. It was completely arbitrary.”

Gorman, feeling convinced of the Constitutional violation, contacted the Center for Religious Expression in Memphis, Tennessee who took on the case pro-bono.

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Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), City Government, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues

(WSJ) Luke Goodrich on the Masterpiece Cakeshop Case–Religious freedom is for Christians, too

Most strikingly, a disproportionate share of religious freedom cases are brought by non-Christian minorities. The proportion of religious-freedom cases brought by Hindus was five times their share of the population in the six states under 10th Circuit jurisdiction. The factor was 10 for Native Americans and 17 for Muslims. The most underrepresented group? Christians, who were involved in only one-fourth as many cases as their share of the population.

That means that religious freedom protections remain especially important for non-Christian minorities. But it also raises a question: Why is there so much hand-wringing about a handful of religious-liberty cases brought by Christians?

This is because the political left applies a double standard. If religious liberty is invoked by a favored minority, it is legitimate. But if it is invoked by a Christian with traditional moral views, it is seen as an excuse for hate. Progressives engage in culture-war bullying when religious liberty would stand in the way of their social views. One of the Colorado state commissioners in Masterpiece Cakeshop called the Christian baker’s religious-freedom claim “one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use—to use their religion to hurt others.”

But if religious liberty means anything, it means the right to live according to your beliefs when most people think you are wrong.

So when Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, stands before the Supreme Court Tuesday, he may have some unlikely allies rooting for him: non-Christian religious minorities.

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Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

(NYT Op-ed) Robert George+Sherif Girgis: A Baker’s First Amendment Rights

You need the First Amendment precisely when your ideas offend others or flout the majority’s orthodoxies. And then it protects more than your freedom to speak your mind; it guards your freedom not to speak the mind of another.

Thus, in classic “compelled speech” rulings, the Supreme Court has protected the right not to be forced to say, do or create anything expressing a message one rejects. Most famously, in West Virginia v. Barnette (1943), it barred a state from denying Jehovah’s Witnesses the right to attend public schools if they refused to salute the flag. In Wooley v. Maynard (1977), the court prevented New Hampshire from denying people the right to drive if they refused to display on license plates the state’s libertarian-flavored motto “live free or die.”

On Tuesday, the court will consider whether Colorado may deny Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, the right to sell custom wedding cakes because he cannot in conscience create them for same-sex weddings. Mr. Phillips, who has run his bakery since 1993, sells off-the-shelf items to anyone, no questions asked. But he cannot deploy his artistic skills to create cakes celebrating themes that violate his religious and moral convictions. Thus he does not design cakes for divorce parties, lewd bachelor parties, Halloween parties or same-sex weddings.

Colorado’s order that he create same-sex wedding cakes (or quit making any cakes at all) would force him to create expressive products carrying a message he rejects. That’s unconstitutional.

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Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(ACNS) Archbishop of Canterbury intervenes in Anglo-American diplomatic Twitter row

In a rare political intervention, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has explicitly criticised the US President Donald Trump for retweeting anti-Muslim videos posted by a British far-right extremist group. Archbishop Justin said “it is deeply disturbing that the President of the United States has chosen to amplify the voice of far-right extremists.” The UK Prime Minister Theresa May also criticised the US President, but was slapped down by Mr Trump, who told her to “focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism.”

The original tweets were posted by Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First, a minority political party with virtually no support in Britain outside its estimated 1,000 followers. In a 2014 parliamentary by-election in the Rochester and Strood constituency, Fransen received just 56 of the 40,065 votes cast. She is currently awaiting trial in Belfast on charges of using “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour” and in Kent for inciting racial hatred.

She and her followers have stormed mosques and carried out what they call “Christian Patrols” – marching in paramilitary-stule uniforms carrying a large cross in areas of the UK populated by people who – either themselves or through their ancestors – have roots in south-Asian countries. She claims to be Christian but it is not known if she attends any church. Her actions and those of Britain First have been condemned by Christian leaders from across the denominational spread.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, --Social Networking, Archbishop of Canterbury, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Office of the President, President Donald Trump, Religion & Culture

(GR) Royal wedding quiz: Must a ‘Protestant’ be baptized in order to become an Anglican?

The faith angle of the Markle story is certainly an interesting subject. What does the word “Protestant” mean in this context, as opposed to the word “Anglican”?

That’s a question worthy of discussion, but there are other layers to the puzzle. Some might hint at royal opinions about the match?

For example: If Markle is already a Protestant Christian, why is she being baptized? I have never heard of anyone being re-baptized in order to be confirmed as an Anglican. Protestant converts to Anglicanism, under ordinary circumstances, are simply confirmed. Catholics are “received” into the church, since they were already part of an ancient Communion (there’s that via media, part Catholic-part Protestant factor, again).

Was she part of some Christian movement that did not do a normal, small-o orthodox baptism rite? It’s easy to assume that she had some form of Christian identity, since the American actress is a spokesperson for the Christian charity World Vision.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Marriage & Family, Media, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(CT) Evangelical leaders warn of ‘devastating’ impact of GOP tax plan on the charitable deduction.

Evangelical leaders have raised concerns that the current reform bills in the House and Senate would reduce the incentives that compel givers to donate to churches and other nonprofits.

Currently, taxpayers must itemize their deductions in order to take advantage of the tax breaks for charitable giving. Since the proposed GOP tax reforms would increase the standard deduction, fewer Americans are expected to itemize as a result—dropping from 30 percent of taxpayers to just 5 percent, according to the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.

Doubling the standard deduction means 30 million Americans would no longer benefit from a deduction for their charitable giving, a change that is predicted to reduce giving by $13 billion annually, according to Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Taxes

(NYT) Royal Engagement Seen as Symbol of Change, With Asterisks

But for Ms. [Afua] Hirsch and other chroniclers of racial inequality in Britain, it is problematic to frame Ms. Markle’s engagement as too seminal a moment. The symbolism of Ms. Markle’s entry into a family that once shunned commoners, Catholics and divorced people — let alone nonwhites — does little to diminish structural racism across Britain, several commentators said.

“Markle is not Britain’s Obama moment and shouldn’t be covered as such,” tweeted Reni Eddo-Lodge, the author of “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race,” a new book about institutional racism in Britain.

On Tuesday, it was announced that Ms. Markle would — in addition to joining the Anglican Church — apply for British citizenship after marrying Prince Harry on an unspecified date in May in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, the site of many royal weddings.

In response, a columnist for The Independent highlighted how Ms. Markle would find it far easier to gain citizenship through her husband, compared with the process other nonwhite immigrants face. Such immigrants are disproportionately more likely to fail the admission criteria than their white counterparts.

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Posted in Anthropology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Wa Po Op-ed) Michael Gerson–America is currently cursed with tribal morality

In the cases before us — if you believe the credible testimony of the accusers — the rights and dignity of women have already been violated. Ignoring or playing down those violations in the pursuit of other social goals — conservative or liberal — is an additional form of victimization, this time by the broader society. By politicians such as Ivey. By voters willing to downplay the abuses on their own ideological team. All are making the statement that some lives, when weighed in the balance, really don’t matter.

None of this is to make light of the difficult task of applying appropriate punishments for differing degrees of guilt. But various traditions of ethics rooted in religion — as well as the Enlightenment theories that informed America’s founding — place a primary emphasis on the rights and dignity of individuals protected against the shifting interests of the majority.

This is the firm moral ground upon which our debate on sexual harassment should be conducted. Political figures guilty of coercion, exploitation, dehumanization, cruelty and the abuse of power should not be trusted with power. Even on our own side.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General

The Archbishop of Canterbury welcomes Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s engagement

“Marriage is a special and joyous commitment, one that Jesus celebrated together with friends at the wedding in Cana. I am so happy that Prince Harry and Ms Markle have chosen to make their vows before God.

“I wish them many years of love, happiness and fulfilment and ask that God blesses them throughout their married life together.”

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Posted in --Justin Welby, America/U.S.A., Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Marriage & Family, Politics in General

(Indian Express) Electoral Commission serves notice to R Catholic archbishop for letter seeking prayers for election

Gujarat Election Commission on Saturday served a notice on Thomas Macwan, Archbishop of Gandhinagar and sought an explanation on his letter issued to the Catholic community seeking prayers to ensure the election of leaders who “remain faithful to the Indian Constitution” so that the country can be “saved of nationalist forces”.

The notice, served through the District Election Officer of Gandhinagar, asks the Archbishop to explain why his appeal should not be viewed as a violation of the Model Code of Conduct.

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Posted in India, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic