Category Archives: Limited Government

But at Least We Are Free…Prayer and The Supreme Court

The following was featured as a guest column in the Livingston County Press Argus Sunday morning.

You are welcome to post comments here at the blog or at the newspaper post here.

Tim

Public Prayer and The Supreme Court

This month, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Town of Greece v. Galloway, a case revolving around the constitutionality of conducting prayer at the start of local government meetings.

It has been argued that after a 1983 ruling, Marsh v. Chambers, some recent prayer practices of the New York town of Greece are unconstitutional. To assess if the practices violate the First Amendment, as the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals found, we must consider both the establishment clause and the free-exercise clause.

Yes, the First Amendment does say, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” but it also adds, “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Our nation’s forefathers came to this land not merely to escape state religion such as Anglicanism (establishment) but also to leave behind the prohibitions against their religious conduct in England and Europe (free exercise).

Based on the First Amendment, how should prayers in the context of public government meetings be regulated? In short, they should not be regulated.

Let’s take a step back and evaluate which outcome would best maintain freedom of religion. If the Supreme Court rules to allow prayer to continue, will those who hold alternate religious beliefs (or even nonreligious beliefs) have their freedom curtailed? Hardly.

A dissenting mind might suffer indigestion through listening to a religious invocation with which he or she might strongly disagree. But their freedom is intact. The act of prayer at the outset of a government meeting does not establish religion. No law is passed, nor is there any consequence from the state when an individual expresses his or her liberty to silently stand by.

However, if any person is told that their prayer is no longer permitted in the United States and that he or she may not speak their conscience out loud, that person’s freedom to exercise religion has been prohibited. What consequence or penalty would be just for praying an offensive prayer? Who will decide what prayer was proper? Our founders paid a costly price to establish the freedom of religion in this nation.

Difficult question

If one grants, then, that prayer ought to be maintained, the more difficult question is, “In what manner should prayer be maintained?” Again, I say, in a manner free of regulation. Any regulation of prayer, toward which Marsh (1983) leans, will of necessity establish a law of what is proper prayer as a religious exercise in public.

This is something the court’s oral arguments demonstrated to be unresolvable. The Supreme Court strained to the point of hilarity about what would or would not be “sufficiently nonsectarian.”

In my opinion, the Supreme Court should continue to permit men and women to express their religious beliefs verbally in any context that they choose.

It will be argued, “Won’t some people be offended?” Yes, perhaps. But, aren’t we all going to be offended at some point in life?

As a Christian, I actually want to hear from those who differ with me. Even if we disagree, I keep an open mind, and I will not be offended that we’re different. I am even willing to relinquish my preferences for the sake of the preservation of liberty.

Our goal with regard to religious speech and prayer should not be to keep from offending some, but to maintain liberty for all. Ironically, trying so hard to prevent offense through regulation actually leads to intolerance.

So what should happen with prayer in public and at the start of government meetings? The same thing that has happened for 200-plus years in our land since the framing of the Constitution— men and women should be permitted to pray without fear when invited. Prayer should continue unregulated not because it is in our history, but because it is a principled practice of liberty.

At times, men or women may disagree with one another, but at least we are free.

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Filed under about God, Current Events, Limited Government

International Day (Week) of Prayer for the Persecuted Church

If you have not heard of Pastor Saeed Abedini, I’d like to introduce you to a pastor who needs your prayer.  He also needs us to apply pressure to American authorities for his speedy release.  I hope you’ll click through the link I’ve provided.

Here’s an excerpt from Jordan Sekulow in the Washington Post:

In a disturbing turn of events, an American Pastor imprisoned in Iran has been transferred to one of the deadliest prisons in the world, placing this U.S. citizen’s life in grave danger.

We have written before about the plight of Pastor Saeed Abedini who has been sentence to eight years in prison because of his Christian faith. The ACLJ represents the Abedini family in the U.S.

For more than a year, the 33-year-old pastor, husband and father of two has been incarcerated in Evin Prison, one of the worst prisons in the world.  He has endured mental and physical torment – including beatings at the hands of his captors that resulted in internal bleeding and other serious injuries.

I’ve heard that others have come to faith in Christ through Pastor Saeed’s testimony in Evin.

Here’s the words of Paul to the Philippians when he was in prison:

Philippians 1:12-14  I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel,  13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.  14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Three action points:

1) Pray.  Ask the sovereign God to influence the rulers of Iran to free Pastor Saeed

2) Tell others.  Use this post or the link to share on Facebook, Twitter or other social media.

3) Contact a representative or congressional leader.  Ask them to act on his behalf.

Grace and peace,

Tim

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-faith/wp/2013/11/06/pastor-saeed-abedini-faces-grave-new-danger/

2 Comments

by | November 6, 2013 · 6:56 pm

HHS Mandate and Civil Liberties

Obama’s HHS Mandate

On January 20th, 2012, President Obama and the Department of  Health and Human Services (HHS) informed the Roman Catholic church that they would be forced to provide sterilization, contraception, and various abortifacient drugs as part of their state-mandated insurance to their employees (Obamacare).  The problem is that this requires a religious institution (the church) to violate it’s conscience thus ceasing the religious liberties it is granted by God.

The Catholic church’s response was clear and firm.  They will not cave in and act contrary to their own conscience.  The response of Bishops has been rapid and well organized.  As as of Saturday morning https://www.stophhs.com/ has already garnered 41,000 petitions to send to the President.

An Inadequate Response

Under the pressure from the public outcry of concerned citizens, faithful believers and even Republican candidates President Obama attempted to quell the fury by holding a press conference on Friday.  There he announced that he has found a solution whereby the employees of the church could be guaranteed health care that includes sterilization, contraception and abortifacient drugs and church based employers would be off the hook.  In his words, “religious liberty will be protected, and a law that requires free preventive care will not discriminate against women.”

Well, Mr. President not exactly.  This still has many problems and complexities that cannot be removed with pleasant platitudes.  A few points should be considered.

As Al Kresta writes, “It is important to remember that a press conference is not a policy. The best that we can say is that the President is now reopening the discussion and he seems to show a willingness to make some accommodations. Nevertheless, again, a press conference is not policy. He shows no awareness of the conscience problems faced by Catholic businessmen, religious organizations that self-insure, or American citizens who, for reasons of conscience, do not want to participate in insurance plans that offer contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs.”

Jesus said “wisdom is proved right by her actions” (Matthew 11:19). Consider the fact that President Obama at his speech at Notre Dame said, “Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion and draft a sensible conscience clause.” – Barack Obama May 17, 2009.  He has not kept his word at a public address in 2009, we should only believe it when enacted with real policy change.

Civil Liberties and Civil Disobedience

This is more than partisan warfare, what we are upset about is that this is undermining civil liberties.  America was founded on the self-evident principles that “all men are endowned by their creator with certain unalienable rights, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  That a religious institution should receive a mandate from the state is not just an over-reach of public policy it is contrary to religious liberty entirely.  The view of the church is that the church is an institution ordained by God through Christ who does not answer to the state but to the only head of the church, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Al Kresta emphasizes,

“The most distressing aspect of this debate is that we are having it at all. Religious liberty is not a gift of the state that is graciously bestowed on us by our political leaders. Religious liberty is what we posses by virtue of our creation in the image and likeness of God.  We will persevere in this fight until everybody’s freedom of conscience is protected.”

Chuck Colson agrees.  His Two-Minute warning this week is worth viewing in totality.  He says that when he and other Christians penned the Manhattan Declaration, he thought that Civil Disobedience was a possible reality on the distant horizon.  Amazingly, through the HHS Mandate, such statist over-reach into the church is already upon our doorstep.  There may be a time (sooner that expected) where Christians must obey God rather than men.  A threat to liberty anywhere is a threat to liberty everywhere.  You should be prepared by having a biblical view of church and state (e.g. Kuyper’s Sphere Sovereignty) and clear convictions ready to speak the truth in love to others and even disobey man if obedience to God requires.

Hypocrites and Hippocrates

Dr. Nigel Cameron, author of The New Medicine, demonstrates that the original creed of medicine, the Hippocratic Oath included the very important phrases,

I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone.

I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan; and similarly I will not give a woman a pessary to cause an abortion.

But I will preserve the purity of my life and my arts.

Our modern medicine would do well to return to the principles of Hippocrates.  DO NO HARM!  We have not advanced beyond pagan fore-fathers of medicine.  Unfortunately we have regressed.

You can take action by learning more from the links in this blog post and by signing a petition at

www.stophhs.com or

http://manhattandeclaration.org/

God bless you for learning, taking action, and for praying for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Tim

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Filed under Christ and Culture, Current Events, Limited Government, Take action in politics

It’s very easy to write to your Representative

I’m grateful to Chris Brady for the following link.

https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml

All you need to do to contact your representative is enter your
state/zip and then follow the dialogue box at the US Government webpage.  Here’s the letter I penned to my Representative, Mike Rogers on the eve of the Health Care Reform vote:

Nov. 6

To the Honorable Mike Rogers,

Based on the emails I have received and the videos I’ve watched it sounds like you’re on the side of limited government and oppose our current president’s “health care reform.”

I am opposed to the current health care reform on two grounds.  First, I believe it is a backdoor to enable abortion to be covered as medical care, supported by taxpayers dollars.  I, for one (among many, many citizens), am thoroughly opposed to requiring my taxes be used to murder the most innocent and vulnerable in our culture.

Secondly, and more generally, I believe the health care reform bill is a significant step away from limited government.  Due to the power that God has granted government (to protect citizens from threats within–police, and to protect citizens from threats without–military) through bearing the sword, the force of government must remain limited or it will inevitably be abused.  As Lord Acton so ably put it, “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

I am grateful and hope that you will continue to be a positive force for good for the American People of Michigan whom you so able represent.

Sincerely,

Rev. Timothy A. Brown

Lastly, here’s the main link to the House of Representatives: http://www.house.gov/

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Filed under Limited Government