By Joseph LaRue, Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel
Recently the City Council of Phoenix, AZ, passed the “Bathroom Bill,” which, among other things, will allow men to enter and use women’s restrooms and locker rooms. The Mayor and five Council members who voted in favor of this change said it was necessary to protect the miniscule segment of men who are confused about their sexuality and think that they are women. But in passing the Bathroom Bill, the Mayor and City Council abdicated its duty to protect Phoenix’s children and women. Instead, it provided voyeurs and other sexual predators easy access to the places where children and women are most vulnerable. The City Council thus violated its public trust and placed children, adolescents, and women who use a public restroom in Phoenix at risk.
Supporters of the Bathroom Bill are saying that no man who believes he is a woman will bother girls or women while using the restroom. Their claim misses the point. Most girls and women will be unnerved by seeing any man in their restroom, whether he intends them harm or not. The Bathroom Bill allows any man – including voyeurs and other sexual predators – to enter women’s restrooms, locker rooms, and changing areas. It is not limited to the small percentage of men who think they are women. Sadly, there is nothing anyone can do to stop them. In fact, merely asking someone if they are aware it is the “wrong” bathroom can potentially invoke punishment and leave the person asking the question with a criminal record. That’s right, now it’s a criminal violation to discriminate against men who think they should use the women’s restroom.
While the City Council exempted churches and religious organizations from having to open their women’s restrooms to men, churches need to be concerned. We all need to be concerned. Letting men into public bathrooms used by young girls and women is an invasion of privacy and a threat to the safety of all citizens. Instead of protecting women and children, the city’s elected officials adopted a bill that will compromise their safety. It is appalling that these elected officials have decided to put women and young girls in danger.
One shining ray of encouragement coming from this otherwise bleak situation concerns how the leaders of local Hispanic churches took a bold stand for the children, women, and families in Phoenix. They overwhelmingly opposed the Bathroom Bill and courageously explained its danger, along with what the Bible says about human sexuality, to the City Council. They implored the Council to make decisions in accordance with God’s Word and protect the children, women and families of Phoenix. These pastors and other leaders served as a stirring example of what it means to shepherd and protect God’s church and boldly proclaim His truth.
May all pastors and church leaders do likewise.
By Rory Gray, Alliance Defending Freedom Litigation Counsel
As Pope Benedict XVI retires from public life, it is time to pay tribute to his contributions as one of the greatest champions of religious freedom in our age. Pope Benedict XVI, throughout his time in office, proclaimed loudly what few in our time have dared to speak: “Christians are the religious group which suffers most from persecution on account of its faith.” And he refused to accept the status quo, characterizing it as “unacceptable,” “an insult to God and to human dignity; furthermore, it is a threat to security and peace, and an obstacle to the achievement of authentic and integral human development.” Few religious leaders have been so bold. But Pope Benedict XVI spoke out in the face of “the deliberate promotion of religious indifference or practical atheism on the part of many countries.” He clearly proclaimed that efforts to “curtail the proclamation of [religious] truths, whether constricting it within the limits of a merely scientific rationality, or suppressing it in the name of political power or majority rule, … represent a threat not just to Christian faith, but also to humanity itself and to the deepest truth about our being and ultimate vocation, our relationship to God.”
For Pope Benedict XVI harbored no doubts that “the most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion” was under attack. He spoke out against efforts to deny religious persons “the right of conscientious objection” and the “worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience.” And he explained that the “Church has a critical role to play in countering cultural currents which, on the basis of an extreme individualism, seek to promote notions of freedom detached from moral truth.” Pope Benedict XVI clearly saw religious freedom as “an essential good” and he declared eloquently that “each person must be able freely to exercise the right to profess and manifest, individually or in community, his or her own religion or faith, in public and in private, in teaching, in practice, in publications, in worship and in ritual observances.”
To respect this basic “[h]uman right,” Pope Benedict XVI declared that civil authorities must “give space to viewpoints inspired by a religious vision in all its dimensions, including ritual, worship, education, dissemination of information and the freedom to profess and choose religion.” Because, as he explained, “[it] is inconceivable … that believers should have to suppress a part of themselves—their faith—in order to be active citizens. It should never be necessary to deny God in order to enjoy one’s rights.” For “[t]he right to religious freedom is rooted in the very dignity of the human person, whose transcendent nature must not be ignored or overlooked.” Thus, as Pope Benedict XVI made clear, when “religious freedom is acknowledged, the dignity of the human person is respected at its root.” “[T]he moral legitimacy of every social and legal norm” therefore depends upon respect for “the right to life and the right to religious freedom.”
Expressions of sincere thanks and appreciation for Pope Benedict XVI’s leadership in the religious freedom arena are both necessary and appropriate. But perhaps the best tribute to Pope Benedict XVI’s public ministry is to heed his moving words describing religious freedom as “an essential element of a constitutional state,” a right that “cannot be denied without at the same time encroaching on all fundamental rights and freedoms, since it is their synthesis and keystone. It is the litmus test for the respect of all the other human rights.” Alliance Defending Freedom works every day to uphold religious freedom in all of its forms. And we invite you to join us in this effort, so valiantly championed by Pope Benedict XVI.
Pastor Olden Thornton discusses the attacks on pastors when following God’s direction and standing up for Biblical Truths.
Watch & Listen >> http://alln.cc/XNcYfS
Protect and promote the rights of our churches.
The recent battle over the Obama Administration’s HHS abortion pill mandate may seem confusing at times. There are many lawsuits, with a great deal of legal technicalities being thrown around in the litigation. So it may seem difficult to unravel exactly what is happening and what effect the mandate may have on your church, your church’s ministries, and the people in your congregation.
But one thing is certain; the battle over the abortion pill mandate is the premier religious liberty battle of our day. When the Obama Administration enacted the mandate, it essentially declared war on the free exercise of religion. It elevated sexual liberty over religious liberty. And it crystallized the issue into stark terms. Simply put, if the Obama Administration can force you to violate your religious freedom, then it can force anyone to do anything.
Pastors should be well-informed about this battle considering its impact on the religious freedom of churches, religious organizations, and religious business owners. Alliance Defending Freedom is at the forefront of the litigation over the constitutionality of the abortion pill mandate and, based on our experience, here is what you need to know at this stage of the battle:
We Are Winning!
The vast majority of cases filed on behalf of for-profit businesses have resulted in injunctions against the abortion pill mandate. For an up-to-date scorecard of the cases in litigation, click here. It is important for you as a pastor to know this battle is winnable. And not only is it winnable, Alliance Defending Freedom and our allies are in fact winning.
But the fact that we are winning should not breed complacency. The Obama Administration has appealed in every case where we have obtained an injunction. The battleground has shifted now from the federal district courts to the federal appellate courts. There is reason for optimism, but we must temper our optimism with the realization that the battle is far from over. Winning a skirmish does not equate to winning the war.
It is likely that one or more of these cases will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. There are simply too many of them percolating in the lower courts for the Supreme Court to ignore.
The “New Rule” is still unconstitutional
Last year, after several groups filed lawsuits against the abortion pill mandate, the Obama Administration announced a “compromise.” It would enact a one-year “safe harbor” for nonprofit religious organizations and then begin the process of adopting a new rule that might exempt more religious organizations from the mandate.
The “safe harbor” did not apply to regular for-profit businesses where the owners seek to run their businesses according to their religious faith. That’s why several for-profit businesses had no choice but to file lawsuits and seek injunctions.
After a year of thinking about it, the Obama Administration announced a proposed new rule for who can be exempt from the abortion pill mandate. Here is how the new rule breaks down:
Churches: Under the proposed new rule, churches remain exempt from the mandate as do conventions or associations of churches, integrated auxiliaries of churches, and religious orders. An “integrated auxiliary of a church” is an organization affiliated with and predominately supported by a church. An example of an integrated auxiliary of a church is a homeless shelter controlled and funded by a church.
Religious Organizations: The proposed rule does not completely exempt religious nonprofit organizations. It simply shifts the burden of providing contraceptive and abortion-inducing drugs to the insurer selected by the religious nonprofit. This is no compromise at all. The Obama Administration claims the insurer will provide the coverage for free and there should be no conflict with the religious organization’s faith. But this simply ignores reality. The insurers will pass on that cost to the organizations paying for the insurance. They won’t just provide coverage for these drugs out of the goodness of their hearts. In the end, the religious organization will still be on the hook to pay for these abortion-inducing drugs in some way. So the proposed rule does not protect religious freedom for religious nonprofit organizations.
For-Profit Businesses: The proposed rule offers no exemption at all for any for-profit business. This even includes businesses like Tyndale House Bible Publishers, which the Obama Administration strenuously argues is not religious enough to qualify for an exemption from the abortion pill mandate. Business owners who seek to run their businesses in accordance with their religious faith have no exemption and no refuge from the mandate.
As a pastor, you need to be aware that the effect of the abortion pill mandate will fall most heavily on business owners in your church who employ more than 50 people. They will have no choice but to either comply with the mandate or face crippling fines that may drive them from the marketplace. Your church can, and should, come around these brave business owners and support them in the battle to preserve their religious freedom.
We must continue to fight this battle – and win! Please stay informed about what is happening with the battle against the Obama Administration’s abortion pill mandate. Visit our Obamacare resource page for up-to-date information to inform your congregation about what is happening. Often the media does not report the facts correctly about the cases we are fighting.
And please pray for victory. Pray for the courageous lawyers at Alliance Defending Freedom and our allies who are fighting in court to preserve religious freedom – our first freedom. And pray for the judges who will hear these cases that the Lord will direct their hearts and minds to preserve the right of individuals, organizations, and businesses to live their faith in the public square.
This battle is far from over. But together, as our name says, we can be an Alliance Defending Freedom. We’ll keep you updated as this important issue advances.