Showing posts with label Church and State. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Church and State. Show all posts

May 31, 2020

Supreme Court Rules Against The Church on Trying to Overturn CA. COVID!19 Restrictions


They needed those offerings and contributions so they took it to the supreme court. If you think the church(anychurch) is here to protect your soul, body or anything else the answer is none. They protect themselves and without money there is no power and without people coming in to worship, there is none.
The Supreme Court has rejected a California church's attempt to overturn the state's coronavirus restrictions on in-person religious services. 
In a 5-4 decision issued late Friday, Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court's liberal bloc in upholding the state's right to impose limits on congregations in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.
"Although California's guidelines place restrictions on places of worship, those restrictions appear consistent with the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment," Roberts said, in an opinion that denied a request by the South Bay United Pentecostal Church for relief from the rules.
The Chula Vista-based house of worship sued Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, over an order limiting congregations to 25% capacity or 100 attendees, whichever is lower. The plaintiffs told the court its services typically attract 200 to 300 congregants.
Worship services and nonessential retail were halted for more than two months in Californiawhich has recorded nearly 107,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and more than 4,000 deaths
During the lawsuit's path through the lower courts, the state issued guidelines earlier this week allowing for a limited reopening — but that did not satisfy the plaintiffs, who felt the eased restrictions remained unconstitutional. In rejecting that challenge, Roberts wrote that the Constitution generally grants broad leeway to state leaders in circumstances of medical uncertainty. In particular, the chief justice found that Newsom's order was consistent in limiting not just religious services, but also various kinds of activities "where large groups of people gather in close proximity for extended periods of time."
"The notion that it is 'indisputably clear' that the Government's limitations are unconstitutional seems quite improbable," wrote Roberts. 
The court's four reliably conservative justices — Samuel Alito Jr., Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas — dissented. Kavanaugh said the guidelines violate the First Amendment because they "discriminate against places of worship and in favor of comparable secular businesses." 
Unlike Roberts, who said church services were on par with sporting events, concerts and other large secular gatherings also limited by the order, Kavanaugh compared the church with secular spaces that were excepted from the restrictions, such as supermarkets. The court's newest justice argued that, in this sense, the limits single out religious services.
"The State also has substantial room to draw lines, especially in an emergency," he said in the dissent. "But as relevant here, the Constitution imposes one key restriction on that line-drawing: The State may not discriminate against religion."
In a separate case, the court also rejected a lawsuit from two churches in Illinois seeking to block Gov. J.B. Pritzker's rule limiting religious services to just 10 worshipers. Pritzker later modified the order to allow for up to 100 people at services, and the court denied the churches' request for relief without a noted dissent. 
The limits on church services have been a flashpoint in the national conversation surrounding the coronavirus, with President Trump wading into the controversy earlier this month to push for churches' right to reopen. Even as many states — such as California and Illinois — have moved to loosen their restrictions in recent weeks, critics continue to argue that the rules on houses of worship are discriminatory.
Earlier this week, California, officials said they plan to reevaluate the reopening order based on where matters stand with the coronavirus in mid-June.

September 8, 2014

Loosing the Gay civil Rights Battle in some States, the Church asks relief from the Supremes


Gays Activists know history better than most people because.  They have to. You see we are following the path of others that have been wronged by religion and the government when they asked to be treated equally as everybody else. As many loses they had eventually the message got thru through all the lies about women vote destroying the Republic, the slaves will make the nation ignorant like they were and finally that mix marriages will offspring mentally disabled children.

 Just like gays will destroy the marriages of straights and I’ll stop here because Im beginning to want to laugh and this is a subject in which is a matter of life and liberty for so many. Some churches want the supremes involved which is what the gay activists have been asking them to take certain cases, 

As they show the court confusion, overlapping and unfairness of the laws now it should be enough matches to start the fire in which we believe that the court composed of these elderly people more than half Republican will vote as other courts have voted under similar circumstances: Everyone is equal under the law and thus needs the same rights and protections under the law.
 The Mormon church and four religious organizations are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene and settle once and for all the question of whether states can outlaw gay marriage.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in a statement Friday, said it joined a friend-of-the-court brief asking the high court to hear Utah's marriage case.
Also taking part in the filing were The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Ethics & Religious Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
Each teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman. 
"The time has come to end the divisive national debate as to whether the Constitution mandates same-sex marriage," the brief states.
Multiple organizations and governmental entities on both sides of the debate have filed similar briefs asking the court to take up the issue.
The religious groups urged the Supreme Court on the basis of tradition and religious freedom to uphold a state's right to not allow gay and lesbian couples to wed.
"Legal uncertainty is especially burdensome for religious organizations and religious believers increasingly confronted with thorny questions," the brief says. "Is their right to refrain from participating in, recognizing or facilitating marriages between persons of the same sex, contrary to their religious convictions, adequately shielded by the First Amendment and other legal protections? Or is further legislation needed to guard religious liberties in these and other sensitive areas?"
Last month, attorneys for three Utah gay and lesbian couples formally asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take Utah's appeal of a favorable gay marriage ruling by a lower federal court.
The plaintiffs said they asked for the review even though they won at the federal appellate court level because they want the Supreme Court to weigh in on whether state same-sex marriage bans violate the Constitution.
The high court is under no obligation to take Utah's case or the others.
AP source

January 20, 2013

In Australia People Are Getting Fed Up With Church’s Exemptions

AUTHOR // Serkan Ozturk  
As a Senate committee prepares to hold public hearings in Sydney this week on Labor's draft national anti-discrimination laws, there’s growing outrage within the LGBTI community and elsewhere over the wide-ranging exemptions offered to religious bodies and other groups that will allow them to continue to legally discriminate against people on several grounds including sexual orientation and gender identity.
Lobby group GetUp, the Atheist Foundation of Australia and the Greens have also all criticised the Bill for not offering proper protections against discrimination for LGBTI people after media reports suggested Prime Minister Julia Gillard had already promised the Australian Christian Lobby religious groups will have the freedom to discriminate against homosexuals and others under any new laws. The reports have led Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich to challenge Gillard to “justify” her stance. 
The Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012 Bill, introduced by Attorney-General Nicola Roxon late last year, seeks to consolidate five separate pieces of legislation into a single Act and will provide federal protections for sexual orientation and gender and sex diversity for the first time.
In effect, the Bill will make it unlawful for persons and companies and others in “public life” to offer unfair treatment in service provision or employment opportunity on 18 grounds listed as protected attributes; including sexual orientation, gender identity sex, religion, political opinion, pregnancy or potential pregnancy, immigrant status, and social origin. People who believe they have been discriminated against will have the option to have complaints heard by the Human Rights Commission or in court.

However, the Bill will also continue to allow religious groups and any businesses or services run by them (including hospitals, schools, mental health providers) the ability to refuse to hire, dismiss, or refuse services to LGBTI people on the basis that it “is necessary to avoid injury to the religious sensitivities of adherents of that religion”.
The exemptions will also allow such groups to discriminate against single parents, people in de facto relationships, pregnant women and other women, and adulterers.
“Who knows who else is on the narrow-minded hit list,” Dave Nicholls, president of the Atheist Foundation of Australia, said.
“Such discrimination sends a strong message to the community that some people are – to paraphrase George Orwell – less equal than others in the eyes of the government of the day.”
As it currently stands, the Bill will force all aged care service providers that receive public funding, including faith-based organisations, to provide inclusive conditions for LGBTI clients however the exemptions mean that LGBTI people can be denied employment in such areas while those who already work in nursing homes and other community care facilities will have no recourse to claim discrimination.
University of South Australia gerontologist and LGBTI-ageing expert, Dr Jo Harrison, toldSX it was counterproductive to have aged care organisations provide inclusive services when they were allowed to discriminate against LGBTI people when hiring employees.
“The prohibition from discrimination by federally funded aged care organisations in relation to service provision in the exposure draft is evidence that exemptions only do harm and perpetuate fear and should not be included in the final law.
“Discrimination in relation to employment in aged care also contradicts the Federal Government’s LGBTI ageing and aged care strategy, which commits to inclusive non-discriminatory care,” Harrison said.
“There must be consistency if our elders are to be protected from harm, and those who care for them are able to be openly supportive. LGBTI elders need LGBTI people around them who are also not afraid.”
Feasibly, the Bill could also potentially excuse discrimination suffered by LGBTI people at the hands of individuals if it is found the individual in question was motivated to discriminate based on their “religious sensitivities”.
Of particular further worry to trans and intersex people, the Bill will also allow sporting clubs and competitions to discriminate against persons solely on the grounds of their sex or gender identity simply if the “strength, stamina or physique of competitors is relevant”. Organisation Intersex International (OII) was also dismayed after intersex was not listed as a specific protected attribute but instead classified with gender identity.
Support for the continuing exemptions have come from a coterie of religious, conservative and anti-gay groups, including NSW’s Liberal Government, aged care provider Anglicare Sydney, the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employee’s Association (SDA) as well as the right-wing lobby group CANdo.
“The majority of people in NSW will be outraged to learn that the NSW Government is lobbying the Federal Government to maintain these last-century pacifiers to the far right,” Greens MP Cate Faehrmann said.
On Thursday, the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (GLRL) will front a public hearing of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee alongside representatives from the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby and OIIl to argue for improved protections from discrimination.
“Religious organisations should not be given carte blanche to discriminate against members of the LGBTI community,” GLRL policy officer Jed Horner told SX.
“Freedom of religion is an individual right, which distinguishes it from collective rights like the right to education or health. It’s inexcusable for individuals or organisations to use their religious beliefs as a reason to discriminate against others, particularly in public settings.”
Horner said at the very least broad exemptions should not apply to groups receiving public money.
“Giving organisations taxpayers’ money and allowing them to discriminate against LGBTI Australians, in their access to education, healthcare or social services, is an affront to notions of equality and a fair go, upon which Australia is supposedly based,” he said.
Rodney Croome, spokesperson for the Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group, said the Commonwealth could do well to take a page out of Tasmanian state law which strictly prohibits discrimination by faith-based organisations against LGBTI employees.
“The Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act penalises church-based schools and welfare agencies if they are found to discriminate against GLBTI employees, students or clients,” Croome said.
“If Tasmania can have truly non-discriminatory laws without the sky falling in, then why not the nation as a whole?”
Sally Goldner, spokesperson for TransGender Victoria, told SX it was time Parliament listened to the concerns of the community.
“The federal draft was going through approval processes and the Cabinet at the same time amendments to Tasmanian state law offered better clauses regarding the definitions for gender identity and intersex,” she said.
“The federal bill, when actually introduced into Parliament, could well contain these better definitions.”
Late last week, GetUp launched a national petition urging the Commonwealth to adopt a number of “simple changes” that will see exemptions for religious organisations to legally discriminate removed as well as adopting a definition of gender identity that would protect all people of diverse sex and gender.

August 28, 2012

Bishop’s Anti gay Campaigning May Violate WA Law


State workers who track election-law violations are meeting later this morningto discuss the Catholic Church, says Lori Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission.
At issue is a story I reported yesterday: Yakima bishop Joseph Tyson sent a letter this month instructing all priests in his diocese to begin a fundraising drive inside their parishes that directly funds the anti-gay-marriage PAC Preserve Marriage Washington, which is trying to reject Referendum 74 on the fall ballot. While I lamented that Tyson's effort seems to comply with federal tax rules, it may not be legal under state law.
Here's why: The church can't act as an agent that collects money and sends it to the campaign. In his letter, Bishop Tyson asks the priests to circulate Preserve Marriage Washington's fundraising envelopes among pews, collect the checks, and mail all the checks to the anti-gay PAC. As he put it, "Please place unopened envelopes into the addressed security envelope, and mail them to Preserve Marriage Washington."
That sort of activity is informally called "bundling," Anderson explains, and it would violate a state law that concerns collecting contributions on anther's behalf. "A person, other than an individual, may not be an intermediary or an agent for a contribution," says the RCW.
"They can hand out those envelopes," Anderson says, "but they that can't collect them and send them in." Anderson says that election workers will try to "head them off at the pass and see that they are complying.

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June 17, 2012

Casualty of Gay Marriage: The Current Bedding of Church and State

 United States

Sometimes one thinks of why the church ( Catholic and others) is spending so much treasure and sweat in opposing something that is destined to happen. You can stop gay marriage in the world but mainly  in the US  just like you can stop the sound of a bell that has been rung.
The main opposition to this is been the cozy relationship that the church has had with the governments but mainly the US government. 

As gay marriage comes to be that relationship is exposed and just like the HIV virus when exposed to light and air, it dies.  They have bet the farm and the animals on the farm on this one and they are loosing this bet.  The uS government as led by the president and many in congress and the courts see the injustice of what’s been done to the millions of gay people, the emperor and in this case the church stands naked with no clothes. The church that preaches justice and so on and so on. The government wont be able to stay in bed with this whore. The relationship will end and the government will have to go back to it’s constitution of ’separation of church and state’

As crazies in some churches cry for killing, the more speed this separation with this whore comes to be. Whore? I wont give you the definition because you can easily get it. But assuming you know what a whore is, you know that a whore beds many men, regardless of whom they are. If you know how in this century the church has slept with despot governments.  From the Nazis, to other so called religious countries that stone and hang innocent gay men and rape lesbians. Yes, Islam is part of this very much so. But on the West, which is where the justice always begins. It begins in the west because these are countries that have been part of many human crimes and injustices but they have seen the light and have tried to be just.  Not always accomplishing it, but hey have always had it as a goal. 

 I give you now a quote from Dr. James B. Nelson. This article written in 1977 illuminates that by 2012-13 the church has missed the opportunity to be the game changer. Instead they have been the opposition to justice.

Dr. Nelson is professor of Christian ethics at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, New Brighton, Minnesota. This article appeared in the Christianity and Crisis April 4, 1977. This text was prepared for Religion Online by John R. Bushell.

The gay caucuses now active in virtually every major American denomination no longer will let us forget that the church must face the issue of homosexuality more openly, honestly, and sensitively than it has yet done. Beyond this legitimate and appropriate pressure, however, there are other compelling reasons for the church to reexamine its theology and practice:
1. Homosexual Christians are sisters and brothers of all other Christians, earnestly seeking the church's full acceptance without prejudgment on the basis of a sexual orientation regarding which they had no basic choice.
2. While antihomosexual bias has existed in Western culture generally, the church must take responsibility for its share in shaping, supporting, and transmitting negative attitudes toward homosexuality.
3. The Christian mandate for social justice will not let us forget that discrimination continues today against millions of gay persons in employment, housing, public accommodations, education, and in the enjoyment of fundamental civil liberties.
4. The church is called to do its ongoing theological and ethical work as responsibly as possible. Fresh insights from feminist theologians, gay Christians, and those secular scholars who frequently manifest God's "common grace" in the world remind us of the numerous ways in which our particular sexual conditions color our perceptions of God's nature and presence among us. If the Protestant Principle turns us against absolutizing historically relative theological judgments, so also our openness to continuing revelation should convince us, with some of our ancestors-in-faith, that "the Lord has yet more light and truth to break forth."
 5. The heterosexually oriented majority in the church has much to gain from a deeper grappling with this issue: an enriched capacity to love other human beings more fully and with less fear.
Presbyterian Gay Clergy

Below I give us a post  in this subject that appeared in the Telegraph Uk by Cole Moreton he concentrates how this is happening in England.


Two people meet and fall in love. They want it to be for life, so they get married. Simple, isn’t it? Theresa May, the Home Secretary, thinks so: “Put simply, it’s not right that a couple who love each other and want to formalise a commitment to each other should be denied the right to marry.” 

That’s why May wants to allow couples of the same sex to marry on exactly the same terms as a man and woman. The Government has asked for opinions on how this should be done, but not whether it should be done at all – which has upset those opposed to the move. The consultation that closed a few days ago has received more than 100,000 submissions, the biggest response ever to an exercise of this kind.
The Roman Catholic Church says the Government has no right to make such a fundamental, irreversible change, and it does not believe the Home Secretary’s promise of legal protection to ensure no priest is forced by European law to carry out a gay wedding: “As no Parliament can bind its successors, the Catholic Church and other religious bodies would be at risk indefinitely.” The Muslim Council of Great Britain has called the proposal “unhelpful and unnecessary”.
The Church of England’s official response comes close to fury: “Such a move would alter the intrinsic nature of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, as enshrined in human institutions throughout history.” Launching the response paper last week, senior figures predicted a clash between the laws of the Church and the laws of the state that is unprecedented since the Reformation nearly 500 years ago. This would be “snipping the threads” between Church and state, they said; a step towards disestablishment, the end of the Church of England’s special place in our society.
It is true that as things stand, the definition of marriage – like so much of English law – is grounded in the beliefs of the Church as expressed in the Book of Common Prayer. “The only kind of marriage which English law recognises is one which is essentially the voluntary union for life of one man with one woman, to the exclusion of all others,” says the Church paper, which attacks the Government for talking of a “ban” on marriage between people of the same sex. “There can be no ‘ban’ on something which has never, by definition, been possible.” 
Anglican leaders also have “serious doubts” about the strength of the proposed exemption for churches and faith groups, since it is now possible to have a civil partnership ceremony in a place of worship.
The first people to do so were Kieran Bohan, 41, and Warren Hartley, 36, who spoke their vows at a Unitarian church in Liverpool last month. The civil ceremony was held within a service of blessing. Mr Hartley said: “Bringing the two elements together means we are able to integrate our sexuality and spirituality to celebrate our love for each other, and our love of God.”
The proposal will still not allow couples like them to get fully married in church, although there is every chance of a legal challenge to this. More fundamentally, the Church of England says: “The established institution of marriage would in effect have been abolished and replaced by a new statutory concept which the Church – and many outside the Church – would struggle to recognise as amounting to marriage at all.”
The response paper says redefining marriage for “essentially ideological reasons” just to “meet the emotional need of some members of one part of the community” is “a doubtful use of the law”.
On the face of it, then, the ground is set for a battle between the Church and the state. But it’s not as simple as that. Despite the impression given by the official paper, the Church is divided. Many priests and lay people are sympathetic to the idea of equality.
Giles Fraser, the former canon chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, who is now a parish priest in south London, said: “This statement has not gone before General Synod for any sort of discussion… it has been put together by a small team in Church House, Westminster, who purport to speak in the name of many thousands of people who will think the whole thing is complete tosh.” And he went on: “This is not a great day to be a member of the Church of England. I am simply ashamed.”
The Policing Minister, Nick Herbert, who is in a civil partnership, said yesterday that church leaders sounded judgmental and intolerant.
“I consider myself to be a Christian, and I’ve never in my life felt more distant from the Church than I do at the moment.”
Desmond Swayne MP, who is close to the Prime Minister, said that, as a Christian: “I believe that the promises of the Gospel are unconfined, they’re for everyone, and the sacraments that follow from that should be for everyone.”
But there is no doubt that the Conservative Party is as divided as the Church on this subject. Michael Farmer, who has given nearly £4 million to the party in the last four years, signed a petition against the move, by a group called the Coalition For Marriage, which was delivered to Downing Street with more than half a million signatures. Owen Paterson, the Northern Ireland Secretary, has said he will oppose the change in a free vote, and the Defence Secretary Philip Hammond thinks the Government should concentrate on “things that really matter”.
Why is David Cameron persisting with this? There are several potential reasons: to keep the Liberal Democrats happy; to repay perceived debts; to help the Conservatives seem modern and caring; and simply because he believes in it. “Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us, that society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other,” he said last year. “So I don’t support gay marriage despite being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I’m a Conservative.”
What, though, will the change actually mean? Firstly, complete equality. Civil partnerships give almost the same legal rights as marriage, but not quite. Couples are treated the same when it comes to pensions, tax credits, employment benefits, parental rights and in terms of immigration and nationality, but their relationship may not necessarily be recognised in the same way abroad. Crucially, they cannot call themselves married, as the Government has pointed out: “This means that when making a declaration of marital status to an employer, public authority or organisation, an individual … will often be effectively declaring their sexual orientation at the same time.”
If the relationship goes wrong, they can’t sue for adultery, which is defined by law as one partner having sex outside the marriage with a person of the opposite sex – a definition which will have to be reworked through case law. A person who changes gender will be able to stay married.
All this applies only to England and Wales. There are no plans for a change in Northern Ireland. In Scotland the devolved government has had its own consultation, with 50,000 responses.
The Church of England is unique in seeing gay marriage as a threat to its existence. It was built to care for every soul in every parish, with priests who automatically become agents of the state. They have a legal duty to marry anyone in the parish who wants it and is eligible. Now, for the first time in 500 years, there could be a difference between the Church definition of marriage and the way it is defined in English law. The Church leadership believes this will undermine its unique position, rights and privileges as the established church – deeply ironic considering it was only created so that Henry VIII could defy the Pope and remarry.
Frankly, though, it is as if those who speak for the Church can’t see what is really going on. Or else they’re playing politics, desperate to hold on to their last remaining threads of influence. If the end is nigh, it’s not because of gay marriage. That may be a snip in one of the ties that bind, but they’ve been snapping for a long time now.
Our relationship with the Church in terms of marriage, for example, was fundamentally altered by another piece of Conservative legislation that seemed minor at the time. The Marriage Act of 1994 gave hotels, museums, stately homes and anywhere else with a licence the right to host a wedding. Many people asked themselves why they should sit through services they didn’t want to be in, when the local hotel manager was offering all they wanted, and a glass of chilled champagne, too. In 1981 there were 351,973 weddings in England and Wales, but by 2007 there were only 231,973. Religious weddings dropped from more than half to a third. It wasn’t hard to see where people were going: in 2007, hotels and other venues hosted 100,000 services. Baptisms have fallen out of fashion and the market for funerals has also opened up, so that only 40 per cent now involve the Church of England. Its claim to be the place where we go to be “hatched, matched and dispatched” is now slender, and this will weaken it further – perhaps terminally.
Society has changed dramatically over 30 years. We no longer want to belong to anything much; we’re disenchanted with authority of all kinds; we have a remarkably improvisational approach to family life; and are open to cultural influences from all over the world.
At the same time, as congregations have shrunk and church leaders have been careless with their money, the Church of England no longer has the cash, the clergy or the people to carry out its historic mission in the same way. There are still brilliant people working away selflessly in the parishes, but as an institution it is in crisis. Those remaining ties with the state seem an anachronism and are under extreme strain. The special place for bishops in the House of Lords now looks untenable, for example; and the next monarch will surely not take the same exclusively Anglican coronation vows without recognising that we now have many faiths instead of one.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has said that it would be “by no means the end of the world” for the Church of England to lose its special status. Whoever takes over from him next year may have to accept that disestablishment is happening by default.
There are some who see the chance for the Church to reinvent itself, free of the shackles of the past. Others seek new, imaginative ways to use (and justify) its remaining privilege and influence, perhaps as a broker for people of all faiths. Meanwhile, it can’t seem to shake off the obsession with sex and gender, as a row over women bishops looms.
The Government is very clear that it has other voices to listen to as well, as it attempts to reflect the dramatic recent changes in who we are as a people, where we come from and what we believe in. If the Church and state are to stay together, they will have to stop shouting at each other, learn to accept what the other is saying and make huge adjustments, fast. But isn’t that what marriage is all about?

March 4, 2012

England } Clash Between Catholic Church and Gay Marriage

Catholic leader Cardinal Keith O'Brien clashes with David Cameron on same-sex marriage plans
The new clash between the Coalition and the Catholic Church comes as the Church of England also appears increasingly split over the issue of gay rights Photo: David Cheskin/PA
Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, says the proposals to allow same-sex unions are “madness” and a “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right”.
The cardinal’s intervention, in an article for The Sunday Telegraph, is the strongest criticism yet from any church figure of the plans, which are due to be unveiled this month by Lynne Featherstone, the equalities minister.
He accuses ministers of trying to “redefine reality” and change long-standing laws and traditions “at the behest of a small minority of activists”.
The cardinal has added his voice to those of leading figures in the Coalition for Marriage, a group of bishops, politicians and lawyers opposed to the changes. The group’s supporters include Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury.
The group is in outright opposition to Mr Cameron, who hopes to make legislation changing the legal definition of marriage to include same-sex couples, expected by 2015, one of the central achievements of his time in office. 
Mrs Featherstone is to launch a consultation on how the changes will come about this month. Despite opposition from some sections of his party, the Prime Minister has personally associated himself with the proposals.
Mr Cameron told last year’s Tory conference in Manchester: “I don’t support gay marriage in spite of being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a Conservative.” Last week his spokesman said he was “passionate” about the issue.
Cardinal O’Brien, the only British Catholic to be part of the College of Cardinals, the body which elects popes, accuses ministers of showing “intolerance” and coming up with plans that would “shame the United Kingdom in the eyes of the world”.
The new clash between the Coalition and the Catholic Church comes as the Church of England also appears increasingly split over the issue of gay rights.
A new proposal for a deal that would effectively prevent openly gay clergy from becoming bishops is on the brink of failure despite the personal endorsement of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.
The proposed agreement, known as the Anglican Covenant, has been rejected by 13 dioceses so far, with only eight backing it.
Defeat would, it was said, be a “devastating” blow to Dr Williams. The Covenant needs the approval of a majority of dioceses for a vote at the General Synod.
The Government, meanwhile, faces a Commons rebellion of scores of Conservative MPs over its gay marriage proposals. Some Tory ministers are among those opposed. Any vote is many months away, however, and Labour would be almost certain to back the move.
The legislation would apply only in England and Wales. However, Scottish MPs would be able to vote on the plans – a fact which has helped provoke Cardinal O’Brien’s intervention today.
He writes: “Since all the legal rights of marriage are already available to homosexual couples, it is clear that this proposal is not about rights, but rather is an attempt to redefine marriage for the whole of society at the behest of a small minority of activists.
“Same-sex marriage would eliminate entirely in law the basic idea of a mother and a father for every child. It would create a society which deliberately chooses to deprive a child of either a mother or a father.”
Ministers have assured church groups they will not be forced to accept same-sex marriages – a pledge which does not impress the cardinal. He writes: “Imagine for a moment that the Government had decided to legalise slavery but assured us that 'No one will be forced to keep a slave.’
“Would such worthless assurances calm our fury? Would they justify dismantling a fundamental human right?”
Campaigners say the state has no right to change the definition of marriage according to most Christian thinking – a definition which is enshrined in laws dating back almost 800 years.
Mrs Featherstone, however, has argued that marriage is “owned by the people” and that governments have a duty to change laws to bolster the “underlying principles of family, society and personal freedoms”

September 23, 2011

Catholic hierarchy slams Obama on gay rights} church&stateunited

Photo: J. Brazito, Flickr


Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, sent a strongly-worded letter to President Obama this week criticizing Obama’s efforts on gay rights, particularly the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
“I write with a growing sense of urgency about recent actions taken by your Administration that both escalate the threat to marriage and imperil the religious freedom of those who promote and defend marriage,” wrote Dolan. “Unfortunately the only response to date has been the intensification of efforts to undermine DOMA and the institution of marriage.”
Specifically, the bishops oppose a decision by Obama not to defend the constitutionality of DOMA in federal courts.
The bishops also noted Obama’s support for foster care and adoption rights for same-sex couples, the implementation of LGBT-themed sensitivity trainings in the some federal departments and proposals to allow legally-married same-sex couples to reside in military housing for married couples.
But, the main thrust of Dolan’s letter was on DOMA.
“The Justice Department’s move, in addition to other troubling federal decisions occurring recently, prompts me yet again to register my grave concerns,” wrote Dolan. “The content of this letter reflects the strong sentiment expressed at a recent meeting by more than thirty of my brother Bishops who serve on the Administrative Committee of our episcopal conference. I know they are joined by hundreds of additional Catholic bishops throughout our nation. My observations are offered in the spirit of respectful, but frank dialogue.”
While the Catholic Church continues to vigorously oppose any relationship rights or recognition for same-sex couples, polling shows that an overwhelming majority of Catholics support either civil unions or same-sex marriage.

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August 30, 2011

Prisons and proselytizing: In Texas it raises church-state questions

I am all for prisoners having the right to worship and access to academic training that helps prevent 

recidivism, but I’m very wary of a new program in Texas.
The Houston Chronicle reports that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice plans to equip prisoners with college degrees in biblical studies so they can later minister other inmates. The state is promoting a four-year program sponsored by the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and the Heart of Texas Foundation.
So far, 40 inmates at Darrington Unit in Rosharon have been accepted into the program, which  begins today.
“Part of our core mission is promoting positive change in offender behavior and this collaboration provides that opportunity,” said Brad Livingston, executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, told the Houston Chronicle. “The men who complete this four-year program will be a powerful voice to other inmates seeking to get their lives back on track, and will aid us in successfully reintegrating these inmates back into society.”
But Livingston is only giving us part of the story.
The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary says on its website that it exists to provide theological education for individuals engaging in Christian ministry. Seminary President Paige Patterson is a long-time Religious Right operative who led a fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention.
State Sen. Dan Patrick, an advocate of the prison program, told the Chronicle there should be no church-state concerns because the program is voluntary and isn’t being funding with taxes.
“We’re offering a free college degree to long-serving prisoners who want to become pastors so they can help change cultures of prisons, and anyone who would object to that would have to explain to me why wanting to make our community safer and our prisons safer is a bad idea,” Patrick said.
Making our community safer is definitely not a bad idea – but I’m certain there are other ways to go about it than providing one religious group extraordinary access to prisoners.
According to the Austin American-Statesman, supporters of the program are quite clear about its sectarian agenda.
“It will be Christ-centered teaching, biblically based with the goal of moral rehabilitation,” said Grove Norwood, board chairman of the Heart of Texas Foundation.
The newspaper also reports that Craig Blaising, a Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary official, said inmate graduates would have a responsibility to “share the good news, proclaim the good news of Christ.
“We don’t call that proselytizing,” he said. “We call that evangelism. We call that ministry.”
Alex J. Luchenitser, Americans United’s senior litigation counsel, pointed out to the Chronicle that this program shows government favoritism of one faith over others.
“Imagine the public outcry that would arise if the state were to partner with Muslim institutions and train them to be imams and turn them out to minister Islam to other inmates,” Luchenitser said.
Luchenitser also asserted that the Texas program goes beyond chaplaincy programs that are often part of prison life. Those programs serve all faiths and are not permitted to indoctrinate or proselytize on behalf of only one tradition.
But in this case, prisoners will be training to be Baptist clergy while the state gives its full blessing.
It’s quite sad. When a prison finally offers prisoners a chance at higher education, go figure it has to come with religious strings attached.

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