Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Battle Lines for Religious Liberty and Same Sex Marriage Set

Monday, July 6th, 2015

Battle LinesKelly Shackelford’s debate with Evan Wolfson on Fox News Sunday highlights the battle lines for religious liberty in America now that the Supreme Court has grossly overstepped its authority by declaring same sex marriage a constitutional right. The issue is whether religious liberty extends to how you earn your living, get an education, and run a business.

For years to come, the fight for many Christians will be on whether their right to the free exercise of religion includes the right to earn a paycheck without violating their conscience. Televised debates need to focus on the fierce debate over whether your religious-belief rights carry over into your daily life. The Constitution does not force Christians to choose between being able to put food on the table versus being faithful to their cherished beliefs.

The day after the Supreme Court’s infamous 5-4 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, Shackelford and I published an op-ed in Investor’s Business Daily, showcasing the discussion on what that court decision will mean for tens of millions of observant Christians.

On July 5, Shackelford—president of the public-interest law firm Liberty Institute—squared off against Wolfson, who since 1983 has been a leader in the effort to make gay marriage a reality through legal action. Shackelford and Wolfson agreed that the Supreme Court’s justices ruled 9-0 that churches have free-speech rights to teach their religious beliefs on marriage being between a man and woman.

But what the rest of the interview showcased is that the courts—and the political right and left in this country—are fiercely divided on whether a person’s right to exercise their religion extends beyond the walls of their church or house. The Constitution’s First Amendment protects the right of free speech. But just before those words, a separate provision of the First Amendment promises the right to the “free exercise” of religion.

It’s separate from the right to free speech, and Justice Kenney’s majority opinion in Obergefell said nothing about this separate right. Instead, Chief Justice John Roberts said it was “ominous” that the Court majority did not discuss at all the right to freely exercise religion for those who object to redefining marriage. In fact, all four dissenting justices’ opinions—Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito—all noted with alarm the implications for what is properly called our nation’s First Freedom.

Shackelford explained several of the most egregious examples in the courts right now of Christians suffering for their church’s beliefs on marriage. Oregon bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein recently had a $135,000 fine levied against them, forcing them into bankruptcy. Washington florist Baronelle Stutzman—a grandmother—is being prosecuted by authorities who seek to take her home and life’s savings. Colorado baker Jack Phillips even faces jail time if he violates a court order to bake gay-wedding cakes.

Wolfson tried to muddy the issue by saying “everyone” agrees with religious-liberty rights here, but went on to show he clearly thinks that no one has the right to allow their faith to impact how they run their business. He referred to following your beliefs on marriage to claiming a license to discriminate. The truth is the opposite: Wolfson and his allies are demanding a license to discriminate against faithful Christians.

It would have been nice for the interview segment to have lasted another two minutes. I would have liked to see Wolfson’s response if Shackelford had asked if Stutzman deserves to lose her home, or if Phillips deserves to go to jail. From what he said on Fox, evidently Wolfson’s answer must be “Yes.”

Someone should push Wolfson to answer those questions so that we can all know for sure. Then someone should ask President Obama the same question. Then someone needs to ask Hillary Clinton; in fact, her Republican opponent should ask her on national television during the presidential debates, and not let the debate move forward until America has a definite answer.

This is Ground Zero for the war on religious liberty. The political left—including gay-marriage activists—are saying that your First Amendment rights over same sex marriage are limited to what you say in church or in your private home. You can’t live it out in your workplace. You can’t run a business with that biblical belief that the church has held for 2,000 years. You have a right to think something in your head, but not to act upon it in your daily life.

This struggle will define the political arena and the courts in 2016. If Christians don’t win this fight for First Amendment rights, then faithful Christians will be persecuted and driven from the business world, and America will become a country many people no longer recognize.

Supreme Court Declared War on the Church!

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

Supreme CourtI am disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision to change the definition of the institution of marriage for the entire United States. A major aspect of my disappointment is that the court did not let the people decide at the state level. Instead, the Supreme Court has imposed its decision about this issue on the entire nation, in one fell swoop.  I am concerned for the rights of the people to vote on a critical issue like this. Many people in my circle of influence wonder if this ruling will lead to the abridging of our most basic constitutional rights, such as the right to live by personal conviction and the free exercise of religion.

I cannot help but remember waiting for the court to make a similarly important decision in January 2011. During that month the Associated Press wrote “The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from opponents of same-sex marriage who want to overturn the District of Columbia’s gay marriage law…turning away a challenge from a Maryland pastor (Harry Jackson) and others who are trying to get a measure on the ballot to allow Washingtonians to vote on a measure that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.”

I felt that both judges and politicians had failed the citizens of the District of Columbia, not allowing us to make the decision about this important policy issue. Today the Supreme Court failed the 50 million Americans who had the opportunity to vote for marriage and had cast their vote for marriage as one man and one woman.

Now we will work to restore that understanding in our communities and in our laws. We will continue to stand for marriage. We will work to protect religious freedom. Our Constitution guarantees, that as a person of faith, I can exercise my faith without fear of reprisal. We should be free to continue to live our daily lives consistent with our beliefs about marriage.

For example, most Americans are not aware of the fact that a Methodist church association in New Jersey lost its property tax exemption status because it refused to allow use of their facilities for a same-sex union. This kind of unfairness toward those standing up for marriage as one man and one woman has become all too common. The Solicitor General of the United States made clear during the oral arguments in this marriage case why we need additional religious liberty protections when he suggested that a private school that continues to teach that marriage is the union of a man and a woman could be in danger of losing its tax-exempt status. We need to protect both individual laymen and Christian church from coercion in the wake of this decision.

As a Black American, I understand more than most citizens that there is a possibility of misuse of power in our great land. In the early 1950s my father was threatened at gun point by a state trooper, who discharged his weapon just inches above my father’s head.  My dad went home and began making plans to leave the South. A majority of Black Americans still believe that marriage should be defined as the union between a man and a woman. This is in part simply an acknowledgment of the concern that redefinition of marriage will further undermine the structure of families in our community in which more than 7 out of 10 children are born out of marriage. Redefining marriage in a way that further separates marriage from childbearing does nothing to address such a critical issue.

On this critical day in our nation’s history, we recommit ourselves to standing for marriage and religious liberty.

Some Republicans Are Cowards on Race

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

CowardsOn February 18, 2009, then U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder gave a Black History Month speech to the employees at the Department of Justice. He said in part, “Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.”

The Unflinching Blackness of Rachel Dolezal

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

Rachel DolezalBy almost all objective standards, former NAACP leader Rachel Dolezal of Spokane, Washington is a bona fide black woman. Her pedigree is impeccable. Not only did she receive a Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) from Howard University—perhaps the most prestigious historically black university in America—but she has at least four black siblings and one black son. She was married for numerous years to a black man.  And more importantly, throughout her professional career, she has undertaken leadership positions on social issues pertaining to the black community.

Summer Riots Are Coming…Unless! Part 2

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

Eric Garner protestIn my first article, I declared that 2015 summer riots are inevitable unless prayer moves the hand of God. We also concluded that criminal justice reform is one of the bridges to peace that we must focus on in 2015. We will only have long term peace in urban America when a renewed sense of justice is restored to our communities. With all of that in mind, think about this.

America Has Lost Its Identity

Monday, June 15th, 2015

lost identityThere is no example in the history of the world of a civilization, culture, or country that has survived without an intact family unit.

Historically, this has meant father, mother, sister, brother, grandparents, and sometimes other extended family members. With the onslaught of the Industrial Revolution came what we now know as the nuclear family-father, mother, brother and sister.

One Screwed up Jenner-ation

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

freaking outIf I see that creepy Vanity Fair cover of Bruce Jenner come across my Facebook feed just one more time, I’m going to gouge out my eyeballs and bleach the sockets.

Clashing Mindsets Of East And West

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

Muslim womanSeveral years ago, I wrote in a column that Sun Tzu observes, “Know your enemy … and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.” Without a clear understanding of how your adversary thinks and sees himself (and you), there can be no lasting peace, merely a perpetuation of wars and rumors of wars. Just as there are forces in nature that generate consequences, so in human affairs.

Is it Clinton Cash—Or Saudi Hush Money?

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

Bill ClintonMany of us applauded when President Bill Clinton signed the International Religious Freedom Act in 1998. That law—passed with broad bi-partisan support—established a U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) that was required to issue annual reports. The law called for the appointment of an Ambassador-at-Large in the State Department who would make religious freedom a key concern. These initiatives gave great hope to advocates of religious freedom around the world.

Summer Riots Are Coming…Unless!

Monday, June 1st, 2015

Eric Garner protestThis Memorial Day weekend marked a historic uptick in violence in many US cities. Three cities seem to symbolize our national woes the most – Baltimore, Chicago, and Ferguson. In Baltimore 9 people were killed and 29 shot. Chicago marked 12 killed and 44 wounded. The police in Baltimore and the other cities seem to be moving with unprecedented caution. Further, self initiated policing has slowed down significantly. The morale of law enforcement officers is at a decadal low. Therefore, both violent and petty crimes may flourish in several “hot spot” cities this summer. In Ferguson, sky rocketing crime rates continue despite greater civic involvement by citizens and a massive change in municipal personnel. Law enforcement seems to be becoming more difficult in key cities.