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The religious exemption, and other delusions

By Alisa Craddock
web posted February 25, 2008

"Whom the gods would destroy, they first subsidize." –George Roche, Former President of Hillsdale College.

Remember all the debate surrounding the President's "Faith-based Initiative"?  The President believed (rightly) that faith-based charities were more effective and economical providers of social services than government, and so he authorized and encouraged the opening of a number of government offices to facilitate faith-based community initiatives that provided a wide array of assistance to individuals.  It seemed like a good idea.  President Bush, himself a Christian, believed that charitable organizations that received money from the government to aid needy members of the community should not have to hide their religious identity, especially as that identity may be the source of the success of the charitable "mission". 

Many who understood how government funding works did not think the faith based initiative program was a good idea, and I was among them.  I've seen how government funding places restrictions and demands on academic institutions, and often compels a ridiculous level of "representation" of different agendas and ideologies.  Hillsdale College, a traditional liberal arts college in the Midwest, refused government funding (and that ended up including accepting student financial aid if it came from the government) precisely to keep the government from controlling its curriculum and other organs within the university.  But most universities have to adhere to government hiring regulations and have a curriculum that caters to various minorities and agendas that undermine the Judeo-Christian and Graeco-Roman classical liberal arts studies Hillsdale adheres to.  They are profoundly secularized because of it, and in fact, most tacitly embody an anti-Christian and anti-American bias, and now exist to promote the global government agenda, which is rabidly anti-Christian, anti-family, and anti-American.  It matters only a little that the President supports those things near and dear to our hearts, when the organs of government are all working toward reinventing citizenship according to this New [secular humanist] World Order. 

So why would we expect it to be any different with Christian-based (or Jewish) social services?  Catholic Charities is one of the most prominent Catholic organizations that receives federal dollars.  It is also one of the most successful providers of crisis assistance and adoption services here at home.  In many quarters, Catholic Charities' Catholic identity has been somewhat obscured by some very liberal, secular elements within the organization.  That is an issue for the Church to work out.  It is an internal matter.

But now there is a new bill in Colorado which would prohibit faith-based charities from considering a candidate's religious affiliation or lifestyle, whether it is consistent with the Church organization's morals and message or not, in making hiring decisions.  The bill, in fact, repeals the "religious exemption" voted on just a year ago when the state's ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) was passed.  Such bills are almost always driven by gay political action, though homosexuals are not the only ones who might target the Church for "discrimination".  But the Church does not refuse to hire based on sex or race.  However, it is not unreasonable that Catholic Charities would hire Catholic employees, at least in its management positions, nor expect its employees to maintain the example that bears witness to the Catholic mission.  The homosexual lifestyle is contrary to that mission, and that is why such bills as this get introduced—the state wants a secular "diverse" culture that recognizes the ultimate authority as resting with the state, not with God.

Denver's Archbishop Charles Chaput has said that he would rather stop taking government money for Catholic Charities than accept the law's requirements.  (In Massachusetts two years ago, Catholic Charities of Boston, the most respected and successful adoption service in the area, ceased providing adoptions when the state of Massachusetts would not exempt them from placing children with homosexual couples.) It is interesting to note that the "religious exemption" is used to offer false protection to people of faith in order to get the ENDA law passed, only to turn around and try and repeal or otherwise get around the religious exemption, once the state has its tentacles in the faith-based organization.  They want to have their cake and eat it to.  They want the faith-based organizations to do what the state does not do as well as they do, while pretending that the faith aspect is irrelevant to the service they provide. 

The current congressional version of ENDA, H.R. 3685 passed in the House of Representatives last November, but has yet to be voted on by the Senate.  The most recent version of ENDA provides a religious exemption, but here's the kicker:  This version requires religious groups to officially pronounce "which of its religious tenets are significant" and to include a condemnation of homosexuality as a significant tenet in order to qualify for the "religious exemption". (How significant does it have to be, and who's going to decide?)  Needless to say, religious groups around the country are alarmed that this may present a loophole to any religious protections they currently enjoy.  But in a culture of liberal lawlessness, a religious exemption is no real obstacle.  Not even the First Amendment is, when so many of those who sit on the bench will simply do as they please.  Religious people and organizations have every reason to be concerned.

In England, an Anglican bishop who refused to hire a practicing homosexual for a youth minister position was fined the equivalent of $92,000 and sent for "equal opportunities training" (in other words, "re-education").  Bishop Priddis said the refusal was not about "discrimination" but about upholding Christian sexual morality. He said he had made it clear to Mr. Reaney (the complainant) and the Tribunal that a person in a sexual relationship outside marriage, whatever their "sexual orientation", would be turned down for a post in the diocese.  "The Church's teaching draws distinction between sexual orientation and practice and lifestyle," Bishop Priddis said. "We didn't discriminate against Mr. Reaney on the grounds of sexuality. Had we done so we wouldn't have called him for an interview."

The complaint brought by Mr. Reaney (who sees no conflict between his gay lifestyle and his Christian faith) was "funded by Stonewall, a well-established and powerful homosexual political activist organization.  They (and other groups) considered this a test case in the application of the "religious exemption" of recently passed Equality legislation that prohibits "discrimination" on the grounds of ‘sexual orientation'."  I think we too can view this as a test case, and note what will happen if our government should also pass ENDA or the Hate Crimes bill, and perhaps avoid it by not passing such legislation in this country.

What we can learn from this (and other cases—there are more) is that a "religious exemption" is no more effective than using chewing gum to stop a leak in a dam.  It's just a smoke screen to get the legislation passed.  It is the same with Hate Crimes Laws that will be used to criminalize political and moral speech against homosexual behaviors.

Obviously, the way to avoid all of this is not to pass such legislation, not to give legitimacy to a behavior that is immoral.  It is not only conservative religious people who find this behavior inappropriate for public consumption, especially when it involves indoctrination of children, an egregious assault on their modesty and moral development.  I've said before that we have the freedom in this country to do many things that are not necessarily a "right".  We must not make this a right and force the people against their nature and/or conscience to accept it.   A religious exemption is a ruse to get the dangerous and unwanted legislation passed.  It is a ruse not just by gay activist groups, but by legislators themselves.  The religious exemption implies that this is only a religious issue.  It isn't.  Morality isn't some eccentric little corner of the culture, but is its bedrock.  Morality is a necessary component of civilization.  We can't simply reinvent it and pretend that if we use enough propaganda to get everyone on the same page, somehow the civilization will thrive under the new standards.  Dream on.  Take a look around.  The culture is going to hell in a handbag, and so is America's greatness. 

Of course, the only real way to end the scourge of immorality is to end abortion, which opened this Pandora's Box in the first place.  But that's another column… ESR

Alisa Craddock is a columnist and activist in the culture war, a convert to Catholicism, and describes herself as a Christian Libertarian.  She may be contacted at alisa.craddock at hushmail.com.

 

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