Protecting our first freedoms:
Faith, conscience and speech

Voice your values: Legislative action

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It's time to restore the First Amendment and stop attacks on religious free exercise:

--Coercing health professionals and redefining sex discrimination: the 2016 HHS transgender mandate;
--Squelching First Amendment freedoms on campuses: barring campus faith expression;
--Forcing nuns to violate religious tenets: the Obamacare contraceptive mandate;
--Threatening pro-life doctors and health care access: the 2009 gutting of the federal conscience regulation;
--Denying federal human trafficking grants to pro-life programs for victims: HHS grant scandal;
--Government intrusion on churches' hiring freedom: Supreme Court Hosanna Tabor case;
--Firing and coercing life-honoring health care professionals and students: personal stories of discrimination.

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Faith Steps: How to winsomely engage on controversial public policy issues. 

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In the News

Victory for Vermont health professionals after pro-suicide group drops appeal

Alliance Defending Freedom

May 23, 2017

A pro-suicide group has dropped its appeal of a federal court's decision which affirmed that a Vermont law can't be interpreted to require pro-life health professionals to counsel or refer patients for assisted suicide. As a result, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit officially dismissed the appeal Monday, thus ending the case. The withdrawal of the appeal by Compassion & Choices leaves in place a consent agreement between physician groups and the Vermont Attorney General's office, which agreed that the court was correct in deciding that the state's Act 39 does not force conscientious professionals to ensure all "terminal" patients are informed about the availability of doctor-prescribed death. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys and ADF-allied attorney Michael Tierney represent the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare and the Christian Medical Association, groups of medical professionals who wish to abide by their oath to "do no harm." “Vermont health care workers just want to act consistently with their reasonable and time-honored convictions without fear of government punishment,” said ADF Senior Counsel Steven H. Aden.

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Filed under: Christian Medical AssociationAlliance Defending FreedomAsst. suicide/Euthanasia

At seminary graduation, high court's Alito warns of waning respect for religious liberty

newsworks

May 17, 2017

Efforts nationally to erode "traditional moral values" vilify Catholics as bigots and threaten religious liberty for all Americans, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Anthony Alito Jr. said Wednesday during a graduation ceremony at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood. Quoting his dissent in Obergefell vs. Hodges, the landmark case legalizing same-sex marriage, he said: "I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools." Alito spoke of Christian persecution and prejudice through the centuries, saying: "History never repeats itself exactly, but it provides insight." But history is not finished with religious persecution, he added, citing an Italian study that found 90,000 Christians were killed for their faith around the world in 2016.

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Filed under: CourtsReligious freedomMarriage

Religious freedom 2.0: An executive order short on orders

CatholicPhilly.com commentary by Richard Doerflinger

May 10, 2017

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops does not endorse or oppose candidates. But some have claimed the church should lose its tax-exempt status, citing the bishops' "faithful citizenship" documents and other statements explaining moral issues Catholic voters should consider. Beginning in 1980, such a claim by the group "Abortion Rights Mobilization" tied up the bishops in court for a decade. This order tells the IRS to go after what the Johnson amendment actually forbids, instead of infringing on churches' legitimate freedoms. And that is worthwhile. The executive order does not do what some hoped and others feared, but it does some good. It should be welcomed as a good start, but more is needed.

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Filed under: U.S. Conf. Catholic BishopsTaxElections

GOP religious freedom bill restores free speech, not 'dark money'

The Hill commentary by Mandi Ancalle

May 9, 2017

While Rabbi Saperstein is undoubtedly an expert on international religious freedom, he and many Democrats on the Committee did not appear to be familiar with the legislative initiative to fix the Johnson Amendment, the Free Speech Fairness Act (H.R. 781, S. 264). The idea behind the Free Speech Fairness Act is to restore the First Amendment freedom of speech to pastors and other 501(c)(3) organizations' leaders, while ensuring churches and other non-profits do not become about "dark money" or transition into political action committees. The Free Speech Fairness Act is all about speech. It does not allow 501(c)(3) organizations to begin purchasing political campaign ads, or to otherwise create a cash flow of "dark money" for politicians.

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Filed under: Family Research CouncilLegislationFree speech

Persecution of Christians isn't rare

USA Today commentary by Franklin Graham

May 7, 2017

Indeed, more than 75% of the world's population live in areas with severe religious restrictions, and 215 million believers suffer "high, very high or extreme persecution" in the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, according to Open Doors USA and the Pew Research Center. How is it in this "enlightened" age, with 24-hour news and immediate reporting on the Internet and social media, that governments and people around the world are not uniting and marching in the streets to demand an end to the unjust treatment of people being targeted because of their religion?
We must give voice to those persecuted, educating the world about rampant and unchecked oppression. That's why this week, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, in partnership with Samaritan's Purse, is bringing more than 600 persecuted Christians and advocates from 130 countries to Washington for our first ever World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians.

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Filed under: Religious freedomPersecution

Presidential Executive Order Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty

The White House

May 4, 2017

Section 1. Policy. It shall be the policy of the executive branch to vigorously enforce Federal law's robust protections for religious freedom. The Founders envisioned a Nation in which religious voices and views were integral to a vibrant public square, and in which religious people and institutions were free to practice their faith without fear of discrimination or retaliation by the Federal Government. For that reason, the United States Constitution enshrines and protects the fundamental right to religious liberty as Americans' first freedom. Federal law protects the freedom of Americans and their organizations to exercise religion and participate fully in civic life without undue interference by the Federal Government. The executive branch will honor and enforce those protections.

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Filed under: Religious freedomFree speech

White House ceremony - signing of executive order on religious freedom

The White House - video

May 4, 2017

All executive departments and agencies (agencies) shall, to the greatest extent practicable and to the extent permitted by law, respect and protect the freedom of persons and organizations to engage in religious and political speech. In particular, the Secretary of the Treasury shall ensure, to the extent permitted by law, that the Department of the Treasury does not take any adverse action against any individual, house of worship, or other religious organization on the basis that such individual or organization speaks or has spoken about moral or political issues from a religious perspective, where speech of similar character has, consistent with law, not ordinarily been treated as participation or intervention in a political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) a candidate for public office by the Department of the Treasury.

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Filed under: VideoReligious freedomFree speech

VIDEO: Blunt Applauds President's Executive Order

Sen. Roy Blunt video

May 4, 2017

"It's unbelievable to me that, in recent years, groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor, or Christian colleges, or other groups that are traditionally providing services are suddenly having to find themselves in court defending who they are, and who they hope to be. The order issued today would finally provide that relief in a case like the Little Sisters of the Poor...I hope this Executive Order makes it clear today that harassment of religious groups is going to stop. There's no question in any Americans' mind, I think, that the United States government should do everything in its power to defend and protect religious freedom. Whether you're a person of faith, or no faith at all, you should be able to pursue those beliefs."

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Filed under: VideoReligious freedomCongress

Dozens of lawmakers press Trump for religious freedom protection

Catholic News Agency

May 2, 2017

More than 50 members of Congress have written President Donald Trump asking for a broad executive order that protects religious freedom. "Freedom to follow one's conscience, faith and deeply held moral convictions is at the heart of our country's identity," said Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.), one of the letter's signatories. Religious freedom advocates have warned that, due to various mandates and rules issued during the Obama administration, religious institutions that uphold traditional marriage or do not cooperate with abortions and contraceptive use could soon face federal action if no executive order is issued to protect them. Currently, the Weldon Amendments bars federal funding of states that force employers to provide abortion coverage for employees. But after California ruled that health care plans - including those of churches and religious organizations - had to include coverage for elective abortions, the head of the Office of Civil Rights at the federal Department of Health and Human Services decided last summer that the state had not violated the Weldon Amendment. An executive order, the Congressmen claim, could fix this violation of the freedoms of churches and religious employers.

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Filed under: Religious freedomCongress

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