Clearing the Path for Truth

From the Desk of Nate Kellum

SCOTUS Strikes Down Texas Law Designed to Protect Women

If you haven’t heard by now, the U.S. Supreme Court, ruled 5 to 3 against a common sense law for the abortion industry in the case Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. Previously, Texas had a law requiring all abortion providers and clinics to have admitting privileges to hospitals for their patients. This law was for the protection of the mother, and potentially for any child born surviving an abortion procedure, allowing the aborting physician to transfer their patient to the hospital in an emergency. This same admitting privilege is required for all other out-patient surgery centers in the state of TX, but no longer for abortion clinics.

One might wonder why this common sense requirement was considered unconstitutional. The abortion clinics argued that this requirement was unconstitutional because it restricted abortion and abortion is so safe that a woman is at 14 times greater risk of death if she gives birth to a child. Where did they get this preposterous claim? From the testimony of one abortion provider who cited her own study. This one study was used as evidence, in spite of Planned Parenthood’s own reported numbers that there are approximately 210 women annually who are admitted to the hospital due to complications from an abortion.

If Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry are really working to provide for the care of women, why then are they so against the safe care of women in an emergency? I believe any open-minded individual can figure it out. The abortion industry is more interested in turning a profit, than helping women. One would think that we could all agree to protect the health and life of women in a life-threatening emergency. But not when it hurts the bottom line of this practice. Make no mistake about it, abortion is a lucrative business, a reported $831 million dollar annual industry!

The SCOTUS decision regarding this Texas law should concern us all for the future of regulations and restrictions regarding the abortion industry, the unborn, and consequently the care for the health and life of women in this country.

Center for Religious Expression

Posted by Ashley Janovich at Friday, July 15, 2016

The Supreme Court Abolishes Traditional Meaning of Marriage (and Democracy)

Washington, D.C. — June 26, 2015. The Supreme Court announced a grave decision regarding marriage this morning. The Court determined that a fresh, enlightened reading of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution did away with the millennia-old understanding of marriage as a union between one man and one woman – and abolished every single person’s right to debate that issue with it.

Center for Religious Expression Chief Counsel Nate Kellum released the following statement in response to today's U.S. Supreme Court ruling on marriage:

“This is truly an unprecedented and disappointing decision by the Supreme Court,” said Nate Kellum, Chief Counsel for the Center for Religious Expression. “It does not just say that same-sex marriage is allowable; it rejects anyone’s right to disagree. The Court’s decision robs the American people of their right to self-govern in favor of judicial tyranny.”

Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion describes marriage as a vehicle for individuals to “express and define their identity.” With States no longer free to legislate the contours of marriage, this new conception of “liberty” paves the way for polygamy and other forms of group marriage by individuals who wish to express their identity through marriage.

In their dissents, four separate justices point out just how unprincipled and baseless the majority opinion is. Ultimately, the Court jettisoned a vast body of precedent supporting the rights of citizens to decide the marriage issue; the Court (more particularly, 5 sitting justices) articulated what they thought was best and imposed their preference on the rest of us.

“This decision sets the stage for a significant threat to religious expression,” Kellum continued, in addressing ramifications of the ruling. “Now that same-sex marriage activists have required States to recognize their form of marriage, the next objective is to make everyone approve of it. We must answer this threat. This newly-developed marriage liberty does not trump expressly protected freedoms set out in the First Amendment concerning the free exercise religion and free speech.”

Center for Religious Expression is a servant-oriented, non-profit 501(c)(3) Christian legal organization dedicated to the glory of God and the religious freedom of His people. For more information, visit http://www.crelaw.org.

Posted by Nate Kellum at Friday, June 26, 2015 | 0 comments

CRE Chief Counsel Makes Public Statement on Religious Freedom Legislation

Memphis, Tennessee – April 8, 2015. Nate Kellum, CRE Chief Counsel provided the following public statement to the press regarding the religious liberty bills in Indiana and Arkansas.

We find ourselves in a culture where it is becoming increasingly difficult for a Christian to be and act like a Christian in public. Those in power are exhibiting less and less tolerance for expressions of faith outside church walls, encroaching on freedom of belief and conscience.      

Regrettably, Activists have mischaracterized the content of these religious liberty laws and corporate citizens have followed their lead blindly without knowing how these laws actually read.  Contrary to reports, these religious liberty laws do not facilitate discrimination against anyone.  They are designed to protect religious freedom.   

The freedom to live according to one’s conscience, faith-based or not, is a cherished American value. The proposed laws in Indiana and Arkansas are needed to protect this freedom of conscience, so citizens are not coerced to participate in activities that violate deeply-held religious beliefs.

Posted by Nate Kellum at Wednesday, April 8, 2015 | 0 comments

With the Marriage cases, will the Supreme Court open up Pandora’s Box?

In what will prove to be a momentous year for marriage, the U. S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal of cases involving marital status in four states (Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee) and will judge whether the citizens of these states and all others have the authority to maintain the traditional meaning of marriage or be forced to accept novel, alternative versions of the institution.

The ruling, expected to be rendered by late June, has the potential to dramatically alter marriage as we know it (and have known it for thousands of years). At stake in the matter is whether individual states and their citizenry have any say-so in determining what kinds of relationships they must certify as valid marriages.

A vast majority of states, 30 in total, have state constitutional provisions that acknowledge time-honored parameters of marriage and succinctly define it as a union between one man and one woman. The upcoming decision by the Supreme Court will inform whether states will be allowed to retain this historical understanding of marriage.

The significance of this Supreme Court ruling cannot be overstated. Should the High Court resolve to set aside state constitutional amendments upholding the traditional form of marriage, every state in the union will be obliged to sanction (signifying state approval of) same-sex unions and supply attendant benefits. This result alone would trigger a seismic shift in the cultural landscape, but the after-shocks of any such decision promises to bring even greater change.

As any candid leftist will tell you, the fight for so-called “marriage equality” does not end with same-sex unions. It is a humble beginning.

Polygamy is up next. In addition to the equal protection arguments advanced by homosexual marriage proponents, polygamists will also urge religious freedom as reason for further tinkering with the definition of marriage. If the Supreme Court compels states to interpret marriage in a way that leaves room for same-sex unions, polygamy supporters will easily walk through the legal door that has cracked.

“Full” marriage equality will also encompass polyamory, which is polygamy plus, contemplating any number of partners and sexes in one legalized union.

The march for marriage equality will carry on from there, with advocates climbing one hill after another and each hill being easier than the last. And, marriage, upon being encumbered with various, additional meanings, will get to the point where it can no longer sustain any fixed definition. Marriage will become a malleable notion, subject to fit any circumstance people can dream up.

Once the Supreme Court pries open this Pandora’s Box of marriage, all of the evil contained therein will be unleashed. No conceivable form of marriage will be dubbed too extreme - whether it be unions with animals, between adults and children, or any other marital concoction. The term “marriage” will know no bounds; as a consequence, it will lose its import and societal purpose.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves with dire predictions. Despite what you might have heard from pundits, the justices have yet to rule on these marriage cases.

I, for one, am cautiously optimistic the Supreme Court will understand and appreciate the ramifications of their decision and rule in favor of states, and the people, letting them uphold marriage as a sacred union between one man and one woman, as long as they choose to do so.

Hopefully, the Supreme Court will realize this Pandora’s Box ought to be kept firmly shut.
Posted by Nate Kellum at Thursday, February 12, 2015 | 0 comments

Same-Sex Marriage Advocates Finally Come Across a Judge Unwilling to Bow to Political Pressure

Hans Christian Anderson’s famous story, The Emperor’s New Clothes, teaches that we should strive to discern and declare truth in the face of mounting political pressure. This vitally important lesson was exhibited last week by district court Judge Martin Feldman in his remarkable and courageous ruling upholding the Louisiana constitutional provision that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

Contrary to popular belief, traditional marriage is not dead (or at least not yet). In last year’s much ballyhooed decision of U.S. v. Windsor, the Supreme Court did not strike down the traditional meaning of marriage. Though this nuclear option was squarely before the Court, and strenuously sought, the Court opted to go in another direction. Justice Kennedy, speaking on behalf of the majority, held deference ought to be afforded states in the realm of marriage, allowing states to define marriage for themselves and their citizens an opportunity to participate in the democratic process on this important social issue.

But following this decision, akin to Anderson’s tale of swindlers selling imaginary clothes to the Emperor, same-sex marriage activists developed a clever plan to fool judges and everyone else. They put together talking points boasting of a new right for same-sex couples to marry, though none in truth exists. Coupling this fictional guarantee with the on-going, slick marketing campaign that links their cause to the virtue of equality, these activists trumpeted the Windsor decision as precedent triggering a massive overhaul of the marriage institution.

The swindlers in Anderson’s story preyed on pride and fear, claiming the fabricated garments could only be seen by those fit for their office. These real-life, contemporary swindlers, with the aid of media allies, employed a like strategy, laboring to convince judges that only those able to see the merits of their take on marriage are fit for the bench.

The pretense has worked exceedingly well. A federal judge from Utah was the first to succumb, ruling unconstitutional the state’s law adopting the traditional meaning of marriage – despite the Supreme Court’s strong admonition about marriage being the peculiar province of the states. A couple of months later, a judge from Oklahoma overruled the will of citizens, characterizing a state constitutional amendment defining marriage in the traditional way as “an arbitrary, irrational exclusion….” A judge in Kentucky soon followed suit, and subsequently, judges in Virginia, Texas, Tennessee, Michigan, Arkansas, Idaho, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Indiana, Colorado, and Florida fell in line with their colleagues.

At the appellate level, supporters of alternative marriage have enjoyed similar success. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit upheld a lower court ruling striking down the state’s idea of marriage, as did the Fourth Circuit. Just last week, the Seventh Circuit joined the fray, upholding rulings in Wisconsin and Indiana condemning traditional marriage laws, chastising these two states for limiting marriage to its historical boundaries.

But, Judge Feldman, encountering this tidal wave of rulings overturning state constitutional amendments all over the country, resisted the urge. Standing alone, he had the temerity to say no.

Judge Feldman correctly observed the Supreme Court has yet to label sexual orientation a suspect class, like race, religion, or national origin. Consequently, to pass muster on an equal protection claim, the state need only show a rational basis for the law. And, as Judge Feldman discerned, Louisiana’s interest in maintaining a state-wide understanding of marriage that focuses on the welfare of children and facilitates a system that gives children the best opportunity to be raised in a home with both a mom and a dad is not only rational, but an imminently reasonable, approach.

Judge Feldman saw through the empty rhetoric of same-sex marriage advocates just like the child saw through the illusory clothes of the Emperor. Like that child, the judge stated the obvious, remarking: “The Court is persuaded that a meaning of what is marriage that has endured in history for thousands of years, and prevails in a majority of the states today, is not universally irrational on the constitutional grid.”

In the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes, the child was initially subject to ridicule for his statement. The same has been true for Judge Feldman, with media and pundits heaping much criticism on him. But, in the tale, the people began slowly to put aside their pride and fear, and they came around to the truth. Let’s hope Feldman’s fellow judges will do likewise.
Posted by Nate Kellum at Saturday, September 13, 2014 | 0 comments

Latest HHS Spin on Mandate is Still Unconstitutional

Late last week, on Friday afternoon, while most of us were checking out of work (mentally if not physically) and focusing on the weekend, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a press release informing of yet another revision to its contraceptive/abortion pill mandate. As it turns out, we didn’t miss much.

The HHS was obliged to make changes following the Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case, which struck down the Mandate as it applies to closely held for-profit corporations. Also, the HHS could hardly ignore the string of subsequent court rulings casting doubt on the propriety of an “accommodation” the department set aside for religious non-profits.

Like a number of federal courts figured out, the “accommodation” given to religious non-profits is not very accommodating. The HHS decided they’d make the insurance company, and not the ministry, pay for contraceptive and abortion services, conveniently ignoring the real-world effect of increased premiums that cause employers to cover the additional costs in a back-door way. And, HHS glosses over the actual concern: More than just paying for it, Christian ministries are compelled to be deal-brokers between their own employees and providers of highly objectionable services. But for the employment, their employees do not receive free abortions.

Under this so-called “accommodation,” religious non-profits are constrained to arrange services that betray their mission, conscience, and identity, and are told to like it.

In the face of this quandary, we have – as of last Friday – the HHS’s most recent stab at this Mandate. The new version creates a new way for religious non-profits to communicate their objections. Instead of informing their insurance company directly, they tell the federal government, who, in turn, advises the insurance company of the concern. Then, as previously required, the insurance company makes arrangements with the employees to supply coverage for contraceptives and abortifacients. Regarding closely held for-profits, HHS is planning on applying the same “accommodation” to them, and is soliciting public feedback on the idea in the interim.

That’s it. I had to read the rules three times to make sure my contacts were working correctly and I didn’t miss anything. The government presumes that their grossly unconstitutional interference with religious freedom and conscience can be rectified by adding an extra layer of bureaucracy.

The religious non-profit is still required to facilitate the provision of abortion-related pills and services to their employees, but, as solace, the HHS says they can avoid awkward discussions with their insurance agent about it.

If any doubt existed prior to this recent rule, none does now: Either the HHS doesn’t get it or doesn’t care.

Part of the fanfare with the purportedly new rule, Secretary Sylvia Burwell boasts in the press release: “Women across the country deserve access to recommended preventive services that are important to their health, no matter where they work.”

Let’s translate this statement, and break it down, so we can all understand what our government is telling us. By “access,” the HHS means to say abortion-related services ought to be free, by “recommended preventive services,” the HHS connotes contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs, which use the government highly recommends to women, by “important to health,” HHS is referring to a political agenda that is important to the Administration, and by “no matter where they work.” HHS really means that this political agenda trumps the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The HHS latest spin on the Mandate is as unconstitutional as all previous offerings.

Given the action (or rather inaction) of the HHS on the issue, it is inevitable for the Supreme Court to step in and take another hard look at the Mandate, this time, addressing the government’s notion of an accommodation for those with religiously-based objections.

Though the Supreme Court tends to handle these types of matters in piecemeal fashion, in this or some similar case, they must eventually decide: Is it okay to force people of faith to abandon their earnestly-held religious beliefs to participate in the marketplace?
Posted by Nate Kellum at Thursday, August 28, 2014 | 0 comments

Court Finds Mere Act of Crossing State Lines to be an Unconstitutional Undue Burden on Women Seeking

Last week, a panel sitting for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit struck down – by a 2 to 1 margin - a 2012 Mississippi law as an undue burden on a woman’s right to abortion. What kind of burden, you might ask, would the majority deem sufficiently undue so as to overturn a state law?

The answer might surprise you: Requiring physicians who perform abortions to secure hospital admitting privileges –just like physicians with other outpatient surgeries.

Considered standard medical practice for essentially any type of office-based procedure, doctors maintain hospital admitting privileges to assure the health and safety of patients. The treating physician should have unrestrained and immediate access to a nearby hospital in case of a complication.

For this very reason, Mississippi has long compelled physicians practicing in ambulatory surgical centers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals, including orthopedists, plastic surgeons, dentists, and dermatologists. But, up and until 2012, abortion doctors were exempted from this common-sense measure.

In light of the vast and documented history of abortions-gone-bad in clinics in and outside the state, Mississippi could no longer ignore the welfare of women for the sake of a political cause. Passing the law, the state merely acknowledged that a woman having an abortion was deserving of the same standard of case granted to one having a mole removed.

The majority, in ruling the law unconstitutional as an undue burden, did not have any qualms with the purpose of it. Citing a previous decision of the Fifth Circuit (by another panel), that had upheld a virtually identical requirement in Texas as constitutional, the majority noted the rational basis of the law and how it could aid in “preventing patient abandonment.”

But the rub, says the majority, is that this Mississippi law would have the effect of closing the last remaining abortion clinic in the Magnolia State, causing women to travel to other states to obtain an abortion.

That’s it. The court didn’t specify any practical impediments the law would create for women seeking an abortion. Since clinics are available and close by in bordering states, no Mississippi woman could ever be denied an opportunity of having an abortion. And, there was no suggestion that women possess sentimentality about having an abortion in their home state.

Criticizing the fallacy of elevating state lines over practical concerns, Judge Emilio Garza, in his dissenting opinion (representing the 1 in the 2 to 1 margin on the panel), points out that “the sole act of crossing a state border cannot, standing alone, constitute an unconstitutional undue burden on the abortion right because the Constitution envisions free mobility of persons without regard to state borders.”

In contrast to the minor (if any) inconvenience of crossing state lines, women in Mississippi will now undoubtedly suffer a true and substantial burden without the law mandating hospital access for treating doctors. They will be subjected to physicians who lack privileges to practice in local hospitals as well as the credentials necessary to obtain those privileges.

The abortion clinic that challenged the law, Jackson Women’s Health Organization (JWHO), retains three doctors to handle abortions on its behalf. One, identified as Dr. Roe in the pleadings, has admitting privileges at local hospital, refuting any notion that hospitals discriminate against their practice. But the other two doctors – who happen to do the bulk of the abortions at the clinic - do not have the requisite credentials to secure the privileges with any of the seven hospitals located in the community.

The majority for the appellate court was deeply troubled by the effect of the Mississippi law, and how the insistence on doctors having hospital admitting privileges could force the JWHO clinic – the last abortion clinic left in Mississippi - to shut down.

But if the physicians performing abortions there lack the qualifications needed to obtain hospital privileges, wouldn’t it be best for the clinic to shut down?
Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, August 18, 2014 | 0 comments

Supreme Court Finds Cost of Doing Business Under HHS Mandate Too High for Christian Business Owners

by Nate Kellum


Earlier this week, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, a chain of retail stores owned by David Green and his family, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a wood-working company run by the Hahns, striking down the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate instituted under Obamacare that compelled companies to supply health insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs against their will and conscience.    

In so holding, the Court allows these two families — and other Christian owners — to stay in business.    

Any on-going, for-profit business, whether a Fortune 500 company or a Mom & Pop shop, must continually assess the cost of doing business. The cost determines the price point and eventually, whether you can carry on with, or go out of, business.     

This calculation requires an accounting of rudimentary expenses, like rent, computers, office supplies and salaries. But for the Greens and the Hahns, the application of the HHS mandate added an insurmountable cost of doing business: either 1) forego religious convictions or 2) pay exorbitant fines.    

The first option was never a consideration.     

Hobby Lobby has a written statement of purpose whereby the Greens endeavor to “[h]onor the Lord in all [they] do by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles.”  In addition to not being open on Sundays, one such biblical principle for the Greens is that all human life, being made in the image of God, is sacred and begins at conception.   

The Hahns are like-minded folk. Devout members of the Mennonite Church, they strive to run their business in accordance with religious beliefs and moral principles.  As a reflection of this mission, their Board maintains a “Statement on the Sanctity of Human Life” condemning abortion from conception forward.   

Neither family could financially support abortion without contradicting their very purpose for being in business. That leaves the second option, which, unlike the first, is conceivable, but still far from feasible.  

If Hobby Lobby had elected to cut out contraceptive services — which included provision for four different abortifacient drugs — from their health insurance coverage, they would have to pay $100 per day per employee, which for them, at last count, would result in fines of $1.3 million a day and $475 million a year. Being the go-to store for arts & crafts, Hobby Lobby does well, but not nearly enough to survive that outlay. 

Conestoga Wood had the same dilemma under the HHS mandate, facing the prospect of crippling fines. For them, the cost would have amounted to $90,000 a day and $33 million a year.  

In other words, Obama administration has said to the Greens, Hahns, and other Christians who own businesses and share the same views: Get over your religious beliefs or get out of business.  

But the executive branch doesn’t have the final say on matters relating to the U.S. Constitution and enforcement of federal law, the Supreme Court does.  

And, in speaking on this topic, the High Court sided with religious liberty. Recognizing the immense burden the HHS mandate imposes on Christian owners with religious convictions about life, the Court held the mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as applied to them.  

Even if the supply of free abortions to all women could somehow be considered a compelling government interest, the Court rightly held the government cannot force a Christian business to foot the bill. There are far less restrictive means for pursuing this dubious goal, which would include the government picking up the tab itself.    

The administration apparently wants to transform the country from the Land of the Free into the Land of the Free Abortion. But as Momma always said, nothing in this life is truly free. Somebody has to pay for it.   

The Greens and the Hahns don’t want to pay for abortions. In more ways than one, they can’t afford it. The superimposed, federally-mandated cost of doing business is simply too high. 

But thanks to this monumental Supreme Court ruling, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood are now back in business.   

Posted by Nate Kellum at Tuesday, July 1, 2014 | 0 comments

Abortion Distortion

by Nate Kellum

The pithy, catch-phrase “abortion distortion” is frequently used to describe how rules of law, logic, and common sense go by the wayside whenever abortion is involved. The phenomenon is easily detected.

What invasive, medical procedure – besides an abortion – can a minor obtain without parental consent or knowledge?   

What surgical center – besides an abortion clinic – can avoid regulatory standards for surgical centers?   

What medical facility – besides an abortion clinic – can regularly present physicians who not have hospital admitting privileges?   

What provider of medical services – besides an abortion provider – can prevent patients from discovering important information about the risks of the services?        

Last week, in McCullen v. Oakley, the Supreme Court ruled on another form of abortion distortion, dealing with the propriety of 35-foot buffer zones placed around all of the abortion clinics in the state of Massachusetts.  Is there any other context in which a 35-foot buffer zone, banning free expression on public sidewalks and ways, could possibly survive? Around a church? Around the Pentagon? Around the White House? 

Nope, no way. 

Except for the inclusion of abortion, this bright idea of setting up a 35-foot “no speech” zone in a public area where people are generally free to walk and talk never gets off the ground, much less does it become an issue suitable for Supreme Court consideration. 

Thankfully, and appropriately, all nine justices agreed that such law is unconstitutional, striking down the buffer zone. But even in this obligatory ruling, the abortion distortion factor weighed in the analysis.    

In an opinion authored by Chief Justice Roberts, the Supreme Court held the law to be too broad in scope. Though the State, in passing the law, specified concerns about congestion, obstruction of access to abortion clinics, and safety around the clinics, the Court rightly noted that the 35-foot buffer went far beyond any legitimate worries and burdened substantially more speech than necessary.     

But, as a preface to this ruling, the Court curiously found the buffer zone law to be content-neutral. Given that the buffer zone was created by the State to specifically address activity outside of abortion clinics, the law can hardly be called neutral. The law deals directly and singularly with the topic of abortion, and in exempting abortion employees and pro-choice “escorts” from the ramifications of the law, the buffer zone only affected the pro-life viewpoint.  

This part of the decision is not only troubling, but superfluous, since the Court held the law unconstitutional on other grounds. The Court seemingly goes out of its way to pay homage to the pro-abortion community, letting them and everyone else know that free speech jurisprudence doesn’t apply to abortion after all.  

This oddity in the holding did not escape the ire of Justice Antonin Scalia, who, in an opinion concurring in judgment only, and joined by two other justices, slammed the decision for indicating “there is an entirely separate, abridged edition of the First Amendment applicable to speech against abortion.”   

In another concurring opinion, Justice Samuel Alito pointed out how the law should have been condemned as unconstitutional for employing “blatant viewpoint discrimination.”   

The lead plaintiff in the case is Eleanor McCullen, a 77-year-old Christian woman who has prayed outside clinics and offered help to women for many years. Along with others, she stood firm and persevered through years of legal battles before this grossly unconstitutional law was finally struck down.   

When the decision was announced, McCullen released a statement saying, “I am delighted and thankful to God that the court has protected my right to engage in kind, hopeful discussions with women who feel they have nowhere else to turn.”   

Let’s hope and pray protection for this meaningful expression endures. As implied by the Court, Massachusetts only messed up in limiting too much pro-life speech, not in targeting this perspective for exclusion.    

Although this decision represents a true victory for free speech in general and pro-life speech in particular, the McCullen decision is a sober reminder that we need to be continually vigilant about our constitutional rights, especially, when they interact with the abortion issue. While the 35-foot buffer zone is no more, abortion distortion remains.   

What method of extinguishing life – besides an abortion – is celebrated as a fundamental right?         

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, June 30, 2014 | 0 comments

Campus Groupthink

by Nate Kellum

Colleges are chock-full of various, diverse student organizations, grouping like-minded individuals around a common interest and mission. One can expect a culinary club to be led by a foodie, the Young Democrats by devoted members of the Democratic Party, the dance club by someone who knows how (or least likes) to dance, and the Feminist Student Organization by students who wish to advance the cause of women.   

But more and more colleges are depriving religious student groups, particularly, Christian-oriented groups, of this same basic liberty to gather with – and be led by – individuals with harmonious views. Instead, these colleges want to tell Christian groups what they are supposed to think.   

The current situation at Bowdoin College in Maine is representative of this creeping and downright disturbing trend.

Through a “non-discrimination” policy, Bowdoin forbids official student organizations from excluding students from participation and leadership due to their religious beliefs. Groups are free to discriminate, mind you, for a vast number of reasons, but not on the basis of religion.      

While this notion makes sense for the chess club, where religion plays no role in the identity of the group, and an Atheist could lead as effectively as a Muslim, Christian, or Jew, as long he or she possesses knowledge of and passion for the game, it makes little sense to force a Christian group to let non-adherents guide and direct their organization.  If this sort of compelled groupthink took place on the campus of a public university, it would violate a number of constitutional rights.  But even in a private setting, like Bowdoin, the process unduly infringes on the conscience of students.   

Call me old-fashioned, but it seems best to have a Muslim student lead the Muslim student organization, a Jewish student to lead Hillel, and a Christian student lead the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.   

At Bowdoin, Rob and Sim Gregory, who have served Bowdoin Christian Fellowship for almost a decade as volunteer leaders, were constrained to step down from their roles at the end of the semester. The Gregorys declined to sign Bowdoin’s Volunteer Agreement, which requires all volunteers to formally agree to comply with the College’s policies including Bowdoin’s Freedom from Discrimination and Harassment policy (doesn’t that have a nice ring to it?), which prohibits discrimination against any Bowdoin community member based on factors that include race, sex, sexual orientation, in addition to religion. 

The Gregorys labored to find another way.  They sought counsel from InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, which whom their chapter affiliates. They tried to dialogue and reason with the college, but to no avail. Perhaps, the Gregorys could have agreed to one thing and secretly done something else, signing the policy with a wink and a nod. But ultimately, the couple could not in good conscience agree to the terms that Bowdoin forced upon them.

Apparently, some, including many influential college officials, believe religion in general and Christianity in particular ought to be more inclusive and not let differences in opinion over the authority and meaning of scripture prevent interested parties from participating and leading student groups.  Though this notion of inclusivity doesn’t translate to obliging Vegan groups to take on meat-lovers,  or environmentally-minded groups to welcome those who refuse to be green, or any other non-religious group to betray their identity and mission through their membership and leadership, they expect Christians to forego their deeply-held beliefs to maintain a reserved spot on campus.        

But if our nation’s college campuses are to be the marketplace of ideas they claim to be, they must respect and protect all opinions, allowing students, volunteers and others on campus to hold ideas that are unique to them, even when those ideas don’t seem to be politically correct. 

Posted by Nate Kellum at Wednesday, June 18, 2014 | 0 comments

Make Them Bake Cake

by Nate Kellum

Marie Antoinette may never have said “Let them eat cake,” but, in Colorado, the seven-member Civil Rights Commission recently declared their intention to make them bake cake, ordering a Christian baker to design and prepare wedding cakes for same-sex couples – or else suffer the consequences.

Two years ago, Jack Phillips, who owns Masterpiece Cakeshop in suburban Denver, politely declined to make a wedding cake signifying a union between two men. Phillips said he would sell them any baked good in his shop, and would appreciate the business, but he could not craft a cake promoting a same-sex wedding due to his faith and beliefs about marriage.   

The couple was not pleased, unwilling to accept anything other than a cake demonstrating full, unequivocal support for same-sex marriages. Enlisting the aid of the ACLU, they brought charges, and an administrative judge ruled that Phillips violated civil rights law by discriminating against the couple.   

Last Friday, the state Civil Rights Commission considered the matter and unanimously upheld the judge’s ruling against Phillips, requiring him to submit quarterly reports for two years, documenting how he has changed company policy and trained employees to end “discrimination” at his workplace.   

But Jack Phillips has not engaged in any form of invalid discrimination. Masterpiece Cakeshop has never denied service to anyone. All of the cakes, cookies, brownies and other pastries offered at the shop are available for purchase by any person with sufficient funds.   

Phillips only seeks the freedom to refrain from making a product that runs afoul of his deeply-held religious beliefs. ACLU carelessly describes Phillips as “retail service provider,” but Masterpiece Cakeshop doesn’t sell cookie-cutter items. Each cake Phillips bakes is an individualized creation and represents Phillips as the maker.   

No artist should be forced to express beliefs contrary to his own views in his own art. Though Phillips uses flour and sugar instead of watercolors or pastels, his type of art is still art, and inextricably linked to his identity.          

Phillips does not wish to contribute to a same-sex wedding ceremony with his artistry because of his religious conviction that the institution of marriage ought to be reserved for one man and one woman. This earnest belief need not be shared by anyone to be legitimate, and yet, many do share this view.   

The belief in the traditional view of marriage is held by millions of other Coloradoans.   

Ironically, not even the state of Colorado recognizes same-sex marriages as legal unions.  While compelling Phillips to participate in the celebration of same-sex weddings, the state has not yet sanctioned them.   

Contrary to the ruling of the Commission, Americans are not obliged to violate their religious beliefs with their own creations. Phillips does not forfeit his constitutional right to act according to conscience by operating a business.   

An appeal of the Commission’s ruling is anticipated, and for good reason. The issue goes far beyond the marriage debate. The freedom we all enjoy to follow our conscience is fundamental and we cannot forsake this right for a political cause, regardless of how we think marriage should be defined.   

According to legend, the phrase, “Let them eat cake,” led to outrage among the populace because – in the face of a hunger epidemic – the words exposed a monarchy oblivious to the circumstances of the people. In the same way, the Commission, being a contemporary version of a monarchy, is seemingly oblivious to the impact of their ruling.   

 To make them bake cake is to trample on freedom.        

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, June 2, 2014 | 0 comments

Supreme Court Protects Prayer in the Name of Jesus

by Nate Kellum

Two weeks ago, in the case of Town of Greece v. Galloway, the Supreme Court handed down a monumental decision protecting legislative prayers and those who wish to offer them. The Court also confirmed that it’s okay to say Jesus in public prayers.      

You remember the story from the oral arguments last fall. The small town of Greece in upstate New York likes to start council meetings with ceremonial prayer, just like many other towns, most of the state legislatures, the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court. These prayers were not extended by government officials, but by local clergy, and anyone from any faith was invited to participate.  

Being open to all, no religion was favored in the process, but because most of the houses of worship in Greece happen to be Christian, most of the public prayers happen to be (you guessed it) Christian. Dissatisfied with this arrangement, two non-Christian women retained a powerful Atheist group, Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) and sued the town, seeking to eliminate the Christian aspects of Christian prayers.  

Under the banner of so-called “separation of church and state,” AU ironically urged a policy that would integrate the two, requiring the government to establish prayer police to review proposed prayers of clergy in advance and excise offending words, like “Jesus.”   

This paradoxical position came close to carrying the day, prevailing at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and garnering the support of four justices from the Supreme Court. But the majority for the Court held otherwise, ruling that prayers before town council meetings – even those mentioning the name Jesus – did not violate the Constitution.  

This decision flows from the last time the Supreme Court considered legislative prayers, in the 1983 case of Marsh v. Chambers.  For the majority in that decision, Chief Justice Warren Berger observed “from colonial times through the founding of the Republic and ever since, the practice of legislative prayer has coexisted with the principles of disestablishment and religious freedom.”  

Over the last thirty years, vigilant opponents of public prayer have searched out opportunities to challenge or severely limit the impact of that decision, and many feared the Greece case, featuring predominantly sectarian prayers, could cause the current make-up of the Court to view the issue differently. 

Thankfully, the Court let history guide them.  

“Legislative prayer has become part of our heritage and tradition, part of our expressive idiom, similar to the Pledge of Allegiance, inaugural prayer, or the recitation of ‘God save the United States and this honorable Court’ at the opening of this Court’s sessions,” found Justice Anthony Kennedy, speaking for the majority.  

The opinion did not shy away from the issue of offense, tackling head-on the notion that some could take umbrage to a sectarian prayer. “The Congress that drafted the First Amendment would have been accustomed to invocations containing explicitly religious themes of the sort respondents find objectionable,” wrote Justice Kennedy. “Adults often encounter speech they find disagreeable.”  

Justice Kennedy concluded with a statement that will shape decisions for many years to come: “Ceremonial prayer is but a recognition that, since this Nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be under­stood by precepts far beyond the authority of government to alter or define.”  

The Supreme Court got this one right. Just because some might prefer a prayer stated in another way (or not at all) is no reason to censor or edit it. The content of a prayer, like all other speech, must be determined by the person who’s uttering it, not the government.  

Any prayer that is altered to extract the name of Jesus – to the Christian – amounts to no prayer at all.          

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, May 19, 2014 | 1 comments

Doctors Under Fire

by Nate Kellum

Last week, the Daily Telegraph reported that doctors and nurses in the UK who have religious or moral objections to supplying “morning-after” pills are being discriminated against.  If unwilling to administer the controversial, abortion-inducing drug, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists bans them from obtaining specialist professional qualifications.

The discrimination is not limited to Europe, as this troubling mindset has made its way across the pond to the United States. The American counterpart to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, has guidelines which state “Physicians and other health care providers have the duty to refer patients in a timely manner to other providers if they do not feel that they can in conscience provide the standard reproductive services that patients request.” The ambiguity of the phrases “timely manner” and “standard reproductive services” lead to arbitrary rulings by the governing body that directly impacts how morally-concerned physicians care for their patients.   

Many Ob-Gyn residents and medical students have informed the Christian Medical Association that they have faced discrimination due to their religiously-based views and were even formally censured for refusing to participate in elective abortions. 

Beyond abortion procedures and pills, this discrimination extends to all manners of reproductive health and jeopardizes more than certifications.

A board certified Ob-Gyn in California relayed a situation involving a lesbian couple who contacted her about performing an intrauterine insemination fifteen years ago.  She had a moral objection to the request, and not knowing what to do, she reached out to her malpractice carrier for advice. They told the physician that she could not refuse the requested service to the lesbian couple or any non-married couple as long as she provided the same service to married, heterosexual couples. This practice, dictated by her conscience, would subject the physician to a lawsuit and cause the insurance company to terminate her policy. As a result, the physician decided to stop performing intrauterine inseminations for all patients. 

These sorts of moral dilemmas are creating a crisis in the medical community. Slowly but surely, faith-driven doctors and nurses (or those with the potential to be so) are foregoing these professions and making a living by doing something else. The day is coming when a Christian woman will not be able to find an Ob-Gyn who shares her deeply-held religious beliefs about life and other moral concerns.

She could also have difficulty finding a nearby hospital. Currently, one in six patients hospitalized in the United States is cared for in a Catholic hospital, whose underlying mission prevents it from facilitating abortion procedures. If obliged to go against their mission, and very purpose, these hospitals will close their doors.  

As David Jones, director of a Roman Catholic bioethics institute in Oxford, explained to the Daily Telegraph, “This is a form of unjust discrimination against professionals on the basis of their personal beliefs and, indirectly, a form of discrimination against patients who share the same beliefs and who may wish to be treated by professionals with a sympathetic understanding of their position.”

Conscience protections in health care have become absolutely critical for the welfare of physicians and patients and to maintain our health care system as a whole. If we neglect to protect these rights, we may find ourselves without any faith-based private health care options, and in short supply of physicians and hospitals nationwide. 

As part of the Hippocratic Oath, doctors vow to do no harm to their patients, and, as a society, the least we can do is assure them of their right to honor that vow. Physicians should be free to practice medicine in a manner that is consistent with their oath as well as their conscience. 

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, May 5, 2014 | 0 comments

Cross to Bear

by Nate Kellum

Two years ago, a tragedy struck a Southern California family. 19 year-old Anthony Vincent Devaney was hit by a vehicle and killed as he crossed a street near a freeway exit ramp in Lake Elsinore.     

Several months later, his mother, Ann Marie, stuck wooden crosses on the side of the road near the spot where he died, as way of honoring Anthony’s memory. We’ve all seen similar memorials.  They’re as common-place as road signs, scattered alongside our streets and highways, reminding us of lives lost due to car accidents and of our duty to drive safely.   

For Ann Marie Devaney, this memorial is a simple gesture of love.   

But when this memorial came to attention of the American Humanist Association, they reacted with an atheistic version of road rage. Contacting the various city officials and threatening a lawsuit, they demanded the crosses be removed “immediately” from the right-of-way.       

Lake Elsinore took the threat seriously. The group’s demand letter came a week after a U.S. District Court judge ruled in favor of a legal challenge brought by AHA against Lake Elsinore’s proposed veterans memorial. The initial plans for the monument depicted a soldier kneeling in front of crosses and Stars of David.   

Unwilling to risk another defeat, the city buckled, and asked the family to remove their crosses from that meaningful place.    

Though the city failed them, fellow citizens did not. Where the two crosses were removed, even more have sprung up in their place, put there by others who understand their constitutional rights and want to support this family they don’t know personally during their time of grief.   

For their part, and as way of consolation, Lake Elsinore did offer the family a more permanent memorial. A few weeks after the roadside crosses came down, a tree was planted and a plaque was installed in a local park, paid for by the city. The plaque makes no mention of religion.   

And this is an important distinction. Apparently, AHA doesn’t have a beef with anyone remembering Anthony; the issue is remembering him with a cross, a symbol linked to the Christian faith.   

There are other types of roadside memorials, like the trendy “ghost bike,” consisting of an old bicycle painted white, placed and chained in spot where a cyclist has died, informing all who see it that the deceased was a cyclist. AHA does not have an on-going campaign to remove ghost bikes. They only want to eliminate the cross.    

The roadside cross, at least for some, indicates that the person who died there was a Christian. This was true of Anthony Devaney. But if someone can be remembered as a cyclist, why can’t Anthony be remembered as a Christian? “It’s so petty and sad that they have to complain over removing a cross,” said Ann Marie Devaney, while on site to remove the crosses memorializing her son’s death.  “It’s his personal preference that he was a Christian. What’s wrong with having a cross up?” 

Indeed, what is wrong with having a cross up? Because crosses are universally associated with honoring the dead, an atheist or some other potential objector is not deprived of any right by merely noticing its presence—even assuming a driver can observe it via peripheral vision while travelling 70 miles per hour. This is particularly true when the cross is purchased and placed by a private citizen, like Ann Marie Devaney, because the speech is her own, and not that of the government.     

It appears our friends at AHA are cross-phobes. What the American Humanist Association and their ilk are trying to do—with some success—is purge all reminders of faith from public view.      

As Christians, we must be vigilant and stand up to these cross bullies, encouraging our city leaders to do the same. Like everyone else, Christians have a rightful place in the public square. We retain the freedom to live—and to die—as Christians.       

Posted by Nate Kellum at Tuesday, April 22, 2014 | 0 comments

Fire-fox-ed

by Nate Kellum

Along with another day comes another troubling story of how we are losing our way in America.

Following Mozilla’s announcement that Brendan Eich, inventor of Javascript and one of the founders of the company, would be promoted from Chief Technology Officer to head the company, many believed the move might spur a few stories about whether coders make good CEOs. Instead, this bit of news sparked a firestorm of controversy over Eich’s views on same-sex marriage.

And this fire spread quickly, leading to Eich being burned. Some within the Mozilla community circulated a public petition demanding that Eich step down as CEO, and he did, last Thursday, after only being on the job for two weeks.    

The controversy stems from what would seem to most to be a minor and private – yet constitutionally protected – transaction. In 2008, Eich made a donation of $1,000 in support of California's Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that amended the state’s constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Eich was far from alone in supporting this cause. A majority of Californians, over 7 million people, voted for traditional marriage. But as Eich learned the hard way, Silicon Valley has no tolerance for any individual who fails to strictly adhere to the socially liberal agenda.  

The Mozilla Corporation is a wholly owned subsidiary of an independent non-profit organization called the Mozilla Foundation. Mozilla creates internet-based applications, like the uber-popular browser Firefox. They describe themselves in this way: “the Mozilla project is a global community of people who believe that openness, innovation, and opportunity are key to the continued health of the Internet. We have worked together since 1998 to ensure that the Internet is developed in a way that benefits everyone.”

Obviously, not everyone is entitled to the same the degree of openness.

Eich is not politically active. The vicious effort to expose and denigrate his personal views only produced the one-time donation. As a founder and a member of the leadership team, Eich never opposed the company’s policies which provided health insurance and other benefits to same-sex partners of Mozilla’s employees. Responding to the attacks, Eich repeatedly assured that he did not intend to use the CEO position as a platform to promote his beliefs. 

But the staunch opposition against Eich had nothing to do with any conceivable harm he could bring as CEO. It was all about intimidation. The idea was to punish Eich harshly and publicly so that no one in his shoes would ever dare to support traditional marriage again.

While private businesses have and should retain the right to do business as they see fit, whenever (highly) competent professionals are denied economic opportunities due to their beliefs, we should all be concerned. Freedom of conscience is a basic, fundamental principle of any democratic society. We cannot prosper as a nation without it.

Stories like Eich’s strikingly echo McCarthyism. We are at the point where, in situations like these, candidates for jobs are asked, “Do you now or have you ever opposed same-sex marriage?” Be careful of what you say for the wrong answer will cost you.  

As this controversy began to heat up, Eich opined: “If Mozilla cannot continue to operate according to its principles of inclusiveness, where you can work on the mission no matter what your background or other beliefs, I think we’ll probably fail.”  

Eich is right and his words could be extended to more general statements about our nation as a whole. If the United States of America cannot continue to be a country dedicated to liberty, where men and women are free to hold beliefs informed by religion and conscience, I think we’ll probably fail. 

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, April 7, 2014 | 0 comments

Air Force Academy Teaching Religious Censorship

by Nate Kellum

Like other college campuses in America, the dorm room doors at the Air Force Academy are adorned with white dry erase boards, where residents leave messages for those passing by, such as “Be back in a few,” “Excited about the weekend,” or “Go Falcons!” But when a cadet jotted out a Bible verse on his own personal whiteboard, the Air Force Academy coerced him to get rid of it.  

To encourage believers and engage unbelievers with the truth, the cadet wrote with his dry erase marker a well-known verse, Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Apparently, someone complained about having to see this passage in the hallway. And high-ranking school officials — presuming the minor leadership role this cadet fulfills at the Air Force Academy requires him to forego mention of his faith — wasted little time in erasing the expression.

This rash action is not only unthinking, it’s unconstitutional.

One might ask:  What would compel the military leadership to act in such a capricious manner?

A group ironically named the Military Religious Freedom Foundation has taken credit for it. According to its leader, Mikey Weinstein, they pressured the military into this decision.

Media relations for the Air Force Academy disputes this claim, reporting an in-house complaint was handled by a cadet council guided by senior officers (similar to an honor court) and that the cadet voluntarily took the quote down after a discussion with the cadet council.

Whether the Academy is succumbing to the anti-Christian rants of some radical group, or using military discipline structures to scrutinize religiously-motivated decisions, or both, the suppression of Christian speech is disturbing.

Weinstein boasts the Bible verse only lasted 2 hours and nine minutes on the whiteboard before the erasure was applied. He was complimentary of the prompt action taken by the Air Force Academy, crediting Lt. Col. Denise Cooper in particular, who assured Weinstein that the Academy would use the incident as a “teachable moment.”

But what exactly does this silencing of Christian expression teach? That cadets are permitted to use their whiteboards for all sorts of personal messages except for religious ones? That cadets are not entitled to the constitutional rights they are supposed to fight for and protect?

Private religious speech should be freely allowed on government — including military — property.  As the Supreme Court has observed, there is a critical distinction “between government speech endorsing religion, which the Establishment Clause forbids, and private speech endorsing religion, which the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses protect.”  

Perhaps Air Force Academy leaders would benefit from some teaching in this instance.  

Every enlistee must take an oath swearing to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution. The need for a refresher course on that document is self-evident.  

Posted by Nate Kellum at Tuesday, March 25, 2014 | 0 comments

Safe for Now

by Nate Kellum

Last year, I wrote about a German family who was pursuing political asylum in the United States. Uwe and Hannelore Romeike, along with their five children, fled their native Germany, seeking refuge from persecution for homeschooling, and their story was all over the news this week.

If you aren’t familiar with their plight, the Romeikes withdrew their children from local schools, and began homeschooling in 2006, concerned that compulsory education was undermining their Christian faith and what they were trying to teach their children at home. But homeschooling is banned by law in Germany, which caused the Romeikes to accumulate $10,000 in fines and risked their children being taken from them.

Soon after they arrived in the U.S., the Romeikes were granted asylum. In fact, federal immigration Judge Lawrence Burman ruled the Romeikes had a reasonable fear of persecution for their beliefs, rightly depicting the homeschool ban as “utterly repellent to everything we believe as Americans.”   

Astonishingly, the Obama administration appealed that ruling, challenging the permanent resident status of the Romeike family, thus, placing them in danger of deportation. The government contended that the evangelical Christians were not being treated unfairly since everyone is banned from homeschooling in Germany.   

The administration won the appeal, leaving the Romeikes with only one legal option left to pursue: Ask the Supreme Court to review their case.   

Last Monday, the Supreme Court declined to review the case. The odds were not in the Romeikes’s favor; less than one percent of all appeals are considered by the highest court. But the formal refusal was still a blow, and hard to accept. All seemed lost, until something unexpected happened.   

The very next day, the Department of Homeland Security granted special status to the Romeikes, allowing them to stay in the United States indefinitely.   

There was no reason given for this change of heart, but one can always speculate (as we coincidentally approach mid-term elections.) The public outcry over the harsh treatment of the Romeikes has been great, and not just on behalf of the Romeikes themselves.   

When the Obama administration asserts that a ban on homeschooling is okay because it applies equally across the board, they are discounting all those who wish raise their children according to deeply-held religious beliefs. The myopic stance is yet another example of a broader philosophical position of the administration that the drafters of the U.S. Constitution didn’t really mean free exercise of religion when they said free exercise of religion, just a freedom to worship.   

But the drafters meant what they wrote. This freedom of religion – to which the Declaration of Independence depicts as inalienable, or God-given – encompasses more than worship to include the fundamental liberty we all share to live our lives in ways that do not violate our consciences.   

When our allies deny this right to their citizens, America should be that city of the hill, shining as a beacon of hope, offering liberty to those oppressed.

In God’s providence, the Romeikes were finally given the safe harbor they so desperately sought. And in so doing, the fundamental rights of American’s own citizens were reinforced as well.

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, March 10, 2014 | 0 comments

Religious Freedom Legislation

To the Christian, a job is more than a job; it is a calling. Whether as a butcher, baker, or candle-stick maker (or even a lawyer), we are to use the gifts God has given us for His glory. It is a grand opportunity and responsibility.     

And the government has no business interfering with this faith-driven view.      

In recognition of this important concept – applicable not only to Christianity but other religions as well – last week, the Arizona Senate and House both passed landmark legislation protecting the religious freedom of small business owners.   

Over the last several years, Christian photographers, bakers, florists and others in wedding-related occupations have faced lawsuits and criminal penalties all across the country for declining to provide their goods and services for same-sex wedding ceremonies and receptions. These actions have cost people their livelihoods as they face daunting court costs, fines, negative press and even boycotts for refusing to compromise their faith.   

Though these individuals are ostensibly free to believe whatever they want to believe at home, they are compelled to shed those beliefs prior to clocking in. Thankfully, this imposition on individual conscience has not gone unnoticed.   

Along with Arizona, legislators in Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Tennessee have all introduced legislation that acknowledges a business owner’s right to conduct his business in accordance with his religious beliefs. Arizona’s legislation became the first to get to the executive branch level.   

Governor Jan Brewer has thus far refused to comment on the bill. Arizonans are hopeful she will take national leadership in protecting the rights of Christians and others with strong religious objections to same-sex marriage, but she is encountering significant pressure to do otherwise.   

Same-sex unions are not recognizable as marriages in Arizona; in fact, the citizens passed a referendum barring the prospect in 2008. The proposed law merely allows a religious objector to avoid participation in something that is already considered illegitimate in the state. But this reality does not keep homosexual advocates from crying foul and labeling the law as discriminatory. The Senate Democratic leader in Arizona, Anna Tovar, was among the first to criticize the bill, claiming “many Arizonans will find themselves members of a separate and unequal class under this law because of their sexual orientation.”   

Summoning up visions of Jim Crow laws and separate drinking fountains, Senator Tovar presumes no one will actually read the bill. The text reveals that it clarifies the existing Religious Freedom Restoration Act to include individuals and businesses – in addition to churches – as parties protected under the law. Nothing in or about the bill suggests a business can refuse service to someone because of the person’s espoused sexual orientation. 

And the loose charge of harmful discrimination, echoed by numerous members of the media, is dripping with irony. No same-sex wedding has ever been called off because a vendor declined to partake in it. No reception has been canceled or postponed. No same-sex couple has been forced to rely on memories due to lack of a willing photographer. There always seem to be a cake to slice and a bouquet to throw at these events. On the other hand, Christian vendors who have the temerity to beg off involvement in these same-sex gatherings are ostracized and made to suffer for taking their faith seriously at work.

As Republican Sen. Steve Yarbrough articulated during the Arizona Senate debate on the bill, this law is geared to stop – not facilitate – inequitable treatment. "This bill is not about allowing discrimination," Yarbrough said. "This bill is about preventing discrimination against people who are clearly living out their faith."   

Now that the bill has passed, Gov. Brewer has a decision to make, which should be made by the end of the week. If her choice turns on an aspiration to curb real, invalid discrimination, she will sign the bill into law.       

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, February 24, 2014 | 0 comments

Unconventional Authority

by Nate Kellum

This past week, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) grabbed national headlines with a blistering and blustering critique of the Catholic Church, coupled with presumptuous recommendations on how the church can do better.

The report revealed more about the impropriety of the CRC than any shortcomings of the Catholic Church. 

Though some of the concerns raised about the in-house handling of clergy sexual abuse merit inquiry, the committee’s report was largely unsubstantiated. More troubling, the CRC went out of its way – and beyond the purported context of the document – to condemn the Vatican for the church’s teachings on abortion, contraception and homosexuality and even had the audacity to tell the church to amend its canon laws to permit certain types of abortions.  

The Holy See – the sovereign state of the Roman Catholic Church that enjoys permanent observer state status at the United Nations  – subjected itself to this reproach by ratifying a U.N. treaty known as “Convention on the Rights of the Child.” Being a party to this overly intrusive process, the Holy See is obliged to receive, but not necessarily heed, the CRC’s recommendations. 

Ever since the Holy See first opted to participate in the treaty it has been careful to reserve authority over religious matters, but the CRC has a recommendation on this point as well, admonishing the Catholic body to “undertake the necessary steps to ensure the Convention’s precedence over internal laws and regulations.” In case the Vatican is slow to pick up on this directive, the CRC suggests the Holy See revisit canon laws and make changes to jibe with the philosophy of the committee.   

For those familiar with the CRC, this power grab is not surprising. The committee has long maintained a radical, global agenda that acts to undermine the sovereignty of nations and the authority of parents.  

The CRC insists that children – regardless of age – have the right to not just access information about sex, but to contraceptives and abortions, without parental consent or notification. More broadly the committee advocates that children possess the right to seek any medical treatment or counseling without parental consent. In its so-called defense of the child, the CRC also urges nations to create mechanisms for children to legally challenge their parents in court for violating their “rights” to things like free expression and privacy in the home. 

Any nation ratifying the treaty is susceptible to highly-publicized condemnation for failing to adopt any of the committee’s extremist ideas about children. In 1995, the CRC publically rebuked Great Britain for allowing parents to opt-out their children from objectionable education about sex.

By the same token, nations who happen to have representatives on the committee – which include Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Egypt – manage to evade due scrutiny for mistreatment of children. In 2002, the CRC did a perfunctory report on Saudi Arabia, mentioning an incident where 15 girls died from a fire at a school. The committee specified a concern about the building not meeting safety standards, but ignored how Islamic police forced girls to go back into the burning building to their deaths because they were not fully clothed in loose, body-covering garments. 

 Only three nations in the U.N. have declined to abide by this outrageous treaty, and thankfully, the United States counts as one of them. The U.S. actually signed it, but has yet to ratify the document, which would compel our country to uphold the treaty by international law and deny parents their God-given rights and responsibilities to raise their children.  

The only reason ratification has been avoided thus far is because no willing President, particularly, Clinton and Obama, has been able to secure the requisite two-thirds majority vote of the U.S. Senate. This is yet another reminder that elections have consequences. We need to make sure our Senators – and Presidents, for that matter – have the good sense to acknowledge the role of parents.

As parents, we only have eighteen years to fulfill our biblical mandate. We can’t afford to lose them.

Posted by Nate Kellum at Wednesday, February 12, 2014 | 0 comments

Refuge in the Desert

by Nate Kellum

The Bible describes prophets as voices crying out in the wilderness, bearing God’s truth to those who are willing to hear it. That’s how we see our friends (and clients) at Refuge in the Desert Ministries, who are pro-life advocates in the Tempe, Arizona area. 

Refuge in the Desert volunteers stand on a public sidewalk near a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic and offer help, hope and truth to those who are entering and exiting the clinic. Their work is not easy. Because Planned Parenthood is strategically located in the middle of a commercial strip mall, 190 feet away from the nearest public sidewalk, these pro-lifers have difficulty reaching their intended audience. They often strain to lift their voices so as to be heard over the noise of the cars and trolley that travel on the four-lane highway sitting behind them. They are subject to abuse from passersby as well as the hot Arizona sun. Local police question and badger them like common criminals.

But reminiscent of the prophets of old, they keep going. Though they grow weary and get discouraged, they keep going. And just when they think nobody is listening, somebody does, and they are blessed with a reminder of why they continue this ministry.

Last May, Rebecca Rizzi arrived at the clinic for a scheduled appointment. She was five weeks pregnant, feeling scared and isolated, believing her only viable option was to “terminate the pregnancy.” Planned Parenthood was willing to oblige.

As Rebecca pulled into the parking lot, she noticed “Refuge in the Desert” volunteers. As she walked toward the clinic, she heard these strangers imploring her to consider the dire consequences of abortion. Rebecca took a seat in the crowded lobby and pondered more about the “choice” she would make. And each time the clinic door opened, Rebecca heard the desperate cries of those volunteers calling out to her.   

Rebecca heard their cries and her heart was pricked. Beginning to feel some uncertainty about whether she was ending a pregnancy or a life, Rebecca stepped outside to get some air. 

Once outside, Rebecca sought perspective from someone who didn’t have anything to gain from her decision, and approached one of the voices she heard, Sherry Pierce. Rebecca asked Sherry what she or anyone else in her situation could do.    

Sherry informed Rebecca that she didn’t have to go through with the abortion, and gave her options, describing local crisis pregnancy resources Rebecca didn’t even know existed. Sherry took her to the crisis pregnancy center so Rebecca could see for herself.    

Rebecca was soon convinced. She knew she couldn’t get an abortion. Initially, Rebecca considered putting her baby up for adoption, but after finding out she was expecting twins, she chose motherhood instead.   

Realizing the challenges that lie ahead for Rebecca, Sherry Pierce, this voice in the desert, continued to walk with her, offering tangible physical and emotional support. When Rebecca delivered two precious baby girls — Olivia Grace and Kara Shea — in December, Sherry was at the hospital. She has brought meals and hands to hold the twins.   

Sherry’s expressed love for Rebecca and her babies all began on a sidewalk, where she exercised her First Amendment freedom to share her faith and beliefs.   

We must jealously guard the constitutional rights of Sherry and fellow members of Refuge in the Desert ministries, and others like them. We need Christian voices in our desert of a culture today, who, at some cost to themselves, present truth, compassion, and ultimately, the hope of the gospel.    

As shown with Rebecca and her daughters, lives depend on it.   

Posted by Nate Kellum at Tuesday, January 28, 2014 | 0 comments

The Continuing Adverse Effects of Roe v. Wade

by Nate Kellum

As we approach the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision divining an absolute right to abortion in the U.S. Constitution, we would do well to pause and consider the impact of this monumental ruling and assess what it means for us in the days ahead.

One thing we know for sure: Roe has wrought a lot of dead babies. The United States is the well-established leader for abortion rates in the western world.

To be more precise, statistics reveal legalized abortion has led to the demise of countless unwanted babies. A vast majority of reported abortions in the U.S. are elective. According to information supplied by the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion research group, 92% of abortions in America have nothing to do with rape or incest or the health of the mother. Those lives are exterminated as a matter of convenience.  

This governmental authorization of abortion on demand is horrifying enough, but unless we begin to appreciate abortion for what it is, the future promises even greater devaluing of life.    

Coupled with staggering advancements in DNA research, the “right” to abortion is on the cusp of facilitating full-fledged eugenics. In addition to being elective, abortions are now becoming selective.    

Trends show that as many as 90% of unborn children diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. Obviously, that’s not a coincidence. It is the discovery of the extra chromosome that dooms these babies to never live outside the womb.  

This all-too-common practice is a blatant violation of human rights.  

And detection of Down syndrome is just the tip of the iceberg with available testing. Geneticists boast of over 2000 tests for pegging “genetic disorders.” As of today, that vague determination primarily relates to disabling conditions, like Down syndrome or spina bifida; tomorrow, the term could just as easily describe projected height or hair color.

The connection between eugenics and abortion is neither surprising nor novel; in fact, early proponents of abortion looked forward to the prospect. Margaret Sanger, founder of the nation’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, was a staunch supporter of eugenics, advocating for policy that would compensate (bribe) poor people to be sterilized. Sanger envisioned a populace free of those with less-than-desirable traits. Modern medical technology, along with Sanger’s abortion legacy, allows her dream to become reality.  

In countries around the world, from Liechtenstein to Armenia to China to India to Vietnam, sex-selective abortions are already taking place, dramatically changing population data in the process. Polling over the decades has also shown a consistent preference for boys amongst Americans. With changing technology and earlier ability to predict gender, sex-selective abortion is quickly becoming a part of prenatal care in the U.S.  

Picking up on the disturbing pattern of selective abortions, some legislators have taken steps to curb it. The State of North Dakota passed a bill last spring that blocks abortions based on unwanted gender or a genetic defect, such as Down syndrome. While the law is facing challenge in court, it still stands. Similar measures were enacted in Arizona, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania, also banning abortions triggered by the sex of the child.  

These and other legislative measures regulating abortions are encouraging. According to the Guttmacher Institute, “Twenty-two states enacted 70 abortion restrictions during 2013. This makes 2013 second only to 2011 in the number of new abortion restrictions enacted in a single year. To put recent trends in even sharper relief, 205 abortion restrictions were enacted over the past three years (2011–2013), but just 189 were enacted during the entire previous decade (2001–2010).”  These new laws indicate that Americans are slowly but surely coming to grips with the truth about abortion. 

As we reflect on Roe v. Wade, pondering how great and grave the stain of abortion haunts our nation, we should note how far we’ve come on this fundamental issue. But as modern medicine advances, so should our vigor for the sanctity of life. We must continue to stand up for the weak, stand firm for life, and stand against the poorly-reasoned, destructive case that is Roe v. Wade.

Posted by Nate Kellum at Tuesday, January 14, 2014 | 0 comments

Was 2013 the Beginning of the End of Marriage?

The year 2013 was not a particularly good one for traditional marriage.    

This institution that has endured for thousands of years is hanging on, even stubbornly so – marriage is presently considered by most Americans a union between one man and one woman – but if the tide does not soon turn, events that transpired in 2013 could be viewed in the future as the beginning of the end of marriage.         

Earlier this summer, the U.S. Supreme Court rendered two important decisions on same-sex “marriage.” In both instances the High Court declined to define marriage, leaving that responsibility to the states, thereby allowing marriage to live on for another day.    

These holdings didn’t help marriage but they didn’t destroy it either. Far more damaging than the rulings was the rhetoric (or put another way, the side commentary of the Court) implying that supporters of traditional marriage are driven by bigotry. That public condemnation, along with the ever-present media machine churning out propaganda on the issue, has seemingly had a profound impact, shifting and escalating momentum in favor of so-called “marriage equality.”        

Following the Supreme Court decisions, like sharks smelling blood in the water, ACLU, Lambda Legal, and like-minded colleagues, wasted little time in filing more lawsuits, challenging state Defense of Marriage laws and state constitutional amendments that characterize marriage in the historical way.                  

But, perhaps, a ruling that came out just a few weeks ago in Utah represents the most ominous sign for marriage in 2014 and beyond.    

In a case involving the Browns, a polygamous family consisting of one husband and four wives made famous in the reality series “Sister Wives” on TLC, U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoup struck down the most crucial sections of a statute prohibiting bigamy, which had made polygamous cohabitation a crime.    

Polygamists like the Browns describe their relationships as “spiritual marriages,” and don’t seek recognition from the state, even though they live as if they were legally married. After Judge Waddoups’ ruling on this statute, their polygamous relationships are now legal, at least in Utah.   

The Browns’ attorney, Jonathan Turley, celebrated the victory with a familiar refrain, praising the decision for achieving “true equality of its citizens, regardless of their personal faiths or practices.”   

Borrowing the term “equality” from proponents of same-sex “marriage” is no coincidence. The underlying principle and legal argument is precisely the same: the meaning of marriage should be based on whom we love, not what the state believes is the best setting for raising children.   

The fears of those who stand for traditional marriage are being realized. For once the institution of marriage strays from its traditional moorings and meaning, it is subject to severe alteration, being redefined in any number of ways, only limited by the imagination of those who wish to partake in it.    

On the heels of legalized polygamy, polyandrous marriages – where a woman takes on two or more husbands – will surely follow. After all, equality would demand it, and they too want to marry whom they love.       

Another popular variation of marriage is a movement known as polyamory.  Those are group marriages, sort of a state-sanctioned “love shack,” where four men and two women, two men and seven women, or any other grouping of folks get married and all have sexual relations with each other.        

Much like those who advocate for same-sex “marriage,” those pushing for polyamorous marriages say their group activity is an inherent part of their sexuality. They also want to marry whom they love.   

Marriage is sliding down the proverbial slippery slope, changing dramatically as it descends. If the decision in Utah is any indication, courts are becoming more and more willing to permit any form of sexual behavior between “consenting adults” and then go so far as to endorse that behavior by changing the definition of marriage to apply to those situations.   

And yet, if marriage continues on this same trajectory, not even “consenting adults” will hold as bounds on people desiring to marry whom they love.  Recently, signifying another banner moment for 2013, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto declared pedophilia (adults viewing children as sexual objects) is not a psychological disorder, but a sexual orientation, like heterosexuality and homosexuality.   

How long will it take for legal advocacy groups representing pedophiles to stake claim to their rights, urging that these individuals only want to marry who they love?     

Posted by Nate Kellum at Wednesday, January 1, 2014 | 0 comments

In the Name of Tolerance

by Nate Kellum

Tolerance.

That’s the buzz word for one of contemporary culture’s most exalted virtues. Do not judge, do not try to impose your morality on anyone else, live and let live, or so we are told.

It is in the furtherance of so-called tolerance that we, as Christians, are supposed to accept a redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples and perhaps other couplings and groupings at some point down the line. We are called on to suspend our biblically-based beliefs about right and wrong and tolerate government sanction of lifestyles that we recognize as harmful to individuals and society as a whole.

But as our culture begins to warm up to the idea of same-sex marriage, we are discovering that tolerance – as that term is generally understood – is not nearly enough to satisfy those pushing for this new social standard. In addition to permitting same-sex unions, we are to participate in them when called upon (such as Christian cake-bakers and photographers) and we are to speak well of them when asked.

In other words, in the name of “tolerance,” differing views are not tolerated. And, apparently, anyone who fails to meet these expectations will be publicly shunned and stripped of livelihood.

Just ask Phil Robertson, patriarch of the family profiled in the wildly successful Duck Dynasty series, who no longer has a place on the reality show for being a bit too real during an interview with GQ magazine.

Presumably, Robertson was sought out for the interview because of his straight-shooting, folksy style, which is almost as famous as his long, straggly beard. And Robertson did not disappoint, answering questions plainly and directly, in the whimsical manner he and his family are known for.    

Expounding on his take on life, Robertson was quoted in the article as saying, “We’re Bible-thumpers who just happened to end up on television. You put in your article that the Robertson family really believes strongly that if the human race loved each other and they loved God, we would just be better off. We ought to just be repentant, turn to God, and let’s get on with it, and everything will turn around.”   

Robertson explained that he needs a savior just like anyone else. Telling his personal story of redemption, Robertson harkened back to his reckless, younger days and how he finally found meaning and fulfillment through a relationship with Jesus Christ     

Had the journalist, Drew Magary, left it at that, Robertson would still have a spot on the show.  While the idea of repentance can be unsettling to some, talk of sin is acceptable as long as it stays theoretical. But Magary probed and Robertson obliged.    

Magary asked Robertson:  “What, in your mind, is sinful?”  To which, Robertson gave an honest understanding, paraphrasing 1 Corinthians 6 from the Bible.  That too could have been glossed over, except this verse happens to condemn homosexual behavior, in addition to adultery, prostitution, and drunkenness, among other things.      

And that’s when the comments became too personal for homosexual activists like GLAAD. We didn’t hear from any groups about the remarks putting prostitution or drunkenness in a bad light, but GLAAD was quick to defame Robertson for mentioning homosexuality, attacking both his character and his faith. And, for good measure, they strongly suggested A & E, the station that carries Duck Dynasty, and the sponsors of the show, reexamine their ties to Robertson.    

After a fairly quick reexamination, A & E suspended Robertson “indefinitely.”   

A & E knew Robertson’s views when they hired him, but when GLAAD complained, they succumbed to the pressure. The decision represents yet another notch in GLAAD’s belt, which also lists the Boy Scouts’ reversal on homosexuality as a victory for their organization.    

To be sure, a disturbing pattern is developing here. Those holding to traditional biblical values are bullied into keeping those values to themselves – all under the banner of tolerance.    

Isn’t that the most intolerant view of all, to refuse to anyone else the right to hold and share a different view? 

GLAAD’s stated mission is to “ampli[fy] the voice of the LGBT community by empowering real people to share their stories.” It’s a shame GLAAD feels the only way they can amplify their voice is to silence others. 

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, December 23, 2013 | 0 comments

Atheist Alternative Nativities

by Nate Kellum

In Chicago’s Daley Plaza, wedged between – and in front of – the traditional nativity display and a giant menorah, there sits something new this year: an 8-foot-tall letter “A” lit up in red.

The big “A” was placed in downtown Chicago by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). They say the “A” stands for Atheist, but it also represents Attack, given its timing and placement. While the nativity scene is linked to Christmas, and the menorah is part of Hanukah, the only apparent purpose for this lighted letter “A” is to demean the other displays.

In Florida’s State Capitol, the rotunda is available to different groups who apply for space. In early December, a group called the Florida Nativity Scene Committee sponsored a traditional nativity scene of Jesus’ birth to mark the Christmas season. FFRF wasted little time in snagging a spot immediately following them, displaying what they describe as a “nativity scene parody in which Ben Franklin, the Statue of Liberty, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison on bended knee, gaze adoringly at a copy of the Bill of Rights in a crib.” This display is not an expression of faith or faithlessness, or even a political statement, but an uncalled-for attack on the traditional nativity. 

At one time, FFRF had tried to block displays of traditional nativities like these by bullying state and local governments into censorship. In some places, the bullying worked, but as more and more municipalities started looking into the law themselves – in lieu of taking FFRF’s word for it – they learned that the U.S. Constitution doesn’t actually mandate the elimination of anything remotely religious.

The Constitution provides Americans with a freedom of religion, not a freedom from religion. Thus, religious symbols are appropriate for view in public spaces, no matter how much a few might wish for them to be stricken from sight. 

As Christians have successfully stood up for their nativity scenes, the activist group started pushing for their own atheism scenes – figuring prominently in the same locations at the same time – in a blatant effort to disparage the existing displays. 

Accepting that they couldn’t censor them, FFRF decided to tarnish them, and FFRF is not the only culprit. 

In Times Square, the American Atheists currently sponsor a digital billboard asking the question, “Who needs Christ during Christmas?” and abruptly answering, “Nobody.” This is not a positive remark in favor of atheism or any other semblance of “freethinking,” but a mean-spirited belittling of the Christian faith. 

FFRF claims that they and other activist atheists are just exercising their First Amendment rights. But, again, they misrepresent what the Constitution says. The First Amendment has a free speech clause, not a free insult clause. Though offensive speech can and ought to be protected in the context of sharing unpopular viewpoints, the protection fades when the speech is designed to defame or harm. 

The liberal media may have made fun of the “war on Christmas” in the past, but as politically-active atheists continue to trash the true meaning of the holiday and try to establish a Christ-less Christmas, the existence of a battleground as well as the battle are becoming clear. 

We would do well to be engaged in this battle and vigilant about protecting our constitutionally-protected freedoms. Otherwise, aggressive atheists will turn Christmas into “A” mas.  

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, December 16, 2013 | 0 comments

SCOTUS Hears Obamacare Cases

As we sat down and enjoyed our traditional Thanksgiving meals, many of us remembered the Pilgrims’ quest for religious liberty. We considered how they came to this new country at great sacrifice, seeking the freedom to practice their religion.    

But this noble quest is not just part of our history. The freedom to live according to faith is still being pursued today.   

This quest is reflected in recent legal challenges to the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate, which forces Christian employers to supply insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs or face enormous and business-killing fines and penalties. Last Tuesday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear and resolve this vitally important issue.   

The High Court will consider whether the federal mandate violates employers’ First Amendment rights as well as claims related to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which provides a defense when the free exercise of religion is burdened by government legislation. 

The two specific cases being heard — Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius — involve privately-held businesses, whose owners try to run their companies according to Christian principles. The mandate is morally repugnant to them. For these business owners, and many others like them, forced provision of this type of insurance coverage — facilitating free abortions for their employees — would violate their respective consciences and business missions.

After their pleas to recognize religious liberties fell on deaf ears, they, along with many others, took legal action to assure the protection of rights that have long been characterized as inalienable. 

In staunch defense of the mandate, the Obama Administration takes the position that the freedom of religion acknowledged in the Declaration of Independence and specifically set forth in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution only pertains to the exercise of religion in houses of worship and has no bearing in the workplace. 

The Obama Administration perceives religion to be something that one does, like playing golf. They fail to appreciate the fact that a Christian remains a Christian wherever she goes. 

Whatever the Supreme Court decides will be groundbreaking, as they are called on to determine whether business owners are entitled to religious liberty in the course of their daily lives, or whether religious liberty is just a synonym for religious worship, and relegated to activities conducted at church. 

Both Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties are up front about their commitment to living out their faith in their business pursuits. There is no deception on their part, and no one is forced to work for them, knowing this truth. 

These business leaders and others like them should be granted the right to live and work according to their deeply held religious beliefs.

The First Amendment doesn’t just apply on Sunday, but every day of the week.   

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, December 2, 2013 | 0 comments

Protecting Prayer

Should a clergy’s prayers be subject to censorship if given to solemnize a public meeting?    

A powerful atheist group, Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU), thinks so, and has convinced a federal appellate court to enforce this sort of oversight. But the question is now squarely before the U.S. Supreme Court, having heard oral arguments earlier this month.    

For years, the Council for the small town of Greece in upstate New York has started meetings with public prayer, just like many other towns, most of the state legislatures, the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court. These prayers were not uttered by council members, but by local clergy, and anyone from any faith was invited to participate.

Being open to all, no religion is favored in the process, but because most of the houses of worship in Greece happen to be Christian, most of the public prayers happen to be Christian.

Troubled by these results – as dictated by demographics – two non-Christian women retained AU and sued the town, seeking to revise if not outright ban prayers offered by Christians. 

Leading up to the oral argument, Ayesha Kahn of AU spoke with the press and expounded on the plaintiffs’ concerns:  “A vast majority of the time, the Christian clergy have delivered explicitly Christian prayers.”  Kahn concludes that the Christian “prayer [should] be inclusive and nonsectarian so that it avoids reference to details on which people are known to differ.”  

In eyes of AU and their clients, the only good Christian prayer is one that is completely sanitized of Christianity. To assure this cleansing, they want the government to have redline veto power and excise offending words from prayers in advance, so as to protect anyone from ever having to hear words like “Jesus,”  “God,” or “Bible.” And, one has to wonder what is even left for a Christian to say in a “prayer” that would avoid details where people differ.   

AU’s argument flies in the face of how our nation has historically treated public prayer.  

The last time the Supreme Court directly considered the issue of legislative prayer was Marsh v. Chambers in 1983. For the majority, Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote: “In light of the history, there can be no doubt that the practice of opening legislative sessions with prayer has become part of the fabric of our society. To invoke divine guidance on a public body entrusted with making the laws is not, in these circumstances, a violation of the Establishment Clause; it is simply a tolerable acknowledgment of beliefs widely held among the people of this country.” 

The history to which Burger refers is clear. When the First Amendment was written, the Founding Fathers were authorizing paid chaplains to pray before the 1st United States Congress, recognizing that such prayers could not possibly be a violation of the Establishment Clause. 

Defending the long-standing practice of uncensored prayers, a surprising coalition gathered at the Supreme Court. The Obama Administration joined the fray and defended the town in oral arguments, stating, “With respect to town councils, it's our view that as a general matter that the municipal legislatures can invoke the same tradition of solemnizing and invoking divine guidance as Federal and State legislatures… from the first Congress, there have been legislative prayers given in the religious idiom of either the official chaplain or a guest chaplain, that have regularly invoked the deity and the language of the prayer-giver.” 

The proposition is not difficult. If prayers are allowed in public meetings, as they have been since our nation’s founding, those praying must be allowed to pray in their own words without fear of government intrusion.

A prayer with restrictions and boundaries is no prayer at all.  

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, November 25, 2013 | 0 comments

Outlawing Wise Counsel

California and New Jersey passed new laws this year barring counselors from talk-therapy that would aid minors in getting rid of unwanted same sex-attractions. Equating conversations with lobotomies and electric shock treatments, the two states assert that they are well within their rights to dictate how mental health professionals should go about their counseling.   

Though “reparative therapy” has been stigmatized by the media, sexual attraction does in fact change for many people throughout their lifetimes. Mounting evidence proves this kind of counseling can be invaluable to those seeking to change their attractions.      

As Nicholas Cummings, former president of the American Psychological Association, who treated thousands of gays and lesbians in San Francisco throughout his career asserted, “Contending that all same-sex attraction is immutable is a distortion of reality. Attempting to characterize all sexual reorientation therapy as ‘unethical’ violates patient choice and gives an outside party a veto over patients' goals for their own treatment.” 

Banning licensed professionals from helping Christian teens struggling with same-sex attraction to process through the experiences and environments that may have contributed to their unwanted attractions is cruel and unconstitutional.   

For the sake of a political agenda, the desperate cries of patients and sound judgments of licensed professionals are being silenced. This ban pushes young people towards homosexuality without giving them time or space to even consider other options – which seems to be the whole idea behind it.   

Given the gross interference with sought-after counsel, one might think the courts would promptly remedy the error.

Yet, as it turns out, there is a legal issue at hand: is talk-therapy speech or conduct? While the answer seems obvious – since the regulated activity pertains to a counselor speaking to a patient – the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Court, an overarching federal court that oversees California and other western states, held in April of this year that the activity is actually conduct, not speech. A couple of weeks ago a federal judge in New Jersey followed suit, holding the statute banning therapy in that state “only regulates conduct, and not speech in any constitutionally protected forum….”   

In both instances, the findings were controlling since the First Amendment contains a free speech clause, not a free conduct clause. The two courts upheld the bans as constitutional.  

This legal trend is deeply troubling. If counseling and one-on-one advice is not protected free speech under the First Amendment, the implications are far broader than reparative therapy.  What other speech will now be open to regulation? Will other unpopular speech be classified as “conduct” to deprive it of constitutional covering?  

For the families in California and New Jersey, all is not lost. Pastors and other non-licensed counselors are still able to provide counseling to get rid of same-sex attraction. But, as it currently stands, children are prohibited from obtaining professional help. 

The battle is not over. The current cases are being appealed, and because several states are considering similar bans, other jurisdictions will have an opportunity to weigh in on these important matters.

If not already, this issue about same-sex attraction therapy should come to your state soon, and when it does, legislators and judges  will be called on to decide:  Do professional Christian counselors have the right to offer biblically-based counsel and do Christian teens have the right to receive it?

Or, does the state have the right to outlaw wisdom?   

Posted by Nate Kellum at Tuesday, November 19, 2013 | 0 comments

ENDA's Agenda Threatens Religious Freedom

Last week the United States Senate passed a bill with a nice – albeit vague – ring to it: Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013 (ENDA). But as evidenced by the Affordable Care Act (otherwise known as Obamacare), the titles of laws can be misleading. ENDA does not curb unfair discrimination in the workplace; rather, the legislation would effectuate it.    

Carving out special and unwarranted protections for those that self-identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, the act would prohibit employers with 15 or more employees from making employment or work environment decisions dealing with actual or perceived “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.” 

Like a rebel without a cause or a conscience, the far-reaching bill threatens to trample the rights of religious citizens and compel them into compliance despite very little proof of any, much less widespread, discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees. A recent report reflects that the GLBT lobby has been highly effective in the private sector, with 88% of Fortune 500 companies voluntarily putting policies like this into place.   

The ENDA agenda is to force the homosexual, bisexual and transgender way of life on the rest of us.  

Unlike traits protected in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, like sex, race, and national origin, ENDA sets aside preferential treatment for groups that are defined (loosely) by behavior and lifestyle.  This makes ENDA remarkably different, for it requires employers to accept and effectively promote conduct that could be contrary to their own religious beliefs. Also, different from Title VII, ENDA does not have a Bona Fide Occupational Qualification (BFOQ) exemption, that allows businesses to hire and let go employees consistent with job qualifications – even if a protected category is taken into account – such as setting age requirements for airline pilots.  

ENDA contains a narrow exception for religious organizations, like churches, but overlooks a vast number of Christians and other concerned citizens who have personal convictions about sexual matters. People of faith who only want to run their businesses according to their religious values are obliged to do so at their own risk.   

Like other proprietors, Christian employers should have the right to establish work environs and retain employees consistent with their missions. More fundamentally, business-owners should be able to conduct business without violating their scruples.    

ENDA would outlaw this sort of common-sense liberty and force Christian entrepreneurs to adopt values prescribed by the federal government instead of those they derive from God.   

The owners of a family-friendly restaurant might have salient reasons for not accommodating a cross-dressing male who wants to be a hostess, perhaps, thinking the spectacle could distract from their purpose of providing families with a comfortable and welcoming place to bring their young children. But if ENDA becomes the law of the land, those owners would have to weigh the prospect of criminal sanction before telling the employee to take off the high heels. The proprietor who seeks to protect his female employees from sharing a bathroom with a male employee is also likely to find himself subject to a discrimination lawsuit.   

No one, particularly, no politician, wants to be labeled (even if unfairly) as a supporter of “discrimination.” Dan Coates from Indiana was the lone senator willing to speak out against ENDA on the floor (though 1/3 of the Senate voted against it). But it would behoove members of the House of Representatives to fully consider the ramifications of this bill prior to making it law.  

ENDA would mark the end of religious liberty, as we know it.    

Posted by Nate Kellum at Tuesday, November 12, 2013 | 0 comments

Altering Marriage Will Impact Freedom of Conscience in Hawaii

Since the 2012 elections, the number of states sanctioning same-sex marriage has doubled, but in the rush to appease some outspoken and politically-connected citizens, are the religious liberties of others being trampled?   

That’s the worry in Hawaii, where the State Senate recently voted 20-4 to legalize same-sex “marriage,” repealing a constitutional amendment passed by popular vote in 1998 that defined marriage as being between one man and one woman. 

The vote was called by Governor Neil Abercrombie in a special session, hoping to make Hawaii the 15th state to participate in this social experiment. Governor Abercrombie has already signed a law recognizing civil unions between same-sex couples, which took effect in early 2012, and grants the same rights and benefits as marriage in the state.  

But as many are beginning to realize, this movement to alter marriage is not about rights or benefits. It goes beyond the marketing of “equality.” It is not even about marriage, not really.  

The end-game is to oblige the state – and its citizens – to condone the homosexual lifestyle.

This compulsion poses a direct and undeniable threat to religious liberty. Hawaii’s State House is expected to pass the bill as soon as this week, but first it is holding public hearings, where at least one thousand people are expected to testify to their concerns about the bill, specifically, the way it infringes on the conscience and constitutional rights of Hawaii’s citizens.   

While the bill purportedly protects clergy members from being forced to officiate weddings between same-sex partners, judges and magistrates – who share the same religious objections – are not extended the same courtesy.

Many churches in Hawaii, like other churches all over the country, are available to rent for weddings by non-members. This use of facilities is both a service to the community and a way for churches to support their worship and work. But as the bill is worded, if a church profits in any way from renting its property for weddings, it is not shielded from liability if a same-sex couple wants to use the facility. They are subject to punishment from the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission.   

This same concern would apply to anyone else who happens to provide a wedding-related service or product in Hawaii. Christian wedding-planners, photographers, gown-makers, cake-bakers, invitation printers, and the like, would face an untenable choice: either run the risk of criminal penalty for declining to participate in a same-sex marriage or violate your conscience. 

Politicians relish the idea of making history. They want to leave their mark. But, some marks form a stain.  

There is no groundswell among the citizenry in the Aloha State to change the way they have traditionally viewed marriage. Polls show Hawaiians are virtually split on the issue. Conversely, the downside of passage is dramatic. Aside from betraying a popular vote, the measure strips the people of a fundamental liberty: the freedom of conscience. 

Given the opportunity to speak up in the political process – as this bill matriculates through the requisite channels to become law – many Hawaiians are voicing their concerns about the ramifications of the ill-advised legislation.        

Hawaii’s elected leaders would do well to listen.   

Posted by Nate Kellum at Tuesday, November 5, 2013 | 0 comments

Army Needs To Address the Root of this Problem

by Nate Kellum

Two weeks ago, at Camp Shelby in Mississippi, counter-intelligence officers presented a briefing that identified the American Family Association – a non-profit Christian organization – as a “domestic hate group.” This was not the first time something bizarre like this had happened. On another army base, evangelical Christians and Catholics were listed as prime examples of religious extremism. On yet another, the Founding Fathers were portrayed as extreme.

Then, last week, a similar report came out about a briefing at Fort Hood in Texas where Tea Party supporters, in addition to evangelical Christians, were labeled as extremists.   

Each time, senior military officials downplayed the shocking classifications as isolated incidents. But a string of incidents reflect a pattern.   

Acknowledging the concern, the Secretary of the Army has recently ordered all briefings on extremist organizations and activities to cease until they can get a handle on the situation.    

The question does beg answering: Why is our military accusing Christians and evangelical ministries of being hate groups?   

To be sure, the U.S. Army has received some bad intel. Its primary resource appears to be the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an entity that leans far to the left and postures itself as watchdog over whatever it depicts as “hate” groups.   

The Department of Defense, through the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute, produces a training document addressing “extremism.” SPLC is shown in this document as an approved source of information.     

Regrettably, the U.S. Army has accepted SPLC’s characterization of extremism without consideration of the bias behind it. The American Family Association and another politically-active Christian group, the Family Research Council, are listed next to groups like the Aryan Nation and the Ku Klux Klan in SPLC’s compilation of “hate” groups on its “hate” map, just for speaking biblical truth about homosexuality.   

As Tim Wildmon, President of AFA, wrote in explanation, “The truth is that the American Family Association doesn’t hate anyone. We love everyone, including homosexuals, enough to tell them the truth about the moral, spiritual, and physical dangers of homosexual conduct. Disagreement about the normalizing of homosexual behavior is not hate; it is simply disagreement.”   

Ironically, it was the SPLC’s classification of the Family Research Council as a hate group that led to the FRC being targeted in an act of domestic terrorism by a homosexual activist who has been found guilty of attempting a mass shooting at their headquarters – with the intent of killing everyone in the building and sticking a Chick-Fil-A sandwich in their mouths.

It’s a wonder SPLC hasn’t placed themselves on the hate map.   

But aside from questionable intelligence, the military could also blame its new-found view on homosexuality for this deplorable treatment of Christians.    

For many years, the U.S. Army has maintained a policy precluding personnel from participating in extremist organizations and activities, defined to include those that advocate intolerance. But while the policy makes sense in terms of race or gender, it goes awry in encompassing those who have religious convictions about sexual behavior.        

Evangelical Christians, Catholics and ministries linked to the Christian faith adhere to the belief that homosexual conduct is immoral. They believe marriage ought to be reserved for one man and one woman. Some – like SPLC – claim these earnestly-held, biblically-based beliefs demonstrate “hatred” and “intolerance.” 

Taking this opportunity to pause and get to the root of the problem, the U.S. Army would do well to dump SPLC and obtain more independently-minded resources, but it should also re-evaluate the meaning of terms like extreme and intolerance in application of its policy.   

In truth, it is extreme and intolerant to discriminate against the Christian faith.     

Posted by Nate Kellum at Tuesday, October 29, 2013 | 0 comments

Eroding Distinction between Abortion and Murder

Last week, two brutal stories brought to light the fine and tenuous line our culture maintains between legalized abortion and criminalized murder.   

 First, a teenage mother of a toddler was stopped in New York City, suspected of shoplifting. But when security officers looked in her bag, they found more than stolen merchandise. They discovered the corpse of a premature baby boy, born the day before, triggering a homicide investigation.   

The next day, an emigrant from Samoa – who came to this county to become a Catholic nun – was charged in the District of Columbia with homicide. According to police, she told investigators she gave birth to a son and smothered him, afraid to let her superiors know about her sexual activity.   

Two mothers who killed their sons now face murder charges. But either could have avoided incrimination by visiting a local abortion clinic for a “procedure” prior to birth.        

Reports reveal that the baby boy found in the purse in New York was approaching the end of second trimester, roughly five to six months into the pregnancy. Abortions are legal in that state up to 24 weeks.   In the District of Columbia, the Samoan woman could have had an abortion at any point in her pregnancy – up to the moment the baby was born.   

Given the Supreme Court pronouncements on abortion, these two women violated the law only because they were tardy in terminating the lives of their respective babies.    

One of the investigators involved in the New York case indicated that the mother was confused:  “She said it was not full-term. She said she didn’t know what to do with it.”  You have wonder if forgetting to schedule an abortion would be a viable defense for her in the criminal proceeding.    

A couple of years ago, a similar argument worked in Canada. An Alberta judge let a woman who strangled her newborn and threw him over a fence go free because of Canada’s stance on legalized abortion.   

In the decades following Roe v. Wade, advancements in ultrasounds and other forms of medical technology have chipped away at the false distinction between a fetus in the womb and a baby outside it. Knowing what we now know about the development of the human being in utero, it makes little sense for the value of life – and the consequences for ending it – to be tied to location and timing.   

This blurring of illegal killing and legal termination of life has been noticed by others, most notably, proponents of infanticide. Dr. Peter Singer, professor of Bioethics at Princeton, has long championed infanticide on the basis that “there is no sharp distinction between the fetus and the newborn baby.” 

Last year, a pair of “ethicists” from Australia, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, made the case for infanticide – or what they call “after-birth abortion” – in the Journal of Medical Ethics, urging that infanticide ought to be allowed as long as abortion is allowed. In this piece, the authors point out that Netherlands already permits the killing of disabled newborns under its Groningen Protocol.              

No longer able to differentiate between abortion and murder, our culture is seemingly at a crossroads. We can either openly sanction baby killing or condemn it.        

 Having raised a generation of adults with abortion on demand, death has become an entrenched part of life. This should cause us as Christians to lament, but it should also prompt us to get busy.    

Government-approved slaying of babies is not a recent phenomenon. Infanticide was practiced in cultures around the world throughout history. In some cultures infants were sacrificed to their gods. In ancient Greece and Rome, it was permissible for fathers to leave infants outside to die.   

In each instance, Christians helped turn the tide towards life. The apostles taught early believers to value life, and Constantine, the first Christian emperor in Rome, made infanticide a crime.   

Christian clergy were the ones who formed the first orphanages, caring for abandoned children and preserving their lives. Unwanted children in the middle ages were routinely left at churches because the clergy – as it was widely known – were pleased to take care of them.   

If the church did it before, we can do it again.   

Society needs to understand: the answer to this dilemma is not to legalize infanticide, but to outlaw abortion.  

Posted by Nate Kellum at Wednesday, October 23, 2013 | 0 comments

Three or Four or More Parents

If two parents are better than one, why not have three or four or even more? As ridiculous as that sounds, that is what's happening in California now days.

Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into California law earlier this month, paving the way for judges to craft and deliver additional parents for any child that comes before them. According to the bill's sponsor, Democratic State Senator Mark Leno of San Francisco, this measure was needed to keep up with the changes in the modern California family.

Put another way, altering marriage to mean something other than one man and one woman, coupled with the on-going sexual revolution, triggers unique ways of looking at parenthood.

Many children have the benefit of stepparents or grandparents who function in parental roles, but the law does not address those scenarios. Senator Leno's office provided the San Francisco Gate with three real-life examples from court cases to illustrate the "need" for this legislation:

  • A woman who broke up with her child's biological father, then lived with a man who became the child's main caretaker and who sought to establish a parental relationship after the couple separated.
  • A bisexual woman who lived with another woman but became pregnant with a man, with all three sharing parental responsibilities. 
  • A lesbian who bore a child with a sperm donor, who helped her and her partner raise the child before the birth mother declared she was no longer a lesbian and moved to terminate the others' parental rights.

Parenthood used to be determined by natural law, characterized by the biological pair who brought the baby into the world or the couple who decided to adopt. Under this new law, parenting is a bit more complicated. Augmenting the creation of artificial relationships, this law creates artificial parents.

More than anything else, the tragic examples supplied by Senator Leno demonstrate the adverse impact the deterioration of the traditional family has had and is continuing to have on children. In each situation, children are put at risk due to the instability and poor decisions of the adults in their lives.

But aside from the prospect of getting more birthday presents, children gain little from this legislation. That's not the purpose of it. Rather, the law furthers the strident effort to normalize and accommodate relationships of choice.

In addition to the situations described by Senator Leno, this new parenting law is perfectly suited to affirm and usher in polyamory, relationships consisting of more than two people, like 2 men and 4 women, 5 men, 2 women, and 3 questioning, or any other imagined grouping. On the heels of the state sanctioning same-sex unions, and following the same playbook used in that campaign, those in polyamorous relationships are pursing the legalization of this type of "marriage." And since they can now legally share parenthood, they must feel good about their chances.

Studies conclusively show that children do best in traditional households comprising of one father and one mother. Adding more Dads and/or Moms to the mix does not enhance the benefit, but takes it away. And that's assuming these contrived relationships hold. What about the far more likely outcome, the break-up of this complex "family" generated by judicial edict, a familial unit bore out of the failure of adults to be monogamous in the first place? What happens to the children then?

Though this law is trumpeted as yet another victory for alternative lifestyles, as usual, the ones who will pay the price for this folly are the children involved.

Posted by Nate Kellum at Wednesday, October 16, 2013 | 0 comments

Chaplains Shut Out

As Americans start to feel the effects of the on-going stalemate in Washington, many have wondered about the decisions directing which aspects of the government are shut down during a “government shutdown.” Who decides and on what basis the approximate 17% of the government that is put on hold? One would presume the importance of the service and the necessity of funding would guide the process. But a press release from John Schlageter, General Counsel for Archdiocese for the U.S. Military, indicates other motivations are at work.   

Schalageter reports that non-active-duty priests are barred from engaging in any ministerial activity — even if they serve on a volunteer basis. Not only is their work deemed “non-essential” so as to place them on furlough, but “non-authorized” so as to ban them from ministering on base.     

Because of shortages of active-duty chaplains, at over 220 U.S. military installations in 29 countries and 153 VA Medical Centers throughout the U.S., American troops are served by contract chaplains. The shortage is particularly felt among Roman Catholic service members, who make up over 25% of the military.   

These government contractors “of the cloth” provide our service members with their only chance to worship on a regular basis with others who share their faith, and serve them in all the ordinary ways a pastor can, being with them through life’s most joyous and difficult moments.   

 Regardless, contract chaplains are among the first on the chopping block.     

“If the government shutdown continues through the weekend, there will be no Catholic priest to celebrate Mass this Sunday in the chapels at some U.S. military installations,” warns Schlageter.   

So Catholics could receive weekly sacraments, many priests were more than willing to forego pay, but Schlageter explains they have been coerced to refrain despite lack of expense. “During the shutdown, it is illegal for them to minister on base and they risk being arrested if they attempt to do so.”    

For priests serving our troops to worry about criminal arrest for trespassing in the spaces they worked only days ago, and will likely return shortly, is not only silly, but alarming. This petty action directly threatens the constitutionally-preserved freedoms of these priests and Catholic soldiers to exercise and express their faith.     

Apparently, the Administration views the governmental shutdown as an opportunity to score political points, exaggerating harm and blaming Republicans. But while the closing of national parks — even those not managed by federal employees — was troubling enough, this fiasco with the contract chaplains infringes on fundamental freedoms.     

First Amendment rights are not appropriate pawns in the hands of politicians. Even if the government shuts down, the Bill of Rights do not.

This trampling on religious exercise — going beyond the principle of the matter — affects real people in profound ways. Aside from cancelled worship services, there are reports of baptisms being called off and even a priest being banned from officiating at the wedding of a couple he had counseled through the premarital process.

For those men and women who put their lives on the line to serve God and country to lose access to their pastors is unacceptable. Congress needs to remember their duty to defend and uphold the Constitution as well as the concerns of military members who enable them to do so.

Posted by Nate Kellum at Saturday, October 5, 2013 | 0 comments

Freedom in Public Schools

by Nate Kellum

If you are a student, teacher or a parent of a school-age child, you’ve probably wondered how the Bill of Rights applies at public schools or whether they even apply at all. Do students have freedom of expression, particularly, when it comes to their faith?

As a matter of fact… yes, yes they do. 

In the influential opinion, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969), Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas wrote, “First Amendment rights, applied in light of the special characteristics of the school environment, are available to teachers and students. It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”

We should all keep this in mind. 

Students have the right to mention their faith in class discussions and assignments, as long as their inclusion is relevant. 

Students have the right to pray on campus, even in groups, as long as that prayer is student-led and student-initiated, and it doesn’t disrupt school activities.

If the school allows any non-curricular clubs to meet on campus after school, Christians have a right to equal access to facilities for any after school clubs they form related to their faith, and teachers are allowed to be present and supervise faith-based clubs.

“Students in school, as well as out of school, are ‘persons’ under our Constitution,” said Fortas. “They are possessed of fundamental rights which the State must respect.”

Qualifying as persons, students have the right to pray and to share their deeply-held religious beliefs. They can wear a t-shirt with a Christian message as long as it conforms to uniform guidelines, and they can bring their Bibles to read during free time. 

These freedoms are well worth protecting, so if your student’s constitutional rights are being ignored by your local school, don’t be afraid to stand up for them. Students and teachers alike need good advocates to help them defend their rights.

We can be your advocates at Center for Religious Expression. If your constitutional rights – or the rights of anyone you know – are threatened at school, contact CRE for help. Together, we can clear the path for truth.

Posted by Nate Kellum at Friday, October 4, 2013 | 1 comments

Proposed Legislation Would Aid Religious Freedom

by Nate Kellum

The Book of Daniel in the Old Testament tells of three Jewish men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who were ordered by the Babylonian government to betray their conscience and bow down to a false idol, or suffer the penalty of a fiery furnace.

While there doesn't appear to be any (present) threat of a fiery furnace, many Christians today are concerned about repercussions for refusing to betray their conscience and bow down to prevailing homosexual ideology.

The concerns are warranted.

Read more about the concern, and the legislation that could help protect freedom, in Nate's column at the Christian Post.

Posted by Nate Kellum at Wednesday, October 2, 2013 | 0 comments

4th Grader Banned from Writing About God

by Nate Kellum

When 10-year-old Erin Shead of Memphis, Tennessee received an assignment from her elementary school teacher to choose and write about an idol she looked up to, she settled on someone she dearly loves and admires. God. Others were up for consideration, but Erin reckoned of her choice, "He will always be the #1 person I look up to."

Getting to work, Erin proceeded to draw a pink and green flow chart on notebook paper. Erin's mother aptly described the product as "cute and innocent." But the teacher told Erin her work was unacceptable. Not only would she have to start over, Erin was directed to remove the paper from school premises that afternoon. 

Read the rest of this week's blog at Christian Post.

Posted by Nate Kellum at Tuesday, September 24, 2013 | 0 comments

Bibles Once Again Allowed at Gay Pride Fest

by Nate Kellum

For more than a decade, Brian Johnson had a booth at the annual Twin Cities Pride Fest, a homosexual-themed gathering held in Loring Park in Minneapolis each June. He stayed in his assigned area and greeted attendees with a smile, offering them free Bibles as way of sharing his Christian faith.

Johnson's presence and message never caused a concern. With evangelism being the goal, he made a conscious effort to avoid any discussion about homosexuality. But a few years ago, the festival organizer, Twin Cities Pride, demanded Johnson divulge his personal beliefs about homosexuality, and specifically, whether he considered the behavior a sin. Not liking his affirmative response, they told Johnson he was no longer welcome at the event.

But Johnson was unwilling to give up on his ministry. 

Read the rest of this week's blog at The Christian Post.

Posted by Nate Kellum at Wednesday, September 18, 2013 | 0 comments

San Antonio City Council: Messing with Inalienable Rights of Christians

by Nate Kellum

Last week the city council in San Antonio expanded its "non-discrimination" ordinance to include categories for "sexual orientation" and "gender identity." Though trumpeted as a vote for fairness, the law has the effect of blacklisting bible-believing Christians and anyone else who would dare affirm traditional marriage.

Laws creating protections for sexual activity and expression are not novel. Cities and states around the country have enacted legislation curbing government entities from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in their hiring practices. But San Antonio has taken the next step with a significantly broader measure. There, anyone who wants to work for, with, or in the city falls within the proscription.

And the ban goes beyond employment, punishing speech - and even beliefs - about homosexual or transgendered behavior. The law precludes "bias, by word or deed, against any person, group of persons, or organization on the basis of…sexual orientation, gender identity…."

The implications of this law are staggering.

Read the rest of this week's blog at The Christian Post.

Posted by Nate Kellum at Wednesday, September 11, 2013 | 0 comments

Will Love Win in Raleigh?

by Nate Kellum

This past Saturday, a group of volunteers from Love Wins Ministries – a Christian ministry dedicated to helping the homeless in Raleigh, North Carolina – gathered at Moore Square, a downtown park, to hand out free biscuits and coffee. They were grateful for the opportunity to share the love of Christ. They were also grateful they didn't get arrested for it. 

Without the requisite permit, anyone caught feeding the homeless in a public park in Raleigh is subject to criminal arrest for violating city ordinance. 

Because a permit would cost an astounding $1,600 per weekend, Love Wins has historically avoided the park itself and set up station on a sidewalk adjoining Moore Square to distribute food. This strategy worked for six years. Almost every Saturday and Sunday, Love Wins supplied hot breakfast to thankful individuals on that sidewalk. 

And they were undoubtedly meeting a need. The soup kitchens in the city and county are not open on weekends, leaving Love Wins and other compassionate Christians to fill the gap for the homeless. But the gig was up on Saturday before last, when Raleigh police officers awaited the arrival of volunteers and threatened them with arrest – for passing out food. 

Read the rest of this week's blog at The Christian Post and join the conversation.

Posted by Nate Kellum at Wednesday, September 4, 2013 | 0 comments

The Other Shoe Has Dropped

The other shoe has officially dropped.

Many warned of the adverse effects same-sex "marriage" could have on religious liberty. As exemplified by a ruling rendered by the New Mexico Supreme Court last Thursday, these fears are being realized.

The highest court in the Land of Enchantment ruled that a Christian photographer violated the state's Human Rights Act when she declined to take photos of a lesbian "commitment" ceremony.

Read the rest of Nate's column at The Christian Post

Posted by Nate Kellum at Wednesday, August 28, 2013 | 0 comments

Failure to Discriminate

by Nate Kellum

The word “discriminate” carries with it a regrettable connotation. Mere mention evokes thoughts of Jews in concentration camps, elections without female participation, and water fountains marked “whites only.” But to discriminate, according to Merriam-Webster, is to simply note a distinction. 

Ignoring the significance of this discernment, the State of California recently passed a transgender student law that blurs recognizable distinctions between males and females in their public school system. Signed last week by Governor Jerry Brown, this new law requires that all students in public schools be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities, including athletic teams and competitions, and use facilities consistent with the “gender identity” of choice, irrespective of how the gender is listed on a birth certificate or other records on the pupil. 

Read the rest of this week's blog at One News Now.

Posted by Nate Kellum at Wednesday, August 21, 2013 | 0 comments

Dorm Dilemmas

by Nate Kellum

Troy University has drawn the ire of an influential Atheist group, the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), for their most recent themed house that is set to open this fall.  The college is using private funding to provide housing that prioritizes students who share an interest in religious matters, maintain an active spiritual lifestyle, and are actively engaged in a campus faith-based organization, regardless of what religion they practice. 

Despite the private sourcing for the cost of the building, which will be split between dorm housing and a catholic student center, FFRF sent a threatening letter to Troy University alleging discrimination against non-religious students.  

Read the rest of this week's blog at American Thinker and join the conversation.

Posted by Nate Kellum at Thursday, August 15, 2013 | 0 comments

Will Tennessee’s Politicians Stand for Marriage?

A guest post by our friend David Fowler, President of the Family Action Council of Tennessee.

A federal district court ruling last week in Ohio is going to reveal a lot about the political courage of Tennessee’s state officials. 

The judge in Ohio ruled unconstitutional a provision in Ohio’s state constitution that requires the state to recognize same-sex marriages validly performed in other states (and countries), even though Ohio’s constitution contains a provision that says it will only recognize marriages between a man and a woman. This decision is important because Tennessee has a similar provision in its constitution. 

Here is what that ruling means to Tennesseans if upheld by the Court of Appeals and applied to Tennessee’s constitution: homosexual couples residing in Tennessee who go to another state to get married would, upon their return, have to be treated as married under Tennessee law, even though over 80% of Tennessee voters supported a state constitutional amendment saying that such marriages are not valid here

This is going to create a state’s rights/federalism battle royal, assuming Tennessee’s elected officials have the stomach for it. Tennessee’s Attorney General, Governor, and state legislators are going to have to decide if they will stand up for what Tennessee’s voters wanted marriage to mean or capitulate to the courts and the federal government without a fight. That decision will probably come sooner rather than later. 

While the United States Supreme Court will ultimately have to decide whether Tennessee will really be allowed to determine what marriages it will recognize, the journey to that answer begins for Tennessee in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Tennessee’s elected officials will have to decide whether they will join the fray in the appellate court. 

Will Tennessee’s Attorney General submit a brief to the Court of Appeals putting in our state’s “two cents worth” on the Ohio ruling? If he doesn’t, then we will know he isn’t willing to fight for what Tennessee’s voters wanted. Unfortunately, he can do that since he’s not in any way accountable to the voters. 

However, if that happens, then we’ll find out where our Governor and state legislators stand on the issue of marriage. Under the law, the Speakers of the state House and Senate can agree to retain legal counsel to represent Tennessee.  I think they would do so, but let’s hope they have plenty of encouragement in that regard from their legislative colleagues and the Governor. 

Whether our elected officials decide to defend the vote of the people in the coming months may help the people determine how they want to vote on them when those officials come up for re-election next year.


Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, August 5, 2013 | 0 comments

Buyer's Remorse

by Nate Kellum

Support for allowing same-sex couples to marry is apparently on the rise.  Advocates -- through help from friends in media -- have effectively crafted and communicated talking points portraying the debate over same-sex "marriage" as a question of equality, helping turn public opinion on the issue.  But as this social experiment goes from theoretical to actual, taking firm hold in certain parts of the country, some features of so-called "marriage equality" are giving many a reason for pause.

Read the rest of this week's blog about rising support for religious liberty at American Thinker and join the conversation.

Posted by Nate Kellum at Wednesday, July 31, 2013 | 0 comments

Ignoring the Law

Following June’s Supreme Court rulings on marriage, the all-out assault on marriage has picked up steam. 

The ACLU, Lambda Legal and other leftist organizations are viewing the rulings as an invitation to challenge traditional marriage laws all over the country. Ignoring laws that were either passed by elected officials or ballot measures, they hope to bully a change in the status of same-sex marriage by judicial fiat. 

Regrettably, some who have sworn to uphold the law are aiding and abetting the effort to destroy marriage – by getting out of the way. 

When faced with such lawsuit, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced last week that her office will not defend her state’s ban on same-sex “marriage” in court, even though she took an oath to uphold the state's constitution and laws. While Pennsylvania’s citizens can count on Governor Tom Corbett and his general counsel to defend Pennsylvania’s law affirming traditional marriage in court, the inaction of the State’s Attorney General – taking a pass on defending a law supported by the people – is unconscionable.  

Of course, Kane is just emulating her heroes. California’s state officials declined to defend Proposition 8 and the Obama administration declined to defend DOMA when those matters were recently before the Supreme Court. 

But this trend must stop, immediately. Government officials are not free to ignore laws to advance their own agendas or political standing. As citizens, we need to be assured that the oath to “support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this Commonwealth,” as Kane pledged, is more than pomp and circumstance.   

Governors, attorneys generals and other elected officials in every state will be facing similar decisions, if they haven’t already. 

In North Carolina, the ACLU filed a lawsuit in federal district court in 2012 challenging the state’s ban on second parent adoption, where one partner in an unmarried couple adopts the other partner’s biological or adoptive child. Buoyed by the Supreme Court decisions, the ACLU is now amending that lawsuit to argue that the traditional marriage amendment to the North Carolina Constitution violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. 

This brazen action, in addition to illogically equating same-sex marriage with freedom from slavery, completely disregards the principle that voters have a voice in government. North Carolina’s citizens overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the state’s constitution affirming traditional marriage just one year ago. Now, it is up to the leadership in North Carolina to defend it. 

The battle over marriage is here. Our elected leaders must be willing to wage it.

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, July 22, 2013 | 0 comments

Summer of (True) Love

Back in 1967, a huge contingent of self-identified hippies gathered in San Francisco and other major cities for a social phenomenon known as the “Summer of Love.”  The event sparked a major cultural shift in our country, advancing free love; that is, the concept of having sexual relations without responsibility.  This mindset led directly to – and depended heavily on – social acceptance of abortion, the mechanism that facilitates this free love.

Fast forward to present day, some 46 years and well over 56 million deaths from abortion later, and our society is starting to figure out that “free love” is not what it was billed to be.  With the number of infants killed by abortionists exceeding the population of every state in the union, along with the well-documented harms sustained by women often duped or coerced into the procedure, abortion is not free and hardy represents love.

Read more about how the wave of pro-life victories this summer may prove to be the turning point in the war against abortion at One News Now

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, July 15, 2013 | 0 comments

Coalition for Conscience

by Nate Kellum

When Assemblies of God, Baptist, Catholic, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Mormon, Orthodox, Presbyterian, and Jewish leaders come together and take a stand on a policy issue, we ought to pay attention. The gathering is significant, as it goes beyond the signatories and represents a like-mindedness among the various faiths.

This coalition centers on religious freedom for all.

Read the rest of this week's blog at American Thinker to learn what brought this group together and join the conversation in the comments.

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, July 8, 2013 | 0 comments

Alive and Kicking

by Nate Kellum

"The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated."  This quote is often credited to Mark Twain, but in the wake of the hoopla surrounding the decisions handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court last Wednesday, the same could be said about marriage in the traditional sense: defined as between one man and one woman.

By now you have heard that the Supreme Court ruled last week on two important cases concerning same-sex "marriage."  The Court declared Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional and decided that those who defended Proposition 8 did not have standing to do so, allowing the ruling from the San Francisco judge - striking down Prop 8 as unconstitutional - to remain in effect. 

News traveled fast.  Soon after the opinions were formally uttered inside the courthouse we were exposed to images of raised rainbow flags and staged displays of public affection on the steps outside it.  Politicians lauded the opinions, as did media-types who abandoned all pretense of objectivity.  But do these decisions really mark the end of marriage as we know it and as it has been known for thousands of years? 

Read the rest of this week's blog at American Thinker.

Posted by Nate Kellum at Monday, July 1, 2013 | 0 comments

Holistic Care

by Nate Kellum

If someone turned to you, desperate for help in a difficult situation, would you want to offer them only part of the help you could give them? That was the threat to a small pregnancy resource center which had the audacity to apply for a government program they qualified for.

To support farmers and others who live in small rural areas, the United States Department of Agriculture offers assistance in establishing community facilities, including the making and guaranteeing of building loans for non-profit organizations that contribute to the welfare of these communities. But when a pregnancy resource center sought a loan for a facility providing emergency shelter for expectant women and new mothers, they were denied — despite being fully qualified — because of the prospect of voluntary Bible studies taking place in the center.

Read the rest of this week's blog at One News Now.

Posted by Nate Kellum at Tuesday, June 25, 2013 | 0 comments

Forced Participation

by Nate Kellum

No Christian, nor anyone else, should ever be compelled to speak or act in a way that would go against conscience or advance an idea they find objectionable. For this reason, caterers should not be obliged to provide food, bakers should not be constrained to make cakes, and photographers should not be made to take pictures, for same-sex weddings they believe are an affront to their religious beliefs. Employers should not be required to supply abortion-inducing drugs as part of their health care coverage when it would betray their missions.

In the same way, Oklahoma Pastor Keith Cressman should not be coerced to display an image on his car – an image that flies in the face of his earnestly-held Christian beliefs – against his will.

The standard Oklahoma license plate, introduced in 2009, depicts a statue of a Native American shooting an arrow toward the sky. Based on a sculpture entitled “Sacred Rain Arrow,” the image illustrates a story of an Apache warrior shooting arrows blessed by a medicine man toward the clouds to end a drought. 

Cressman doesn’t believe in the myth and doesn’t want to promote it. As a Christian pastor called to ministry in an area steeped in Native American tradition, he frequently encounters individuals who cling to these beliefs, and he tries to convince them to castoff myths and accept the truth of the gospel.

While the State is free to market itself via use of the “Sacred Rain Arrow” image, Cressman objected to being a mobile billboard for the State’s purposes, particularly, when it requires him to communicate a message that he does not want to convey.

So, when the new license plate was introduced, Cressman initially purchased a specialty license plate. The specialty plate cost $37 more than the standard plate and had a $35 renewal fee. He later purchased a cheaper specialty license plate, but eventually, Cressman decided he no longer wanted to pay additional fees for to avoid display of the objectionable message.

Cressman thought about covering up the image, without obscuring any of the letters, tags, or identifying markers on the license plate. Before doing so, he presented the idea to officials with the Department of Public Safety, but they promptly informed him that covering up any part of the license plate — even if the letters and tags are visible — violated state law.  In an effort to avoid litigation, Cressman, through counsel, wrote various state officials and asked for accommodation, but none was forthcoming.

Options ought to be available for Cressman. For example, citizens in the District of Columbia who object to the standard “Taxation Without Representation” tag, can request an alternate tag that reads www.dc.gov at no additional cost.  In Indiana, in lieu of the standard plate, a driver can obtain a license plate stating “In God We Trust” for the same fee.  

The lingering problem for Cressman is not that he has to see the image, but he has to display it.  With his lawsuit, Cressman is not seeking to change anyone else’s license plate; he only wants to avoid placement of the image on his car against his will. 

At first, a federal district court judge dismissed the case, but last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit reversed the dismissal and called for the case to be heard and fully considered. 

No one should be forced to communicate a religious belief they do not hold. This compelled speech is a violation of conscience, and has long been condemned by the Supreme Court as a first amendment violation. 

At CRE, we are proud to represent Pastor Cressman.  We look forward to the day when he will be free to say what he wants to say.

Posted by Nate Kellum at Wednesday, June 19, 2013 | 0 comments