When a Bishop goes too far...
For the past week I have been reading how in his “homily” last week, Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky went on a tirade against President Obama, comparing him with Hitler and Stalin; describing him in terms of supporting “intrinsic evil.” Rather than describe what he said, I’ll quote it:
You know, it has never been easy to be a Christian and it’s not supposed to be easy! The world, the flesh, and the devil will always love their own, and will always hate us. As Jesus once predicted, they hated me, they will certainly hate you.
But our Faith, when it is fully lived, is a fighting faith and a fearless faith. Grounded in the power of the resurrection, there is nothing in this world, and nothing in hell, that can ultimately defeat God’s one, true, holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
For 2,000 years the enemies of Christ have certainly tried their best. But think about it. The Church survived and even flourished during centuries of terrible persecution, during the days of the Roman Empire.
The Church survived barbarian invasions. The Church survived wave after wave of Jihads. The Church survived the age of revolution. The Church survived Nazism and Communism.
And in the power of the resurrection, the Church will survive the hatred of Hollywood, the malice of the media, and the mendacious wickedness of the abortion industry.
The Church will survive the entrenched corruption and sheer incompetence of our Illinois state government, and even the calculated disdain of the President of the United States, his appointed bureaucrats in HHS, and of the current majority of the federal Senate.
May God have mercy on the souls of those politicians who pretend to be Catholic in church, but in their public lives, rather like Judas Iscariot, betray Jesus Christ by how they vote and how they willingly cooperate with intrinsic evil.
As Christians we must love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, but as Christians we must also stand up for what we believe and always be ready to fight for the Faith. The days in which we live now require heroic Catholicism, not casual Catholicism. We can no longer be Catholics by accident, but instead be Catholics by conviction.
In our own families, in our parishes, where we live and where we work – like that very first apostolic generation – we must be bold witnesses to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We must be a fearless army of Catholic men, ready to give everything we have for the Lord, who gave everything for our salvation.
Remember that in past history other governments have tried to force Christians to huddle and hide only within the confines of their churches like the first disciples locked up in the Upper Room.
In the late 19th century, Bismark waged his “Kultur Kamp,” a Culture War, against the Roman Catholic Church, closing down every Catholic school and hospital, convent and monastery in Imperial Germany.
Clemenceau, nicknamed “the priest eater,” tried the same thing in France in the first decade of the 20th Century.
Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services, and health care.
In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, Barack Obama – with his radical, pro abortion and extreme secularist agenda, now seems intent on following a similar path.
Now things have come to such a pass in America that this is a battle that we could lose, but before the awesome judgement seat of Almighty God this is not a war where any believing Catholic may remain neutral.
This fall, every practicing Catholic must vote, and must vote their Catholic consciences, or by the following fall our Catholic schools, our Catholic hospitals, our Catholic Newman Centers, all our public ministries — only excepting our church buildings – could easily be shut down. Because no Catholic institution, under any circumstance, can ever cooperate with the instrinsic evil of killing innocent human life in the womb.
No Catholic ministry – and yes, Mr. President, for Catholics our schools and hospitals are ministries – can remain faithful to the Lordship of the Risen Christ and to his glorious Gospel of Life if they are forced to pay for abortions.
I could criticize this on numerous levels, but this blog will focus on one issue. The Roman Catholic Church is a tax-exempt organization. As such, while it can take positions on public policy issues - and can voice its opposition to abortion — it can not, under Federal law — take positions on elections. It can not endorse or reject candidates; it can not tell its members how to vote. In return for that, it gets tax exemption. It does not have to pay property taxes on its facilities. Properties worth millions of dollars.
Yet, when the Bishop describes the President, in an election year, as embodying intrinsic evil; when the Bishop compares him with two of the individuals who most reflect global condemnation in terms of evil; when the Bishop tells the faithful that THEY must vote this fall; as the entire fate of the Church is at stake; when he does these things, he is unequivocally making it crystal clear that they should NOT vote for President Obama.
It is therefore altogether appropriate that Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a complaint with the IRS for the Diocese’ violation of its non-profit status. But it is not just the Diocese, at least one parish in the diocese — Epiphany Roman Catholic Church of Normal (perhaps the most reactionary conservative Catholic church I have ever encountered) — has the full text of the homily on the front page of its website; it has it reproduced in this Sunday’s bulletin. The Church is drawing a battle line. And in doing so, it has crossed the line of violating federal law.
The Roman Catholic Church, through its hierarchy (and really not through most of its members) has become a reactionary force of conservatism. That is its choice. But when it violates Federal laws; and when it tells its faithful how to vote; it has joined the Religious Right — and it can not be allowed to continue to benefit from one of the benefits that society vests upon non-profit organizations — tax exemptions.
This Bishop has been engaged in similar tactics for a long time; and when the Bishop uses vile rhetoric as he has, he is no different than the Rev. Fred Phelps, of the infamous Westborough “God Hate Fags” Baptist church.
Yesterday, the Diocese claimed that the Bishop’s homily was taken out of context; but I say re-read what I posted above. — There is nothing taken out of context. It is crystal clear. He has crossed a line; and must be made accountable. That might come from the government (I doubt it); it may more likely come from Catholics who speak with their wallets. I’d urge any Catholic in the Diocese of Peoria to put in a note in the collection basket saying “Bishop Jenky must apologize” instead of a check.
And in the meantime, maybe the Bishop should spend some time with the Bible. I’d suggest he start with John 13:34. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
No Bible For Brennan: CIA Director Takes Oath Of Office On Constitution
While there is nothing that prevents officials from being sworn in on a Bible, there’s certainly nothing wrong with following Brennan’s example and honoring the U.S. Constitution. Doing so not only sends a positive message, it frees government from giving the appearance of religious favoritism.
When CIA Director John Brennan placed his hand on a copy of the U.S. Constitution last week to take his oath of office, did he defy the very document on which he swore? Absolutely not.
It’s a common misconception that the oath of office for various government positions must be taken on a Bible, but in fact the Constitution does not require it. As my colleague Rob Boston reported in the January issue of Church & Statemagazine, leaders ranging from presidents to members of Congress have taken the oath of office on everything from legal books to copies of the Koran and the Bhagavad Gita.
The Christian Post reported that shortly after Brennan took office, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters that Brennan had been sworn in on “an original draft of the Constitution that had George Washington’s personal handwriting and annotations on it, dating from 1787.”
Earnest said Brennan requested that particular document because he “wanted to reaffirm his commitment to the rule of law as he took the oath of office as director of the CIA,” thePost said.
That sounds like a pretty good statement from a man who is responsible for much of the nation’s security. Commitment to constitutional principles and laws is imperative for all governmental office-holders.
But, of course, that just isn’t good enough for some critics. The conservative-tilting Postnoted ominously that Brennan “chose to put his hand on a copy of the Constitution – before it included the Bill of Rights – and not a Bible.”
Continue reading at Americans United
Updates: Public Schools & the First Amendment
Meanwhile, outside the walls of PantheaCon, I have been busy tending the Wild Hunt’s hearth fires and watching the news….
The sheer number of stories describing the intersection of faith and public education has been overwhelming in recent weeks. In fact, Americans United (AU) believes that 2013 will be a “pivotal year for church-state separation.” According to AU, the country’s increasing religious diversity and the recent failures of evangelical Christian politics are fueling the fight to force religion back into public schools.
Since January, five states already have anti-evolution bills “in play” including, Missouri, Montana, Colorado, Oklahoma and Indiana. AU writer Simon Brown remarked, “The mantra of Indiana state Sen. Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn) seems to be: ‘Darn the Constitution, full speed ahead!’”
Just last week, the ACLU of Ohio filed a lawsuit against the Jackson City School District for refusing to remove a portrait of Jesus from Jackson Middle School. The School Board’s justification for non-compliance was that the portrait was a gift. However, there’s that darn Constitution again. Now, the Jackson City School Board is being sued.
Portrait Hanging in Jackson Middle School
There are similar cases across the country. Whether it’s Creationism, school prayer, religious displays or school vouchers, the challenges continue. As such, it is very easy to get caught up in the contentious discourse surrounding these cases. From a media perspective, conflicts are considered more “ sell-able” because they stir emotions and keep us tuned-in. The positive outcomes are often quite boring.
As a result, we forget to adequately acknowledge these “happy-endings” or record the positive gains. When one battle ends, another always seems to flare up. It’s much easier to watch the new fires than see the sprouts rising through the ashes of old battles.
However, I have and will always argue that it is essential for all of us, especially those on the front lines, to purposefully acknowledge positive progress; no matter how small, how subtle or how utterly boring. Once in awhile, it’s nice to have the opportunity to do an “end-zone” victory dance and fly a flag or two. With that in mind, I’d like to update two stories that involved challenges to liberty within the public schools.
Let’s start in the South. One of last year’s top ten stories was the struggle to protect religious freedom within the Buncombe County School (BCS) system of North Carolina. This was the case that began when Ginger Strivelli, a local Pagan mother, challenged the presence of Gideon Bibles in her daughter’s school. Over multiple contentious meetings, the school board finally enacted policies that would ostensibly prevent any First Amendment violations and, in addition, would pave the way for interfaith talks.
A view of the Buncombe school board meeting.
During the early days of this case, I worked as Lady Liberty League’s Media Adviser. As such, I have written numerous case reports and articles; the last of which was just published in Circle Magazine’s latest issue (#112). That article contains the full scope of the Board’s newly enacted policy changes.
Here are some of the highlights. The Buncombe County School Board (BCS) has created a Faith-Based Advisory panel to act as consultant for all faith-based issues. Local Pagan, Byron Ballard, who has been actively involved in this case, now sits on that panel. In addition, the Board encouraged all teachers to celebrate National Religious Freedom Day on January 16th. On the first of January, the Board formally announced this intention and stated that all children will watch the newly produced BCS program called: “The 3Rs of Religion.”
Byron has confirmed that the overall progress has continued to be very positive. In fact, for the first time in a year, Byron will not be attending the Buncombe County School Board meeting. We are witnessing the evolution of a community and recognition of social change. However Byron did add:
“I’m cautiously optimistic about the relationship with the county school system, but I am aware that it will have to be monitored forever after. Vigilance, like strong fences, makes for good neighbors.”
Buncombe County’s story may not yet be fully written.
Now, let’s move over to Utah. In November, I reported on the ACLU’s lawsuit against the Davis School District in Utah. One of its schools, Windridge Elementary, had restricted access to the book In Our Mothers’ House by Patricia Polocco because of its depiction of gay marriage. The restriction was initially supported by the district and encouraged for all lower grades. In November, the advisory council stated, “Members of our Community Council feel that the book is non-offensive, but agree that it should be restricted. It can be found behind the Librarians desk.” Shortly thereafter, parent Tina Weber challenged the legality of the decision which resulted in the ACLU’s lawsuit.
On January 31, the ACLU reported that the Davis School Board has reversed that 2012 decision and put Our Mothers’ House back on all library shelves. In a letter to the Board’s legal adviser Assistant Superintendent, Pamela Park wrote, “I agree with and support the Committee’s conclusion regarding the book as follows:
- “Removing the book completely is not a good option.”
- “We all know many non-traditional families” with students attending our schools.
- “It could help those children in same-sex families see their family in a book.”
- “[T]his book teaches acceptance and tolerance.”
- “The book could help prevent bullying of kids from same-sex families.”
- “It could be used by families to discuss the issues….”
Park also confirmed that the book’s presence does not violate Utah educational policies because it’s not used as instructional material. She continues to advise that any parent who feels the book is inappropriate can contact the librarian and have the book restricted from his or her child only. You can read the letter in its entirety here.
The Utah case wasn’t necessarily a church-state issue. The school was restricting Patricia Polocco’s freedom of speech more than violating religious liberty. However, it could be argued that the case did have a religious freedom element. The Board restricted the book based on what could be considered a faith-based opinion. It’s opponents complained that In Our Mothers’ House “normalizes a lifestyle we don’t agree with.” Removing the book on such a basis promotes one faith’s value system over another. Facilitating parental choice supports the values of all people; no matter their religion or position on gay marriage.
Celebrating the work done in both Utah and North Carolina, and other similar cases, does not at all detract from the serious nature of defending First Amendment freedoms allowed by the darn Constitution. Nor does it show disrespect for those cases not yet closed. Acknowledging progress strengthens our spirit and allows us to stand again. It restores our faith in the American system. We need this time to breathe.
So, in honor of the work done by those in Buncombe County and Davis County, “Way to Go!” Take your victory lap.
“Americans United for Separation of Church and State today asked Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear to block a proposed hospital merger that will subject patients to the medical directives of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. The letter takes aim at a merger between University Medical Center and Catholic Healthcare Initiatives. If the plan goes through, University Medical Center, a public institution affiliated with the University of Louisville that serves many indigent residents, will be required to adopt Catholic directives. Certain services, such as birth control, sterilization and other forms of reproductive health care, will have to be dropped or curtailed.”—
It can’t remain a public hospital if it’s run by the Catholic church.
Petition Interdiction: TN Legislator Seeks To Make It A Crime To Protest Church-State Violations
A Tennessee legislator is trying to set up a series of hurdles so complex, formidable and intimidating that no one in his or her right mind would even think about filing a church-state lawsuit.
Whenever I hear someone talking about the alleged shift in American politics that is supposedly turning the country away from far-right politics, I have to pause, collect myself and say politely, “We’re not quite there yet.”
If you don’t believe me, take a look at what’s going in some of the states.
It’s estimated that 24 state legislatures have been strongly influenced by an unholy partnership of Religious Right groups and Tea Party activists. Some awfully strange legislation is surfacing in those states.
Consider Tennessee. There, state Sen. Randy McNally has introduced SB 965, which attempts to address the issue of prayers before meetings of local government bodies.
McNally’s bill, scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow, purports to afford local governments “an opportunity to implement a written policy governing invocation practices before a lawsuit is filed on establishment clause grounds.…”
That may sound harmless. After all, who can be against a written policy?
But what McNally is really trying to do is set up a series of hurdles so complex, formidable and intimidating that no one in his or her right mind would even think about filing a church-state lawsuit.
In a torrent of legalese, McNally would require citizens who are interested in filing a church-state lawsuit to enter in a cumbersome and time-consuming back-and-forth dialogue with local officials prior to going to court. If they fail to do that, their lawsuit would be automatically dismissed.
Continue reading at Americans United