Editorial: The War against Christmas Is Symptomatic of a Bigger Problem, Intolerant Secularism
We are the soul of the world in this age. That vocation has never been comfortable. That's why we have as our sign a cross.
We are the soul of the world in this age. That vocation has never been comfortable. That is why we have as our sign a cross. Intolerant Secularism is on the rise. We must not cower when confronted by those who attempt to silence us. Our message is not our own. It is for the whole world and it still sets the captives free.
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - On January 11, 2012 the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Though the case dealt with the ministerial exception, it was a rare moment for the High Court to speak favorably about religious institutions and their rights.
The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights to the US Constitution reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment (the first part) was intended to protect against the establishment of a National Church and a forced adherence to its doctrine by all citizens. It was more aptly understood as an Anti-Establishment Clause.
Poor judicial decisions have contributed to the erosion of the protections which were supposed to be associated with this clause. They have also led to an interpretation of a Church/State separation which is hostile to religious institutions, discriminates against people of faith and seeks to censor religious speech and expression in the public square.
The Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment (the second part) was intended to protect religious institutions and people of faith in their vital role in speaking and acting with freedom in an authentically pluralistic society - in order to serve the common good.
Yet, the Free Exercise of Religion is now routinely violated. The unconstitutional Edict issued by the Health and Human Services through which the Affordable Care Act will be applied is a recent example. The current US Administration seeks to compel the Church, in her institutions of care, charity and service, to violate her deeply held religious convictions.
For the longest time in our history it was presumed in the United States of America that the values informed by religious faith - and the active participation of religious institutions - were to be welcomed because they serve the common good.
Now, both the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment clause have been turned on their respective heads. They are used to silence the Church and the religious speaker and actor - or in an to compel the Church to act in a way which she cannot and will not.
The Free Speech clause of that same First Amendment has also been subverted. When the message and the messenger being examined under its increasingly hostile scrutiny is determined by the State to be speaking what it considers to be a religious or moral message, the Amendment's protections seem to no longer apply.
Religious or moral speech is censored and locked behind the four walls of a Church. The once robust American vision of the free exercise of religion is being reduced to a freedom of worship. The right to speak freely and contend in the public square is in danger.
In a culture which claims there is no objective truth, those who claim otherwise are now perceived as a threat.
Given this hostility, the Supreme Court's reaffirmation of the rights of Churches and religious institutions to follow their own internal doctrine in Hosanna-Tabor was a welcome decision. However, one decision is not enough to turn the tide.
The establishment clause has been twisted into a permutation which the American founders would not have even recognized.
One has only to look at the treatment of the poor senior citizens in this story. They have been told they must remove their Christmas tree in a private facility. Or, the edict of the Governor of Rhode Island to call the Christmas tree a "Holiday tree".
Or, the 9th Circuit Justices ruling last year that the Mount Soledad cross, which had stood on Mount Soledad since 1913, had become a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution because they said so.
Too many Federal Judges make up their own rules by which they decide whether a religious symbol, especially a Christian religious symbol, will be allowed to stand on public land or in a public building. There is not even a pretense that the actual words of the Establishment Clause have any precedential value.
The Establishment Clause was once properly ...
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