Religious Liberty Reader, December 21, 2008

December 21, 2008

December 18

Medical ‘Conscience Rule’ Is Issued

WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 (NY Times), The Bush administration, as expected, announced new protections on Thursday for health care providers who oppose abortion and other medical procedures on religious or moral grounds.

“Doctors and other health care providers should not be forced to choose between good professional standing and violating their conscience,” Michael O. Leavitt, the secretary of Health and Human Services, said in a statement on his department’s Web site.

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December 19

U.N. religious hate vote alarms liberty groups

WASHINGTON, Dec. 19 (UPI) — The U.N. General Assembly Thursday approved a “Defamation of Religion” resolution, largely supported by Islamic countries, condemning critical or offensive expressions directed at any religious faith. What’s not to like?

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Morning Bell: Protecting Religious Liberty

President-elect Barack Obama angered gay groups this week by choosing “Purpose Driven Life” author Rick Warren to give the invocation at Obama’s inauguration ceremony. Despite the fact that Obama and Warren have the exact same position on same-sex marriage, gay leaders like Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese object to “the symbolism” of inviting an “anti-gay theologian” to deliver his inaugural invocation.

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Voting on the Sabbath

December 21, 2008

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Source:

https://lists.wallawalla.edu/pipermail/caribsda/2008-February/011043.html

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[Caribsda] Voting on Sabbath
Pedrito Maynard-Reid Pedrito.Maynard-Reid at wallawalla.edu
Thu Feb 7 13:21:08 PST 2008

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This Sabbath, Washington State hold its caucuses. And as was the case with Nevada, Adventists are asking whether they should or should not vote on Sabbaths. Our VP for Academic Administration just forwarded the communication that originated from the North Pacific Union Conference.

From: Ginger KettingWeller
Sent: Thursday, February 07, 2008 11:41 AM
To: Faculty-Mail; Staff-Mail
Subject: The Matter of Voting & When
Importance: High

Dear Faculty and Staff,

The Caucuses are this Sabbath afternoon. Attached, FYI, is an e-mail from the NPUC religious liberty department regarding the issue of voting on Sabbath. You may find it helpful. Thanks to Greg Dodds, our local religious liberty representative, for bringing this to our attention.

–GKW

From: Greg Hamilton [mailto:Greg.Hamilton at nw.npuc.org]
Sent: Monday, February 04, 2008 12:08 PM
To: Gregory Dodds
Subject: The Matter of Voting & When
Importance: High

Ellen G. White – Question of Voting on Sabbath & Other Thoughts…

(The first four paragraphs below are excerpts from the book written by Herbert E. Douglass, “Messenger of the Lord: The Prophetic Ministry of Ellen G. White.” Chapter 13, “Delivering God’s Message,” and in subsection “Manner of Delivering Messages Varied.”)

The Question of Voting on the Sabbath

A vision (or a dream) often turned a group from hasty decisions to the right course of action to be seen better as time went by. In the summer of 1881 James and Ellen White were tired. She was ill. However, she had a “deep impression” that they should leave the Michigan camp meeting and go to the Iowa camp meeting, which was to open in two days. When they arrived in Des Moines, she said to a minister, “Well, we are here at the Lord’s bidding, for what special purpose we do not know, but we shall doubtless know as the meeting progresses.”

The Whites did much of the preaching. On Sunday evening, after Mrs. White had retired, the constituency was conducting a business meeting on the subject of voting, especially in regard to temperance and prohibition. After a short time the message came that the group wanted her counsel. G. B. Starr recalled later that Ellen White related a dream that described the Iowa circumstance and that the heavenly spokesman had said: “God designs to help the people in a great movement on this subject. He also designed that you, as a people, should be the head and not the tail in the movement; but now the position you have taken will place you at the tail.”

In the meeting, Mrs. White was asked whether the Iowa Adventists should vote for prohibition. Her answer was swift: “Yes, to a man everywhere and perhaps I shall shock some of you if I say, If necessary, vote on the Sabbath day for prohibition if you cannot at any other time.”

Writing later, Starr emphasized: “I can testify that the effect of the relation of that dream was electrical upon the whole conference. A convincing power attended it, and I saw for the first time the unifying power of the gift of prophecy in the church” (White, Arthur L. Ellen G. White, Vol. 3, Six-volume biography [Washington, D. C.: RHPA, 1981-1986]: pp. 158-160. Ellen White endorsed G.B. Starr’s report).

The Battle Creek Example

EGW also encouraged all of Battle Creek Adventists to rise up and vote the then sitting Mayor out of office, a candidate for office (not just an issue), because he was a womanizer, a drunk, and a gambler and thief, and because he assumed 1) that Adventists didn’t believe in voting, and 2) they would not vote on the Sabbath because they were “Sabbath-keepers.” (See the book Temperance, pages 255-256.)

Exception or the Rule?

The more I read of EGW, the more I am impressed that she believed it was a citizen-stewardship duty to vote. It is, however, unclear if voting polls back in those days were mainly and traditionally only open on the Sabbath in various (if not many, or most) local communities where Sunday keeping was strictly observed. On the other hand, if it was a rarity for voting polls to be open on the Sabbath, it would make voting on the Sabbath an exception as a matter of practice rather than the rule and thus why she had no problem with it

I personally believe EGW was a very practical woman and looked for opportunities to carry out her civic duty, even on the Sabbath because in those days the issue of temperance and prohibition was continually before the people for a number of years during her lifetime. It was an ongoing issue, along with the matter of prohibition (at least until Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863). Furthermore, I’m not sure one could truly make the argument from the Bible that voting on the Sabbath is somehow a sin. Hey, we have a hard enough time convincing some, yea many, Adventists that it is not a sin to vote! I think you get the picture.

Practical Counsels on Voting

EGW’s counsel is also pretty straightforward in Gospel Workers, pages 387, and 391-92. She writes: “Every individual exerts an influence in society. In our favored land, every voter has some voice in determining what laws shall control the nation. Should not that influence and that vote be cast on the side of temperance and virtue” (page 387.) Notice that she didn’t just single out “temperance,” but also “virtue.” We must stand up for what is right is right because it is right, while also being ever cognizant that we are not like some who seek to push an agenda for the purpose of seizing political power. This kind of partisan politics EGW opposed in the strictest terms. Corresponding pages in this section of Gospel Workers makes this point very clear. But the question of voting is very clear in this reference. We are encouraged to vote. There is no statement by EGW encouraging us not to vote.

There is the reference on pages 391-92 of Gospel Workers that some misread and interpret to mean that Seventh-day Adventist Christians should not vote, when in fact the reference implies just the opposite. She writes: “We cannot with safety vote for political parties; for we do not know whom we are voting for.” This simply means that we must remain independent voters and not be loyal to any specific political party, be it Republican, Democrat, or any other party platform. She goes on to say that “We cannot labor to please men who will use their influence to repress religious liberty, and to set in operation oppressive measures to lead or compel their fellow-men to keep Sunday as the Sabbath…. The people of God are not to vote to place such men in office; for when they do this, they are partakers with them of the sins which they commit while in office.”

One must take this last portion in context and understand that voting for men or women who will use their influence to repress religious liberty is what she is referring to and not the message that we should not vote. Quite the contrary. One of the clear signals we should watch for is the promise of candidates to nominate “strict constructionist” judges to the federal or Supreme Court bench. Such judges typically support the establishment and enforcement of certain types of Christian acts of loyalty and devotion in the public square in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, and in violation with the spirit and use of the first table of the law of God, which is off limits to the power and jurisdiction of the state.

The establishment and enforcement of such acts in the public square represents the spirit of constitutional and historical revisionism. While professing to be “strict constructionists,” these presidential candidates and the judges they promise to nominate actually propose a radical sort of judicial activism that would see America return to the good old days of the Puritans in which religious freedom was only for those religions that were favored, and where all others were merely tolerated or even worse. Here we see how such thinking – the establishment and enforcement of acts of religious loyalty and devotion could very easily lead to a National Sunday law. That is why it is very important to vote for those who you believe will make religious freedom – the constitutional principle of the separation of church and state (i.e., the Establishment Clause) and the free exercise of religion – a singular priority to protect while serving in office.

Questionable Comparisons & Distinctions

Some have argued that voting on the Sabbath should not be the rule, but the exception. This may be true today, but strangely enough it may not have been in EGW’s day because of the historical possibility that voting may have been frequently done only on Saturday in some local communities. We don’t know this for sure, but research would need to be done on this point.

1) Forced to Vote on the Sabbath

Also, voting is a voluntary act of citizenship. No one is forcing you to vote or forcing you to violate your right to keep the Sabbath. The comparison of the three Hebrew worthies being forced to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s image has been used to suggest that to refrain from voting on the Sabbath is the principled equivalent. Yet the Hebrew worthies were forced to bow down. It’s a good thing they did not; but such a comparison does not work for me when it comes to the matter of voting and that is because voting is a volunteer act. No one is being forced to vote. Everyone has the option to be fully persuaded in their own mind on whether they should vote on the Sabbath if that is the only option available, such as in Nevada a few weeks ago.

2) A Violation of Civil Rights

Some have argued that Seventh-day Adventists are being disenfranchised in the same way that Black Americans were before the 1960’s. Not so. Black Americans were specifically targeted. No one can seriously make the claim that the State of Nevada was specifically targeting Jews and Seventh-day Adventists and that they intended to do so during the Primary caucus vote a few weeks ago. Yes, by opening the polls during the prime time hours of the Sabbath, during Sabbath School and Church service, the process was inherently inconvenient; but to make the case that it was purposely made unfair to Jewish and SDA voters, or that they were somehow forced to vote on their Sabbath, against their sincerely held convictions, is a case that cannot be made. Such a claim may be true for numerous orthodox Jews, but it cannot be made for Seventh-day Adventists. This is because the act of voting is voluntary and we have a history that suggests that it is not necessarily against our church’s sincerely held religious convictions, or any supposed policy, to refrain from voting on the Sabbath. There is no such church policy, nor can anyone make the claim that it is a sin to vote on the Sabbath, particularly today when voting polls are rarely only open on the Sabbath.

The best way to deal with states and various communities that open their polling stations only on the Sabbath is to seek to change such practices by encouraging and backing legislation that would put into motion an all-state wide mail-in voting ballot, such as is practiced in Oregon and Washington, as well as in other states across our country. It is better to be active on this level than to whine in the press about how Seventh-day Adventists were somehow disenfranchised and discriminated against by forcing them to vote on the Sabbath. I think the former approach provides a much better long term solution to the problem, if there really is one, depending on your personal perspective as you weigh the counsel of EGW above.

3) Issues vs. Individual Candidates

Finally, some have argued that a distinction has to be made between voting on the Sabbath in a general primary or election and voting for or against certain issues. While such a distinction may seem like an important one, however finely parsed it is, my thinking is that you cannot separate the issues from the candidates, just as EGW did not separate the issues (mainly the matter of “character”) from the mayoral candidate seeking re-election in Battle Creek. (This is a limited example, but it is one of the few we have on record.) Outside of routine ballot measures that come up from time to time at the state and local level, by voting for an individual you are voting for the issues they believe in and have stated so during the election campaign. As to character, that is an important qualification or disqualification to make as well, as in EGW’s Battle Creek example. Therefore, to make a seemingly important distinction between “issues” and “candidates,” one has to remember that such a distinction is oftentimes flawed. I find it is often an excuse not to vote at all during general primaries and general elections, whether congressional or presidential or both, or for those running for state offices, etc.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to write. I open to revising my thinking on this depending on the evidence and the reasoning behind the evidence presented. Thanks for your time. I thought some of you would appreciate receiving these insights regarding the matter of voting, particularly when so many continue to find ways and excuses to refrain from voting altogether, let alone be worried about voting on the Sabbath. We have problems enough, as it is, to get people to vote at all! May the good Lord reverse that trend in our midst is my prayer.

Gregory W. Hamilton
President
Northwest Religious Liberty Association
5709 N 20th Street
Ridgefield, WA 98642

Website: http://www.nrla.com

Email: greg.hamilton at nw.npuc.org
Office: (360) 857-7040
Cell: (360) 910-4882
Fax: (360) 857-7140

Thomas Jefferson: “It can never be too often repeated that the time for fixing every essential right on a legal basis is while our rulers are honest, and ourselves united.”

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Source:

https://lists.wallawalla.edu/pipermail/caribsda/2008-February/011043.html

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SDA Religious Liberty History, Canada, 1904

December 8, 2008

Canadian Union Messenger, March 1, 1904

PROCEEDINGS OF THE CANADIAN CONFERENCE COMMITTEE.

The Canadian Union Conference Committee met at their office in Montreal on Tuesday, Feb. 9. Members present were Elders Thurston, Rickard and Thompson, and the writer. Three days were spent in careful and prayerful consideration of questions concerning the work in the Union Conference, and the following resolutions were carried by unanimous vote of the members present:—

2. That we ask Bro. T. H. Robinson, of the Ontario Conference, to go to Ottawa during the session of the Dominion Parliament, to represent the interests of religious liberty, spending as much time as seems advisable, in view of the attempt of any party to secure legislation in reference to Sunday laws.

3. That we invite Elder Rickard to associate with Bro. Robinson in the aforementioned work at Ottawa.

4. That we invite Elder G. B. Thompson to prepare some literature for use in the Religious Liberty campaign.

http://www.adventistarchives.org/docs/CUM/CUM19040301-V03-10__B/index.djvu?djvuopts&page=7

RELIGIOUS LIBERTY OFFERING,
SABBATH, MARCH 12.

The General Conference Council last October recommended that special offering for religious liberty work be taken early in 1904. The first Sabbath in March was the date first set, but to give more time for the announcement, we have set the time on Sabbath, March 12.

In the reorganization of the work on departmental lines called for in general, union, and state conferences, the time has fully come to develop the department of religious liberty, to enable it to bring out up-to-date literature, and to make an earnest effort to lift up the voice of warning against the influences that are working to bring about the enforcement of Sunday laws. We know that these agencies are working day and night to mold sentiment and secure control of legislation to enforce the worship of the beast and its image. We shall be surprised at the sudden manifestation of strength on the part of these organized movements one of these days. Now is our time to work. One call for immediate work is supplied by the opportunities in connection with the St. Louis World’s Fair.

In order to bring out special literature on the religious liberty issue, and to foster the interests of this work among all the conferences and churches, the General Conference Religious Liberty Department must have funds. Elder Allen Moon, the chairman of the departmental committee, has his office in Chicago. The committee is planning an active campaign. If the notice is given out promptly, and all unite in the offering, a good working capital for the year will be given in this one collection, which will take but a fey moments’ attention from the regular service. Will not ministers and church elders announce this, and encourage the people to act liberally and unitedly? The offering should be sent through the channel of the Local Conference treasury.

A. G. DANIELLS.

http://www.adventistarchives.org/docs/CUM/CUM19040301-V03-10__B/index.djvu?djvuopts&page=2

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RELIGIOUS LIBERTY FUND FOR CANADA.

I trust that all of our people in Canada had a part in contributing to the special offering March 12 for the Religious Liberty work; and now we have another matter to which we wish to call attention.

You are probably aware that at the next session of Parliament there will be a strong effort made by the Lord’s Day Alliance people for a Dominion Sunday Law. We have had to prepare literature here in Canada to meet the issue and have arranged for two men to go to Ottawa in the interest of religious liberty, and spend what time seems necessary there when the bill is presented.

At the recent session of the C.U.C. committee, this matter was considered, and it seemed to us that it would be proper for us to ask our people in Canada to contribute to a fund for religious liberty work in Canada.

It will cost something to publish tracts, as several thousand of different kinds will be needed, and we believe that our people will gladly contribute to this fund. We do not design to set apart a day for a special offering to this fund, but will simply ask you to send to S. D. Hartwell, 4230 St. Catherine Street, Montreal, whatever
you feel willing to give for this line of work. We have a message for the people, and this session of Parliament will be an opportune time to call the minds of men in official positions to the true principles of Christianity.

“I exhort, therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”

Let us pray, and not only pray, but let us do what we can at this time to bring these men to a knowledge of the truth. We shall he blessed in doing.

W. H. THURSTON.

http://www.adventistarchives.org/docs/CUM/CUM19040315-V03-11__B/index.djvu?djvuopts&page=4

Freedom to Speak Against

December 8, 2008

A Canwest News Service report

National War of words over hate speech heating up

Keith Bonnell, Canwest News Service

Published: Sunday, December 07, 2008

In the war of words over free speech, it seems one of the early combatants has switched sides.

Imam Syed Soharwardy is opening a Freedom of Speech Centre in Calgary – a place where he says people will be encouraged to openly discuss thorny cultural issues of the day.

It’s a new twist for the man who helped spark a national uproar two years ago over the role of human rights commissions in censoring hate speech.

That debate’s still raging, and it’s a nasty one.

Conservative pundits and a growing number of major media outlets have turned on the commissions, saying they risk becoming kangaroo courts where special interest groups can bully the media and jeopardize Canadians’ freedom of speech.

On the other side, there are calls to preserve what advocates insist is a needed tool in the battle against hate speech – and a way to hold mainstream media outlets to account for biased journalism.

Soharwardy fired an early salvo in the battle, lodging a human rights complaint against publisher Ezra Levant. In February 2006, Levant published the notorious Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in the now-defunct Western Standard magazine.

At the time, Soharwardy argued the cartoons were a form of hate speech.

However, the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada has been through a lot since then. You might say he’s had a change of heart about hate.

“My view of the human rights commission has changed almost 180 degrees,” he told Canwest News Service. “Especially about this Section 13, the freedom of speech.”

Soharwardy backed out of the complaint against Levant, which was eventually dismissed by Alberta’s human rights commission, and has renounced the process.

“I wish we could have sat down at that time and talked it out rather than me going to a human rights complaint and Mr. Levant writing about me in the media and on the website,” Soharwardy says. “I think it would have helped us both.”

He says he hopes his planned Freedom of Speech Centre can help Muslims and all Canadians explore ways to balance hate speech and free speech.

He said he wants to help Muslims newly arrived from more repressive cultures to understand why, for example, Canadians can freely mock religions – and why that right to offend is an important pillar of democracy.

He hopes to open the centre in January.

With his volte-face, Soharwardy has added his voice to a growing chorus calling for human rights commissions to get out of the business of sanctioning public discourse and deciding what qualifies as hate speech.

This is not the stuff of calm, reasoned debate. There are columns about how Muslims are taking over the world, there are blogs saying the holocaust never happened.

Still, editorials calling for changes have appeared in the National Post, the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, and elsewhere.

The debate centres around Section 13 of the federal Canadian Human Rights Act. It allows the federal commission to reprimand anyone found to have spread messages online that are “likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt.”

Those fighting to have the section repealed got a boost last month from free speech expert and University of Windsor professor Richard Moon.

Moon was asked by the Canadian Human Rights Commission to look into the debate. His report said the best-case scenario would be to get rid of Section 13 and leave hate speech to the police.

Alternatively, Moon suggested, the wording of the act should be changed so that the definition of hate speech is explicitly defined as language that “advocates or justifies violence against the members of an identifiable group.”

That was music to the ears of conservative pundits such as Levant and author and blogger Mark Steyn, who have long complained the commissions aren’t fair to the accused.

Their grievances? There is no presumption of innocence; truth is not a defence; and if a complaint in found to have no merit, there is no compensation offered to the wrongly accused.

All of which, these critics say, remains beside the point: the right to free speech is absolute in a free society.

“The only reason we’re talking about this is because of censorship,” Levant said.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission says it wants to get public reaction to the Moon report, then submit it to Parliament by the middle of next year.

But the commission may not find a welcoming audience on the Hill, where Liberal MP Keith Martin has taken up the fight.

“As freethinking, democratic individuals in a democracy, we don’t have a right not to be offended,” he said.

Martin has introduced a private member’s motion calling on the government to repeal Section 13. He said he’s also been lobbying to have the justice committee hold a public, televised hearing on the issue.

While Moon’s report partly sided with the conservative pundits, the expert also calls their criticisms largely “overblown.”

Moon stressed that the media have a responsibility to provide fair and balanced content.

His report suggested the creation of a national press council. It would have the power to investigate complaints of human rights discrimination or bias in journalism, and could force a media outlet to publicize a judgment against it, should one be made.

The Canadian Association of Journalists has condemned the idea, saying it smacks of government censorship.

The notion does appeal to some, including Khurrum Awan. He was one of the law students who filed a failed complaint against Maclean’s magazine over its decision to publish online an excerpt from Steyn’s book, America Alone. The excerpt alleges that Muslims’ booming populations numbers could threaten Western democracies.

“There has been a lot of media and political heat around our complaint,” Awan said. “We do feel if that heat had not been there, the decision may have been different.”

He said currently the human rights commissions are the “only meaningful avenue of holding our media accountable for Canadians,” but said his group would have preferred to air their complaint at a press council – had Maclean’s belonged to such a body.

Like Awan, human rights lawyer Pearl Eliadis says the media haven’t done a good job of fairly examining the issue – because they are vested in the outcome of the debate.

She says there are good reasons to keep hate speech under the mandate of human rights commissions, even if it means amending the legislation. She shoots down criticism from pundits she calls “controversy entrepreneurs.”

“These positions are simply incoherent,” he said. “The media normally dives in, attacks the hype, tests things. They haven’t done that in this case.”

Section 13, which dates back to the inception of the federal act in 1977, was originally meant to deal with the issue of “hate lines,” telephone numbers where callers could hear pre-recorded racist messages.

In 2001, the federal government amended the section so that it also covered hate speech online.

There, arguably, is where the problem began.

With the explosion of the Internet – including newspapers publishing online, political bloggers, etc. – suddenly the commissions were in a position to oversee and judge journalism.

“The fact that the mainstream media are now covered by the legislation is something none of us anticipated or foresaw,” said Philippe Dufresne, director and senior council for the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

The commission can award compensation to victims of hate speech to a maximum of $20,000. It can also levy a penalty of as much as $10,000.

Soharwardy’s complaint against Levant and the high-profile case against Maclean’s became twin lightning rods for those who said the human rights commission was going too far.

Levant said he’s spent $100,000 on legal fees dealing with the human rights complaints against him that have dragged on for a total of 900 days.

For the record, he doesn’t buy Soharwardy’s conversion in the least. But he said it’s clear opinion is piling up against the commissions.

“The only people in the country who still support it are those who have a direct financial stake in it,” he said.

He dismissed the argument that because he and Maclean’s won their cases the system is working.

“Mark Steyn and I were a political problem for them,” he says of the human rights commission. “We were let go, whereas people who can’t afford pricey lawyers . . . they get crushed. That’s a form of corruption.”

As for Soharwardy, the imam’s change of heart took time – and included spending a while looking down the barrel of a human rights complaint that was aimed squarely at him.

Soharwardy was accused of discriminating against several women at his mosque.

“I understand the pain that people go through when they face a complaint at the human rights commission,” he said. “If a frivolous complaint has been filed, then the defendant is still on the hook to defend himself.”

But he insists it wasn’t the complaint against him but his concerns about his religious freedom that prompted him to turn his back on the process.

“Freedom of religion is very dear to me,” he said, explaining he worries that restricting speech could lead to limits on his right to express his religious beliefs.

Soharwardy said he believes the federal government needs to do a better of educating newcomers to Canada about freedom of speech, as well its consequences, both good and bad.

“People in any Muslim country people will not make fun or should not make fun of any religions,” he said.

“Here, people go on air and make fun of Jesus Christ. . . . That is a very shocking thing for a Muslim. People are not used to this kind of freedom.”

He said he believes freedom of speech is about more than just public discourse – it’s also about how different generations relate within families.

He points to family violence, some of which is the result of tensions flaring between immigrant parents and their western-raised children.

Freedom of speech is crucial so that everyone’s voice is heard, he said.

“That freedom will save a family from destruction,” he said. “We can resolve domestic violence, we can resolve women abuse, child abuse.”

What proponents of Section 13 stress is that the system offers a more appropriate range of remedies than the criminal justice system.

The system, they say, works to find compromises and resolve disputes.

“Words have power; and terrible words have terrible power,” said Bernie M. Farber, CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress.

He argues that an amended act – along the lines of what Moon’s report recommends – is the best option.

“I know that there is a clamour by some to jump on the band wagon where they feel that any law that limits speech of any kind is harmful, but our position is that if one can find the right balance, it makes us a better society.”

http://www.canada.com/topics/news/national/story.html?id=1044629

Marriage Commissioner, a Baptist, Sues for Right to Refuse

November 30, 2008

Man sues Saskatchewan after being fined for refusing to perform same sex marriage

Tue Nov 25, 9:04 PM

By The Canadian Press

PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. – A marriage commissioner is suing the Saskatchewan government after being fined $2,500 for refusing to marry a gay couple.

A Saskatchewan human rights tribunal cited Orville Nichols for discrimination in May for refusing to perform the same-sex marriage. Nichols told the tribunal last year that he refused to marry the couple in 2005 because it went against his Baptist faith.

Philip Fourie, Nichols’ lawyer, said the lawsuit demands the province give marriage commissioners the legal right to not perform same-sex marriages if it conflicts with their religious beliefs.

“This is clearly a horrible violation of Charter rights,” he said in a release Tuesday

“This problem can be easily fixed by simply allowing the commissioners a right to decline and pass on the ceremony request to another commissioner.”

Saskatchewan Justice Minister Don Morgan said the tribunal’s ruling is binding on the province

He said commissioners unhappy about the law have the option of turning in their licences to perform civil marriages.

“We have sent a letter to all of the civil marriage commissioners indicating to them that it is an option to them to surrender their civil marriage certificate and to obtain a religious one if they wish to affiliate themselves with one of the churches,” Morgan said.

The case is to be heard in Prince Albert on Dec. 23.

During the tribunal hearing into the case, Nichols said he was contacted in 2005 by a gay man about performing a wedding.

The gay man, who can only be identified as M.J. because of a publication ban, found Nichols’ name on a list of marriage commissioners in Regina.

Same-sex marriage was made legal in Saskatchewan in November 2004. Marriage commissioners, who are appointed and licensed by the province to perform civil ceremonies, were told to provide the service.

Nichols, who has been a marriage commissioner since 1983, testified that he told the couple he would not marry them because it went against his religious beliefs.

He then referred the couple to a marriage commissioner who would perform the ceremony.

The tribunal said in its ruling in May that Nichols was acting as a public servant when he performed marriages and so was obligated to marry the gay couple because same-sex unions are permitted by law in Canada.

Fourie chided Premier Brad Wall and Morgan for being critical of the former NDP government on same-sex marriage and promising to stick up for the rights of marriage commissioners.

“The government promised to be different but they are not acting any differently at all on this issue,” he said.

“The pendulum has swung too far in favour of same-sex people and against people of faith.”

WHAT OTHERS HAVE SAID ABOUT THIS NEWS STORY

I would’nt attend my son’s marriage if he married another man. Why should I be forced to preside such a wedding?

Exactly , follow the law or get another job…If the same person refused to marry an interracial couple because of his religious beliefs NO ONE would question this decision but for some reason same sex people , in the eyes of many cannot choose who to love

POSTED BY: Vin on SUN, NOV 30, 2008 01:26 PM -0500

The Commissioner is a Conscientious Objector — his freedom of conscience, and opinion, should be protected as long as it isn’t hateful. I’d support a Gay Commissioner if he refused to marry a heterosexual couple because he felt that the straight divorce rate was a clear indication of their commitment issues. (It’d be hard to argue that…) Especially if he was willing to refer them to a more sympathetic Commissioner. This is Canada, we allow people freedom they can’t get anywhere else.

POSTED BY: Doug on SUN, NOV 30, 2008 07:25 AM -0500

Frantz,priests do not marry same sex couples.As some non denominational ministries do,they are considered “ministers.” The Anglican church,which is currently facing a “schism” in the North American branch,due to the appointment of an openly gay bishop,who lives with his same sex common law partner.I believe some anglican churches are performing same sex blessings. In closing,priests do not marry same sex couples!

POSTED BY: joe on SUN, NOV 30, 2008 05:46 AM -0500

The AMERICAN BIRTHRIGHT of RELIGIOUS LIBERTY, 1909

November 8, 2008

GREAT QUESTIONS OF THE HOUR

The AMERICAN BIRTHRIGHT of RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

Abstract of an address delivered before the House of Representatives, Jefferson City, Missouri, by Mrs. Lulu Wightman, on April 13th, 1909.

A well-established principle in this country is that of the right and purpose of civil government to deal with, and to legislate upon, civil questions alone. The function of government is to preserve order in society and to protect all its subjects in the inalienable right to worship as they will, and against all incivility.

Morality must be rendered to God; civility to the state. To punish crime is the duty of the civil power; to punish sin, and define the religious duties of man is alone the prerogative of Deity.

As Washington said, “In proportion as the structure of government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.” The father of his country urged the promotion of institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge, realizing how, in the last analysis of the question of government, public opinion played the most important part. It is as essential that public opinion be enlightened today as in any period of the world’s history, for human liberty and human rights—their perpetuity—rests upon the proper and continual education of the masses, the “eternal vigilance” of a free and enlightened people. When our government was founded, it was distinctly and generally recognized that religion was “not in the purview of human government,” and that earthly governments are interdicted “from intermeddling with religious institutions,” and upon these principles of civil government, such of the framers of the Constitution as Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Franklin, and others, agreed.

It is Roger Williams, though, America’s Luther, to whom we owe more, perhaps, than any other man, or number of men, for the enunciation of the true principles of government and the final inauguration of the American system of jurisprudence.

Coming to New England in 1631, he found a system of government equally as bad, if not worse, than the church-and-state form of government from which he had fled in old England. He found that a civil magistrate could not hold an office unless he was a member of the Puritan church and religion. He found the civil power of the Massachusetts Bay Colony enforcing religious institutions and tenets of faith upon its citizens.

Steadily, with unchanging purpose, the man destined by God to inaugurate a movement which was to result in “a new order of things,” opposed the principle of religious legislation. He took every opportunity to teach the true principles of civil government, of civil and religious liberty. Every practice of the Puritans opposed itself to the great principle of religious liberty, which Williams was continually teaching. Though tolerated for a time, ere long the contest came. Turned away from the Salem church, Williams was at last summoned to appear before the General Court at Boston and answer for his crimes.

“No charges were preferred against his personal piety. None could be brought. The spotless purity of his unstained, unsullied, and unselfish soul stood out in bold relief against the leaden sky of religious despotism.”Yet forth from that grim court posing as the tribunal of God on earth issued the charges; the leading charge, in brief, that Williams had declared that all men were entitled to religious liberty!

On one side the court, representing the whole power of the government and the people, both the civil and the ecclesiastical authorities; on the other side, Williams, the one lone defender of a great principle, the principle long ago uttered by the Nazarene—”Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.

“The future of Rhode Island, to some extent of the whole world, hangs suspended on the issue. Will he, like his church, worn out and desperate, blenching before the unknown, lose heart and yield? Never. He stands unshaken in that ‘rockie strength ‘ of his convictions. He is ready not only to be bound and banished, but to die for them.”—Chief Justice Durfee.

Williams’ unanswerable arguments, his courageous stand, and noble battle for eternal truth, had no weight with the intolerant members of the court. October 6, 1635, he was convicted, and sentenced to banishment! Later, his return to England was ordered. Rather than be returned to England, and hopelessly give up his cherished plan of establishing a colony of freedom, an asylum for the oppressed, Williams, in the month of January, 1636, bade farewell to his wife and children, and disappeared amidst the wintry, wind-swept forests, out into the wild wastes of New England, where redskins and wild beasts were the sole inhabitants! He fled from the savage Christians of Massachusetts Bay Colony and found refuge with the Christian savages of Narragansett. And at Providence, R. I., irrepressible champion of “soul liberty,” of civil rights, founded the first free commonwealth of the New World,—an asylum for the conscience-oppressed of every kindred and nation and tongue and people; “a state where none shall persecution fear.”

But the great work begun “in forests drear,” did not end there. The doctrines, the principles, advocated by Roger Williams, spread to all parts of the colonies, and molded public opinion, until at last they crystalized, or centralized, if you please, into that immortal document called the DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, which declares that “all men are created equal,” and are endowed by their Creator “with certain inalienable rights,” and that among these RIGHTS are “life, LIBERTY, and the pursuit of happiness.” Not until 133 years ago was the great Declaration made; not until then had the principles of civil and religious liberty been sounded by an assembly of men! The history of government had been the history of slavery and oppression, of despotism and aristocracy; of oligarchy, nobility and kings; serf, vassal, subject; tyranny, misrule, and caste! All this quickly reversed; and now there comes into the world’s history that new and just form of government declaring its just powers to be derived “from the consent of the governed.” That Declaration was of itself a revolution, not in force of arms or field of battle, but a revolution in the field of thought. That Declaration gave birth to the Republic. Of the American Charter of Human Rights,—the Constitution of the United States—Gladstone has said: “It is the most perfect instrument ever struck off by the hand of man at a single stroke.” That document contains no reference to the Christian or any other religion. Although most of the patriotic founders of this Republic were deeply religious men, they carefully refrained from inserting the name of God in the Constitution. Indeed, the farthest thing from their minds was to incorporate the Christian religion into the fundamental law of the land.

In reference to this very subject, George Washington, with his own hand, wrote into the Treaty of Tripoli in 1797: “The United States Government is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” In the opinion of the framers of the Constitution, the strongest guarantee of the perpetuity of American institutions consisted in the absolute divorcement of church and state, and they took every precaution that was humanly possible to make this idea the key-note of American liberty. The first amendment to the Constitution which says:”Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” is an absolute disavowal of any intention to allow any legislation upon questions that are essentially and distinctly religious. Every important American state paper is a positive disclaimer to the theory of “the Christian nation,” or the right of the civil power to legislate upon religious questions.

From the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and the adoption of the Constitution, to the year 1829, our nation remained free from the domination, and the attacks and influences, of organized churches and religions in civil matters.

Over half a century the national idea—and government—proceeded in the pathway of destiny without a word of complaint or expressed dissatisfaction as to its form and its fundamental law, upon the part of religionists.

Then an innovation was sought, and specious was the plea for its introduction into the affairs of civil government. Petitions came pouring into the United States Senate asking that body to enact a law that would close the post offices, and forbid the carrying of the mails upon the post-roads “upon the Sabbath day”; upon “the first day of the week, commonly called Sunday.”

History records the fact that all religious intolerance and despotism begins with the legal enforcement of a particular rest day upon the people. It was so in dark and medieval days. It was equally true in early New England history. Sunday laws, from the time of the Emperor Honorius to the history of our own country, are always the entering wedges for a union of the church and the state; a precedent for religious legislation of any sort, and of every kind ; and unreasoning bigotry and legal intolerance invariably make use of these with which to persecute the conscientious and unyielding minority. Col. Richard M. Johnson was the chairman of the Committee on Post-offices and Post-Roads, to whom these petitions were referred. Among other statements, Mr. Johnson said:

“Extensive religious combinations to effect a political object are, in the opinion of the committee, always dangerous. This first effort of the kind [Sunday legislation] calls for the establishment of a principle which, in the opinion of the committee, would lay the foundation for dangerous innovations upon the spirit of the Constitution, and upon the religious rights of the citizens. If admitted, it may be justly apprehended that the future measures of the government will be strongly marked, if not eventually controlled, by the same influence. All religious despotism commences by combination and influence; and when that influence begins to operate upon the political institutions of a country, the civil power soon bends under it; and the catastrophe of other nations furnishes an awful warning o fthe consequence.”

The next year, 1830, the petitioners again applied to Congress—this time to the House of Representatives—for the same Sunday legislation. Again Colonel Johnson replied to those who had assumed “a position better suited to an ecclesiastical than to a civil institution”:

” If a solemn act of legislation shall, in one point, define the law of God, or point out to the citizen one religious duty, it may, with equal propriety, proceed to define every part of divine revelation, and enforce every religious obligation, even to the forms and ceremonies of worship, the endowment of the church, and the support of the clergy.”

No other steps were taken to influence, and finally control, the government until in 1863, when an organization was formed at Zenia, Ohio, called the “Christian Council,” afterward reorganized at Philadelphia, Pa., in 1875, and changing its name to THE NATIONAL REFORM ASSOCIATION, having for its avowed purpose the amending of the National Constitution that “all Christian laws, institutions, and usages may be placed upon an undeniable legal basis in the fundamental law of the land.”This object is agreeable to another great religious organization of our land also—the American Sabbath Union. And there is still another, and later, and more powerful organization than all these; namely, the Federation of Churches, numbering thirty-six denominations and representing 19,000,000 communicants, whose expressed purpose is “to secure a larger combined influence for the churches of Christ in all matters affecting the moral and social conditions of the people, so as to promote the application of the law of Christ in every relation of human life.”

In every utterance at both its New York and Philadelphia councils, in the years 1905 and 1908, the Conference plainly evinces the purpose and design to influence and control the”lawmakers,”—the political bodies and the civil power,—that in the civic life there may be “the application of the law of Christ.” The purposes of all these means the conquest of the civic in the interest of the religious. All these great organizations will unite in the common cause of demanding, and securing, the power of the strong arm of the civil state to enforce religious dogmas and institutions upon the people. First of all these will be Sunday observance, the sure stepping-stone for religious legislation and an organic or inorganic union of church and state. Patrick Henry said: “We have no sufficient means of judging the future but by the past.” In the fourth century, great church federations tried the same plan: they, too, endeavored to establish the kingdom of Christ on the earth, and incorporate the moral law in the civil law of the land; but, instead of this, they ushered in the kingdom of tyranny and religious despotism.

If the church may presume to call upon the civil power to enforce a spiritual Sabbath day upon all alike, if it may coerce the state to select and fix upon a particular day of the week, and enforce its observance, it may also impel the state to select the faith to which all must subscribe, the mode of baptism by which all should be baptized, and, in fact, determine every detail of religious faith and practise. There is no escape from these conclusions; and what is more, every government that has taken the first step—that of Sabbath legislation—has, sooner or later, taken all other steps in religious legislation, and in punishing individuals for non-observance of religious duties has invariably reached the last of all penalties known to criminal law—the death penalty! Such, in brief, is the logic of Sabbath legislation. In recent developments in nearly all of the American states,—an almost universal demand upon the part of organized churches, ministerial alliances, and religious organizations for stricter legal Sabbath observance, or civil Sabbath laws, and severer penalties for an infringement of this religious law—we see the first steps of an ecclesiastical oligarchy of power. What will be the last? Will the Republic listen to the siren voice of the destroyer and, cutting loose from its ancient moorings, turn back to the hateful paths of despotism? Will it deny the sacred principles of religious liberty, whose first purchase-price was the blood of the minutemen of Lexington? Or, like a political rock of Gibraltar, stand fast upon the fundamental principles of its being, continuing in its “manifest des-tiny ” of the apostle-nation of political and religious freedom forever?

GREAT QUESTIONS OF THE HOUR
BY LULU WIGHTMAN
EVANGELIST AND ADVOCATE OF CIVIL AND RELIGIOUS LIBERTY
Price 25 Cents

http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015068642324;page=root;view=text;size=100;seq=1

www-news.uchicago.edu/releases/08/video/080514.ryerson.mov.

Prosecution for Sunday Labour, 1908

November 6, 2008

Union Conference Record, Australasian, November 23, 1908

MOST of our readers no doubt are aware of the fact that three of our school family received a summons for Sunday labour. It was with much interest that we all looked forward to the day appointed for the investigation, which was October 20.

Quite a large number of our people congregated on that day at the court house, which was hardly able to accommodate all present. The little township of Cambridge was quite stirred up over the matter, and manifested unusual interest in the court proceedings.

Brethren Stirling, James, Smith, and at the close Brother Cobb, were all called upon in turn to answer the accusation, and all spoke ably and to the point, their only wish being to present the truth upon the Sabbath question, and to give as much as possible of the principles of religious liberty, to those present. Brother Cobb spoke quite at length upon the latter topic, and was listened to patiently and courteously. The magistrate asked if we could not in the future while working on Sunday, do so in a less conspicuous place, so as not to break the law of the land, which says that no work must be done ” within sight of a public place.” This our brethren will endeavour to remember in the future, as the farm is large and certainly not all lying in sight of the public road.

We trust that this little occasion will bear fruit to the glory of God, and when severer trials come, as they most surely will, our first and only thought will be, as stated above, to give a “reason of the hope that is within us.”

—New Zealand Messenger.

Scarlet Fever and Meeting Bans, 1895

November 2, 2008



Published: January 14, 1895
Copyright © The New York Times

Fined the Pastor $5O.

OYSTER BAY, January 16.—The Rev. Charles S. Wightman, pastor of the Baptist Church, was fined $50 this afternoon for holding a prayer-meeting at his church last Friday and evening services last Sunday in defiance of an order of the Board of Health of this town. He was warned twice by the Board of Health not to hold services in his church while scarlet fever was epidemic in the town. He paid no
attention to the notification.

When he appeared before the Board of Health this afternoon the charge was read to him. Mr. Wightman replied by denying the authority of the Board to discipline him for holding religious services,
and said the Constitution of the United States protected him in the right of holding free services.

The Rev. J. J. Crowley, pastor of the Roman’Catholic-Church, who also held services last Sunday in spite of the order, has been summoned to appear before the Board at Hicksville, on Saturday afternoon, to answer to a similar charge. He pleads ignorance of the order of the Board.

—N. Y. Sun, Jan. 17, 1895.

http://www.adventistarchives.org/docs/AmSn/AmSn1895-V10-05/index.djvu?djvuopts&page=7

Macleans, Islam and Hate

October 12, 2008

Maclean’s wins third round of hate fight

Maclean’s wins third round of hate fight
Islamic Complaint

Joseph Brean, National Post
Published: Saturday, October 11, 2008

The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal ruled yesterday that a controversial article about Islam in Maclean’s magazine did not violate the province’s hate speech law, marking the third time this year the Canadian Islamic Congress has failed in its efforts to force the magazine to print a rebuttal.

The Decision

http://www.bchrt.bc.ca/decisions/2008/pdf/oct/378_Elmasry_and_Habib_v_Rogers_Publishing_and_MacQueen_(No_4)_2008_BCHRT_378.pdf

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The Macleans article can be found here:

The Future Belongs to Islam

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October 11, 2008

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