California lawmakers are considering a bill that critics charge would “strangle voices of conscience” in violation of the First Amendment’s religious rights in an effort to protect abortion.
Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute Center for Public Policy, points out the bill would force religious groups, including churches, to hire employees who reject their mission and violate their standards for conduct.
The bill, AB 569, is sponsored by Assembly member Lorena Gonzales-Fletcher, a Democrat. It would require a pro-life ministry, for example, to allow a worker to openly advocate for abortion.
“This latest attempt by our legislature to strangle voices of conscience is unjust and unconstitutional,” Dacus said. “There is no true religious freedom without the freedom to put faith into practice, both as an individual and as a religious community.”
In the bill, PJI said Gonzales-Fletcher “claims that reproductive choices – such as abortion – should be no concern of religious employers.”
“The sweeping legislation would therefore require employers – with no listed exceptions – to drop all expectations that employees respect the sanctity of life in their own lives. Thus, a Christian school that teaches life begins at conception or a pro-life advocacy organization would be expected under the new rules to ignore employee conduct that contradicts those stated beliefs.”
In a letter delivered to members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, which will discuss AB 569 on April 25, Dacus’ organization warns the bill poses “significant First Amendment intrusions.”
“The author has stated, and the analysis of the Labor and Employment Committee confirmed, that the primary motivation of the bill is restriction of the ability of religious employers, including institutions such as colleges and schools, to require doctrinal and conduct commitment from those who represent the institutions.
“Such an attempt clearly breaches the wall of separation between church and state. It also implicates viewpoint discrimination, compelled speech, and freedom of association,” PJI charged.
PJI’s analysis noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has cited since Reconstruction the “challenges … when a state or local government restricts a church’s ability to carry out its religious mission.”
In the Hosanna-Tabor case five years ago, the court called for religious groups to have “power to decide for themselves, free from state interference, matters of … faith and doctrine.”
Even the far-left U.S. Supreme Associate Justice Elena Kagan, nominated by Barack Obama, defended “a religious body’s right to self-governance.”
“When it comes to the expression and inculcation of religious doctrine, there can be no doubt that the messenger matters,” she wrote. “Religious teachings cover the gamut from moral conduct to metaphysical truth, and both the content and credibility of a religion’s message depend vitally on the character and conduct of its teachers. A religion cannot depend on someone to be an effective advocate for its religious vision if that person’s conduct fails to live up to the religious precepts that he or she espouses.
“For this reason, a religious body’s right to self-governance must include the ability to select, and to be selective about, those who will serve as the very ’embodiment of its message’ and ‘its voice to the faithful.'”
Dacus’ letter argued the concept in the new California proposal, “that conduct should be of no concern to religious employers” was “soundly rejected” by the Supreme Court.
Even a California court admitted the same limits, he noted, in the case of a unmarried woman who sued after being dismissed from her teaching position at a Christian school because she was living with the father of her child.
The state court said: “What the church could not allow was to have [the teacher] its face and representative to the students and parents of the students who attended its school, to continue living in what it considered a sinful manner. … Her employment was terminated based upon a matter of religion.”
Dacus’ letter pointed out there’s a “multitude” of Christian and Jewish organizations in California that “serve youth, the sick, elderly and physically challenged.”
“But for their faith, these institutions would not exist. Caring for the weakest members of society has been the calling of Christians for 2,000 years and Jewish believers for more than 3,000 years. … If the conduct and faith of the leadership and employees is inconsistent with the tenets of the institution, then the facility is no longer religious in any meaningful sense.”
It also would, he noted, allow abortion activists to “demand to be hired – or not be fired when their disloyalty is discovered” by pro-life organizations and ministries.
PJI itself would be affected by the proposal.
“This is not the first time government has tried to control civil rights and other advocacy groups, and it is an ugly history. … Neither we nor our allies will be hiring or retaining employees whose life choices contradict our core values. Only a tyrannical state would try to force us to do so.”
The bill, Dacus noted, “lays the groundwork for the state to tell religious institutions what they can require of employees on any number of topics, particularly in the realm of sexual ethics. In a larger sense, the state is trying to confine religious belief to sitting in chapel – not living out faith in real life.”
That’s exactly the agenda that Obama pursued for much of his tenure in the Oval Office. He repeatedly described the First Amendment protection as “freedom of worship” instead of the correct “freedom of religion.”
It was early in Obama’s tenure that Catholic Online and other media outlets reported what appeared to be a deliberate misdirection regarding what the Constitution requires.
Catholic Online noted that in President Obama’s June 2009 speech in Cairo, Egypt, he spoke of a Muslim America and the nation’s “freedom of religion.” But by the November 2009 memorial for the Fort Hood soldiers gunned down by a homicidal Muslim, he was terming it “freedom of worship.”
From that point, “freedom of worship” appeared to be the term of choice, the report said.
Sarah Torre of the Heritage Foundation said the difference is significant. In practice, the “freedom to worship” seldom has been challenged or even questioned. But “freedom of religion” is under direct fire.
Just ask the New York landowners who were fined by the state for following their Christian faith regarding sponsorship of same-sex ceremonies, or the Oregon bakery owners fined $135,000 for the same thing, or the Colorado baker who is fighting for his economic future against state officials suggesting that he go out of business because his faith forbids supporting same-sex marriage.
Then there was the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, established in 1869, which houses one of the world’s 20 largest pipe organs. It’s been the site of traditional and contemporary worship programs featuring speakers such as Billy Graham, Billy Sunday, D. James Kennedy and Charles Stanley.
But it’s no longer is used for weddings, because a lesbian duo was denied permission to use it, and a state discrimination complaint was filed.
The Hitching Post Wedding Chapel is facing demands from the city of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, to perform “same-sex weddings” in violation of the owners’ Christian faith.
In Washington state, a state judge said the home, assets and savings of Arlene’s Flowers owner Barronelle Stutzman, 70, could be targeted in court by two homosexuals for whom she declined to provide wedding services.
Early in Obama’s administration, Catholic Online noted that Ashley Samelson of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty explained that to “anyone who closely follows prominent discussion of religious freedom in the diplomatic and political arena, this linguistic shift is troubling: The reason is simple. Any person of faith knows that religious exercise is about a lot more than freedom of worship.
“It’s about the right to dress according to one’s religious dictates, to preach openly, to evangelize, to engage in the public square. Everyone knows that religious Jews keep kosher, religious Quakers don’t go to war, and religious Muslim women wear headscarves – yet ‘freedom of worship’ would protect none of these acts of faith.”
Catholic Online said: “Let’s be clear … language matters when it comes to defining freedoms and limits. A shift from freedom of religion to freedom of worship moves the dialog from the world stage into the physical confines of a church, temple, synagogue or mosque. … It … could exclude our right to raise our children in our faith, the right to religious education, literature or media, the right to raise funds or organize charitable activities and the right to express religious beliefs in the normal discourse of life.”
Cuba has ‘freedom of worship’
Rafael Cruz, the father of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, also has raised alarms about the issue.
The author of “A Time for Action: Empowering the Faithful to Reclaim America,” he warns that a change to “freedom of worship” would be devastating for America if the policy and practice follow the words.
“Most Christians don’t realize the danger of freedom of worship,” Rafael Cruz said in an interview on “Hagee Hotline” with pastor Matthew Hagee. “Freedom of worship is not the same as freedom of religion. Every Communist country around the world has freedom of worship. What freedom of worship means is you can worship inside a house of worship.”
Cruz explained that even in his native Cuba a person can share the Gospel inside a church. There may be spies present to ensure no one speaks out against the government, but congregants nevertheless have the freedom to go to church and worship their God.
However, anyone who tries to spread the gospel outside the church building goes to prison.
“So freedom of worship is to try to keep our message of the gospel just locked up inside the four walls of the church and remove any message of Christianity from the civic society,” Cruz said. “That will destroy the moral fiber of America, and that’s what’s happening in America today.”
WND has published a Big List of many more violations of Americans’ religious liberties because of beliefs about same-sex marriage.
WND reported in 2015 a ruling from U.S. District Judge David Bunning appeared to advance Obama’s move to replace “freedom of religion” with “freedom of worship.”
He ordered Rowan, Kentucky, County Clerk Kim Davis to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in violation of her deeply held religious beliefs, protected by the First Amendment. He noted she was able to attend the church of her choice and believe what she wanted, but she could not practice her religion in her job.
He then sent her to jail.