The Americas

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Religious Freedom versus Responsibilities

In response to the ongoing series of preventable deaths in the Follower of Christ Church sect, the Oregon House on March 10, 2011 approved a bill that would remove legal protection for parents who choose faith healing over medical intervention when treating their children.

House Bill 2721″Eliminates reliance on spiritual treatment as defense to certain crimes in which victim is under 18 years of age.”

Some question whether such a law limits religious freedom — suggesting that any such limits are unconstitutional (from an American point of view).

Tom Krattenmaker, and Oregon-based writer, commented:

What the case demonstrates, in ultrabold print, is that no conversation about religious rights is complete without equal attention to responsibilities — responsibilities to the community that all religious practitioners bear, and that the Oregon City church has failed miserably to uphold.[…]

Religious freedom is not the only right at stake in the crowded public square. And a religion cannot reasonably expect the public and the law to respect its idiosyncratic ways when it fails to live up to the community’s well-considered standards — such as the idea that children should receive basic medical care when their lives are at stake.

Responsibility is essentially what the Oregon Legislature is imposing on the Followers of Christ. Whereas the Followers had previously enjoyed protection from manslaughter prosecution in cases where children died for lack of medical care, the new law means parents can no longer invoke religious freedom in their defense. An earnest attempt to heal children spiritually — however sincere the belief it will work — will no longer be enough in the eyes of the law. (The legislation stops short, as it should, from forbidding adult Followers themselves from relying solely on faith healing.)

Couldn’t this be seen as an assault on the Followers’ constitutionally protected freedom of religion? A cursory glance might suggest “yes,” but a more complex view of the situation, and of long-standing Supreme Court jurisprudence, leads to this realization: While freedom of religious belief is absolute, the acting out of said freedom is not — and, in truth, cannot be if a pluralistic society is going to avoid chaos.

The legal distinction between religious belief and action dates to the Mormon polygamy cases of the 19th century, explains Steven Green, a law professor and director of Willamette University’s Center for Religion, Law and Democracy. If you’ve taken a religious history class, you might know the story: The continued practice of polygamy — then held by Mormons as crucial to their eternal salvation — stood at the center of a fierce conflict between the Mormon church and U.S. government in the latter decades of the 1800s, effectively blocking Utah from statehood and forcing prominent Mormons into hiding or prison. Via the Great Accommodation of 1890, the church surrendered polygamy, paving the way to Utah statehood and the broader acceptance of Mormonism into the mainstream of American life.

In an 1878 decision on the Mormons and polygamy, the Supreme Court held— much like Oregon’s Legislature today — that religious freedom could not justify (otherwise) criminal activity. If it could, the court reasoned, what would stop a church from practicing human sacrifice? […]

The freedom to believe as one chooses is crucial to the American way, and belief has little meaning if it cannot be acted upon. Even so, as the Followers of Christ are learning the hard way, the right to practice religion must have its limits. Especially when the consequences are life or death for those with no choice in the matter.
– Source: Tom Krattenmaker, Even religious freedom has limits, USA Today, March 27, 2011

View of the ReligionNewsBlog

Theologically, the Followers of Christ church is a cult of Christianity. Its extreme stance on faith healing is unbiblical, and places the church outside the boundaries of the Christian faith. Sociologically the church should also be considered a destructive cult, as its practices are harmful to its followers and/or their dependents. http://www.religionnewsblog.com/23511/ava-worthington-faith-healing-trial

Turmoil: Opportunities for Evangelism

An international Bible ministry, with many volunteers and staff based in regions undergoing political unrest and religious tensions, is encouraging the Christian community to see this time as pivotal for the growth of Christianity in these areas.

Bible League International®, www.bibleleague.org , citing recent developments in Tunisia, Egyptand Sudan, among others, says the time is ripe to act now to get the Gospel into these countries, which historically have not been pro-Christian nations.

“The changes occurring in the Middle East and North Africa at this time are giving the Christian Church an opportunity that it has not had in some time,” said a Bible League representative in the Middle East.

Bible League International (BLI) is a non-profit evangelical Christian ministry currently working in more than 55 countries, dedicated to making disciples and training Bible study leaders and church planters. It focuses on discipleship, partnering with local churches worldwide, training and equipping Christians to use the Bible to make disciples and establish new churches.

Since its founding in 1938, Bible League has placed millions of Bibles in the hands of people in more than 80 countries.http://www.evangelicalnews.org/indiv_pr.php?action=display&pr_id=18865

U. S. Leaders Seek Vision for Evangelism

About 700 gathered in Orgalnd, Fla. to seek God’s vision for evangelism in the next decade. Fueled by the momentum of Cape Town 2010, the Lausanne Movement gathering of 4,000 leaders from 198 countries last FAll, the U. s. Lausanne Committee/Mission American Coation (MAC) has convened hundered of U. S. leaders and some from other countries. Twenty eight separate “affinity consultation” groups are discussing the issues the Church faces in carrying out the Great Commission and will submit practical next steps following the Consultation.http://www.evangelicalnews.org/indiv_pr.php?action=display&pr_id=19157

Christian Evangelicals will have a Major say in next Washington Republican Presidential Nominee

Three possible Republican presidential candidates courted evangelicals with support for the cause of The Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators. The organization aims to curb government interference as parents opt to teach their children at home. http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2011/03/23/trio-of-presidential-contenders-woo-evangelicals-over-home-schooling/?iref=allsearch

Former Pastor Appointed as Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom

President Obama has appointed Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook as the ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. Dr. Cook is the founder and president of WisdomWorldwideCenter, and has served as the Senior Pastor of BronxChristianFellowshipBaptistChurchin New York Citysince 1996. On April 6, 2010the Becket Fund, along with a group of scholars, policy thinkers, and activists sent a letter to the Obama administration recommending that the position be filled immediately and urging the President to emphasis religious freedom in his foreign policy. http://becketinternational.wordpress.com/2010/06/23/further-reading-president-obama-appoints-ambassador-at-large/for-international-religious-freedom/

Koran Burning in the USA

Evangelical pastor Wayne Sapp under the supervision of controversial preacher Terry Jones Sunday burnt a copy of the Koran in a Floridachurch.

Buddhist Temple Target of More Vandalism

For the second time this month, a Buddhist temple in Davenporthas been targeted by vandals. This time, someone threw eggs at the KimCangTemple, where a 12-foot marble statue of Lord Buddha was attacked July 4. The hands on the religious symbol, which are four inches in diameter, were broken off the statue.

Jesuits Pay Record $166.1 million in Child Abuse Case

The Society of Jesus’ Pacific Northwest unit and its insurers have agreed to pay a record $166.1 million to about 470 people who were sexually and psychologically abused as children by Jesuit priests from the 1940s to the 1990s, the victims’ attorneys said Friday.

The $166.1 million is the largest settlement by a religious order in the history of the world,” Tamaki said. “Over 450 Native American children – infants, toddlers to teenagers – were sexually abused repeatedly, from rape to sodomy, for decades throughout the Northwest. Instead of teaching these children how to read and write, Jesuit priests were teaching them distrust and shame.http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/03/25/jesuits-pay-record-166-1-million-in-child-abuse-case/?npt=NP1

U. S. Investigating at Least 5 Anti-Muslim Acts

The incidents include fires, a stabbing, and graffiti http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39047401/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts

Wrongful Death Claim Filed against Philadelphia Archdiocese

A new wrongful death claim against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and Archbishop Cardinal Justin Rigali was filed Wednesday on behalf of the family of Daniel Neill, a 36-year-old former St. Mark Parish altar boy who committed suicide in 2009 after reporting he had been sexually abused by a priest.

Neill’s suicide and allegations of sexual abuse were included in a recent Philadelphiagrand jury report released in February. http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/04/07/wrongful-death-claim-filed-against-philadelphia-archdiocese/?iref=allsearch

Residents Again Show Up in Opposition to JohnsonCo. BuddhistTemple

JohnsonCountyresidents gathered for the fourth time to debate whether a Buddhist temple should be allowed to move from central Olatheto a more rural are of the County.

The debate over the proposed LaoBuddhistTemplehas been in the works since November. The board has already rejected the plan for the temples, but the Johnson County Board of Commissioners has sent the plan back to the zoning board for more discussion.

The lawyer for the temple has suggested the Buddhist part of the church plan seems to be the biggest problem, with no other church plan in the county facing similar opposition.

http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=63,10011,0,0,1,0

2 More Retired Philadelphia Priests Placed on Leave in Abuse Probe

Two more priests have been placed on administrative leave by the Philadelphia Archdiocese as part of an ongoing investigation into the sexual abuse of children by clergy. Cardinal Justin Rigali, the archbishop of Philadelphia, announced that the two… http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/03/31/2-more-retired-philadelphia-priests-placed-on-leave-in-abuse-probe/