Calif. Supreme Court: Religious organizations can regulate religious speech
There was a very important decision at the California Supreme Court yesterday, but it doesn't fit into easy categories of religious freedom. It's good news for religious organizations, but it came because an evangelical was fired from a secularized Catholic medical center.
Terence Silo was a file clerk at the Catholic Healthcare West Medical Foundation when, in his words, "I gave my life to Christ. My heart was filled with the Holy Spirit, and my life was changed." Excited about his new relationship with God, he started telling coworkers and patients.
His employer wasn't pleased. The clinic, it turns out, is only nominally Catholic, though it is operated by the Roman Catholic Church. It eschews religious symbols, doesn't have any services or Bible studies, and doesn't even have a chaplain or chapel. And Silo's religious talk was forbidden. "He was counseled … that he should not use the word 'God … unless it's off the clock,'" court documents say.
Eventually Silo was fired. The clinic said it was over poor performance, not religion, but a Superior Court jury disagreed, awarding him damages and attorney fees. A California Court of Appeal upheld the judgment, noting that the state constitution forbids religious discrimination.
The California Supreme Court, however, unanimously overturned the verdict yesterday. "We can discern no fundamental public policy that places limits on a religious employer's right to control such speech," wrote Justice Carlos R. Moreno (PDF | DOC | HTML). "The public policy against religious discrimination in employment must be qualified by the public policy of permitting religious employers considerable discretion to choose employees who will not interfere with their religious mission or message."
"The impact of this is great for religious institutions," Jeffrey Berman told the Los Angeles Times (he filed amicus curiae briefs in the case for religious organizations). "It indicates that the California Supreme Court is sensitive to the issue of religious autonomy and to both the state and federal constitutional rights of religions to regulate themselves."
Let's hope that the next time a Christian organization invokes such rights, it does so to further, not hinder, the kingdom of God.
Do Christian colleges' faith statements violate academic freedom?
A Christian college is allowed to fire professors for disagreeing with its statement of faith (see previous item), but, reports The Chronicle of Higher Education, they don't do so without criticism.
"The ordeals of … professors at the more than 100 evangelical Protestant institutions in the United States that require such faith statements—orally or in writing—have spurred charges that they violate academic freedom," writes Beth McMurtrie. "Do they, in fact, defy the academic ideal of open intellectual inquiry? Are the statements—some of them generic—subject to such broad interpretation that they can be used to punish whatever teaching or lifestyle choices administrators may dislike?"
The occasion for the article is Patrick Henry College's denial of accreditation because it requires all teachers to believe and teach seven-day creationism. But McMurtrie's article touches on just about every major conflict over Christian college faith statements in the last five years. There's Wheaton College's dismissal of anthropology professor Alex Bolyanatz, Seattle Pacific University's rescinding an offer to English professor Scott Cairns, Earl Ross Genzel's forced resignation from Messiah College, and successful battles by Greg Boyd at Bethel College and Howard J. Van Till at Calvin. This is an article that goes beyond generalizations and actually names names.
On Thursday afternoon The Chronicle of Higher Education will host an online discussion with former Calvin president Anthony J. Diekema, author of Academic Freedom and Christian Scholarship. It may be a very lively debate. But with the publication of this article, Weblog is sure that the conversation and debate won't be starting then. (Weblog is interested in readers' responses to the article, especially from faculty and administrators at Christian colleges.)
Human cloning patented
The U.S. Patent Office has awarded a patent on a "method for producing a cloned mammal," including "human oocytes," the anti-cloning International Center for Technology Assessment revealed yesterday.
"It is horrendous that we would define all of human life as biological machines that can be cloned, manufactured and patented," ICTA executive director Andrew Kimbrell told The New York Times.
The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity agrees. "The possible patenting of human beings, no matter their age, size or stage of existence, would be a crushing blow to essential human rights and dignity," CBHD president John F. Kilner said in a press release. "What is slavery other than one person owning another? By giving a company ownership of human beings produced through a cloning process, this patent apparently gives government approval to a new form of slavery. … There must be a legislative ban on this kind of practice. Human beings are not property."
Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) agrees. He tells the Times that he'll introduce a bill prohibiting patents on human beings, including embryos. "I think the patent office will appreciate having that clarity, given the applications that are coming into the patent office," he said. Good luck, Senator. The Senate is having a hard enough time as it is deciding how much cloning it should ban.
Belgium becomes second country to legalize euthanasia
In other major bioethics news, Belgium's parliament voted 86-51 to allow assisted suicide. The Netherlands made a similar move in April. As expected, the country's Roman Catholic bishops condemned the action. "All this is directly opposed to the fundamental respect for human life that lies at the heart of a society based on human dignity," they said.
The country's doctors also criticized the bill. "Doctors know that this law is simply flawed and find it totally unacceptable that individuals who are not terminally ill will also be eligible for euthanasia," Marc Moens, vice chairman of the Belgian medical chamber ABSYM, tells Reuters. Three quarters of the nation's doctors opposed the law.
- Bankruptcy bill drawn into abortion issue | A major bankruptcy bill stuck in Congress for four years is hung up yet again, this time by a move aimed at stopping pro-life activists from avoiding fines by declaring themselves or their organizations bankrupt (Fox News)
- Appeals court says abortion activists created threat and can be held liable (Associated Press)
- Also: Abortion foes intimidated doctors, U.S. court rules (Reuters)
- Abortion issue stalls U.N. family planning funds | At the behest of House GOP leaders, lawmakers voted yesterday to delete language from an emergency spending bill that would have forced the Bush administration to provide international family planning funds to the United Nations. (The Washington Post)
- House panel in family planning fight | A foe of family planning aid to China wants a House committee to withdraw its support for overseas programs, in an election-year clash important to both parties. (Associated Press)
- Human clone's birth predicted | Delivery outside U.S. may come by 2003, researcher says (The Washington Post)
Politics and law:
- Islamic body to review Pak's Shari'ah laws | Women and human rights groups have been stepping up criticism (AFP)
- In Pakistan, rape victims are the 'criminals' | Although legal fine points do exist, little distinction is made in court between forced and consensual sex. (The New York Times)
- Witnesses say ex-Klansman boasted of church bombing | Several witnesses, including an ex-wife, testified that they heard Bobby Frank Cherry brag about setting off a bomb that killed four girls in Birmingham, Ala. In 1963 (The New York Times)
- Officials turn to Bible to solve 16-year-old murder | Woman murdered in 1986 (WEWS, Cleveland)
- Bush addresses Latino clergymen | First president to address the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast (Associated Press)
- Jesus Christ in Brazil's presidential election controversy | 'Jesus Christ—the best way forward' bumper sticker violated rule prohibiting stickers before July, says judge (Ananova)
- Taking off the abaya | Hours after a victory in her fight to free servicewomen in Saudi Arabia from wearing head-to-foot Muslim robes off base, Lt. Col. Martha McSally talks about her battles as a jet pilot and a woman. (Salon.com)
Church and state:
- Ten Commandments letter incites furor in Frederick | 1958 tablet's constitutionality questioned (The Washington Post)
- Also: Many locals want marker left alone | Many longtime Frederick residents are calling the controversy over a city park's stone monument etched with the Ten Commandments "silly," saying some interpretations of the Constitution have gone too far. (The Washington Times)
- Is anything the matter with our motto? | 'In God We Trust' inspires discussion (The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville)
- Moore rally brings foes | Undaunted by hecklers who screamed "bigots" and "evil" at them, supporters of Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore rallied Sunday on the Capitol steps and sang his praises. (Montgomery [Ala.] Advertiser)
- Also: Hundreds clash at state Capitol over Chief Justice Moore (Associated Press)
- Church political activity debated | New bill would preserve tax-exempt state (The News-Press, Ft. Myers, Fla.)
- States debate moment of silence | Although the U.S. Supreme Court has outlawed mandatory school prayer, at least a dozen states this year have considered whether their public schools should offer students a moment of silence each day. (Associated Press)
- The youngest victims of Ugandan rebels | Children abducted, forced to be soldiers, slaves (San Francisco Chronicle)
- Human cargo | Business is booming for traffickers trading in women and children (ABCNews.com)
Holy Land conflict:
- Worrying over Israel's new best friends | Evangelicals now have big-time clout in D.C. Could their support hurt chances for peace? (The Jewish Week)
- Bad move | Christian conservatives don't merely misunderstand the moral tradition of Zionism; they disfigure it beyond recognition (Peter Beinart, The New Republic)
- 'What in God's name am I doing here? | Christian Arabs in the Bethlehem area are getting back to normal life - which includes plans to emigrate (The Jerusalem Post)
Church abuse scandal:
- Poll: Opinion of church leaders drops | Most believe that Cardinal Bernard Law, Archbishop of Boston, should step down from office (CBS News)
- Accused priest hangs self | Conn. cleric was in treatment unit (The Boston Globe)
- Teenager testifies minister sexually molested him | Pastor of Greater Anointed Tabernacle Worship Center in Lithonia, Georgia, on trial (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
- Bishop speaks of cloud over the church | It's not just about the abuse scandal, says Church of Ireland's Bishop of Cork (The Irish Times)
- The troubled church's birthday | Pentecost reminds us that the church will survive its current woes (UPI)
- The house of disillusion | Even though it is nowhere alleged that disclosures of sinful activity by priests impugn the integrity of the entire ministry, that nevertheless is the passing legacy of the current scandals. (William F. Buckley, National Review Online)
Sex & marriage:
- House group seeks to define marriage in Constitution | Constitutional amendment defines marriage as "the union between a man and a woman" and prevents courts from changing it. (The Washington Times)
- Lotz's views on gays meet dissent | Not everyone is welcoming Anne Graham Lotz to Charlotte (The Charlotte Observer)
- God only knows | What makes lesbians fight to stay in a church that condemns homosexuality? And should that church remain resolute, or bend to the latest trends? (Houston Press)
- Contraception lesson 'good for pupils' | Giving school pupils a single lesson in emergency contraception could reduce the rate of teenage pregnancy, says report (BBC)
- Abstinence or obstinacy? | Congress's abstinence-only measure is so illogical that just to contemplate it raises the sound fear that you will lose your mind (Richard Cohen, The Washington Post)
School expels stripper's daughter:
- Christian school expels nude dancer's daughter | Christina Silvas says one of the reasons she's dancing is to afford the school's tuition (The Sacramento [Calif.] Bee)
- Church school expells stripper's daughter | Dancer is former Sunday school teacher (KCRA)
- Controversy swirls around expelled stripper's daughter | Law professor: Law sides with the church (KCRA, Sacramento, Calif.)
Missions and ministry:
- Reaching out to AIDS patients | Christian ministry helps victims (The Quad-Cities Times)
- Vacation Bible Schools are mixing adventure, fun and faith | Kids who might not regularly attend church learn more about Christianity through a fun summer activity (The State, Columbia, SC)
- Baylor researchers to study role of churches, faith-based groups in helping impoverished (Waco [Tex.] Tribune-Herald)
- After tragedy, faith remains | Instead of reaching out to the indigenous people of Peru, Jim Bowers is reaching out to complacent Christians. (The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.)
- Becoming a minister in 3 minutes | Just because someone is ordained doesn't mean they're qualified (WDIV, Detroit)
- Religion finds technology | From digital sound systems to PowerPoint sermon outlines to multiple remote cameras that send out streaming Webcasts, technology has found religion — or maybe it's the other way around. (The New York Times)
- Church collection plates accept debit/credit cards | Churches are offering debit machines in church halls and donation envelopes with options for automatic account withdrawal and credit card payment (Vancouver Sun)
- Megachurches go with the times | Houston's churches continue to expand (KPRC)
- Our changing faith | The Pentecostal and Churches of Christ are drawing members away from more established churches, according to a national survey (News.com.au, Australia)
- Biblical scholars to bring atypical ideas to forums | Ethics, values subjects of this weekend's talks (Detroit Free Press)
Pope John Paul II:
- Aides say Pope would resign if unfit to work | Two cardinals close to Pope John Paul II have said they believe that he would step down if he were no longer able to function in the job. (The New York Times)
- Also: Pope 'may quit' if health worsens (BBC)
- Also: Pope's litany of health problems (BBC)
- Also: Pope, almost 82, brushes off talk of retirement (Reuters)
- Ailing Pope John Paul II to turn 82 (Associated Press)
- Bush to meet Pope on European trip | The meeting is likely to take place May 28 while Bush is in Rome to attend a summit between NATO and Russia (Associated Press)
Other stories of interest:
- We pray just fine without government help | The National Day of Prayer has become political pandering and religious opportunism, as if it was ever anything else (David Waters, Abilene Reporter-News)
- Carter shares faith at church in Cuba | Ex-president also sees clergy (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
- Why is 'morality' a dirty word? | Who would be so silly, by today's standards, to assert that not only does truth exist, that it is knowable, and that we've long known it? (Dennis Byrne, Chicago Tribune)
- Vatican denies role in fraud scheme | No involvement in $200 million-plus insurance fraud scheme run by jailed financier Martin Frankel (Associated Press)
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