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If Roman Catholic hospitals do not want to dispense contraceptives, they have that right. But they will have to endure the realities of the market place that will make it difficult for them to hire physicians, nurses, radiation techs, housekeepers, building maintenance personnel, and clerks who think it is perfectly legitimate to be hired with health coverage that includes contraception. Nobody is making war on them, but the vagaries of the market might force them to be cognizant of alternative points of view.
Meanwhile, those whose religious views are at the margins of society have their rights under the Constitution. Their religious freedom is what is at risk. We should be paying more attention to that. The American state and the various organizations of secular culture are perfectly content to allow people of faith to read their sacred texts, sing their hymns, burn their incense, wear funny clothes, and engage in other amusing cultic practices in the privacy of their own sanctuaries. Converts to Christianity or Judaism do not face beheading, as they do in Saudi Arabia and Iran, nor do believers face discrimination and legal interference with their worship, as in China, Cuba, or the old Soviet Union.
Thus, the straw-man version of the bishops' claim is easily dismissed. But for most people and institutions of faith, "religious freedom" goes beyond simply the right to attend worship services in designated sanctuaries. It includes the ability to live a life of faith in the world, to act socially, economically, politically, etc.
The Church's activities cannot be segregated into the "religious" and the "non-religious. Everything the Church does -- its schools, its hospitals, its countless social service programs -- grows out of its calling and mission of faith. For the state to make violation of the faith's teachings a requirement of engaging in these ministries is to fundamentally misconstrue, willfully or otherwise, what "religious freedom" is all about.
The discussion of this standoff over religious freedom between the bishops and the Obama administration has been rife with mischaracterizations and red herrings in many media outlets that seem calculated to trivialize the Church's concerns.
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First, the vaunted "compromise" offered by the administration where insurers supposedly pay for the costs of contraception is really no accommodation at all. I suspect that very few Catholic employers' consciences would be genuinely assuaged by this. More significantly, it does nothing at all for the large number of Catholic ministries that are self-insured, or for the faithful Catholic business owners in the private sector. So to suggest that this issue would simply go away if the bishops would only accept the administration's "reasonable" compromise is disingenuous.
In addition, it should be clear here that this is not a debate about birth control. No one is advocating that contraception be made illegal. Regardless of the outcome of this dispute, it will remain as it is now -- relatively cheap and abundantly available. Indeed, under the status quo, where no coverage mandate exists, my sense is that many employees of Catholic institutions somehow manage to obtain contraceptives. The only issue is whether those who have deep moral objections to them should nonetheless be forced by the government to pay for them. This is why the oft-cited fact that many Catholic women use birth control is irrelevant to this discussion.
I know many Jews who eat shellfish, but this has nothing to do with the right of Yeshiva University to run a strictly kosher cafeteria. Even my Baptist friends who imbibe would balk at a government requirement that Baylor support a bar on campus. These examples may seem far-fetched, but they involve the same principle: To call such a prospect anything other than a threat to religious freedom is to willfully ignore an inconvenient truth: Throughout our history, America has often restricted religious freedom. For example, in colonial America, only Rhode Island permitted Catholics to hold office; only three of the original 13 colonies permitted Catholics to vote.
In , Baptists in Massachusetts who refused to pay taxes for the support of their town's Congregational minister were jailed. Today, the Native American Church is allowed by law to use peyote in its religious ceremonies, but other religious groups are barred from such practice. The courts have held that adults who embrace religions such as Jehovah's Witnesses or Christian Science may refuse medical treatment on religious grounds. However, if they withhold such treatment from their children, they can face legal consequences. Is religious liberty under increasing attack today?
Your answer depends on your definition of "attack" and the religious liberty under such perceived threat. According to many Catholic leaders, a government requirement that their institutions provide contraceptive services for employees violates their religious freedom. If such services are not provided, however, employees whose religious beliefs permit or even encouragecontraception could feel that they are the victims of religious discrimination. I believe Vanderbilt is wrong to allow fraternities and sororities to choose their members and leaders while forbidding registered religious groups to do the same.
But I don't believe their decision is part of a growing trend, any more than anti-Mormon bias against Mitt Romney is a new phenomenon. We have often restricted the rights of a religious minority for the sake of the perceived common good, and still do so today. Brown Professor of Theology, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary I do think religious freedom is increasingly under attack, these days.
One of the reasons is because religious rhetoric is running so thick in the politics of our times that our culture is screaming "enough, already! Another reason why religious freedom is under attack is because it often competes with another important value: Protecting the religious freedom for some often means making certain kinds of restrictions on others. I do have some sympathy for the difficulty lawmakers and administrators have formulating policies that both respect particular religious identities and, at the same time, promote inclusivity.
In the interest of providing health care for a diverse community of people - e. For the Roman Catholic Church to pay for birth control is for the Roman Catholic Church to fund abortion, from their point of view. While I myself disagree with the Roman Catholic prohibition of birth control, I also understand the law that requires the church to pay for employees' birth control to violate the church's religious freedom.
If the church believes to eliminate a fertilized egg from a uterus is to murder a human being, it is wrong to ask them to pay for birth control pills that regularly eliminate fertilized eggs from uteruses. Ostensibly in the interest of trying to be more open to a broader range of diverse students, Vanderbilt University is buckling down on student organizations that allow, as leaders, only those who hold certain beliefs and who engage in specific practices.
One Christian organization is being told they can no longer require those who run for leadership offices to for example pray and lead Bible studies. Theoretically, this would mean that an atheist could become the president of a Christian organization at Vandy. As is being correctly pointed out by those opposed to the policy change, if an atheist were to become president of a "Campus Crusade for Christ" chapter, that group would have a tough time maintaining its identity as Christian.
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From what I have read, I think the situation at Vanderbilt is an even clearer compromise to religious freedom than the Roman Catholic birth control example. In the birth control scenario, compelling reasons for compromising on Roman Catholic principles can be offered e.
In the Vanderbilt case, however, no competing good is in evidence. As far as I know, there are no actual atheists who aspire to be presidents of Christian organizations at Vandy, and who want to do the job without praying or leading Bible studies. The health care rule includes people who would be left out without it; the Vanderbilt rule aspires to include people who are actually imaginary at the expense of a host of very faithful and real people.
The very worst incidences of attacking religious freedom, these days, seem to be taking place intra-religiously. Members of Protestant denominations argue to withdraw the freedoms of fellow members who disagree with them on the matter of homosexual ordination. Roman Catholic priests wield their patriarchal power to rob their sister nuns of their freedom to believe, teach, and serve the poor in ways consistent with the nuns' own discernment of God's will and way. May we who call ourselves "religious" be the first to defend the religious liberties of others, particularly those who are our siblings even if "sibling rivals"!
Now we see attempts at the shoring up of the division of church and state and the tide has turned claiming the president is getting in religion's business. If I look around my faith community and the city of Dallas, I see little to support the claim that religious freedoms are under attack. Farming and cattle raising were the most important of the initial trades, for they fed the community.
Several missions might be located in a general area, and nearby would be established a presidio, or fort, for protection. The Spanish authorities believed that the Indians would be converted, trained, and ready to become productive Spanish citizens within a decade. The missions then would be secularized into churches to be supported by the new converts, and the missionaries would move forward on the frontier to their next challenge.
The first missionary attempts occurred around led by Fray Juan de Salas. These brief excursions were said to have been in response to a request by Jumano Indians in West Texas for religious instruction. She is said to have appeared to Indians in present-day Texas and New Mexico through bilocation, although never physically leaving Spain. A generation later, missions were established in , as a result of a revolt by Pueblo Indians against the Spanish in the upper Rio Grande valley.
Both missions sheltered tribes that had accompanied the settlers in flight from the revolt in the Santa Fe area up river. In , missions were founded around Presidio, and an attempt near present-day San Angelo resulted in the establishment of San Clemente Mission, which lasted only months. See related article, "La Belle and Fort St. The natives were not receptive to the friars' efforts, and by early , both missions were abandoned. In , the mission San Antonio de Valero, now commonly known as the Alamo, was moved to its present site from Guerrero, on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande.
It was followed by the founding of four other missions in the San Antonio area: Because of the nomadic lifestyle of most Texas Indians, missionaries had to offer them food and protection from enemies — Apaches and Comanches moving southward — in exchange for agreeing to enter the missions. Progress was slow, and often tribes would take advantage of the missionaries' generosity and stay only long enough to get food or clothing.
It was moved to the site of present-day Refugio in Spain attempted to secularize the missions — to convert them into regular churches supported by their congregations — beginning in the late 18th century. These efforts were generally unsuccessful. Through the later Spanish colonial period and the early Mexican era, the missions and churches were in a state of decline.
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Morale and discipline among the priests were low. Was the mission system a failure or a success? Certainly many of the missions were not successful. But six former missions established in the state during the colonial period are still active churches.
Since Roman Catholicism was the state religion for Spain and its colonies, Spain stipulated Catholicism as the state religion when Texas was opened to Anglo-American immigration in All newcomers were required to embrace it, and other religions were prohibited. Religious-civil rites, such as marriage, were not recognized by the government unless performed by priests.
From the beginning, Spanish authorities were hard-pressed to enforce the ban. There were simply too few priests available to service the tide of Anglo settlers that came to the province and few priests spoke English. Also, administrations in Spain were in disarray following the Napoleonic upheavals in Europe. What developed was not religious persecution, but an apathy toward religion altogether. Austin in and petitioned Mexican authorities without success to send English-speaking priests the Texas colonies.
When the Mexican war for independence from Spain began in , immigration of Spanish priests stopped. Seminaries in Mexico closed during the turbulence, some of which was aimed at the church. Priests for Texas simply were not available. A major problem arose over marriage. Many couples wanted to wed, but could not for a lack of priests. To alleviate the problem, Austin was given authority to register marriage contracts. Under these, couples could marry in a civil ceremony and promise, under contract, to have the union blessed when Catholic clergy were available.
Father Michael Muldoon served the Austin colony in and Despite these problems, Austin continued to enforce the prohibition against other religions, expressing particular concern about the "Methodist excitement" that reached San Felipe. Austin feared that efforts to liberalize the religious ban could be crippled if outsiders antagonized Mexican authorities. The state of religion during this period, therefore, was not healthy. Church members who had immigrated to Texas complained of a lack of respect for the Sabbath, when Texans paid more attention to recreation than to church-related activities.
The Awakening or Revival movement in American religion was a century old as Texas moved toward independence. Religious freedom had given people a broader choice of beliefs or non-belief. In the s in America and England came a new response to the challenge of attracting new members. It was one thing to inspire Christians, but quite another to convert non-believers for the first time. American Protestants had a large field of potential converts to work with, including those who had not previously practiced religion, the young and those from other religions.
A new emphasis on the emotions evolved in preaching, and mass meetings inspired crowd response and vibrant singing.
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The First Awakening began in the s and died down during the period of the American Revolution and early years of nationhood. At the turn of the 19th century, the Second Awakening was kindled, as a new generation saw in revivals and camp meetings fresh approaches to attract new Christians. Methodists, Presbyterians and Baptists were the most active denominations. Prior to Texas' independence, only isolated individual preachers came from the United States to the Mexican province. With the advent of the Second Great Awakening early in the 19th century, evangelical churches and preachers were in the forefront of the westward movement.
Their goal was to see that the gospel was carried with the Anglo-American advance across the continent. Texas was in the path of the movement. Protestantism made its first inroads into Texas between and In extreme Northeast Texas, which was considered to be part of Arkansas at the time, circuit-riding Methodist preachers made trips into the region. In , Methodist William Stevenson began preaching in private residences.
Soon thereafter a small Methodist church, the first Protestant church in Texas, was organized at Jonesborough in present-day Red River County. In , Joseph Bays, a Baptist preacher, camped on the American side of the Sabine River with other colonists who answered Moses Austin's call for settlers.
Bays ventured into Spanish territory to preach at a private residence until ordered to stop by authorities. Three years later, Bays was arrested at San Felipe for preaching, but he escaped while being transported to San Antonio for trial. Sumner Bacon, an unofficial Cumberland Presbyterian missionary, arrived in Texas in Bacon preached where he could find worshipers, fought alongside Sam Houston in the revolution, and, in , became an official agent of the American Bible Society.
The Cumberland branch of the Presbyterian church was organized in , developing out of a schism during the evangelical revival that opened the century. A Cumberland church was organized in Red River County as early as Daniel Parker, another Baptist preacher, brought the first of the denomination's churches to Texas. After a visit to the Mexican province, Parker returned to Caldwell, Ill. Reasoning that the ban on churches applied only to organizing churches among Texas residents and not to organized churches that moved into the territory, he organized the Pilgrim Church of Predestination Baptists with seven members.
On July 26, , the small congregation, which grew by 11 on the trip, began its journey to Texas. The congregation held its first conference in Austin Colony in January Historians have traced at least nine churches in East Texas that grew from efforts of his Pilgrim church in Anderson County.