My colleagues at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) won a major victory for religious liberty at the Supreme Court yesterday. The Court ruled in Trinity Lutheran that the state cannot exclude churches and other faith-based organizations from a government program simply because of their religious identity. Trinity Lutheran had applied to a state program in Missouri, along with dozens of other organizations, for recycled tires to resurface its playground. The state denied its application solely because it is an religious institution. The Court stated in its 7-2 opinion that, ““[T]he exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution…, and cannot stand.”
ADF, which represented the church, welcomed this victory saying, “We didn’t ask for special treatment. We asked for equal treatment for people of faith. And the court agreed that the government cannot discriminate against people of faith by treating them unequally.”
A legacy of anti-Catholic bigotry…
Part of the reason that Missouri discriminated against the church was because of its century-old “Blaine Amendment.” Blaine Amendments were xenophobic, anti-Catholic bills passed in 38 states over 100 years ago in order to prevent state money for being used in the parochial schools that many Catholic immigrants established for their children. These laws continue to haunt us now, even in Massachusetts where two-fifths of Bay Staters are Catholic, and severely limit the options for school choice. As the public schools become an increasingly hostile environment for our children, creating more educational choices for parents is essential. I am grateful for the work of ADF making a difference at the national level. If you remember, it was ADF that helped us win a strategic victory right here in the Commonwealth last fall when four churches sued Attorney General Maura Healey over the transgender bathroom bill.
No Christians need apply…
This ruling also comes as a welcome reminder that faith and government are not supposed to be mutually exclusive. For example, many of you by now have probably watched Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders nearly come unhinged in his combative questioning of a Trump appointee’s faith. Russell Vought, recently nominated to be Deputy Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, was grilled by Sanders because of a blog post on his Christian beliefs. Vought’s post, written in his personal capacity in defense of his alma mater, Wheaton College, simply defended the concept that Christians and Muslims do not worship the same god, and, from a Christian salvation perspective, Muslims “stand condemned.” This appeared to be an unacceptable belief for any public servant to hold, at least in Sanders’ eyes. Sanders’ grilling of Vought is troubling because it is a violation of the constitution’s prohibition on religious tests for office.
Called to care for orphans… unless you’re a Christian?
Anecdotally, we’ve seen similar questioning like this in Massachusetts. Except here the questioning isn’t for deputy budget director, it’s for the role of foster parent. I have had numerous conversations with families trying to get certified to be a placement home for foster children who have gone through the entire evaluation process only to get hit with a Columbo-like “one more question” that centered around their faith and how it might impact acceptance of LGBTQ behavior in a potential foster or adoptive child. Multiple families, who gave an answer consistent with their Christian faith, have then been rejected by DCF. Although there doesn’t appear to be a written policy on this yet, it would not be surprising if one were formally implemented in the near future. Earlier this month, we received the news that Illinois has a policy prohibiting families who don’t embrace the LGBTQ agenda from becoming foster homes. So, what appears to be an informal “policy” in MA amongst at least some DCF supervisors could well become official, following the model of Illinois. Although being a foster parent may not qualify as a “public office,” it is a critically important role and an act of service to the public from which Christians must not be excluded.
Christian parenting termed “child abuse.”
This trend of government officials labeling Christian beliefs as somehow disqualifying is part of what is at stake in the current fight over the Counseling Ban. In short, it would cause mental health professional who take a Christian approach to counseling on issues of human sexuality to be disqualified from their profession and lose their license. And it would label as child-abusers parents who try to help their children by taking them to Christian counseling on these same issues. In other words, Christians would not be qualified in the eyes of the state to be parents of youth identified (by whom, it is uncertain) as LGBTQ. That’s why we need your help fighting this bill. Without MFI, there would have been virtually no opposition to this legislation at last week’s hearing on Beacon Hill. Fortunately, even thought we had less than a week’s notice, we were able to assemble an impressive slate of witnesses to testify before the legislative committee. You can see some of the heated questioning of a Christian counselor we’ve been working with below.
I encourage you also to listen to the testimony of former transgender ‘woman’ Walter Heyer or a West Springfield man who struggled with same-sex attraction but received counseling and is now happily married with a beautiful baby girl.
But legislators also need to hear from YOU. Please take just TWO MINUTES to send your State Representative and State Senator an email telling them you oppose the Counseling Ban. (We had some issues with our links last week, but those have been resolved.)
Thank you for your help. I would ask you to also consider making a charitable donation to MFI. It takes money to fly in expert witnesses for these hearings and sustain all the other resources that make these efforts possible. We are a 501(c)(3) charitable organization supported by private donors like yourself, so your gift to our ministry is tax deductible. You can give directly to our work online here. Together, we can make sure that people of faith are not disqualified from public service, the medical professions, or, may God forbid it, from parenting our own children.
For our families,