In the Bible, stories of wars are inextricably linked with religion. In addition to these battles merely being recorded in our sacred literature, the priests were actively involved with the war effort. Before the Israelite army could engage in warfare, the priests had to read the rules of what was ethically permitted in warfare and what was prohibited to those assembled to fight. These rules, frequently referred to as “just war theory,” primarily pertain to the treatment of enemy combatants. Today, however, we must look just as closely at how we treat our own soldiers. As the National Defense Reauthorization Act (NDAA) is being debated on the House floor, it is especially pertinent that we consider the conditions of our own military, and specifically their right to religious freedom.
The fight to increase school voucher programs has recently resurfaced. We’ve seen more discussions in the last few weeks in courts, state legislatures and even Congress. Although there are setbacks, for the most part we are fortunately seeing the facts win out—the evidence that not only do vouchers threaten religious liberty, but they are ineffective from an educational standpoint as well.
This article was originally published on March 13 with Dr. Joel C. Hunter, senior pastor of Northland, a Church Distributed, as a column in The Washington Post’s On Faith feature, a forum for news and opinion on religion and politics.
One might guess that a politically conservative evangelical pastor and a politically liberal rabbi would have little in common, and it is true that we have our differences.
But we agree passionately about many things: that without robust religious liberty, democracy is weakened; that society is better off and the needs of the weak and the vulnerable can best be addressed when government and religion can partner effectively and within constitutional constraints; that America with its magnificent tapestry of religious identities and expression is one of the glories of America.
And we agree that no one with whom we have worked over our decades of public service to the religious community is more committed to this vision and more skilled at implementing it than Melissa Rogers, who has been appointed to serve as the new director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and as a special assistant to President Obama.
Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services released an updated version of their regulations regarding contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act. This is an issue we’ve spoken about before, and we will continue to make our voice heard until the regulations are complete.
They call them the “December dilemmas:” that time of year when religious expression appears most visually in the forefront, when kids ask difficult questions, when patience is tested by an ill-placed “Merry Christmas.” Nativity scenes appear in public spaces and schoolchildren sing Christmas carols at assemblies. This is when the public eye is drawn to the tension between religion and government.
The White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Wait, what? What happened to separation of church and state? How can this office exist, if it is created by the government? What do these so-called partnerships entail?
Actually, the separation of church and state is very much alive in the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, as I learned at an event on Monday at the Brookings Institution.
Rabbi David Saperstein spoke this morning alongside religious leaders from across the country urging Congress: “Don’t push the poor and most vulnerable off the ‘fiscal cliff.’” Joined by leaders of some of the nation’s most prominent Christian and Muslim organizations, Rabbi Saperstein stressed, “It is simply not acceptable that deficit reduction might increase the burden on those struggling the most in our communities. It is intolerable that debt reduction should come on the backs of the poorest among us, that it increase poverty or inequality.”
Once more we wait with baited breath the decision of the courts on the fate of the Affordable Care Act.
The U.S. Supreme Court ordered an appellate court to hear a lawsuit brought by Liberty University in Virginia against the Obama administration on the constitutionality of healthcare reform. Only this time, the constitutional provisions at hand has nothing to do with the individual mandate, which was at the heart of the constitutional scuffle last time.