LCMS Response: Religious Freedom at Risk

An important response by LCMS President Matthew Harrison to yesterday’s SCOTUS ruling on “ObamaCare”.

ST. LOUIS, June 28, 2012—In response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling today to largely let stand the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), the Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, issued the following statement:

“In light of today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), we remain opposed to the controversial birth control mandate, which is one of the requirements included in the law.

“The Court’s decision today guarantees that we will continue to bring awareness to the threat to religious liberty represented by the birth control mandate, which requires virtually all health plans, including those of religious organizations, to cover birth control drugs and products that could cause the death of the unborn. We are opposed to the birth control mandate because it runs counter to the biblical truth of the sanctity of human life and creates a conflict of conscience for religious employers and insurers, who face steep penalties for non-compliance based upon their religious convictions.

“We will continue to stand with those who have filed suit in the many religious freedom cases pending against the birth control mandate. Through education and civic advocacy, we will continue to educate the public about the vital necessity of protecting our First Amendment right to act according to the tenets of our faith. We remain steadfast in our opposition to the birth control mandate and will continue working to ensure our right to refrain from paying for products and services that conflict with our doctrine about the sanctity of all human life.

“And, regardless of the Court’s decision on the health care reform law, we in the LCMS will continue to uphold the sanctity of all human life while we care for the sick and work to restore the health and well-being of people in our communities and around the world.”

About The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
The 2.3 million-member Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is a mission-oriented, Bible-based, confessional Christian denomination headquartered in St. Louis. Through acts of witness and mercy, the church carries out its mission worldwide to make known the love of Jesus Christ. Learn more at http://www.lcms.org.

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God and Abortion Come Face to Face

From Pastor Lamb at Lutherans for Life:

God and abortion come face to face this year with the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, January 22, 1973, falling on a Sunday. People will gather to worship the Lord and Author of Life on the day when, thirty-nine years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court effectively took the right to life away from the defenseless unborn and declared the right to murder them constitutional.

Since then, over 54,000,000 little lives have been slaughtered under the death cry of “the right to choose.”

Many would say I exaggerate the importance of the convergence of Roe v. Wade and Sunday. They maintain there is no connection. Their oft repeated mantra: “Abortion is political and the Church exists to proclaim the Gospel not to be ensnared in politics.” This flawed and deadly reasoning is precisely why the carnage of abortion continues.

The killing of little boys and little girls at any stage of development for any reason is a travesty. Killing little boys and little girls created and gifted by God, purchased by the blood of Jesus, and children God desires to call into an eternal relationship with Him is a travesty against our Triune God.

Therein lies the connection. Abortion is not just a choice that destroys life. It destroys life precious to God.

Add to this the immeasurable guilt and regret an abortion choice eventually brings to the hearts of those involved in that choice and you have a set of circumstances that compels the Church of Jesus Christ to speak and act. You have a mission field tailor made for the proclamation of God’s law and especially the proclamation of His life-changing Gospel.

For the Christian, abortion is at its core idolatry, a failure to “fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” We choose the death of the helpless to deliver us from a difficult situation rather than trust in God “my help and my deliverer” (Psalm 40:17).

But the Church dare not merely pound her pulpits and demand, “Trust God, choose life” as if trust in God is something we can conjure up if we just try hard enough. Time and time again the Scripture associates help from God with salvation from God. “Help us, O God of our salvation” (Psalm 79:9).

On this Life Sunday 2012, the 39th Anniversary of Roe vs. Wade I encourage you to head to the source to read Pastor Lamb’s entire article.  And while you’re at it check out the various resources at Lutherans for Life.

(H/T – Cyberbrethren)

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Morrison Restricting Political Speech

It appears the Morrison Town Board has an issue with opposition and free speech.

According to the latest census, there are fewer than 2,000 people living in Morrison, Wisconsin. There are at least 10 times that many cows.

A drive along any one of the country roads criss-crossing rural Brown County reveals one after the other of the area’s many family-owned dairy farms (mega farms are still the minority). In fact, Brown County, home to Morrison, is one of America’s largest dairy-producing regions. Such pleasant landscapes are common to most of the surrounding communities dotting this rolling prairie of bucolic midwestern hamlets that are home to the salt of the earth.
Hidden from sight, however, is the petty tyranny of the Morrison Town Board and its egregious agenda of quashing the freedom of speech. This ham-fisted oligarchy is threatening to stain the idyllic tapestry woven by generations of good, law-abiding citizens and muzzle their ability to have a say in the making of the laws that govern them.
So constitutionally offensive are the recent policy positions taken by the Town Board, there is a distinct possibility that legal challenges could bring down serious repercussions upon some members of that council.
The cause of this opposition? The board’s cozy relationship with a wind energy company when developing a wind farm ordinance.
Records of the Morrison Town Board show that in April and July of 2006 the subject of creating a new wind ordinance was discussed by the members of the board. By August 2006, a Chicago-based wind developer, Invenergy, officially requested a permit for erecting a meteorological tower to test wind strength and consistency.
Over the next two and a half years, the town’s Plan Commission, following the advice of Town Chairman Todd Christensen, worked closely with representatives of Invenergy to draft a new wind ordinance that would grease the skids for the construction of the Ledge Wind Energy Project.
As reported by the Green Bay Press Gazette on March 17, 2007, “Koomen [Morrison Zoning Administrator] said a representative of a wind energy firm has been attending the wind ordinance meetings and providing input.”
After years of back-room brokering and back scratching, the Town Board of Morrison finally went public with Invenergy’s scheme to build 100 400-foot wind turbines in Morrison and three adjacent townships — Glenmore, Wrightstown, and Holland. Additional details of the surreptitiously formed proposal (arranged without adequate public notice of the magnitude of the project) revealed plans to locate 54 turbines in the 6 x 6 mile area of Morrison; of those, 27 would be hosted by Morrison town officials or their family members who had earlier in 2009 and 2008 signed contracts with Invenergy guaranteeing their participation in the project.
It should be noted that the Morrison Town Board failed to consult with town residents at any point in the establishment of this partnership with Invenergy.  Once the plan became public there was opposition that voiced its’ opinion.
In response to this official disregard, concerned residents of Morrison formed an association aimed at increasing public awareness of the potential damage to health and property associated with construction of the wind farm. At town meetings attended by members of the group, discussions between themselves and the board members who had colluded with Invenergy grew increasingly contentious, as video recordings of the proceedings reveal.
In order to ramp up its visibility in the area, the non-profit, called the Brown County Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy (BCCRWE), initiated a very effective outdoor sign campaign; signs popped up everywhere decrying the wind project.
One would think the response of the board would be to change course and listen to the opposition.  That didn’t happen.
As awareness spread, opposition to the turbines grew and town officials responded by attempting to limit free speech by severely restricting the size of BCCRWE anti-wind turbine signs. In order to force opponents to remove the signs, Town Chairman Todd Christensen decided to classify signs regarding wind development as “political signs,” same as those covering elections, which the town already restricted as to location, size, and duration, thus relieving the Town Board of the onerous task of passing a new ordinance or rewriting the previous one.
Next, in May 2010, in order to compel obedience to his decrees, Christensen hired a “code enforcer” to cruise around town issuing citations of $10 to $200 a day per sign to those citizens defying the “political sign” restrictions.
In an effort to wipe out opposition, the town board is now considering taking action in the form of ordinance changes to restrict “free” speech.
as part of the town’s vendetta the Plan Commission has drawn up various unconstitutional proposals to completely eradicate yard signs altogether.
Initially the Plan Commission wanted to set back all political signs 25 feet off the right of way, which would put some signs on front porches and barely readable at 55 mph. They also attempted to limit the size and number of political signs — one per candidate — and wondered about declaring them nuisances and worthy of disorderly conduct charges for being “annoying, disturbing, or derogatory.”
So, the self-interested Town Board of Morrison, Wisconsin, has carpet bombed the wind farm opposition leaving as collateral damage a severely abridged right of free speech.
Here’s the wording of the proposed change:
2. Political message: A message intended for a political purpose or a message which pertains to an issue of public policy of possible concern to the electorate, but does not include a message intended solely for a commercial purpose.
The problem for the Morrison Town Board is that similar restrictions have been found by the U.S. Supreme Court to be unconstitutional.
In 1994, the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously overturned a restrictive yard sign ordinance passed in Ladue, Missouri. In the case of City of Ladue v. Gilleo, the court held that residential yard signs were “a venerable means of communication that is both unique and important.”
The high court’s decision in the Gilleo case has been followed repeatedly by lower courts considering the issue. In Curry v. Prince George’s County (1999), a federal district court in Maryland threw out a sign ordinance limiting the placement of political campaign signs in private residences. “There is no distinction to be made between the political campaign signs in the present case and the ‘cause’ sign in City of Ladue,” the court wrote. “When political campaign signs are posted on private residences, they merit the same special solicitude and protection established for cause signs in City of Ladue.”
Earlier, in the case of Arlington County Republican Committee v. Arlington County (1993), the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals invalidated a county law imposing a two-sign limit on temporary signs for each residence. The court noted that “the two-sign limit infringes on this speech by preventing homeowners from expressing support for more than two candidates when there are numerous contested elections.”
What’s even more amazing than this assault on free speech by the Morrison Town Board, is that it continues despite the fact Invenergy has withdrawn from the project and cancelled all contracts.
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Unchartered Territory

One thing is certain in the Wisconsin State Supreme Court race: an historic recount is on the horizon.

Wisconsin’s election chief said Wednesday he expects the unofficial vote totals in the state Supreme Court race to change as local officials verify the counts before an expected recount that would be the first of its kind in modern state history.

Little-known attorney JoAnne Kloppenburg declared victory over incumbent state Supreme Court Justice David Prosser on Wednesday based on unofficial totals showing her with a scant 204-vote margin out of nearly 1.5 million cast in Tuesday’s election.

Prosser’s campaign has not said yet whether it plans to ask for a recount, but it’s expected they will. If they do, it would mark the first time since 1858 that a statewide recount has been launched in a race involving candidates, Government Accountability Board director Kevin Kennedy said. The last statewide recount was on a 1989 tax referendum.

The unofficial totals showing Kloppenburg with a narrow lead are “very good numbers,” Kennedy said, but they will change.

“There will be changes because this is a very human-driven process,” Kennedy said. “We expect mistakes. . . . Our goal will be to make sure every ballot is counted and every discrepancy on election day is accounted for.”

Here’s what happens next.

Municipal clerks were required to submit all their paperwork to all 72 county clerks by the end of the business day Wednesday. Each county’s board of canvassers is then charged with reconciling the totals, making sure the ballots in hand match the number of people who voted, beginning Thursday morning.

They have until April 15 to submit the canvassed totals, but Kennedy said he expects them to arrive before then. Once the last report is in, the candidates have three business days to ask for a recount.

The latest the recount could start is April 21, and Kennedy expected it would be done before the state must finalize the vote on May 15.

Ironically the final outcome could be decided by the State Supreme Court.

A legal challenge to the results can be filed after the county canvassing boards meet. Under the law, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson assigns a reserve judge to hear all the challenges, which could come from multiple counties, Kennedy said.

An appeal of that decision would go to the state appeals court based in Madison. Kennedy said he believes that decision could be appealed to the seven-member Supreme Court, where Prosser is a sitting justice. If the court deadlocked 3-3, the lower court’s ruling would stand.

Looks like Wisconsin will continue to be in the national spotlight.

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