Free to Serve: Protecting the Religious Freedom of Faith-Based Organizations - eBook
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Vendor: Brazos Press
Publication Date: 2015
What do Hobby Lobby, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Wheaton College, World Vision, the Little Sisters of the Poor, and the University of Notre Dame have in common? All are faith-based organizations that have faced pressure to act in ways contrary to their religious beliefs. In this book, two policy experts show how faith-based groups--those active in the educational, healthcare, international aid and development, and social service fields--can defend their ability to follow their religiously based beliefs without having to jettison the very faith and faith-based practices that led them to provide services to those in need. They present a pluralist vision for religious freedom for faith-based organizations of all religious traditions. The book includes case studies that document the challenges faith-based organizations face to freely follow the practices of their religious traditions and analyzes these threats as originating in a common, yet erroneous, set of assumptions and attitudes prevalent in American society. The book also includes responses by diverse voices--an Orthodox Jew, a Roman Catholic, two evangelicals, two Islamic leaders, and an unbeliever who is a religious-freedom advocate--underscoring the importance of religious freedom for faith-based organizations.
Stephen V. Monsma (1936-2017; PhD, Michigan State University) was a senior research fellow at the Paul B. Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics at Calvin College and professor emeritus of political science at Pepperdine University. He was also a fellow at the Center for Public Justice. He served in the Michigan House of Representatives and Senate from 1974-1982, after which he worked with the Michigan Natural Resources Commission and the Michigan Department of Social Services. Monsma is the author or coauthor of numerous books including Pluralism and Freedom: Faith-Based Organizations in a Democratic Society. Stanley W. Carlson-Thies (PhD, University of Toronto) is director of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, a division of the Center for Public Justice (CPJ), in Washington, DC. He is a senior fellow at CPJ and at the Canadian think tank Cardus. He convenes the Coalition to Preserve Religious Freedom, a multifaith alliance that advocates for the religious freedom of faith-based organizations to Congress and the federal government. Carlson-Thies served with George W. Bush's White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and served on a task force of President Obama's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. He has appeared on NPR and in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Christianity Today. He has coauthored several books including The Freedom of Faith-Based Organizations to Staff on a Religious Basis.
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Peter K. Greer5 Stars Out Of 5Timely, sobering, and significant bookNovember 24, 2015Peter K. GreerQuality: 5Value: 5Meets Expectations: 5Sobering and significant, Free To Serve outlines the very real threats to religious freedom for all faith-based organizations. If you believe your faith should extend beyond the walls of your place of worship, you simply must read this outstanding book.
Barry5 Stars Out Of 5Being Free to Serve Requires a Plural Democracy - Such Democracies are in decline - More is neededNovember 2, 2015BarryQuality: 5Value: 5Meets Expectations: 4The Problem: Faith-based Organizations Are Denied Religious Freedom
Faith-based organizations ability to freely express their religious convictions is threatened more than ever and such threats are on the rise. However, Monsma and Carlson-Thies assure us that there is hope. They optimistically suggest that the American pluralist society has room for all to live together despite deep differences. Religious and non-religious alike benefit when freedom is protected for all faith-based organizations. However, religious freedom is challenged when religiously motivated people are denied freedom to allow their faith-based organizations to carry out their faith in the public realms of health care, education, and services to the needy.
The Solution: Principled Pluralism
Their vision is for all people to be free to worship or not as their beliefs require. Religious people ought to be able to live out their faith in the nations public life through faith-based organizations. Religious freedom requires at least as much. This requires a profound respect for the diversity of belief/non-belief systems, perspectives and organizations where none is favoured over another. It is a commitment to religious freedom, pluralism and tolerance.
The solution to this quandary is a principled pluralism that has four principles: first, all human beings are morally responsible, free individuals who possess human dignity and certain fundamental rights, the most basic of which is freedom of religion; second, human beings are social; third, government must not prevent its members from being able to create and sustain nongovernmental organizations that are based on and reflect their members deeply held beliefs; and fourth, as government should not dominate societys organizations nor should one organization seek to dominate or control other organizations or individuals.
Working out this pluralism will require a mutual forbearance and toleration as they experience inconvenience and burdens due to their fellow citizens living as their beliefs require them to live.
Evaluation: Timely but the Conversation Must Continue
Monsma and Carlson-Thiess Free to Serve is timely. The pressure on faith-based organizations to conform to a secular ideology that results in the diminution of their religious character is intense. The concept of the public has proved to be dynamic. Religious communities have established education, healthcare and other centres to meet societal needs for millennia. It is not as if they are new to the field. Such endeavours were long considered private, that is to say, religious and defined by the religious group that established the entity. If there is anything new, it is the notion of a nation-state seeking to be the sole provider of such services and thereby removing faith-based organizations, or at the very least lessening their religious identity to conform with the dominant secular ideology. Though this book is US centric it addresses issues that are salient throughout the Western World.
It is a great primer and needs to be read not only by law and religion academics, legal practitioners and those leading faith-based organizations but also by the general public. Its language is easily accessible.
While the authors are optimistic that a principled pluralism is possible and even desired I am not sure that society, as currently configured is willing to put forward the requisite effort to make it happen. Our cultural moment appears less inclined for co-operative projects in these areas of concern. We need more discussion about what will be required to accomplish the vision that Monsma and Carlso-Thies outline.
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