Friday, July 20, 2012

Prepping The Free Speech Battlespace

At Mass last Sunday, we heard a brief talk from a woman who represented a charity organization that had been formed by a group of local churches. She spoke of their work with drug addicts, alcoholics and the homeless. She told a couple of stories and concluded by asking us for support and hoping some of us might volunteer.

She did not, according to the Obama Administration, represent a religious organization.

According the the new HHS rules, her group failed to meet at least two of the requirements to be considered religious. They were composed of people of several different faiths and they served everyone without discrimination. Had they only employed Lutherans, for example, and served only Lutherans, then they might have been able to claim that they were a religious organization in the eyes of the Federal government.

By any rational standard, of course, they were most certainly a religious organization.

So why the change in legal definitions? If they lost their non-taxed status, the government would only gain a pittance of revenue. They had a small budget and employed very few people, so the health care issue was moot. I would suggest that the change in definitions has more to do with restricting their free speech than anything else.

If you wanted to control what people said under speech-restricting laws and you were going after a "religious" organization, there would be a conflict between free exercise of religion and speech controls. If you can redefine the organization as a secular one, you no longer have to deal with any religious freedom issues in court. In effect, it strips civil rights protections from what would otherwise be a protected group.

Maybe I'm just being paranoid.


tim eisele said...

On the other hand, if they are not classified as a religious group, then there are no church/state separation issues if they receive some funding from the government. So maybe her organization didn't *want* to be considered a religious organization in the eyes of the government?

Moxie D. Hoxie said...

I wrote about this not too long ago:

This is what the problem is!