In this installment of One Voice, we're looking back at resolutions passed at our district conventions, recent Supreme Court rulings, the issue of religious tests for public officials, and an upcoming publication from our Public Policy Advisory Committee. I hope you'll find this overview helpful and that you'll join me in thanking God for the privilege of living in this nation of many freedoms where we can proclaim the Gospel freely within our churches and in the public square.
Public Policy and the Minnesota Districts of the LCMS
At the Minnesota South District Convention, delegates passed four resolutionsrelating to the Church's interaction with the culture around us. These include resolutions
- to oppose physician-assisted suicide (also passed by Minnesota North)
- to encourage Minnesota’s elected leaders to enact education funding policies that are truly neutral toward religion and without entangling Church and State
- to resist the increasing influence of a resurgent gnostic heresy that radically distorts the relationship of the material and spiritual world, leading many to harmfully view the human body as unimportant
- to ask The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod to develop a clear position regarding commercial surrogacy (a form of surrogacy in which women are contracted to carry a developing child for money in excess of actual costs incurred).
Noteworthy Decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS)
SCOTUS recently ruled on three very important cases that will have a direct and long-lasting impact on the church's ability to give witness to Jesus Christ in the public square. These cases include:
- Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission: In a 7-2 ruling, the Court endorsed a baker's (Jack Philips) right to freely exercise his faith when he declined to participate in a same-sex wedding celebration via his cake artistry. The Court also used this ruling to vacate an earlier lower court ruling against a florist (Barronelle Stutzman of Washington) who sought similar relief.
- NIFLA v Becerra: In a 5-4 ruling, the Court reaffirmed free speech rights by siding with pro-life pregnancy centers against the State of California, which attempted to compel these centers to advertise free or low-cost abortions offered by the State.
- Janus v AFSCME: Again, in a 5-4 ruling, the Court agreed that the State of Illinois and its public employee unions had violated the free speech and free association rights of Mark Janus in compelling him to belong to a union and therefore to speak a message with which he disagreed. Indirectly, this ruling is likely to advance greater parental choice in education, as public employee unions have stood as the primary obstacle to progress in this area.
Taken as a whole, these three SCOTUS decisions stand as a strong affirmation that the fundamental guarantees of the Constitution, especially those in the First Amendment, cannot be simply disregarded when they come in conflict with other enumerated and claimed rights. Indeed, we are grateful and give thanks to God for these rulings!An Issue of Increasing Concern: A
Religious Test for Office
The U.S. Constitution (Article VI) explicitly states that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or Public Trust." Simply put, no one can be denied public office because of the religious beliefs they hold. As long as they are willing to pledge that they will uphold the Constitution, all citizens are eligible to hold any office in the land.
Recently, there have been several high-profile instances of Senators appearing to judge certain religious persons as unfit for public office because of these beliefs. In the most recent issue of the LCMS Free to be Faithful Update, Rev. Jonathan Lange discusses the ominous implications of this developing trend.
2018 Voter Information Guide
The Public Policy Advisory Committee prepared an updated Lutheran Voter Information Guide that we hope will be used to help guide congregational conversations prior to the November elections. It is intended for pastors and laypersons alike to provide insight on the specific public policy issues the LCMS speaks to and the position that it takes on those issues. We will email this out in early August and post on the MNS District website. We hope that you'll read it and find appropriate venues to share its content with members of your congregations. With many statewide offices (including the governor) up for election, it is important that our LCMS members be well informed about what Scripture says about public policy issues.
Have a blessed and rejuvenating summer!
Rev. Fred Hinz
LCMS Public Policy Advocate
Minnesota South and North Districts