And who gets to decide?
There is today, a developing trend that should be a concern to Christians particularly, and to anyone else, generally, who still considers liberty and freedom of religion to be an asset of inestimable intrinsic value in preserving western civilization. That trend is the slow, methodical encroachment by state agencies to remove those values through legislative fiat, intimidation, and social marginalization. That encroachment, whether we want to face it or not, includes the church, and her ministries.
As a case in point, I would direct your attention to a growing development in the state of Wisconsin that may become the opening gambit in redefining the “separation of church and state” dynamics altogether:
For over a century, the Catholic Charities Bureau of Superior, Wisconsin, has aided people of all faiths: the developmentally disabled, seniors, and children, many of them low income. As Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki recently noted, since the time of Jesus Christ, the Church has had “a mandate from Scripture to serve the poor.” But all that may change—and sooner then we might have ever thought—after a new Wisconsin Supreme Court hears oral arguments this month, following “…the August swearing-in of Justice-elect Janet Protasiewicz, a progressive who will give the court a 4-3 leftward tilt after a costly, high-profile election this spring to replace a conservative.” (From World News Daily)
Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God. (Proverbs 14:31) and…
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:16-18)
Now of course, no Christian is gullible enough to think that those who do not know God, and certainly those who do not regard Him as the Lord of all and overall, would have any real concern about Him or what He expects of His followers. But we also have come to think that we who do, should be left alone to honor Him and His injunctions about loving our neighbors, and by caring for the least and the lost. After all, what’s the harm in that to them? It has been this way for many, many generations.
In fact, this tradition of helping widows, orphans, and the homeless has been a feature of the transcendent Christian love of others, because it’s born out of our love for God.
Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.” (Luke 9:48)
Well, it turns out “the harm in that” is all in the eyes of the state who have seen something very wrong about serving the poor and the needy without getting their piece of the pie. By that I mean, “Paying into Wisconsin’s unemployment insurance system.” The following is from the Wisconsin Public Radio’s online news:
“On its first day of oral arguments since liberals took control of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, justices questioned whether a charitable arm of the Catholic Diocese of Superior should be exempt from paying into Wisconsin’s unemployment insurance system.”
“Catholic Charities Bureau, Inc. argues its social welfare programs throughout Wisconsin are operated primarily for religious purposes and should be exempted from state unemployment insurance payments. In 2015, a Douglas County Circuit court judge exempted Challenge Center, Inc., a Catholic Charities subsidiary helping people with developmental disabilities, from having to pay into the state plan.”
“The Catholic Charities Bureau, or CCB, argues its other subsidiaries should also receive an exemption allowing them to pay into a church-run unemployment program. A circuit court agreed in 2020.”
During the oral arguments, it became evident how the liberal justices were going to maneuver their biases into the possible ruling they are considering making. “Liberal Justice Rebecca Dallet (pictured) questioned where to draw the line for exempting charities run by religious organizations when all you have to do is say a religious purpose, which is pretty broad stuff.”
“I mean, these are some pretty broad principles which are the basis of, I would venture to say, most religions, maybe all religions,” Dallet said. “So, where is that line?”
Well, that I guess, is the $64,000 question. Where do we draw the line? And, why does Dallet even need to draw a line at all? Not one to leave anyone in suspense, the answer is because, for leftists and progressives, crossing the line is so much easier if they put it there themselves. There should be no question that the line between fulfilling our obligation to practice the tenets of our faith—particularly those that our Lord and Savior modeled for us to follow—is a line too sacred to cross. For Christians anyway. Leftists have no such restraint.
Still, there are those who might say, “What’s the big deal?” Why not just yield to the state their “right” to collect the contributions to the state unemployment insurance? For starters, we should know the issue will not—indeed—cannot simply end there. The State, you see, honors few boundaries to the demands they impose—and will impose—in every subsequent issue that The Church and The State might rub up against.
In 2020, in case we need reminding, most local churches quickly closed their doors when ordered by the state. We ought to have seen this as the camel’s nose in the tent. Only a few realized, after a couple of weeks or so, that this order was not only unnecessary, but essentially, unlawful. Those that peacefully and rightly objected were quickly met with marginalization, mocking, and threats by all the forces of the media and political pundits. And, not always very subtle.
This is the thing about The State. It prefers to use the tools of fear, oppression and intimidation, whereas The Church prefers the gift of grace and our fealty to God—through His doctrines concerning the free and open worship of Him; the keeping of the sabbath, according to our faith, “Once and for all given to the saints.”
We may as well be prepared for an unfavorable ruling—in spite of precedent to the contrary. There will be appeals, debate, and bluster of course. But when, and if, the ruling goes against this charity, the next contest will be even bigger and more invasive. It might not even remain within the Catholic church.
“But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge.’” (Acts 4:19)