Monday, August 20, 2012

Freedom: A Privilege for 'Us,' and not 'Them?'

Folks trying to correct problems often form groups, naming the new organization after some famous person associated with their interests. Identifying with heroes is a good idea, I think: but it can result in a bit of confusion.

I ran into the Thomas More Law Center in an online discussion group over the weekend. The name sounded very familiar. I was pretty sure that I'd find at least one post where I'd mentioned it.

I was wrong.

I found two outfits with similar names and goals:
"Thomas More Law Center" hadn't shown up in this blog, though.

Saint Thomas More?

Finding the Thomas More Law Center online was easy enough. I noted that they referred to More as "Saint Thomas More" in their "About" section:
"...Described as 'A Man for All Seasons,' Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England in the 16th Century, is one of history's most admired figures. An outstanding lawyer, author,judge and diplomat, he rose to the highest office in England, next to the King. Yet, he chose death rather than betray his conscience. Moments before he was beheaded for his faith, he humbly described himself as 'the King's good servant, but God's first.'..."
("About the Thomas More Law Center")
Using the title "Saint" impressed me, since in the part of America where I grew up, the former Chancellor was referred to as "Sir Thomas More."

That was understandable, since the title "Saint" is used by Catholics. In the regional culture, quite a few folks assumed that Catholics weren't Christians. By their standards, calling an English official "Saint" somebody might have felt 'un-American.' Not everyone was like that, and I've told how 'Bible-thumpers' helped me become a Catholic before.

Support: Wisely

Charity is a virtue. (Catechism, 1822) So, I think, is being careful about acting charitably. (March 17, 2011) That's why I'm careful about what organizations I support, financially and otherwise. Mostly "otherwise," given my household's resources. And that's another topic.

Freedom: For Us?

What I saw in that discussion group made me hope that the Thomas More Law Center was helping America rediscover religious liberty. Here's what I found on their "About" page:
"About the Thomas More Law Center"
Thomas More Law Center (

"The Thomas More Law Center is a national nonprofit public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, dedicated to the restoration and defense of the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life. It also supports a strong national defense and an independent and sovereign United States of America....."
There's more, including graphics that show a sword over a cross and shield, an Eagle, and George Washington kneeling. Very patriotic, and quite nicely designed.

Freedom: For Everyone

I like being an American, and think this country has many good qualities: so it's fairly easy for me to follow Catholic teaching about being a good citizen. (August 5, 2012)

Because I'm Catholic, I have to support religious freedom. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2104-2109)

That's religious freedom for everyone (Catechism, 2106) I've been over this before.(April 7, 2011)

Maybe the Thomas More Law Center recognizes Catholics as Christians. Maybe they're even more broad-minded, and think that the principle of religious freedom should apply to everybody. Then again, maybe not.

Abraham, Zoot Suits, and All That

I've encountered folks who apparently either didn't distinguish between their personal and community preferences, and God's principles - or didn't realize that there's a difference.

In my youth, radio preachers and dreadfully earnest Christians took "Christian values" very seriously.

The problem was that they seemed to think that 'Biblical' values were the same as those of a particular part of America's middle class, around the 1940s. I like 1940s fashions. I even see an appeal in zoot suits.

But I don't think God commands that men should for all time dress the way 'real men' did in the days of Abraham, or Truman. I also don't think it's 'sinful' for women to wear slacks, and that's yet another topic. (September 26, 2009)

I do not think that there's only one 'right' way to design clothing; and I do not want to get back to the 'good old days.' I remember them: they weren't.

The Becket Fund; Thomas More Society

After looking over the very American Thomas More Law Center, I went back to The Becket Fund and Thomas More Society. Here's what I found:
The Becket Fund For Religious Liberty
"Our Mission"

"The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is a non-profit, public-interest legal and educational institute that protects the free expression of all faiths. The Becket Fund exists to vindicate a simple but frequently neglected principle: that because the religious impulse is natural to human beings, religious expression is natural to human culture. We advance that principle in three arenas - the courts of law, the court of public opinion, and the academy - both in the United States and abroad...."
I'm more comfortable with The Becket Fund, since they acknowledge that freedom isn't a privilege for 'us,' and not 'them.' Their international scope doesn't trouble me: I like being an American, but see everyone as "neighbor." (Catechism, 1825)
Thomas More Society

"The Thomas More Society is a not-for-profit, national public interest law firm that exists to restore respect in law for life, marriage, and religious liberty. Based in Chicago, the Thomas More Society defends and fosters support for these causes by providing high quality pro bono legal services from local trial courts all the way to the United States Supreme Court...."

"...The Thomas More Society ... continues to litigate cutting-edge cases including:
  • "Protecting the First Amendment rights of those who pray and counsel outside our nation's abortion facilities
  • "Defending laws that protect human life from conception to natural death
  • "Ensuring the free expression of religion in the public square
  • "Restoring respect for marriage as the sacred union of one man and one woman..."
The Thomas More Society is more specifically 'American,' since they concentrate on legal action within American courts. I don't have a problem with that, particularly since they don't specifically restrict "religious liberty" to "Christians."

'Protecting' America

Like I said before, I like being an American: and as a Catholic I'm obliged to be a good citizen. But having grown up in this country, I realize that 'America' means different things to different folks. I think 'America' is a place where folks are - or should be - free to:
  • Express their opinions
  • Worship as they see fit
    • Or not
  • Work for someone else
  • Start their own company
  • Raise a family
Over the last 236 years, quite a few folks liked what they heard about America, and moved here. I don't have a problem with that, partly because my ancestors did the same thing. It's not so much that I'm broad-minded: I think we all benefit when new folks with new ideas and fresh enthusiasm move in.

Not everyone sees 'foreigners' the same way, though:

(from H.E. Fowler, via Wikipedia, used w/o permission)
"Crowley, Jeremiah J. (1913) 'The Pope: Chief of White Slavers High Priest of Intrigue,' p. 430"

And that's - yet again another topic. Topics.

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.