The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Although I am an ordained deacon of the Catholic Church, the opinions expressed in this blog are my personal opinions. In offering these personal opinions I am not acting as a representative of the Church or any Church organization.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Politics and Politicians

Put no trust in princes,

in children of Adam powerless to save;

who breathing his last, returns to the earth;

that day all his planning comes to nothing.

Blessed the one whose help is the God of Jacob,

whose hope is in the LORD, his God...

[Psalm 146:3-5]

I think, sometimes – perhaps most of the time – we forget that only God saves, and that He, not us, remains in charge. If we look to another human, whether man or woman, to rescue us from the perils we ourselves have created, we will soon be greatly disappointed. Of course, the Lord of History sometimes raises up the least likely individuals to fulfill His plan, so we must look to their fruits if we hope to recognize God’s action in the world.

If you are among the 80+ million Americans who watched the presidential debate on Monday evening, you witnessed two people trying to convince us that they, and only they, can lead our nation to the promised land. Each has a very different vision of what that land looks like and how to get there.
[Full disclosure: I skipped the debate, preferring to catch the highlights the next day -- far less tedious.]

The First Debate
One candidate, Hillary Clinton, plans to follow the same path paved by the current administration in which she was a key player. But she seems unable to recognize or accept that the plan is dysfunctional, and has created far more problems than it has solved. And so she tells us: Don't get all wrapped up in who caused our current problems, because I've got some brilliant solutions ready to go. Her solutions, though, seem more than vaguely familiar; indeed, they're the same leftist approaches that have consistently failed whenever and wherever they've been tried.

Mrs. Clinton is also afflicted with a few other issues. If the polls reflect reality, a majority believe she is not healthy enough to be president. This can be a tricky problem for her. She must convince voters that these concerns are baseless despite all the contrary evidence. And what about Tim Kaine, her running mate? She can't focus too much on his presidential qualifications without seeming to confirm her own health issues. Lots of webs being woven here.

But perhaps more troubling for Hillary Clinton are the large numbers of Americans who simply don't trust her to tell the truth. I suppose it all began years ago when she mobilized her team of sycophants to provide cover for her husband's "indiscretions." She did so by attacking the women, so many women, on whom Bill preyed. Impeached but not convicted – his sins, after all, were the same as those of his judges – Bill has been rehabilitated by the folks who matter.
Bill stumping for Hillary in NH -- Enthusiastic Women?

But Bill is only one chink in Hillary Clinton’s honesty armor; consider:

  • Her removal from her House Judiciary Committee staffer job because of incompetence and lying;
  • The whole Whitewater debacle;
  • Her tall tale about landing in Bosnia under sniper fire;
  • The "cleansing" of the White House travel office;
  • The vast right-wing conspiracy that she claims was at the heart of her husband's problems;
  • Her “flat-broke” claims after leaving the White House;
  • Her speaking fees -- the pay for play, quid pro quo deals with Wall Street firms and foreign nations;
  • The ongoing email-national security scandal and associated corruption of her State Department staff;
  • The Benghazi lies and "What difference does it make?" attitude.
For me, however, it is her extreme stance on abortion that disqualifies her. How can anyone who so strongly supports the brutal killing of the most innocent and helpless among us be qualified for the presidency? This is the same reason I neither voted for nor trusted our current president, Barack Obama.
Oh! It's a "Person" but without rights...

The other candidate, Donald Trump, is an enigma, perhaps the most unlikely of presidential candidates. New York businessman, reality TV star, off-the-cuff stump speaker, as brash as his home town with an ego to match, Donald Trump has apparently caught on with many Americans. A multi-millionaire, he is viewed by his supporters as too rich to be corrupted by other people’s money. Many Americans are tired of the professional politicians who seem to love spending their constituents’ money on anything and anyone that will help their reelection. These same voters seem to regard Mr. Trump as the outsider who will clean house and remind the pols that the people are still sovereign. Could be...but that’s the problem with outsiders: they have no political track record. They force us to focus on the personal.

And so Donald Trump has had to define and refine and re-define his vision and plans for the nation. He’s had to leave the shallows and wade into the deeper waters of specifics, and that, some believe, will cause him problems. I don’t agree. Donald Trump has said so many things that the mainstream media and their fellow travelers consider outrageous, and each time he gains ground. That same media, following the lead of his opponent, have attacked him and his “deplorable” supporters as “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic” and pretty much any other “ist” or “phobic” they can think of. The result: his poll numbers continue to rise. 
Trump: College Supporters

The elites in Hollywood and the media, as well as those who roam the corridors of power in Washington, are flabbergasted. How can this be happening? One can understand their confusion since few have spent much time among the hoi polloi, the masses in fly-over country who struggle to pay their bills every month. Interestingly, minorities – generally considered a lock for the Democrats – are beginning to show some interest in Donald Trump. I suspect he will draw a larger percentage of the Black and Hispanic vote than any of his recent Republican predecessors. 

And then there are the “Never-Trump” Republicans, really a mixed bag of neocons and establishment types, along with a few former opponents with hurt feelings. I’ve never really trusted the neocons because of their subtle dismissal of those “permanent things” that traditionally form the foundation of true conservative thought. Most gravitated to so-called neo-conservatism from the far left, and still seem partly connected to their big-government, Marxist roots.
Bush Presidents and Hopeful
Even the Bush family, the most establishment of all establishment Republicans, have come out against Donald Trump, with the elder George admitting he’ll likely vote for Hillary Clinton. Jeb Bush, who was just kidding when he signed that pledge to support the Republican nominee, is now encouraging Republicans to vote for the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson, a man who makes Donald Trump look positively Socratic. As for George W. Bush, I suspect he’ll probably sit this election out. 

I’ve said all along (see post: July 18) that I expect Donald Trump to win the election, largely because the stakes are so high. He's also generated a level of enthusiasm among his supporters that Hillary Clinton will never be able to match. As for Mrs. Clinton’s appeal to women – “Elect the first female president!” – it doesn’t outweigh all her negatives. Unlike President Obama who gathered in over 90% of the Black vote, Hillary Clinton will be lucky to draw 55% of the female vote.

Although not a Trump supporter, I will probably vote for him. To vote for a third party would waste a vote, and I can think of no third party worth my vote. From our perspective as citizens and voters, politics must always be the art of choosing the least imperfect. Is one candidate the lesser of two evils, or is the other the evil of two lessers? I think the latter. 

In the meantime, I'll try to avoid politics in future posts and just put my trust, not in princes (or princesses), but in God alone, the Lord of History.

Pray for our nation.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Homily, Saturday 25th week of Ordinary Time

Readings: Eccl 11:9 -12:8; Ps 90; Lk 9:43b-45

While they were all amazed at his every deed, Jesus said to his disciples, “Pay attention to what I am telling you. The Son of Man is to be handed over to men.”  But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was hidden from them so that they should not understand it, and they were afraid to ask him about this saying [Lk 9:43b-45].


My eighth-grade class was quite large, probably about 40 children. And Sister Francis Jane, our teacher, handled us with a near-perfect blend of discipline and love. She was a tiny woman, and the oldest of the Dominican nuns who taught in our school, but she kept us in line and insisted that we learn.

She also had a clever method of getting our attention in class. As she taught, whether she was speaking to us or writing something on the blackboard, she would occasionally rap her desk twice with one of those bony knuckles. This was a signal that what she was speaking about or writing would be on the next test. I quickly discovered that if I took note of these signals – in other words, if I paid attention – I could easily ace the test.

Well, dear Sister Francis Jane always comes to mind whenever I read this brief Gospel passage from Luke. Jesus turned to His disciples and said, “Pay attention to what I am telling you” [Lk 9:44].

Jesus was shaping the apostles, teaching them to understand the depth of the Paschal Mystery, both in His life and later in their lives. Yes, He wanted them to listen, because it would definitely be on the test.

Not long before, up in Caesarea Philippi, Jesus had made that first prediction, a three-fold prediction: He would be handed over to men, they would kill Him, but after three days He would rise from the dead. In Matthew’s Gospel we’re told that Peter challenged Jesus: “God forbid, Lord! No such thing will ever happen to you” [Mt 16:22]. But this was followed by that sharp rebuke from Jesus: “Get behind me, Satan” [Mt 16:23].

Get Behind Me, Satan!

Peter and the others really didn’t have a clue about Jesus’ mission. Their vision of the Messiah didn’t coincide with what they heard from Jesus, because just like you and me, they thought in worldly terms. How did Jesus put it? “You are not on the side of God, but of men” [Mt 16:23]. In today’s passage from Luke Jesus predicts His passion for the second time; but this time, after getting their attention, He simply says: “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men” [Lk 9:44].
Delivered into the hands of men...

Unlike His first prediction, this time there’s no shout of indignation from Peter; no, the response is very different. In Luke we’re told “…they did not understand…and they were afraid” [Lk 9:45]. But Matthew describes the Apostles’ response differently: “…and they were deeply saddened” [Mt 17:23].

And note that Jesus didn’t use the first person here. He didn’t say, “I will be handed over…” No, he says, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men.” Yes, the Apostles were both afraid and deeply saddened because the Son of Man, the perfect One, will be betrayed by men – and not just by first-century Romans and Jews, but by all of us. 

By rejecting God’s gift of faith, by betraying God, by killing God, who is one of us, it’s as if we all actually betray and destroy ourselves. It’s as if we see God as some sort of alien being; but that’s not how He came to us, is it? No, He came to us, not in difference but in sameness, as one of us, one of us in all things except sin. He came as a loving brother of the same loving Father.

And yet the world hates Jesus – and believe me, brothers and sisters – the world does hate Jesus. It hates Him because He shows us what we could be. And the world fights that, doesn’t it? Indeed, we fight it too – that call to conversion – and try to do away with the judgment under which we live. What did we hear in our first reading from Ecclesiastes? “God will bring you to judgment” [Eccl 11:9].

But only if we become like Him can we be on the side of God, not of men. Only if we change, only if we repent and accept conversion, can we become what He desires for us.

And so, in the overwhelming mercy of His divine plan of love, Jesus allows Himself to be delivered into men’s hands. He allows Calvary’s horrendous demonstration of violence and hatred. He allows it so that when men wound Him, when they nail Him to that Cross, they will be washed in the tide of His Blood. And the power of that Blood, the Blood of divine love, can overcome and erase any hatred that fills the human heart.

The Blood of Christ
You see, brothers and sisters, once we accept the depth and breadth of God’s mercy, once we accept the forgiveness He desires for all, it’s easy to pay attention when He speaks to us.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Favorite Flicks: My Picks

This morning as I was gathering up my stuff at the conclusion of our Wednesday morning Bible Study, one of the participants approached me and asked an unexpected question. Where it came from I haven't a clue, and I probably should have asked that of the questioner. But I'd been taken by surprise and wasn't prepared to examine motives or offer an answer. She had simply asked, "What are your favorite movies?"

It's not the sort of question one expects after an hour of enthusiastic discussion of the relationships among Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Ishmael, Isaac, Abimelech, and God Himself. My first thought was to avoid the question by saying, "I really don't go to the movies very often." This really is the truth, as Dear Diane, an avid movie-goer, will be happy to confirm. But I realized that would have been a cowardly cop-out, so I simply put off the inevitable and replied, "Let me think about that. I'll let you know next week." I hoped that after a week's delay she might forget and I could as well. This, of course, will not happen.

I suppose I could have blurted out a few safe answers, like, "Gone with the Wind, It's a Wonderful Life, and Doctor Zhivago." Or, even better, I could have just ignored the question and made some polite excuse for having to leave quickly. After all, the answers to these kinds of questions often have a dark side, and cause others to think differently about you, perhaps unfairly. 

I remember participating in  a workshop (or was it a seminar? who knows the difference?) well over 40 years ago. Aimed at new youth group catechists, the day-long, Saturday-wasting program was conducted by a team of facilitators employed by a diocese in California that will remain unnamed. The program opened with a question: "If you were an animal, what would you be?" We then spent a half-hour -- that's 30 long minutes -- in small groups defending our critter choice before exposing it to the entire class and allowing others to cheer or jeer at our selection of totem spirit. As you can imagine it was a bizarre experience, and I still don't understand its purpose. 

Dung Beetles at Work
My choice, however, generated serious scorn from the facilitators until I explained my rationale. You see, I told all present that if I were an animal, I'd be a dung beetle. The facilitators correctly assumed I was cynically deriding their silly question in particular and their seemingly useless workshop in general. But in the face of their criticism, I assumed an air of a deeply hurt participant. The dung beetle, I explained, is among the humblest of God's creatures, and offers us the perfect, paradigmatic model of self-effacement and abandonment to the will of God. (Facilitators respond really well to phrases like this.) Well...for the rest of the morning I was the fair-haired child whose opinion was actively sought. This changed radically when, during our lunch hour, I made the mistake of telling a couple of other participants that my "dung beetle thing" was all a joke. One of them ratted me out to the facilitators and for the rest of the day I was persona non grata. It was a very unpleasant afternoon.

So I guess the best approach is simply to tell the truth and reveal my favorite movies to her who asked me...and to you, my select, holy remnant of readers. I won't provide more than a simple rationale for my flick picks, simply because I don't have the time to offer more detail. goes, my five-star movies in no particular order.

Groundhog Day (1993). I love this movie, simply because it's a wonderful, funny story of gradual (very gradual) self-awareness, repentance, and redemption. As the story progresses we see the transformation of a man from a self-centered and pitied misanthrope to a selfless, caring person who has learned that the gift of life demands a loving response. And this conversion occurs despite the fact that he sees no escape from his predicament, one which can be described only as supernatural. Although God is rarely mentioned in the film, the situation in which the hero finds himself can come from no other source. Bill Murray is at his wackiest best and I can't imagine any other actor in the role of Phil the once-pompous, self-absorbed TV weatherman.  A clip:

Tender Mercies (1983). Robert Duvall played the role of Mac Sledge, a seemingly washed-up alcoholic country-western singer, and he played it to perfection -- so perfectly he won an Oscar for best actor. The story is one of redemption and conversion (Do you see a pattern here?), and a story of the importance of family. It's a story of God's continual call to the sinner, to each and every one of us; and it's a story God's tough love, of His forgiveness and our need to extend it to and ask it of others. The script was rejected time and again by many directors who were no doubt turned off by its openly Christian theme. Remarkably, Robert Duvall did all his own singing in the film -- an example:

Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986). Okay, I like this movie -- really like this movie -- because it's so uproariously funny and depicts the teenager most guys wish they were back when. Matthew Broderick was perfectly cast in the title role, so well cast that I find it hard to think of him as anyone else. The story might demand a suspension of disbelief to an extraordinary degree but that's true of many good comedies. It's all about a high school student who decides to act sick so he can enjoy a day off from the tedious boredom that most parents and educators inflict on their charges. The day that follows, a day into which he recruits his friend, Cameron, is anything but boring. But throughout it all, despite Ferris' cocky attitude and total chutzpah, we encounter a likable character who cares about his friends and their problems. We also sympathize with him as he tiptoes through the minefield of typical teen problems generated by clueless parents, jealous younger siblings, suspicious and bureaucratic school officials, and distressed friends. It's the perfect movie to watch when you have a day off. Here's the opening scene. It sets the stage for all that follows:

The Wind and the Lion (1975). As a retired naval officer I can't help but like this movie. It has a great cast that includes Sean Connery, Candice Bergen, and Brian Keith. A fictionalized account of an incident that took place in Morocco in 1904 in which an American woman (Candice Bergen) and her two children were kidnapped by a Berber rebel (Sean Connery) with the intent of creating an international incident. (The reality was quite different, but it's a movie so we expect to encounter a little alteration.) In response to a ransom demand, the US President, Theodore Roosevelt (Brian Keith), decides to make use of the incident in his campaign for reelection. The story continues developing the relationship between the Berber rebel and the kidnapped American. My favorite scene involves none of the principle characters but depicts a contingent of US Marines sent to convince the Bashaw in Tangier to pay the ransom. The Marines are, of course, magnificently successful. It's a complicated plot, but a wonderful story. My kind of movie. Here's the trailer:

That's enough for now. Maybe more another day.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Fr. Jacques Hamel, Martyr

Fr. Jacques Hamel was the 85-year-old French priest who was murdered by Islamist terrorists while he celebrated Mass in his church in the town of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, a suburb of Rouen. ISIS quickly claimed responsibility for the priest's brutal death. 

In a homily at his residence's chapel this week, Pope Francis said that he expected Fr. Hamel to be canonized. The pope went on to refer to Fr. Hamel as a martyr and also repeated the slain priests final words, "Satan, begone!" Emphasizing this, Pope Francis then stated that "To kill in the name of God is satanic."
Fr. Jacques Hamel
Pope Francis continued by reminding his small congregation that martyrdom was and remains a very real part of the Church's 2,000-yearlong history. Father Hamel was the most recent in this long line of martyrs, and that today Christians in many parts of the world are "murdered, tortured, imprisoned, have their throats slit because they do not deny Jesus Christ."

The following video from Rome Reports describes the Holy Father's homily at the Santa Marta guesthouse chapel:

Interestingly, Fr. Hamel's Breviary, open to the last page he had prayed from that day, will be placed in the Basilica of St. Bartholomew where it will join the relics of other martyrs who gave their lives for the faith. In agreeing to this, the Archbishop of Rouen, Msgr. Dominique Lebrun, stated:
"I must confess that when they proposed the idea for the first time, I thought it was too soon, we should have done it later. But after listening to the pope, I saw that I was wrong. The pope was faster than me. I am very happy for this opportunity to state that Fr. Jacques is one among the many martyrs of the Church."
Here's another brief video, also from Rome Reports, describing this unique event:

Pray for the persecuted Christians of the world, and pray for the conversion of their persecutors.

Brexit, European Unity, and Culture

Brexit Vote: UK will leave the EU
 In a referendum on June 23 of this year, a majority of the people of the United Kingdom (and Gibraltar) voted to leave the European Union. Voter turnout for the referendum, popularly called "Brexit" (or British Exit), was high -- over 72% -- with approximately 52% of voters opting to leave. 

Although it's always dangerous to ascribe motives to voters, those in favor of leaving the EU seemed to believe that British sovereignty was at stake. They expressed concerns that non-elected EU bureaucrats were making and enforcing regulations affecting almost every aspect of people's lives, and that such decisions should be made by the people themselves. For them, membership in the EU is costly, intrusive, undemocratic, authoritarian; in other words, decisions affecting the UK should be made by the UK, not by unrestrained bureaucrats in Brussels. Some were also motivated by a desire to regain control over the nation's borders. Immigration, they believe, is out of control and causing unwanted changes to the nation's long-established culture. And others, looking to the future, saw no mechanism in place to limit the expanding power of the EU. They feared an EU transformation from an authoritarian bureaucracy to a totalitarian oligarchy.

Although I'm not British, I'll admit to siding with those UK voters who favored leaving the EU. I understand and in general agree with their reasons for voting as they did. After all, we Americans can certainly sympathize with British rejection of a foreign power who subjects them to "taxation without representation." 

Perhaps more importantly, I believe that a people, united by a common culture, has the right to self-determination, especially when it comes to accepting changes to that culture. I might well, however, differ with many of the UK's voters because I probably view the culture more broadly than they. I am not, therefore, a nationalist, and actually abhor nationalism because it tends to assume the nation state is the source of unity and ignores the unifying role of the broader culture, in this instance, the broader, and deeper, European culture.

For this reason, despite favoring an exit vote, I don't oppose the concept of a united Europe. The problem with the European Union as it currently exists relates to its self-awareness. Those who hold power in the EU don't understand the very source of the unity they extol. The EU seems to believe that European unity will result from economic and political integration. In other words, once all these former nation-states have the same currency and once their national and local governments become superfluous and are superseded by a united European government, the desired unity will result. Unfortunately, this kind of unity, based solely on economic and political ties, is doomed to failure. And I expect the decision by the people of the United Kingdom to be only the first of many similar decisions.

Charlemagne: Europe United in Faith
No common currency can unite a people. No unified government, no political system, can supplant the cultural unity that is at the heart of a people's identity. Unless, of course, a people loses all sense of cultural identity, something that will happen when the culture breaks down. Such a breakdown will occur when the people turn away from the very thing that formed their culture. For at the core of a culture is the cult, its religious foundation. European culture was formed over a period of centuries by men who did not rely solely on themselves or their own efforts. They relied on, they put their faith and trust in something far greater than the society or civilization of which they were a part. They relied on that which is above them, on the supernatural. They could say in faith: Diem hominis non desideravi -- I have not desired the day of man. They, instead, looked forward to the Day of God when all would be resolved, when God's plan for humanity would be fulfilled. But for many today, the day of man is the only hoped-for end. They have severed their cultural (religious) ties to the past and placed a near impassable barrier between them and those who formed the culture that formed today's Europeans. The barrier is a spiritual one and blinds them to their cultural ties to those who preceded them.

Sadly, the EU has also ignored these cultural ties. Its leadership has fallen prey to a kind of temporal bias which judges the past by current standards. Because EU leadership and bureaucrats disregard the role of religion, specifically Christianity, in the life and culture of today's Europe, they assume it had little or no role in the formation of European culture -- hence its omission from the once-proposed EU constitution. And because they ignore Europe's binding cultural roots, I believe the EU as it exists today will not last. Neither am I very optimistic about the future of Europe's nation states unless they experience a renewal of religious -- that is, Christian -- faith, unless they return in humility to their cultural roots. 

Before we dismiss this as improbable, if not impossible, we should recall that "with God all things are possible" and that we see the future only dimly. Jesus Christ is the Lord of History and can act in surprising ways through many unforeseen events. And we Americans, with our deep cultural ties to our European brothers and sisters, must hold fast to the faith that formed us as well.

Yes, indeed, we live in interesting times.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

PC No-Nos: Religious Liberty and Relgious Freedom

The United States Commission on Civil Rights in its latest report castigates those who dare to use such expressions as "religious liberty" or "religious freedom." Indeed, according to the report these phrases, in themselves, are discriminatory. The report, entitled Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles with Civil Liberties is a remarkable document that seems completely unaware of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United State.

Martin Castro, the chairman of the commission and presumably no relation to the Cuban dictator, stated: 

"The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance.” 
Ah, yes, we must suppress the speech of those who use those evil "code words." My questions to Mr. Castro are many: What words may I use to describe the persecution of Christians simply because they are Christians? Since Islam, like orthodox Christianity, also considers homosexual activity to be sinful, are Muslims guilty of homophobia? And if so, if one accuses Muslims of being homophobic, is he then Islamophobic? It's all very confusing, Mr. Castro, but I'm sure an intelligent man like yourself can clear it up for us intolerant Christian supremacists.

Interestingly, the commission's report, while accusing Christians of discrimination because they don't accept as good the behavior of everyone and anyone (excect, of course other Christians), goes on to do to Christians exactly what they accuse Christians of doing. Yes, indeed, it's all extremely confusing. For example, in the report's executive summary, the commission stated:
“The appropriate balance between religious liberty and nondiscrimination principles in some conflicts arises as a concern when religious institutions and organizations claim the freedom under constitutional and statutory law to choose leaders, members or employees according to the tenets of their faith, even if the choice would violate employment, disability, or other laws. It arises also when individuals claim the freedom to adhere to religious principles regardless of otherwise applicable law governing their conduct.”
Wow! Can you imagine? Let's punish those pesky Christians. After all, they expect their leadership and membership to accept the "tenets of their faith." It's simply outrageous that all those bishops and priests in the Catholic Church have to be Catholic. Does this mean that laws in direct conflict with the rights explicitly enumerated in the Constitution supersede those rights? According to the commission, it would seem so.

The commissioners went on to question religious exemptions -- you know, those rights  that stem from the First Amendment -- as infringing on a person's civil rights. They endorse the protection of one's religious beliefs, but not religious conduct, the ability to act on those beliefs or, in Constitutional language, to freely exercise those beliefs. And to make sure we understand what this means they listed several conclusions (see the Report, p. 20-21):

  • schools must be allowed to insist on inclusive values,
  • throughout history, religious doctrines accepted at one time later become viewed as discriminatory, with religions changing accordingly, 
  • without exemptions, groups would not use the pretext of religious doctrines to discriminate, 
  • a doctrine that distinguishes between beliefs (which should be protected) and conduct (which should conform to the law) is fairer and easier to apply, 
  • third parties, such as employees, should not be forced to live under the religious doctrines of their employers, 
  • a basic right as important as the freedom to marry should not be subject to religious beliefs, and 
  • even a widely accepted doctrine such as the ministerial exemption should be subject to review as to whether church employees have religious duties.
When one reads the entire report it becomes clear that the commission believes federal and state governments should interpret the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (1993) as narrowly as possible. In other words, religious freedom may be claimed only by individuals and churches, and even then only in the most limited sense. According to the commission, other religious-based or sponsored organizations should not be allowed to exercise their religious beliefs freely. This, the commission believes, will ensure those intolerant religious folks can't discriminate against those who don't accept the tenets of their faith.

It's all very Orwellian, and I can assume it will only get worse. 

By the way, just a point of interest: when one searches the commission's extensive website for the word, "sharia", there are no results.