Oliver Thomas is a minister, consitutional lawyer, and member of the USA Today board of contributors. 

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Clash of Liberties

by Oliver Thomas 04-25-2018
When religious liberties and civil liberties collide, how do we protect both?

RELIGIOUS LIBERTY is very popular in the abstract. It’s only in its application that we begin shouting at one another.

Take the executive order on religious freedom that President Trump signed earlier this year: Depending on your perspective, the order was either “a welcome change in direction toward people of faith from the White House,” as Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission president Russell Moore said, or it was a smokescreen for bigotry giving the U.S. government “license to discriminate,” in the words of Sarah Warbelow of the Human Rights Campaign.

So how did we get here?

Next Supreme Court Justice Needs Deeper Devotion to Religious Freedom Than Scalia Had

by Oliver Thomas 02-25-2016

Image via REUTERS/Carlos Barria/RNS

Some Christians are starting to clamor for President Obama to refrain from appointing a replacement for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Evangelical Ted Cruz has gone so far as to suggest that the next Supreme Court justice should be nominated by the next president (who he hopes will be (a) himself, or (b) at least a Republican). The senator has also extolled Justice Scalia as a champion of religious freedom and a model for the type of justice the Senate should confirm. That’s what scares me. They have it backwards, President Obama should act now and nominate someone with a deeper appreciation of religious freedom than Scalia showed in important cases.

America's Rough Week

by Oliver Thomas 04-19-2013
Hands photo, Andreas Gradin / Shutterstock.com

Hands photo, Andreas Gradin / Shutterstock.com

Life is difficult. It can knock you down. Sometimes, an entire nation gets knocked down.

First it was Boston. Some mad man (or men) lays waste to one of America’s most hallowed sporting events — the Boston Marathon. Sidewalks that should have been covered with confetti were covered in blood.

Then it was the quintessential small Texas town of West. Populated by hearty Czech immigrants, folks in West worked hard in their shops, bakeries, and fertilizer plant until the plant exploded. A magnitude-2.1 on the Richter scale, witnesses compared it to a nuclear bomb. Dozens are feared dead.

In the nation’s capital, we had the bitter realization that something is broken that will not be easily repaired. A commonsense proposal that emerged from the Newtown, Conn., tragedy, background checks to prevent convicted felons and the seriously mentally ill from purchasing guns online or at gun shows, fell prey to Washington gridlock. None of the Newtown proposals — the ban on assault weapons, limits on the number of bullets a gun can hold or expanded background checks — could garner the 60 votes necessary to overcome a Senate filibuster.

Finally, there were the ricin-laced letters sent to a Republican senator and the president.

In the Meantime, What About Our Schools?

by Oliver Thomas 11-01-1998
How to fix public education.

Neutral and Free

by Oliver Thomas 03-01-1996
Religion, values, and the public schools.