One of the bedrock foundations of our republic is the concept of religious freedom. It is basic to everything we believe. It was considered divinely-ordained right by our Founding Fathers. It was codified and guaranteed to us in our Bill of Rights. Yet, religious expression and liberty of conscience is increasingly coming under attack. Consider a few examples…
The Fire Chief of Atlanta, Kelvin Cochran, self-published a book that briefly mentioned biblical teaching regarding non-marital sexual relations, including homosexuality. He was not claiming to state official policy of the Atlanta Fire Department. He was simply stating his personal beliefs. For this “offense” he was first suspended, then fired from his job.
In Arizona a church pastor was sent to jail for disturbing the peace—by ringing the bell of his church.
A Christian student at a university in Missouri was threatened with having her degree withheld because she refused to write a letter to the state legislature expressing her support for homosexual adoption.
In Maryland a man was refused admission to the radiation therapy program at a local community college. In his admission interview he was asked what is the most important thing in his life. He simply answered, “God.” He was told that “the field [of radiation therapy] is not the place for religion.” Apparently being a Christian means keeping silent about your faith if you want to be part of the medical community.
In New Mexico a Christian woman refused to photograph a same sex marriage ceremony. Even though the gay couple found another, and cheaper, photographer, they still complained to the New Mexico Civil Rights Commission. After years of trials, the New Mexico Supreme ruled against this Christian couple. The Court declared that their actions were illegal according to New Mexico law. It completely rejected that couple could base their decision on their religious beliefs. One justice ruled that this couple was “compelled” by the law “to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives.” He stated this is “the price of citizenship.” This one really gets to me. Personal conviction and religious belief must now bow to state law. Later this case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but they refused to hear the case.
In California a high school banned the use of the American flag. Students were told they could not wear tee shirts with the flag pictured on them. A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the school’s decision.
In Colorado a Christian baker was forced to stop making wedding cakes because of his refusal to bake a cake for a gay wedding. The courts have ruled that his religious beliefs do not exempt him from state anti-discrimination laws. It is worth noting the title of one article in the NY Times about this case: “Colorado Court Rules Against Baker Who Refused to Serve Same Sex Couples.” This is a base, false representation of Jack Phillips. He is on record as serving gays on many occasions. He simply refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay marriage ceremony. (By the way, one of the most pernicious and prejudicial stereotypes promoted in America today is that all conservative Christians are hateful, mean, intolerant and malicious.)
In North Carolina a Jewish prisoner named Ben-Levi was denied the right to have a Bible study with other Jewish prisoners. The courts ruled that his request shows a misunderstanding of Jewish law, i.e., that a minyan is required in order to study the Torah. Actually no such prohibition exhibits in rabbinical law. However, the courts are denying this prisoner his personal freedom, and interpreting his own religion for him. It should be noted that Christians are allowed to have Bible studies in NC prisons.
Religious liberty is being denied to our military personnel. For example, Marine Lance Corporal Manifa Sterling posted a Bible verse in her work cubicle. Even though other work cubicles had personal and inspirational messages posted, she was told to take the verse down. She refused, standing by her rights of free expression and freedom of religion. For this stand she was court-martialed. She was found guilty and dishonorably discharged from the Marines. Her case was appealed to a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. In August 2016 this appellate court ruled against her.
The list of such cases could be continued almost endlessly. When it comes to civil and religious liberty, we are living in dangerous times.
Now discrimination against Christians and restricting freedom of religious belief and expression is becoming official government policy. Martin R. Castro, chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has issued a report entitled “Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles with Civil Liberties.” In this 307-page document Mr. Castro affirms that Christians do not have a right to true religious liberty. As reported in the Washington Times (September 8, 2016) the Commission Chairman states that “religious freedom” and “religious liberty” are nothing more than “code words” for “intolerance, ‘Christian supremacy’ and committing every form of identity-politics sin, and thus they must yield before anti-discrimination laws.” Mr. Castro went on to say, “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.”
Freedom of conscience was viewed by our Founders as a fundamental right, given by God himself, and inviolate and unalienable. In other words, no government, ruler or group has a legitimate right to deny or abrogate this freedom. It is ours by divine decree. But the current attitude of government officials is that executive orders, judicial fiats, committee decrees, and legislative acts all can “trump” this right. How far we have fallen!
We would do well to recall the words of the Founders.
James Madison affirmed that “the Religion then of every man must be left to conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an unalienable right.”
John Adams spoke of our natural rights in these these terms: “I say RIGHTS, for such they have, undoubtedly, antecedent to all earthly government,—Rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws—Rights, derived from the great Legislator of the universe.”
George Mason emphatically declared, “The laws of nature are the laws of God; whose authority can be superseded by no power on earth.”
It is time that we wake up to what is happening in our country. The denial of fundamental natural rights, given by God and guaranteed by our Constitution, is nothing less than tyranny. We rejected the tyranny of a monarch in 1776. Are we to still idle and allow the tyranny of local, state and federal institutions to deny us the liberty given by Divine Authority? It is time to wake up, to speak up, and to pray as never before! America, wake up!
Truth Builders is a ministry initiative of Advancing Native Missions. However, the content of this site is the personal opinion of the author, and does not necessarily reflect the opinions, views or conclusions of Advancing Native Missions, its leaders or staff.