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-Government Threats to Our Religious Freedom and Conscience

by Dr. D ~ October 22nd, 2013

The Newseum's Five (5) freedoms guaranteed by ...

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Here’s an article from Family Policy Institute of Washington listing 23 instances in the last several years where our religious freedoms and conscience in America have been threatened or under attack. From Citizen Link:

You probably know that religious freedom and conscience rights is under threat from government at all levels.  You’ve heard about the federal government trying to force Hobby Lobby and the Catholic church to pay for contraception in violation of their Catholic beliefs.  But there are so many more examples from around the country that you may not have heard about. Once you’ve read this sobering list, join us in the effort to protect religious freedom here in Washington. 

1) Spokane Falls Community College officials threatened a young female student and members of a Christian student group with disciplinary measures, including expulsion, if they chose to hold a pro-life event on campus to share information with other students because the message was “discriminatory” and did not include a pro-abortion viewpoint.

2) In 2013, a Washington Florist, acting on her religious beliefs and convictions, refused to provide service for a same-sex wedding. The gay couple accepted her refusal. The Washington State Attorney General then filed a consumer protection lawsuit against the florist and wants to fine the business. Soon after, the ACLU, representing the couple, filed a lawsuit against the florist as well for denied service, and is seeking damages on behalf of the gay couple.

3) A family owned bakery in Oregon had refused service for a same-sex couple’s wedding ceremony, based on the owners religious beliefs. The couple filed a discrimination complaint against the bakery, and soon after, the bakery was attacked by gay activists. The bakery ended up closing down after receiving threats to the owner’s family.

<Read the rest of the list>

Response: when you read the whole list you begin to get a feel for the very real threats to our religious freedoms in America. We have been writing on this issue for the last 7 years and most of the events on the list we have covered on this blog. However we could add a few more including a few home Bible study groups that have been threatened with fines and street ministers who have been arrested all across America.

Meanwhile the American church continues to substantially sleep through it all and one wonders if Christians will be aroused in great enough numbers to challenge the loss of our freedoms before it is too late.

The very Constitutional amendments that were written to protect our religious rights are now actually being used against us. The words that were penned to keep government from restricting religion America are now being used to do that very thing. But the greatest challenge to religious freedom and conscience is coming in the form of conflicting civil rights with a dominant secular judiciary systematically determining that religious freedom is among the lessor rights in a progressive society regardless of the importance that the founders placed upon it 200 years ago.            *Top

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4 Responses to -Government Threats to Our Religious Freedom and Conscience

  1. mark

    The counter argument to the position in this article is that the steps taken by the government intended to correct the discriminatory nature of the initiating event e.g. florist refusing service is discriminatory, as it would be if it was a black couple or muslim couple being refused. Because you people don’t see an underlying “right” to a service in that case, the couple being gay, you of course reject that interpretation and contextualize the government action as an assault on religion which, in a limited sense, it is .

  2. Dr. D

    Well stated mark. Your comments really do reveal the problem that we are facing. From our view we see two conflicting underlying ‘rights.’ One way or another there is going to be discrimination in the case of the florist. Either the rights of the couple or the florist are going to be honored but not both.

    The government decided that homosexual civil rights trump the religious rights of Christians who continue to hold a traditional Biblical view toward sexuality. Does this mean that Christians that hold that theological view are no longer protected by the Constitution? Recently the New Mexico Supreme court stated that was the case in a similar situation as above. Fact is, we now live in a society that is progressively turning secular, the right to freedom of religion is considered far less important than it use to be.

  3. Brian

    Mark, here is the text of the First Amendment:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”

    Note the passage “prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. It is the position at least of evangelical Protestants in this county that one should try to shape one’s life around one’s religious beliefs. Thus, the free exercise of religion would entail living in accordance with certain moral and spiritual beliefs.

    Also note 1 Corinthians 9-12, which admonishes Christians to refrain from acts which, while not sinful in and of themselves, might be misunderstood by either non-Christians or weak Christians. In this passage, Paul said “it is perfectly ok to eat meat offered to idols, but don’t do it if it becomes a stumbling block for those who see you doing it.” Similarly, there is no scriptural bar (for example) on a Christian baker selling pastries to a gay wedding, but a baker who does so, as a Christian, can do wrong if 3rd parties observe the transaction and incorrectly view it as an endorsement of homosexuality. For this reason, a florist/baker/wedding photographer who declines to participate in a gay wedding is acting consistently with the mandates of Christian scripture.

    I would also point out that there are countless judicial decisions involving the doctrine of separation of church and state wherein the court held that “school district x should not allow religious group y to do action z on school property, because it might be misunderstood as an endorsement by government of the religious beliefs of this religious group.” This position is well-recognized at law, but it is logically identical to the converse position of the florist/baker/wedding photographer. In other words, if it is improper for a government to interact with a religious group because it might present the wrong appearance to the general public, it is also improper for the government to insist that a religious person interact with a particular group because it might present the wrong appearance to the general public.

  4. mark

    With due respect, the fundamental issue as to the obligation, or more properly, the impending obligation to render service to gay people is the pre-eminent legal issue, as a civil rights issue. Of course, the shadow area of sexual discrimination in the case of gays muddies the issue here. In time it is highly predictable that it will be taken as a matter of course that one must serve a gay person ( not discriminate on the basis of a gender choice or assignation as the reason to refuse the service). I apologize for any dint on one’s sense of religious duty , I understand the import and gravity of such matters to persons of faith, albeit I am not one myself. I hope for a cultural transition unmarred by excessive angst.

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