What if it was a crime to pray or share the gospel in public? Could this be right? In America of all countries? Doesn’t the Constitution protect us from this kind of injustice? Not necessarily. Every day, rogue judges who legislate from the bench and any number of politicians at all levels of government, are attempting to redefine one of our most cherished First Amendment rights. Unless you and I are willing to stand up and be counted, freedom of religion will soon become freedom from religion.
The sober truth is that even as you’re reading this blog, people are being fined and facing incarceration in America for simply sharing their faith in the public square. Late last year, the New Orleans City Council adopted an ordinance making it a crime for individuals to loiter or congregate on Bourbon Street for the purpose of disseminating any kind of social, political or religious message between the hours of sunset and sunrise. Several street preachers were arrested during a public event in May. Violations are now classified as a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $500 fine. (News Source: Charisma News 9/24/12).1
In 2004, Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO of Liberty Institute—the largest legal organization dedicated solely to defending and restoring religious liberty in America—realized a dangerous trend was emerging. Now, eight years later, blatant hostility toward our Judeo-Christian heritage is taking center stage. Anti-religious groups are trying to push expressions of faith completely out of public life, our schools, and in some cases, even to moderate what is deemed permissible within the four walls of a local church. Our national motto—In God We Trust—is frequently misquoted and directly attacked. Open references to Christ in our military are discouraged, public prayer is increasingly under fire and some leaders have conveniently overlooked the word “God” when referencing our Founding Documents. This disturbing reality begs the question, “Can America survive another eight years on the same course?”
The Family Research Council and the Liberty Institute recently released an alarming survey2 documenting over 600 instances of overt hostility towards religion in the last 10 years throughout our nation’s courts, public schools and halls of government. It is worth noting their research concludes these assaults on religious liberty have increased exponentially in the last four years. The disregard for faith-based values ranges from the passage of the federal Affordable Care Act—sweeping legislation which unashamedly disregards an employer’s faith values and matters of conscious—to a school stopping a third grader from handing out candy canes with a religious Christmas message.
The degree of over-reaction on the part of those who feel compelled to “police” any and all references to God borders on the ridiculous. For example, Samantha Schultz, age 8, was not allowed to sing “Kum Ba Yah” at a Boys and Girls Club in Port Charlotte, Florida, because the song contained the words. “Oh, Lord.” A more serious incident involved Catherina Cenzon-DeCarlo, a nurse who practices at Manhattan’s Mount Sinai Hospital, was forced to violate her own religious convictions by participating in a late-term abortion or face job termination and the loss of her nursing license. No township, municipality, city, county or state is exempt from these threats; however, studies show that California, Texas, Michigan, and Florida have borne the brunt in these far reaching religious liberty battles.
Much of the survey details specific court cases or decisions by government, of which most involve Christian groups and denominations. Shackelford and Family Research Council President, Tony Perkins, agree, “America today would be unrecognizable to our Founders. Our first freedom is facing a relentless onslaught from well-funded and aggressive groups and individuals who are using the courts, Congress, and the vast federal bureaucracy to suppress and limit religious freedom. This radicalized minority is driven by an anti-religious ideology that is turning the First Amendment upside down.”
Another study3 issued by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life, shows that restrictions on religion surged throughout the world in 2009-2010. The study examined 197 countries and divided “restrictions on religion” into two separate categories: social hostilities and government restrictions. The report notes, “The United States was among the 16 countries whose scores on both the Government Restrictions Index and the Social Hostilities Index increased by one point or more in the year ending in mid-2010.This was the first time scores for the U.S. increased on both indexes during the four-year period covered in this study”. The full report is available here.
Over the next month and in the coming election cycle, American citizens face some of the most serious decisions they may ever make. We will choose those who will lead us at many levels. Is their voice your voice? Are their values your values? Will they stand in the gap and fight to uphold and defend your religious liberties? Living in this great Republic means we have a civic and moral responsibility to become informed and get involved.
Our country was established on a pillar of religious freedom. Don’t wait for tomorrow’s headlines to finally reach the tipping point.
- A rich constitutional history fading in the hearts of the young…Not in our schools!
- A pervasive erosion of our dynamic Judeo-Christian heritage…It will never happen!
- A tangible loss of religious liberty in America…Impossible!
- A fine and potential jail time for merely praying or sharing Christ…That would be a nightmare!
Yet, these realities are already upon us and their shadows will lengthen and tighten their grip unless we resolve in our hearts to rise up, resist this unprecedented drift toward a godless and value-neutral society and preserve the soul of the nation. The silence of the many often leads to the dictates of the few. “Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Now is the time. This is the cause. You are the answer.