With each passing week, the United States is edging precariously closer to the unthinkable, a tangible and serious loss of our historic religious liberties. Too many citizens remain uniformed, unaware and in some cases, simply unconcerned. When it comes to the growing clash of worldviews in this country or the need for proactive civic engagement, the following examples are grave reminders of an emerging postmodern culture in America.
Just this month, city officials in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, demanded that Donald and Evelyn Knapp—who are ordained ministers and the owners of the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel—officiate a requested same-sex wedding or face 180 days in jail and a fine of $1,000 for each day they decline to offer these services. Does this kind of government intrusion and coercion alarm you? It should and it’s time to wake up!
Not only is the action taken by the City Council a violation of a long held first amendment right, it directly impinges on a person’s actual rights of conscience. The same sex couple was not prohibited from being married; other avenues for the ceremony were readily available to them. Consider this reality: the government, at least in Idaho, is denying average citizens the freedom to make decisions based on their deeply held religious and/or moral values. You may recall similar cases involving a wedding photographer in New Mexico and a bakery in Colorado earlier this year. Are these instances really that much different than what is currently taking place at the hands of ISIS or other extremist and oppressive governments who are persecuting and arresting Christians simply because they believe and practice their faith differently within the public square?
Another equally disturbing story continues to unfold in Houston, Texas, where an anti-discrimination ordinance was passed in May. Mayor Annise Parker subpoenaed the sermons of several area pastors in order to review them for potential discriminatory language. After the Texas Attorney General intervened, a second thinly disguised attempt was made in which city officials then wanted all their “speeches.” This latest development prompted a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to pen a letter to the Mayor, reprimanding the spurious information request.
Any government official who seeks to intimidate and censor free speech or arrest and fine individuals for adhering to their moral convictions, is patently disregarding Constitutional boundaries. Let’s be clear about something, this blog is not about homosexual or LGBT issues, gender identity, same-sex marriages or gay discrimination. It is however, about protecting every citizen’s First Amendment rights and the rights of one’s moral conscience.
One week after Congress approved the First Amendment to the Constitution, President George Washington called for a National Day of Thanksgiving, “to be devoted by the people of these United States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks…for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government…particularly the national one now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed …to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue.”1 [emphasis mine]
Elected officials are expected to respond appropriately to the voters who put them in office. We encourage all Americans not to abandon the biblical order that embraces our Founding Father’s vision for this democratic Republic, but rather, to strongly advocate for the core principles that support and defend liberty, not only at every level of government, but through the policies and laws impacting day-to-day life.
Protecting religious liberty does not infringe on anyone’s rights. No one should be forced
to choose between strongly held religious beliefs and his or her livelihood, especially not in a nation with such a rich spiritual heritage. We are at the threshold of another national election. Those who serve in government are the ones who initiate and pass legislation, nominate and appoint judges and influence the national dialogue on matters of faith, conscience and culture. Consider very carefully where those seeking office stand when it comes to your religious liberties.
It’s time to wake up America! Keep praying. Keep working. Keep fighting for what you believe in. So, “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary (Gal.6:9).”
1Huffnagle, S. (Ed.) (2012). God in America. Montgomery, AL: E-Book Time, LLC.