Category Archives: Religious Freedom
It seems Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee for the 2016 presidential election. While many are extremely happy about that possibility, I am more concerned than ever about the future of our country.
First of all, let me say that I believe God is alive and well and continuing to be sovereign over all that takes place. As the Bible clearly indicates, God uses rulers (presidents) to bless and to punish nations. How Donald Trump will be used by God should he become president is not for me to prophesy about; I’ll leave that in God’s hands.
However, statements by Trump from a few months ago give me little reason to be excited by his nomination and possible presidency.
It was reported a few months ago that Trump wanted a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” until elected officials can “figure out what is going on.”
Trump went on to say that he would like to stop all Muslims from entering the country
There’s a verse in the Bible I’m learning to understand more as our culture moves toward complete rebellion of God’s principles. That verse simply states, “you cannot serve God and money.” (Matt. 6:24 ff)
Now, some would say this means you can’t be rich and serve God, but that’s a false conclusion. One look into Scripture reveals many people that were indeed rich and were used of God; King Solomon is just one example. Nope, that verse is teaching that your priorities cannot be both the pursuit of money and the pursuit of God and serving God.
Our society has become driven by money: the pursuit of money, the protection of money, and the acquisition of more money. And when money is threatened it is not a surprise to see people make decisions in favor of money rather than in favor of serving God.
Imagine your child and a few friends bowing their heads to say a prayer in the cafeteria at school before eating their lunch. As a parent you would be proud of their small demonstration of their faith. And you would be more than a little irritated if the principal of the school told your child that prayer was not permitted and the group had to stop immediately.
That scenario happened in a Wyoming school when students were told they needed permission to pray, and after receiving permission must pray in the hallway so other students wouldn’t see the prayer and be offended.
A recent article reports that the school argued that by praying in the cafeteria the students were creating a “captive audience” and forcing others to see, hear, and be part of their prayer. The principal wanted to avoid offending anyone – except the Christians it would seem – by making sure no one would see or hear the prayer.
But, when the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) – a legal organization that defends religious freedom – stepped in, the school changed its tone. ADF sent a letter to the school threatening legal action if the school continued to infringe on the students’ 1st amendment rights to pray:
Those words come from Daniel McArthur, general manager of Ashers Baking Company, as he describes what it is like to have the government demand he and his family of Christians make a cake with a message that violates their religious beliefs.
It all started when a man asked for a cake with the words “support gay marriage” on it. McArthur and the people at Ashers refused to make it citing their religious beliefs. A legal battle ensued and the government sided with the customer saying that Ashers had violated the Equality Act and “discriminated” against the man. Ashers was fined $765 for “injury to feelings” and told to make the cake.
By the way, this all happened in Norther Ireland where gay marriage is illegal.
It has been confirmed by multiple sources that US-Iranian Pastor Saeed Abedini has finally been freed from the Iranian prison he was held in for more than three years.
Sources including Christianity Today and his wife Naghmeh confirmed the release of Pastor Saeed as a part of a prisoner swap between the US and Iran. The United States released 7 prisoners and Iran released 4.
Pastor Saeed was first taken in 2012 while he was in Iran helping to build a government approved orphanage. He had been warned not to participate in house churches while Iran, but was given clearance to help with the orphanage. While on a bus he was taken, arrested, and sentenced to eight years in prison.
Pastor Saeed’s wife became a tireless warrior pleading for his release. She spoke with anyone that would listen, including religious and political leaders all over the world. Mrs. Abedini’s legal representation, The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), gathered more than 1 million signatures in its effort to secure Pastor Saeed’s release.
Suppose you’re a high-school football coach that has received praise and accolades in your annual review for the last 7 years. You’ve also been told by athletes and parents about what a good influence you are on the players and what a great role model you are. You don’t do anything special or different for your entire tenure as a coach. Then, one day you find out the school is placing you on administrative leave and suggesting you not be re-hired.
What would you think?
That is the position coach Joe Kennedy found himself in when the local Washington state school district he worked for refused to allow him to continue saying silent prayers on the football field.
Here’s the story.
In 2008 Coach Kennedy saw the movie “Facing the Giants” and decided to start praying for his team. He would stroll out to the field before and after games to say a silent prayer for the athletes. He didn’t tell anyone, didn’t invite anyone, he just started praying. Before long members of his team joined him and they would silently pray before and after games. No one was forced. No one was disciplined or removed from the team for not praying. It was a completely voluntary routine.
It’s clear from the plain understanding of these laws that anyone, not just a church, has the right to live and do business according to their sincerely held religious beliefs. The idea that the Supreme Court or any governing body can force a person to support anything that violates their conscience or religious convictions is completely foreign to the American Constitution. (This includes the taxpayer funding of abortion.) Our Founders specifically sought to create a place where people would not be forced to violate their convictions.
The proposed resolution goes on to cite cases from around the country where Christians have been prosecuted for their refusal to support same-sex “marriage.” These examples include a photographer in New Mexico, baker in Colorado, florist in Washington, and others that have seen their business and personal lives thrown into turmoil by an overzealous government and complicit media that are chomping at the bit to make examples of anyone that refuse to bow to their agenda.
The resolution goes on to propose the following law designed to protect churches and the people that work for them, as well as religious organizations and their employees and Christian-owned businesses:
There’s an enormous misunderstanding regarding the Constitution and religion that is causing all sorts of trouble for folks that just want to pray. The misunderstanding is being intentionally propagated by an atheist group that doesn’t want to see religious expressions in public.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has a notion that government and religion are mutually exclusive. They have as their mission “to protect the constitutional principle of separation between church and state.” The problem here is that there is no such “constitutional principle.” Nowhere in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, or the Declaration of Independence is there a word about keeping religion out of public life; or the so-called “separation of church and state.” In fact, what the Constitution does say is that the government has no authority to make any laws pertaining to the free exercise and expression of religion.
But that doesn’t stop this atheist group from demanding that coaches not take part in team prayers.
One of the latest cases comes from Naperville, Ill. where a high school football coach is under fire for simply being present with his players during team prayers. (Click here to read the local article) The complaint came after a picture of the team, including the coaches, was sent to the FFRF. They sent a letter to the school district demanding the action cease immediately.
There is no doubt that Muslims, Islam, and ISIS are front and center in the news. All of us will – if we haven’t already – have a conversation about whether these people are one and the same or if they can be separated. The talking points are reaching a fever pitch as political candidates are calling for deportations and registries here in the US for Muslims that want to be in our country. With all the noise it can be hard for Christians to know what the proper, biblical attitude toward Muslims should be. I confess that I have struggled with knowing exactly how the situation should be handled. (I’m thankful I’m not in a position where my opinion matters.)
I found this short video featuring world-renowned scholar James White helpful. In the video, posted on YouTube, White discusses some basics about Islam and a starting point for Christians that want to think through the issue. On one hand we want to extend the love of Christ and be a visual example of the Gospel to people trapped in a dark and violent religion. On the other hand we want to protect our family, our friends, and our country from people that seemingly hate us and want to inflict unending violence against us. That is not an enviable position.
Take a few moments to listen to Dr. White explain a good starting point for us as Christians as we think through this difficult and highly controversial issue. We need to have more than raw emotions and political talking points when we discuss Islam and Muslims. Our theology must carry over to this issue. Dr. White’s thought will help with that. I hope you find this as helpful as I did. (If the video doesn’t appear automatically, please refresh your browser.)
I never cared much for Thanksgiving. That’s a funny way to open a post about Thanksgiving but, the truth is this day never really had a lot of meaning to me. For whatever reason I never saw this day as more than a day off, a day to relax, eat, and play or watch football (or both). Then something happened.
The natural process of life: getting married, having kids, getting older began to change my attitude about Thanksgiving. I saw a desperate need to foster an attitude of thanks and gratitude in my own life. Instead of constantly pursuing more I wanted to be grateful for the many blessings God has given to me and my family. In fact, each night when our family prays we thank God for His “many blessings, like food, clothes, and a warm bed.” And why shouldn’t we?
Taking a quick glance around our world I see hungry people, men and women and kids with no homes, people being forced from their homeland for one reason or another, war, abuse, violence, and sin. The truth is, our world is not a very pleasant place. There is much to be discouraged and disheartened about. But, there is also much to be thankful for.