Category archives: Religious Liberty

Hashtag Persecution

by Jourdan Stuart

November 14, 2014

When one hears a story about God’s people being persecuted for their beliefs, many examples throughout history come to mind. Adolph Hitler, the German dictator, ordered the extermination of six million Jews during the Holocaust. Many of the Jews were marched into gas chambers as participants of one of the largest genocides in world history. The Biblical account of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is a historic example of individuals being persecuted for their religious beliefs. In this story, King Nebuchadnezzar throws Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the fiery furnace for refusing to worship the king’s golden image. Mark Twain once said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme”.  Is genocide on a large scale more appalling than the individuals affected by it?

One contemporary example of modern-day persecution is the story of Asia Bibi of Pakistan. In 2010, this mother of five was convicted of blasphemy for speaking out against Muhammad and was sentenced to death. Her government-justified execution does not end her story but extends to her family who are facing a similar fate.  Supporters can bring attention to her story using the hashtag #FreeBibi via social media.

Meriam Ibrahim was sentenced by the Sudanese government to death by hanging for her Christian faith.  While in prison, Meriam gave birth to her child. After much international pressure she obtained her release and was returned to the United States.

Saeed Abedini is a pastor from Idaho being held in Rajaei Shahr prison for building an orphanage in Iran.  In 2012, Saeed, after being detained for being a Christian, was denied a court hearing, and was placed in a solitary confinement facility. He has been tortured and his communication with his family has been cut off. Facility medical staff refused him treatment because he is an “unclean” Christian.  In 2014, his condition deteriorated and he was transported to a hospital outside of the prison, where he received only minimal medical attention. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has called for Saeed’s release and over 610,000 people have signed a petition to that end. Saeed and his family have remained steadfast thanks to the support and prayers of godly people. Awareness is being raised for Saeed on social media through the hashtag, #SaveSaeed.

North Korean officials were detaining American, Jeffery Fowle, an Ohio native, this past spring simply for leaving a Bible in his hotel room. Thankfully, through the efforts of the White House and prayers of believers worldwide, Mr. Fowle has obtained freedom. Matthew Miller and Kenneth Bae, Americans being held in North Korea for “crimes” of the same nature, were also recently released.

Many in the U.S. are not aware of the persecution experienced by Americans overseas. As noted, Americans are not immune to this persecution. We must pray that God will give strength to endure trials, and we must pray for the safe return of our brothers and sisters around the world facing persecution for their beliefs. We must also pray for our leaders to aggressively defend persecuted Christians around the world.

Beachheads of God’s Kingdom

by Rob Schwarzwalder

November 3, 2014

So, things can look pretty bleak, at home and abroad. But in addition to the fact that we have the legal right and moral duty to try to restrain evil and advance good, Christians can celebrate some very good things that are happening concurrent with the gloom that sometimes seems to surround us.

Here is some news to encourage believers who sometimes feel at sea without a rudder in the waves of our culture. Some stories deal with specific events, others with broader trends. All should help keep us steadfast as we work for life, family, and liberty.

  • The adoption movement is bringing thousands of little ones, at home and abroad, into loving Christian homes).
  • Although a recent survey says that most Americans see religion’s influence in culture waning, the survey also shows “most people who say religion’s influence is waning see this as a bad thing”. This presents a real opportunity for Christians to talk about how God’s standards for society actually work – and use them to share the good news about Jesus, too.
  • Believers in the U.S. are growing more and more aware of their suffering brethren across the globe; for example, FRC played a key role in the release of Christian Mariam Ibrahim from Sudanese captivity earlier this year. Voice of the Martyrs and Open Doors are among those leading in this area.

Is this list comprehensive? No. Does it diminish the grim news about abortion, violations of religious liberty, erosions of the family and our culture and other bad things we hear about so often? No.

But God is doing wonderful things despite the fallenness and corruption that is in the world. Let’s rejoice in that truth and from it gather continued strength to keep fighting the wrongs of our time.

Houston Mayor Withdraws Subpoenas, but Political Intimidation Continues

by FRC Media Office

October 29, 2014

HOUSTON, TEXAS., October 28, 2014 — On Sunday, November 2, Family Research Council (FRC) will host a nationwide, live simulcast event from Grace Community Church in Houston, Texas. Called “I Stand Sunday,” the simulcast will reach into over 2,500 churches and home groups nationwide. “I Stand Sunday” will provide churches across the nation the opportunity to stand with the pastors and churches in Houston, Texas who have been targeted and harassed by the city’s Mayor because they publicly challenged her efforts to advance policies that are in direct conflict with biblical morality.

FRC President Tony Perkins will serve as host for the simulcast which will also feature former Governor Mike Huckabee, Duck Dynasty’s Phil and Al Robertson, the five Houston pastors who have been targeted by the Mayor’s subpoenas, Dr. Ronnie Floyd, who serves as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, along with many other national and local Christian leaders.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins made the following comments regarding the Mayor’s announcement today and Sunday’s “I Stand Sunday” simulcast:

Standing together across the nation, Christians have sent a strong message to Mayor Parker. While we are encouraged by this evidence that the Mayor is responding to pressure and withdrawing her unconstitutional subpoenas, this is about far more than subpoenas. As we have stated since the beginning of this intrusion into the private affairs of Houston churches; this is not about subpoenas, this is not about sermons, it is not even about biblical teaching on sexual immorality, it is about political intimidation and the bullying by Mayor Parker that continues.

Despite the fact that the citizens of Houston gathered over 50,000 signed petitions in 30 days, which is 30,000 more than required by the city charter, the Mayor has refused to allow the people of Houston to vote on her unfair special rights ordinance that discriminates against religious freedom within the city and endangers citizens by declaring that public bathrooms can no longer be limited on the basis of a person’s actual biological sex.

The citizens of Houston have a right to vote, and Mayor Parker has denied them that right. America must see the totalitarianism that accompanies the redefinition of marriage and human sexuality, which results in citizens being denied their most fundamental rights.

This Sunday night, thousands of Christians from across the nation will join ‘I Stand Sunday’ to support the pastors and Christians in Houston, Texas and their fundamental rights of religious freedom, freedom of speech and the right to petition their government,” concluded Perkins

Prior to the simulcast, FRC President Tony Perkins, Gov. Mike Huckabee, Pastor Steve Riggle, Dr. Ronnie Floyd, and local church leaders will hold a 4:00 p.m. CT news conference at Grace Community Church where they will offer a preview of the event.

WHO:

Former Governor Mike Huckabee

Phil Robertson, Duck Dynasty

Alan Robertson, Duck Dynasty

Tony Perkins, President, Family Research Council

Steve Riggle, Founding Senior Pastor, Grace Community Church, Houston, TX

Khanh Huynh, Senior Pastor, Vietnamese Baptist Church, Houston, TX

Dave Welch, Executive Director, Houston Pastors Council

Hernan Castano, Pastor, Iglesia Rios de Aceite, Houston, TX

Magda Hermida, Founder, Magda Hermida Ministries, Houston, TX

Willie Davis, Senior Pastor, MacGregor Palm Community Baptist Church in Houston, TX

Dr. Ed Young, Pastor, Second Baptist Church Houston, TX

Dr. Ronnie Floyd, President, Southern Baptist Convention

Todd Starnes, Host, Fox News and Commentary; Contributor, FOX & Friends; Author

Dr. Rick Scarborough, Founder and President, Vision America

David and Jason Benham, Benham Brothers Companies

Erik Stanley, Director of the Church Project and Pulpit Initiative, Alliance Defending Freedom

WHAT: News conference and simulcast event: “I Stand Sunday”

WHERE: Grace Community Church

14505 Gulf Freeway Houston, TX 77034

WHEN: Sunday, November 2, 2014

News Conference: 4:00 p.m. CT

Simulcast: 6:00 p.m. CT

To register for media credentials or for more information, please call the FRC press office at (866) FRC-NEWS or for more info please visit http://www.istandsunday.com

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Ministers: Beware

by Travis Weber

October 20, 2014

As if the over-stepping Houston major’s office subpoenaing sermons and other private communications of pastors wasn’t enough, we now receive news of two elderly ministers being told by city officials that any refusal to marry a same-sex couple could cause them to face up to 180 days in jail and $1,000 in fines for each day they decline to do so.

For many years, the husband and wife team of Donald and Evelyn Knapp have presided over wedding services across the street from the local county clerk’s office in Coeur d’Alene, a beautiful city in North Idaho. Now, they are told they have to conform to their city’s iron-fisted demand that they “marry” men to men and women to women.

In other words, from the city to the ministers: Your religious liberty doesn’t really mean a thing when it comes to the new sexuality; you must come into line in accord with our views. When the city says something related to human sexuality should be accepted, that’s the final word.

For years, we have also been told by gay-marriage advocates that no harm would come from legalizing same-sex marriages. No one would be forced to participate.

Yet it seems that day has arrived. Court-issued stays have been lifted, and gay marriages have started to proceed in Idaho. Now a minister is being told by his government that he must officiate at these “marriages.”

Now that we are past the point where we were told the gay-rights crusade would stop, should we expect it to just stop here? I’ve grown doubtful of such expectations, as the advocacy and pressure for acceptance continue full steam. No, this crusade will likely continue until all are forced to approve.

These developments have occurred incrementally. As Albert Mohler points out, “[t]his is how religious liberty dies. Liberties die by a thousand cuts. An intimidating letter here, a subpoena there, a warning in yet another place. The message is simple and easily understood. Be quiet or risk trouble.”

How true. We are more in danger of remaining apathetic to threats to our freedom when the individual threats just don’t appear to be a big deal. The danger is in the accumulation, though. Hopefully, for many, this latest “increment” will be too big to ignore.

Snoops on the Stoops of the Church

by Tony Perkins

October 15, 2014

When it comes to illegal surveillance, it looks like the NSA has some competition. In a story that’s making Texans’ heads spin, the Houston P.C. police — the same Council that passed an LGBT ordinance this year — is subpoenaing sermons, emails, and even text messages from local pastors to see if they’re promoting a voter referendum to overturn the measure.

The jaw-dropping move — one in a long line of Houston’s “gotcha” government — is only fanning the flames of outrage over the city’s totalitarian tactics. Even for Houston’s radical leadership, this is an affront to the plain language of the First Amendment, which not only gives churches the right to speak freely but the individuals leading them as well! “City council members are supposed to be public servants, not ‘Big Brother’ overlords who will tolerate no dissent or challenge,”said Alliance Defending Freedom’s Erik Stanley. “In this case, they have embarked upon a witch-hunt, and we are asking the court to put a stop to it.”

Yesterday, ADF filed a motion in court to stop the senseless monitoring of churches. “The message is clear,” they explain, “oppose the decision of city government, and drown in unwarranted burdensome discovery requests… Not only will the pastors be harmed if these discovery requests are allowed, but the People will suffer as well. The referendum process will become toxic and the People will be deprived of an important check on city government.”

It’s a sad commentary on our times that a nation founded by church leaders is trying to muscle those same religious voices out of the political process. Obviously, there’s no limit to how low the Left will stoop, and how many laws it will break, to impose its agenda on unwilling Americans.

 

In the name of religious rights for prisoners

by Travis Weber

October 7, 2014

Today oral argument will be heard by the Supreme Court in Holt v. Hobbs, a case in which a Muslim prisoner is seeking to grow a ½ inch beard in compliance with his religious faith. The prison policy at issue actually permits ½ inch beards, but only for medical reasons. For this marginalization of his religion, Mr. Holt has sued under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), and is asking the Court to apply strict scrutiny (the same high standard of protection for religious rights required by RFRA and affirmed by the Supreme Court in Hobby Lobby) and protect his religious rights in the face of a discriminatory prison policy.

Many see the importance of protecting religious rights for prisoners, including those who have personally benefitted and come to faith through access to religious programs in prison. My law school colleague Jesse Wiese, now advocating for prisoners at the Justice Fellowship, is one of these; he has written about his experiences in support of Mr. Holt’s religious claim in this case. A win for Mr. Holt under RLUIPA in this case will protect all prisoners, regardless of faith. Along with protecting a Muslim prisoner who wants to grow a beard to a reasonable length (in keeping with the prison’s need to maintain order and discipline), the application of strict scrutiny here will strengthen the law’s protections for Jewish prisoners seeking dress or grooming accommodations, or those seeking access to Bible studies in prison. As it is said, a win for religious freedom for one is a win for religious freedom for all.

Moreover, a win for Mr. Holt here will strengthen protections for religious exercise in public spaces in the United States, something that groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation just can’t stand. Religion always has occupied a unique role in the public life of our country. We can expect the Supreme Court to again affirm that principle with a ruling for Mr. Holt in this case.

FRC Files Amicus Brief in Reed v. Town of Gilbert

by Travis Weber

September 22, 2014

Today, Family Research Council filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Reed v. Town of Gilbert.

In this case, a Gilbert, Arizona sign ordinance discriminated against certain signs based on the content of the signs — whether they were political, ideological, and directional. Directional signs were placed under more severe restrictions.

A local church — Good News Community Church — and its pastor — Clyde Reed – needed to announce the times and locations of their services, but because their announcement signs (which directed individuals to a public school were services were being held) were deemed directional, the church was severely hampered in getting its message out.

Pastor Reed and Good News Community Church sued to vindicate their constitutional rights. The lower courts ruled against them, so they have now taken their case to the Supreme Court.

In our brief, filed in support of Pastor Reed and Good News Community Church, we argue that the town does regulate signs differently based on their content, for politics, ideology, and directions are all matters of differing content. Well-established Supreme Court jurisprudence bars content-based restrictions on speech unless the government can meet strict scrutiny — which says that unless the government regulation advances a compelling government interest, and this is done in the least restrictive way possible – the government regulation cannot stand. We conclude that because there are content-based restrictions on speech in this case, the Supreme Court should send this case back to the district court to determine if the town can meet strict scrutiny.

A win for Pastor Reed and Good News Community Church in this case will help advance a strong interpretation of First Amendment free speech rights, which is good not only for small congregations like Good News Community Church, but for all who wish to speak free from government interference. Ensuring an open marketplace of ideas in which all voices are protected and can speak freely is what the First Amendment is all about.

Our press release is here, and our brief can be read here.

Welcome Back to College, USA

by Rob Schwarzwalder

September 10, 2014

The California State University system has booted InterVarsity from its 23 campuses because IV, an Evangelical Christian group, believes its local chapters should be led by (get ready) Evangelical Christians.

Women-only Mt. Holyoke College has announced that it is changing its gender categories, to wit:

  • Biologically born female; identifies as a woman.
  • Biologically born female; identifies as a man.
  • Biologically born female; identifies as other/they/ze.
  • Biologically born female; does not identify as either woman or man.
  • Biologically born male; identifies as woman.
  • Biologically born male; identifies as other/they/ze and when “other/they” identity includes woman.
  • Biologically born with both male and female anatomy (Intersex); identifies as a woman.

    The school’s policy notes one identity category still barred from admission: “Biologically born male; identifies as man.”

How about venerable Vanderbilt, which

… has decided student groups on campus cannot determine their own leadership. Consequently, a Muslim can run the Christian group, a global warming skeptic can run the Earth First group, a Republican can run the College Democrats, etc. … The rule came in part because, as you will not be surprised to learn, a Christian fraternity “had expelled several students for violating their behavior policy. One student said he was ousted because he is gay.” Tish Harrison Warren wrote about this at Christianity Today. Her Christian group allowed anyone to be a member, “[b]ut it asks key student leaders — the executive council and small group leaders — to affirm its doctrinal statement, which outlines broad Christian orthodoxy and does not mention sexual conduct specifically. But the university saw belief statements themselves as suspect.”

And, as of Wednesday of this week, “Rev. Bruce Shipman, the Episcopal chaplain at Yale, has resigned in the wake of controversy over a New York Times letter he wrote suggesting Jews were collectively culpable for Israel’s actions and for subsequent rises in global anti-Semitism.” Yale, founded as an explicitly Christian institution centuries ago, summons the decency to fire a nascent anti-Semite — a tiny flash of light in the gathering twilight that is the moral climate of the nation’s colleges and universities. Of course, this spasm of honor comes long after Yale jettisoned its original purpose: to train young men to “live religious, godly and blameless lives according to the rules of God’s Word, diligently reading the Holy Scriptures, the fountain of light and truth; and constantly attend upon all the duties of religion, both in public and secret … (each student was to) …consider the main end of his study to wit to know God in Jesus Christ.”

It is hard to know how to comment about the things listed above. Their stupidity and hypocrisy possess an umbra so glistening, not dissimilar to that displayed by an oil slick on a garage floor, that I will let them speak for themselves.

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