Let’s Debunk the “Christian Persecution” Court Cases That Inspired the “God’s Not Dead” Films

One of the biggest complaints critics have of God’s Not Dead and its sequel is that both films suggest a kind of Christian persecution that just doesn’t exist in real life.

No philosophy professor would ever force you to say God doesn’t exist, just like no atheist group would sue a teacher over a harmless mention of Jesus in the classroom.

But the filmmakers insist this sort of anti-Christian discrimination happens all the time. Just to prove it, in both films, the closing credits include a list of court cases supposedly documenting this very thing.

GodsNotDead2Poster

The website for the movie recently called me out on that:

While you would think scores of cases would be an eye-opener, The Friendly Atheist blog claims the movie highlights “fake Christian persecution.”

So, if you’re wondering how prevalent the religious liberty issue is, take a look at these cases that our friends at Alliance Defending Freedom shared with us.

Oh, I looked at these cases. Every one of them. And I’ll say it again, loud and clear: Christian persecution, as seen in these films, just doesn’t exist.

I’m not just going to leave it at that.

In fact, here’s every case they put up on their website — along with an explanation for why none of them prove Christians are actually being discriminated against in the U.S.

State of Washington v. Arlene’s Flowers: The State of Washington and a same-sex couple sued a florist to force her to create floral arrangements celebrating a same-sex wedding ceremony.

Hands On Originals v. Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission: A human rights commission in Kentucky sued a t-shirt print shop owner to force him to make t-shirts with text promoting a gay pride festival.

Elane Photography v. Willock: A New Mexico Human Rights Commission sued a wedding photographer to force her to use her photographic talents to tell the story of a same-sex commitment ceremony.

Erwin v. Liberty Ridge Farms: A New York human rights commission sued two owners of a family farm to force them to open it to same-sex wedding ceremonies.

Cervelli v. Aloha Bed & Breakfast: A lesbian couple sued a bed and breakfast owner to force her to allow them to stay in her home in violation of her religious beliefs against sex outside of marriage.

Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Craig: A same-sex couple and the Colorado civil rights commission sued a cake artist to force him to create a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding ceremony.

Baker v. Wildflower Inn: A Vermont human rights commission and two women sued a family-owned bed and breakfast to force it to host a reception honoring a same-sex wedding.

Cryer v. Klein: A same-sex couple sued a cake artist and her business to force them to create a wedding cake promoting and endorsing a same-sex wedding ceremony.

All these are examples of Christian business owners saying they offer a service… but refusing to perform it for paying customers who happen to be gay or lesbian.

That sort of selective bigotry has no place in society. Keep in mind that none of these places would have a problem serving customers going through a second marriage or couples who had pre-marital sex. We’re all sinners… some are just bigger sinners than others.

That’s not Christian discrimination; that’s Christian bullying.

Cochran v. City of Atlanta: The Fire Chief of Atlanta sued the city after it fired him for expressing his religious beliefs about marriage in a book he wrote on his own time.

That sounds pretty bad… until you realize that’s not the full story.

Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran was indeed fired, not because he wrote that book. It was because he was proselytizing on the job, handing out copies of the book to subordinates who never even asked for it. Talk about coercion…

Hobby Lobby & Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Burwell: Two businesses sued the federal government after it attempted to force them to provide contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs in their health insurance plans.

March for Life v. Burwell: A pro-life organization sued the federal government after it attempted to force the organization to provide abortion-inducing drugs through its health insurance plan.

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. v. Burwell: A Christian publisher sued the federal government after it attempted to force it to provide contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs in its health insurance plan.

Fellowship of Catholic University Students v. Burwell: A non-profit Catholic organization sued the federal government when it attempted to force it to use its health insurance plan to provide abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization.

Dobson v. Burwell: Dr. James Dobson and his Christian non-profit organization sued the federal government after it attempted to force them to provide abortion-inducing drugs in their health insurance plan.

Gusich v. California Department of Managed Health Care: The California Department of Managed Health Care attempted to force a non-profit religious university to provide elective abortions through the university’s health insurance plan.

Foothill Church v. California Department of Managed Health Care: Numerous California churches sued the California Department of Managed Health Care to protect their religious beliefs after the Department required all employers, including churches, to pay for elective abortions in their health insurance plans.

Howe v. Burwell: A pro-life Vermont man sued the federal government after he lost his private health plan due to Obamacare, and was then forced to obtain health insurance that required him to pay a fee to cover elective abortions.

Grace Schools v. Burwell: Grace College and Seminary in Indiana and Biola University in California sued the federal government when it attempted to force these institutions to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception..

Ave Maria School of Law v. Burwell: A Catholic law school sued the federal government when it forced the school to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception.

Southern Nazarene University v. Burwell: Four Christian universities in Oklahoma sued the federal government when it forced the universities to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception.

There’s clearly a debate about whether these things are discrimination. Personally, I don’t think it’s anti-Christian to say that business owners and colleges should provide comprehensive health insurance for their employees and students, letting them make their own health care decisions.

Just because contraception and birth control are options on that menu doesn’t mean the owners are forced to support them. I pay taxes for things I genuinely disagree with. That’s not discrimination against me.

In any case, there’s a current Supreme Court case in which a religious group says it’s too much of a burden to even fill out a form saying you don’t want to provide comprehensive health care. They’re grasping at straws here.

Knapp v. City of Coeur d’Alene: Two ordained ministers sued the city after it informed the ministers that they would be forced to officiate same-sex wedding ceremonies at their wedding chapel.

The fact that they’re ordained ministers is irrelevant. These guys owned a public wedding chapel and their website said they “perform wedding ceremonies of other faiths as well as civil weddings.” They even told a reporter they were not a religious non-profit.

At that point, this is the same story as the bakers and florists. They have a public company but want to discriminate against certain customers. If they refused to perform the wedding of an African-American couple, we’d all call them bigots. But because they don’t want to serve a gay couple, they think they’re being discriminated against.

Bernstein v. Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association: A homosexual couple sued a non-profit group associated with a Methodist denomination to force it to open its pavilion for a civil union ceremony.

In this case, the whole “we’re associated with a Methodist denomination” thing never came up until after the gay couple asked to use the pavilion. Before that, they opened it up to the public, allowing anyone to rent it out for their special occasions. They even received a state tax exemption for renting out their public venue — and that meant abiding by New Jersey’s non-discrimination laws.

Ward v. Polite: A counseling graduate student sued Eastern Michigan University after the University expelled her for referring a client to another counselor when that client asked to receive counseling about a same-sex relationship.

EMU expelled Julea Ward from their graduate program in counseling because Ward refused to treat a suicidal gay student. If she couldn’t help all of her patients, they argued, they didn’t feel comfortable giving her a degree with the school’s name on it.

Mind you, this works in all directions. If you’re an animal rights activist, you don’t get to refuse to help an NRA member. You’re supposed to put your personal beliefs aside when you’re in the medical field because you’re obligated to help all your patients.

The suicidal gay student? His counselor didn’t want to work with him. Yet, somehow, she’s the victim in all this…?

Keeton v. Anderson-Wiley: A counseling student sued Augusta State University officials after they told her that her Christian beliefs are unethical and incompatible with the prevailing views of the counseling profession and that she must change her beliefs in order to graduate.

Just as before, her Christian beliefs weren’t the problem.

Jennifer Keeton said she would tell gay clients they needed to be “cured” using harmful “conversion therapy.”

The judge in her case later said, “when someone voluntarily chooses to enter a profession, he or she must comply with its rules and ethical requirements.” He’s absolutely right.

Cenzon-DeCarlo v. The Mount Sinai Hospital: A nurse asked the federal government to investigate a hospital after that hospital forced her to assist in an abortion in violation of her religious beliefs.

The question here is: Should nurses at a public hospital have to do the jobs they were hired to do?

This nurse was assigned to an abortion operation and ended up suing over it. If she doesn’t want to help patients, she’s welcome to find a job at a Catholic hospital, where abortions are banned. But she sued because she wanted to pick and choose which cases she worked on, which would just lead to chaos if other nurses did the same thing.

The hospital eventually changed its policies to allow nurses to back out of procedures that went against their faith.

But let’s be clear. This isn’t anti-Christian discrimination. This is a Christian nurse who doesn’t want to do her job.

It’s like a Hindu worker at McDonald’s who refuses to serve Big Macs; you’re in the wrong line of work. You knew what the job entailed when you took it. McDonald’s doesn’t owe you anything.

Hellwege v. Tampa Family Health Centers: A nurse applicant sued a federally funded health center in Tampa after the center refused to consider her for employment because she was a member of a pro-life medical association and had a faith-based objection to prescribing some abortion-inducing drugs.

Again, this is the Hindu-worker-at-McDonald’s scenario.

Sara Hellwege applied for a job with the Tampa Family Health Centers. This is a place where nurse-midwives may have to give birth control pills to patients. Since Hellwege listed her affiliation with a pro-life group on her resume, she was asked if there would be any conflict. She said yes, because she couldn’t give birth control pills to patients — she wrongly believed that amounted to abortion. When she didn’t get the job, she sued.

This isn’t anti-Christian discrimination. This is “you can’t do this job, so we’re not going to hire you.”

Lockyer v. Gonzales: The California Attorney General sued to invalidate a federal law protecting doctors and other medical professionals from being discriminated against by their employers for refusing to provide abortions.

Connecticut v. United States: Connecticut, Illinois, California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Oregon sued to invalidate a federal law protecting doctors and other medical professionals from being discriminated against by their employers for refusing to provide abortions.

National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association v. Leavitt: A pro-abortion group sued to invalidate a federal law protecting doctors and other medical professionals from being discriminated against by their employers for refusing to provide abortions.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America v. Leavitt: A pro-abortion group sued to invalidate a federal law protecting doctors and other medical professionals from being discriminated against by their employers for refusing to provide abortions.

I feel like a broken record. But if doctors in certain hospitals refuse to perform abortion procedures, even though they’re legal and even though the mother’s life may be in danger, it’s the patients who may be screwed over.

None of these laws are anti-Christian. They’re a matter of patient safety. Maybe Christians don’t like the laws, but it’s not discrimination against them.

Morr-Fitz, Inc. v. Blagojevich: Pharmacy owners sued the Illinois state government when it required all pharmacies to stock and dispense abortion-inducing drugs.

Stormans v. Wiesman: The Washington State Pharmacy Board required a family owned pharmacy to stock and dispense abortion-inducing drugs even though doing so would violate the pharmacy owners’ religious beliefs. The pharmacy owners sued to protect their religious beliefs.

These cases are about public pharmacies that refused to stock the morning-after pill (not an abortion-inducing drug, for what it’s worth). In some states, the law requires licensed public pharmacies to provide the pill to women with prescriptions for it.

Again. it’s not anti-Christian discrimination. It’s about protecting women’s health.

Planned Parenthood Arizona, Inc. v. American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians & Gynecologists: Planned Parenthood of Arizona sued to invalidate some Arizona laws protecting the right of hospitals, pharmacies, and health professionals to decline providing abortions when doing so would violate their religious beliefs.

These Arizona laws were designed to make it harder for women to obtain legal abortions. Among other things, the laws allowed health care professionals “to deny women access to health care, including birth control at the pharmacy and emergency contraception in the ER, if the health care professional objects to the requested care based on his or her personal beliefs.”

If the “professionals” refuse to provide care for women if they disagree with it, why are they working at a public clinics, hospitals, and pharmacies?

Doe v. Vanderbilt University: Nursing students filed a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services because Vanderbilt University’s nurse residency application required applicants to pledge that they would participate in abortion procedures.

Danquah v. University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey: Twelve nurses sued the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey after the university forced the nurses to assist in providing abortions.

In the first case, the application never said that. It only required nursing residents to agree to “provide compassionate care” to women seeking abortions. They didn’t have to participate in the procedures.

That wasn’t good enough. Treating abortion-seeking women like human beings who deserve empathy went against their religious beliefs.

In the Danquah case, the school made clear that nurses did not have to have “direct involvement in, and/or attendance in the room” during an abortion procedure. They just had to help the patients. They refused to do that.

Ghiotto v. City of San Diego: The San Diego Fire Department required some firefighters to take part in a city-sponsored parade celebrating homosexual behavior. The firefighters sued to avoid promoting a message they found religiously objectionable.

You know what? The courts found the Christians shouldn’t have had to participate in the parade, and the City of San Diego changed the rules the following year making attendance at the parade voluntary.

Which makes me wonder: Where’s the discrimination? At worst, everyone seems to agree that the policy was wrong and needed to change, and it did.

Healy v. United States Coast Guard: The United States Coast Guard informed an officer that he must be injected with a vaccine derived from an aborted child, even though it conflicts with his Catholic beliefs. The officer then sued.

This is unbelievable. The Coast Guard says officers must be vaccinated. The Hepatitis A vaccine was developed used lung cells from an aborted fetus 40 years ago. That’s why Healy didn’t want to get inoculated.

He was willing to put everyone else in harm’s way because he thought the use of cells from 40 years somehow went against his religious beliefs. (Does he have any idea how many medical procedures developed from fetal tissue and animal research?)

Brooker v. Franks: A Missouri State University student sued university officials after they required her to write and sign a letter to the Missouri Legislature in support of homosexual adoption as part of a class assignment and then punished the student for declining to write the letter.

The professor of the class in question insists this summary of the case is false. He gave the student an alternative assignment and didn’t punish her at all.

So can we put this to rest? The premise of God’s Not Dead is bullshit. The premise of God’s Not Dead 2 is bullshit. The whole notion that Christians are the ones who are being persecuted is bullshit.

More often than not, they’re the ones discriminating against other people. And if there was ever a case in which the Christians were wronged, the system ruled in their favor, just as it should.

There are far more cases of atheists being harassed by Christians than the other way around. To says otherwise makes you ignorant and a liar.

(Thanks to Clint for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.