Religious Freedom: Under Assault?

Evangelicals and Catholics Together, a well-known attempt to find common ground without whisking away differences, has recently issued a statement on religious freedom. Read the whole statement here, but the paragraphs below are the paragraphs that document the threat against religious freedom today and the strategy ECT recommends. (There’s much to say about issues surrounding such a statement, but the issue under discussion today is not who has been omitted but is freedom under assault?)

Do you think religious freedom is under threat? Do you think this statement taps into history of oppressed peoples? of those who fought for freedom by suffering? What are the best strategies?

As the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has noted, Christians face harassment in more countries than any other religious group. In the words of the World Evangelical Alliance, Christians are “the largest single group in the world . . . being denied human rights on the basis of their faith.”

Overt persecution of Christians is widespread in many Islamic societies. Christians are murdered by radical Islamists in churches in Egypt and Iraq. Bibles are not permitted in Saudi Arabia, and the Saudi national curriculum continues to teach students to “kill” Jews and apostates, view Christians as enemies, and spread the Islamic faith through “jihad”—a teaching it promotes by funding the distribution of extremist textbooks throughout the world. In some Islamic states, conversion to another religion is a capital offense. In Iran, a Christian pastor who refused to recant his faith has been brought to trial for apostasy. In Pakistan, blasphemy laws forbid any criticism, however mild, of Islam. Muslim persecution of Christians is not confined to one area of the world, for these practices can be found in Indonesia and northern Nigeria as well as the Middle East, North Africa, the Persian Gulf, and the Indian subcontinent. Nor is it likely that the “Arab Spring” will lead to a springtime of religious freedom in the Islamic heartland and beyond. Indeed, if radical Islamists come to power, the situation of Christians and other religious minorities will become even more perilous.

Islamic societies are not alone in their persecution of Christians. The remaining communist states in Asia—North Korea, the People’s Republic of China, and Vietnam—and “postcommunist” states such as Belarus, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan restrict religious freedom in their determination to control all aspects of social life. In India, Christians are persecuted by Hindu radicals who burn orphanages and schools for no reason other than their Christian sponsorship; here, too, conversion to Christ can be life-threatening.

Religious freedom is under assault even in countries where the language of human rights is part of the public moral vocabulary. In Canada, for example, Evangelical pastors have been fined by “human rights commissions” for preaching biblical morality in matters of human sexuality. In Great Britain, couples have been denied foster children because of their commitment to teach the young the moral truths inscribed in the Bible. In Poland, a Catholic magazine editor was fined by a court for speaking the truth about abortion. In these and other instances, coercive state power is being deployed to impose a secularist agenda on society while driving religious faith and practice out of public life.

By these and other means, “religious freedom” is reduced to a private lifestyle choice. In Europe and Canada, what amounts to state-established secularism erodes the exercise of full religious freedom by impeding the public witness of Christian communities. It also substantially threatens the free exercise of religious belief in preaching and catechesis.

In the United States, religious freedom is being encroached upon and reduced through the courts, in administrative policy, and in our culture. For example, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), through the office of the solicitor general, recently challenged the longstanding interpretation of the “ministerial exception” to antidiscrimination and other employment laws in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC. The legal arguments presented by officials from the executive branch of government would have dramatically reduced the constitutional protections that allow Christian communities to choose their ministers according to their own criteria. Fortunately, in a unanimous decision the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed the ministerial exception.

While the Supreme Court has protected the right to determine religious leaders, the capacity of religious believers to form and sustain distinctive institutions is threatened today. The United States Department of Health and Human Services has proposed “preventive services” regulations that require provision of FDA-approved contraceptives, including abortifacients like Ella, and sterilization. These regulations threaten the religious freedom of insurers, employers, schools, and other religious enterprises that conscientiously oppose contraception and abortion. Limiting conscience protections to those in religious institutions that serve only their own members, as some have proposed, criminalizes the public witness of religious organizations such as Catholic universities and other religious social welfare institutions.

Administrative and regulatory policies pose further threats to religious freedom. Christian doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other health-care providers are being put at professional risk by policies that compel all health-care workers to undertake procedures and provide prescription drugs that many of them regard as immoral.

We also note that the attempt to redefine marriage through coercive state power has already brought pressure to bear on Christian ministers, despite exceptions provided in legislation. Further, in no state where the redefinition of marriage has passed the legislature has the religious institution exception provided all the religious freedom protections needed for individuals and groups that oppose the legalization of same-sex unions in those states.

This, then, is their commitment section:

We live in the greatest period of persecution in the history of Christianity. In the twentieth century, noble martyrs like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko gave their lives for Christ amid a cloud of witnesses greater in number than those martyred for the Name in the previous nineteen centuries of Christian history. That witness continues today in the self-sacrifice of men like Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian cabinet officer murdered because of his defense of the religious freedom of all of his fellow Pakistanis.

As Evangelicals and Catholics who seek to honor the witness of these and other martyrs, we pledge to work together for the renewal of religious freedom in our countries and around the world. We will resist the legal pressure brought on Christians in the medical profession, the armed forces, and elsewhere to participate in actions that they deem immoral on the grounds of both faith and reason.

We acknowledge that the state enjoys its own sphere of competence. But we remind the modern democratic state that it is a limited state. We applaud the United States Supreme Court’s decision to sustain the long-held ministerial exception. In the same spirit of concern for religious liberty, we ask that legislators formulate explicit conscience protections for health-care workers. And we counsel legislators to intervene and reverse the coercive efforts at the Department of Health and Human Services and other agencies to mandate health coverage and adoption procedures that will force religious institutions to betray their foundational principles. In these and other areas, we must vigilantly defend religious freedom.

We also join together in asking our federal governments to defend religious freedom in conducting the foreign policy of the United States and Canada. We recognize the complexities into which such a commitment inevitably leads; we also see the evidence of history, which teaches that religiously free societies are better for their people, and safer for the world, than societies in which persecution is culturally and legally affirmed. Thus we call on our public officials to undertake prudent measures to advance the cause of religious freedom in full.

In all of this, we believe we are acting as Christians have been commanded to act, and speaking as citizens of mature democracies ought to speak. Our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and our baptism in the name of the Most Holy Trinity, compels us to defend the religious freedom of all who are created in the image of God. Our gratitude for the religious freedom that has been a hallmark of North America for over two centuries compels us to work to defend religious freedom in the United States and Canada, and to work for the religious freedom of others in all lands. For the sake of the common good, we, Evangelicals and Catholics Together, urge our fellow citizens and our public officials to join us in the renewal of religious freedom: to defend religious freedom for all persons and to guard against its erosion in our societies.

 

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Richard

    I don’t agree (and I’m not sure the historic church witness would either) that this is the greatest persecution our faith has faced. I also think its ludicrous to cite a lawsuit in which the Supreme Court sided with the Christians as an example of state-sponsored persecution (or even the threat thereof).

    I would also venture a guess that, based on word count devoted to the US and Canada vs the Global South and the 10/40 Window, that this was written by westerners and quite possibly majority white and male-dominated – not the most compelling group to claim persecution and suffering from the government.

  • http://www.brianzahnd.com Brian Zahnd

    In many places women are not allowed to preach or exercise leadership in religious institutions. Wait….nevermind.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    So they bemoan what they must call religious freedom in the Islamic countries then want the same thing in the west. Also, what about the religious freedom of the patients?

    All I can think when reading this is that these Christians are jealous of the Muslims since they can mandate their religious views while the westerners can’t.

  • Rick

    The thread of comments on this post has deteriorated fast.

  • JoeyS

    Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC is a preposterous example. This was a school that wanted to treat its teachers poorly under a “ministerial exception” when clearly the teacher was not an ordained minister. This is not religious persecution this is society holding a Christian institution to basic employment standards. It is embarrassing that the school event tried to take advantage of their employees like that.

  • johnfouadhanna

    The assertion that persecution of Christians is ongoing on a global scale, particularly, but not exclusively, in Muslim-majority countries is reasonable and credible. For example, one of the concerns arising out of the Revolution in my native country of Egypt was who would fill the power vacuum and how it would affect the Church. Sadly, in the last year there has been a dramatic increase in incidents of mass violence against Christians and churches, resulting in substantial loss of life.

    American Christians should care about the Church in Egypt. She is a first century Church, that has faithfully survived and thrived under Islamic pressure and oppression for nearly 1400 years. Egypt has the largest population of Christians in the Middle East, and of any Arabic speaking country. Right now, there are forces actively at work in Egypt that are increasing the pressure on Christians and Churches in Egypt. I don’t want to give the impression of people cowering in fear or of ongoing mass slaughter. That’s not the case. However, what’s taken place in the last year and the parties that are predictably rising to power is a substantial cause for concern.

    American Christians also ought to care about their brothers and sisters in Nigeria, Iraq, Sudan, Ethiopia, India, North Korea, Pakistan, etc.

    Richard and Brian, I found your instinctively ideological responses to this writing discouraging. Because its authors are white men or because we can’t agree on gender issues means that we should simply ignore what’s happening in our world?

  • johnfouadhanna

    I also don’t believe this statement should have elicited the typical left-right, conservative-liberal reaction.

    The positions the current President’s Administration is taking are unprecedented, regardless of party affiliation.

    I agree that the underlying facts of Hosanna-Tabor are murky. However, what’s not murky is that the Administration argued before the United States Supreme Court that the “ministerial exception” for churches/religious organizations is not protected by the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment. This was an argument that Obama’s own appointee, Elaine Kagan, called “amazing.” The Administration argued that the hiring of ministers was not granted any greater protection or consideration than that of any other association or organization.

    The outcome of Hosanna-Tabor was 9-0, which is not the norm in a religious liberty case. Yet, this doesn’t change the fact that the current Administration sought to accrue this kind of power for itself.

    Should we not find that disturbing?

  • http://www.gordonhackman.blogspot.com Gordon Hackman

    I agree with Rick. I’d like to think that folks might try to read the statement in a spirit of charity and, if we find ourselves in disagreement with it, to express that disagreement with care. Instead, it seems that we’re quick to rush in with dismissive condemnation. This is why I largely avoid blog discussions.

  • johnfouadhanna

    Also disturbing is the current Administration’s narrowing of freedom of religion to freedom of worship, which is basically only the stuff we do in private among our own kind. Once out in public or engaging the world beyond our walls we enter the terrain belonging to the secular state, whose interests and convictions must be paramount.

    This assumes the materialist view that religion is irrelevant to real world considerations and must be prevented by force of law from touching on such considerations, whenever it conflicts with the state’s interests. What I find odd about this is that those currently making this argument have been the same ones who say that religion is only meaningful and worthwhile when it is helping the poor, caring for the sick, etc. “What matters is not what you believe, but simply doing good, helping others, etc.”

    In the present controversy, the argument advanced is that healthcare is a merely “secular” activity. In ministering and counseling to college/grad students and those making career choices I have as a matter of course strongly encouraged those seeking to enter the healthcare field, telling them, among other considerations, that it would be a very direct and concrete way to live out their convictions as disciples of Jesus, to tangibly express his mercy, care and compassion. Physical and material care for others is central to “religious” identity. To state otherwise is to illegitimately appropriate the right to impose on others what does and doesn’t lie at the heart of their identity. Again, it is to relegate “religion” to merely private rituals detached from material reality.

  • Richard

    I guess I’m missing the part in my original comment where I dismissed this on ideology. I engaged with it according to the questions Scot asked of it. I don’t think the scale compares with the historic persecution the anabaptists suffered, the Spanish Inquisition, the Boxer Rebellion in China, the Soviet Gulags, or the Roman Empire. I also think that a statement on global persecution should include representation from those that are suffering for their Christian witness and profession of Christ. How do you even draft a statement like this without having a representative from Voice of the Martyrs sign it?

    It is laughable to me when white, affluent western males (which I am) complain about how persecuted they are. Spend more words talking about the plight of Christians in Egypt, the Sudan, China, Cuba, etc. Let’s talk about persecution and faithful witness then. Don’t bother me with red herrings about religious persecution in the US until they start arresting Christians or shutting down their businesses for being Christians. Let’s talk about my friends serving in closed nations. To even compare that to our experience in the United States is a joke. And the next time a resolution like this makes a difference, let me know – it’ll be a historic moment. If we’re going to tap into historic stances – then there needs to be an outpouring of generosity and solidarity, not more rhetoric and words standing in a vacuum by themselves.

    “The positions the current President’s Administration is taking are unprecedented, regardless of party affiliation.”

    Enforcing a law on the books from 2000 regarding employers providing contraception is not unprecedented. Treating affordable access to medicine as a moral issue is. Not all “birth control” use is for birth control – many women are being prescribed birth control by their doctors because it has beneficial side effects to counter serious health issues.

    “The outcome of Hosanna-Tabor was 9-0, which is not the norm in a religious liberty case. Yet, this doesn’t change the fact that the current Administration sought to accrue this kind of power for itself.”

    The administration seeking power? The supreme court was ruling on a case of conflict between two Christians – the employee and her employer. She was represented by the EEOC because that office exists to protect workers in labor disputes with their employers. I expect so leaders to have stronger logic in their argumentation if they’re making a case for religious persecution, especially when the case they cite went their way. Its not idealogical to say something is a weak argument.

    And regarding the import of ideology – that was brought in by the original statement itself, after all Johnfouadhanna, our religion is in the public square, not privately held behind some wall, right?

    Does that clarify my stances on this?

  • Joe Canner

    To equate martyrdom (being physically attacked because of one’s faith) with issues like Hosanna-Tabor and the contraceptive coverage requirement (both of which involve the rights of workers to fair treatment by their employers just as much as they involve religious discrimination) is quite preposterous and trivializes the very real dangers that Christians face in other countries.

  • johnfouadhanna

    Richard, what I propose is unprecedented is the Administration’s argument that the Free Exercise clause applies to the employment of ministers, and the Administration’s narrowing of freedom of religion to freedom of worship. With respect to Hosanna-Tabor, the Administration employed the underlying facts as the basis for a much broader argument pertaining to Free Exercise and the ministerial exception.

    I see thee things as an accrual of power. If you are comfortable with the Administration proceeding in this regard, then so be it.

    Furthermore, the Administration has given itself broad latitude to define “health,” and to compel private parties to directly participate in and/or pay for its provision, regardless of conviction. My sense is that the Administration sees “health” as effectively synonymous with the “common good” – a broad category that basically encompasses whatever they say it is. This too is a substantial extension of government power.

  • MattR

    There is a case to be made that religious freedom is being and challenged, and Christians persecuted, outside of the Western world. But in the West and in America?… sorry, not buying it.

    We are just not going through any kind of underrepresented upsetting of religious freedom here.

    Just because your particular brand of Christianity does not get to call the shots for the rest of our culture does not mean your freedoms are being taken away… Anyone remember the disestablishment of religion? America was built on it!

  • johnfouadhanna

    Richard, one more point briefly: I’m confident that you’re aware that regarding birth control as a moral issue is not unprecedented.

  • DLS

    “Don’t bother me with red herrings about religious persecution in the US until they start arresting Christians or shutting down their businesses for being Christians.

    - Something is not a red herring simply because it’s not the worst example imaginable. Under this standard, nothing would qualify as religious persecution unless it involved ‘shutting down business’ or are suffering the plight of Christians in Sudan. Making that argument is the logical equivalent of someone saying that being denied a job in American because you’re black isn’t real racial discrimination because blacks in other parts of the world are enslaved.

  • Rick

    MattR #13-

    “Just because your particular brand of Christianity does not get to call the shots for the rest of our culture does not mean your freedoms are being taken away”

    I think they are more focused on just being able to call the shots for their own Christian institutions.

  • SFG

    For this statement to say “We live in the greatest period of persecution in the history of Christianity” is simple not a true statement. In fact we are not in the greatest period of persecution in my lifetime.

    According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and published in the January 2012 issue of the International Bulletin of Missionary Research, the number of Christian martyrs per year (10-year average) has decreased from 377,000 in 1970 to 160,000 in 2000 and decreased to 100,000 in 2012. See http://www.internationalbulletin.org/system/files/2012-01-028-johnson.html

    While there are situation of persecution of Christians in the world today, it historically wrong to think we are living “greatest period of persecution in the history of Christianity” and it weakens the arguments of this document to claim this “fact.”

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I hope to write back soon, but short on time now, but…

    Rick and Gordon, I feel my criticism is not dismissive nor going downhill. It reflects what I think is happening and I find that the critique of others in the post is in direct contradiction with what they are advocating.

    Yes, I would love to see a Christian world, but they can’t be so one sided.

  • Charles

    I largely agree with the thesis of this statement. I wish, however, that they would have taken a larger view and incorporated the religious freedom of Muslims & other legitimate faiths in the U.S. It is wonderful that Catholics & Evangelicals can come together on this. It would be even more wonderful if people of other faiths were also involved, asking for the same freedoms.

  • Rick

    SFG #16-

    You bring up a good point, but does persecution automatically equal martyrdom?

    Could the number of martyrs be higher in a previous period, yet more Christians impacted today by more acts of other kinds of persecution?

    I am just asking.

  • Richard

    @ 12

    The Free Exercise Clause has always only applied to “ministers.” At issue was a religious organization defining someone as a minister that obviously didn’t think of themselves as a minister.

    When a teacher that teaches both secular and religious courses is fired by a religious school for narcolepsy, then yes, I want legal recourse involved to make things right for the teacher. SCOTUS struck this down because they don’t want the federal gov’t involved in defining who is and isn’t a minister. EEOC thought this teacher wasn’t a minister, SCOTUS said they were wrong; end of story. Well, except that the woman still suffers narcolepsy and a religious school still looks like a bunch of jerks for firing her.

    I still think SCOTUS could have walked a middle ground here that protected the rights of religious organizations without providing a murky haze over what exempts religious organizations from Fair Labor Standards. Should I be able to pay my church secretary less than minimum wage because she talks with neighborhood children while she’s working in the office? Apparently so according to SCOTUS and your angle on this – as long as I call her a minister. I personally think this could be handled through guidelines similar to exempted salary workers – clearly defined qualifications that prevent arbitrary use of terminology to exploit a worker.

    Am I accurate to assume since this was the main thing you responded to that my other points are clearer now?

  • johnfouadhanna

    Joe Canner, I didn’t say that martyrdom and the issues we currently face in the United States are the same thing. We are simply talking about both subjects. I think it is possible to be actively engaged with the issues of violent persecution, while also being concerned about the actions of our own government.

    If your indignation is with respect to the substance of the issues pertaining to the Administration’s actions, I understand.

  • MattR

    Rick #15,

    “I think they are more focused on just being able to call the shots for their own Christian institutions.”

    And in spite of the scare tactics of certain presidential candidates and news organizations, we ARE able to call the shots for our own institutions.

    For example, the President made a good compromise on the contraception/healthcare issue… And I was one who agreed that there was a need to re-think some of the original policy. The administration listened, and did just that… that’s good, that’s how democracy works.

    Sorry, I just don’t see where freedom is being eroded. It’s just not happening.

  • Rick

    DRT #17-

    “I feel my criticism is not dismissive nor going downhill”

    That is my concern, which includes a concern for this site.

    I stand by my statement. We have heard how complementarians persecute (that was the implication), and how ECT is just like Islamic theocratic hardliners.

    I wish I could say I was making that up.

  • Rick

    MattR #21-

    “Sorry, I just don’t see where freedom is being eroded”

    And that scares me.

  • Richard

    @ 22

    If your organization is advocating for your religious beliefs to be the law of the land, how are you not a theocratic hardliner?

  • johnfouadhanna

    Richard, there were two prongs to the Administration’s (EEOC) argument in Hosanna-Tabor. One was that the plaintiff was not a minister. But the second was that, regardless of whether she were, the religion clauses did not apply.

    Here’s one of the relevant sections of the oral argument transcript:

    “Justice Kagan: Do you believe, Ms. Kruger (EEOC attorney) that a church has a right that’s grounded in the Free Exercise Clause and/or the Establishment Clause to institutional autonomy with respect to its employees?

    Ms. Kruger: We don’t see that line of church autonomy principles in the Religion Clause jurisprudence as such. We see it as a question of freedom of association. We think that this case is perhaps one of the cases –

    Justice Kagan: So, this is to go back to Justice Scalia’s question, because I too find that amazing, that you think that the Free — neither the Free Exercise Clause nor the Establishment Clause has anything to say about a church’s relationship with its own employees.”

    And this is from the Court’s opinion:

    “The EEOC and Perich contend that religious organizations can de- fend against employment discrimination claims by invoking their First Amendment right to freedom of association. They thus see no need—and no basis—for a special rule for ministers grounded in the Religion Clauses themselves. Their position, however, is hard to square with the text of the First Amendment itself, which gives spe- cial solicitude to the rights of religious organizations. The Court cannot accept the remarkable view that the Religion Clauses have nothing to say about a religious organization’s freedom to select its own ministers.”

  • Rick

    @24 (since that is how you like to address people here)-

    No. They are utilizing the system of a free democratic republic. They are not outlawing opposing views.

  • DLS

    “If your organization is advocating for your religious beliefs to be the law of the land, how are you not a theocratic hardliner?”

    - Wouldn’t this prevent someone from advocating for ‘social justice’ through law if that belief is rooted in a person’s Christianity?

  • johnfouadhanna

    Richard (#12), I see what confused you in my comment now. I should have said the Administration argued that Free Exercise does NOT apply to the employment of ministers.

  • Joe Canner

    johnfouadhanna #22: I was referring back to the original ECT statement, not to your comments. I agree with you that persecution in Muslim countries is a problem (although I’m not sure how much the US can do about it); I question the equation of that with so-called persecution here in North America.

  • T

    It seems that the trigger for this statement was the Admin’s rule on health care.

    That said, I’d like to engage in a thought experiment around that issue. I personally think it would have been a better policy to make requirements for all workers (and others) to purchase their own individual insurance, even if they had employers do the “collection and remittance” of the premiums out of employee checks. For purposes of this discussion, let’s imagine such was the case. Most individuals are required to purchase health insurance for themselves and their dependents, and employers have to collect and remit the premiums, as they do with withholding taxes or 401(k) contributions. Now, assume that in such an environment, the feds require all health insurers to cover birth control, both as means to help alleviate poverty among children (and children are perennially a large portion of those in poverty) and as a way to prevent discrimination against women, who disproportionately bear the cost of birth control (and births and children). They make the rule at the federal level so as to standardize this aspect of health insurance and preventative care (among many others) across state lines. Now, I am sure that the some churches, especially the Catholic Church, will still be upset with any rule that makes birth control more widely available. But can we honestly say that this rule is an attack on religious liberty? No one is forced to use birth control by this rule, just as with all health care. Is it an attack on religious liberty for the government to decide that the (near) universal coverage (that the Catholic church advocates) is going to include coverage for a treatment that some religions find offensive? Jehovah’s witnesses were/are long-time opponents of blood transfusions. If the government required blood transfusions (or all FDA approved medicines and treatments) to be covered, would that be an attack on religious liberty?

    I do think that there are some legitimate problems with the imposed secularization of the public sphere that seems to be increasing. But I think this latest blow-up over birth control is a red herring that will cost the Church legitimacy it will need for other battles of public opinion.

  • Joe Canner

    johnfouadhanna #22: Oh, and I was not necessarily questioning either the Administration or the Court’s decision(s), I was questioning whether the issue should be considered religious persecution at all. It is sad to me that upholding the right of a religious organization to discriminate against its employees is held up as a triumph for religious freedom. I would much rather we saved our celebrations for winning cases where religious organizations (or individuals) were being persecuted for doing what is right.

  • http://azspot.net Naum

    Religious freedom under assault around the world? Yes, still, in many pockets of the world.

    Religious freedom under assault in the U.S.? Really? Seriously? When Christians are required to wear a mark/tag? Or maybe when Christians only comprise <5% of Congress (a total flipping of current state where Christians comprise 90% of the representative branch of government (~8% Jewish, 2% other faiths, and one single Atheist). Or even perhaps when pastors, priests and clergymen lose their tax exempt status and allowance / parsonage goodies…

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Rick, perhaps you can actually say what you are thinking instead of saying things like I am making the site go downhill. Please don’t insult me.

    Here is my interpretation of the first part of the article. Seems clear to me that the Christians want the same power that the Islamists and Communists have in their part of the world.

    Paragraph 1 – Christians are denied human right because of their faith.

    Paragraph 2 – Shows what happens when a religion gains so much freedom and power that it can control the people. You end up with some religious groups being put down by others.

    Paragraph 3 – Extends the argument to show that non-religious dominant societies can also discriminate against the weaker constituencies.

    Paragraph 4 – Shifts to countries that are not dominated idealogically by either political or religious groups. Shows that in Canada, GB and Poland they are enforcing a society that will prevent religious and other groups from forcing their ideologies on the people.

    Paragraph 5 – It concludes that the measures taken to stop religious groups from holding power over other religious and secular groups is succeeding. Makes and accusation about threatening free exercise (but does not say how).

    Paragraph 6 – Shows that there is a balance in the US between allowing some religious groups to have power within their domain.

    Paragraph 7 – Brings preventative services into the conversation, shows that religious institutions not only want to preach what they want, but also want to control the lives of their employees setting up the possibility for societies like what was described in paragraph 2, where the religious leaders dictate to the people what they can and can not do.

    Paragraph 8 and 9 – continue to bemoan that in the US the religions cannot dictate to the people what they can and can’t do. Cloaks the argument in the rights of the oppressors, but in reality it is the rights of the people that are being saved.

  • Rick

    DRT-

    To save time, let’s just take paragraph 4 for example.

    You said, “they are enforcing a society that will prevent religious and other groups from forcing their ideologies on the people.”

    But the paragraph mentions just preaching, teaching, and speaking out on views.

    You don’t think these people should be allowed to speak out regarding their beliefs?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Rick, When I read paragraph 4, I don’t think that the case in Canada was simply a preacher preaching to his flock, though it does not say. I bet it was in a situation where there was not a religious pretext.

    In the Great Britian one, it says that they would “teach the young the moral truths inscribed in the Bible. You know as well as I do that people can have some pretty off the wall things from the bible. I have to believe that this was justified until I know otherwise. Would I want someone who believes children should not get medicine or have blood transfusions based on their holy book?

    In the Polish one we, again, do not know what happened. For all I know he could have been calling the judge a murderer (and I bet it was something like that).

    Each of these are sufficiently ambiguous that I have to stand by my statement: “Shows that in Canada, GB and Poland they are enforcing a society that will prevent religious and other groups from forcing their ideologies on the people.”

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Rick, to say just a bit more, In each of those situations I substitute in my mind another religion who has views that I clearly disagree with and then say would I want the government to let that happen. And the answer is no. Therefore they are doing their job. You seem to be clouded based on the fact that they are Christians.

  • Richard

    @ 28

    Rick, my apologies if my shorthand comment reference (@ #) seemed aggressive or dismissive of you or others on here. I intended no offense by it.

  • Rick

    DRT #37 and #38-

    I want to make sure I am reading you correctly.

    Are you saying that it is ok for the goverment to stifle religious speech?

    Again, I just want to make sure I am reading you correctly.

    “You seem to be clouded based on the fact that they are Christians.”

    I certainly don’t claim to be totally objective (although I attempt to be balanced and take others into consideration), but I would not want to stifle the speech of other faiths. I certainly don’t want to give such power to the government.

    Whereas I see the motivation of ECT based on the Christianity’s emphasis on love, living out the faith, and concern for the well-being of others (including the innocent), you seem to just see the desire for power.

    I am not saying the ECT is perfect (I doubt the members would claim that they are), but I certainly don’t see a devious play for power.

  • Rick

    Richard #39-

    Thanks. It’s all good. No harm no foul.

  • RJS

    DRT,

    Here is the reference to the Great Britain foster care case: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/feb/28/christian-couple-lose-care-case

    Granted – we don’t know all the details.

  • AHH

    Unfortunate that a statement about important worldwide matters is tarnished because they felt they had to bring in the manufactured political controversy in the US about insurance coverage for contraception. To include that (especially after the Administration compromised on their original position) cheapens the legitimate examples of persecution.
    But in this election year when many are fanning the culture-war flames and fabricating a story of an Obama war on Christianity (reminiscent of the “war on Christmas” meme), they couldn’t resist the temptation to lump a reasonable health-care policy in with genuine persecution.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Rick#40, I am not saying that the government should stifle free religious speech. But the article does not say that any of those were occassions where that would apply, and given the actions, my bet is that they were not cases where that would apply. GB, Canada and Poland are not really in the business of randomly stopping people from talking, there was likely substance there that the article does not articulate.

    And I am not making any allegation other than trying to maintain equality among religions. If I were comfortable with pagans, scientologists, mulims, or any other religion doing the same thing then that would be one thing.

    Is it a power play, well, perhaps to some extent. Again, the litmus test to me is to allow some other religion that I find distateful to have the same ability, then make the judgment. Having freedoms requires a lot of work. It sure would be easier for Christians if they had a special standing, but that is not the society that we have set up.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Thanks for the GB case details.

    The way I look at these things is to generalize the situation and then apply it using different actors. So in this case we have a couple who want to teach young children in their care that a law of the land is morally wrong based on their particular religious belief. Now would I want a foster child to be raised in a household that taught it that receiving medicine or blood transfusions was morally wrong?

    Granted, this is a tough one and there is a big difference between them informing the kids at a certain age that their religion disagrees with the practice, and them, potentially, harming them for life if they, for instance, turned out to be homosexual. They could be ruining the kids for life and they are not their kids.

    Incidentally, I would definitely oppose them teaching children this. I feel the downside potential to these kids far outweighs any potential gain.

  • Rick

    DRT #44-

    “It sure would be easier for Christians if they had a special standing, but that is not the society that we have set up.”

    Exactly, but giving government(s) such power as to control such speech and actions, that is a bigger concern.

    Christians have certainly survived in harsher times and nations, and many would be willing to do so secrectly/underground if necessary (I don’t think we are anywhere near that point here), but that does not mean we should not hope for the free and open expression of our faith- especially since our nation was founded on such freedoms.

  • MWK

    Rick #24 – you’re not the only one who shares this concern.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Rick#46, “Exactly, but giving government(s) such power as to control such speech and actions, that is a bigger concern.”

    I am not sure that I follow you. You are leaving the phrase “such speech and actions” sufficiently ambiguous that I can’t say what you mean.

    If “such speech” means allowing a particular religion to use a power of the state to influence people then I certainly think that is what the government should do. In the case in Great Britain, the foster parents are acting as an agent of the state, and as an agent of the state they should not be advocating views in direct contradiction to the law of the land.

    If you mean simply regulating free speech, then I am on board with you.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    MWK#47 and by extension Rcik#24, I wish you would just be more explicit instead of offering veiled arguments that somehow some people don’t get it.

    As far as I am concerned, non-specific statements like you both are advocating will lead this site downhill further and faster than any well supported argument that is out on the table.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    …and I have to write a bit more because, whether I like it or not, the comments 47 and 24 annoy me quite a bit. You are attempting to outgroup me and drive a political wedge into this site. One of the key characteristics of doing something like that is to establish catch phrases or actions or other mechanisms that an in group has that an out group has not been privileged to. What annoys me is not that Rick and MWK share a background that gives them a common bond and a united front in this, that is great for people to share. What annoys me is that you are trying to divide this site and establish your click here that uses underhanded techniques like that instead of clearly and openly discussing the issues and viewpoints. This site will go down hill if that type of behavior is the norm. It will not go downhill if people are being honest and explicit in their comments.

  • Rick

    DRT #48-

    An example of “such speech”

    Canadian pastors speaking about issues of sexuality. Or the Polish minister speaking about abortion.

  • Rick

    DRT #50-

    I have been explicit.

    And I am certainly not trying to divide this site. In fact, I am saddened for the loss of diversity and balance at this site, when people would disagree, share thoughts, consider the opinions of others, but walk away as still one in Christ. The irenic has given way to the polemic, and as long as it falls in line with majority view here, few seem to care. I am not sure if the tone and statements in the threads here are much different than that of what is seen at Team Pyro’s site.

    Many of those that contributed to that balance here no longer (or rarely) come around (for whatever reason).

    Instead, it has tilted so heavily to one side, where now complimentarians are equated with persecution, and the ECT is equated with Islamic theocracies. Rather than expressing concern and disagreement with such people, over-the-top associations are thrown out and illicit motives attached to them.

    I get that some here have been burned by some strict fundamentalism, but that does not mean that anyone that gives a hint of agreement with such fundamentalists on some issues are one and the same.

  • MWK

    DRT – my agreement with Rick has nothing to do with you personally. I think his comment at #52 and Gordon’s comment #8 summarizes my thoughts pretty well regarding the tone of this site, which has shifted left from the center space I previously appreciated. In any event, I just violated my own rule not to get involved in worthless blog discussions that serve no purpose. Grace and peace.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Rick#51, “Canadian pastors speaking about issues of sexuality. Or the Polish minister speaking about abortion.”

    Without context this is meaningless. Are the Canadian pastors talking to public school children about it? Is the polish minister yelling at the judge and calling him a murderer? Please realize that without the context we can’t judge the action.

  • Barb

    I have never understood why the Church believes that it should have special status in the law? Where do we find that in scripture? Christians may feel oppressed in Utah–but that’s not what this article is talking about. I truly believe that the Church does not NEED any help from the government. From what I see we’ve become flabby Christians because of it.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Ric#52,

    Just as you believe what you believe and feel it is the right way to be, I too believe what I believe and feel it is the right way to believe. I do not feel my ideas are slanted, biased or anything other than ideas.

    If this site were just a bunch of people sitting around high fiving Scot for the wisdom of his posts then I would not spend a whole lot of time here. It seems to me that people here go out of their way to make a fair hearing of most perspectives. Certainly valid argumentation is held in high esteem.

    I have enjoyed our conversation, I feel the best way to understand an issue is to debate an issue. Now there are certainly different ways to debate, one could have a “win the debate” philosophy, or one could have a “uncover the truth” philosophy. No doubt I walk in with my view, as everyone does, but I put it out there and try to support it the best I can. I ask you to do the same.

    Rick, brother (I assume), if I am wrong about this stuff then I really would like to know that! Don’t you? What if I, like Paul, spent a lifetime persecuting Christians and then found out that I was wrong minded all along? I don’t want that to happen.

    This is also a side conversation that regularly goes on here about the nature of scientists and non-scientists. I am, spiritually, a scientist. I am on a great and grand voyage in my life to discover the truth of the universe and help others to come to that truth. I am hoping that I can ever come closer to God who is and has made all that is real. I feel that I touch God when I teach what is real. I desire God. IT is my life.

    So please, do not take my debate as condemnation, though I may at times lose sight that my polemic partner has feelings that I do not appreciate enough (like many scientists). Debate honors you. I would not bother if I thought you were a fool.

    As Susan N. would say:

    ~ Peace ~

  • Kenny Johnson

    @Rick,

    I still a lot of diversity on this site — and its certainly not just those who lean left that can be snarky or uncharitable. I’ve seen it from our more conservative brothers and sisters as well.

    I won’t defend anything that’s been said here — I’m just saying that I haven’t really witnessed a change in tone. Though I’ve probably only been reading for the last couple years.

  • Rick

    DRT #56-

    Thanks for your input. I appreciate debate and conversation, I am more concerned about what is being said in many of these debates.

    I do hope we all can continue to learn and grow.

    P.S. I do pray that the job outlook has improved for you.

  • Rick

    Kenny #57-

    There is no doubt that all sides can contribute to a poor atmosphere. And as bad as the snarky comments can be, the ones that really bother me are those in which the entire character of a person (or persons) is thrown under the bus without sufficient warrant.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Thanks Rick, still no job. I could use the prayers, thanks.

  • Charles

    For those who doubt religious liberty is under attack, just take a look at what has been happening this year at my beloved Vanderbilt Univ., where a new administrative policy does not allow religious groups on campus to require that their leadership actually holds their religious beliefs. There is an excellent piece on this today at: http://www.insidevandy.com/opinion/article_b6af8340-63c1-11e1-8e77-001a4bcf6878.html