Six Quick Takes: Christian Persecution in Vietnam, Egypt, Syria and the Good Ole USA

Today’s quick picks feature two instances of attacks on Christians freedom of conscience and religious freedom in the United States. Each of these is direct government discrimination against a Christian’s right to practice their faith unmolested. The statutory authority for these attacks on individual liberty is so-called anti-discrimination laws that have been passed in the past few years.

It would seem that, rather than ending discrimination, these laws are empowering it. I am beginning to look on at least some of these laws and the way they are being used as Jim Crow laws for Christians.

A third case of discrimination against Christians under the name of “tolerance” comes from Denmark. In this instance, a new law will force Christian churches to perform gay marriages.

The other three quick picks are samples of the violence that Christians face in much of the world. They range from mob violence in Egypt and Syria to government beating, torture and murder in Vietnam.

1. Vietnam: Church Leader Beaten to Death Syria: 300,000 Christians Flee War, Persecution

A Hmong church leader in Vietnam has been beaten to death in police custody, area sources said.

According to a story by Morning Star News, police beat Vam Ngaij Vaj around his neck and shoulders and probably electrically shocked him, resulting in his death on March 17. That’s according to a church leader who spoke with those who viewed the battered corpse.

“They think he could have been electrocuted as well as beaten,” said a Hmong Christian leader in Vietnam.

Morning Star News said Vaj, of Cu Jut District, Dak Nong Province in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, and his wife were clearing brush from their field in nearby Dak Ha Commune of Dak Glong District when they were arrested for “illegally destroying the forest” on March 16. (Read more here.) 

2. Syria: 300,000 Christians Flee War, Persecution

ICC Note: Some 300,000 Christians are living as refugees after escaping war and persecution in Syria, Asia News reports. While people from every political, ethnic, and religious background are suffering in Syria’s civil war, Christians have found themselves in a very unique and frightening situation, having widely chosen not to take up arms or to openly support either the rebels or the regime. While many Christians have publicly denounced the brutality of President Assad and by no means support the regime, most Christians see little hope in an alternative government which, they fear, will be led by Islamists who will hinder or outright abolish the religious freedoms long experienced by Christian in Syria.

4/4/2013 Syria (AsiaNews) – More than 300,000 Christians have fled their villages and towns to escape the war, but also UN refugee camps, said Issam Bishara, regional director of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) in Lebanon, Egypt, Syria and Iraq. (Read more here.) 

3. USA, Washington State: Elderly Christian Florist Faces Thousands in Fines for Refusing to Provide Flowers for Gay Wedding

OLYMPIA, WA, April 10, 2013 ( – A Christian florist in Washington state could be slapped with hefty fines because she refused to provide a floral arrangement for a gay “wedding.”


Barronelle Stutzman is facing thousands of dollars in fines.

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed charges today in Benton County Superior Court.

On March 1 Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts in Richland, refused to sell flowers to Robert Ingersoll for his “marriage” to Curt Freed.

“He said he decided to get married, and before he got through I grabbed his hand and said, ‘I am sorry. I can’t do your wedding because of my relationship with Jesus Christ,’” Stutzman said. She said it was the only wedding she had declined in 37 years.

But Ferguson said that stance violates the law.

“Under the Consumer Protection Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against customers on the basis of sexual orientation,” Ferguson said. “If a business provides a product or service to opposite-sex couples for their weddings, then it must provide same-sex couples the same product or service.”

The state of Washington is seeking $2,000 in fines for every reported violation, as well as a permanent injunction requiring the shop to violate its conscience or stop selling flowers for wedding ceremonies.

Some of her neighbors in this very liberal state agree she should be compelled to sell flowers regardless of her religion.

One resident told KEPR-TV, “She doesn’t have the right to say no.”

The station reported Stutzman has received death threats after her simple testimony of faith went viral. (Read more here.) 

4. USA, New Mexico: Photographers Guilty of Discrimination for Refusing to Shoot Gay Wedding

June 7, 2012 ( – A New Mexico appeals court has upheld a lower court verdict that a photography studio that refused to shoot a same-sex “wedding” on religious grounds is guilty of “sexual orientation discrimination” under state law.

According to the court’s verdict, the trouble began for Elane Photography when the company was contacted by lesbian Vanessa Willock asking if they could photograph a “commitment ceremony” for Willock and her “partner.” The company, owned by Christian couple Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin, responded stating that they only shoot traditional weddings, and do not do “same-sex weddings,” but thanked Willock for her interest.

The following day, Willock’s anonymous “partner” sent an email to Elane Photography stating that she was going to “marry,” without stating that the “marriage” would be between herself and a woman.  She asked if the company could travel to the location of the event, and was told that it could. 

The two emails would be used as proof that the Huguenins were discriminating against Willock in her suit against the company, and resulted in a judgment of $6,637.94 against the defendant.


Elaine Huguenin, co-owner of Elane photography, who informed the plaintiffs that she could not shoot their same-sex “commitment” ceremony.

Although the government of New Mexico does not recognize same-sex “marriage,” civil unions, or domestic partnerships for homosexuals, the court ruled that Elane Photography had engaged in illegal discrimination based on sexual preference under the New Mexico Human Rights Act (NMHRA). 

The Alliance Defense Fund, which was representing the couple, has decided to appeal the case to a higher court.

“Americans in the marketplace should not be subjected to legal attacks for simply abiding by their beliefs,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence. “Should the government force a videographer who is an animal rights activist to create a video promoting hunting and taxidermy?

“Of course not, and neither should the government force this photographer to promote a message that violates her conscience. Because the U.S. Constitution prohibits the state from forcing unwilling artists to promote a message they disagree with, we will certainly appeal this decision to the New Mexico Supreme Court.” (Read the rest here.) 


5. Egypt: Coptic Pope Decries Violence Against Christians

CAIRO (AP) — The leader of Egypt‘s Coptic Orthodox Church on Tuesday blasted the country’s Islamist president over his handling of the recent deadly sectarian violence, including an attack on the main cathedral in Cairo.

The remarks by Pope Tawadros II underscore rising Muslim-Christian tensions in Egypt. They were Tawadros’ first direct criticism of President Mohammed Morsi since he was enthroned in November as the spiritual leader of Egypt’s Orthodox Christians. They are also likely to fuel the political turmoil roiling the country for the two years since the ouster of autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Tawadros said Morsi had promised him in a telephone conversation to do everything to protect the Coptic cathedral, “but in reality he did not.”

Asked to explain Morsi’s attitude, Tawadros, who spoke in a telephone interview to a political talk show aired on the private ONTV network, said it “comes under the category of negligence and poor assessment of events.”

On Sunday, an angry mob of Muslims threw firebombs and rocks at the Coptic cathedral in Cairo, leaving two people dead.

The attack followed a funeral service for four Christians killed in sectarian clashes in a town north of Cairo early the day before. (Read more here.) 

6. Denmark: New Law Forces Churches to Perform Gay Marriages

Homosexual couples in Denmark have won the right to get married in any church they choose, even though nearly one third of the country’s priests have said they will refuse to carry out the ceremonies.

The country’s parliament voted through the new law on same-sex marriage by a large majority, making it mandatory for all churches to conduct gay marriages.

Denmark’s church minister, Manu Sareen, called the vote “historic”.

“I think it’s very important to give all members of the church the possibility to get married. Today, it’s only heterosexual couples.”


Under the law, individual priests can refuse to carry out the ceremony, but the local bishop must arrange a replacement for their church. (Read more here.) 



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  • neenergyobserver

    Taking only the instances cited from the US (and maybe Denmark) this goes well beyond Jim Crow and approaches very closely to slavery, which has often been defined as being forced to produce. In truth what will happen is that florists in Oregon and photographers in New Mexico will become rarer and more expensive. Why? Why would I practice my profession and use my property for the benefit of a customer I do not choose to serve.

    My skills belong to me and I shall only use them for the benefit of those I choose. If you try to force me to do otherwise, I will simply quit. “Who is John Galt?”

    • Fabio P.Barbieri

      What is more likely to happen – and what is said to be happening already in some environments in Canada and Britain, such as B&Bs, after similar sentences – is this. The photographer will tell the prospective client: “Sorry, we don’t do wedding photographs.” However, they will inform the neighbourhood priests and preachers that, if one of their workers is invited to weddings as a guest, he may well take his camera along and leave behind, as a wedding gift, a set of first-class professional photographs. And the couple may consider whether any gift or gratuity would not in turn be suited to the occasion. You can’t prevent people from doing business, only from doing it legally. (That, by the way, is my main objection to the “war on drugs”.)

      • Fabio P.Barbieri

        Incidentally, it occurs to me that if such events took place, then, far from doing anything to foster the “gay” cause, this kind of bullying will have set it back. Because if it becomes a habit for priests and preachers to have favoured photographers, and florists, and other service suppliers, whom they recommend to all the couples – and you know they will, because the best priests will want to support conscientious objectors among photographers and florists, and the worst will not say no to a nice cash consideration – then it will be those who cater to “the gay community” who will find themselves informally shut out of the infinitely larger market. And any attempt to break this underground market by force of law will be exactly as successful as the attempt to stop people consuming cannabis.

  • pagansister

    Is the refusal to do flowers for a SSM or photograph a SSM any different than the days when Blacks were not allowed to eat in “white”restaurants, or when Black people were forced to sit in the back of buses, and use only Black restrooms, water fountains, sit in areas reserved for “colored only” in bus stations ( I lived in the south then), go to all Black schools, use back entrances in movie theaters etc.? To me it seems just the same. Were the restrictions then because of “religious” issues or “traditions”? Don’t know but they weren’t right. Are those folks who own the flower shop or the photography studio any different than those business owners previously? As to churches being forced to marry SS couples when it is against their faith—to me that is a different situation—-I do not think a church should be forced to marry SS couples if it is against their teachings. Running a business is not the same as “marrying” people. Providing flowers for a wedding doesn’t mean you approve or disapprove of the marriage—nor does taking pictures approve or disapprove of a marriage. Both are a means to an end—-make money! As for the situations in Egypt, Syria, and Vietnam? Sounds a lot like what the Jew have had to deal with over the past centuries—–

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I answered this in an comment from Bill, Pagansister. What you are doing here is engaging in the same perversion of the anti-discrmination laws that is allowing them to be mis-used in this fashion.

      Bill, this is not discrimination against gays. None of these people refused to take photos or provide flowers for homosexuals. They simply refused to provide their business services for a specific type of function, in this a gay wedding.

      Would you have them be required to photograph gay men when they take meth and then engage in sex with dozens of men? Don’t tell me it’s homophobic to talk about that, btw. It’s a publicly discussed practice. I personally know gay men who engage in it.

      The point here is that it is not discrimination to refuse to provide the services of your enterprise for certain activities. Discrimination is, at most, a refusal to provide services for a class of people. However, these legal abuses are based on a twisting of anti-discrimination laws. That is one of the points I make in the post.

      • pagansister

        Rebecca, it is a fine line between refusing to provide a business service for a specific type of function and refusing to serve a meal to someone because of their color or ethnicity, religion etc. I do see the difference as you explained in your last paragraph. As for the gay men who like meth and have orgies—-I’m not surprised that that goes on—and would it be discrimination to refuse to film them? Since I suspect that possession of meth is illegal, filming that could put your company in danger of fines etc.? There could be a legal component to that filming other than that of refusing to do so. I certainly don’t think your homophobic for mentioning that—heterosexuals do the same thing I’m sure.

        • Rebecca Hamilton

          What if it wasn’t illegal? Say they were using diet pills. What then?

          • pagansister

            Excellent question, Rebecca. I honestly do not have an answer for that—as I said above, I think it is a fine line legally—perhaps another excuse could be used—-what? I’m not sure right now.

  • Fabio P.Barbieri

    As I understand it, the Danish law only covers the Danish State Church, which is Lutheran and well practised in such atrocities (there is one notorious case in which a vicar kept his living in spite of openly declaring himself an atheist). What surprises me is that a bishop and a minority of the clergy should have had the courage to come out against the edict. The Danish People’s Party, mentioned in the stupid Daily Telegraph article linked to, is not “far right” but a moderate conservative grouping which led the country till recently and that was unpopular with the media for its stance against immigration. Interesting times are coming to Denmark, certainly, but perhaps the last word has not yet been said.

  • Bill S

    I guess the trend is for governments and courts to make it illegal to discriminate against gays. When I drove cab in Boston, I could not deny my service to customers based on race or where they were going. I was either on duty or off duty.

    The question is “why is it against one’s faith to not discriminate against people who one considers to be violating the rules of one’s faith?” Can a Christian provide any evidence that it is a sin to provide one’s service to gays?

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Bill, this is not discrimination against gays. None of these people refused to take photos or provide flowers for homosexuals. They simply refused to provide their business services for a specific type of function, in this a gay wedding.

      Would you have them be required to photograph gay men when they take meth and then engage in sex with dozens of men? Don’t tell me it’s homophobic to talk about that, btw. It’s a publicly discussed practice. I personally know gay men who engage in it.

      The point here is that it is not discrimination to refuse to provide the services of your enterprise for certain activities. Discrimination is, at most, a refusal to provide services for a class of people. However, these legal abuses are based on a twisting of anti-discrimination laws. That is one of the points I make in the post.

  • Bill S

    “They simply refused to provide their business services for a specific type of function, in this a gay wedding.”

    Instead of giving my opinion, I would just defer this to the courts. It looks to me that cases like this will be ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      If that should happen, then we need to re-write the laws on which the cases are based. In fact, we should do that, anyway.

  • Bill S

    I don’t know which laws would have to be rewritten and what effect that would have on other cases of discrimination. It seems that this is just a matter of justice. If people want to be exempt, they will need this new law that has been proposed which should be worded to cover situations like this.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      The laws used to persecute Christians in the name of non-discrimination should be re-written to allow religious and conscience exemptions in the matter of actions vs classes of people. These laws were never intended to coerce people into participating in other people’s activities when they found them repugnant or immoral. They were intended to protect whole classes of people from being barred from civil society. The way they are being used now is a frank bastardization of their purpose and intent.

  • FW Ken

    Being gay is not like being black. Race is an objective reality, sexual preference is a subjective, self-reported experience.

    Thirty years ago, the great geneticist Ann Landers declared that same-sex attraction was normal, and so it is. Early “scientific” distress could not be replicated. The “science” is on the level of The Bell Curve, which “proved” blacks are intellectually inferior to white. Its a lie.

  • Bill S

    “Being gay is not like being black. Race is an objective reality, sexual preference is a subjective, self-reported experience.”

    I think the courts are going to see gay as the new black and rule accordingly. Catholics really need to ask themselves what is so wrong with providing the same services for gay weddings as they would for any other wedding. There is no virtue in bringing persecution upon yourself because of prejudices that you might derive from your religion. Business is business and the customer is always right. Not to mention simple courtesy.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Bill, you make my point. I wrote in this about non-discrimination laws, but I’ve written earlier about the use of gay marriage as a way to destroy individual freedom and an attack on religious liberty. You are, in essence, agreeing with me.

      • Bill S

        I’m not familiar with the proposed law, but if it is worded correctly, Catholics should be free to not only avoid doing anything sinful, but also to not participate in the sinful actions of others. This would include abortions, contraception, gay marriage, etc. Maybe such a law will help Catholics feel less persecuted and they could get onto matters that really make a difference in a positive way in the lives of those less fortunate.

        • Rebecca Hamilton

          There is no proposed law. I was saying we need one. What your are describing are conscience exemptions, which the Church has been begging for and refused.

          • Bill S

            You’re right. The law I was thinking of was the Health Care Conscience Rights Act proposed by Representative Diane Black. That only addresses the HHS mandate and other health care issues. I guess Catholics are going to have to just suck it up and provide flowers, bake cakes, take pictures, etc. for same sex marriages. I still don’t see what is so bad about that. Business is business.

            • Rebecca Hamilton

              No Bill, we’re not. I, for one, will not abide this destruction of individual liberties. I have a feeling there are others who agree with me.

              • Bill S

                Do you really think it is a virtuous thing to withhold providing a service that one’s business provides because one is personally against same sex marriage? That is extremely unprofessional.

                • Rebecca Hamilton

                  This is not about being “personally against.” It’s about being forced to participate in the actions of another and by doing so to contribute to their behavior. You repeatedly ignore the question of force used against people here in matters of conscience. Do you believe that the only conscience the law should protect is the one that leads people to do things you approve of?

  • FW Ken

    My “prejudices” derive from science, or more precisely, from junk science and the lack of any science. That my faith concurs with science does not surprise me.

    To say that being black and being gay is a faith statement, not a fact. Now, I’m perfectly glad to let anyone believe what they wish, but I’m getting the bill, and to that I object. This is not theoretical, since I have friends and colleague who are gay, in and out of relationships, and it’s likely I’ll be invited to a same-sex ceremony sometime. Honestly, I’ll go. I don’t need to approve to express my concern for those two specific people. Some services I would provide (a cake for example) with a lecture, probably. Unfortunately, those people – gay and straight – screaming for “equality” and seeking to silence those who disagree are making it harder to behave with civility. By demanding we all accept their faith claims uncritically, they – OF COURSE – must attack those who disagree. So it’s critical, if we wish to maintain a civil society, to protect the rights of those who will not attend a same-sex wedding, or otherwise support it. Certainly, the courts may rule in favor of the “black=gay” formula, but it won’t be the first time they have acted in a boneheaded manner. At least the Dred Scott Decision was based on law and the Constitution, which were inherently immoral. Roe v. Wade and Lawrence v. Texas made faith claims about a right of privacy that’s not in the Constitution. In the former case, it made law that the first trimester pregnancy does not involve a human. We can argue about morality issues, but not the law. Courts are often stupid, as are legislatures (nothing personal, Rebecca) and executives.

    And as to “customer is always right”, let’s say a Klansman objects to my operating a bakery based on my race, or the race of my staff, is he right? Can he demand a bakery be available to him that’s white owned and staffed? Of course not, because he’s wrong and it’s my right to not coddle him.

  • Bill S

    “Do you believe that the only conscience the law should protect is the one that leads people to do things you approve of?”

    No. Of course not. There is a code of conduct that one might call “the Catholic Conscience”. It basically consists of certain sins that a Catholic should not be required to commit or be a party to.

    There is a general lack of empathy for Catholics who not only don’t want to sin themselves but also don’t want to have anything to do with other people who, even though they might not even be Catholic, do not follow the mandates of the Catholic Conscience. Therein lies the problem.

  • Arkenaten

    “Being gay is not like being black. Race is an objective reality, sexual preference is a subjective, self-reported experience.”

    Smile…been a while, Ms Hamilton. How are you?

    “Being religious is not like being black. Race is an objective reality,and religion per se is a self-reported experience.”
    Notice how it takes on an almost identical meaning as the original phrase .
    Stop teaching the children religion and pretty soon all the issues you seem scared to death over surrounding homosexuality will disappear like a puff of smoke. Wouldn’t that be nice?