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
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 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A Christian florist in Washington state could be slapped with hefty fines because she refused to provide a floral arrangement for a gay “wedding.”
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 (LifeSitenews.com) – 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.
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.)