• A coercive contraceptive mandate imposes pro-abortion ideology on all with pro-life views.
• The gutting of the only federal conscience regulation in health care opens the door to discrimination.
• The denial of federal funds to a ministry, just for opposing abortions, threatens care for human trafficking victims.
• The administration's court case to restrict faith-based organizations' hiring rights minimizes religious liberty.
• Firings, discrimination and coercion of life-honoring health care professionals imperil health care access.
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The global swell of radical Islamic terrorism led by the Islamic State (ISIL) has ushered in an exceptionally dangerous era for religious minorities, particularly Christians. On Sunday, a video surfaced depicting the execution of dozens of Ethiopian Christians in Libya, a country that has descended into terrorism-fueled chaos in recent years. Press Secretary Josh Earnest on Monday said, "We've taken steps regardless of an individual's religious identity to try to protect anybody who is being targeted because of that religious identity." Certainly, "working hard" and "taking steps" to protect "anybody" is better than nothing, but is the White House "doing all it can to protect Christians"? It seems we have our answer...
The issue pertinent here is not whether the death penalty for convicted murderers is moral or not. The issue is whether the state should be able to force people to help facilitate an execution against their will. And it raises the greater question of when the government, in general, can compel people to act against their beliefs. That is why we need state laws like the religious freedom law that the federal government and 20 other states have approved, and that the North Carolina Legislature is currently considering. Government exercises its actions through coercion, and sometimes, the government can achieve its end without compelling those with a moral objection to participate in something that violates their conscience.
Religious persecution of Christians is rampant worldwide, as Pew has noted, but nowhere is it more prevalent than in the Middle East and Northern Africa, where followers of Jesus are the targets of religious cleansing. Pope Francis has repeatedly decried the persecution and begged the world for help, but it has had little impact. Western leaders - including Obama - will be remembered for their near silence as this human rights tragedy unfolded. The president's mumblings about the atrocities visited upon Christians (usually extracted after public outcry over his silence) are few and far between. And it will be hard to forget his lecturing of Christians at the National Prayer Breakfast about the centuries-old Crusades while Middle Eastern Christians were at that moment being harassed, driven from their homes, tortured and murdered for their faith.
At a news conference Thursday, Jindal said the bill only prevents the state from discriminating against businesses or business owners who choose to exercise their religious beliefs. Critics say the measure could sanction discrimination against same-sex couples in Louisiana. "The great thing in America is that we support the right of folks to live their lives according to their beliefs, whether we agree with them or not," Jindal said. "I think you can have tolerance and religious liberty. I don't think those two are mutually exclusive." The governor said the bill as written doesn't affect the ability of a business to serve or not serve its customers.
Recently, the news has been tough for Christians here at home. Stories involving the erosion of religious liberty in America, as in the failure in Indiana to protect the rights of business persons who don't wish to participate in same-sex weddings, have persuaded some that the chips are not only down but depleted. As a result, some Christians seem to be heralding cultural defeat and advocating a gracious concession to the other side. They urge us, in as many words, to reduce our witness to acts of private charity and church ministry.
The message is clear: not only should Christians remain silent about gay marriage if we know what's good for us, but we must be made to agree with and even celebrate what Scripture calls sin. As Ana Marie Cox recently said of Christians on MSNBC, "you're going to have to force [them] to do things they don't want to do." But gay columnist Frank Bruni recently took it to the next level in the New York Times, writing that it's time Christians get with the program and "take homosexuality off the sin list."
Nevertheless, such people are increasingly being ostracized, fired and facing death threats simply because of such beliefs. All of this makes protection of their individual rights and civil liberties even more crucial. Protecting their rights is what Louisiana's Marriage and Conscience Act (H.B. 707) would do. This bill would prohibit the government from taking "any adverse action against a person" due to that person's "religious belief[s] or moral convictions[s] about the institution of marriage."
Ryan T. Anderson, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation who opposes same-sex marriage, said the episode was a turning point. "When the former solicitor general and superstar Supreme Court litigator is forced to resign from his partnership," Mr. Anderson said, "that shows a lot." The current climate, Professor McConnell of Stanford said, means that important distinctions are being lost. One is that it is possible to favor same-sex marriage as a policy matter without believing that the Constitution requires it. But this is, he said, a topic he has learned to avoid. "You're going to shut up, particularly if you don't care that much," he said. "I usually just keep it to myself."
"Big business has been at the forefront of the backlash against the Indiana law, and similar legislation pending in states around the U.S.," reports CNN's Money channel. Salesforce's Marc Benioff pledged to reduce investments in Indiana and help employees relocate (to one of the other 20 states with RFRAs?), pronouncing Indiana's rather innocuous RFRA to be "brutal" and "unjust." Most eloquently and helpfully, Benioff explained the social phenomena we are now witnessing: "One thing that you're seeing is that there is a third [political] party emerging in this country, which is the party of CEOs." I am sure much of this reflects the sincere if misguided sentiments of the Party of CEOs, but there is another force at work here as well. When I say that traditional believers lack institutions, I mean that over the last ten years, the stage for the moment that has just emerged has been set, piece by piece, with very little effective, creative, or well-funded response by the so-called Religious Right.
These new political, cultural, and legal realities directly affect the church's freedom to live out its faith. While most church decisions about internal governance or doctrine currently enjoy constitutional protection, churches cannot assume that these protections will stand indefinitely. Maintaining a gospel-centered witness in today's culture requires not only standing firm on the truths of Scripture, but also taking affirmative steps to protect the church's freedom to continue peacefully teach and live out its faith. Here are five ways churches can protect their freedom to maintain fidelity to the faith.