Religious Liberty

 

Recently, Tom Crawford expressed his opinion that bills before the Georgia legislature which are intended to protect the religious liberties of Georgians are, “…the latest example of legislators searching for a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist”.

To support his belief that religious persecution is not a problem in these United States, Mr. Crawford states, “The First Amendment has protected the clergy for more than two centuries”. While this is true in most instances, we must also remember the First Amendment is intended to protect everyone’s religious liberty, not just members of the clergy.

Facts refute the belief that persecution of Christians in America is not a problem. There are many recent instances in which Christians have been prohibited the free exercise of their religion by legislatures, courts and institutions, even in Georgia.

Christians across the country have been vilified, shut out of certain professions, fined and had their businesses shut down. Why? For believing it is wrong for Christians to provide products or services for activities that promote behaviors that are prohibited by scripture.

One example of this is when Jennifer Keeton, a student in a counseling program at Augusta State University, was required to complete a “remediation” because she is a Christian who believes homosexuality is a sin. As a counselor, she would not be permitted to say homosexuality is wrong. She would be free to believe whatever she liked, but would be prohibited from acting on her faith. (Augusta Chronicle, http://chronicle.augusta.com/news/education/2010/judge-rejects-keeton-lawsuit Court Order, http://chronicle.augusta.com/sites/default/files/SKMBT_60110082017270.pdf).

Such a requirement by schools puts her and many other Christians in the position of having to choose between the practice of their religion or the careers they have chosen.

There are also many other examples of discrimination against Christians throughout the country as courts (including the United States Supreme Court) and legislatures upend the Constitution.

A few examples are:

In Oregon, a Christian baker refused to bake a wedding cake that was to be a part of the celebration of a “gay marriage“. As a result of trying to live their Christian faith, they were forced to pay a fine of $144,000. (The Christian Science Monitor,
http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2015/1229/Oregon-bakery-pays-144-000-fine-for-refusing-to-bake-gay-wedding-cake)

If the government is going to compel business owners to endorse or promote behavior the owners believe is wrong, then Christians who hold such beliefs will no longer be able to go into business.

A Christian student organization was told (in a case that was ultimately decided by the United States Supreme Court) that they must admit non-Christians and could not consider sexual orientation as a requirement for membership. (United States Supreme Court, http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/09pdf/08-1371.pdf)

This makes a thinking person assume that such rulings will one day be applied to Churches.

Also, as a result of laws that have been passed and court rulings that have been handed down concerning the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Christians who believe that scripture teaches that homosexuality is wrong are effectively excluded from government jobs that would require them to give government approval to “same-sex marriage”.

We have come to the place where people who sincerely hold Christian beliefs and desire to live according those beliefs, can in effect, be excluded from certain professions, owning certain businesses, organizing Christian associations or even holding certain government jobs.

Being a Christian is more than believing something, it is a way of life that is to be practiced.

Luke 6:46
“And why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?”

The United States Constitution is supposed to protect not only one’s religious belief, but the practice of that belief as well.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

The effect of recent court rulings has been to destroy the Constitutional protection of the free exercise of religion found in the First Amendment while providing endorsement of lifestyle choices that are not even mentioned in the Constitution.

Mr. Crawford also states, “If you want to talk about genuine religious persecution, take a few moments and read about the extermination of six million Jews during World War Two. Nothing even close to that is happening in Georgia”.

As one who has studied for years what happened to the Jews not only during World War Two, but throughout their history, I can say that the murder of six million Jews did not begin and end in one day, nor was it done in one giant leap. There were many steps taken over the years before the National Socialists began to implement their “Final Solution“.

The holocaust began as a small cancer of bigotry that was allowed to grow ignored and unhindered by the German people and the people of the world until it consumed much of the Jewish population of Europe.

This same kind of malignant bigotry is being manifested in our country today against Christians and, unless it is stopped quickly, the outcome might be the same for Christians in America as it was for the Jews of Europe.

You say, “Nothing even close to that is happening in Georgia.” I ask you, “How close do we have to get to what happened in Nazi Germany before we act to prevent it from happening in America?”

There are many ominous parallels between what happened in Germany during the 1920’s and 1930’s and what is happening in America today. The most ominous parallel is that, like many Americans today, most Germans convinced themselves that there wasn’t really a problem. Even the Jews in the ghettos of European cities did not believe that their relatives and friends who had been placed on trains to the death camps had indeed been killed by the Nazis.

During this time the German people and the world had many opportunities to prevent the slaughter of the Jews in Europe, but they preferred willful ignorance to acknowledgement of the truth, until it was too late.

We might ask today:

Should Germans have spoken up and defended the Jews when some began to paint them as second-class citizens in the 1920‘s?

Or, should the German people have prevented the passing of unjust laws that excluded Jews from certain occupations, including civil service jobs as happened in 1933?

Would things have turned out differently if the National Socialists had not been allowed to destroy Jewish businesses and synagogues during the Kristallnacht rampage in 1938?

Was it too late for the people of Europe to act as Jews were being forcibly moved into ghettos like the one in Warsaw?

How about when hundreds of thousands were loaded into cattle cars for transport to the “work camps”? Was it too late to intervene?

I suppose by the time the people were standing naked in the “showers”, it truly was too late.

Even when ashes rose from the smokestacks of the crematories to settle upon nearby villages, the people of Europe and the world did nothing to stop the murders of the men, women, children and infants who were yet alive in those awful places.

Denial and willful ignorance might have brought a measure of temporary
peace and comfort to those who refused to help, but at a terrible cost for the millions who were killed.

After the ovens cooled and the ashes settled, the world vowed, “Never again”. We say, “We would not have stood by and allowed such atrocities to take place if we had been in Europe during those awful times“.

Well, we weren’t there then, but we are here now, living in a time when America is headed down the same path.

Again I ask, “How close do we have to get to what happened in Nazi Germany before we act to prevent it from happening in America?”

Have we spoken up when Christians and Christianity are derided? The Germans had the opportunity to speak up for the Jews in the 1920’s, but didn‘t.

Have we acted to repeal unjust laws and court rulings that have the effect of denying Christians the opportunity to certain kinds of employment, or to operate businesses? The Germans accepted the laws that were passed in 1933 which excluded Jews from certain occupations including government employment.

A number Christian businesses have been closed in the United States of America, not by rampaging National Socialists as happened in Germany on Kristallnacht in 1938, but forced out of business nevertheless by laws that would compel sincere Bible believing Christians to compromise their God given right to freely exercise their religion.

Do we wait, as the German people did, until it is to late? Once the cancer spreads it will be impossible to stop. History has proven this.

The German people and indeed the whole world refused to acknowledge the problem and therefore failed to stop the holocaust. If they had acted early, instead of not acting at all, perhaps millions of lives would have been saved.

History condemns those who fail to act.

Never again? We shall see.

Pastor Glenn Guest
6924 Hwy 172
Comer, GA 30629

706-783-5942

February 23, 2016