Wednesday, June 07, 2017

1200 Government Attacks On Faith And Religion Last Year

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On August 1, 1776, Samuel Adams, one of America's Founders, described America like this:

"Driven from every other corner of the earth, freedom of thought and the right of private judgment in matters of conscience direct their course to this happy country as their last asylum."

Christian lawyer Kelly Shackelford and his First Liberty Institute has researched every case in which our government attacked religious liberty in 2016.

He found a record 1200 such instances. The most since Samuel Adams defined this country as the "last asylum" for such freedom.

But Shackelford says there's good reason for hope.

In an introductory message to the exhaustive 376-page "Undeniable, The Survey of Hostility to Religion in America" Shackelford says, "Hostility to religion in America is rising like floodwaters, as proven by the increased numbers of cases and attacks documented in this report."

He says, "This flood is engulfing ordinary citizens who simply try to live normal lives according to their faith and conscience. It is eroding the bedrock on which stand vital American institutions such as government, education, the military, business, houses of worship, and charity. It has the potential to wash away the ground that supports our other rights, including freedom of speech, press, assembly, and government by consent of the people."

I'm reminded that Patrick Henry, a colleague of Adams and fellow Founding Father, said, "When people forget God, tyrants forge their chains."

Based on this survey, it's apparent that our past leadership has either forgotten God, or simply made the decision to eliminate Him from our public experience---I suspect it's the latter.

Does this record number of attacks on faith and freedom translate to a hopeless situation?

No. Absolutely not.

Shackelford is optimistic. So am I.

I'll come back to that in a minute.

The report is, as I said, exhaustive but very interesting and very informative.

It's linked above. If you have time I would encourage you to review some or all of it.

The report lists the cases of hostility and breaks them down in several categories including these:

The "Public Arena" of public places, government, and the workplace. The report said, "This past year has seen high-profile attacks on religious liberty in the public arena as people of faith have been fired, refused employment, or fined for privately praying in the sight of others, for wearing religious attire, and for speaking out about their religious beliefs."
The "Schoolhouse" of education, from K–12 through higher academia. Included: "These cases primarily involve school officials prohibiting students or teachers from sharing their faith or exercising their religious free speech rights. Many of these cases arise because of the misinformation that secularist organizations send annually to school officials, threatening lawsuits unless the school officials stamp out all religious expression within the school."
"Churches and Ministries," in which one might expect hostility to be the least, the report said "Not only did the government, for the first time, argue that it may regulate churches and determine qualifications for pastors, but the past ten years have seen an explosion in cases involving local governments discriminating against churches, particularly in the local governments' use of zoning laws and granting of permits."
The "Military," which includes our service members, veterans, and their memorials. Cases cited include a Navy chaplain investigated for religious counseling and an Air Force master sergeant punished for Christian beliefs.

Here's the good news.

Shackelford says, "The good news is that a vast majority of the hostility to religion you will read in this survey is unlawful. It succeeds only because of its own bluff and the passivity of its victims."

He says, "Hostility to religion can be defeated in the legal system---but only if challenged by Americans like you."

His organization, and other similar ones, are available to stand with any and all citizens who will take a stand against these kinds of hostilities.

Consider this.

Freedom of conscience is part of a person's core identity, and embedded in America's cultural DNA.

Religious freedom is featured in The First Amendment because all other freedoms rest upon it. Without the concept of a higher authority to make government accountable to unchanging, absolute principles of justice, all other freedoms are at risk of being violated, redefined, or revoked by government.

The Declaration of Independence says all men are "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights...That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men."

And this fact is, of course, taken from God's Word. In fact the principles of our great American experiment were taken from God's Word.

This caused John Jay, a committed Christian and first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, to say, "Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers...The Americans are the first people whom Heaven has favored with an opportunity of deliberating upon and choosing the forms of government under which they should live."

To whom much is given, much is required. Stand up. Stand firm.

Be Informed. Be Vigilant. Be Bold. Be Steadfast. Bed Prayerful. Be Free.