Why Religious Freedom Matters: Barr v. Beto

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Notre Dame, Indiana—It may turn out to be the philosophical equivalent of “the shot heard around the world.”  That is just how powerful and just how good the speech given by U.S. Attorney General William Barr was at the University of Notre Dame’s School of Law.  His topic: religious liberty in America.  Ironically, this spectacular speech was given less than twenty-four hours after lefty candidates spewed bigoted anti-religious threats at the CNN LGBTQ Town Hall in Los Angeles.  The two events could not have been more different.  Barr waxed eloquently about of the fundamental importance of religious freedom and its enduring importance.  In contrast, the candidates at the CNN event almost gleefully boasted, as if trying to outdo each other, about how they would disrupt and dismantle religion, piece by piece.  Barr’s winsome words were not a direct critique of the earlier CNN spectacle, but they were a fitting rebuke, nonetheless. 

William Barr spoke of the consensus about the “centrality of religious liberty” starting with the founding era, in part because of the belief that religion was indispensable for sustaining a free government.  He noted that these statesmen affirmed the Christian belief that because men, as fallen creatures, have the capacity for great evil, government should be limited. Therefore, in their experiment, they determined to put America’s future in the hands of its people.

But “[s]elf-government,” he explained, refers primarily to the capacity of each person to “restrain and govern themselves.”  William Barr noted that the ability to restrain ourselves, comes ultimately from a “transcendent Supreme Being.”  He quoted John Adams to make his point, “We have no government armed with the power which is capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion.  Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”  Religion, Barr argued, provides the restraint necessary for liberty to exist by giving us rules to live by in the form of a transcendent moral order of natural law, the violation of which leads to negative consequences.

Next he turned to acknowledge that religion has been under increasing attack in America during the past 50 years.  He documented the steady erosion of the Judeo-Christian moral system by a concerted effort to drive it from the public square, with a concurrent rise of secular humanism and moral relativism.  The result?  Ballooning illegitimacy, family breakdown, growing depression and mental illness, increasing violence and a deadly drug epidemic.  According to Barr, the diminution of the moral order has brought “immense suffering, wreckage, and misery.”  Appearing to perhaps poke the CNN Town Hall participants, Barr said “Among these militant secularists are many so-called progressives.  But where is the progress?”  He decried the fact that, in spite of all of the claims of modern advancement, “no secular creed has emerged capable of performing the role of religion.”  As I have pointed out before, the problem with many liberals is not just their stubborn utopianism, but their persistent moral blindness of confusing change with progress.  As Barr point out, all change is not progress.

In the past, we have been able to count on cultural pendulum swings.  But this time, Barr is concerned that we cannot count on self-correction.  Why?  Because of “the force, fervor and comprehensiveness of the assault on religion.”  Because the left controls the cultural places of power (entertainment, academia, etc.) and is actively marshalling them to persistently assault religion and traditional values and silence opposing voices. “One of the ironies, as some have observed, is that the secular project has itself become a religion, pursued with religious fervor.  It is taking on all the trappings of a religion, including inquisitions and excommunication.”

The Attorney General next pointed out that the state has become the alleviator of all consequences of our sin and moral failings, rather than addressing the underlying causes.  Got sexual irresponsibility?  Get an abortion.  Drug addiction?  Visit a safe needle site.  Family breakdown?  The state becomes your parent.  Rather than solving problems, Barr points out, “we are underwriting them” and as a result we are becoming less free dependents of the state.

Specifically, Barr decried the way that governments are using the law “aggressively to force religious people to subscribe to practices and policies that are antithetical to their faith….irreligion and secular values are being forced on people of faith.”  Examples Barr cited include the Obama Administration’s decision to force Catholic orders to fund contraceptive and abortifacient coverage (Little Sisters of the Poor).  He also acknowledged how “California has sought to require pro-life pregnancy centers to provide notices of abortion rights,” referring to NIFLA v. Becerra, a case successfully resolved at the U.S. Supreme Court, where I served as co-counsel.

He acknowledged his boss has done a better job than the prior administration, [b]ecause this administration firmly supports accommodation of religion.” Barr noted that “the battleground has shifted to the states.”  According to Barr, “Ground zero for these attacks on religion are the public schools.”  Pause here for a second.  The Attorney General of the United States believes that “the most serious challenge to religious liberty” is how secularists are undermining the passing on and teaching of our faith to our children by adopting comprehensive sexuality education curricula that are “incompatible with traditional religious principles….often without an opt out for religious families.”  Barr listed several states, including California with our infamous “California Healthy Youth Act.”  He called this state violation of parental rights a “monstrous invasion of religious liberty.”  We here at the National Center for Law & Policy are in complete agreement, which is why we have dedicated increasing resources over the past three years to this civilization-threatening issue.

After mentioning other threats like Montana’s refusal to provide private school funds to religious schools (Blaine Amendments) and Indiana’s attempt to force Catholic schools to hire same-sex married teachers, Barr stressed the need of religious believers to remain personally faithful in this increasingly insane culture and the need to “place greater emphasis on the moral education of our children.”  Can I get an Amen?  “We cannot have a moral renaissance unless we succeed in passing the next generation our faith and values in full vigor.”  As Barr was speaking at a law school, he urged faithful lawyers that they “must be vigilant to resist efforts by the forces of secularization to drive religious viewpoints from the public square and to impinge upon the free exercise of our faith.”

In stark contrast to Barr’s careful attention to history and civil rights, within 24 hours we were treated to the progressive/socialist democratic contenders at the CNN LGBTQ con-fab.  There, first prize for most anti-religious bigoted statement of the evening goes to former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke.  CNN’s Don Lemon asked him, “Do you think religious institutions like colleges, churches, charities, should they lose their tax exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage?”  O’Rourke quickly replied, “Yes. There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone or any institution, any organization in America that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us. So as President, we’re going to make that a priority and we’re going to stop those who are infringing upon the human rights of our fellow Americans.”  Beto’s unequivocal statement unmasks the leftist’s hostility and hatred towards religion and should send a chill down the spine of every religious person in America.  To Barr’s point, Beto’s coercive power play is nothing short of a bare-knuckled attempt to strike fear in the already timid faithful and drive religion from the public square.  The power to tax is the power to destroy.  Clearly, the destruction of religion is on the progressive menu.

Piling on to his sustained assault on religious freedom, Beto O’Rourke said that conversion therapy “should be illegal” because it is “tantamount to torture.”  He said, “As president, we will seek to outlaw it everywhere in this country.” Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar agreed, stating that so-called conversion therapy should be illegal because it “makes no sense at all.”  Klobuchar also said she would recognize a third gender marker option on a federal level.

Having worked with the former gay and former LGBTQ community for decades I can attest that Beto and Klobuchar are wrong here.  In fact, what the left demonizes as “conversion therapy” is really non-coercive talk therapy, more aptly called “change allowing therapy,” which has actually helped thousands of people facing unwanted involving sexual orientation and gender identity struggles successfully address and overcome their problems in a redemptive way.  As this therapy is often practiced by the faithful, freedom of speech, conscience and religion must be protected here.  The bottom line is that people seeking help for unwanted sexual orientation and gender identity struggles must be free to hear about and experience the transformative power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I agree with U.S. Attorney General William Barr that religious freedom is a fundamental right, given to us by our Creator, which we dare not squander.  We must rediscover the importance of religious freedom and fight the good fight of faith and freedom so that our children and grandchildren may continue to experience the blessings of liberty.  William Barr has given us the gift of remembering what is truly important, one for which I am profoundly grateful.

 

Evangelical “leader” used as PR prop for state resolution urging pastors and churches to abandon biblical sexual ethics and denounce change allowing therapy

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Sacramento, CA—After facing growing opposition from religious organizations and leaders, California Assembly Member Low withdrew AB 2943 in 2018, which would have declared sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) consumer fraud, causing conscientious objectors to LGBT sexual orthodoxy to be targeted and punished by the state.  Now, he has replaced that failed effort with a resolution (ACR 99) seeking to pressure all Californians, including all religious institutions and religious leaders, to voluntarily embrace a statist sexual orthodoxy, regardless of their deeply held religious beliefs.  This time, however, Low is boasting about the very thin evangelical Christian support for his new resolution, specifically that of one appeasing evangelical leader.

As currently written, by a joint resolution of the Senate and Assembly, ACR 99, the government of the state of California “calls upon all Californians to embrace the individual and social benefits of family and community acceptance….”  Furthermore, “the Legislature calls upon religious leaders with conviction to counsel on LGBT matters from a place of love, compassion, and knowledge of the psychological and other harms of conversion therapy…. We call upon the people of California—especially its counselors, pastors, religious workers, educators—and the institutions of California with great moral influence—especially its churches, universities, colleges, and other schools, counseling centers, activist groups, and religious centers—to model equitable treatment of all people of the state…”  (emphasis mine)

ACR 99 is a transparent attempt to chill religious speech and silence the biblically faithful voices of our pastors.  The resolution not-so-subtly pressures religious leaders, including pastors, to disaffirm biblically orthodox viewpoints on human sexuality and replace them with pagan viewpoints.  Specifically, ACR 99 asks pastors to agree that change-allowing therapies, which the resolution defames as “conversion” therapy, are always harmful and ineffective.  Apparently for Low, pastors and churches should just get on the alleged “right side of history” here and adjust their preaching and counseling accordingly.

“Evangelical leader” Kevin Mannoia, who submitted a letter in support and testified in support of ACR 99 on June 18th in Sacramento, serves as Chaplain at Azusa Pacific University (APU) and formerly served as the President of the National Association of Evangelicals.  His letter claimed the support of “some Christian pastors,” who remain unnamed, vaguely expressing “various levels of support for ACR 99….”

During the resolution hearing, Evan Low read aloud the 2018 Op-ed. Mannoia had written in support of AB 2943, which threw change-allowing therapy under the proverbial biblical bus:

“Reparative therapy is without evidence as to its efficacy and is inconsistent with Christian living. We support Mr. Low in his opposition to practices that cause harm in people. This is contrary to the nature of the Christian message, which, while calling for change in all people to be oriented toward Christ even at great sacrifice, neither favors nor supports any practice that causes harm.”

Not surprisingly Mannoia’s employer, APU, has itself struggled with remaining biblically faithful, especially regarding issues of human sexuality, and according to many respected evangelical leaders, has, in fact, failed to remain biblically orthodox under growing cultural pressure.

Elizabeth Wonning, a former lesbian who is a leader with Equipped to Love and Changed, testified against ACR 99 implication that religion is to blame for LGBT suicides, “I take exception to the belief that religion is central to the high rates of suicide among LGBT youth.  For me, and many others, faith rescued us from suicide.  The experience of discovering you are different than most other people is traumatic and troubling whether you have faith or not.  Hopelessness causes suicide.”  Ken Williams, a pastor and former homosexual, concluded his testimony with these powerful words, asking Low to respect rights of conscience and religious freedom: “And so, assemblyman Low, I am asking you, you may have the votes to pass this, but I don’t believe that you have the right to presuppose people’s consciences, or to tell them what they need to believe.  I totally support your right, and everyone you represent, to experience whatever in life that you’d like to, I have no intention to take that away.  I just am asking that my rights, and my people group would also be respected. So I, I ask for a no vote on this resolution.”

We can all agree that aversive therapeutic methods, involving coercion or physical pain, should not be employed in the context of change-allowing therapies.  However, I submit that this is not actually a current problem.  Aversive therapeutic methods are not being employed today nor have they been widely employed for decades.   Indeed, the false accusation that change-allowing therapies are harmful and ineffective was strongly rebutted by a letter submitted and signed by dozens of therapists, attorneys, and public policy organizations, confirming that change allowing therapies are non-aversive, in that they often give people hope and result in transformative change.  Indeed, the very lives of thousands of former homosexuals and former transgender individuals tell a very different story.  Sexual identity isn’t immutable.  People can and do change.

Biblically orthodox evangelical Christians cannot affirm that all change-allowing therapies are ineffective and harmful, nor can they endorse a therapeutic ban. This is true for the following reasons:  First, it is a denial that we are created in the image of God, as male or female.  Second, it is a denial of the transformative power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to change the human heart.  Third, thousands of former homosexuals and former transgendered persons have been genuinely helped by change-allowing therapies—being set free from unwanted same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria.  Fourth, it would result in government coerced supression of speech, in violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and the further diminution of religious freedom.

Members of the Coalition for Counsel Choice repeatedly tried to warn Kevin Mannoia and other pastors about engaging with Evan Low. They specifically raised the issue that any resolution that evangelical leaders might agree upon with Assemblymember Evan Low would be a compromise of one or more of the above truths—as ACR 99 actually is.  Furthermore, they cautioned that from a public policy and legal perspective, a compromised resolution will almost certainly serve as a stepping stone toward a future outright legal ban on change-allowing therapies.   If it does, CCC members warn that history may prove that evangelical leaders will have actually been complicit in moving the cultural conversation towards an ultimate ban on change-allowing therapies with the further erosion of religious freedom—resulting in Orwellian restrictions on sharing the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Mannoia was also specifically asked to not submit his vague and confusing “support” letter for ACR 99.  He did not listen.

Immediately after the resolution hearing, Evan Low was quick to take a victory lap, touting Kevin Mannoia as a PR prop by posting a glossy photo of himself and Kevin on Facebook, tagging all his radical friends at Equality California, the Trevor Project, the National Center for Lesbian rights and the Human Rights Campaign,  “@Kmannoia, Former President of the National Association of Evangelicals & Chaplain at @azusapacific, speak in support of #ACR99, to reaffirm our values of love and dignity while also acknowledging the harmful practice of #ConversionTherapy @TrevorProject @eqca @NCLRights @HRC”

Unfortunately, this unorthodox and aberrant behavior by one of our purported evangelical “leaders” highlights the dangers of the strategy of appeasing the enemies of the gospel and freedom in Christ.  It never ends well.  Tragically, too many Christians leaders today fear people and worship the culture, rather than fearing God and worshipping Christ. But this isn’t Christian leadership, it’s cultural surrender. To shamefully join forces with the enemies of Christ, to defame all change-allowing therapy, and to surrender to the idea that people can’t change is to surrender to the satanic lie that the Gospel has no actual transformative power.  For biblically orthodox evangelicals, that is heresy.

Christians can certainly all agree that everyone, including those struggling with same-sex attraction or gender identity should be treated with love, dignity, compassion, and respect.  Everyone deserves this, precisely because they are created in the image of God.  However, in a free society, this can and should be done without the government attempting to tell churches and pastors how they should counsel or what they should preach.  Christians, who desire to remain free, must always oppose the annexation of the church by the state.  We don’t want to have to relearn the painful and difficult lessons of the appeasing German Lutheran church of the 1930’s and 40s.

Christians ought to be concerned—very concerned—and must remain vigilant against the dark impulses of statist domination. Let’s be clear: our enemies want to silence us and thereby kill the gospel message. California, over the past five years, has been churning out a series of bad legislation targeting religious freedom and the freedom of speech, often in the name of LGBT rights (See i.e. AB 775, SB 1146, AB 1888, AB 569, AB 2943).  And History confirms that non-binding resolutions like ACR 99 often proceed more coercive, restrictive, and freedom-robbing legislation. That is why the NCLP submitted a powerful separate legal opinion memorandum explaining how ACR 99, if enacted, will chill speech and suppress religious beliefs and practices, in violation of the protections of the First Amendment.

The gospel is not fraud, consumer or otherwise.  It has the power to transform us, including our sexual desires.  Although deceptively camouflaged in the language of love and compassion, ACR 99 is a naked attempt by the government to establish progressive sexual orthodoxy and dis-establish (and destroy) religious sexual ethics. Although not binding, this resolution, if adopted, will chill the speech of pastors, churches, and Christians who are already concerned and fearful about government infringements, especially related to LGBT issues.  We can’t afford to have our voices censored and silenced by the state.  Truth is at stake.  The Gospel is at stake.

An Open Letter to Pastors

 

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Anytown, USA–Do you really believe in the power of God to transform people at the deepest level? I do! This dynamic force for good is confirmed both by the Scriptures and experience. But now that California is in the process of declaring the hope of the gospel as “fraud” and defaming the proclamation of biblical truth as an “unlawful business practice” in the Golden State, what will you do? If you are not already aware of AB 2943, a law seeking to outlaw dissent from statist sexual orthodoxy, and which poses an existential threat to religious freedom, please read this article.

We are in a Bonhoeffer moment. A Bonhoeffer moment is a time when the political and cultural pressures are so intoxicatingly powerful and intense that the church is tempted to deny her faithful biblical witness and compromise in some significant way. In Germany, a church that could have and should have confronted Hitler, chose the easier path of passivity and appeasement. Under great duress from the Nazi party, most of the evangelical church became compromised and pressed into the service of the Reich. The courageous and faithful Confessing Church was more sparsely populated by a few hundred faithful pastors, among them Martin Niemoller and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Today, the church is confronted by similar totalitarian cultural pressure points. This time it is in the form of a flurry of court rulings, state laws, and popular cultural indoctrination. The goal is to seek to defy moral gravity (i.e. reality) in the form of a brazen sexual declaration of independence—declaring evil good and good evil—radically redefining marriage, sexual orientation and gender identity. After redefining marriage in 2015, elitist pagan social engineers now want to destroy and replace the gender binary—the truth that we are all created male and female in the image of God. Consequently, I believe we now face the greatest threat to religious freedom in the history of our nation. It is as if the culture is holding a gun to our heads attempting to force us to acknowledge and celebrate as positive moral “goods” same-sex marriage, gender dysphoria, and the related transformative corruptive indoctrination of our children in public schools.

We are not alone in history. The early church faced a similar moment. Then, powerful cultural and religious leaders, desiring to silence the witness of the church and suppress the truth, ordered Peter and John to not speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. Without hesitating, they replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have heard” (Acts 4: 13-21). After being imprisoned for disobeying (and a miraculous release) they were hauled again before the leaders and chastised for continuing to preach the gospel. Peter responded, “We must obey God rather than men.” The leaders wanted to kill them, but decided to let them off with a good beating. The result? They left “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name” and “every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus” (Acts 5:17-42).

God has not changed. Truth has not changed. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Yet, tragically today, similarly to the unfaithful German evangelical church, far too many timid and fearful evangelical pastors have not handled the cultural pressures very well. As a result, the full counsel of God is not always preached and the gospel is watered down. New Age beliefs and practices are replacing biblical truth from the pulpit. Compromise, capitulation, and assimilation are certainly not the answers. Yet, even before laws like AB 2943 are restraining us, many pastors already are self-censoring and withholding truth. This is not loving—it is profoundly unloving. Important truths like sin, repentance, discipleship, purity, and obedience (denying ourselves, picking up our crosses, and following Him) are often forgotten and are replaced by an unbiblical gospel of cheap grace and a wimpy passive faith. This is how truth dies, this is how the light is hidden, this is how salt loses its savor.

Yet, some faithful godly California Pastors like Manuel Gonzales are not backing down in the face of California’s Orwellian AB 2943. Pastor Gonzales recently declared, “I am committed to preach the gospel, and no one is going to tell me that I cannot.” My friend, San Diego Pastor Chris Clark, recently declared that he had notified his state representatives that he will not be complying with the law, if passed, “I am giving them my name, my church’s name and address, and making it clear that AB 2943 will be an unjust law and therefore I am compelled to violate it.” For more on Principled Christian Civil Disobedience, please read this article.

Having been actively involved in the fierce epic battle between religious liberty and sexual liberty for the past 25 years, I can assure you that the goal of the opposition is not inclusion, diversity and tolerance—not even close! The goal of radicals within the activist LGBT movement is to suppress and silence the proclamation of truth by the church—the gospel. Among the messages they want to suppress are: God created us male and female, sin is the problem, repentance is necessary, forgiveness is available in Jesus Christ, and that the gospel has the power to transform disordered sexuality. If you are unapologetically preaching the truth, there is or will soon be a target on you and a target on your pulpit. If you don’t have a target on you at this point, it may mean that you are not being biblically faithful. We will all stand before God and give an account for our lives.

So, what can a pastor do? First, fear God rather than men. Find your spiritual backbone, get back to the Bible, and preach the full counsel of God from the pulpit. If you are self-censoring your sermons because of cultural pressure and the fear of the opinions of people: please repent and knock it off. Allow your love to overcome your fear, remembering that the gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16). Your church needs a courageous shepherd who clearly and unapologetically speaks the truth and will help protect the saints from the wolves and darkness surrounding us now. Second, pray for a new reformation, a great awakening of a church that is now, sadly, in many respects culturally withdrawn, spiritually asleep, and increasingly silent. Third, actively engage (be salt and light) by speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15) and encourage your congregation to engage and oppose evil laws like AB 2943 that threaten the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

As Pastor Chris Clark recently stated, responding to AB 2943, “Time to be a Bonhoeffer.” Yes, pastors, we desperately need more Dietrich Bonhoeffers, Chris Clarks and Manuel Gonzales. I am not asking you to be political, I am asking you to be biblical. Now is the time that we must boldly and courageously stand up for truth, stop capitulating to the culture, and allow your love for God and people to overcome your fear. People are desperate for biblical leadership and for the truth. Silence is not an option. We must obey God rather than men!

Rogue Nation: Birthplace of Religious Freedom Added to the List of Countries Where Christians Face the Most Persecution

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The silence was deafening as the United States, the birthplace of religious freedom, joined the infamous ranks of the world’s worst places to be a Christian—places where followers of Jesus Christ face the worst harassment and persecution because of their faith. Major American media outlets largely ignored a story of immense implications for the future of the Judeo-Christian worldview and western civilization.

This dirty dozen is a list created by the International Christian Concern (ICC), a watchdog organization formed in 1995 to protect the rights of Christians worldwide, released in its 2016 Hall of Shame Report. It was not surprising that the Islamist dominated countries of Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt and Nigeria made the list for their persecution and killing of the Christian “infidels.” Nor was it a shock that Russia, Mexico and India were noted because of the suppression of evangelical Christianity either by people espousing other variations of Christianity or by Jesus-hating radical Hindus. It is even understandable that that the totalitarian communist/atheist states of China and North Korea were included.

Nearly simultaneous with the ICC’s report was the European Parliament’s acknowledgement that Christianity, not Islam, is the world’s most persecuted religion. The Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World, confirmed that Christians are currently the earth’s most harassed and intimidated religious group that “routinely suffer religiously motivated persecution.”

Regarding the ICC report, what raises eyebrows is the first-time-ever addition of the United States to the list of the twelve worst countries for the Christian faith.  The ICC’s explanation is as follows:

“Throughout the US, current events and shifting perceptions are causing conflicts between Christian beliefs and public sentiment. This cultural shift affects Christians businesses, organizations and individuals through legal action, free speech infringement, public expressions of faith, and employment.”

The article explains that Christians in the US are facing constant attacks in the media, where they are portrayed as bigoted, racist, sexist, and close-minded. Furthermore, Christians and all religious people are being marginalized through laws and legal action. Specific examples include Christian bakers fined $135,000 for declining to back a cake for a same-sex wedding, Intervarsity Christian fellowship losing official recognition as a student club at California public colleges, employees being terminated because of their faith, and many more. The ICC report cites that claims of “intolerance” and “inequality” are being used to bully Christians and create legal precedents that are actually undermining well established First Amendment rights, including the freedom of speech and free exercise of religion.

As we celebrate the peaceful transfer of power, President-elect Trump may provide some relief for believers if he fulfills his promise to respect and restore religious freedom. The overwhelming evidence of the past eight years reveals that President Obama’s legacy must include the truth that he was no friend of religious freedom, exasperating Christians by his First Amendment undermining actions, which include, but are not limited to:

  • Trying to force Catholic nuns (The Little Sisters of the Poor) and other church groups to provide abortion-related products and services.
  • Supporting the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples (Obergefell v. Hodges).
  • The United States Commission on Civil Rights issuing its 2016 anti-religious hit piece report suggesting that sexual liberty (i.e. new anti-discrimination laws) should prevail over religious liberty claims (First Amendment protected) and asserting that “religious freedom” and “religious liberty” are code for anti-LBGT discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, etc. (i.e. Christians are the “deplorables”).
  • The Department of Justice and Department of Education’s 2016 transgender bathroom mandate, forcing public schools to allow student access to bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding based on their perceived gender identity rather than their biological sex.

The ICC posits that part of the explanation for the change may be growing secularization, citing a Pew Research poll showing that those the total U.S. adult population identifying as non-religious jumped by seven percent in just seven years, from 16 percent to 23 percent (2007-2014). Notably, a stunning 35 percent of millennials identify as atheist, agnostic or nothing in particular! The report, How America Changed During Barack Obama’s Presidency, confirms that those identifying as Christians also dropped seven percent, from 78 percent to 71 percent, though the share of evangelicals has remained fairly stable. So, what does this all mean?

First, it means we must recognize that there is rapidly growing public pressure on American Christians today, as many secular-progressive elite forces are seeking to drive us out of the public square into hiding and to silence us and the gospel of Jesus Christ. We live in a time where, sadly, the church is far more influenced by the culture than it is influencing the culture. “One nation” once “under God” has become “divisible,” and divided, as we are now left “with liberty and justice for” some. Most Christians in the US are not handling the current hostile environment very well and many are simply giving in to the pressure, allowing themselves to be silenced and marginalized. Biblical resistance is required. Millennials are the most vulnerable to cultural pressure and the church must do a much better job of inculcating a comprehensive biblical worldview, passing the baton of “the faith of our fathers,” to them.

Second, it means, as I have been warning others for more than a decade, that we are rapidly moving from “soft” persecution towards “hard” persecution of the church in a place formerly known as the land of the free and home of the brave. It is true that while some of us are losing our livelihood, we are not being imprisoned or killed yet, but if the pendulum keeps swinging in its current direction, those prospects may not be far off. The separation of sheep and goats, already well underway, will continue and accelerate. Do not be alarmed that many you thought were authentic believers were only pretending. We need to realize that persecution is a normal part of being a Christian and gird our loins accordingly.

Third, it means that if we value our freedom and the gospel of Jesus Christ, we had better wake up, engage the culture by speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), and fight the good fight of faith by actively pushing back culturally, politically, and legally. The American “health and wealth gospel” will be nakedly unmasked for the fraud that it always was. This is not the time for wimpy, half-hearted, “fluffy-bunny” Jesus or “comfortable” Christianity. Those days are long gone in America.  But do not despair!  We have the hope and confidence that our ultimate victory is secure in Jesus Christ. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness had not overcome it (John 1:5).

Ready or not, Biblical promises of persecution are about to get very “real” and, especially for the unprepared, it’s going to be a rough ride. You are not alone. There is a strong remnant. You are surrounded by a cloud of faithful followers of Jesus Christ. Be much in the Word, prayer, and fellowship. Be filled with the Spirit. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.

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Orwellian U.S. Commission on Civil Rights: “Religious Freedom” is Code for Discrimination (Translation: Sexual Liberty Trumps Religious Liberty)

 Something very important—that should be sending ominous shockwaves through America’s communities of faith—occurred earlier this month which, not surprisingly, was largely ignored by the secular progressive media. The liberal elite “Emperor,” now stripped bare, revealed with absolutely stunning immoral clarity that it was never the plan to tolerate religious freedom. Martin R. Castro, appointed by President Obama in 2011, wrote in the September 2016 report by the United States Commission on Civil Rights:

 “The phrases “religious liberty” and “religious freedom” will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance. . . . [T]oday, as in the past, religion is being used as . . . a weapon . . . by those seeking to deny others equality. In our nation’s past religion has been used to justify slavery and later, Jim Crow laws. We now see “religious liberty” arguments sneaking their way back into our political and constitutional discourse . . . in an effort to undermine the rights of some Americans. This generation of Americans must stand up and speak out to ensure that religion never again be twisted to deny others the full promise of America.”

 Under the leadership of Castro, it is no surprise that the report’s two central “findings” are:

  • “Civil rights protections ensuring nondiscrimination, as embodied in the Constitution, laws, and policies, are of pre-eminent importance in American jurisprudence.”
  • “Religious exemptions to the protections of civil rights based upon classifications such as race, color, national origin, sex, disability status, sexual orientation, and gender identity, when they are permissible, significantly infringe upon these civil rights.”

However this commission language is code for: “We progressive elites prefer new fabricated faux civil rights, particularly ‘sexual liberty,’ over religious liberty (even though the latter is explicitly protected by the First Amendment).  Therefore, when backwards religious institutions or individuals, like the bigoted Christian colleges in California in the recent SB 1146 battle, have the Unmitigated gall, pursuant to the U.S. Constitution, to assert religious exemptions from non-discrimination laws, their First Amendment rights don’t matter because they are ‘infringing’ on more important and popular civil rights (i.e. which weigh much more in the scales of justice) than religious freedom.”

University of San Diego School of Law Professor Gail Heriot, in her powerful dissent to the majority opinion in the commission’s report, writes:  “By starting with an assertion that antidiscrimination laws are ‘pre-eminent,’” she writes, “the Commission’s analysis essentially begins with its conclusion. Why should anyone accept it? The Commission said so.” She also told the Washington Times that she was “troubled by the growing attitude that somehow anti-discrimination laws trump everything.”

Ironically, the report, which shamelessly trashes the first civil right embodied in our Bill of Rights, is titled: “Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Non-Discrimination Principles with Civil Liberties.” Castro’s Orwellian statements are nothing short of a declaration of war against people of faith and religious institutions. Make no mistake; those pushing the radical sexual liberty agenda have no desire for peace or tolerance, nor will they leave any room in the culture for religious dissenters. I have been warning people of faith for over a decade that the greatest threat to religious liberty is sexual liberty, and this report is Exhibit A, proving my point.

In fact, Castro and his friends have no respect for authentic religious freedom. The report is nothing short of a hit piece, designed to further denigrate and marginalize the place of religion in America. When it comes to the growing conflicts between the new, emerging, and purportedly ‘enlightened’ civil right, sexual liberty, uber-liberals like Castro, the commission’s majority, and California Senator Ricardo Lara (author of SB 1146) believe that backwards ‘unenlightened’ people of faith must always submit, cower in fear and shame, and be silenced. In other words, religious liberty will only be tolerated by the leftist elites to the extent that religious people agree to embrace and applaud unrestrained sexual liberty and expression.  That is a devil’s bargain for people of faith and must be rejected and resisted at all costs, unless we want to see religious freedom disappear in our lifetimes. The loss of religious liberty is a ‘gift’ that I am unwilling to give my children and grandchildren.

California to Christian Colleges: Bow to the idol of sexual liberty, or perish!

SB 1146 Testimony

Religious liberty is on the political chopping block in California. Two heinous bills, targeting California’s religious colleges and universities for legislative destruction, have been silently slithering their way though the halls of the state Capital.  They accomplish liberty-stripping, conscience-decimating goals by first, blocking student aid at  faithful private secondary institutions, and, second, opening the floodgates of financially crippling litigation, giving liberal judges the power to control internal religiously rooted student and personnel policies.

We have been warning Christians that the radical LGBT agenda’s goal is not to embrace diversity and peacefully coexist in a harmonious state of inclusive tolerance with Biblical Christianity.  Their goal is simply to force us to adopt and embrace their vision of radical sexual liberty or to silence us completely–period.  We predicted they would first target Christian businesses, would next attack Christian ministries and educational institutions, and finally finish off churches and pastors.  I wish we were wrong!

California’s assault started several years ago when California adopted Education Code § 66250 et seq. (the Equity in Higher Education Act), which mandated colleges and universities not discriminate on the basis of “gender expression” and “sexual orientation.”  However, as is true with similar federal laws, California’s religious colleges could claim a broad institutional exemption if the application of the law would not be consistent with the religious tenets of the organizations.  But the golden state’s far-left legislature did not wait long to tighten the noose around the necks of Christian Colleges.

In early 2016, AB 1888 was introduced.  This horrific legislation seeks to cut off state and federal funding of Christian colleges by requiring all institutions participating in the Cal Grant program to certify they will not discriminate with regard to students or employees on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. It would also prohibit current Title IX waivers from the US Dept. of Education if the college participates in the Cal Grant program.

SB 1146, following closely on the heels of AB 1888, has the potential of effectively “finishing off” faithful Christian colleges and universities, even if they opt out of federal and state financial aid.  This draconian legislation would radically narrow, if not destroy the existing exemption for religious institutions.  If this bill passes, only schools controlled by religious institutions could claim a religious exemption, but only narrowly, essentially only protecting for their religious study’s departments (ministerial or theological training programs)!  When read in conjunction with existing legislation, SB 1146 coerces religious colleges to choose between keeping their financial aid and abandoning their religiously rooted personnel and student policies.  In other words, bow or die!

Many Christian colleges are pervasively religious—because faith and learning are fully integrated in all subjects. Indeed, the scriptures declare that, in fact, everything is religious or theological, “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it….” (Psalm 24:1 (NIV)). Therefore, trying to make clear distinctions between the secular and sacred at these institutions is both a very foolish and invasive effort.  But SB 1146 gives judges the power to pierce the existing religious bubble of protection, inquire into the various programs at Christian colleges, decide what programs are “religious,” and allow lawsuits to proceed and injunctions issues to stop or control activities deemed sexually discriminatory.

Among the parade of hypothetical horribles, SB 1146 would conceivably allow a biological male, who subjectively believes he is a girl, to sue a Christian college that insists he reside in the male dorm—to sue for gender identity “discrimination” be awarded damages, and obtain an injunction ordering the school to allow him quarter in the girl’s dorm, bathrooms, and showers. This would allow a professor, living with his or her same-sex partner, to sue if terminated.

The attempt to cut off state and federal funding to Christian colleges, granting the “right” to sue and financially cripple institutions, and obtain injunctions to curb “discriminating” religious decisions may be the beginning of the end for biblically faithful Christian colleges.  These egregious bills are the latest example of sexual liberty steam-rolling and crushing religious liberty and are an existential threat to Christian colleges and universities. If we can’t stop them here in California, they may be soon coming to a state near you. These institutions are essentially being told:  either bow to the new American idol of sexual liberty, or watch your institution be “legally” burned at the stake.  This is not a choice, this is tyranny.

These bills are another example of sexual liberty crushing religious liberty and are a direct existential threat to Christian colleges, attempting to force them to embrace the LGBT agenda, even if it contradicts sincerely held religious beliefs and rights of conscience. The NCLP is actively involved with a broad coalition of California and national organizations working to stop AB 1888 and SB 1146.  NCLP Chief Counsel Dean Broyles testified against SB 1146 at the Senate Judiciary Committee in Sacramento on April 19, 2016.

Passive Acceptance of Evil Is Not a Christian Family Value

FRM Monsters

There is an epic war of the ages between darkness and light raging all around us, yet most Christians are content to have a picnic next to the battlefield.

When I first learned about the surreal scene of hundreds of citizens strolling into the countryside to observe a civil war battle near Washington, D.C., I thought “How odd, how strange! Why would anyone want to watch a battle in which they were not engaged?” Now, I understand that this bizarre visage is a rather apt yet tragic symbol of American Christianity today.

There is a very real war of good versus evil being fought in our midst, both spiritual and physical, but we are largely content to sit out the conflict on the sidelines. We should rather to be trained for warfare, arrayed in our armor, standing firm on the field of battle, engaged with our enemy, and advancing against the very gates of hell-but we are not (See Ephesians 6:10-20).

Why not? Well, for the most part, our Christian leaders have not effectively trained us for war. And far too many of us are distracted and ensnared by the worship of a multitude of our American idols-comfort, success, and popularity, to list a few, rather than Christ. We are trained to be passive sheep, lazily grazing on the sidelines, selfishly waiting for heaven to land on earth. Most of us do not know the Bible well enough or have a comprehensive biblical worldview that informs and motivates proactive engagement. And, even if we know what we ought to do, we are not motivated to obey-because it is hard. And “hard” requires sweat, blood, tears and we would rather not sacrifice, bleed, or cry. It is a lot easier to be distracted by the latest Walking Dead episode than fighting real spiritual zombies.

Then, there is the enormous obstacle of desperately wanting people to like us (fear of man) that causes us to stand frozen still when God-warfare opportunities arise.  If we loved and feared God more, we would not shrink back, but would be willing to fight the good fight.

As Charles Spurgeon asked, “Wouldst thou be a feather-bed warrior, instead of bearing the rough fight of love?” Too many of us Christians are content to be arm-chair prophets and feather-bed warriors. As such, we have little to no power or impact on the raging battle at hand. But authentic biblical love is not passive and disengaged when evil rears its ugly head; it is active and engaged with truth, love and all of the weapons of our warfare!

Passive acceptance of evil is actually more of a Buddhist or Hindu value, rather than a biblically Christian aspiration. These Eastern faiths were formed to try to answer the question of how to cope with the problem of human suffering. Their answer was to essentially ignore it and escape it, by putting on blinders to reality, checking out, and by going within for “truth”-a profoundly hollow exercise. The world can appear to be a much safer place when you close your eyes, cover your ears, and harden your heart.

As believers, we are not supposed to escape from evil and suffering but we are rather to escape to evil and suffering-we are to proactively engage and overcome evil with good. I submit that when American Christians are passive in the presence of evil, we are not behaving as authentic robust biblical Christians, but as passive and selfish spiritual weaklings. The sad result is that we end up compromising, capitulating, and even assimilating to the darkness, rather than exposing it, opposing it, fighting it, and destroying it. This weakness it not irrelevant, but has serious negative consequences for our culture and the future of our children and grandchildren.

Authentic biblical Christianity is not passive. The Lord said, “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams”(I Samuel 15:22).  We should hate what our Father hates and love what our father loves-and do something about it. And James admonishes us “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22).  Jesus still admonishes us today to deny ourselves, pick up our crosses, and follow Him (Matthew 16:24).

God will hold us morally accountable not only for what we have done (sins of omission), He will also hold us accountable for what we have failed to do (sins of omission).  One of my heroes, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who literally gave his life to stop evil in his generation said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil; God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” The famous Christian British parliamentarian Edmund Burke wrote, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

As we are surrounded by evil, now is the time for good men and good women to do something. When we see evil we must boldly speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). When confronted by darkness we must act. We must never passively allow evil to triumph in our land, in our churches, or in our homes.

If you think you are not strong enough on your own to fight the good fight of faith, you are right! But you are not alone! God is with you! “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (II Chronicles 16:9). Step out in faith onto the battlefield and God will meet you there and He will empower you with strength, wisdom, and courage.

There’s a war raging! It is time for fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ to wake up and engage!  Now is the time to work and to fight for His Kingdom and His glory. We can rest in heaven. We fight not out of hate, but motivated by God’s holy-love, passion and power of our Father, who first loved us.

For now, let’s get out of our feather-beds, put on our armor, grab our weapons, and get our butts out on the battlefield! Prepare yourself for war, and fight in faith with the confidence that God wins in the end and we triumph with Him. And someday, though perhaps wounded, scarred, exhausted, and spent from battling many dark foes, you will understand and experience with joy the pleasure of your Father because you have fought a good fight, you will have finished your course, and there is laid up for you a crown of righteousness that does not fade. And on that day, you will hear those truly awesome words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” followed by the biggest party the universe has ever known!