Discrimination is a buzzword that has all kinds of implications. Of course, we don’t want to be accused of discriminating against someone based on race or gender. However, the federal government has gone far beyond those categories and has gotten into areas involving morality. So what are the consequences of new anti-discrimination rules?
In February of 2021, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a directive barring discrimination in housing based on sexual orientation or gender identity. For schools and colleges, this means that dorm rooms, locker rooms, shower spaces, and restrooms must be open to anyone, no matter their gender or sexual orientation. Schools not following the directive face fines and criminal penalties.
We are already seeing the consequences of new anti-discrimination rules in high schools where boys are demanding to use girls’ locker rooms and participate in girls’ sports. A more complex situation is confronting Christian colleges because of moral concerns. They can be threatened with government action if they have a girls’ dorm or a boys’ dorm.
The College of the Ozarks near Branson, Missouri, is involved in a court battle. This school, affiliated with the Presbyterian Church USA, was established in 1906. It has 1426 students and 30 academic majors. The college’s five-fold mission is to encourage academic, Christian, cultural, vocational, and patriotic growth in its students. With the help of Alliance Defending Freedom, the school is challenging the new government rules.
The federal government has taken the Civil Rights Act of 1968 as the basis of its directive. That law was written to stop discrimination against African Americans, but they are reinterpreting it to accommodate LGBTQ activists. The consequences of new anti-discrimination rules for Christian colleges will be to open all dorms to everyone. An alternative would be to close the dorms and force students to find off-campus housing, which would be a financial hardship for the schools. Christian colleges across the nation are watching what happens in this court battle.
One of the most famous authors on the world literary scene was Leo Tolstoy. He is probably best known for War and Peace but is well respected for his other novels. In 1890 Tolstoy wrote an essay titled, “Why Do Men Stupefy Themselves?” For Tolstoy, “stupefacients” were anything that interfered with the rigorous application of a person’s conscience, and he believed they caused most human problems. Tolstoy’s list of stupefacients included wine, beer, spirits, narcotics, and tobacco.
The Bible agrees with Tolstoy. Numerous Old Testament passages tell of trouble coming from the use of alcohol. (For example, see Genesis 9:20-24, Leviticus 10:9, Deuteronomy 29:6, and Judges 13:4-7.) The condemnation of alcohol use in passages like Proverbs 20:1 and 23:21 make it clear this is not God’s will for us to stupefy ourselves with alcohol. There is no product of humanity that has caused more misery, ill health, disruption, and violence than alcohol.
So here we are in 2021, legalizing another stupefacient. We already see the ill effects of the use of marijuana, and yet 70% of all Americans support the legalization of recreational pot. Nearly 80% of people in the 18-29 age category support it. Celebrities like Willie Nelson, Cheech and Chong, Woody Harrelson, and Bill Maher have promoted marijuana as a way to find peace in a confusing world.
People made similar claims about alcohol when prohibition was the law. The promoters of alcohol won, and the result of the legalization of alcohol brought in tax dollars. At the same time, it has cost far more in alcohol-related accidents, broken homes, and broken lives. The legalization of marijuana is also riding on the claim of increased tax dollars.
Tolstoy was a Russian writing in the late 19th century, and he was unsuccessful in turning Russia away from the use of stupefacients. The Russian Republic was destroyed and replaced with Communism with dictators like Lenin and Stalin. The question is, “Will America survive our 21st-century involvement with stupefacients?”
America’s Christian heritage is being forgotten. It is a brutal truth that if you visit a foreign country today, you will be expected to observe their holidays and respect their heritage. When you are in Japan, for example, you are expected to wear a particular robe and remove your shoes when you visit a temple or meet with a Japanese political figure.
When I visited a Native American leader in Arizona many years ago, I was expected to allow my hand to be cut and my blood mixed with his to bring oneness. So doesn’t it seem a bit strange that you can be arrested for publicly maintaining biblical standards in the United States today? Consider the following facts about the heritage of this nation:
1) The Declaration of Independence declares God as Creator and Supreme Judge, and the signers pledged their reliance on divine providence. 2) Of the 50 state constitutions, 45 of them refer to God. 3) In God We Trust, the national motto is printed on all money and engraved above the Speaker’s rostrum in the House Chamber. 4) The Supreme Court declared the U.S. a Christian nation in 1892 and reaffirmed it in 1931. 5) The words of Leviticus 25:10 are inscribed on the Liberty Bell. 6) References to God, the Bible, and Christianity abound on the Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, and Washington Monument.
If I visit Japan, I would not loudly condemn their culture and history because I don’t share their belief system. So why is it that in America today, remembering America’s Christian heritage and expressing the faith of our forefathers can result in being fined or put in prison?
One of the challenging situations in America today is what to do about the rights of Christian colleges and universities and LGBTQ people. On June 8. 2021, the U.S. Justice Department filed a court statement to defend the LGBTQ exemption for religious colleges from the federal civil rights law. This means that the Justice Department intends to continue allowing Christian colleges who believe that homosexuality is wrong to exclude LGBTQ students from their schools.
Involved in all of this is the fact that the Education Department provides billions of dollars of federal money for scholarships and grants to students attending Christian colleges and universities. The two opposing organizations involved are the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) and the Religious Exemption Accountability Project (REAP). CCCU says they are afraid the Biden administration “may be openly hostile” to their cause. They say they have a First Amendment right to promote traditional religious beliefs about sexuality and gender. REAP maintains that this is anti-LGBTQ hate and causes severe harm to LGBTQ students.
Presently 40 LGBTQ students at conservative religious colleges and universities are suing the Department of Education for its role in the LGBTQ exemption for religious colleges. The case is Hunter versus the U.S. Department of Education, and the outcome will have substantial implications for Christian schools and colleges in the United States. While this dispute is between the LGBTQ community and Christian colleges, the issues will affect other Christian organizations.
This is another case of rendering to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s (Matthew 22:21). When a college or other institution accepts money from the government for anything, directly or indirectly, they are obligated to accept government control and restrictions.
Many years ago, Ohio Valley Christian College used grant money to construct an auditorium. However, when it was completed, they were not allowed to have chapel services in the facility because of the use of federal funds. The school eventually bought out the grants so that they could pray in the building.
One of the most challenging issues facing churches, businesses, and the court system is how to resolve situations where a business owner refuses to do something that would violate their religious beliefs. For example, recent cases have involved a flower store owner who was asked to provide flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding and a cake artist who was asked to create a cake for a same-sex wedding and then a sex transition celebration. Both of these cases involve discrimination against religious beliefs. A florist named Barronelle Stutzman in the state of Washington refused to prepare a floral display for a same-sex wedding because she believes, as her church teaches, that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. At the end of June, the United States Supreme Court refused to hear Stutzman’s appeal. That allowed the ruling by the Washington State Supreme Court to stand fining her for violating an anti-discrimination law.
We reported earlier about a case involving Jack Phillips, a cake artist who refused to design a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding. The Supreme Court decided in favor of Phillips in 2018 because the suit against him was motivated by anti-religious bias. Since then, another lawsuit was filed against Phillips because he would not design a cake to celebrate a sex transition. Discrimination against religious beliefs continues to challenge Christians.
An even more consequential challenge existed in Philadelphia. The city of Philadelphia refused to place foster-care children with a Catholic agency because it would not allow same-sex couples to apply to be foster parents. This case is more serious only because it involves children. The question here is whether children can live in a family without both sexes being represented and not have mental issues related to that environment.
As a public school teacher, I saw the challenges faced by kids with single parents. Many of them did well in spite of that situation, but it was an issue. Kids needing foster care are especially vulnerable, and same-sex couples would add another layer of stress to the stability of those kids.
The question of discrimination against religious beliefs is vast. That is one more reason to keep a separation between church and state. Since our political system has embraced everything from prostitution to marijuana, the days ahead look difficult for people trying to live as Christ taught us to live. Remember that Christians in the first century faced the same kind of problems, but Rome never claimed to guarantee religious freedom as the United States Constitution does.
General Mark Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified on June 23, 2021, to the House Armed Services Committee. He said that the suicide rate among military personnel is so high that it affects the training and deployment of troops. In 2018, 326 active-duty troops died by suicide. Last year that number had risen to 377. All indications are that the suicides in 2021 will be well over 400. Representative Jackie Speier, who chairs the committee’s panel on personnel issues, called military suicides “a heart-wrenching problem.”
The military has placed increasing restrictions on chaplains and significant pressure on them to support Islam, Buddhism, Atheism, and LGBTQ belief systems. It has become increasingly difficult for them to hold Christian services. When I was in the army during the Korean conflict, there were regular Christian services. Additionally, chaplains were available 24/7 to help soldiers who struggled with war and our role in the conflict. As our society and the military become more and more secular, there is little support for the struggles that combat places on soldiers. Chaplains are not allowed to frame patriotism in Christian values. Is it any wonder that military suicides are increasing?
If you are convinced that there is no God and no life beyond this life, what is the motivation to participate in a war for America? “Survival of the fittest” does not suggest that a person should die for a political system that will never benefit them. In our lectureship program, we presented many seminars on military bases. We tried to help young military men and women see that there is a God and that the Christian way of life is worth fighting for. These sessions were voluntary, but many people of other faiths came to them.
Now we are not allowed to conduct a program on a military base or do anything on government property that smacks of Christian values. When my brother Bill wanted to be baptized into Christ at the Air Force base in Rantoul, Illinois, we decided to baptize him in the base swimming pool. When the military people in charge of the pool learned we were doing a Christian activity, they forbade us from using the pool. I had to baptize my brother in a motel swimming pool because the military would not allow any Christian activity on the base. That experience had a dramatic effect on the military enlisted men who were with us.
There is an old, false saying, “There are no atheists in foxholes.” I know it isn’t true because I was an atheist in the army, and I was in foxholes and maintained my atheism. Many young men around me depended on their faith and the chaplain to get them through the military experience. I have to admit that they were better soldiers than I was. Christian values have always been the foundation of this country. Trying to turn America into a secular state opposed to Christianity has a great deal of collateral damage, including an increase in military suicides.
When I was a young man, Memorial Day was a big deal. There were parades, speeches, special services at many churches, and a town memorial. We were constantly reminded of the men and women who died to make it possible for us to live in freedom in the United States. In those days, in Bloomington, Indiana, where I grew up, many military veteran’s groups marched in the parade, and all the high school bands participated. After serving in the military, I found that Memorial Day had changed. It had become “the first weekend of summer.” There were no parades, and only a few veteran groups paid attention to the original purpose. What will Memorial Day 2021 be like? Memorial Day began as “Decoration Day” in 1868, three years after the civil war ended. At Arlington National Cemetery. Flowers were put on all graves, and 5,000 people attended the ceremony. General Logan, who directed the ceremony, said, “Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”
Since that time, over 1.2 million Americans have died in our nation’s wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a National Holiday by Congress. In 2000, Congress enacted The National Moment of Remembrance Act (P.L.106-579). Its charter says, “To encourage the people of the United States to give something back to their country … by encouraging and coordinating commemorations in the United States of Memorial Day and the National Moment of Remembrance.”
The National Moment of Remembrance Act suggests that at 3:00 PM local time on Memorial Day, “Everyone is to pause for a moment of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation … It is a way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day.” We are in no way minimalizing the struggles for freedom and racial equity in America today, but even with our problems, how can we look at other nations and not be thankful for what we have?
On Memorial Day 2021, not understanding the sacrifices of the past has made us a selfish and self-serving people. Our ecological problems are because we want what is ours without thinking about the future. Our moral problems are because we have forgotten the teachings of Jesus Christ, which call us to live to serve others with integrity. In Luke 22:19-20, we read about Jesus instituting the Lord’s Supper as a way of helping us remember Him, what He taught, and the example He set. First Corinthians 11:28-30 warns Christians not to participate in communion without thought and understanding since “for this cause many are weak and sickly among you.”
What is true of the Church is true of America. We need a memorial to remind us of the important things. On Memorial Day 2021, let us not be so focused on our own agendas that we forget the past and what our predecessors have done to allow us to have what we enjoy today.
A federal judge has ruled against a Christian college in Missouri, and the ruling may affect other Christian colleges and universities. It involves opening the women’s dorm rooms and showers to biological males. On his first day in office, President Biden issued an executive order prohibiting “discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.” His order requires federal agencies to interpret the word “sex” to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Fair Housing Act is part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. It prohibits discrimination in the sale or rental of housing based on race, religion, or national origin. In 1974 a provision was added banning discrimination based on sex, but it says nothing about sexual orientation and gender identity. With the new executive order, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is now enforcing the requirement based on “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” and applying it to dormitory housing at colleges and universities.
The College of the Ozarks is a Christian college near Branson, Missouri. In April 2021, the college sued the Biden administration, stating that the new executive order “requires private religious colleges to place biological males into female dormitories and to assign them as female’s roommates.” On moral and religious grounds, the school prohibits males students from female dorms and vice-versa. The federal judge ruled against the school.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) plans to challenge the judge’s ruling. Ryan Bangert is vice president of legal strategy at ADF. He says that as it stands now, “If you have a male who identifies as a female, that student must be allowed to access female dormitories,” and that includes restrooms and showers. Failure to comply could result in fines that might force the school to close. That could be especially hard for College of the Ozarks, which does not charge tuition but depends on donations and requires all full-time students to work on campus.
Few Christian colleges could withstand hefty fines for violating the new rule, and dismissing a student because of sexual orientation and gender identity could create even more issues with the government. College of the Ozarks, like other colleges, is now working on housing plans for returning and new students in the fall. ADF said in a statement that “in this case the government is clearly overreaching.”
One of the peripheral issues to the COVID-19 pandemic has been the question of whether the government can shut down worship gatherings if it perceives they are spreading disease. There was a legal battle in California because the state had passed a law that said no more than three households could gather for religious services. Religious leaders said that the ruling stopped most Bible studies, prayer meetings, and other services in people’s homes and meeting places. The same law allowed more than three households to gather in hair salons, retail stores, movie theaters, and restaurants. Is it more dangerous for people to gather for religious purposes than for those other activities? Is there a legal bias against Christianity?
Early in the pandemic, the Supreme Court said that limiting worship to three households complied with the First Amendment. With the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in September and conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett taking Ginsburg’s place, the court changed direction. On April 9, 2021, the court ruled the state could not restrict religious worship and that the same precautions used for businesses had to must apply to churches.
It does seem that the double standard of allowing movie theaters to operate and shutting down religious activities involving the same number of people is inconsistent. Legal bias against Christianity is certainly an issue here, and the problem is far from settled.
An interesting battle is going on in the Indiana state legislature, which could affect the rest of the country. Senate Bill 263 would make it illegal to restrict the right to worship even during pandemics or natural disasters. The statement made by those promoting the bill is, “The right to worship is guaranteed by the United States and Indiana constitutions, and no one has the right to infringe on that right.”
This is a complex issue. Telling people they can’t assemble because they might get sick or make someone else ill puts the government in the position of deciding who can worship and who cannot. Which is more important, having the right to worship anywhere, anytime, and in any way you wish or having authorities decide when and where to allow worship? The potential for abuse is very high either way.
We suggest that carefully following the biblical teachings and examples would solve this issue. The first-century Church did not own buildings and worshipped in small groups in private homes. Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). The need for large groups with elaborate services and many participants is a product of church entertainment, not the worship of God.
No one can take away our right to worship if our worship is doing what the Bible encourages us to do and following the example of the first century Church. There are interesting legal questions in this discussion, but the right to worship is not threatened no matter what the legislature decides.