The state of Colorado refuses to stop harassing Jack Phillips for his Christian faith. A few months ago we reported on how the Colorado Civil Rights Commission is targeting Jack Phillips. Mr. Phillips owns a business called Masterpiece Cakeshop. Jack is an artist, and he expresses his art in finely-crafted cakes for special occasions. Jack and his wife are also deeply committed Christians, and the “Master” in the cakeshop’s name reflects his master, Jesus Christ. He wants every piece of art he designs to reflect his faith as he serves others.
Six years ago a same-sex couple asked him to create a cake for their wedding. He respectfully declined because doing so would violate his deeply-held religious conviction that marriage is between a man and a woman. He would create a cake for those customers for another occasion, but not for their wedding. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission punished him severely and accused him of acting like the Nazi’s or the segregationists of the past. You can read our report on that HERE.
After years of litigation, in June 2018 the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of Jack Phillips by a vote of 7 to 2. (We reported on that HERE.) Phillips was freed from years of legal troubles. But not for long. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission is targeting Jack Phillips again.
On the day the Supreme Court took up his case in June of 2017, an attorney called the Masterpiece Cakeshop. He requested Jack to create a cake for him that was blue on the outside and pink on the inside to celebrate his gender transition from male to female. Jack’s Christian faith told him that he could not do that, and he politely declined. The lawyer filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The commission did not act on that complaint until after they had lost the first case before the Supreme Court.
After losing the first legal battle, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission is targeting Jack Phillips again. Obviously, the lawyer who requested the blue and pink cake was setting him up. (The lawyer later called requesting a cake celebrating Satan.) It is just as apparent that the state of Colorado is out to destroy Jack’s business and attack his faith. The Alliance Defending Freedom has filed a lawsuit against the state officials and filed a preliminary injunction with a federal court to stop the harassment by the state.
You can read more about this on the ADF website HERE and HERE.
–Roland Earnst © 2018
It is almost impossible to pick up a newspaper or news magazine these days without seeing an article about religious freedom. That raises questions of how to define religious freedom.
Atheists maintain that religions are vehicles of discrimination, and in some cases that charge is valid. We previously reviewed the history of the Mormon Church which excluded blacks in its early days. There have been cults that have excluded people based on their sex or their occupation. Should the government allow a religious group to advocate the violation of the laws of the land? What about a religion that advocates violence or suicide as was the case in the Jim Jones tragedy in Guyana? We have a case in the Midwest where a nun is suing the Roman Catholic Church because they won’t allow her to become a priest. Recently a local Church of Christ was threatened with a lawsuit because they wouldn’t interview a woman for the advertised position of pulpit minister. The list of grievances is virtually endless and raises questions of how to define religious freedom.
Many people in America limit the definition of religious freedom to the right to meet in a single facility and worship God as you choose, but your religion must not move outside of that building. In this view, you may not share your faith with anyone outside of the building or make it part of what you do at work, in school, or in the presence of the general public. This has been evident in cases where a person is asked to make something or do something that violates their religious convictions. Asking Christians to act against their faith has led to legal cases involving people like Jack Phillips and his wedding cakes or Barronelle Stutzman and her flower displays or Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski and their custom art. Pro-life pregnancy care centers have been told they must promote abortion options in spite of their religious convictions.
As the government tries to decide how to define religious freedom, we must remember that Christianity does not need religious freedom to survive. God cannot be defeated by the ACLU, no matter how much money they have. It may be that the right to worship outside of a government-registered building is going to be destroyed by activists and government officials who are determined to drive historical Christian beliefs from the public square. Remember that the early church did not have religious freedom, but the teaching of Jesus Christ on love and service still survived.
“And they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said unto them, ‘Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard’” (Acts 4:18-20).
–John N. Clayton © 2018
The United States Supreme Court has accepted a case titled National Institute of Family and Life Advocates verses Becerra. The issue here is an unfair abortion law. California passed a law that makes it mandatory for pro-life pregnancy centers to promote abortion as a part of their services to clients. These centers will have to pay a $1500 fine to the state for every case where they don’t promote abortion as an option for pregnancy.
The obvious question that arises in this situation is whether abortion providers would have to provide information to clients that promote pro-life options. The answer to that is obviously “No.” Pro-abortion spokespersons claim that not providing pro-life options is part of their right to free speech. Should that not also be true of pro-life groups not having to provide information about abortion services?
The implications of this whole situation are huge. If a preacher gives a sermon condemning abortion, is he required to also give a sermon promoting abortion? Since the Church is tax-exempt that answer to that question would seem to be “Yes.” There have already been cases where the government has threatened churches that won’t allow a woman to preach or won’t allow a homosexual to be a minister with losing their tax exemption.
No matter what your view might be on these issues, it should be obvious that the most fundamental question that underlies all of this is whether we want the government to dictate our morals and control our speech. An unfair abortion law is telling pro-life clinics that their speech must promote abortion. It will be interesting to see how the Supreme Court handles this issue.
–John N. Clayton © 2017
For the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision click HERE.
During the U.S. football season in the fall of 2017, we have had a national kneeling controversy. It centers over whether the players have a right to kneel in protest during the national anthem. There have been enough varied opinions on this issue to fill a massive number of talk shows and ESPN commentary sessions. Many argue that “freedom of speech” is the issue, even though not a word is spoken.
This debate has ignored the right of coaches to kneel–including high school football coaches. Two years ago a Bremerton, Washington, high school coach named Joe Kennedy was fired for kneeling in prayer on the field after football games. There is no indication that players participated or were asked to participate. Kennedy appealed, and the Ninth U.S. Court of Appeals ruled against him, The court said he: “Took advantage of his position to press his particular views upon impressionable and captive minds before him.” Kennedy served 20 years in the marines, and he says, “I just want the same rights as everyone else. What applies for one should apply to every American.”
As the kneeling controversy continues, I know many middle school and high school coaches in my area who have a moment of silent prayer or meditation before a game starts. If someone objected, that would probably be forbidden also.
In a C-SPAN interview, Senator James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) said that we must “be able to determine where we are as Americans. If we are going to honor all free speech and all free exercise of religion, we need to be able to honor that universally.” We agree wholeheartedly.
–John N. Clayton © 2017
There is often an attempt to remove evidence of the Christian faith of the founders of the United States. Most Americans should be familiar with Patrick Henry’s famous quote, “Give me liberty or give me death.” In quoting Patrick Henry that line is often removed from the context of his speech. Few Americans would ever hear the words of faith that he spoke.
It was March 20, 1775, when Patrick Henry addressed the president of the Second Virginia Convention. He proposed organizing a volunteer cavalry or infantry in every county of Virginia to fight for freedom. His remarks were recorded by recollection from Thomas Jefferson and others who were present. These are some excerpts from Patrick Henry’s speech which give evidence of his faith in God and the understanding of others of the founding fathers who were present:
“An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts is all that is left us!… Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power… Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations; and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us… Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”
If a political leader today spoke those words, the reaction would probably be criticism for referring to God in a public speech. Times have changed, and we need to recognize the connection between Christian faith and the founding of our country.
Click here to read the full text of the speech or listen to a Colonial Williamsburg interpreter quoting Patrick Henry.
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2017
We have reported on challenges to freedom of religion in the United States. A growing number of religious freedom challenges have taken place on college campuses, specifically orchestrated to attack Christianity.
At Florida Atlantic University a student named Ryan Rotella refused to participate in a class exercise in which students were to write “Jesus” on a piece of paper and then stomp on it. He was suspended from the class and told not to return.
At Missouri State University Emily Booker was required to write to state legislators urging passage of homosexual adoption laws. She refused, and the university threatened to withhold her degree.
Several graduate-level counseling programs require students to counsel homosexual couples rather than refer them to other therapists for relationship counseling. At Missouri State University and Eastern Michigan University, students were expelled from the programs if they referred homosexual couples to another counselor.
You can read about those cases in Citizen magazine for October of 2017 (page 30).
Another case that is very disturbing involves Community College of Baltimore County in Maryland. A young man named Brandon Jenkins applied for admission to the radiation therapy program. Even though he exceeded the minimum requirements, the college denied him admission because he was a Christian. When an interviewer asked him what was the most important thing in his life he said that God is. When Jenkins asked why he was denied, the director and coordinator the radiation therapy program told him, “this field is not the place for religion.”
The job of a college or university is to educate students for the area of work they choose. It is not to tell them what to believe or force them into actions which go against their conscience. A young person should not face religious freedom challenges just to get an education. Students and parents can find help concerning religious freedom on campus at this website.
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2017
One of the most critical issues of this decade in America is a business owner’s religious freedom. If you own a business, do you have a right to refuse to perform a service which violates your religious faith? Here are some examples of Christian business owners being told by the government that they must provide a service that they find morally objectionable.
Barronelle Stutzman owns Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington. She declined to design a flower arrangement for a same-sex wedding. The Washington Attorney General and the ACLU brought suit against not only her business but her personally. She could lose everything because of taking a stand based on her Christian faith. This case is being appealed to the United States Supreme Court.
Blaine Adamson owner of promotional printing company Hands On Originals in Kentucky turned down a job to print promotional t-shirts for a gay pride festival. He had refused to print other materials that he considered to be morally objectionable. The local human rights commission charged him with sexual orientation discrimination saying that he must print the shirts. In 2015 a Kentucky circuit court found in favor of Adamson, and that decision was upheld in 2017 by the Kentucky Court of Appeals. Now the Kentucky Supreme Court will decide whether to hear the case.
Masterpiece Cake Shop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission is one of a dozen similar cases where a private business owner of a bakery wishes not to produce something that violates their religious convictions. In this case, Jack Phillips did not want to design a cake for a same sex wedding. The state is threatening him with a fine and jail time.
It is not only Christian printers, flower shops, and cake decorators that are being forced by the government to provide services that violate their faith. Christian wedding photographers and videographers also face legal challenges. In the Minnesota case of Telescope Media Group vs. Lindsey, Carl and Angel Larsen have a video business. They produce videos that teach Christian values and educate couples about God’s plan for marriage. They are being threatened with a $25,000 fine and 90 days in jail because they do not make videos of same sex marriages as well.
These cases bring to mind many questions about a business owner’s religious freedom. Can a printer refuse to print pornography because of the moral issues involved, even if it is legal? Should a black business owner be required to provide materials promoting a KKK rally? Should a Jewish business be required to provide facilities for a neo-Nazi rally? Should a Christian printer be required to print materials promoting atheism? Does a business owner’s religious freedom end when the doors open for business? To turn the question around, should a business owner who is a gay rights advocate be required to produce material saying that homosexual activity is immoral?
We have commented before about the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and their efforts to protect religious freedom and Christian values. In Acts 4:18-20 we read about the authorities telling Peter and John “not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” They responded with, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2017
The US Constitution guarantees religious freedom. At the same time, there have been constant attempts from a variety of sources to muzzle Christians and persecute those who openly profess their faith. Over and over we see Christians prevented from doing things that other religious groups or anti-religious groups are free to do. This can create a tendency for us to over-react when a problem arises.
The school board in Bartlett, Tennessee, shut down a Bible Club because of threats by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The Bible Club was for first and second graders, and the stated purpose was to read the Bible and pray. When I was teaching at Riley High School in South Bend, Indiana, we had a Gospel Chorus made up of students that met in the school outside of class time. I was part of a before-school program where I presented my lectures to students who wished to hear them and discuss the content. When I taught at Jackson High School in South Bend, we had mini-courses where for a week during homeroom, students could choose from a variety of activities. They could listen to my presentations in Christian apologetics, go swimming in the school pool, attend a class on ballroom dancing, play basketball, or attend a variety of other classes including a class on Islam taught by a Muslim cleric.
So what is the difference between all of these cases and what was going on in Bartlett? The chorus, the mini-courses, and the before school classes were all initiated by the students. Attendance was their choice, and their parents could come and sit in on what was taking place. In the Bartlett situation, the classes were set up and taught by adults. Students did not elect to participate in the Bible reading. The teacher decided that. Adults also would lead the prayer and decide its content. At Jackson High, the students could choose whether to participate. In Bartlett, pressure on children to participate was an inevitable consequence of the program. One wonders as to who was reading the Bible, what translation they were using, and who chose what part of the Bible to study.
Christians should stand up for our religious freedom, but that does not mean we have the right to force the Bible on first and second graders in the public schools. We need to be careful not to deny the rights of others in the process of standing up for our own rights.
–John N. Clayton © 2017