Discrimination Against Religious Beliefs

Discrimination Against Religious Beliefs - Barronelle Stutzman
Barronelle Stutzman – Image Credit ADF Legal

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.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Read more about Barronelle’s case HERE.

Military Suicides Increasing

Military Suicides Increasing

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.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Data from an article by Tom Vanden Brook in USA Today, June 24, 2021.

Legal Bias Against Christianity

Legal Bias Against Christianity

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.

We have pointed out that having large crowds is not required for Christian worship, so the ability to worship is not the question. The question is whether there is a legal bias against Christianity. Shouldn’t religious teaching and campaigns be allow to have the same freedom as businesses? There have been cases where the virus was spread through a lack of social distancing in religious activities and in other activities.

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.

— John N. Clayto © 2021

Reference: USA TODAY 4/11/21.

The Right to Worship

The Right to Worship

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.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Tribune Content Agency for 4/9/21 page A2 in the South Bend Tribune.

Christian Messages on Face Masks

Christian Messages on Face Masks

As people wear masks during the pandemic, many people place messages on them. There certainly is no problem with that, as long as the message is not vulgar or abusive. We have seen many “Black Lives Matter” mask messages and messages about defunding police, supporting police, supporting political candidates, and women’s rights. It seems that almost any cause can be advertised, except for Christian messages on face masks.

In Mississippi, a 3rd grader named Lydia Booth wore a mask to school that said, “Jesus Loves Me.” She not only was forced to remove the mask, but the school threatened with suspension for wearing it. We have heard from students at the college level who have been disciplined for similar public expressions of faith. If other messages are permitted, Christian messages on face masks should also be.

The founders never intended the First Amendment to curtail public expressions of faith. This third-grader had no financial interest in wearing a mask to express her faith. This reminds us of an incident recorded in Acts 4. The religious leaders commanded Peter and John “not to speak at all nor to teach in the name of Jesus” (verse 18). They responded by saying, “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” (verses 19-20).

God expects our priorities to be clear, with our faith at the top of the list. That is not only the message of the Bible but also the message of those who wrote the Constitution.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Legal Assault on Christian Values

Legal Assault on Christian Values
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNhGAWtzbTY&feature=emb_logo

One of the things going on in America today is the massive legal assault on Christian values. The Christian view that LGBTQ behavior has unhealthy consequences for individuals is becoming illegal. Christian love and concern compel us to warn a person that a behavior is destructive and unwise, but no Christian would want to put someone in jail or fine them for having an LGBTQ belief or practice. However, LGBTQ lawyers attempt to make Christian beliefs illegal and justify fines and imprisonment for Christian teachings. 

An example of damage to innocent people caused by LGBTQ advocates is the inclusion of transgender participants in girl’s athletics. Now 16 states are allowing biological male transgender people to compete in girl’s sports. Obviously, a biological male can have a huge natural advantage over girls and women in bone density, muscle mass, and lung capacity. Biological males who have chosen to be females have won several athletic events denying capable girls the possibility of scholarships. Even magazines like the New York Post have pointed out the unfairness of this inclusion.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has 300 staff attorneys and a $300 million budget to bring expensive lawsuits against Christians and precipitate laws that afflict them. Planned Parenthood has more than $600 million in taxpayer funding, much of which goes to legal attacks on churches and pro-life organizations. The Southern Poverty Law Center has $500 million to use for similar agendas. Christians must be aware of the legal assault on Christian values and express their concern to their political representatives. 

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Data from The Week, February 5, 2021, and Alliance Defending Freedom letter for January 25, 2021.

Supreme Court Will Hear Chike Uzuegbunam’s Case

Supreme Court Will Hear Chike Uzuegbunam's Case
Chike Uzuegbunam – Credit ADFLegal.org

This year, one issue not getting media attention is whether college officials can censor public speeches that promote religious issues on campus. In many cases, students promoting Christian values or Christianity as a life choice have been punished or expelled for doing so. Most of the cases have been settled out of court, but the U.S. Supreme Court will hear Chike Uzuegbunam’s case.

Uzuegbunam is a young man who was talking about his faith in Christ at Gwinnett College in Georgia. College officials stopped him and disciplined him for his words. The college maintains that the constitution does not protect speech sharing religious beliefs, and Chike Uzuegbunam filed a lawsuit against the school.

This denial of free speech is becoming increasingly common across the United States and many countries in Europe. The position of many colleges is, “If I don’t like what you are saying, I have the right to shut you down.” At Georgetown University, a club called Love Saxa, which promotes Christian views of sexual conduct, was eventually driven off the campus. In Finland, a lady who opposed Church participation in a Gay Pride event is being threatened with two years in prison for promoting what the government sees as “ethnic agitation.”

Uzuegbunam’s case will bring before the Supreme Court the question of whether universities can ignore the First Amendment and shut down religious speech on campus. This subject has enormous implications for the whole country. Does the government or universities have the power to stop religious proclamations in public?

In her 1903 book The Friends of Voltaire, Evelyn Beatrice Hall described Voltaire’s attitude toward a book he disliked in this way: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” That has become a mantra of freedom of speech, but that viewpoint is being challenged today. For Christians trying to follow the example and command to preach the gospel, this discussion is critical.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear Chike Uzuegbunam’s case, and you can learn more about it HERE.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

General William Boykin and Religious Freedom

General William G. Boykin and Religious Freedom

Military chaplains were disciplined for mentioning that the Bible had some messages that would be useful in counseling soldiers. A chaplain was relieved of duty and threatened with a dishonorable discharge for counseling a biblical view of sexuality and marriage. A commander reprimanded another chaplain for giving suicide prevention training that included passages of scripture. Lt. General William Boykin has reported these incidents and others.

General Boykin achieved an outstanding record during his 36 years of service in the United States Army. He was the commander of the Army’s Green Berets and one of the original members of the U.S. Army’s Delta Force. General Boykin spent four years as Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence. There is no question of his dedication to America or the enormous service he has given to keep us free.

General Boykin sent a letter to believers around the country, saying that what is happening to Christians in the United States military should shock and alarm every person of faith. The main culprit is a group misnamed The Military Religious Freedom Foundation. They succeeded in having the Walter Reed Army Medical Center ban Bible distribution to wounded soldiers in the hospital. Franklin Graham was banned from speaking at the Pentagon on the National Day of Prayer. A display of the honor oath was removed from the U.S. Air Force Academy because it included “So help me God.”

The Family Research Council reports on incidents when the rights of Christians have been trampled on by atheists and skeptics. Perhaps you have received a copy of the letter from Lt. General William Boykin. Please take the time to read it. You can also find out more about anti-Christian persecution incidents from the Family Research Council at frc.org.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Potential Problems of Prayer in Public Schools

Potential Problems of Prayer in Public Schools

As a public high school science teacher with 41 years of experience, I have watched with interest the struggle over school prayer. We recently reported on the United States government easing restrictions. At the same time, we must be cautious about potential problems of prayer in public schools.

At one time, I taught at Jackson High School in South Bend, Indiana. The school was aware that I traveled on weekends giving lectures on why I believe God exists. They decided to allow the students an opportunity to hear my presentations. There were some atheist attempts to get me fired for doing that, but they had failed. Even though I traveled on weekends, I never missed a day of school because of the lectureships. I also never brought my material into the classroom. I was hired to teach physics, chemistry, and earth science, and that is what I did. I gave my presentations during what was called “mini-courses” during the homeroom period. The students could choose to hear me in the school auditorium, or use the swimming pool, or shoot baskets in the gym, or attend a class on ballroom dancing, or play cards in the cafeteria. The school enrollment was around 1600, and we had over 1000 who came to the auditorium.

Contrast that experience with what has happened in recent years. We have mentioned cases where students received disciplinary action for mentioning their faith in graduation exercises. Coaches have been fired for kneeling in silent prayer before or after a game. All of this has prompted the Family Research Council (FRC) to draw up what they call the “Declaration of Religious Rights in Public School.” The document says that students do not lose their constitutional rights of religious freedom and free speech when they step onto school grounds. As long as it does not interrupt instructional time:

1) Students can pray, read their Bible and other religious material, and talk about their faith at school.

2) Students can organize prayer groups or religious clubs and promote the meetings.

3) Students can express their faith in classwork and homework.

4) Teachers can organize prayer groups and Bible studies with other teachers.

5) Students may be able to go off campus to have religious studies during school hours.

6) Students can express their faith at a school event.

7) Students can express their faith at their graduation ceremony.

I’m sure that the FRC had lawyers involved in preparing this, and many of their ideas are very good. But they may be an invitation to potential problems of prayer in public schools. They may not understand what goes on in a public high school like James Whitcomb Riley High School in South Bend, Indiana, where I taught in for 41 years. For example, how do you control students going off campus? Maybe their religion promotes free love and rejection of parents. Are kids allowed to go for all religious classes? If not, which ones? Is the school facility going to be used to have meetings of religious clubs, and, if so, who is responsible for what goes on? If one student expresses their faith at a school event, do you have to allow every student who has a faith of any kind to share it? These are a few of the potential problems of prayer in public schools.

Jesus made it clear that the Church is not to be a part of the state (Matthew 22:21 ). If the state is providing education in math, English, science, etc., it cannot become an arena of religious conflict. A politician can have a religious faith, but the floor of the congress is not the place to promote doctrinal principles. The public school cannot be that either.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Colorado Civil Rights Commission Is Targeting Jack Phillips – Again!

Colorado Civil Rights Commission Is Targeting Jack Phillips – Again!
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