A question of concern to Americans who believe in God is whether someone specializing in artistic creativity can be forced to create artwork that they find offensive. Recent cases involve artistic freedom and personal beliefs. The question becomes, can the government force custom art creators to create and display artwork that violates their personal religious beliefs?
Recent examples involve: 1- Cake artists forced to create a cake that celebrates a relationship that goes against the artist’s sincerely held religious beliefs. 2- Flourists required to create floral arrangements celebrating an event they find religiously offensive. 3- Website designers forced to create a website promoting something religiously offensive to the designer. 4- Wedding photographers required to photograph weddings that violate their religious beliefs. 5- Printers of custom T-shirts required to produce religiously offensive shirts. (We have mentioned these in previous posts.)
In the past, the government has not punished artists who refused to produce art that the artist found offensive. However, recently that has changed. When the government forces an artist to create something that violates the artist’s personal beliefs, we have a real test of freedom of speech and religious freedom. Using our talents to express our beliefs is a fundamental right. Being forced by the government to use our gifts to express something that violates our beliefs and religious convictions violates freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
In Acts 4:16-20, we see political leaders threatening harm to Peter and John if they spoke anything in support of Christ. They responded, “Whether it be right to listen to you or to God, you decide, for we can not give up speaking about the things we have seen and heard.” Historically, authorities have tried to force Christians to deny their faith. America is at a crossroads in the area of artistic freedom and personal beliefs. We should not be forced to deny our faith or express something contrary to our religious beliefs.
The Bible makes it very clear that God created male and female as two separate sexes. God told Adam, and likewise, future males, that they would provide by “the sweat of your face (Genesis 3:19). Through Eve, God told females that they would be able to fill the roles that males could not accomplish on their own, especially giving birth to children. Yet, today, the government punishes those with biblical views.
The word translated “help meet” in the old English of the King James translation (Genesis 2:20) is “ezer” in the original Hebrew, and it means “help.” It comes from a root that means “surround, protect, or aid” (according to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance). Modern translations say something like “suitable helper.” The Contemporary English Version from the American Bible Society translates it as “the right kind of partner.” It does not indicate that one sex is superior or inferior. The fact that they would have different roles is clearly stated and is repeated numerous times in the New Testament. (For example, see 1 Corinthians 7:1-16 and Ephesians 5:22-33.)
Society today has decided that respecting the difference between men and women violates the rights of various groups, and we must deny those differences. So the government punishes those with biblical views. We see this in Christian educational and religious organizations and even secular high schools and colleges nationwide. The government has decided that having separate restrooms for men and women violates the rights of men who want to use women’s facilities.
In Christian colleges, we see that the government punishes those with biblical views. Christian colleges with separate dormitories for men and women are receiving crippling fines and threats of closure. College of the Ozarks went to court, maintaining that women should not be forced to have male roommates. The broader question is whether the government can strip a private, faith-based institution of its constitutionally protected freedom because someone disagrees with their views about marriage and sexuality.
Another significant issue is whether a biological male who claims to be a female has the right to compete in women’s sports. The ACLU challenged a West Virginia law passed in 2021 to protect female athletes from having to compete with men. Federal Judge Joseph R. Goodwin ruled in favor of the law, stating it was constitutional. He wisely wrote, “While some females may be able to outperform some males, it is generally accepted that, on average, males outperform females athletically because of inherent physical differences between the sexes.”
Christianity espouses moral conduct found in God’s Word, but the government punishes those with biblical views and forces them to act against their moral beliefs. We must pray for America and those affected by the government’s actions in their distorted attempt to expand human rights. Churches may be endangered if they teach that men and women have different roles or even if they believe there are two sexes that are physically different.
The dictionary defines clandestine actions as things done in secret or executed with secrecy or concealment, especially for purposes of subversion or deception. For example, one of the issues facing us today is corporations and the government promoting ideas and values opposed to Christian principles. That is especially true of moral issues promoted in schools, the entertainment industry, and even the military.
The Family Research Council revealed the political activities of several corporations that most of us are unaware of because they are clandestine actions.
STATE FARM has joined efforts with GenderCool, which recruits children to be part of the transgender movement. In addition, state Farm has recruited employees to flood local libraries and schools with transgender books aimed at children as young as five.
PIZZA HUT has a program called “Book It,” which features a book about a young boy dressing in drag.
DICKS SPORTING GOODS has announced they will provide employees up to $4,000 to access abortion. AMAZON, BANK OF AMERICA, COMCAST, MACY’S, and PAY PAL are just a few of the companies offering abortion stipends and travel reimbursement.
THE CURRENT POLITICAL ESTABLISHMENT is displaying rainbow flags over U.S. embassies.
MILITARY members can get transgender surgeries paid for by taxpayers. The U.S. Navy has produced a training video on how to use “inclusive language” and the proper use of pronouns. A similar program has begun in the Air Force Academy.
The Family Research Council says that their surveys show that 57% of all Americans want companies to stay out of cultural and social issues. America is becoming an atheist state where the government dictates what is morally acceptable or unacceptable. At the same time, major corporations use clandestine actions to promote immorality. History tells us that nations collapse when they leave God and embrace immorality. Will we learn from history or repeat it?
Jesus Christ made a clear separation between faith and politics when He said, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). Yet, as our culture and our government become more and more atheistic, we see the government trying to stop anything that smacks of faith in God.
For example, in Brookings, Oregon, the city has banned churches from providing meals to the homeless more than twice a week. The government apparently did this because people who lived near churches providing meals complained about the activity. (Reference: The Week for November 12, 2021)
In a similar situation, the American Center for Law and Justice has reported on an elementary school student in Illinois who was reading her Bible during recess. School authorities took the Bible away from her because the school system did not allow Bibles on public school property. (Reference: ACJL report for November 2021)
Politicians such as President Biden take public positions in opposition to the teachings of the Church. The Catholic Church, of which Biden is a member, considers abortion to be a sin. However, in a recent meeting with the Pope, they never discussed abortion.
Issues like these are a significant part of the political scene in America today. Should prostitution be legal? Is Euthanasia an acceptable solution to severe illness? Can chaplains in the military conduct worship services that use the Bible as a source of information?
This is a difficult time for people who believe in God, the Bible, and the teachings of Jesus Christ. As the season of Thanksgiving and Christmas approaches, we can expect to see various efforts by atheists and anti-Christian groups to stop believers from any public display of faith in God or the biblical message, including Christmas music, Bible quotes of the birth of Christ, or manger scenes. That is especially true on government property, military bases, or public schools. Unfortunately, it seems that the view of faith and politics in America today is that everyone should be able to enjoy freedom except those who believe in God.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.