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.
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.
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.
The Week Magazine (October 23, 2020, page 11) had some interesting data on abortions in the United States. Here are the abortion rates per 1000 women ages 15-44 in some of the states:
Arkansas 6.2 Oklahoma 6.2 Alabama 8.3 Mississippi 8.6 California 17.3 New York 27.4 New Jersey 28.2
Middlebury College in Vermont conducted the study of abortions in the United States. If the Supreme Court struck down Roe vs. Wade, the national reduction in abortions would be 12.8%, and 90% of the American abortion industry would remain intact.
The main point of all this is that laws and court rulings cannot control people’s moral choices. If we are to stop infanticide in America, it will have to be done by changing the thinking of our population. The question remains as to whether a woman’s personal rights supersede the personal rights of a child.
This reminds me of the story of a man who came to the United States of America. He came because he heard that it was the land of the free, and you could do anything you wanted because all human rights were guaranteed. On his first day in America, he saw a man he didn’t like the looks of, so he punched him in the nose. He was arrested and brought before a judge. “I don’t understand,” the man said, “I thought America was the land of the free!” The judge said, “That it is, but your freedom ends where the other man’s nose begins.”
On Monday, June 29, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law that required abortion providers to have admitting privileges in a hospital nearby in case of complications. The Court struck down a similar Texas law in 2016. Abortion in the United States continues to be a hot topic. In 2019, legislatures in 12 states passed 25 lawsrestricting abortions. It seems inevitable that people who profit from abortions will challenge all of those laws, and more cases will make it to the Supreme Court.
The 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States is known as Roe v. Wade. The plaintiff in the case was given the pseudonym Jane Roe to protect her identity. Her real name was Norma McCorvey. She was a poor young woman with a very troubled life who was trying to obtain a legal abortion by falsely claiming that a group of black men raped her. When that failed, she tried to get an illegal abortion. Some abortion activist attorneys who were not interested in helping her used her as a case to challenge laws against abortion. It took three years for the case to reach the Supreme Court. In the meantime, McCorvey had her baby and put it up for adoption.
In 1994, McCorvey put her name on an autobiography titled I Am Roe. Under the influence of an evangelical minister who founded Operation Rescue, she became a Christian and was baptized. She quit her job at an abortion clinic and went to work for Operation Rescue to campaign against abortion. She said she was sorry for her part in making abortion legal. She published a second book in 1998 titled Won By Love telling about her conversion. In 2004 she petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, but the Court dismissed the case in 2005.
McCorvey died from heart failure in 2017, but shortly before her death, she recorded a “deathbed confession.” In it, she said that her activism against abortion was “all an act” and that she was paid to do it. She said she didn’t care whether women got abortions. On May 22, 2020, a television documentary called AKA Jane Roe was released on FX. It included her “confession,” in which she said, “I took their money, and they put me in front of the cameras.” However, a friend who knew her well said that McCorvey felt guilty for the abortions and was trying to justify herself in her own mind by saying that abortions are okay. Only God knows the true feelings and motivations of Norma McCorvey. All we know is that she lived a very troubled life for 69 years.
The latest five-to-four decision by the Supreme Court was based on “legal precedent.” It indicates that any hope of reversing Roe v. Wade or finding any real solution to the abortion dilemma will be difficult with the present Supreme Court. We have pointed out before that you cannot explain a baby as “an extension of the mother’s body.” Apparently, abortion in the United States will continue as our culture is accepting infanticide as a method of birth control. State-by-state the rights of babies before birth are being eliminated.
The abortion issue is not only a political football, but now it has become a threat to population stability. That is because of sex selective abortions.
In India, 50,000 babies are aborted each month because they are girls, and females are considered to be a burden on the family. One long-term effect of the 17.3 million baby girls killed in India during the past 30 years is a huge gender imbalance in the population. In any human society, there is roughly a 50/50 balance between males and females. That means that if baby girls are aborted, there will be many males without wives, and that disrupts marriage, families, and children.
You don’t have to go to India to see cases of sex selective abortion. In 2016 the state of Indiana passed a law protecting the unborn from abortions based on race, sex, or disability. Planned Parenthood went to court to have the law overturned, and the court ruled that the law is unconstitutional. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to address the case. We have been told that there are counselors who are advising expectant mothers to have an abortion because their baby is a girl.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas made this comment about the case: “Enshrining the constitutional right to an abortion based solely on the race, sex, or disability of an unborn child, as Planned Parenthood advocates, would constitutionalize the views of the 20th Century eugenics movement.”
We would add to that comment that sex selective abortion shows even more clearly that abortion is infanticide. If you wait until you can determine the sex of the pre-born child, you are simply murdering an infant. We consider Herod’s killing of the innocents described in Matthew 2:16 as barbaric. In our world today, the slaughter far exceeds what Herod did.
In 1925 a group of people erected a cross in Bladensburg, Maryland to honor 49 local men who died in World War 1. In 1961 the state bought the land and since that time it has maintained it, including the Bladensburg cross. Recently there have been court challenges to allowing a cross on public land.
During the first week of July 2019, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the cross could stay even though it was on public land. This decision is not really a victory for those who want Christian symbols on public land. The justification for the Court allowing the Bladensburg cross to remain is that it had taken on a secular meaning as a memorial, and was no longer a Christian symbol.
It should be evident that this ruling by the Supreme Court would not apply to most situations since most crosses are not part of a secular memorial. Religious people tend to twist the descriptions of their symbols to get around the law. When the Catholic Church objected to using the King James Bible in public schools, people who were pushing for the study of the Bible changed its classification to literature rather than religion.