Monday, January 9, AD 2017
For the first time the group Persecution.Org, that looks each year at persecution of Christians around the globe, has numbered the United States among the persecutors.
On June 11, 2016, Omar Mateen, a US-based radical Muslim, attacked a gay nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 and injuring 53 more. In a call to 911, he clearly laid out his motivation. The attack
was driven by his allegiance to ISIS and desire for retribution for attacks on ISIS. Incredibly, after the attack, numerous high profile media outlets blamed the attacks on what they perceive as the anti-LGBTQ atmosphere that Christians have created.
In short, Christians in the US are facing constant attacks in the media, where they are portrayed as bigoted, racist, sexist, and close- minded. The characterization in the media may be translating into direct attacks as well. The First Liberty Institute, the largest legal organization in the US dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom, documents such actions and reports that attacks on religion doubled between 2012 and 2015.
More importantly, Christians and all religious people are being marginalized through the law.
From the case of a Christian football coach suspended for praying at the 50-yard line, to Christian business owners forced to pay a $135,000 fine for declining to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, the number of troubling cases directed towards Christians has exploded.
In 2011, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship lost their official recognition as a student organization in all of their respective chapters across 23 California public colleges. This occurred because the
Christian organization required their respective leaders to uphold a doctrinal statement of Biblical principles, which allegedly conflicted with California State universities’ policies. After four years of embattled negotiations, InterVarsity regained their official recognition in June 2015.
In 2014, Eric Walsh was terminated one week after being hired by the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH). The basis of termination was alleged undisclosed income from prior employment in California. However, the Georgia DPH knew that Walsh was a Christian preacher outside of work and went to great lengths to review and investigate the content of his sermons posted on YouTube. Georgia officials have even requested copies of Walsh’s sermons, despite prior statements that the termination had nothing to do with his religious views or affiliations.
Walsh is currently suing the Georgia DPH for wrongful termination and religious discrimination.
The rise of these cases stems partly from a broad cultural shift towards secularism. The Pew Foundation found that those identifying as non-religious in the US rose by seven percent, to 23 percent of the total US adult population within just seven years (2007 to 2014).
Anti-Christian entities have been able to leverage the growing secularization of society and culture to their advantage, utilizing the courts as a preferred venue to gradually marginalize and silence
Christians. Using the cudgel of “equality,” secular forces in and out of the courts have worked to create a body of law built from one bad precedent after another. Claims of intolerance and inequality are used to fundamentally distort the clear intent of the First Amendment.
The Founders carefully and deliberately placed religious freedom as the first liberty because it encompasses several fundamental rights including thought, speech, expression, and assembly. The First Amendment explicitly grants freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. The essential aim is to protect the right of citizens to practice religion in the public square.
Decades of accumulated poor judicial decisions and precedents have twisted the First Amendment so that the courts, in defiance of the Founders, are pushing religion out of the public square, and into the small space of private expression. In essence, the courts are deciding that you only have full religious freedom and expression in the church and your home. In the public domain, your religious views and thoughts must be restrained and controlled.
This trend is extremely worrying in the country that has long held the ideal of religious liberty.
While there is no comparison between the life of a Christian in the US with persecuted believers overseas, ICC sees these worrying trends as an alarming indication of a decline in religious liberty in the United States.