When Christians speculate about the ways persecution may arise, they would do well to examine the integrity of the testimony they claim to be persecuted for.
Hope Christian School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is treading a fine line in that regard. The school was recently featured in a Huffington Post article that reported the school had rejected a three-year-old who is being reared by a male homosexual couple. The reason the Huffington Post cared was due to the discovery that the school will receive $60,000 in federal fund this fall, which will be spent on professional education.
It is all perfectly legal. The federal government does not have any requirement in the grant process that excludes a Christian school from eligibility for federal funds. Nor did this article report any rule for the use of the funds that stipulates the school may not discriminate in admissions based on its theological stance. However, the ACLU has raised a complaint which may be a sign of things to come. “We don’t think agencies that discriminate or use religion to discriminate should be receiving our federal or government funds,” said Peter Simonson with the ACLU. (Read more: http://www.koat.com/news/new-mexico/albuquerque/School-rejects-3-year-old-because-parents-are-gay/-/9153728/15665304/-/aadto3/-/index.html#ixzz234GgCU4H )
The ACLU unsurprisingly advocates elimination of funding for any activity that expresses a religious point of view. People who read the First Amendment, which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” may argue that the federal government may not inhibit the free exercise of religion, no matter if the money used in that free exercise expresses a religious viewpoint. Others might likewise argue that any federal money used in the free exercise of religion constitutes establishment of religion. I am not a Constitutional scholar, but the plain sense of the words appears to a plain speaker to provide grist for a mill of confusion.
The ACLU statement should be regarded as a warning shot across the bow for Christian organizations which blithely apply for and receive federal grants, or funding from any government source at state or local level. Historically in the US, our various levels of government have been inclined to show respect and support for Christian work of all sorts. The rise of restrictions on things like display of the Ten Commandments, prayers at commencement exercises, and Bible studies in unused classrooms should have been understood as more than occasional annoyances. They were the growing pains of a secular culture which is now too pervasive to ignore.
For example, the statement by the ACLU sounds alarmingly similar to the comments we have heard about the schools, hospitals and social institutions operated by Catholics who do not want to provide contraception, sterilization and abortions coverage in health insurance for their employees. The government believes that only worship, faith formation and evangelism are religious activities. The government is only too glad to fund the Three R’s in any school whatsoever, but since the Three R’s are not religious in nature, what is to prevent the federal government from requiring Hope School, and any others now receiving federal grants, to admit children without regard to the theological orthodoxy of their family situations? Won’t it feel a lot like persecution if the schools cannot express the faith of their founders? If the federal government is ready to do battle with the Catholic Church over health insurance, why would it even pause before setting its federal boot on the neck of a small Christian school in Albuquerque over its use of grant money?
If we want to be clear in our responses to intrusions and restrictions on our free expression of our faith, we need to be sure we are not entangled in the agendas of those whom we accuse of being persecutors. Money is the great entangler. Be careful where the money trail in your organization leads.