The US historically has been held in high esteem by people fleeing religious persecution in other countries, because everyone believed that in this country, unlike any other country on earth, a person’s religious convictions would be upheld and respected. Ever since colonial days, the British colonies in North America, and the nation they formed after the Revolutionary War, have been considered safe havens for people persecuted and abused in other countries because they simply wanted to live out their faith convictions.
Today, it looks a little different.
American Christians are discovering that their religious convictions are not respected in the land of their birth. American Christians are discovering that the land of their birth, which is described in its national anthem as the “land of the free,” no longer protects anyone’s right to live according to the convictions of his own conscience. There have always been nations with laws that tightly restrict religions, and in some cases, even forbid specific religions. But the USA has not been among them. Until now.
The year 2013 is only 2/3 over, and the year is full of issues that citizens have no historic reason to expect, because the citizens of the USA believe that the First Amendment protects them. The issues are quite troubling:
- · There have been numerous cases of refusal by the federal government to give conscience exemptions from the Affordable Care Act employer mandate that calls for employers to pay for health insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization and abortions. Several cases have been decided for the employer, or have at least issued injunctive relief, but the overarching issue continues to threaten Christian employers who believe those required coverage to constitute the enablement of and participation in activity they regard as sinful.
- · More than one business across the nation has come under fire, because they refuse business that they consider to expecting them to condone and participate in activity they consider sinful – i.e. ceremonies for homosexuals that consecrate homosexual unions as if they were marriages.
- · Just last week New Jersey passed a law forbidding counselors to offer curative therapy for homosexuals. When it became known that some Christian parents expected to be able to take their children for such therapy from counselors not covered by the law, a New Jersey legislator announced publicly that he felt the government would be entitled by the provisions of the law to consider that parents were abusing their children if they placed them in such therapy.
- · A corollary statement by the New Jersey legislator included a comment that “If a parent were beating their child on a regular basis, we would step in and remove that child from the house.” Such a comment leaves a lot of room for interpretation. What, exactly, would constitute beating? It gives one pause to recognize that in South Africa, the national Human Rights Commission is proposing to do exactly that. In South Africa, Christians who read “spare the rod and spoil the child” in the book of Proverbs must not apply that teaching because spanking is regarded as child-beating. The commission has actually accused a church of teaching parents to be abusive, and the accusation is coupled with a threat to take their children.
- · Of course, it must be remembered that this year a German couple came to the US actually seeking asylum from their government’s demand that they put their children in public school, because a law dating from the Nazi era forbids parents to teach their children any moral standards different from those taught in public schools. Those parents, too, were threatened with losing custody of their own children.
Even people who don’t share Christian beliefs do share a conviction that a marriage is the union of a man and a woman, a family consists of a man, a woman and the children of that union, although it may be extended by additional generations or relatives. Even people who don’t share Christian beliefs do share a conviction that parents have the obligation to teach their children the beliefs and practices that have sustained them. Even people who don’t share Christian beliefs do share a conviction that parents have a right to custody of their children and control over the children’s education.
The US government no longer appears to hold these convictions. Like other nations around the world, the US government is beginning to think it knows better than parents what children need, and the US government is starting to act on that belief. The US government appears to have little or no respect for any religious conviction or for the people who hold those convictions.
What must be done about this situation? The increasing frequency and severity of these events is beyond disturbing. Christians may not be complacent about these problems. It cannot be pretended any longer that they might be extreme exceptions to an otherwise benign rule.
The USA is no longer a haven where people can flee for religious liberty. How can this generation turn the situation around and restore government that operates within the Constitutional boundaries? The litany of complaints on this issue is starting to sound like a broken record, but it is a scary sound. If the convictions of people of faith are not respected by the nation whose Constitution includes the statement, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” what sort of nation will the USA become?