Blog Home » Page 11

European Faith Made Private: Privatization of the Marketplaces

Posted on July 29th, 2013 Religious Freedom | No Comments »

Written by Paul Coleman, legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom at its office in Vienna, Austria.

Religious Liberty is in peril worldwide. This blog post, the last in a series of commentaries, illustrates the increasing marginalization of Christianity in Europe.

In recent blog posts, European privatization in regards to the pulpits, private conversations, and work places was discussed. Privatization can be described as the division between religious belief and religious practice. In Europe, people are told that they are able to believe whatever they want, but cannot act on those beliefs in public.

In addition to being privatized in personal relations and in the workplace, Christianity is being privatized in the marketplace. Although this is a relatively new development, several European countries have now passed laws making it unlawful to discriminate in the provision of goods or services.

In the Netherlands, following amendments to the Equal Treatment Act, a company was sued for refusing to make bath towels that advertised an organization which promoted homosexual behavior. The company had made it clear on its website that it would not do any work that it considered blasphemous or offensive to the morals of the company. Although the company eventually won its case, business owners in the United Kingdom have been less successful.

Following the introduction of various pieces of anti-discrimination legislation—which, among other things, prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation—guesthouse owners Peter and Hazelmary Bull were successfully sued by a same-sex couple for refusing to provide a double-bedded room. Since 1986 the Bulls have had a policy that “as Christians we have a deep regard for marriage (being the union of one man to one woman for life to the exclusion of all others). Therefore, although we extend to all a warm welcome to our home, our double-bedded accommodation is not available to unmarried couples—Thank you.”

The British courts found this policy discriminatory, and their small guesthouse, operated from within their own home, now faces closure. Other guesthouses have also been successfully sued for taking a similar position.

While the privatization of faith in the marketplace is still developing, a draft piece of European Union law known as the Equal Treatment Directive will, if passed, drastically increase pressure on business owners, forcing them to provide goods or services that contravene their consciences on threat of being hauled before the courts if they don’t.

Some of the provisions are highly controversial, even for Europe. For example, the proposed directive prohibits “harassment” in the provision of goods and services, which has the vague definition of “unwanted conduct . . . with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person and of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment.”

The directive also mandates that the nations create “bodies for the promotion of equal treatment” to bring about this “equality.” In the United Kingdom, which has voluntarily adopted many of the provisions of the directive, it was an equality body that launched the litigation against the Christian guesthouse owners mentioned above.

Although the proposal has been stalled for nearly five years, it could be resurrected at any moment. Future litigation is therefore very much a possibility.

So difficult is the situation becoming that the European Parliament and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have now recognized the trend and have held workshops on the subject of intolerance and discrimination against Christians. It may not be too long before persecution is the word being used to describe the phenomenon.

The increasing marginalization of the Church throughout the world should be concerning to all Christians. We must stand firm against the subtle, and not so subtle, attacks on our faith. If you, or your church, experience censorship, punishment, or unlawful regulation for speaking, acting, or ministering in accordance with Biblical principles, please contact Alliance Defending Freedom. Perhaps we can provide the legal assistance you need to live out your faith and keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel.

________________________

This column originally appeared in The Washington Examiner on Feb. 15, 2013

Author

Are Marriage and Life Central to the Gospel?

Posted on July 25th, 2013 Bible | No Comments »

Article by Nathan A. Cherry, The Family Policy Council of West Virginia

I continue to be amazed at the number of people who tell me their pastor never talks about abortion or marriage from the pulpit as if the topics were not biblical moral issues deeply entrenched in the Gospel. The excuses often given for this refusal to engage these critical issues is even more disturbing.

One pastor said “abortion isn’t essential to salvation and the Gospel” and therefore he didn’t address it. Excuse me? I believe the Bible warns us on the consequences of taking a life. That seems very Gospel-centric to me.

If Christians truly believe abortion is murder then we have roughly 55 million “legal” murderers among us today. These post-abortive women are in critical need of the Gospel message in the same way we all are in need—to repent and accept the grace of Jesus Christ. I simply cannot fathom how a pastor finds this to be an issue unrelated to the Gospel.

Perhaps an article by Anna Higgins at FRC commenting on a blog by R.C. Sproul Jr. can add clarity to the discussion:

Recently, theologian R.C. Sproul Jr. published a blog post in which he explored reasons why pastors do not preach on abortion. He mentions that pastors often think abortion is a political issue, that discussing it will upset the congregation or that it is not in the Bible, and thus, should not be brought up in a sermon. Sproul carefully dismantles each argument and discusses the fact that pastors are often wrestling with their own guilt on the issue or just have no idea how to preach on the subject. He then notes, ‘Abortion is THE great evil of our day. The preaching of the Word is the great power of any day.’”

I couldn’t agree more with Higgins’ take on Dr. Sproul. Abortion is no doubt at the root of nearly every issue America is facing today. When the sanctity of human life is not respected and protected for the most vulnerable among us, it is hard to cultivate respect for other aspects of society. Consequently we have seen a breakdown in respect for marriage, family, fidelity, and personal integrity.

On the issue of marriage, Dr. Russell Moore recently led a discussion with prominent pastors during the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual event in which he addressed the need for the church to be prepared to confront the marriage issue. Moore specifically addressed the need for the church to engage the issue of homosexuality from a biblical, Gospel-centric position. He said:

“[W]hat we have to say is, ‘Take up your cross and follow Me, which means that you have to acknowledge part of what it means to repent of sin is to acknowledge what God as Creator has created me to be, which this is not it,’ This is not the picture of the Gospel, which means that we have to separate and we have to start living out a life under the discipleship and accountability of the local congregation and to acknowledge that this is going to be difficult.”

To deny that marriage and the sanctity of life are biblical moral issues rooted in the Gospel is a denial of the clear teaching of Scripture. Marriage is a picture of Christ and His church, respect for human life is a foundational principle of Scripture. The bottom line is that the church should not be shrinking from these discussions. The church has the truth of God’s Word and should be charging into these discussion armed with that truth. If we refuse to speak God’s truth on these topics all that’s left are those without God’s truth speaking for us.

Author

European Faith Made Private: Privatization of the Work Place

Posted on July 25th, 2013 Religious Freedom | No Comments »

Written by Paul Coleman, legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom at its office in Vienna, Austria.

Religious Liberty is in peril worldwide. This blog post, the third in a series of commentaries, illustrates the increasing marginalization of Christianity in Europe. The remaining commentaries will be published over the course of the next few weeks.

Christianity is being kept out of the workplace. Four high-profile cases from the United Kingdom are currently making their way through the European Court of Human Rights.

Two of the claimants, Gary McFarlane and Lillian Ladele, were fired for refusing to condone same-sex relationships. Ladele was a registrar of births, deaths, and marriages. When same-sex civil partnerships were introduced by the government in 2005, she saw that registering such relationships would clash with her faith. There were many registrars in the registry service and the same-sex ceremonies constituted a fraction of her duties, making the accommodation of her beliefs on marriage easy to achieve.

She was bullied and harassed by her colleagues, who accused her of “homophobia,” and her supervisor disclosed details of her case to other employees. The service ignored her concerns and the mistreatment she endured. In court, her supervisor summarized the employer’s position, stating, “I don’t believe that we should be accommodating people’s religious beliefs in the Registry Service.” Ultimately she was forced out of her job.

McFarlane worked as a relationship counselor for a charitable organization. He had previously raised concerns over providing counseling services to homosexual couples, as he thought it might imply endorsement of relationships he conscientiously believed to be wrong. However, after discussing the issue with his supervisor he decided that simply counseling such couples did not involve endorsement.

He did, however, raise objections to counseling homosexual couples suffering only from sexual dysfunction. In October 2007, he “confirmed he had difficulty in dealing with same-sex sexual practices and fulfilling his duty to follow the teaching of the Bible.”

Although he never turned away clients, merely raising the question with his supervisor ultimately led to his dismissal for gross misconduct. Suggestions of ways to accommodate him, such as an internal referral system, were dismissed by the court, which stated that his employer was “entitled to treat the issue as one of principle, in which compromise is inappropriate.”

The other two claimants, Nadia Eweida and Shirley Chaplin, were seeking the right to continue wearing a small visible cross in the workplace, something they had both done for years. In Eweida’s case, British Airways introduced a new uniform policy that only permitted employers to wear non-uniform items for “mandatory religious reasons.” After a public backlash against the airline, it amended the policy but refused to reimburse Eweida for the wages she lost for the time she was sent home without pay for refusing to hide her cross.

Chaplin’s employer, a state hospital, changed the nurses’ uniform by introducing a V-neck tunic, making the wearing of a cross more overt. The employer cited “health and safety” reasons as justification for insisting that she remove the cross, but never provided evidence to suggest what exactly the health and safety issues were.

In January, the European Court found in favor of Eweida, holding that the airline did not have a good reason to limit her right to freedom of religion. However, the court dismissed the cases of the other three claimants, accepting that “health and safety” in the case of Chaplin and “providing a service without discrimination” in the cases of Ladele and McFarlane were legitimate reasons for limiting their freedom of religion. Their cases are now being appealed to the Grand Chamber of the Court.

Similar battles between religious believers and their employers are being fought all over Europe. Doctors in Norway face pressure to participate in abortion procedures against their consciences. As Norwegian health minister Robin Kåss recently explained, “If you deny a patient contraception or a referral for an abortion, you can’t be a general physician. Doctors have to be ready to do their duty.”

The same is true in Sweden, where the Swedish parliament voted 271 to 20 to condemn a resolution passed by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe that supported the right of conscientious objection for physicians. It noted that the resolution “implies that health care workers should have the possibility to choose not to perform abortions” and stated that the standing committee rejected the resolution and instructed the Swedish delegation to work to change it. The situation is so bad in Sweden that a collective complaint has been launched against Sweden with the European Committee of Social Rights.

In Scotland, two Catholic midwives have taken their hospital employers to court after their manager insisted that they supervise abortion procedures against their will. The court held that the statutory conscience clause for health care providers in the Abortion Act 1967 does not apply to midwives. Their case is now on appeal.

The increasing marginalization of the Church throughout the world should be concerning to all Christians. We must stand firm against the subtle, and not so subtle, attacks on our faith. If you, or your church, experience censorship, punishment, or unlawful regulation for speaking, acting, or ministering in accordance with Biblical principles, please contact Alliance Defending Freedom. Perhaps we can provide the legal assistance you need to live out your faith and keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel.

This column originally appeared in The Washington Examiner on Feb. 15, 2013

Author

European Faith Made Private: Privatization of Private Conversations

Posted on July 19th, 2013 Religious Freedom | No Comments »

Written by Paul Coleman, legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom at its office in Vienna, Austria.

Religious Liberty is in peril worldwide. This blog post, the second in a series of commentaries, illustrates the increasing marginalization of Christianity in Europe. The remaining commentaries will be published over the course of the next few weeks.

Private conversations between citizens can become the grounds of a criminal complaint in many European countries. A couple of years ago, British hoteliers Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang, who are Christians, were charged with the criminal offense of using “insulting words” after a Muslim guest complained about their breakfast conversation on the merits of their respective faiths. The guest complained to the police, and after a yearlong investigation that brought the family-run business to its knees, the case eventually reached the courtroom.

One senior prosecutor and two high-ranking police officers appeared to testify against the Vogelenzangs. Behind them sat a team of six officers from the specialist “hate crime unit” who had been assigned to the case. The Vogelenzangs were supported by a Christian charity that covered all of their legal fees.

Although the hotel owners were eventually acquitted, the investigation and trial ultimately destroyed their business, as one of its main customers, a local hospital that used the guesthouse for patients, withdrew its business and never returned. Sharon Vogelenzang explained that “many people thought that when we won in court, everything would be OK. In reality, it has brought us to the brink of destruction, so it has not been a victory at all.”

The increasing marginalization of the Church throughout the world should be concerning to all Christians. We must stand firm against the subtle, and not so subtle, attacks on our faith. If you, or your church, experience censorship, punishment, or unlawful regulation for speaking, acting, or ministering in accordance with Biblical principles, please contact Alliance Defending Freedom. Perhaps we can provide the legal assistance you need to live out your faith and keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel.

This column originally appeared in The Washington Examiner on Feb. 15, 2013

Author

Pulpit Freedom Sunday 2013: Speaking Truth to the Culture

Posted on July 9th, 2013 Marriage | No Comments »

Recently, almost 1,100 churches from all 50 states took part in Pulpit Freedom Sunday.  On June 9, pastors in these churches preached sermons about the importance of traditional marriage.  Prior to the Supreme Court’s decisions on marriage, these pastors took the opportunity on Pulpit Freedom Sunday to set forth what God says about marriage.

This was the sixth annual Pulpit Freedom Sunday.  It began in 2008 as a direct challenge to the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 addition to the tax code that prohibits pastors from preaching freely on the issue of candidates and elections.  Every year pastors participating in Pulpit Freedom Sunday preached sermons that evaluated the candidates running for office in light of Scripture and made recommendations to their congregation as to how they ought to exercise their right to vote.  The pastors recorded their sermons and sent them to the IRS in hopes of sparking a legal challenge to the Johnson Amendment.  To date, not one of the over 2,000 pastors who have participated in Pulpit Freedom Sunday has been investigated by the IRS or punished for their sermons.

Because of the lack of national elections this year, pastors were encouraged to preach about the importance of marriage.  That issue was front and center in light of the Supreme Court’s decisions on marriage in June.  Put simply, before the Supreme Court had its say about marriage, the Church had its say about how God designed marriage and intended for it to function.

Now that the Supreme Court has decided the marriage cases, it is clear the battle over same-sex “marriage” will continue and the voice of America’s pastors is even more necessary.  If you are a pastor and did not get the opportunity to participate in Pulpit Freedom Sunday, now would be a great time to sign up.  We are leaving registration open for the remainder of the summer to allow pastors an opportunity to discuss the issue of marriage from the pulpit.  If you need resources on how to prepare a sermon on the issue, please visit our website.

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s marriage decisions, it is clear that the Church has a lot of work to do.  Taking part in a Pulpit Freedom Sunday this summer is a perfect opportunity to educate your congregation about marriage and why it should be protected as God intended.

Author

Search the Blog

Stay Connected to Speak Up.

View Posts by Author

Authors

ADF

© 2014 Alliance Defending Freedom. All Rights Reserved.