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There is currently a trend in our courts to rely on foreign legal precedent from – especially Europe – when ruling on important social issues in the U.S. The most notable case, Lawrence v. Texas, used foreign precedent in 2003 to justify striking down a law criminalizing homosexual behavior. This should be alarming for many reasons, but one of the most important is Europe’s increasing hostility to Christians.

A report issued on December 10, 2010 titled Shadow Report on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe chronicles many of the acts of discrimination against Christians in Europe in the last five years.  I’ve listed some of these below. But before reviewing them, it’s significant that the non-profit group who compiled the report concluded:

“Such intolerant and discriminatory behaviour results from opposition to individual traits of the Christian faith or moral positions that are intrinsically part of the Christian faith, or from a negative categorical bias against Christians or Christianity as a whole. It leads to attacks on the social level (such as negative stereotyping or social exclusion), on the legal level (for example through a discriminatory law or a bias court verdict) and on the political level (exclusion from the public sphere; a resolution of a parliament; etc.).”

In other words, Christians are being discriminated against in Europe because of biblical beliefs regarding moral issues. Some examples from the report are:

France, January 2005: French member of parliament, Christian Vanneste, sentenced to payments for homophobic insults”. 

United Kingdom, January 2006: Member of the Scottish Parliament asked Strathlyde Police to investigate remarks made by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow. The Archbishop had defended the institution of marriage in a church service.

Spain, November 2008: Judge Fernando Calamita was sentenced to 18 years of occupational ban for exercising conscientious objection and thereby delaying the adoption of a little girl by the lesbian partner of her mother.

United Kingdom, January 2009: Brighton Council requests care home for elderly Christians to ask its residents about their sexual orientation and cuts funding when rejected.

Turkey, June 2010: Turkish attorneys are now in the fourth year of prosecuting two Christians for allegedly slandering Islam. Despite the lack of any concrete evidence to support their claims, Turkish courts are continuing prosecution.

We can expect the same kind of persecution of Christians here in the U.S. soon if our courts continue to be enamored with foreign laws.

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ADF Senior Counsel - Church Project

At ADF, our clients – especially pastors and churches – often question whether it is biblical for Christians to sue the government to protect their constitutional rights. This question stems from passages like Romans 13:1-7, which commands us to “submit [our]selves to the governing authorities,” because those authorities are established by God. Would a lawsuit against the government violate this command?

Perhaps the best way of answering this is to consider who the “government authorities” are. Our system of government features a series of authorities at different levels (e.g. local, state, and federal) and of different types (e.g. executive, legislative, and judicial). Yet one authority in our system stands above all others: the United States Constitution. By using the judicial system to insist that government officials follow the Constitution, a church is not resisting authority. It is simply using the established system of government to appeal to a higher authority.

Apostle Paul, the author of Romans, frequently appealed to higher authorities to protect his rights. For example, he invoked his Roman citizenship and Roman law to force magistrates to personally release him from a Philippi prison after he had been beaten illegally (Acts 16:16-40).  He later invoked his Roman citizenship in Jerusalem to prevent a centurion from flogging him (Acts 22:22-29). Then he defended himself against charges in a Roman court and ultimately appealed to Caesar (Acts 24:10-25:12). Clearly, Paul had no trouble appealing to higher authorities when government officials overstepped their bounds or did not do justice.

So invoking a higher authority is not the same as resisting authority. A lawsuit is neither revolution nor rebellion. It is simply a way to insist that government officials obey a higher legal authority. And by doing so, it helps uphold the rule of law, preserves our Constitution, and ensures that we all can continue to enjoy our first liberty – religious freedom.

If you’re interested in exploring these issues in more depth, ADF attorney Travis Barham has written an excellent essay that I recommend to any Christians who are faced with the possibility of going to court to protect their constitutional rights.

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ADF Legal Counsel - Church Project

In his weekly “Two-Minute Warning,”  Chuck Colson presents a compelling case for signing the Manhattan Declaration.  This document is an effort to unite all Christians in support of the three most important moral issues of our day – Life, Religious Freedom, and Marriage.

Disturbing, but not surprising, is the feedback Colson has received from pastors who refuse to sign the document because it would mean they lose half their congregation. This is not a radical document.  It simply says abortion is wrong, marriage is between a man and woman, and religious freedom is important. If conservative Christians of all denominations cannot unite behind such a simple, biblically based declaration, the Body of Christ is in trouble.

The good news is 500,000 people have signed it so far. The bad news is Barna Research Group estimates that there are between 15 to 20 million Americans who describe themselves as conservative Christians.  We need to get the word out about this opportunity to stand for biblical morality. 

In the video linked above, Colson does a good job explaining why it’s important to stand now, or risk losing the cultural battle for our nation’s moral conscience in the very near future. If you don’t believe him, believe the great Country Music singer/songwriter Aaron Tippin, who famously sung:  “You’ve got to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.”

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ADF Senior Counsel - Church Project

Ann Rice, author of Interview with a Vampire and many other novels, is reported as saying she’s had it with Christians, but is still a follower of Christ. A Roman Catholic, apparently she doesn’t agree with the moral positions taken by the Church on issues such as homosexual behavior.

In some ways, I understand her concerns. She’s quoted as saying, “I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being ‘Christian’ or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group.” Certainly she’s correct that Christians should do a better job of loving one another, as Jesus commanded in John 13:34. I, for one, confess I don’t always follow His command, and am sometimes quarrelsome, hostile, and disputatious (just ask my wife and kids). So rejecting organized “religion” that doesn’t truly reflect the love of Christ is commendable. But the very next verse in John 13 says that people will know we are Disciples of Christ by our love for another. Ann Rice cannot truly be a follower of Christ and not love Christians.

What I suspect is really going on is she’s attempting to mold Christianity to her worldview and experiences. Though she came back to her childhood faith later in life, she married an atheist and has a son who engages in homosexual conduct.  (Regrettably, her husband passed away, but in writings attributed to her, she indicates that she still has atheist friends.) Her relationships with her family and friends probably would be much easier if the Bible didn’t condemn sexual immorality and call atheists fools.

If Christianity and the Bible are merely inventions of man, then we can change them to fit our changing wants and desires.  Pastors feel the pressure to do exactly that when they address topics like abortion and homosexual conduct, which also happen to currently be political issues. This pressure can come from parishioners, but our concern is when it comes from government officials and laws.  For instance, Erik Stanley recently blogged on a pastor in England who was arrested for merely preaching what the Bible has to say about homosexual behavior.

This brings us to the whole reason ADF launched the Church Project – to protect the right of Pastors and Churches to continue to proclaim all of God’s Word as Truth. The good news is pastors still have that right in America, but we see attacks on it almost every day.

Professing Christians like Ann Rice need to conform their beliefs to what the Bible says, and to what their pastors say the Bible says. Not what they wish it said. And if she’s really concerned about the hypocritical behavior of Christians, she should join the rest of us hypocrites and work to change it by being part of the Body of Christ, not giving up on it.

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ADF Senior Counsel - Church Project

I was asked recently how it is that 60% of weekly church attendees support repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (according to a Gallup Poll from last year). The answer is simple: many pastors rarely if ever address the morality of homosexual behavior (or any other current controversial issues) from the pulpit. But we are bombarded by media with a secular worldview on everything from sexuality to the orgin of life.

The Bible has quite a bit to say on these issues and others like abortion, family, and citizenship. A quick glance at a few “sermon starters” on Family Research Council’s website gives you an idea what’s freely available online. But if pastors never take up these topics on Sunday morning, most church attendees will simply conclude the church doesn’t have a position.

The good news is, there are some pastors – like those involved in ADF’s Pulpit Initiative - who have not abandoned the culture wars. Not only do they speak up about what the Bible has to say on issues of the day, they encourage their parishoners to vote for people who share that biblical worldview.

But the failure of most churches to show up for the battle is not just unfortunate, it’s disasterous for religious freedom in America. An article in the Washington Post by Lawrence P. Grayson does a great job of demonstrating how the current societal trend of condoning immorality is on a collision course with religious freedom in America. If pastors don’t teach what the Bible has to say about these issues to their parishoners, their opinions will likely be formed by something other than religious conviction. This is harmful to the health of inviduals, society as a whole, and government. Mr. Grayson aptly quotes John Adams as saying,  “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

It’s vital that pastors address issues like homosexual behavior, from the pulpit, on Sunday morning. Otherwise folks think the Bible has nothing to say about sexual mores and other important matters we are currently wrestling with as a society.

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ADF Senior Counsel - Church Project

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