In the last Langstaff Letter, we looked at two different world views: The secular worldview prevalent in society today and the Christian worldview based on the authoritative word of God.
In coming issues, we want to discuss how this works out in specific situations, starting today with “Freedom of Religion.” While I am looking at this from the perspective of America, the issues are not just limited to this country.
From the earliest days of the pilgrims in America, freedom has been important. Indeed, it was the reason why many came to America in the first place. Consequently, freedom has been woven into the fabric of American society ever since.
As stated in the Declaration of Independence, we read, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” (archives.gov).
Liberty or freedom is there at the birth of the nation.
WHAT IS FREEDOM, ANYWAY?
In today’s society, freedom is the power to do what you want to do, the ability to move and act freely, the power to determine one’s actions without restraint. Obviously, freedom doesn’t allow you to do anything. However, ideally, it does mean you are free to act according to your religion and conscience.
The First Amendment to the Constitution deals with the freedom of religion. It prohibits laws establishing a national religion or impeding the free exercise of religion. This has guided the nation until recent times when a major attack has come upon “freedom of religion,” an attack that comes out of the conflict between a secular worldview and the Biblical worldview. This is perhaps best seen in the case of Jack Philips.
THE CASE OF JACK PHILIPS
The Alliance Defending Freedom sums up the case in this way, “Jack Phillips, a Colorado native and cake artist, opened Masterpiece Cakeshop in 1993 and has served the community of Lakewood, Colorado for more than 20 years. In his years of business, Jack has been a part of major milestone events for many in the community. He’s watched families grow from young couples requesting wedding cakes to parents ordering graduation cakes for their children.
Masterpiece Cakeshop is also a family business. Jack’s wife is a co-owner of the shop. His daughter helps him run it. One of his sisters decorates cakes, and another sister volunteers to keep the shop clean.
As a Christian, Jack knows that God can work as He chooses, including using small cake shops like his to do God’s work. “[God] has chosen this bakery to do a lot of different things that we had never planned and that we would never want to stop,” he said. Jack’s faith motivates how he operates his business, but he would one day find out that the State of Colorado would order him to strip his faith out of his business.
In July 2012, two men came into Jack’s cakeshop requesting a custom wedding cake celebrating their same-sex marriage. In a very brief exchange, Jack politely declined the request, saying that he could not design cakes for same-sex weddings, but offered to design them custom cakes for other occasions or to sell them anything else in his shop.
Shortly after that, Jack started to receive phone calls from people threatening and harassing him because of his decision to not use his artistic talents to design a cake celebrating a view of marriage that conflicts with his faith. Instead of responding in anger, Jack saw the calls as an invitation to prayer: “[The phone calls] give me an opportunity to pray for people I wouldn’t know.”
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorneys and ADF allied attorneys came to Jack’s defense when the couple filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for sexual orientation discrimination. Even after explaining to the commission that it wasn’t the people Jack objected to, it was the message the cake would send about marriage, an administrative law judge ruled against Jack in December 2013, saying that designing and creating cakes for same-sex wedding ceremonies are not speech protected by the First Amendment. The commission ordered Jack and his staff to either violate Jack’s faith by designing custom wedding cakes that celebrate same-sex marriages or stop designing all wedding cakes, which was approximately 40% of Jack’s business. In addition, Jack was ordered to “reeducate” his staff by teaching them that he was wrong to operate his business consistently with his faith. The state also required Jack to file quarterly “compliance” reports telling the government every time that he declines a custom cake request and explaining the reasons why.
In July 2016, ADF attorneys and allied attorneys petitioned the United States Supreme Court to take up Jack’s case. After the Supreme Court granted review, it ruled 7 to 2 in favor of Jack on June 4, 2018. The ruling reversed the state’s decision to punish Jack for living and working consistently with his religious beliefs about marriage”(adflegal.org).
BATTLE IN AMERICA
So, we now have a political conflict. For the purposes of this letter, it now becomes a battle between the “left” and the “right.”
Albert Mohler, an evangelical theologian, asked the question, “Why is the Left so hostile to religious liberty?” He stated, “It is because freedom of speech and religious liberty must give way to the newly invented rights that are now beholden by the cultural Left. The Left now worships at the altar of a “greater” set of rights that are foundationally antithetical to the American Constitutional order” (albertmohler.com).
When the gay rights movement won the victory for gay marriage, many thought or hoped this was the end. In no way! The end goal is to reshape American culture by reshaping the family, even to the absolute dissolution of Christianity in the United States. You can see this agenda in left-wing groups such as ‘Black Lives Matter.’
Earlier this year, “Democratic lawmakers in the House of Representatives introduced the Equality Act” (breakpoint.org) (I believe the Equality Act is currently stalled in the Senate). President Biden has promised to sign the Equality Act. This act would “in effect, erase all legal distinctions between male and female in public life” (breakpoint.org).
John Stonestreet of Breakpoint Daily writes, “To be clear, you should only care about the Equality Act if you are a Christian, or a person of faith, or a woman, or own a business, or run a non-profit, or go to school, or teach at a school, or are a medical or mental-health professional, or (especially) are a female athlete, or under the age of 18, or ever use a public restroom. That’s not an exaggeration” (breakpoint.org). Here is the exact wording from the Equality Act: “An individual shall not be denied access to a shared facility, including a restroom, a locker room and a dressing room, that is in accordance with the individual’s gender identity” (congress.gov).
This applies to “any establishment that provides a good, service, or program, including a store, shopping center, online retailer or service provider, salon, bank, gas station, food bank, service or care center, shelter, travel agency or funeral parlor, or establishment that provides health care, accounting or legal services,’ along with any organization that receives any federal funding” (congress.gov).
Ryan Anderson of the Ethics and Public Policy Center described it in an op-ed, “Medical doctors, secular and religious, whose expert judgment is that sex-reassignment procedures are misguided would now run afoul of our civil-rights laws. If you perform a mastectomy in the case of breast cancer, you will have to perform one on the teenage girl identifying as a boy. All in the name of equality” (nypost.com).
WE CANNOT REMAIN SILENT
Franklin Graham of the Billy Graham Association, in an article entitled “We Cannot Remain Silent,” writes, “The Equality Act designates schools, churches, and healthcare organizations as “public accommodations.” With this, schools, churches, and hospitals could be forced to accept the government’s beliefs and mandates about sexual orientation and gender identity. That would be highly intrusive and incredibly far-reaching. It will threaten everyday speech where people can be fined or lose their jobs for using the wrong name or pronouns.
The Equality Act will legislate that we allow boys in girls’ sports, boys in girls’ locker rooms, men in women’s shelters, and men in women’s prisons. It will force teachers and students to publicly pretend that a biological male is a female. Schools will be encouraged or mandated to instruct first, second, and third graders that they can choose to be a boy or a girl, or neither, or both, making biological sex (and science) a relic of the past.
The Equality Act will use the force of law across all 50 states to strip Christian and other religious ministries of their right to hire people of shared faith to pursue a shared mission. Can you imagine a Christian organization being forced to hire people hostile to its deeply held beliefs who have no passion for its beliefs, teachings, and mission? That doesn’t work.
The Equality Act will strip health professionals of their rights of conscience. It will force doctors and medical professionals who long to do no harm to engage in gender transition treatments such as hormone-blocking, cross-sex hormones, or surgery. It is obvious that a Catholic or faith-based hospital should not have to perform gender transition surgeries that go entirely against all they believe.
The Equality Act will be a tool used by the government to deny or threaten accreditation to religious colleges and universities if they do not satisfy the demands of the secular Left to apply sexual orientation and gender identity to dorms, sports, places of privacy and even teachings. The Act could be used as a weapon to threaten the availability of federal student loans and grants to students at certain disfavored religious schools”(billygraham.org).
WHAT ARE THOSE WITH A BIBLICAL WORLDVIEW TO DO?
Let me suggest a few thoughts regarding how we should respond to this battle in America.
- Recognize what is happening in society today and also what is happening in Washington or your state House
- Pray – This is a spiritual battle as recorded in Ephesians 6:12 (NKJV), “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood…”
- Know where you stand and why on these issues and also how you are to act.
- Some people may also want to reach out to their local representative.
In America, this battle between the secular worldview and the Christian (Biblical) worldview will eventually be decided, as far as the Law is concerned, by the United States Supreme Court. Until then, the battle goes on.
ONE FINAL THOUGHT
We need to remember that we are on the winning side. “We win.” It could well be that all that is happening around us in society is part of what is leading up to the return of Christ, with the downward spiral of society (see Isaiah 60:1-2).