Religious Freedom Threatened

Religious Freedom Threatened
We have recently posted about some believers who have had their religious freedom threatened merely because they want to live out their faith. Government agencies at various levels are attacking believers with fines, jail time, or bankruptcy because they will not participate in something which is against their Christian convictions. Wedding photographers, cake artists, and owners of flower shops and wedding venues have been charged with discrimination. Their only crime is not wanting to participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies because they believe it violates God’s plan and design for marriage.

Now government punishment is being carried out against Christian farmers because they expressed their belief in the God’s design and sanctity of marriage. Steve and Bridget Tennes and their five children live on a farm 22 miles from East Lansing, Michigan. For the past seven years they have been selling their produce at the East Lansing Farmer’s Market. The city has adopted a policy that bars those who believe in traditional marriage from selling produce in the market. Steve Tennes posted his Christian view of marriage on Facebook. When the administration of the East Lansing Farmer’s Market learned about that, they said the Tennes farm, known as Country Mill, would no longer be allowed to sell.

Country Mill was selling the only organic apples available in the East Lansing Farmer’s Market, and those sales are a significant part of the income for the Tennes family. Steve Tennes filed a federal lawsuit against the city, and a federal district judge ordered that he should be allowed to return to the farmer’s market until the case is settled. Tennes does not want to see Americans’ religious freedom threatened. He said, “This isn’t just about our ability to sell at the farmer’s market. It’s really about every American’s right to make a living and not have to worry about being punished by the government.”

In the meantime, the U.S. Justice Department has filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in one of the cases we reported on earlier. That is the case of Jack Phillips, a Christian cake artist who will not participate in a same-sex marriage ceremony by designing a cake for it. The Justice Department is siding with Phillips in this case. It will be interesting to see how the Supreme Court will decide. There are Christians who just want to live out their faith and not be forced to participate in something they believe is in violation of God’s commands. The Jack Phillips case could have repercussions for many others.

We can’t ignore the fact that religious freedom threatened just because it hasn’t directly threatened us. Believers should not be forced to do something that violates their faith. That sounds too much like the situation the early Christians faced in ancient Rome.
–Roland Earnst © 2017

Business Owner’s Religious Freedom

Business Owner's Religious Freedom
One of the most critical issues of this decade in America is a business owner’s religious freedom. If you own a business, do you have a right to refuse to perform a service which violates your religious faith? Here are some examples of Christian business owners being told by the government that they must provide a service that they find morally objectionable.

Barronelle Stutzman owns Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington. She declined to design a flower arrangement for a same-sex wedding. The Washington Attorney General and the ACLU brought suit against not only her business but her personally. She could lose everything because of taking a stand based on her Christian faith. This case is being appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

Blaine Adamson owner of promotional printing company Hands On Originals in Kentucky turned down a job to print promotional t-shirts for a gay pride festival. He had refused to print other materials that he considered to be morally objectionable. The local human rights commission charged him with sexual orientation discrimination saying that he must print the shirts. In 2015 a Kentucky circuit court found in favor of Adamson, and that decision was upheld in 2017 by the Kentucky Court of Appeals. Now the Kentucky Supreme Court will decide whether to hear the case.

Masterpiece Cake Shop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission is one of a dozen similar cases where a private business owner of a bakery wishes not to produce something that violates their religious convictions. In this case, Jack Phillips did not want to design a cake for a same sex wedding. The state is threatening him with a fine and jail time.

It is not only Christian printers, flower shops, and cake decorators that are being forced by the government to provide services that violate their faith. Christian wedding photographers and videographers also face legal challenges. In the Minnesota case of Telescope Media Group vs. Lindsey, Carl and Angel Larsen have a video business. They produce videos that teach Christian values and educate couples about God’s plan for marriage. They are being threatened with a $25,000 fine and 90 days in jail because they do not make videos of same sex marriages as well.

These cases bring to mind many questions about a business owner’s religious freedom. Can a printer refuse to print pornography because of the moral issues involved, even if it is legal? Should a black business owner be required to provide materials promoting a KKK rally? Should a Jewish business be required to provide facilities for a neo-Nazi rally? Should a Christian printer be required to print materials promoting atheism? Does a business owner’s religious freedom end when the doors open for business? To turn the question around, should a business owner who is a gay rights advocate be required to produce material saying that homosexual activity is immoral?

We have commented before about the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and their efforts to protect religious freedom and Christian values. In Acts 4:18-20 we read about the authorities telling Peter and John “not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” They responded with, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2017

“Born This Way”–Is It True?

Born This Way Sign
The theme of many gay pride parades has been “born this way,” and the question science has been wrestling with for at least 50 years is whether that is true. Is being “gay” not something that can be chosen or changed? Rebecca Jordan-Young, a sociomedical scientist, has written a book titled Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences. The book reviews hundreds of scientific studies on sex and the brain conducted over the last 13 years. Her conclusion is that biology matters, but it is not the whole story.

The Bible makes it clear that God created man and woman with purpose and with definite roles. Romans 1:24-27 indicates that it was humans who changed “the natural use into that which is against nature” (verse 26). People have misused just about everything God has given us.

Dr. Sari van Anders at the University of Michigan says, “The science of whether sexual orientation is biological is pretty sparse and full of disparate, mixed, and unreplicated findings.” The data shows that there is no “gay gene” that causes a person to be a homosexual. A combination of genetic characteristics, the hormone pollution in our environment, and the effects produced by experiences in early childhood are all part of our sexual orientation and how we act on it. We are not all born with the same genetic factors, we don’t all have the same libido, and we have not had the same experiences in our first twelve years of life. There is much more to it than just being “born this way.”

We would add that choosing to live a life that blesses others according to the teachings of Christ will lead us to use all God has given us in unselfish, constructive ways. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 7:7-9 that he would prefer that all men would have the ability to live single as he was living, but that is “better to marry than to burn with passion.” He referred to his own ability of celibacy as a “gift of God.” Using our gifts in selfish, destructive ways is strongly condemned by God. Using our gifts to bless others as Paul did is what we are all called to do.
Data from USA Today 6/20/17 B1&2
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Gay Community Hurt by Media’s Downplay of CDC Report

Homosexual Lifestyle
Atheists and skeptics have accused the Bible and Christians in general of being homophobic. This accusation is inaccurate and actually the opposite of what the Bible teaches. Jesus and the Apostles taught very clearly that Christians are to take care of everyone, and no passage says to avoid taking care of the homosexual. We are to love our enemy, do good to those who are opposed to us, and never return evil for evil. (See Matthew 5-7.) By the same token, Christians are obligated to oppose all forces that bring evil, pain, and suffering to others.

Last September the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data on the spread of HIV and AIDS in the United States. The report made it very clear that homosexuality is a destructive lifestyle, but that material was largely ignored by the media. Here are some facts from the CDC:
1) Gay men are 2% of the population, 55% of all HIV cases, and 67% of all new cases of HIV.
2) Gay and bisexual men ages 13 to 24 accounted for 92% of the new HIV cases and 27% of new diagnoses among all gay and bisexual men.
3) Gay and bisexual men accounted for 83% (29,418) of the new HIV diagnoses among males aged 13 or older and 67% of the total estimated new cases in the United States.
4) Gay and bisexual men accounted for 54% (11,277) of the cases of people diagnosed with AIDS.
5) One in six gay and bisexual men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime.

The Bible clearly teaches that God’s plan was for men and women to have sexual relationships in the context of marriage to members of the opposite sex. Christians need to encourage people not to live destructive lifestyles. We are not “alcoholifobic” because we oppose the use of alcohol as a social drug. We are not “abusophobic” because we oppose any form of abuse. We want people to live in a way that keeps them healthy, and we will do what we can to urge people to make good choices. But if they make bad choices we will still love them, encourage them, and try to help them become free of destructive lifestyles. Homosexuality is a destructive lifestyle, and we will work towards stopping the spread of diseases which homosexual acts tend to spread. We will also work to help those who are victimized by their destructive lifestyle choices.
Data from http://cdc.gov/hiv/pdf/group/msm/cdc-hiv-msm.pdf
–John N. Clayton © 2017