A Brave News World for Religious Freedom
In 400 years, America may not look the same to the first settlers -- but the battles it wages certainly would. Even after four centuries, true religious freedom is as scarce today as it was when the pilgrims stepped onto the ship that would carry them to the new world. The only difference is, the threats to that idea come not from a foreign power -- but within. Never has that been clearer than now, standing on the rubble of the Arizona Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
While the bill may be dead, the conversation is not. In the aftermath of one of the dirtiest PR wars in modern liberalism, people on both sides have finally had time to survey the damage in what many believe is a national turning point. Unfortunately for Americans, the biggest story of the Arizona dispute was the industry tasked with relaying it: the media. More concerned with being politically correct than factually correct, the press sunk its teeth into SB 1062, using its power to distort a debate it was meant to detail.
Overnight, a simple tweak to a bill that's already on the books became characterized as a violent weapon of inhumanity meant to shame and oppress homosexuals. If the legislation didn't change -- what did? For starters, people stopped reading the bill. They blindly adopted the media's outrage and "anti-gay" labeling without bothering to study the two pages of text and discover for themselves that nothing in SB 1062 would have given businesses more power than they already have to discriminate against homosexuals.
"What's more," Mollie Hemingway writes, "... it's not even illegal for a business in Arizona to deny service to someone because they're gay! ...[I]f the New York Times was doing reporting instead of extreme advocacy, it would note these truths -- that Arizonans are free to discriminate but don't and that this bill had nothing to do with that issue. But even days later, they're promulgating untruths."
What Arizona is refusing to serve is religious liberty -- and the thousands of Christians who desperately want the same deference for their views as we give homosexuals. On this weekend's "Meet the Press," Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) hit back at the massive misinformation campaign of the Left. "The notion that someone because they are gay would be denied service at a restaurant is something that Americans don't support, conservatives don't support. The other side of the equation is imagine now if you're a Southern Baptist or a Catholic or even evangelical photographer, who does not believe, because of your faith, in gay marriage. And because of that, you don't want to provide photographic services to a gay marriage. Should you be sanctioned by the state for refusing to do so? We've got to figure out a way to protect that as well," he explained.
In one of the more tragic ironies of this debate, the media doesn't seem to realize that the freedom of the press is built on the solid rock of the religious liberty they're destroying. The First Amendment begins with religious liberty, Hemingway points out, because "all freedom of expression -- speech, press, assembly -- is rooted in the importance of man determining truth according to his own conscience."
In their haste to drive faith underground, the liberal media is undermining the very freedom that gives voice to the speech it now enjoys. They plaster their cars with "coexist" bumper stickers only to prove they aren't the least bit interested in finding ways that Americans can truly live together. In the very near future, they too will learn -- perhaps too late-- that religious liberty isn't like a stock whose value rises and falls. It's the capital by which our country operates. And once it's gone, there is no telling how long America can stand.
In Motor City, Pastors Rev up Opposition
Anyone who says the battle over same-sex "marriage" has been lost obviously hasn't talked to Michigan's pastors. There, a coalition of pastors is firing up churches across the state to rally around the Michigan marriage amendment, even as it comes under the heaviest fire voters have ever seen. With a ruling expected any day on the constitutionality of the Great Lakes State marriage law, African-American pastors are reengaging as never before. This morning, more than 100 pastors and church leaders joined a march outside the U.S. District Court in Detroit where the case is being decided.
Stacy Swimp, who's helping to spearhead the amendment's defense, made it clear to reporters that they "believe that it was God who instituted both marriage [and] government, and gave government the responsibility to protect the covenant that he created between man and woman." Too long, he says, the church has been silent in the face of this corruption. But, Pastor Swimp said, "Man's rejection of God's Word does not change the fact that God instituted marriage as a means of creating and sustaining family, as well as creating and sustaining a strong and moral society. It is indeed on the basis of strong families, as defined by God, that the future of our nation rests... Our presence shall serve as a reminder to Judge Friedman that it is his God-given responsibility to uphold our rights and protect the institution of marriage between one man and one woman, which God created and blessed."
These pastors understand that as the conscience of the community, it's the church's responsibility to lead the charge for morality in the public square. "Therefore, we are calling on every Christian, in Michigan and around the nation, to join us in a call for the spiritual revival of the body of Christ. We need a restoration of consciousness in both the church and the society at large." Let's hope these ministers are an example to leaders in pulpits across America that the battle for marriage is only over when the church stops fighting it! Encourage your pastors to get involved in transforming the nation for truth. Log on to FRC's church ministries page, Watchmen on the Wall, to learn how.
The U.N. vs. the Vatican
The United Nations is not exactly making a fan out of the global Catholic Church. Under the auspices of a new committee report, the U.N. took the Vatican to task for "failing" to properly implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child in the Catholic Church on issues like abortion. This Wednesday, March 5, a panel of experts will debate the implications of the U.N.'s liberal advocacy, as well as the dangers of the U.N. overreach in other areas of religion. Don't miss the discussion over religious discrimination at noon, which features FRC's Dr. Pat Fagan and new Center for Religious Liberty Director Travis Weber, as well as Austin Ruse, President of C-FAM. To register to attend the lecture -- either in person or via live webcast -- click here.
** "How are younger evangelicals responding to Homosexuality?" Find out in Rob Schwarzwalder's new column in Religion Today. Also, should the church challenge the Obama administration on religious liberty? The more important question, the Christian Post asks, is why aren't they? Read more about FRC's latest polling results in the article, here.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.