Rob Schwarzwalder is Senior Vice President at Family Research Council. This article appeared in Religion Today on October 3, 2013.
Religious persecution is a global phenomenon, and most particularly affects professing Christians in the developing world.
The suffering encountered daily by believing inmates of North Korea's gruesome "gulag" system, the almost weekly mass murders of Christians in Nigeria, and the Stalinist repression of pastors and churches in some of the states carved from the former Soviet Union should humble every American who claims the Name of Christ. Evangelical Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox: It's open season on believers in far too many places.
Even in Europe, some countries deny Christians the right to homeschool their children or foster needy little ones if they affirm the biblical view of human sexuality.
We in America experience nothing like the physical assault, vicious imprisonment, unjust trials, torture, maiming and outright killing so many of our brothers and sisters in the Lord experience regularly.
That's why so many of us support groups like Voice of the Martyrs and Open Doors. It's why my organization, the Family Research Council, has held numerous events highlighting the attacks on Christianity throughout the world.
For example, our webcast on international Christian persecution featured some of our country's leading advocates for defending the threatened and brutalized church. We have had lectures featuring speakers like Bob Fu of China Aid, Emmanuel Ogebe of the Jubilee Campaign, and the international Christian statesman Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo. A number of my colleagues and I have written about specific cases of international religious persecution and more broadly on the growing crisis of anti-Christianism across the world.
At the same time, here at home, we are witnessing the emergence of a sometimes subtle, sometimes overt bias against Christians who seek to live by their faith in the public square:
- As detailed in the Wall Street Journal recently, "wedding professionals in at least six states have run headlong into state antidiscrimination laws after refusing for religious reasons to bake cakes, arrange flowers or perform other services for same-sex couples."
- The Obama health care plan contains a mandate requiring that "a substantial majority of American health plans cover prescription contraceptives, sterilization, and related patient education and counseling." This includes businesses owned and operated by Evangelical Protestants and traditional Catholics. The administration's so-called "compromise" is hardly that; as Greg Baylor of the Alliance Defending Freedom argues, "it still makes ... non-profit(s)... the gatekeepers to abortion and provides no protection to religious businesses."
- FRC has documented extensive prejudice against practicing Christians in the nation's military. As U.S. Rep. John Fleming (R-LA), a member of the House Armed Services Committee and himself a veteran, was concerned enough to amend the National Defense Authorization Act to include aprovision protecting expressions of religious conviction in the Armed Forces.
- Last year, FRC partnered with our friends at The Liberty Institute to document hundreds of cases in which Christians have faced discrimination due to their desire quietly to put their faith into practice in their businesses and places of employment. An updated and expanded edition of the report will be issued next week.
No one is crying "wolf!" Christians in America are not being dragged from their homes, tortured in the town square, or packed away to filthy, forgotten prisons. But religious liberty is the very foundation of the Republic: If our allegiance to God does not precede our allegiance to the state, we are not only violating His command against idolatry but are rendering ourselves subjects, not citizens. And the grim fact is that our religious liberty is being eroded by those who would confine it to the four walls of a house of worship and the private words and thoughts of individuals.
Those who profess to follow Jesus should be able both to fight religious persecution abroad and oppose religious repression here at home. Each is essential if we're to fulfill our duty to stand for righteousness, protect the vulnerable, and advance the Gospel freely in our time.