Mr. President, Religious Freedom Is Not Just 'Freedom to Worship'

The celebrations surrounding President Obama's 2nd inauguration have been scaled down a bit from his first. This year there will only be two inaugural balls, compared to 10 in 2009. Inaugural planners say this reflects our current "tough economic times" and is an effort to lessen impact on security personnel and Washington D.C. residents.One way citizens can celebrate, we are told, is by participating in the National Day of Service on Saturday, January 19.

The 20th Amendment to the Constitution stipulates the swearing-in ceremony to be held at noon on January 20th.This year, because this date falls on Sunday, on that day an "official swearing-in event" will take place at the White House. The "ceremonial swearing-in event" will be take place on Monday on the west front of the U.S. Capitol, with 600 to 800 thousand expected to view it from the National Mall.

The next event open to the public is the inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. Parades have been a part of the inaugural tradition since 1789 when local militias accompanied George Washington from Mt. Vernon to New York. There, prominent citizens, members of Congress, and the Continental Army joined him to march to Federal Hall for the inauguration.

This year's parade list includes a few volunteer infantry regiments, eight floats, and dozens of high school, college and citizen group bands from every state-but no representatives from the U.S. military-not even the marching bands from any of the branches of service. One group that will be marching, however, is the Lesbian and Gay Band Association of St. Louis, Mo., as they did in 2009. An AP writer noted then,"The association was the first lesbian and gay group in history to participate in a president's inaugural parade,"comparing this to African-Americans marching in Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural parade and women marching in 1917 atWoodrow Wilson's second inauguration.

Certainly President Obama broke new ground for the office of the president during his first term by his outspoken support of homosexual activists' goals for same-sex marriage and full recognition in the military. And that support for gay political causes has even impacted this year's inaugural ceremony.

Pastor Louie Giglio, known for his work on human trafficking, had been tapped to deliver the benediction. But, a media outlet for the George Soros funded Center for American Progress, reported that Giglio had preached a "rabidly anti-LGBT" sermon in the mid-1990s, the inaugural committee quickly distanced itself, stating that it wasn't aware of Giglio's past comments when they invited him.

Giglio immediately withdrew from the inauguration, noting in his letter to the White House that "the prayer I would offer, will be dwarfed by those seeking to make their agenda the focal point of the inauguration." The spokeswoman for the Presidential Inaugural Committee said, "As we now work to select someone to deliver the benediction, we will ensure their beliefs reflect this administration's vision of inclusion and acceptance for all Americans."

The question Christians are now asking is whether that "inclusion and acceptance" will include them.

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote on his blog ( 1/10/2013):Louie Giglio was cast out of the circle of the acceptable simply because a liberal watchdog group found one sermon he preached almost twenty years ago. If a preacher has ever taken a stand on biblical conviction, he risks being exposed decades after the fact. Anyone who teaches at any time, to any degree, that homosexual behavior is a sin is now to be cast out….The Presidential Inaugural Committee and the White House have now declared historic, biblical Christianity to be out of bounds, casting it off the inaugural program as an embarrassment.

In discussing Giglio's withdrawal with OneNewsNow (1/12/2013) Family Research Council's Tony Perkins said that it is shocking how intolerant the administration is in forcing acceptance of homosexuality. "This isn't the inauguration of another four years," said Perkins. "I'm afraid this is the inauguration of a new era of religious intolerance in America."

Four years ago, Pastor Rick Warren's selection to give the invocation at President Obama's first inaugurationignited "fury from same-sex marriage advocates and progressives." (Christianity Today, 12/23/2008).Nevertheless, he gave the invocation as planned.

A lot has changed in four years.

Warren himself recently spoke out on the issue of religious freedom in a statement for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is handling seven of the cases against the Health and Human Services Department mandate requiring abortifacients and contraceptives to be included in insurance coverage:

Today, the government has tried to reinterpret the First Amendment from freedom to PRACTICE your religion, to a more narrow freedom to worship, which would limit your freedom to the hour a week you are at a house of worship. This is not only a subversion of the Constitution, it is nonsense. Any religion that cannot be lived out … at home and work, is nothing but a meaningless ritual."

On January 16, President Obama began his presidential proclamation for Religious Freedom Day with the following:

Foremost among the rights Americans hold sacred is the freedom to worship as we choose. Today, we celebrate one of our Nation's first laws to protect that right – the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.

Later the proclamation states:

Because of the protections guaranteed by our Constitution, each of us has the right to practice our faith openly and as we choose. [emphasis added]

What are you saying, Mr. President? Is our "practice" of our faith going to be limited to freedom to worship inside our churches and houses of worship, as you punish us for holding to our religious beliefs on Monday through Saturday at our places of work and as we speak out on public forums?

We pray that God will open your heart and mind to see that unless freedom of religion includes freedom of conscience and freedom to speak the truth as we understand it, there is no freedom of religion in this land. Next Sunday, as you solemnly swearto "faithfully execute the office of President" and to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States," may you acknowledge this truth and act accordingly.

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