Whether it's a baker refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex couple or a student expelled for bringing a Bible to school, Christians are battling to live out their faith freely in America. Organizations like Christian Rights Ministries are in the trenches daily taking on this Goliath. They continue to fight discrimination against Christians in the legal system and provide pro-bono legal services in defense to those being targeted. Since we're living in precarious times, I asked the organization for insight on upcoming cases to keep tabs on, what profession is a prime target and the trends they are observing in the cultural landscape.
With the high-profile cases like Jack Phillips, are we seeing an uptick in lawsuits against Christians?
The answer is yes. Christians who want to live out their faith both in church and in their workplace, are facing potential litigation. Special targets are those who provide such services as wedding venues, wedding photography and cake decorating. Others include artists, t-shirt businesses and filmmakers. The primary reason for this, I believe, is judicial activism. When unelected judges usurp their role by legislating from the bench and providing novel interpretations of the Constitution (as in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges), they bypass the will of the people and damage our representative system of government.
What trends are you seeing as activists?
Among the major trends, I see across our cultural landscape are these:
1. The increased polarization between the progressive, liberal left and the traditionally conservative right. Moderates just don't seem to exist anymore. From the perspective of right-wing conservativism, the left has gone way off the deep end, espousing ideologies that only a few years ago, would be patently absurd, such as the idea of opening up locker rooms, restrooms and dressing rooms to persons of the opposite sex who psychologically "identify" with the opposite sex. It all seems to be part of a growing fairytale type of narrative in which a person can simply create his, her or its own reality.
2. Growing hostility toward Christians, Jews and conservative groups on our college campuses. Because such groups don't espouse their leftwing ideology, colleges across the nation discriminate against them. For example, the idea that students could be arrested simply for handing out copies of the Constitution would have been utterly unheard of just 10 years ago. The three groups mentioned above are often bullied, threatened, abused, and subject to violence at the hands of secular zealots who have no knowledge of our nation's heritage.
3. An alarming number of school boards and public schools across the country have normalized homosexuality and transgenderism to such an extent that school curriculums are being infected with sex education materials from the LGBT perspective, even down to kindergarten levels. Many schools don't even inform the parents of what their children are being taught in regard to these subjects.
Among the breakthroughs, however are these:
1. The Trump administration is appointing a number of judicially conservative judges at various levels in our judiciary. These judges respect the original intent of the Constitution and hold to a "strict-constructionist" interpretation. This should help turn the tide back the other direction.
2. Such groups as Alliance Defending Freedom and The Beckett Fund, to name two, have been very successful in overturning discriminatory policies on campuses and other places. Such arbitrary areas as "free-speech zones," demarcated by university officials in order to limit free speech to tiny regions on campus, are being successfully challenged.
3. Pastors across the country are slowly starting to wake up and assume responsibility for the moral decay in our culture, as evidenced by the organization Watchmen on the Wall, which was established by Family Research Council to equip pastors with the resources they need to fight secularism and godlessness. The meeting in Richmond, Virginia is setting a precedent in which pastors are starting to endorse and support political candidates who espouse biblical values and a Christian worldview.
You mentioned the case against Ms. Baronelle Stutzman from Richland, Washington. She owns Arlene's Flowers and was punished by the State of Washington for "discriminating" against a homosexual couple who asked her to prepare a floral arrangement for their wedding.
In all good conscience, she graciously declined and offered the services of other florists. They were not satisfied with that and filed a complaint with the State of Washington. Her case went up to the Supreme Court in Washington, who also ruled against her. Right now Alliance Defending Freedom has filed an appeal to the US Supreme Court and is waiting to see if they will take her case.
What is it about this case that concerns you?
What we have here is a gentle, kind elderly woman, a grandmother, who has provided excellent service for years. She has made her floral talents available to everyone and anyone and has employed homosexuals throughout her career. The state of Washington has threatened her livelihood and damaged her reputation for claiming a fictitious form of discrimination. It is one thing to discriminate against a person on the basis of who they are in terms of their genetics (race, ethnicity) and their biological sex (male, female). I would call that ontological or metaphysical discrimination, i.e., against a person's very essence or nature (the Scriptures declare that God is not a respecter of persons). This is altogether different from behavioral discrimination, which means drawing distinctions between different kinds of behavior (in the Scriptures there is a difference between righteous and unrighteous behavior).
Despite claims to the contrary, homosexual behavior has nothing to do with genetics or the basic essence of the human being. It is a certain type of behavior. For example, the Bible clearly demarcates the boundaries of sexuality as that which takes place between one biological male and one biological female married to each other for life. All other sexual behavior is wrong. It is therefore ridiculous to equate racial or gender discrimination with certain forms of sexual behavior.
How confident are you regarding the rights of Christians in this country since we are so politically correct?
I would maintain that biblical Christians have always been in the minority. What is happening however, is that the overall consensus in this country which has guided us for over 200 years is quickly eroding. In the not-too-distant past just about everyone recognized a moral code that ungirded and supported the country's basic outlook. Such a large swath of our populace no longer thinks in terms of moral absolutes or considers certain kinds of behavior as right or wrong. We see that everywhere: Hollywood, the entertainment industry, mainstream news, college campuses, the public-school system and among various government leaders.
What recently has been the biggest challenge for Christian Rights Ministries and organizations like yours?
We feel like David fighting Goliath. Left-wing organizations have very deep pockets. This enables them to raise an army of secularists who can spread and impose their worldview on the populace. It means they can run campaigns and advertisements that carry this false narrative.
What other cases are on the horizon?
I think I may already have mentioned that the US Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case involving a California statute that forces pro-life and crisis pregnancy centers to advertise for the abortion industry. The name of the case is National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra. Also, in Minnesota, be on the lookout for a case entitled Telescope Media Group v. Lindsey, where the Minnesota Human Rights Act is compelling two filmmakers to create films supporting the homosexual lifestyle, something that violates their freedom of conscience. It is likely that another prayer case will also make it up to the Supreme Court involving a county board in North Carolina (Rowan County v. Lund), which routinely opens its meetings with prayer. This practice has been challenged by the ACLU. Another case the Supreme Court might review concerns the issue of gender-identity and the use of restrooms by the opposite sex in Whitaker v. Kenosha Unified School District. This has been precipitated by attempts to re-interpret Title IX's ban on sex discrimination to include gender identity.
Tell us why or why not you feel that we're headed in the right direction as a country when it comes to religious rights.
As it pertains to religious rights, our country has been headed in the wrong direction for a while, and it is going to take time for the ship to turn around. There are encouraging signs on the horizon, as mentioned above, especially if our president can continue to appoint conservative judges and justices to the bench. Having said that, the ignorance among university and school officials, government leaders, the mainstream media and so many others concerning basic religious rights protected by the Constitution is astonishing. Our public-school system has not done its job in providing sufficient instruction in civics, the Constitution and our system of government. Part of our task is to provide community education in these basic issues.