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Laws Protecting Religious Liberty Are Meaningless if Those in Power Don't Implement Them

U.S. Supreme Court is seen in Washington, U.S., November 27, 2017.
U.S. Supreme Court is seen in Washington, U.S., November 27, 2017. | (Photo: REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)

There is a very powerful 'true to life' scene in the DVD series "Winds of War' which in my view, counters many of the issues confronting the world today.

This is the scene: It is 1939. There is a wedding in a town 40 miles inside Poland from the Czeck border and the morning after - the guests are woken early to say leave quickly. The Germans had crossed the border. Poland was being invaded.

Five of them leave in the motor car, an American naval officer, a young woman friend and her uncle, along with the newly married couple. On their way to Warsaw they come to a town under the control of the Polish military and the guards stop the vehicle and demand it.

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The American naval office gets out and challenges this explaining who he is and his passport is required, and together with the guard, they head to the town's military commander. The American demands he ring the American Embassy in Warsaw, instead the military commander confiscates his passport for 24 hours.

Here's the rub. He returns to the car and the occupants and tells them what has happened and says, we need to get out here, and they head off towards Warsaw. His woman friend says - "It's illegal to take your passport, they cannot do that!" His response was "But, he has the guns".

So too in life

In many parts of the world today, what is written down in a constitution or state laws or by-laws applies under the circumstances in which the governing authorities permit. A test case for this is happening right now under our noses in Indonesia with Ahock's blasphemy trial..

Many Christians in countries where persecution exists face situations where the law of the land guarantees religious freedom, and moreover, has laws giving women's rights, there are anti-discrimination laws, but in reality, they only apply if you are on the side of those who hold the guns.

There is example after example in the Christian media that countries where religious freedom is a guarantee, Christians are persecuted on trumped up charges and where there is clear evidence, perpetrators go free.

The law is an instrument that can be legally construed. A NZ Herald article led with this first sentence: The parents of Madeleine McCann were last night 'bitterly disappointed' after losing their eight-year libel battle against a former police chief who accused them of hiding their daughter's death.

The couple had won 500,000 euro (NZ$739,000) damages, he appealed as under Portuguese law, this was never handed over to them while proceedings were ongoing.

The appeal Judges ruled Amaral's "exercise of his freedom of expression was not considered abusive" and "was within admissible limits in a democratic and open society, which excludes the illegality of possible damage to the honour of the McCanns."


This happened in Pakistan, beloved hockey players and cricketers, yet there are horrific stories. This is one from Christian Today news service:

More than 100 houses were ransacked, looted and then burned on 9 March, 2013, in Lahore's Joseph Colony. Police said the rioting was first sparked by an argument between a Christian and a Muslim. Sawan Masih, a sweeper, had been chatting with his Muslim friend, Shahid Imran, when they began discussing religion.

The next day, Imran claimed Masih had spoken blasphemously against Islam's prophet, a crime punishable by death in Pakistan. Press reports said a mosque aired the complaint from loudspeakers. Upwards of 2,000 men then converged on the Joseph Colony, where Masih lived, threatening to burn Christians in their homes unless they left. All the Christians fled.

Later that night, Masih was handed to the police. He has been in jail ever since and in March 2014 was sentenced to death for blasphemy and fined 200,000 rupees (around $2,000). He has appealed to Lahore's High Court.

Ulterior motives are often suspected in blasphemy cases, with accusations used to settle personal scores or disputes over land. Following the attack on Joseph Colony, the Punjab government vowed to rebuild the community and provide land rights to the residents, but this has yet to happen.

What does this mean

It means unless you have a liberal democracy as illustrated in Australia, it is he who has the guns rules regardless of what is written in any constitution.

This also happens across the spectrum - in companies, big business, the corporate world, politics, social clubs, sports organisations, churches, missions ... you name it. It is common in Churches too, where one or two families or a small group of people, dominate small congregations. A cursory glance at their history reveals short term ministries.

Having said all that, one way forward (as it were) is to be on the side of those who hold the guns. Another way is a Gospel reflection, where there is a balance between forgiveness and the biblical announcements on accountability. Indeed, he who lives by the sword dies by the sword.

This article is courtesy of Press Service International and originally appeared on Christian Today Australia.

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