Rick Plasterer is a staff writer for IRD concerned particularly with domestic religious liberty. He attended Eastern Mennonite College (now University) receiving a B.A. degree in history and sociology, and an M.S. in library science from Drexel University.
Moral autonomy, the reigning doctrine of our age, is seriously inhibiting both truth and freedom for the gospel … Because the relativist challenge to truth and morality is so wide ranging, a successful strategy has to be on many fronts. It has to affect the “core of what people believe.”
It is not the case that Jesus would have baked a cake to be used in a homosexual celebration. Rather his words in the New Testament clearly show that such an act is a sin, worthy of hellfire. Nor would Jesus, or the apostles, have obeyed a requirement of the civil authorities to commit such a sin.
While a return to the atheistic, communist past seems unlikely in the republics of the former Soviet Union, the features of religious persecution in that era, most notably prohibition or restriction of religious education, especially to the young, burdensome registration of churches, and state preference for a few, familiar religious groups, seems to be returning. The general situation bears vigilance and activism by Christians in the West, and, when needed, official action by the U.S. and western governments to prevent further deterioration of religious freedom, and recovery of what has been lost.
With the possible exception of a temporary improvement in Vietnam, nowhere has America’s religious freedom policy actually improved an on-the-ground situation for religious freedom in another country … [but] seriously advancing religious freedom as a foreign policy objective serves other American interests, specifically 1) stabilization of areas, particularly the Middle East, which are riven by severe social and political conflict, 2) counterterrorism, and 3) humanitarian concern.
If Christians and other similarly committed traditional religious believers are to function in society, their consciences must be accommodated. If they are not accommodated, they cannot function in any area of their lives to the extent that they are not accommodated.
The primacy of religious freedom in the social order of free societies, historically acknowledged in America if not perfectly realized, is today under intense attack by secularist thinkers and their followers, whose true object is not state neutrality about religion, but the elimination in practice, and ultimately, in belief of religious doctrines they object to.
Do Christians really believe, and are they committed to the claims of Biblical faith, to God’s lordship, the uniqueness of his truth revealed in the Bible, and the moral precepts set forth in it? Our liturgies, sermons, and prayers resound with claims of God’s lordship, and its superiority over anything else … Nothing is more vital to freedom than liberty of conscience, nothing is a greater injustice to the individual than the government requiring that person to violate his or her conscience. If people are required to do what they are convinced is wrong, the formerly free societies of the West will effectively become a tyranny, which has no regard for the worth of the lives of its subjects.
In the kind of “mission creep” not uncommon in the “human rights” bureaucracies established in the West in the last generation, whatever the left deems “progressive” will … be removed from public discussion and made state doctrine, enforceable in all of life. Increasingly, the West will resemble the pre-1989 communist East, with which the western left was allied in the Cold War, with all of society, public and private, subject to its ideology, and no legal opposition possible.
A religious institution primarily serves God, not the state or its clients. For Christians in particular, the “good work” of providing medical care is part of the exercise of their religion. So for certain purposes, such as abortion, a Catholic or other religious pro-life hospital is really not in the picture. This is another attempt to prevent religious social service as part of a general attack on the independence of the intermediate institutions (such as families, churches, and charities) in society. Without these intermediate institutions, society will be left with the individual standing alone before the state, and the morality its elites imposed on society in the name of health and well-being.
The logic of the antidiscrimination regime assumes that organizations serving the public exist primarily for their stated secular purposes: schools to teach, hospitals to care for the sick, secular charities to attend to the indigent, etc. Reasonably they then function on secular principles. The principle purpose of religious service organizations on the other hand, whether educational, charitable, medical, broadcasting and publishing, or whatever, is to serve God, not principally to provide the social services they offer.