“There is a window of opportunity to fight” for American religious freedom, scholar Eric Metaxas warns in the upcoming documentary One Generation Away: The Erosion of Religious Liberty. Metaxas’ assessment of American Christians and others as “only slightly” readier to defend their convictions than past Christians hideously vanquished by Nazism becomes evident in this important film.
America’s religious freedom is a “remarkable privilege,” policy analyst Jennifer Marshall states in the film prescreened on July 28 at Marshall’s own Heritage Foundation. Yet as the film’s namesake quotation by Ronald Reagan warns in the credits, “freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction,” something not passed “on to our children in the bloodstream.” Marriage analyst Eric Teetsel explains that a believer’s “entire life is to be an act of worship.” Secularists increasingly seek to limit devotion to a few hours weekly in a house of worship. “We have the right to carry what was in our heads into the affairs of our daily life,” Alliance Defending Freedom President Alan Sears concurs.
Numerous incidents illustrate in the film increased hostility to public faith in America. San Diego’s Mount Soledad cross honors America’s fallen, but ACLU lawyer James McElroy condemns this as a “government advertisement for religion” and a “huge billboard” using the “preeminent symbol of Christianity.” Marine veteran Tony Anthony of the Mount Soledad Veterans Association, however, states that veterans “like the memorial as it is.” “Does he want to “take down every cross at Arlington cemetery,” Governor Mike Huckabee asks, bewildered by a cross as a “threat.”
Living American military personnel, meanwhile, face condemnation from Military Religious Freedom Foundation founder Mikey Weinstein for creating a “Pentecostagon.” A “military garrison” not being equivalent to a town square, Weinstein is averse to religious expression in the armed forces. “Open season on proselytization and evangelization” in the military similarly worries Barry Lynn from Americans United for Separation of Church and State. A “subtle warning” emanating from a Bible on an officer’s desk could indicate to subordinates what religious beliefs are beneficial for career advancement.
Kountze High School cheerleaders in Texas are similarly “rude, disrespectful,” according to Freedom from Religion Foundation President Dan Barker. After enduring depositions and hostile lawyers, the cheerleaders defeated Barker’s lawsuit to ban banners with Bible verses as opposed to traditional fight slogans. “It is still un-American,” Barker complains, if only one person at football games objects to such private scripture displays on public property.
“I don’t have any sympathy,” Barker says as well of believers running businesses such as the Hobby Lobby owners who objected to mandated healthcare coverage of abortifacients. Religious freedom is “not the only ideal here,” radical ethicist Peter Singer concurs in discussing Obamacare’s contraception mandate. Yet its massive “fines are a death penalty” for objecting businesses, Sears evaluates. “Morality is usually a grey area” and should be “nuanced,” Barker responds, arguing that abortion and birth control are a “blessing, a good thing for the country” according to some.
Hobby Lobby successfully defended before the United States Supreme Court the right of businesses to refuse contraception on conscience grounds, unlike believing business owners faced with same-sex “marriage” demands. At the “top of our contract” for wedding cake catering is a listing for bride and groom, Melissa Klein reflects on the demise of her Oregon bakery Sweet Cakes by Melissa. Thus her husband Aron asked a woman about her groom while taking an order, only to learn that she intended to “wed” a fellow lesbian. Aron then explained that the Kleins’ Christian beliefs prohibited celebrating homosexuality and apologized for the wasted effort.
Baking cakes was for Melissa “her dream, her heart, her soul,” Aron explained, but homosexual-led boycotts forced Sweet Cakes to close. “Bigotry Bakery” and “Make Cake, Not Hate” on protestors signs condemned the Kleins. Fortunately for the Kleins’ finances at least, Aron found a job as trash truck driver. “When God closes one door, He opens another,” Melissa faithfully says.
Like Arlene’s Flowers owner Barronelle Stutzman in Washington State, now facing suit for refusing to arrange flowers for a male same-sex ceremony “because of her relationship with Jesus Christ,” the Kleins also faced legal repercussions. “The goal is to rehabilitate,” Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian said in considering a discrimination lawsuit against the Kleins. Such “almost Orwellian” language denounced by Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore reminds Singer’s Princeton University colleague Robert George of Communist dictatorships.
People like the Kleins and Stutzman are “not comfortable with being real Americans,” Barker claims. A refusal to participate in same-sex ceremonies is a “slap in the face” for homosexuals. “We are more comfortable with our own kind,” such vendors are saying, according to Lynn, who makes oft-invoked analogies between the civil rights and LGBT movements.
This analogy is “disgraceful” for George given the enormous suffering inflicted by racism in slavery and segregation. African-Americans like Bishop Henry Jackson also largely reject this unwelcome appropriation of an honored legacy. After all, the “Bible was the standard for the civil rights movement,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s niece Alveda King observes. Turning the tables, Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson asks how homosexuals would consider a demand to make signs for the notoriously hateful Westboro Baptist Church or Jews a demand to serve Nazis.
“You can only project with fear and trembling” trends in America, however bad now, Texas megachurch pastor Jack Graham worries. America is “on the same trajectory” as Europe, Simon Calvert of the United Kingdom’s Christian Institute judges, where France is already a “very hard place to do business” for evangelicals. “Whenever Europe sneezes, America catches a cold,” is Kings College President Gregory Thornbury’s metaphor.
“We have to be careful,” Calvert cautions in discussing religious freedom infringements in democracies like the United States. “Real suffering” abroad involves believers losing lives and property to actual violence because of faith, British Lord Alton reminds. “This has been an age of the martyrs,” Anderson agrees.
Saving humanity’s “last best hope” for religious freedom in America will require alliances across denominational and faith lines says Anderson, quoting Reagan. “We are all Catholic,” the Protestant Huckabee says if, as recently the case, Catholic conscience rights come under assault. Indeed, Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black’s “virulently anti-Catholic” views influenced his watershed 1947 Everson v. Board of Education “wall of separation between church and state,” Catholic Senator Rick Santorum notes. “We can discuss our doctrinal differences over a cup of coffee later,” Catholic evangelist Jesse Romero says of different faith communities fighting for freedom together.
Speaking “truth with the right tone” will mean that America’s “common sense will govern,” Graham is confident. “One spark of revival can change an entire nation,” Thornbury states with similar optimism. “We can turn the tide,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins concurs, by turning away from political correctness back towards God.
“Aimed right at the heart of the church” in Santorum’s description at the Heritage Foundation screening, One Generation Away will be available beginning September 1 from EchoLight Studios. To “turn churches into theaters” is EchoLight Studios CEO Santorum’s strategy for an “alternative distribution system” outside of commercial cinemas. EchoLight Studios President Jeff Sheets noted that churches in America dwarf theaters in numbers, a fact of key cultural significance.
“Art, by and large, was made for the church,” in centuries past, Santorum observed. Now amidst secular popular entertainment, though, churches are “still using communication techniques of the days of Jesus Christ.” In a “battle today between two revolutions,” the American and the French, and their respective “God-given” and “government-given rights,” Santorum wants to give conservatives modern entertainment technology for the culture war. Leftists in the film such as abortion is a “blessing” Barker “scare the hell out of me,” Santorum in particular noted, making the film a valuable public education tool.
Moreover, the culture war “battlefield is not getting better for us,” Santorum assessed in light of the close 5-4 Hobby Lobby case Supreme Court majority. Chicago Cardinal Francis George famously “expected to die in bed” while “my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square,” Santorum recalled. The “sooner we engage the better,” as ongoing leftist indoctrination could sway younger generations who will in turn control Washington, DC’s cultural “followers,” i.e. politicians. Sheets recalls a passage by Thomas Paine, “If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace.”