Domestic Religious Liberty

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July 10, 2018

Presbyterian Church USA Denounces Religious Freedom Protection

The governing body of the fast declining 1.4 million-member Presbyterian Church (USA) last month passed an overture concerning religious freedom. The document denounced religious freedom protections for persons “[depriving] people of their civil and human rights to equal protection under the law”, using “’religious freedom’ to justify exclusion and discrimination.”

Presbyterian commissioners gathered for the biennial General Assembly June 16-23 in St. Louis. On the agenda were topics like gun violence, racism, and other social justice issues. Also present was the topic of human rights in relation to religious liberty. Members of the Social Justice Issues Committee asserted religious freedom has the means by which individuals “discriminate against or impose one’s views upon others.” In the resolution drafted as a response, the committee wrote “’religious freedom’ has become a weapon aimed at excluding, marginalizing, and discriminating against a vulnerable population.” The PCUSA has come to understand that the Church is “to be opposed to discrimination on matters of gender orientation and identity, and in support of freedom of the conscience in matters of reproductive rights.”

This view echoes what LGBTQ organizations and abortion rights advocacy groups have been saying. Instead of siding with religious freedom, as many U.S. religious bodies have, the PCUSA has sided with sexual progressives. Ironically, in the early 1990’s, the PCUSA endorsed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but the liberalized denomination, which has since abandoned its previously orthodox stance on sexuality, has backtracked on religious freedom.  Clearly secular individualism and autonomy are, for the Presbyterian Church (USA), taking precedence over both historic Christian teachings and traditional respect for conscience rights.

Commissioners at the General Assembly tried to rationalize the document by highlighting cases they felt exemplified exploitation of religious freedom for discrimination. The Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court sided with a Christian baker who declined to bake a gay wedding cake, was cited. In the committee’s view, the plaintiff, Jack Phillips, sought to “justify discrimination by cloaking it in constitutionally protected ‘religious freedom’.”

Presbyterians also claimed the Supreme Court Justices ruled unfairly in Burrell v. Hobby Lobby concerning the provision of contraception. The decision ruled private businesses cannot be forced to subsidize contraceptives and abortifacients if at odds with conscience and religious beliefs.   Other cases cited included a 2016 Texas ruling by District Judge Reed O’Connor stating that “doctors could refuse to treat transgender persons as well as women who had previous abortions”. Also cited was an Illinois law stating Catholic charities could decline adoption to unmarried and same-sex couples.  Several other jurisdictions have effectively forced Catholic adoption agencies to close because they won’t collaborate with LGBTQ.  Presbyterians, in this case, side with governments against the church.

The Social Justice Committee “concluded that no form of discrimination is defensible on religious grounds.” For the committee’s supposed theological basis for this idea, they wrote that “the fundamental principle of universal human dignity rests on the biblical foundation that humankind is created in the image if God (Gen. 1:27).” The intent was to put biblical weight behind the idea that not to perform certain tasks or condone certain activities means to deny the image of God that is in each person.

In its simplest form, the Presbyterian Church (USA) overture claims Christians and others should comply and participate in any activity asked of them by the state and wider society regardless of whether or not it goes against religious beliefs. If Catholics are asked to provide insurance policies that include contraception, according to the PCUSA, they should provide it. If pastors are asked to perform a homosexual wedding, they should, without question, do so.  Religious hospitals and personnel, regardless of mission statements or personal beliefs, should perform abortions.

The Presbyterian Church USA purportedly strives to balance religious freedom while retaining “equal respect for the dignity of all persons.” Now, almost certainly, the commissioners would respect the rights of religious pacifists to refuse service in the military, or for religious persons to refuse collaboration with immigration and border policies they deem unjust.   Rather, it appears the Presbyterians refuse religious freedom primarily when it’s contested by the ongoing and expanding demands of the now 50 year old Sexual Revolution.


10 Responses to Presbyterian Church USA Denounces Religious Freedom Protection

  1. Loren Golden says:

    “The PCUSA has come to understand that the Church is ‘to be opposed to discrimination on matters of gender orientation and identity, and in support of freedom of the conscience in matters of reproductive rights.’”

    I am so thankful that both of the PC(USA) churches of which I have been a member (Eastminster in Wichita and Colonial in Kansas City) are now in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and are not required to support this self-destructive madness with their per capita contributions.

  2. William says:

    So, Jack Phillips read Matthew 19:4-6 and Mark 10:6-9 thus BELIEVING and FOLLOWING what Jesus taught about God’s created order for marriage and, therefore, practiced discrimination by following his Savior? Does this also mean that the PCUSA also sees Jesus as a discriminator?

    The PCUSA has ceased being a Christian church, and, instead is now just another secular social activists organization.

    • Rick Plasterer says:

      Also relevant is Matt. 18:7-9, in which Jesus says that contributing to sin is sin itself. Not only is state law contrary to Jesus’ teaching about marriage, Jesus clearly commands us not to comply with it.

      Rick Plasterer

      • William says:

        Rick,
        You point out a most significant thing here. Progressives try to portray Jesus as all accepting and all inclusive — never mind the sobering revelations regarding sinful behavior and the consequences of hell that he proclaimed. They have put together a designer Jesus that conforms to their whims, desires, and pleasures — often using love as the foundation of their distortions. This is the crux of the conflict in the UMC. Progressives have edited their Bibles, thus transferring the authority of Scripture to themselves. Orthodox Methodists dare not go there since they vehemently believe that Biblical authority rests with God.

  3. Dan W says:

    Our First Amendment rights don’t allow us to freely slander, libel or commit perjury. Our Second Amendment rights don’t permit us to assault and murder (despite what you may have been told.) Religious freedom protections don’t allow us to harmfully discriminate. Would the PC USA force a Catholic Priest to perform a wedding for a Methodist couple, or force a Rabbi to perform a Unitarian wedding? Where should the lines be drawn? Obviously the PC USA is OK with drawing lines – they just want to be the ones drawing them.

  4. Lance Thomas says:

    Judas Iscariot kissed Jesus on the cheek. PCUSA slaps Jesus’ bride in the face.

  5. Loren Golden says:

    “God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in anything contrary to his Word, or beside it, in matters of faith or worship.”

    PC(USA) Presbyterians very often insist that they believe strongly in the freedom of conscience, frequently quoting this statement, enshrined as §F-3.0101 of the PC(USA) Book of Order.

    However, it is taken from a longer quote from the Westminster Confession of Faith, the larger context of which Progressive Presbyterians simply ignore:

    “God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in anything contrary to his Word, or beside it, in matters of faith or worship.  So that to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commandments out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience; and the requiring an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.
    “They who, upon pretense of Christian liberty, do practice any sin, or cherish any lust, do thereby destroy the end of Christian liberty; which is, that, being delivered out of the hands of our enemies (i.e., “being delivered from this present evil world, bondage to Satan, and dominion of sin”; see WCF XX.1), we might serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.” (WCF XX.2-XX.3; PC(USA) Book of Confessions §6.109-§6.110)

    Homosexual practice (Lev. 18.22, I Cor. 6.9-10), coveting one’s neighbor’s gender (Ex. 20.17) or acting on desires to somehow “become” the opposite gender of that with which one was born (Dt. 22.5, 23.1), and abortion (Gen. 1.26-27, Ps. 127.3, 139.13-16, Ex. 20.13, 21.22-25) are all sins against the Lord.  To be sure, there are many who have committed these things but have since repented of them, trusted in the Lord Jesus’ atoning death on the Cross, and have been restored to a right relationship with God (I Cor. 6.11).  However, to bind one’s conscience to the belief that the Church of Jesus Christ is somehow called “to be opposed to discrimination on matters of gender orientation and identity, and in support of freedom of the conscience in matters of reproductive rights,” when these “matters“ are sins, and especially to deny freedom of conscience to those who oppose these “matters” on Biblical grounds, is to fundamentally undermine the reason for which God “hath left (the conscience) free from the doctrines and commandments of men,“ namely, that we should be free from the power of sin exercised through the desires of the flesh, the anti-Christian subversive and coercive influence of the world, and the diabolical influences of the Devil, in order that we should “serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.”

    And for PC(USA) leaders to bemoan the annual membership losses that the denomination has suffered every year since 1965, when they actively oppose his revealed will in these matters while neglecting the proclamation of the Gospel of Salvation through faith alone in Christ alone, which is “of first importance” (I Cor. 15.3-4), is monumentally hypocritical.

  6. Had the constitutional framers (like their early 1600 Christian forbears) established government on Yahweh’s unchanging moral law (including Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13), there would be no homosexual agenda in America because no sodomite or lesbian would dare risk exposing themselves to petition government for their “rights.” Nor would any church, etc. opening promote their perversion.

    Like a moth to a flame, Christians are intent on employing the genesis of their problems as the solution. In this instance, the First Commandment violating First Amendment.

    Religious Freedom and Christian Liberty are not the same thing. They are, in fact, hostile to each other. The former is born of the First Amendment. The latter is born of the First Commandment. In 1789, the First Commandment and Christian Liberty were formally sacrificed on the altar of the First Amendment and Religious Freedom. Christian liberty is being attacked as a consequence of the First Amendment’s provision for an alleged religious freedom for all.

    It’s one thing to allow for individual freedom of conscience and private choice of gods, something impossible to legislate for or against. It’s another matter altogether for government to enable any and all religions to proliferate through the land and evangelize our posterity to false gods. This is what the First Amendment legitimizes. It is an unequivocal violation of the First Commandment and the polar opposite of the following First Commandment statute:

    ‘[Y]e shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves. For thou shall worship no other god: for Yahweh, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God: Lest thou … go a whoring after their gods….’ (Exodus 34:13-15)….”

    It’s the First Amendment that the sodomites, lesbians, and atheists hang their hats on and that they’ve been able to utilize for their cause. It’s likewise the First Amendment that so many Christians hang their hat on as if there’s something intrinsically Christian about it when, in fact, it is entirely antithetical to the Bible. It’s thus suicide for Christians to appeal to the First Amendment in any fashion whatsoever.

    For more, see online Chapter 11 “Amendment 1: Government-Sanctioned Polytheism” of “Bible Law vs. the United States Constitution: The Christian Perspective” at http://www.bibleversusconstitution.org/BlvcOnline/biblelaw-constitutionalism-pt11.html.

    Then find out how much you really know about the Constitution as compared to the Bible. Take our 10-question Constitution Survey in the right-hand sidebar and receive a complimentary copy of a book that examines the Constitution by the Bible.

  7. Loren Golden says:

    Jayda,

    What is the context of the quote at the end of your second paragraph (“to be opposed to discrimination…”)?  Was it a statement that was made by the Stated Clerk or one of the Co-Moderators?  Was it a resolution that was approved by the whole Assembly?  Also, what is the full quote?

  8. John Smith says:

    When you convert from a church to a PAC your priorities change.

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