Religious Freedom Under Attack . . . Again

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Last week, pastors in Texas faced an attack of their freedoms of religion and speech when city officials subpoenaed their sermons, and this week the attack centers on a couple in Idaho who own a wedding chapel and refuse to perform ceremonies for homosexual couples. This is a story that liberals promised would never come, but it’s already here. The Christian couple, Donald and Evelyn Knapp, operate Hitching Post Wedding Chapel.* They now face possible jail time or thousands of dollars in fines because they respectfully declined to marry a same-sex couple.

Since the federal courts for the District of Idaho have “held unconstitutional Idaho’s statutes and constitutional amendments preventing same-sex couples from marrying and refusing to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere,” the city of Coeur d’Alene claims that its “non-discrimination”ordinance requires the Knapps to marry same-sex couples. According to reports, when the Knapps declined to perform a gay marriage, they subjected themselves to jail time and fines for their refusal. This is nothing short of yet another assault on the religious freedom of all Americans.

To protect their fundamental right to exercise freedom of religion in accordance with their Christian faith, and their freedom of speech, guaranteed under the Constitution of the United States, the Knapps have had to file a lawsuit in federal court requesting a restraining order against the city government. The Alliance Defending Freedom, who are representing the Knapps in the federal lawsuit, said the following:

The government should not force ordained ministers to act contrary to their faith under threat of jail time and criminal fines . . . Many have denied that pastors would ever be forced to perform ceremonies that are completely at odds with their faith, but that’s what is happening here—and it’s happened this quickly. The city is on seriously flawed legal ground, and our lawsuit intends to ensure that this couple’s freedom to adhere to their own faith as pastors is protected just as the First Amendment intended. . . . The government exists to protect and respect our freedoms, not attack them. . . . The city cannot erase these fundamental freedoms and replace them with government coercion and intolerance.

Over the years as movements like the LGBT rights movement have picked up speed, we’ve been told that Christians don’t need to worry—we are free to have our beliefs, but that is demonstrably not true. The government is clearly no longer respecting or upholding the First Amendment. Instead, it is punishing people for having—and holding to—religious convictions, namely Christian ones. As liberal judges—who do not base their thinking even remotely on God’s Word—continue to make rulings, our religious freedoms will continue to dwindle. The Knapps’ refusal to perform this ceremony is a biblical stance that is being completely disregarded by authorities. Marriage is for one man and one woman because our Creator is the author of marriage and only He has the right to say what marriage is and is not. And marriage is not for two men or two women. As Jesus says, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female’, and said ‘For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” (Matthew 19:4–5). Marriage is for one man and one woman—period. However, our society prides itself on being “tolerant,” but this is a false kind of tolerance that is completely intolerant—is actually opposed—to the absolutes of Christianity. Society is “tolerant”of you as long as you are wiling to accept anything and everything as fine. As soon as you take an absolute stand against something because of biblical convictions, you face the wrath of society and the government.

Our society is rapidly not just drifting away from its once-biblical foundation, but it is actively and aggressively attacking this foundation. For years, Christian leaders, including myself, have been saying that we are heading toward a time when Christians are going to be persecuted and even jailed for what they believe. Many people thought we were crazy, that nothing like that would ever happen in America, but it’s happening right now before our eyes. Christians need to be bold and stand firmly for what Scripture teaches. Our culture has adopted the foundation of “everyone doing what is right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25) instead of doing what is right in God’s eyes. Without an absolute authority, anything goes. But we as believers are called to “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29), and this means standing against a culture that seeks to replace God’s Word with man’s sinful ideas. Sadly, while America’s government has traditionally recognized that religious freedom is an important right (not a privilege granted at the whim of the authorities!), increasingly it is attacking those who choose to exercise their religious freedom by making decisions that are unpopular in today’s world. In the case of these two pastors, the government is claiming that their “non-discrimination”ordinance requires they not discriminate against homosexuals, but what the government is really doing is discriminating against—and threatening—two Christians who are seeking to obey and honor God and His Word.

These kinds of attacks shouldn’t surprise us, however. The Holy Spirit, through Peter, warned us to expect such trials:

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now “If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?” Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator. (1 Peter 4:12–19)

Even when our freedoms are attacked, we can rejoice because we are partaking in Christ’s sufferings and His glory is being revealed. In fact, Scripture teaches that we are blessed when we are “reproached for the name of Christ.” In the end, we have nothing to fear because “at the name of Jesus every knee [will] bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue [will] confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10–11).

It can be discouraging to look around America and see this kind of thing happening but we should also keep in mind that there is a remnant—a large remnant—that still stands solidly on biblical authority. I meet these people every day here at the museum or while I am out speaking. It’s a bigger remnant than most people realize and that’s certainly encouraging.

I encourage you to pray for our fellow believers, this nation, and for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1–2), that they will make godly, wise decisions and will not be like the Israelites who were warned with, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20). Of course, the most important thing we need to do—the only thing that is going to change the attitudes of this nation—is preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the gospel and the indwelling Holy Spirit that changes hearts and lives.

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,

Update: City officials have reportedly determined that the new ordinance does not apply to the Knapps’ religious organization since it offers only religious services, and have asked them to dismiss their federal lawsuit.

This item was written with the assistance of AiG's research team.

* While we do not know the Knapps’ specific beliefs on the Bible, theology, and whether they would stand with Answers in Genesis, this incident is yet another example of the increasing intolerance and persecution of Christians in this declining culture.

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