In Vol. 22, Issue 3 the article “What would George Say?” reports that AIG is suing the state of Kentucky. Why do ye not suffer yourselves to be defrauded? Why not, like Abraham, “dig another well”? I see a lack of Christlikeness in initiating a lawsuit. I, for one, cannot support this action. It is not love of enemies.
Hello, Paul. Thank you for writing to Answers in Genesis with your question.
The Apostle Paul mentions the court system as a place for contentious matters to be decided outside the church. Church problems, on the other hand, should not be taken to the court system, Paul states, but should be judged within the church (1 Corinthians 5).
Acts 21–22 is highly instructive. These chapters recount Paul’s arrest for a crime he did not commit. The Roman authorities arrested him, and
the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, and said that he should be examined under scourging, so that he might know why they shouted so against him. And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who stood by, “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and uncondemned?”
When the centurion heard that, he went and told the commander, saying, “Take care what you do, for this man is a Roman.”
Then the commander came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman?”
He said, “Yes.”
The commander answered, “With a large sum I obtained this citizenship.”
And Paul said, “But I was born a citizen.”
Then immediately those who were about to examine him withdrew from him; and the commander was also afraid after he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him. (Acts 22:24–29)
Paul used the Roman law and his citizenship to protect himself from religious persecution. There was nothing wrong with Paul using the legal system. Likewise, the law is clearly on AiG’s side in our struggle with the state of Kentucky as we seek the protection of our own rights to free speech and association, free exercise of religion, due process and equal protection, guaranteed by the state and federal laws and the Constitution, and to protect against unlawful viewpoint discrimination by the state. If the state’s actions are not challenged, who knows which ministry or church the state will go after next?
Our decision to pursue legal action against the state of Kentucky is not done out of a desire for personal gain, and neither does it display a lack of Christlikeness. It is much like what the Apostle Paul did in Acts 22:25. He asserted his rights as a Roman citizen to prevent unlawful action being taken against him. Had he remained silent, it would have only opened the way for increased boldness by the Jewish leaders to illegally harass and persecute Christians at will. It was Paul’s (not so veiled) threat of taking legal action if he were to be scourged which totally changed the governing authorities’ policies of “unlawful seizure.” Should Paul have remained silent through all this and turned the other cheek? He didn’t think so in this situation. Although he was willing to suffer persecution in Lystra, he was not willing to let a Roman official violate Roman law.
To allow the state of Kentucky to remain unchallenged in an illegal act of discrimination would only further encourage state officials to discriminate unlawfully against Christian organizations (and business owners).
You quoted a portion of 1 Corinthians 6:7 in your letter, but we would point out that you left out the context of that verse—which is that we are not to individually sue other believers, and we are not to cheat others (1 Corinthians 6:6–8). This passage says nothing about not suing a regional secular government that was violating its own laws and the laws of the nation, especially in the context of standing up for Christian legal rights (rights which are recognized as inviolate in the First Amendment).
We are calling the state of Kentucky to task for violating federal and Kentucky state laws which guarantee the free exercise of religion without discrimination. Please know that we did not file this suit until we had spent several months talking (respectfully) to state officials to point out their illegal actions, yet to no avail. Filing a lawsuit was not a kneejerk reaction but was done reluctantly—and filed to help preserve religious liberty for all Christians in the state and prevent establishing a hostile and discriminatory precedent.
You also mentioned Isaac’s desire to maintain peace and “dig new wells of water” found in Genesis 26. But we must point out that you did not mention that Abraham rebuked Abimelech because of a well of water which Abimelech’s servants had seized in Genesis 21:25. Calling someone to account for their wrong actions is not a hatred of enemies. It is using biblical discernment and judgment.
Again, thank you for writing.
Paul wrote back to us after receiving the above response and made some additional remarks, which we would like to also address. His text is below:
Thank you for your considered answer to my inquiry. Regarding the actions of the Apostle Paul, I must apologize for not understanding Paul to be initiating a lawsuit. It would seem that the soldiers were over reacting to the crowd and Paul reminded them of their legal manners. You have reminded the state of Kentucky of its breach of manners but unlike the soldiers, Kentucky is holding its position. I do not see in Paul's example justification to take action beyond reminder of manners when such reminder is ignored.
In the Genesis example, we see just the opposite. When Abraham reminded Abimelech of his manners, he responded and there was peace between them. Years later, Abimelech's men breached the manners on Isaac who took no further action with Abimelech. Thus between the situations in Acts and Genesis we see that AIG should not initiate a lawsuit just like Isaac did not initiate any action with Abimelech. I further reiterate that lawsuit is not a love of enemies.
We replied with the following:
In response to your emails, I would ask you this question: if your state clearly acted illegally against your own local church, and hindered the church’s proclamation of its messages (e.g., told not to speak against same-sex marriage or be fined—or lose its tax exempt status), should the church not use the court system to rectify the wrong situation and defend its religious liberty guaranteed under the law? Or do you think the church should just stop proclaiming Christian values because the government told them to? Of course you wouldn’t.
Frankly, what if all churches took this “turn the cheek” attitude in response to government demands? We can turn to the government to redress grievances, as the Apostle Paul did. He clearly did not turn the other cheek when he was clearly wronged. Holding a state accountable to its own laws (and also federal laws) is not a matter of not loving your enemy, it is a matter of not allowing Christianity (and the gospel) to be silenced or impeded, just as the disciples stated in Acts 5:29. Loss of tax exemption and state-approved funding is just the first step in trying to silence Christian organizations and churches from proclaiming the gospel.
Of course, the Apostle Paul was not living in a democratic republic with a constitution and 200 years of national and legal history influenced by biblical Christianity as we are, so he didn’t take the exact same course of action as we are taking. And he was only protecting himself from unlawful punishment, whereas we are contending for religious liberty in a situation that could have vast repercussions for the whole body of Christ in America. But in principle we are doing exactly what Paul did—holding the local governing authority responsible to the laws of the nation. Christians must continue to be salt and light on the moral issues that threaten to destroy society and even the nation as we know it.