Pastors, They’re Coming for You!

  
OK, I get it.

The title of this article sounds conspiratorial and inflammatory. In fact, it sounds like a “shock” headline designed to get your attention. Who, after all, is this ambiguous “they” I’m referring to, and why are “they” coming for “you” — referring obviously to Christian leaders? And what, pray tell, are “they” coming to do to “you?”
So I’ll admit it. I did come up with the title of this article for shock value, but the fact is, you need to be shocked. It is only sensational because it is true.
Consider this October 26 headline on Fox News: “State of Georgia demands pastor turn over sermons.” Yes, “A lay minister who is suing the Georgia Department of Public Health for religious discrimination has been ordered by the state’s attorney general to relinquish his sermons to the government, according to federal court documents.”
In the words of Attorney General Samuel Olens, “Please produce a copy of your sermon notes and/or transcripts.”
And why is the state of Georgia demanding his sermon notes and/or transcripts?
As Todd Starnes reports, “Walsh, a Seventh-day Adventist lay minister had been hired in May 2014 as a District Health Director with the Georgia Department of Public Health. A week later, a government official asked him to submit copies of his sermons for review. He complied and two days later he was fired.”
In other words, he was not fired because of any lack of qualification. To the contrary, he was highly qualified for the job.
As noted by attorney David French, Walsh’s resumé included “working for former President Bush and President Obama to combat AIDS, serving as a board member of the Latino Health Collaborative, and starting California’s first city-run dental clinic for low-income families dealing with HIV/AIDS,” but that “wasn’t sufficient to overcome the horror at Walsh’s Christian views.”
Yes, Walsh was fired for the unpardonable sin of preaching against homosexual practice, based on Scripture — and note that he was preaching this to his fellow-congregants, not giving a lecture to his staff. As Walsh’s lead attorney Jeremy Dys said, “He was fired for something he said in a sermon. If the government is allowed to fire someone over what he said in his sermons, they can come after any of us for our beliefs on anything.”
Yes, continued Dys, “It’s an incredible intrusion on the sanctity of the pulpit. This is probably the most invasive reach into the pulpit by the state that I’ve ever seen.”
It’s No Surprise

But this should not surprise us at all. As I pointed out in 2013:
Already in April, 2009, an article in the Washington Post documented how, “Faith organizations and individuals who view homosexuality as sinful and refuse to provide services to gay people are losing a growing number of legal battles that they say are costing them their religious freedom.”
This was confirmed by Georgetown Law Professor Chai Feldblum, appointed by President Obama to serve on the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and herself an out and proud lesbian, when she remarked that when religious liberty and sexual liberty conflict, “I’m having a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win.”
That’s why Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran, was fired for his personally held beliefs about sexuality and marriage.
That’s why Dr. Angela McCaskill, associate provost of diversity and inclusion at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. (and herself deaf), was suspended from her job for signing a petition at her local church which called for a public vote on same-sex “marriage” (rather than for a legislative decision).
That’s why Crystal Dixon was fired from her position as Associate Vice President of Human Resources at the University of Toledo for writing an editorial in her local newspaper, taking issue with the idea that gay is the new black.
And the list goes on and on, growing on a regular basis, as I and others have documented now for years. (Just check out the chapter “Big Brother Is Watching, and He Really Is Gay” in A Queer Thing Happened to America for some sobering examples.)
And I used these three examples here because in each case, gay sensitivities not only trumped religious rights, they also demonstrated that, when it comes to “gay rights,” even black Americans can be perceived as victimizers rather than victims (Cochran, McCaskill, and Dixon were all black).
As we have now learned with Dr. Walsh (did I mention he’s black as well?), not even the pulpits are safe.
But this too should not surprise us. After all, it was just last year that Annise Parker, the lesbian mayor of Houston, along with the city attorney, David Feldman, demanded that five local pastors turn over their sermons, speeches, presentations, and even emails to congregants which addressed the issues of homosexuality and gender identity, among other subjects.
It was only when Parker and Feldman came under intense national pressure that they backed down, with Parker still denying that “the request[s] were in any way illegal or intended to intrude on religious liberties.” (I document this in detail in the chapter “The Day the Line Was Crossed” in Outlasting the Gay Revolution.)
With all respect to the mayor’s position, her explanation was absolute rubbish, and there is no question that what she did intruded on religious liberties.
The Church Must Resist!

As I warned last week, if Hillary Clinton is elected, this will only get worse. Even if Donald Trump is elected, abuses like this will continue on a local level for years to come. There’s only thing that can stop it, and that is simply the Church of Jesus, led by its pastors and elders, standing up to speak what is right and do what is right, regardless of cost or consequence. If we do, the tide will turn.
Now, I’m quite aware that I sound like a broken record, having written on this theme three times in two weeks, including this article (see here and here).
But I will keep sounding the alarm until God’s people wake up — beginning with the leaders — and with yet another example staring us in the face, we sleep on to our own peril, not to mention our lasting shame.
In recent days, I’ve been reading a terrific book by Dean G. Stroud entitled, Preaching in Hitler’s Shadow: Sermons of Resistance in the Third Reich. And while I am absolutely not comparing our current government to Nazi Germany and while I do not believe we will go the way Nazi Germany went, I can’t help but see the striking parallels between our two countries, beginning with these incremental attacks on religious freedom, back then and today.
And so, while I am not saying that America will one day look like Nazi Germany, I am saying that very soon, America will hardly be recognizable, the antithesis of the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”
After all, who would have believed that in the last two years, government officials would be demanding that pastors and Christian teachers turn over their sermons, sermons notes, and private emails dealing with sexual morality and that, in the last 10 years, Christians would be fired from their jobs or kicked out of their schools because of their privately held, biblical beliefs?
And so, I will say it again. It’s time to wake up!
 Read Original Story Here

Mexico: Persecution Forces 30 Christians to Flee Their Homes

Armed villagers raided and destroyed the homes of Protestants in Leyva Velazques village, Chiapas, Mexico on 4 January in the latest example of religious persecution in the country, according to a human rights organisation.

Entrances into the village were blocked by locals forcing the Protestants to flee to the nearby mountains rather than seek help in a neighbouring village, Jorge Lee Galindo, Director of Impulso 18, told International Christian Concern (ICC).

Two men, the commissioner of the community, Jimenez Hernandez, and the municipal agent, Francisco Jimenez Santiz, are thought to be responsible for inciting the violence.

This is not an isolated incident in the village. According to ICC, seven Protestants were arbitrarily imprisoned when they refused to renounce their faith in December 2015.

Protestants are a minority religion in Mexico and “in the rural areas where we see persecution, many villages and their councils are dominated by adherents to syncretistic Catholicism,” ICC’s advocacy manager, Nathaniel Lance, told Christian Today.

Syncretistic Catholicism is a religion formed of components of Catholicism and indigenous beliefs and rituals.

The victims of persecution are “on the fringe of Mexican society”, Lance said.

“As non-Spanish speaking, rural, Protestant Christians, they have no access to the financial, legal, or political resources necessary to end the persecution they suffer.”

Persecution is likely to continue “as long as the Mexican government continues to ignore [it], and refuses to prosecute those responsible”, Lance added. He said the government is unlikely to engage with the persecution as “there is no political incentive to take action”.

Despite Mexico’s consitution protecting freedom of worship, the government uses the Law of Uses and Customs – which states that indigenous culture and customs should be protected – as an excuse not to act.

“They use this to say that the persecution in these areas are part of the indigenous culture,” Lance said.

“There is little media or governmental attention paid to these cases both internationally and in Mexico, which is why raising awareness of persecution is vital.”

ICC staff visited Mexico last year and conservatively estimated that there were over 70 open cases of religious persecution against minority Christian communities, with between 20 and 100 victims each, in the states of Chiapas, Hidalgo, Oaxaca, Puebla and Guerrero. This equates to thousands of victims and only represents incidents that have been reported.

The persecution often begins with “financial disagreements, where village leaders want the Protestants to pay for the religious festivals, and other things used for syncretistic Catholic rituals,” Lance said.

“When the Protestant Christians refuse to pay, these situations then escalate to attempted forced conversion, imprisonment, forced expulsion from homes, burning of houses and violent threats.”

It is important to note that the Protestant community is not the sole victim of persecution in Mexico. In 2014, more Catholic priests were killed in Mexico than anywhere else in the world, typically in cartel-related violence.

 

Read Original Article Here

Government Crackdown Forces Chinese Church to Close

A house church in China has been told by the Chinese government that it may no longer conduct worship services.
According to Christian Today, the small church of about 50 members in Dazhou, Sichuan province, was told last month that it may no longer rent an apartment where it held religious services.
Li Shengfen, a member of the church, stated: “They looked at our Bibles. After that, in order to understand our church, they looked at our poetry. Because the place where we worship has a cross, a Bible and some scripture on the walls, they looked at it all. I said ‘Right now, is this freedom of religion?’ If we go to the city to meet, many of the Christians are old and some people get carsick. I said, ‘How can you not give us freedom?'”
The Chinese government’s mandate to this house church is part of a larger government crackdown on churches and freedom of religion which has escalated under Chinese President Xi Jinping’s leadership.
Christian Today reports that up to 1,700 churches have been demolished and their large red crosses removed as part of a campaign supposedly meant to expose and remove “illegal structures.”
In addition, many Christians and human rights activists have been jailed for speaking out against this restriction of religious freedom.

Protecting religious freedom for everyone, including ‘gays’

A pro-family leader in Arkansas says evidently homosexual activists don’t want residents in that state – including themselves – to have religious freedom.

On a 24-7 vote, the Arkansas Senate has passed and sent to the House a bill to protect the religious freedom of everyone in the state. The measure prevents state and local government from taking any action that substantially burdens someone’s religious beliefs unless a “compelling” interest is proven. Governor Asa Hutchinson has stated he will sign the legislation should it reach his desk.

Jerry Cox of Arkansas Family Council tells OneNewsNow the most forceful opposition has come from the Human Rights Campaign, the largest homosexual activist group in the nation, whose chief officer is from Arkansas.

“We have faced all kinds of misinformation about what bad things are going to happen if we simply honor the God-given right that every person has,” Cox explains. “And that is [the right to] religious freedom and to be able to exercise that as long as you’re not hurting anybody, as long as you’re not breaking the law.”

Activists claim the bill, if it becomes law, will be used to discriminate against homosexuals. But Cox says that’s not true, pointing that it protects the religious freedom of everyone – including homosexuals.

“And what it does it restricts the government,” the pro-family leader continues. “It restricts how much the government can infringe on your religious beliefs. This law is a restriction on what the government can and cannot do.”

So if a governmental action infringes on religious beliefs that would be illegal, unless the government can show a compelling reason for doing so. The House is to take up the bill this week.

Last week Indiana became the 20th state to pass a religious freedom law, igniting a firestorm of protests that continue to make national news. Indiana Governor Mike Pence continues to defend his decision to sign that bill, saying it “is not about discrimination [but] empowering people to confront government overreach.”

According to The Associated Press, Republican legislative leaders in Indiana say they are working on adding language to that new state law to make it clear that it doesn’t allow discrimination against homosexuals.

 

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