Universities facing lawsuits unless they remove their chaplains. Christian bakers, florists and photographers being fined and vilified in the press for their conservative views and practices. Soldiers court-martialed for promoting Biblical values. Restaurants owners confronted with denial of their lease because of their belief in traditional values.The religious symbols and traditions that have made our country a shining light in a dark world now disregarded and even disdained. First Amendment freedoms being challenged and eroded by militant anti-faith groups. What comes next?
Last year, the Family Research Council posted an expose titled, “Hostility to Religion: The Growing Threat to Religious Liberty in the United States.” It documents hundreds of additional examples of religious discrimination, including the suppression of religious expression in the public square, as well as in schools and universities, the censure of religious viewpoints regarding sexuality, and the suppression of religious expression on sexuality using nondiscrimination laws.
This raises questions for those of us who must chart a course through an increasingly hostile society.
- Where are the anchor points in a nation that seems to be adrift and no longer concerned or committed to our Judeo-Christian heritage?
- Should any citizen of the Unites States be forced by the government to violate his or her deeply held religious beliefs?
- How should we respond?
These once hypothetical discussions have now turned into harsh realities for people of faith, and they are serious matters of one’s conscience. Martin Luther, the leader of the Protestant Reformation, said, “To act against conscience is neither right nor safe.”
Lest you think the concept is only important to religious leaders, these are the words of Thomas Jefferson, principal author of the Declaration of Independence and touted by progressives for his alleged views on the separation of church and state:
“No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority” (to New London Methodist, 1809).
“It behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others; or their case may, by change of circumstances, become his own. It behooves him, too, in his own case, to give no example of concession, betraying the common right of independent opinion, by answering questions of faith, which the laws have left between God and himself” (to Benjamin Rush, 1803).
“We are bound, you, I, and every one to make common cause, even with error itself, to maintain the common right of freedom of conscience” (to Edward Dowse, 1803).
The government’s role is to protect the Constitutional rights of individuals, not infringe upon them. Should a Jewish baker be forced to make a cake with a Nazi swastika? Or an atheist to do so with an image of the crucifixion? A gay person to inscribe, “God hates homosexuality?” Or a vegan restaurant owner forced to serve meals with meat? No! No! No! A thousand times, “No!” These may seem like insignificant concerns to some; however, the road is being methodically paved at an alarming rate. Thankfully, Members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus and the American Prayer Caucus Network are working tirelessly through their legislative leadership to ensure that citizens will not be trampled by those who seek to strip us of religious freedom.
Msgr. Charles Pope, pastor of a vibrant parish community in Washington, D.C. and Johnette Benkovic, Founder and President of Women of Grace, point out in a sobering article, that religious persecution takes place in five stages. What about Christianity in America? First, as the authors suggest, there are attempts to stereotype the targeted group – check! Second, there is a justification for hatred of the particular group – check! Third, the targeted group is marginalized in society – check! Fourth, the targeted group is criminalized, including their places of worship, businesses and educational institutions – check! Finally, there is outright persecution and even death – may! it never come to this, but are we ready to be fully engaged?
The days ahead are likely to require a shift from rhetoric to principled action. Are you prepared when it comes to your faith and conscience? May God grant us all the heart and determination of Joshua when he said, “…choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15).
Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation
Despite the possibility that Chipotle's decision to pull pork from almost a third of its restaurants will come at a cost, the corporation's commitment to serving "food with integrity" has outweighed its quest for financial gain. "We would rather not serve pork at all, than serve pork from animals that are raised in this way," Chris Arnold, the company's communications director, told the Washington Post.
Chipotle's founder and CEO, Steve Ells, has made a decision to commit to self-imposed standards, which he personally finds important, enabling him to live out his commitment to environmental care and sustainability through how he runs his business. His example has also drawn others — employees, investors and customers alike — by giving them a place to work and patronize that shares their beliefs and values. As the Washington Post observed, "The unparalleled success of the chain is glaring proof that people are willing to pay a bit more for that promise."
Or, as one online reviewer put it, Chipotle is "a fast-food chain with a conscience."
It is a wonderful thing that individuals are not only able to start and build a business in their chosen trade, but they are also free to structure that business in a way that reflects their personal beliefs and values. In turn, a wide market of choice is provided for employees and consumers, offering an opportunity to partner with a larger association with a shared commitment to a common cause. In America, we have the ability to act out our individuality and diversity in every aspect of our lives, and not just in our private or personal decisions.
Protecting corporate conscience acknowledges that behind a company name, individuals with their own identities, perspectives, freedoms and convictions are making decisions that affect real people — owners, employees, customers and the community.
There is a distinct social good to preserving the freedom of individuals to form and operate a business based on deeply held principles rooted in conscience. Many great leaders throughout our nation's history have understood the importance of this freedom — how it elevates and benefits our society as a whole when individuals openly and fully live their lives according to the moral values that motivate them, even when reasonable people disagree with those values.
It is time that we take a step back from unnecessarily politicized debates about corporations and acknowledge the simple fact that many Americans are motivated to be a force for good in their communities because of, not in spite of, their faith. Faith animates compassion, and compassion leads to greater integrity and ownership of caring for those in need around us. Furthermore, organized compassionate responses need not come solely in the form of a church or charity to be appropriate, authentic or effective.
There is also a pragmatic reason to defend corporate conscience. A recent study revealed that, though religious populations are growing worldwide, more than 75 percent of the world lives under significant religious restrictions. These religious prejudices are, in turn, having a negative impact on businesses around the globe. This has led noted social scientist Dr. Brian Grim to conclude that "[w]here there is freedom in the market place — including freedom to live out the Golden Rule and bring belief systems to the proverbial table — this...fosters more trust within a company and enlarges public trust toward a company..."
It is crucial that the same freedom of conscience enjoyed by the leadership of Chipotle remain equally available to business owners of faith. Indeed, much more so, as freedom of religion is explicitly protected by the First Amendment. We cannot simultaneously laud the leaders of a business motivated by a commitment to environmental sustainability and discriminate against the leaders of a business motivated by religious belief.
If a decision based on moral convictions is celebrated, shouldn't a decision based on the free exercise of religion – a right guaranteed in the Constitution – be even more so?
To be sure, religious freedom is not just a choice of convenience – it is a fundamental right given to all Americans by the Constitution. As we recognize Chipotle's decision, let's remember that a clear constitutionally-supported civil right of religious freedom should be cherished and respected in every corner of this nation.
We live in a country whose laws respect freedom and diversity, and our Constitution has always had robust protections for all Americans to live and work by their religious convictions. Americans do not check their religious freedom at the door when they leave their home or place of worship and enter the public sphere.
We must not fall prey to the hypocrisy of defending the freedom of operating a business on convictions of sustainability, but reject that same freedom when the convictions are based in faith.
- U.S. Senator James Lankford and Rep. Randy Forbes
U.S. Senator James Lankford, R, is a freshman senator from the state of Oklahoma. Rep. Randy Forbes, R, is serving his eighth term as U.S. Representative of the Fourth Congressional District of Virginia. They both serve as co-chairmen for the Congressional Prayer Caucus.
This article was featured in the Washington Examiner
Representing 25 different states, 16 members of Congress and 36 state legislators gathered to coordinate a tactical strategy to effectively challenge the growing anti-faith movement in our Country.
The consensus among participants was that people of faith can no longer sit idly by and passively watch as our nation’s history, and Judeo-Christian heritage are being rewritten with a false narrative.
In a solemn and historic ceremony, all who were present signed a Call to Prayer for America Proclamation.
In the coming weeks, hundreds of national and state elected officials will sign the Proclamation, and will read it aloud in churches across America. Citizens everywhere will be able to join this effort to pray for America by adding their names to the document.
Together, our signatures—demonstrating a commitment to pray for America—will make a bold and public statement; not only in the marketplace of ideas, but also in the halls of power.
Duty is ours; results are God’s. –John Quincy Adams
Read and Sign the Proclamation - learn more now: http://prayusa.com/