The Shrinking Space for Religious Liberty in the Public Square

Human rights

As society continues its rapid march toward progressive ideas with relentless emphasis on personal autonomy and sexual liberty, the space for religious liberty in the public square is shrinking. A recent ruling by a judge in Washington State underscores this point.

In 2013, Baronelle Stutzman, the 70-year-old owner of Arlene’s Flower Shop in Richland, Washington, told a long-time customer and friend that she could not provide flowers for his same-sex wedding. Stutzman had been serving this particular same-sex couple for nearly a decade. While Stutzman gladly serves homosexual customers and employs those who identify as homosexual, she could not in good conscience provide flowers for a same-sex wedding. Using her creative abilities to celebrate a same-sex wedding violated her conscience.

When Stutzman explained her position, the couple publicized it through social media. The attorney general for Washington State, Bob Ferguson, heard about the situation and sued Stutzman for violating anti-discrimination laws. In addition, the same-sex couple sued with representation by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Benton County Superior Court Judge Alexander Ekstrom ruled against Stutzman. In essence, Stutzman is entitled to her beliefs but cannot act on those beliefs in her business. The court held Stutzman personally liable with both the state and the couple being entitled to collect damages and attorney’s fees. This means that this 70-year-old grandmother may lose her business, her home, and ultimately her livelihood because of her sincerely held beliefs.

Responding to the ruling, Kristin Waggoner, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, stated, “The message of these rulings is unmistakable: the government will bring about your personal and professional ruin if you don’t help celebrate same-sex marriage.” Of course, the Alliance Defending Freedom who represented Stutzman is appealing the case.

Christians who provide various wedding services have been on the front lines of this cultural battle with Christian photographers and bakers coming under fire as well. Further, the recent firing of Atlanta’s fire chief, Kelvin Cochran, for authoring a book that briefly refers to homosexuality as sin is yet another example of the intolerance against biblical Christianity in our culture. While the First Amendment guarantees religious liberty, this guarantee seems to mean less and less as passion for sexual liberty increasingly defines acceptable behavior in the public square.

Will believers remain faithful to God and His Word amidst the ever-increasing cultural tides that would push us to reject Scripture in an effort to gain cultural capital and dodge persecution? Jesus warned His disciples of the high cost of following Him, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it. What will it benefit a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his life? Or what will a man give in exchange for his life?” (Matthew 16:24–26, HCSB) We must be ready to pay the price of following Christ, even if that means the price is getting higher.

Sources Used:

Alliance Defense Fund, “Ingersoll v. Arlene’s Flowers, State of Washington v. Arlene’s Flowers, and Arlene’s Flowers v. Ferguson.”

Denny Burk, “A Florist Loses Religious Freedom, and Much More,” on CNN.com.

Valerie Richardson, “Wash. Florist Who Refused Gay Wedding over Christian Beliefs Violated Law, Judge Rules,” The Washington Times.

The Frightening Implications of Fifty Shades’ Popularity

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This post contains mature themes and is intended for adults. Last weekend, the movie, Fifty Shades of Grey, was released. This movie is based on the novel by E. L. James. Apparently, it was the largest release for an R-rated movie ever, playing in 3,646 theaters across the country. It was a smashing success, leading the Box Office with revenue of over $90 million.

Of course, I haven’t read the book or seen the movie, nor do I plan to do so. In fact, I hope that Christians will avoid this kind of depravity. I hope we’ll find our life and fulfillment in Jesus, and forsake the counterfeits that the world pursues.

The movie is the story of an average young woman, Anastasia, who is pursued by a powerful billionaire named Christian. He introduces her to sadomasochism. This deviant behavior mixes sexuality and physical or emotional pain.

It is unimaginable that a book and movie that elevates the abuse of women in the context of sexuality could be so popular. In fact, both the book and movie have been notoriously popular among women with 68% of the movie’s audience being female. Not only is this movie the mainstreaming of a more hardcore pornography, even more frightening, I fear that it points to a new reality in our culture. The modern sexual ethic, desperately seeking to abandon all of the so-called repressive rules of Christian sexual ethics, will not ultimately protect women.

While much of the culture despises biblical Christianity with its gender roles, its refusal to acknowledge countless genders, and its insistence on sexuality within a marriage of one man and one woman, women (and children of course) may be the biggest losers as society continues the sexual revolution that began in the 1960s.

In biblical Christianity, a husband is called to protect his wife and children, never to harm her or the kids. He is called to provide for his family. He is called to lead his family spiritually with sacrificial love. Indeed, he is called to love his wife as Christ loved the church.

As a culture, we’re breaking free from all of these supposedly repressive and patriarchal ideas. Where has this “freedom” taken us? You tell me when a movie that exalts sexual violence against women is thrilling to so many, particularly women. Ultimately, the more startling question is this: where will the wholesale rejection of the Christian sexual ethic ultimately lead? What will be the effects on women and on children? Though unpopular, let’s hold fast to the Word of God. When the Word is truly followed, women and children will most surely have the greatest opportunity to flourish.

More Reasons to Believe in the Truthfulness of Scripture

Truth

With attacks on the reliability of Scripture almost constant, Dr. Peter Williams, warden of Tyndale House at the University of Cambridge, presents new research supporting the truthfulness of Scripture. He compares the number of times that people’s names occur in the New Testament with other ancient works from the New Testament era. This research provides more compelling reasons to believe in the truthfulness of Scripture. While it will take you just over an hour to watch, it will be an hour well spent. Watch now.