Let Them Eat Cake—If They Are Straight! (Today’s Version of Religious Persecution)
The history of the world has shown the dark side of humanity time and time again. Religious persecution has been rampant since time immemorial. We only need to invoke certain words or phrases to realize the breadth of examples of religious persecution that have occurred over millennia. Consider the Crusades. Acknowledge the Holocaust. Remember the different Caesars of the Roman Empire, relishing their propensity for religious persecution in the form of crucifixions, using Christians as lion bait for entertainment or used as human torches in Nero’s gardens. In our contemporary world, ISIS kills fellow Muslims because they do not adhere to the strictest interpretations of the laws of Islam. Whether thousands of years ago, sixty years ago, or even last week, religious persecution is the unfortunate reality of the human race.
The whole concept of religious persecution is getting a radical makeover in the United States. In the run-up to, and in the aftermath of, the Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage, Christians are being persecuted! Who would have ever thought that someone could walk into a bakery and order a wedding cake that would cause those owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa to commit an act that was against their faith! Who would have thought that this authoritarian government of ours, with the full backing of non-elected justices, would force county clerks in Kentucky to issue marriage licenses to—are you ready?—gay couples! Why, this just goes against the proper religious beliefs of those county clerks. And this is America! We have religious freedom in the U.S., and no one can force us to commit acts that go against our religious beliefs, right?
This new-found religious persecution is being experienced in other ways across the country. Kelvin Cochran, the former Fire Chief of Atlanta, was fired from his job in January, 2015, following complaints about a book he had written in 2013. In this book, Mr. Cochran paraphrased some verses in Galatians (New Testament) that directly condemned homosexuality and lesbianism. Kasim Reed, the Mayor of Atlanta, stated that Cochran was fired not for his religious beliefs, but for his judgment and his management skills.
The Southern Baptist Church in Georgia has been rallying for his reinstatement. Georgia Baptist Convention Executive Director Robert White told Fox News reporter Todd Starnes, “It’s a frightening day in the United States when a person cannot express their faith without fears of persecution following. It’s persecution when a godly fire chief loses his job over expressing his Christian faith.”
Hmmm… ”expressing his Christian faith.” Mr. Cochran was not fired for expressing his faith while attending his Southern Baptist church. No Mayor or other governmental figure barged into his church demanding that he cease expressing his faith. When a person’s privately-held religious beliefs (whatever they may be) are put forth on the public forum, that is when those religious beliefs are subject to scrutiny.
There is now legislation being introduced in several states that would protect the First Amendment rights of faith-based organizations. Affectionately referred to as the First Amendment Defense Act, this bill is receiving lots of support in Congress—thus far all of it Republican. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) stated, “Americans are overwhelmingly united in their belief that religious freedom needs to be protected.”
And thank God for people like Governor Sam Brownback, of Kansas. He issued an executive order that will protect pastors from lawsuits for refusing to officiate same sex weddings. Brownback stated in a press conference, “Today’s Executive Order protects Kansas clergy and religious organizations from being forced to participate in activities that violate their sincerely and deeply held beliefs.” BEING FORCED? The last time I heard, the Supreme Court did not rule that all clergy and religious organizations must conduct same sex weddings. Just as any pastor or rabbi has the right to refuse to officiate heterosexual weddings, based on the lack of readiness by the couple themselves (or any number of other reasons), so any pastor or rabbi has the right to decline to officiate same sex weddings.
So religious persecution abounds in the United States of America. The country that was founded by Christian men, based on Christian principles, to become God’s New Chosen Land, allows the heathen of the world to dictate to people of faith who they can and cannot serve. Please forgive me, but I am reaching for my anti-acid medication right now. This would all be so funny if it were not all so real and serious.
The Supreme Court has ruled. Now the battles begin, as those who disagree with the ruling simply ignore it and take action in the opposite direction, all in the name of religious freedom. I encourage all my readers to get ready for protracted confrontations to come. The religious right has felt a loss of power and voice over the last ten years. We may just be waking the sleeping giant. But I firmly believe that the bigger giant that is no longer sleeping is the LGBT community. Be vigilant. Be vocal. Be strong. I’m right there with you!