I have had more than one friend in recent days suggest that Americans will ultimately repeal the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech, freedom to peaceably assemble, freedom of the press and freedom to exercise our religion of choice. His suggestion follows an informal poll by Fox News of students at an Ivy League school who were asked: “Should the First Amendment be repealed?” The overwhelming response was “yes.” What was thought inconceivable a generation ago, now seems plausible and a threat to our freedom.
While we must engage the unbelieving culture winsomely, motivated by love and with the truth of the gospel, engagement must also include bringing that truth to bear on government. Christians must be “salt and light” and that may include running for – and serving in – public office. Christians in America, unlike citizens say, in North Korea, are free to fully participate in our nation’s political process. We must not squander that blessing.
I have been praying that God would raise-up a generation of Christians who would faithfully engage the political process. I am thankful for people like U.S. Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, a former Southern Baptist youth camp director who answered God’s call. Several Southern Baptist pastors hold public office in Missouri and more have called me and said they are praying about running for office.
Joshua Hawley, the University of Missouri law professor who has spoken in many Missouri Southern Baptist churches, has taken time off from his teaching responsibilities to run for Missouri Attorney General. Hawley, a conservative, evangelical Presbyterian, is the type of person to whom I refer. Hawley was on the Beckett Fund legal team that won two of the most important religious liberty cases of our time at the U.S. Supreme Court The first case was the Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission case in which the Court unanimously ruled that federal discrimination laws do not apply to religious organizations’ selection of leaders. The second was the Hobby Lobby ruling which protects private business owners from being penalized for not providing abortion causing drugs in their employee insurance plans because abortion goes against their deepest held beliefs.
Last week Hawley sent a letter to Missouri Speaker of the House Todd Richardson and Senate President Pro Tempore Ron Richard, urging them to make religious freedom a priority in the General Assembly’s 2016 session, which begins Jan. 6. Hawley called the Obama administration the “most hostile administration to religious liberty in our nation’s history.” He noted how the Obama Administration has attempted to punish nuns, Christian colleges and business people of faith for following their faith convictions. He reminded the two legislative leaders how Obama’s lawyer, Solicitor General Donald Verilli, Jr., told the U.S. Supreme Court that religious institutions that do not abandon their beliefs on marriage might find their tax-exempt status revoked by the Internal Revenue Service.
Hawley then listed four areas of religious freedom that should be legislative priorities in 2016:
1. No church or minister should be fined, sued or punished by the government for following centuries-old religious teaching on marriage.
2. No religious or charitable organization should be forced to violate religious teaching in order to participate in state programs or retain tax-exempt status.
3. No religious college or educational institution should lose its accreditation or be penalized in other ways for following religious teaching on marriage.
4. No business person of faith should be forced to participate in or service a wedding ceremony that violates his or her sincere religious convictions.
We need more Christians like Lankford and Hawley to bring Christian values to bear on our culture. President Ronald Reagan said, “There is sin and evil in the world, and we’re enjoined by Scripture and the Lord Jesus to oppose it with all our might.” May Christians, called by God to public service, answer His call.
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Many Pathway readers have been aware of my successful battle with cancer and more recently my wife’s diagnosis with breast cancer. Bernadette had successful surgery for a lump in her left breast on Dec. 7. The pathology report showed that the cancer had not spread, and she will begin four weeks of radiation therapy in mid-January. Her prognosis is excellent. We are thankful for God’s love and mercy. We are also thankful for your prayers and acts of kindness through this trial. May God bless you, and we wish you a very Merry Christmas.