Wednesday, June 23, 2010

061. Religious freedom under threat in the West

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 061 | Wed 23 Jun 2010

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM UNDER THREAT IN THE WEST

The principal religious liberty trend of the multicultural West is that religious liberty is disappearing as the culture's biblical foundations are eroded. Unfortunately, most churches and Christians are not going to realise it until the new social order has been consolidated and persecution starts to strike them directly. Christians in the West are losing the right to criticise Islam and witness to Muslims. They are also losing the right to conscientiously object to new social norms being imposed on them essentially at the behest of Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender (GLBT) lobby groups. Just as in non-free states, Western law-makers and law-enforcers are justifying their interventions as necessary to maintain 'peace' and/or defend 'equality' against 'extremist fundamentalism' (i.e. any ideas contrary to the democratic consensus).

Rattled by the chaos and confusion of cultural collapse -- the result of a culture losing its foundations -- Western governments are increasingly resorting to external restraint and authoritarian repression. They are opting for 'peace' through appeasement, rather than justice and defence of their Constitutions through education and rule of law. To remove contradictions, laws are being amended and re-interpreted and fundamental concepts are being redefined. Driven by fear of unrest, Western governments are increasingly proving themselves willing to secure 'peace' at any price -- even the loss of liberty. As soon as it appears that intolerant forces might protest, riot or divert their collective vote elsewhere, weak Western democracies yield and appease, repressing 'divisive' or 'provocative' elements at the behest of the most belligerent. And in a 'post-Christian' (as distinct from Judeo-Christian) culture, there is nothing as divisive and provocative as the gospel message and righteousness of Christianity.

USA: TWO RELIGIOUS FREEDOM CASES TO WATCH


The population of Dearborn (Michigan, USA) is about 30 percent Arab and for some 15 years Dearborn has hosted an annual Arab International Festival. Christians (mostly Arabs) have been witnessing at the Arabfest for years without any strife, although it has stirred tensions. In 2009 a group called 'Arabic Christian Perspective' (ACP) -- led by Californian Pastor George Saieg, an Arab from the Sudan -- agreed to be confined to a booth because of complaints. However, the Arabfest organisers limited ACP's ministry greatly by assigning it a booth at the furthest end of the festival. Meanwhile, other groups that continued to witness freely were harassed and expelled, despite going out of their way to avoid trouble. This year (June 2010) an appeals court ruled that George Saieg had a right to distribute Christian literature but not inside the festival -- only on the perimeter. A team from Acts 17 Apologetics Ministries visited the Arabfest on Friday evening 18 June. Taking in no Christian literature, Dr Nabeel Qureshi, the main apologist, simply wore a t-shirt with the words 'Jesus Always Loves You' and waited for Muslims to approach him. Nabeel had a couple of wonderful conversations over about 15 minutes before he and his companions -- Paul Rezkalla, David Wood and 18-year-old Afghan convert Miss Negeen Mayel -- were arrested and led away in handcuffs to cheers and shouts of 'Allahu Akbar!' The four Christians were charged with breaching the peace and held overnight in Dearborn City Jail.

In 2004 Hastings College of the Law de-registered the campus group Christian Legal Society (CLS) after it was deemed to have contravened the College's non-discrimination policy with regard to religion and sexual orientation. The CLS by-laws mandate that members (i.e. those with voting rights and leadership eligibility) must be able to sign a statement of faith and conduct. According to Hastings College, that violated the equality rights of practising homosexuals and non-Christians. CLS sued the College on the grounds that the non-discrimination policy violated their right to freedom of association: the constitutionally guaranteed freedom to form around shared beliefs. In April 2006 a federal district court ruled against CLS. In March 2009 the US Court of Appeals upheld that decision. When the Supreme Court heard CLS' petition on 19 April 2010 the bench seemed about evenly split. A judgment is expected before the end of June. At stake is the freedom of all US student groups to choose leaders who share their beliefs.

(An expanded version of this RLPB will be available on Religious Liberty Monitoring.)

WE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT:

* God will awaken the American Church to the insufficiency of political, economic and power structures to transform society, so that they will, in humble dependence, invest their hope/trust/faith in the Lord, and wait upon him as he does something new in their midst.

* America, as a nation, will 'wake up, and strengthen what remains' (Revelation 3:2a ESV).

'It is God's manner to make men . . . to see their miserable condition as they are in themselves, and to despair of help from themselves, or from an arm of flesh, before he appears for them . . .' (Great Awakening preacher, Jonathan Edwards (1703-58). From a sermon on Hosea 5:15)

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RELIGIOUS FREEDOM UNDER THREAT IN USA

On 18 June Dr Nabeel Qureshi, 18-year-old Afghan convert Miss Negeen Mayel and two others were charged with breaching the peace for witnessing to Muslims at the Arab International Festival in Dearborn, Michigan. Qureshi simply wore a t-shirt which read 'Jesus Always Loves You'. After 15 minutes of conversation with Muslims who approached Qureshi, the group were arrested, taken away in handcuffs and detained overnight in Dearborn City Jail. Also the US Supreme Court will soon rule on the case of the Hastings College Christian Legal Society which sued the College for its right to freedom of association. Hastings de-registered the campus group because CLS by-laws required its members to sign a statement of faith and conduct. That was deemed to discriminate against practising homosexuals and non-Christians.