This past year I have spent countless hours writing about problem of the government encroaching upon our religious liberties. I have been shocked that many Christians just don’t seem to grasp the fact that we are in very sophisticated power struggle. We don’t seem to want accept that there is an all-out assault against Christians being waged in the legislature, teamed with the mainstream media. Let me trace four major attempts to thwart faith in the U.S.
Attack No.1 – New Federal Hate Crimes Legislation
Last spring, a move to change hate crimes to include special protection for gays, lesbians, and a litany of other groups began to suddenly build steam. The Congress took HR 1592 from subcommittee to law vote in less than three weeks. Many Christians were not aware as the law was being rushed through Congress and passed in early May. Congressional offices refused to talk realistically about the legislations – calling major Christian ministries (Concerned Women for America, Traditional Values Coalition, Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, High Impact Leadership Coalition and a host of other organizations) “alarmists” and “liars.”
Although similar laws are being enforced around the world with a disturbing anti-Christian bias, voters were told they had nothing to fear. Yet, the bias has already begun in America. In Philadelphia (in 2004) an incident occurred during a legally arranged, protest rally at a gay convention. A 75-year old grandmother of three was arrested, jailed, and charged under existing state hate crimes law for attempting to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Ironically, the rally did not result in any gays being hurt, wounded, or even intimidated by their actions. If anything, law enforcement officials were the ones who sent the citizens of their state a clear message – “Gays can protest, intimidate and harass anyone anywhere- but Christians had better not speak.”
Attack No. 2 – The Fairness Doctrine
Several attempts have recently been made to reinstate the so-called “Fairness Doctrine.” This doctrine is an antiquated, currently defunct regulation of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which was in effect for several decades until August 1987.
The policy required broadcast licensees to present controversial issues in an equal and balanced manner. On the surface this sounds good. In the best of all worlds it could mean that the little guys get a chance to let their voices be heard. Unfortunately, such doctrines are not easy to implement. In addition, these policies create a chilling affect upon the average broadcaster.
In the current broadcasting environment, the fairness doctrine could be used to mute the voice of Christian and conservative talk shows that are having a major impact on the nation. They would not be allowed to present their biblical or moral views on issues without censorship. On the other hand, liberal talk radio has not been able to get traction in terms of listeners, advertisers, or financial viability. This kind of legislation, if passed, would make it possible for anti–Christian policy advocates to piggy back upon the powerful Christian media network which is much more grassroots than the mainstream media.
Attack No. 3 – ENDA (The Employment Non Discrimination Act)
Despite the efforts of many Christian organizations, Congress passed HR 3685 last week. Again, in concept, ENDA sounds like a positive step to end discrimination in the workplace. However, this legislation has five problems which are highlighted below:
1. ENDA would overturn the historical basis of protected class status by adding “actual or perceived sexual orientation.”
2. ENDA expands civil rights protections on the vague basis of perception.
3. ENDA infringes on the religious liberties of Christian lay people.
4. ENDA puts the integrity of our ministries in jeopardy.
5. ENDA is a direct attack on our freedom of religion guaranteed in the First Amendment.
This bill can still be stopped in the Senate if the Church and conservatives hurry to respond.
Attack No. 4 – Senator Grassley’s Request for Financial Records of Six Media Ministries
Last week marked the absolute lowest ebb of political improprieties when Senator Grassley sent letters to six large media ministries desiring to address financial procedures within these ministries. Grassley claims that he is simply following up on concerns of his constituents. Grassley also stated that he may not stop with these ministries. This statement should be a red flag to all Christian major media ministries. Grassley’s inquires are not warranted for three important reasons:
1. This area should be IRS territory. Proper legal protocol has not been followed. A Senate committee should not be involved in this type of action.
2. There will be a presumption of guilt concerning these ministries that may follow them for years to come, which will affect their positive effect on our culture.
3. Responding to these inquiries will cost these ministries hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal and accounting fees during the next few months, funds which are needed to produce their impactful programming.
Most ministries broadcasting on radio and television are evangelical and conservative. This move could signal them to back away from public involvement in the political arena. Most Christians are not aware of the numerous IRS inquiries and investigations which have already been targeted against politically active ministries during the last few years. The Senate does not need to supercede what the IRS is already doing.
Having outlined these four attacks, we need to know what we can do to make a difference. Four things come to mind.
1. Join millions of other Christians this Thanksgiving season in praying five minutes a day for our nation.
2. Contact Senator Grassley’s office to voice our disapproval of his actions.
3. Contact the office of the President and ask him to keep his promise to veto both the Hate Crimes and the ENDA legislation.
4. In the 2008 election, let’s vote for candidates that hold our values in every office – from president, to congressmen, and down to school board members.
Finally, let’s keep the faith!
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.