Today's BP Ledger contains items from:
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
WORLD News Service
Morning Star News
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) – The following is a conversation with Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, with Jason K. Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, recorded at the seminary’s Spurgeon Room.
ALLEN: It is a real joy to have in the Spurgeon Room today Dr. Russell Moore. Dr. Moore serves as president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention -- a leading, prominent, and strategic role in the Kingdom and for Southern Baptists, of whom he speaks to and for. Dr. Moore, it is just a personal joy to have you here with me as well. You are a friend and a colleague. I watch you with great admiration and appreciation for what you are doing. Thank you for joining me today in the Spurgeon Room.
MOORE: It is great to be here.
ALLEN: I want to talk with you today about the topic of religious liberty. I know you are speaking to this on a daily basis. You write on it with great frequency. You have to rally attention to it and you have to give proportionality to it so that we are not over-torqueing the case, over-torqueing the urgency, and not creating drama in little contexts and sub-scenarios where it should not be. At the same time, you are crying, "wolf," because there is a wolf there at times. You are trying to bring balance to that. I have to tell you, it is a daunting task to me as I watch you, because it is a big-picture, principal issue that is perennial and needed. The different applications of it, the different potentialities of, and the apparent occurrences of it are often deeply nuanced. Then, you get the talking voices coming into the social media. Sifting through what is a legitimate religious liberty concern and what is just someone trying to drum up attention to their cause can be very difficult to watch in the world. You have to do that on an hour-by-hour basis, so this is a timely conversation for us. Let's hop in here. Tell us, at the broad level, what are some principles our listeners and readers participating in this conversation should have in mind under the topic of religious liberty?
MOORE: Religious liberty is simply an application of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, and render unto God that which is God's," which is saying there are some things that belong to God that do not belong to the government; they do not belong to Caesar. One of those things is the simple fact that the gospel is addressing every person personally, saying, "You will stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account." If the government cannot come in and stand for you, then that means you have an allegiance that is higher than the government when it comes to your soul and your conscience.
So, when we are saying we are standing for religious liberty, we are not just standing for religious liberty for ourselves. It is not as though we are saying, "Let's try to get enough votes so that conservative evangelicals have liberty or Southern Baptists have liberty, and we take that away from everyone else." We are saying, "No, no, if we are gospel people, then that means you cannot impose your religion on anyone else, because religion is not something you can have issued to you by the state; it has to happen by the power of the Holy Spirit." So, we do not want Muslims pretending to be Christians; we do not want secularists pretending to be Christians; we do not want Hindus pretending to be Christians. We want Muslims, Hindus, everyone else, who are genuinely expressing what they believe, so that we can seek to persuade them, through the power of the Spirit, to come to Christ.
In the American Constitution, sometimes people will talk about the establishment clause that says the government cannot set up a church or religion, and the free exercise clause that the government cannot restrict the free exercise of religion. Really, those are not two separate clauses; they are the same thing. Whenever the government comes in and says, "You cannot freely practice and exercise your religion," the government is setting up a religion of some sort or another. They are saying, "This is what the religion is that we are giving you from the government." So, we are standing for religious liberty for everybody precisely because we do believe the gospel.
ALLEN: As you unpack that a bit more, let's say you are in your office, the phone rings, and your attention is drawn to a skirmish in South Dakota. You are having to process the facts, ask certain questions, and make a pretty quick decision if this should have Russell Moore's attention, evangelicals' attention, and the broader community concern about religious liberty or not? What type of questions are you asking yourself about "skirmish X" to determine if it is really a legitimate concern or a person looking for a little news media coverage.
MOORE: The first thing is, is it true? That is the first question. Sometimes there will be people that are claiming, "I have a religious liberty violation," who do not have a religious liberty violation. They are just someone in the military who says, "I am not allowed to express my religious beliefs," but it is because they are trying to coerce their religious beliefs on a subordinate. I need to find out what the situation is. Is this really a factual rendering of the case? You need to have people on the ground who are able to give you intelligence on that.
Secondly, is this something that has implications for the rest of the community in some way or another, and what are those implications?
Then, thirdly, is this an opportunity—even if it is a very isolated case—is it an opportunity to teach and remind ourselves of why we value religious liberty? That is one of the reasons why I am not simply involved in religious liberty cases as they apply to Christians. We are, for instance, working on situations in the prison system in Alabama where you have people who belong to a Native American religion -- non-Christian -- who, because of their belief system, have to wear their beards a certain length. We ought to find ways to accommodate that within the prison system as long as it is not a danger to safety and security. Why is that important? It is important because the government always comes in restricting the rights of unpopular religious minorities in order to then take over the ground of religion.
That is one of the reasons why sometimes there will be Christians who, when a mosque starts to be built in their community, they immediately think, let's go and try to get the board of supervisors of the city council to zone that mosque out of existence. There are a bunch of problems with that. One of them is, if you are going to be winning the Muslims in your community to Christ, the way you start is not by seeking to zone them out of existence.
ALLEN: Yes, declaring your own version of Jihad on them.
MOORE: That is right. Then, secondly, a government that can say, "This mosque is not coming here because it is Muslim," is a government that is establishing a religion, and it is the very same government that, in due time, is going to turn around and say, "This evangelical church cannot be here because it is too close to an abortion clinic and that is going to be bothering people who are going into the abortion clinic." The state does not need that power, should not have that power, and we should not try to take Caesar's sword for convenience's sake. It always turns back against us, and even if it didn't, it would be wrong.
ALLEN: That one phrase you said is especially pointed—"We should not take Caesar's sword for convenience's sake" or for the sake of our convenience. The times are changing quickly, and again, it is years, not decades, before we are so counter-cultural that those of us who hold to a biblical sexual ethic and gender roles are going to be in a very public and obvious minority position. As we sense, we will sense all the more, the ire.
MOORE: That is right, and that is why we have to, for instance, be paying attention to what happens around the world, and we need to stand up for religious minorities even when we do not agree with them. For instance, there is an increasing move in Germany, of all places, to seek to regulate out of existence, or to outlaw, circumcision. Of course, the case that is made is, this is inhumane, it is not a good thing to do. The problem is, if you outlaw circumcision, you have outlawed Judaism—it is out of existence.
ALLEN: …and you can outlaw baptism.
MOORE: Of course you could. You could do any number of things. So, we have to be the people who are saying, "You are not going to outlaw Judaism;" at least, not without our witness saying this is wrong.
ALLEN: That is very helpful. When you think about this, oftentimes it is thought of in the terms of, "We do not want our religious liberty violated" because of the impunity or the recordations that may come to us -- either through fines, losing tax exempt status, or other ways it brings discomfort to us. We will acknowledge that is a part of it, but my greater concern as a gospel communicator -- one who is seeking to be faithful to the Great Commission of the Gospel of Christ -- is that I do not want, in any way, the proclamation of the gospel to be stymied. That is my ultimate concern because we have a message that we actually believe people need to hear.
MOORE: Here is the problem when it comes to this issue. Sometimes I will hear young evangelicals -- and old evangelicals for that matter -- say, "Let's just shrug off these religious liberties concerns. We should not worry about it in the same way that Jesus went to Pilate and did not seek to try to have those charges dropped against him." The problem is, you are assuming that we are in the role of Jesus here only. In a democratic republic, we are also in the role of Pilate; we are the ultimate authority in this country. You are going to give an account for the way that you, as a citizen of this country -- the ultimate emperor -- are dealing with the sole freedoms and liberties of the people.
Secondly, if you are not concerned about religious liberty, there is a lack of gratitude for the people who gave their lives in order to say the government does not have this power. We see that all the way back to the Apostle Paul dealing with this in the Roman Empire. In the United States of America and in England, we see this with great Baptist leaders especially who gave to the broader body of Christ this understanding. Many of them were drowned; many of them were whipped; many of them were driven out.
Thirdly, you have a lack of love of neighbor and love for the gospel. To be able to say, "Why does Paul say we pray for kings and those who are in authority so that we can live quiet lives in all dignity?" Who is the "we?" The church of Jesus Christ. When you refuse to stand for religious liberty in your generation, you are constricting the freedoms of future generations to be able to preach the gospel, or to be able to hear the gospel. That is an active, spiritual violence being done to that Hindu, Muslim, or atheist -- even if that person never comes to Christ -- to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a horribly callous and anti-gospel thing to say we should not worry about that religious liberty.
ALLEN: That is so well put. Let me just ask you another question, shifting gears here a bit. In your best estimation, what does this look like in 10 years? Give us an optimistic assessment and then a more realistic, or perhaps even pessimistic, assessment.
MOORE: I do not think what some people assume. That is that churches are going to be outlawed or somehow pastors are going to be forced to perform same-sex weddings or to ordain people to ministry who are not qualified for ministry. I really do not think that is where we are headed. We do have a First Amendment that gives us a certain amount of guarantees that I think it is going to take much longer to erode down than that. I think concentrating on that actually keeps us from looking at where the problems really are going to be. Where the problems are going to be from here on out, as far as I can see, are a couple of things. One of them is a government that is increasingly defining religion in very interior, individualistic terms. It is not "free exercise of religion;" it is "the free holding of religious opinions." "We do not care what you believe, as long as you do not practice," or, as the current administration has been doing so often lately, speaking in terms of freedom of worship: "We believe in freedom of worship."
ALLEN: There is a huge difference.
MOORE: There is a big difference between freedom of worship and free exercise of religion. We see this, for instance, in the HHS mandate as many of my Roman Catholic co-laborers have pointed out, in term of the things they are being restricted to do in their ministries. There are several things that the government is saying are not religious. These things would apply to the ministry of Jesus himself. A very small sliver of Jesus' earthly ministry would be defined as religious according to the government and the rest of it would not be. That is happening.
You are going to see a restriction of liberty at the individual level—how are people living out their convictions in public, also, in the marketplace? You see that happening right now with what is happening with this ridiculous controversy over Arizona laws on religious freedom where you have even professing Christians going in and saying, "Jesus would bake the cake for a same-sex couple." It is really an irrelevant question whether or not Jesus himself would bake the cake. The question is, "Does the government, with the power of the sword, have the right to force someone whose conscience says that he should not bake this cake, to bake the cake?" That is the question. Those issues are going to become more pronounced.
Then, that middle level between the church defined as the worship service and the individual -- those Christian ministries are going to become increasingly under assault; I think at several different levels. We see that already with, for instance, adoption agencies and children's homes, or the Catholic Diocese of Massachusetts, are out of business when it comes to adoption placement. Not because they are trying to reduce anyone else's freedom, but because they are saying, "We believe that we ought to place children in a home with both a mom and a dad." They can no longer get a license. I think that is going to increasingly happen. Then, with educational institutions and with ministries of various sorts that is going to become increasingly difficult.
ALLEN: Very well said. You think back to the cake baking issue. Some would scoff and say, "That sounds so trite, cake baking." But the ramifications of that are huge. If a government can make someone bake a cake, as trite as the sounds, the government can make someone do anything.
MOORE: I cannot believe it when I hear people. There is a certain sort of elitist disdain for people who say, "I have freedom to arrange words together the way I want to arrange words together, but people who are baking a cake are just baking a cake; people who are arranging flowers and just arranging flowers." What an elitist disdain of what is happening. I am the son of a mother who was a cake decorator, worked for weddings.
I think there is a range of different things that happen. Sometimes you have people who bake wedding cakes—"Here is our wedding cake; come have the wedding cake. You come in, and you do not need to say what this wedding if for." Then there are other people who, what they are doing, are actually coming in and participating in this service. My mother used to sit down with the couple and would say, "We are going to make a groom's cake that is indicative of his interests and what he is doing. We are going to make a wedding cake that seeks to tell the story of this wedding." Photographers do the same thing; they are not just coming in and taking photos.
ALLEN: It is not just a transactional relationship.
MOORE: No, they are coming in and saying, "You stand here and you stand there because we are wanting to tell the story of this wedding." So, those people who say, "My conscience is implicated in this," the Scripture tells us that to sin against conscience is to sin against God. If someone comes in and says, "Should I come in and photograph this same-sex wedding?" that is an entirely different question than whether or not I would say, the government ought to force you to photograph this same-sex wedding, or so say, as the state of New Mexico said, "When you come into the marketplace, it is the price of citizenship to give up that conscience and those convictions." The problem with that is that now restricts everybody's liberty and everybody's freedom. We have in the news this week, a gay hair stylist who says, "I do not want to do hair for Suzanna Martinez of New Mexico because she is anti-same-sex marriage." This person says, "I do not want to be involved in making her look good to stand up and give speeches against same-sex marriage." Well, why should that not be outlawed for somebody who is in the marketplace? What ultimately happens is we wind up with a situation where we are saying -- and this goes not only with those situations, but also with what is happening with the HHS mandate -- where we say, "If you are in business, we do not want you to have moral convictions." You and I are sitting here with Starbucks cups in front of us. Starbucks puts little sayings on the cup, and they are not going to put sayings on the cup that conflict with their values. Nor should we want them to.
ALLEN: Even if I were not a believer and did not have the gospels concerns, it is just a chilling scenario to think of a state that can wield that sort of power and authority on a daily basis. You do not want to be an alarmist; you do not want to develop a sense of fear that is not realized, but the ramifications really are huge. When it comes to these things, there is no one out there that is better to look to than the ERLC and your leadership there. Thank you for what you are doing and the input that you are giving. God bless you as you serve Southern Baptists and the broader community of believers at large. Thank you so much.
MOORE: Thank you so much.
*Recorded 5 March 2014 in the Spurgeon Room
Rwandan president visits Saddleback to
celebrate PEACE 20 years after genocide
LAKE FOREST, Calif. (Saddleback Church, via A. Larry Ross Communications) -- Paul Kagame, president of Rwanda, joined Rick Warren for Kwibuka 20, a special service at Saddleback Church to honor the victims of the Rwandan genocide 20 years later and celebrate the partnership and efforts of The PEACE Plan in Rwanda over the past 10 years.
Kwibuka means 20 in Kinyarwanda. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, which began April 7, 1994. The genocide took the lives of 1 million Rwandans and left 1 million children orphaned over the course of 100 days before it ended in July 1994.
"This moment is important for me, personally, and for Rwanda because it brings us to remember the more than 1 million individuals who lost their life and honor the strength of survival and resilience of Rwanda that has kept our nation alive," Kagame said. "During the genocide, almost every church betrayed its divine mission. Rwandans sought refuge in the church only to be betrayed. But today, things are different. Thank you, Saddleback members, for providing a meaningful partnership. Faith in God is once again a sense of comfort for many Rwandans."
Eleven years ago, Kagame, after reading Warren's "The Purpose Driven Church," invited Saddleback to start sending members to help make Rwanda the first Purpose-Driven nation and the first national model of The PEACE Plan. The church responded and has today sent more than 1,2000 Saddleback members to serve in Rwanda.
The PEACE Plan works worldwide to Promote reconciliations, Equip servant leaders, Assist the poor, Care for the sick and Educate the next generation. It is an effort to mobilize millions of Christians to attack the five global evil giants of spiritual emptiness, self-centered leadership, extreme poverty, pandemic disease and illiteracy/education. Since its founding in 2003, Saddleback has sent over 21,000 members to implement The PEACE Plan in 197 nations.
"God tells us to remember the past," Warren said. "More than 2,000 years ago, another nation by the name of Israel was torn by war and everyone thought its days were over. But God raised up a business leader, government leader and spiritual leaders to restore the country. God knew it would take all three sectors to rebuild the nation. In this same way, Rwanda has been rebuilt."
Through The PEACE Plan in Rwanda, Saddleback Church has worked together with the public, private and faith sectors of Rwanda -- what it calls the three-legged stool of churches, government and businesses -- to help lower the poverty rate, empty orphanages, provide healthcare, train pastors and provide education.
"When we first visited Rwanda, we had no idea what we were doing or what we had to give, but we brought what we knew, which was the love of Christ," said Kay Warren, co-founder of Saddleback Church.
The Saddleback leadership saw the magnitude of churches in Rwanda where healthcare facilities were lacking and envisioned a model of training church members to provide care. Today, just over 9,000 trained health workers volunteer to make house calls and serve families in villages that will never have a doctor.
Additionally, Saddleback has seen the number of people living below the poverty rate in Rwanda drop 11 percent and has used local churches to work toward the goal of emptying every orphanage and place every orphan in a family by the end of 2014. Currently, there are only 1,400 orphans left in orphanages.
Over 3,200 pastors have completed a three-year intensive training in the purpose-driven PEACE Plan. These churches now offer everything from micro-savings clubs to preschools to programs training farmers how to double their crops on the same amount of land.
"The mission of Rwanda to not create a dependency on others is why The PEACE Plan has thrived so well in this nation," Pastor Warren said. "The PEACE Plan is built on the Great Commandment that says, 'Go and teach them," not do for them. People need trade, not aid. They don't need a hand out, they need a hand up."
During the April 26 service, Warren announced that in 2015, Saddleback will host the first continent-wide Purpose Driven leadership training in Rwanda, bringing in more than 1,000 leaders from 54 African countries.
"Our relationship with Saddleback has contributed to the renewal of our country," Kagame said. "We continue to work together with friends to ensure our future no longer holds fear but opportunity."
Fifty percent of Rwanda is under the age of 20, and 71 percent are under 30. President Kagame shared during the service of Rwanda's efforts to remember its past and educate a new generation of the past so they don't take things for granted.
Throughout the evening, Warren spoke favorably about Rwanda's exponential growth over the last 20 years, saying God has blessed Rwanda because they have chosen to forgive, are willing to work together, have trusted God, understand they cannot repeat the past, and refuse to give up.
For more information about Saddleback's work in Rwanda or The PEACE Plan, visit http://www.saddleback.com.
Dr. Ben Carson inspires crowd at Mississippi College scholarship dinner
CLINTON, Miss. (Mississippi College) -- Americans should take responsibility to slash the federal government's massive debts, turn around the nation's failing schools and discover healthcare solutions.
That was the bold message Dr. Ben Carson delivered April 22 as the keynote speaker at Mississippi College's annual spring scholarship dinner.
Mixing his deep Christian faith with his dedicated commitment to cure society's ills, the retired neurosurgeon inspired his audience on Earth Day to get involved and make a difference.
"The only thing that will save us is courage," says Carson, a best-selling author who conquered poverty in urban America and poor grades as a youngster to become a national success story. "People will have to stand up for what they believe in."
Mentioned in conservative Republican circles as a potential GOP presidential candidate in 2016, the author of "The Gifted Hands" was “fearless about defending his beliefs," Gov. Phil Bryant said as dinner guests began heading home. Should Dr. Carson decide to run for the White House, "he will be a very strong candidate."
Others applauding his speech included Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice William Waller Jr. "It's refreshing -- his call to restore the values that made this country great."
The banquet raised a record of $345,600 for Mississippi College student scholarships. It brings the total to more than $2 million since 2008. Other keynoters at MC have included former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2012 and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in 2013.
Before addressing guests at the banquet, Carson fielded questions from hundreds of Mississippi College students in Swor Auditorium. The Detroit native signed copies of his books, took scores of photos and met several of the Mississippians he's motivated to become achievers.
"The one thing that inspires me the most is his faith," said Ron Tullos, 26, a 2009 MC graduate who will graduate in May from the University of Mississippi School of Medicine. After reading The Gifted Hands and following Dr. Carson's rise to prominence, the graduate of Jackson's Callaway High decided to become a physician. "My neighborhood doesn't produce doctors," Tullos said moments before Dr. Carson spoke to reporters.
With Tullos soon bound for the University of Oklahoma hospital in Oklahoma City for the next seven years of residency, his Mississippi neighborhood will no doubt become proud of its newest physician.
Asked whether he would back him for president, Tullos didn't hesitate. "I'd support Dr. Carson in whatever he did," said the MC alumnus. "Dr. Carson is in tune with God."
Others listened carefully to his words at the Mississippi College banquet because of Dr. Carson's dramatic influence on their lives.
"I read Gifted Hands in the sixth grade," said Jackson State University pre-med student Chuks Agusiegbe Jr., 20, a graduate of Murrah High in Jackson. The son of a nurse, he firmly believes one must overcome life's challenges. "You have to be dedicated -- no days off."
Clinton resident Conner Smith, 18, who is homeschooled, will enroll as a Mississippi College student later this year. "Dr. Carson inspired me to become a doctor. I've watched his videos and read his books," Conner said. "I'd vote for him if he ran for president."
Dr. Carson is an emeritus professor of neurosurgery, oncology, plastic surgery and pediatrics at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine In Baltimore. He directed pediatric neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center for 39 years before retiring in June 2013. He holds more than 60 honorary doctorates. In June 2008, Dr. Carson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
A contributor to FOX News, Carson serves as president and co-founder of the Carson Scholars Fund that's awarded $5.6 million to deserving students nationwide.
A well-known critic of the federal Affordable Care Act, Carson realizes his message isn't for everybody. "I'm not politically correct," he says as bitter debate rages between Republicans, Democrats and independents. But the talented doctor brings plenty of positives to the table. "If we learn to work together, it is amazing what we can do."
China's more interested in Jesus than communism
By Rachel Lynn Aldrich
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WORLD News Service) -- Jesus is trending in China.
Foreign Policy released a fascinating infographic, based on a compilation of information from Weibo, China's huge social media platform that functions like Twitter. The graphic suggests that Christian terms are far more popular than their Communist counterparts. The information showed vastly more mentions of God than Chairman Mao, and more of Jesus than President Xi Jinping, who is headlined in state newspapers nearly every day. The regulated Bible, with 17 million hits, shot past the famous and widely-distributed Little Red Book, also known as Quotations from Chairman Mao, which registered so few hits that the data couldn't be displayed. "Christian congregation" garnered 41.8 million hits, while "the Communist Party" registered just 5.3 million.
Social media searches are not terribly scientific, and it's hard to pinpoint what is causing the huge disparity in the numbers. Foreign Policy pointed to the estimated 100,000 censors that work for China as a probable cause. Censors often delete "politically sensitive" posts, and those containing the names of China's top leader, probably to avoid criticism.
But censorship cuts both ways. Foreign Policy reported that a search for the term "underground church" produced a blank page with a notice reading "results cannot be displayed do to relevant laws and regulations."
With the astronomical growth of Christianity in China -- the current estimate has the Christian church topping 60 million -- it seems more than possible that people are just more interested in Christ than communism.
Opposition notches win over European effort
to control unofficial religious groups, homeschooling
By Morning Star News
STRASBOURG, France (Morning Star News) -- Opponents of a European initiative paving the way for governments to rule on the legitimacy of religious groups and reduce homeschooling rights -- thus laying the groundwork for potential persecution of Christians -- won a battle this month in the Council of Europe, sources said.
In Europe, where public education often includes teachings on morality at odds with churches, and officially unrecognized religious groups are labeled "sects," the stakes were high for religious freedom advocates when resolutions granting European governments latitude to control "sects" and homeschoolers went to a vote in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) this month.
Religious rights group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) disseminated a memorandum arguing that the report and resolutions of Rudy Salles, rapporteur of PACE's Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, contravened the European Convention on Human Rights and rulings of the European Court of Human Rights.
"The clear and unwavering jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights regarding state neutrality towards religious groups, coupled with the growing number of judgments from the Court against High Contracting Parties for improperly monitoring religious groups, stands in sharp contrast to the recommendations set forth by Mr. Salles," the April 2 memo asserted. "Adoption of the Salles Report would further damage the rights of European parents in educating their children according to their own religious and philosophical convictions."
A petition against Salles' report, entitled "The Protection of Minors against Excesses of Sects," obtained more than 10,000 signatures, and a wide array of rights organizations vigorously opposed the proposals. The report sought to establish a "European observatory" to monitor "groups of a religious, esoteric or spiritual nature to make it easier for national centres to exchange information," according to a draft of the resolutions.
Salles, a member of France's National Assembly, has been criticized for connections with a French agency, the Inter-Ministerial Mission for Vigilance and Action Against Sectarian Excesses (MIVILUDES), which is accused of conducting witch-hunts against independent religious groups. For his part, his report states that the Parliamentary Assembly had in 1999 attached "great importance to protecting those most vulnerable, and particularly the children of members of religious, esoteric or spiritual groups, in case of ill-treatment, rape, neglect, indoctrination through brainwashing and non-enrollment at school, which makes it impossible for welfare services to exercise supervision."
In its memorandum, ADF argued that child-protection laws need not single out religious groups.
"To provide unfettered discretion to the state to extra-judicially monitor religious groups injures the very substance of religious freedom, parental rights and church autonomy," the ADF memo asserted.
On education, the Salles report proposed state oversight, "in particular in terms of conformity of curricula and the quality of the teaching staff. In the case of home schooling, it would be useful for the children to be followed by the relevant departments of local authorities so that the latter can take prompt action if the children are not being properly schooled or there are other problems."
The report proposed that member states would "make sure that compulsory schooling is enforced and ensure strict, prompt and effective monitoring of all private education, including home schooling."
Curricula in many European countries violate many churches' teachings on morality, and ADF argued that "adoption of the Salles Report would further damage the rights of European parents in educating their children according to their own religious and philosophical convictions."
"In Salzkotten, Germany, 14 Christian parents were imprisoned, some for more than 40 days and most on multiple occasions, simply for opting their 9-10-year-old children from two days of mandatory 'sexual education' classes," according to the ADF memo. "Also in Germany, a 15-year-old girl was placed in a mental institution for wishing to be home educated. The reason for her police detention and subsequent committal to the Nuremberg mental facility was the false diagnosis by a single practitioner that the young girl in question had 'schoolphobia.'"
ADF further noted that police and social service representatives four years ago took 7-year-old Domenic Johansson off an airplane bound for Sweden simply for being home-educated. The family had been relocating to India to help with orphanages.
"The police had no warrant, and the family was accused of committing no crimes when young Domenic Johansson was taken from his parents nearly four years ago," ADF asserted. "In Spain, the Zapatero government initiated mandatory classes known as 'education for citizenship' which indoctrinated young children with a bombardment of material promoting homosexual behavior, hypersexual behavior, communism and which aggressively mocked the Catholic Church. What was perhaps even more shocking was that the government refused all requests for parental opt-outs of the classes despite more than 50,000 complaints from parents, hundreds of lawsuits and ultimately a class-action style lawsuit at the European Court of Human Rights."
In Strasbourg, France on April 10, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe removed language from the Salles report that threatened religious freedom and parental rights to educate their children, according to CARE (Christian Action Research and Education) for Europe, a Brussels-based rights organization that works alongside ADF.
"The threat to religious liberty from French MP Rudy Salles' Report and Resolution calling for the French anti-sect approach (with the label 'sect' being applied to any small or independent churches or other minority religious groups) to be rolled out across Europe, was defeated at the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly plenary session in Strasbourg by substantial amendments being passed which CARE had lobbied for," said David Fieldsend, manager of CARE for Europe. "These largely stripped the text of the undefined terminology 'excesses of sects' and replaced it with calls for child protection laws to be applied even-handedly to all situations with no religious or other groups singled out for special investigation as prejudicially presumed child abusers, as well as reaffirming the right of those belonging to minority religious groups to full religious liberty and especially the right to an education for their children in accordance with their convictions and beliefs."
Evangelical churches in countries with strong majority national churches, particularly in eastern Europe, have suffered from only limited toleration by national authorities and "a cultural climate of suspicion, which the original text of this Resolution could have exacerbated," Fieldsend said.
The Parliamentary Assembly is one of the two statutory organs of the Council of Europe, which is composed of the Committee of Ministers (foreign affairs representatives) and the Assembly, representing the majority and opposition political forces in member states.
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