This week, the European Court of Human Rights ruled against a British official whose Christian faith prevented her from registering same-sex civil partnerships, and a marriage counselor who refused to offer therapy to homosexual couples. This ruling is binding on the 47 member states of the Council of Europe, the continent’s human rights authority.
Could such discrimination against Christians who object to gay marriage happen in America?
Rhode Island is moving toward adopting legislation authorizing gay marriages in their state. After nine states have done the same, why is this newsworthy? Because the Rhode Island legislation, while protecting clergy who refuse to perform homosexual weddings, contains no such provision for justices, judges, or court commissioners who object on religious grounds. While it prohibits penalties against churches and denominations that oppose gay marriage, it contains no such provisions for Christian counselors who oppose same-sex marriage while performing pre- or post-marriage counseling.
Meanwhile, health insurance regulators in California and Oregon have directed some health insurance companies to cover the cost of sex changes, as well as hormones and other transgendered medical services. All participants in these health exchanges, including those who object to transgendered coverage on religious grounds, will pay higher premiums as a result.
The First Amendment, often called our “First Freedom,” states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Some believe that we are moving from the “freedom of religion” to the “freedom of worship,” so that religious convictions will be protected only when they are expressed in private or during church services. If so, what will happen to religious organizations and schools, parachurch ministries, and Christians in business or public service? Will they face increasing pressure to compromise their faith convictions?
Jesus performed his ministry from mountain tops (Matthew 5:1) and boats (Luke 5:3), in fields (Matthew 14:13-21) and in cities (Matthew 21:1-11). Paul preached the gospel “publicly and from house to house” (Acts 20:20). In Ephesus, he lectured in a public hall for two years, until “all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord” (Acts 19:10). “Private Christianity” is a contradiction in terms.
Are we witnessing an erosion of religious freedom in our day? Remember Jesus’ commission to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). What public influence has he entrusted to you? Will you use it today to make disciples, whatever the cost?