Increasingly in the Western world the ability to preach the gospel is being banned or greatly restricted. The irony of course is that it was largely through the Judeo-Christian worldview that Western democracies were formed, and the various freedoms, including freedom of speech, were enabled.
And even more ironic – and appalling – is how Islamic moves to implement sharia law and preach hatred of the West are being allowed in the very countries where Christianity is being denigrated and silenced. Of course pro-Muslim leaders such as Obama are making matters worse here, but on many other levels we see this anti-Christian bigotry raising its ugly head.
Consider several recent examples of this crackdown of evangelistic preaching. The first comes from the US where another case of state action against preachers has occurred. Here is how one news story covered the situation: “Police in New Jersey charged six Christians yesterday for evangelizing in a public park without government permission, and for causing some hearers to be upset with their Gospel message.
“Robert Parker of Millstone, New Jersey told Christian News Network that he and several Christians from Bread of Life Fellowship in Wayne were all cited on Saturday as they witnessed to passersby in Journal Square in Jersey City. He stated that Richard Corniel of Paterson, a Marine who had served in Iraq, was preaching the Gospel when he was approached by Officer Chris Baker, who immediately shut down Corniel by asserting that a permit was required for his activities. Officer Baker also reportedly informed the Christians that they were in a ‘private park’ and that they had to leave the city-owned property.
“When Parker first spoke to the police, he stated that Officer Baker demanded identification from all of the Christians under the threat of arrest. Parker said that at first he declined, but police insinuated that if they provided identification, everything would be fine. However, that did not turn out to be the case. ‘He told us, “That will cost you $250 a piece”,’ Parker recalled the officer stating. ‘He said, “Anybody who is with them gets a ticket”.’
“Parker explained that the police also confiscated the mobile phone of one of the Christians who was recording the incident, contending that it was against the law for them to record police, and that the officers were taking the phone as part of an investigation. In addition to engaging in open-air preaching and one-on-one witnessing, the Christians were also distributing Gospel literature to those inside the park. However, Jersey City police told them that they were not permitted to hand out tracts in the entire city without government permission.
“He kept asking me, ‘Do you know where you’re at? Do you know where you’re at?’ Parker outlined. When the supervising officer arrived on the scene to assess the situation, he agreed with Baker. Parker said that at this point, there were five to six law enforcement officials surrounding them.”
The second example is from Australia. One news item reports it this way: “The case of two brothers stopped from preaching in an Adelaide street by a local by-law is being tested in the High Court, with the ruling tipped to have wider ramifications for free speech. The court today considered whether a by-law restricting Samuel and Caleb Corneloup from preaching in the Rundle Mall shopping strip was inconsistent with the implied constitutional freedom of political communication.
“The Corneloup brothers, both members of a controversial religious organisation called ‘Street Church’, were prosecuted in a South Australian magistrates court with preaching in the mall without permission in 2009. They were found to have breached clauses of an Adelaide by-law stipulating that no one may ‘preach, canvass (or) harangue’ on any road without a permit. The preachers argued the clauses were invalid and sought a declaration to that effect in SA’s District Court.
“There, Judge Simon Stretton declared the words ‘preach, canvass (or) harangue’ and another clause preventing people from handing out printed material to be beyond Adelaide’s power in making by-laws. The city appealed the decision in the Supreme Court, but it was dismissed. The Supreme Court said demanding that people seek permission before speaking on political matters was incompatible with democracy and responsible government under the Australian Constitution.”
Now I know nothing about these two cases except for what the media has reported. Whether there is more to each story remains to be seen. But it seems in both cases we have something occurring which would have been unheard of just decades ago. Indeed, I recall over the years sharing my faith in public places such as parks, beaches, streets and so on in the US and Australia and elsewhere. There was never a need to “get a permit” or some such thing. But today it is getting harder and harder for a Christian to publically declare his faith.
On the general topic of religious freedom, US commentator Matthew Franck writes, “There is a growing awareness among Americans that religious freedom in our country has come under sustained pressures. In the public square where freedom of religion meets public policy, it becomes clearer all the time that there is a high price to be paid for being true to one’s conscience. This is no tale of Chicken Little—although a chain of chicken sandwich restaurants based in Atlanta is part of the story.”
He concludes his important article this way: “Individuals of faith, joined in communities of faith, forming a civil society imbued with the many faiths of those many communities, own this country. The state’s authority comes from us, and its power—the power of our elected employees—cannot be greater than what we can rightfully give it. We cannot give the state power over the conscience of men and women, because we do not ourselves have any right to come between God and our fellow citizens. The sooner our elected employees remember these foundational truths, the sooner we may begin to recover a healthy notion of religious freedom.”
Dr Snyder, who discusses Franck’s article, says this: “What we are witnessing is a shift in the significance of religious beliefs in our nation. They are now being shoved to the periphery, whereas they used to be right at the center of our culture. Two hundred years ago, the Founders recognized the priority that religious faith had in society.
“When James Madison wrote his famous Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, he clearly expressed the consensus of the age when he said, ‘It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent, both in order of time and in degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society.’
“Madison’s perspective was that our allegiance to God and what He requires of us is greater than the allegiance we owe to our government. Today, we are in the process of reversing that. Here, I believe, is where the real battle for the soul of our nation lies. Yes, I’m concerned about the economy, taxes, healthcare, foreign policy, and all the rest. Yes, I speak out constantly about the need to limit the federal government to the authority granted it in the Constitution. But even more than all that, it is imperative that our government not declare itself to be above an individual’s conscience before God. Government is not God; only God Himself can make that claim. We owe our ultimate allegiance to Him, and Him only.
“That’s why I write about the dangers of another four years of Barack Obama. His mindset is the new one, the one that subordinates religious beliefs to the dictates of whatever the government deems more important. The danger is real, and it must be met head-on and defeated.”
Quite so. Whether it is the Christophobe Obama in America, or Julia in Australia, things are getting real tight in terms of religious freedom, and the ability to publically proclaim the gospel. It will only get worse, unless we stand up and be counted here.