For more than 200 years, Americans could take religious liberty for granted. It was a fundamental characteristic of the United States—and one reason why the rest of the world saw this nation as a beacon of hope.
Not anymore. Now, America’s “first freedom” is in danger of being thrown on the trash heap.
The Obama administration, numerous judges and legislators, and in many cases the U.S. Supreme Court, seem eager to steamroll any state, business, school or individual that does not support the killing of unborn babies, the celebration of same-sex marriage or the obliteration of gender distinctions.
Some states, notably Oregon and Washington, have punished business owners and public officials for living according to their Christian faith. As the Decision America Tour visited those states in June, Decision spoke with some of the Christians who have been at the center of the storm:
In Oregon, Aaron and Melissa Klein were forced to close their bakery, Sweet Cakes by Melissa, and they face a potential fine of $135,000, for declining to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.
Also in Oregon, Marion County Circuit Judge Vance Day faces the possibility of being removed from the bench, in part for declining to perform same-sex weddings.
In Washington, florist Barronelle Stutzman faces personal and professional ruin if the state’s Supreme Court upholds a lower court ruling against her because she declined to design custom floral arrangements for a longtime customer’s same-sex wedding and referred the customer to nearby florists.
The Stormans family, owners of a pharmacy in Olympia, Wash., have been ordered to sell abortion-causing drugs in violation of their Christian views. The day before the Decision America rally in Olympia, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up the case, allowing the lower court’s order to stand.
Because of their experiences, these believers have a unique perspective on the importance of religious liberty and the challenges of living out Biblical faith in the public square.
“I don’t think it will be unusual anymore to see Christians in public service being attacked,” said Day, the judge in Oregon. “It will be more the norm than the exception, and I think we have to prepare for that.”
But while they wouldn’t have chosen these situations, all of them have seen the Lord’s faithfulness.
“Going through this, my trust has absolutely grown tenfold,” Melissa Klein said. “We have issues that pop up, and I don’t panic and say, ‘What are we going to do?’ I’m more like, ‘OK, Lord, it’s in Your hands.’”
Day pointed out that God wants to produce endurance in His people, and the only way to accomplish that is for believers to lean in to His plan and trust that He will provide.
And God can use such trials in unexpected ways, noted Ken and Lynn Stormans. At the very time their store was first coming under attack, 11 years ago, they took leadership positions with the Daniels’ Prayer Ministry, which prays for legislators and other state leaders—many of whom were the very ones opposing them for their refusal to sell abortifacients.
Most of all, Christians must step up to the plate and be bold, these believers say. “I would say to Christians across this nation: one, run for office,” said Day. “Two, recognize that when you do get involved, you have to be prepared for an attack, so get wise. Get prepared. Build a group of people around you, and then take the office and stand for righteousness.”
Barronelle Stutzman added: “We cannot sit silent. It could be me today, but it’s going to be you tomorrow. We need to stand up and fight now.”
While under attack, these Christians are keeping their eyes on the big picture. “The Gospel is of utmost importance,” Aaron Klein said, “but we’re living in a society where they like to see that stuffed within the four walls of the church and kept there. So we really need to be a driving force in changing this nation as far as what freedoms we’ll have, especially freedom of religion and freedom of speech.”
Melissa Klein added: “Even if you think you might not win, you still get out there and be a warrior.” ©2016 BGEA