A lot has happened in our world since our last newsletter. Make sure to look at all the items in the news area to catch up. This issue also contains a great article by a new member of the NARLA-West Board, Pastor Steve Allred. Steve is currently an Associate Pastor at the Sacramento Central Adventist Church.
In the News
Far right group successfully blocks religious center development
Despite the guarantee of religious freedom for all, a far right group representing the majority religious opinion in the country has successfully pressured the government into forbidding a minority religious community, whose beliefs are commonly associated with violence and civil unrest, from worshiping at the site of a planned religious community center. The ban on development came from the town's mayor who, after initial support, issued his decision after a series of outspoken protests outside of the building site drew national attention. Read More
Court sides with World Vision's practice of hiring only Christians
The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a ruling that Federal Way-based World Vision is lawful in hiring only Christians. Three former World Vision employees were fired in 2006 due to their religious beliefs. The group filed a complaint with the U.S. District Court in 2007. That court granted World Vision a summary judgement and, in 2009, the plaintiffs appealed the District Court's decision. On Aug. 23, the Appeals Court ruled 2-1 that the Christian-based organization is exempt from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars religious discrimination in hiring. Read More
Justice Department sues Walnut for blocking Buddhist temple construction
Federal prosecutors sued Walnut for religious discrimination Monday, saying the city unfairly denied a Buddhist house of worship a land-use permit. The city rejected the Chung Tai Zen Center a conditional-use permit to build and operate a temple on property it owned in 2008. According to federal prosecutors, that denial was the first of its kind in almost three decades. The complaint points to a permit granted for a Catholic church later that year that was larger than the proposed Zen center. Read More
Church State Council News
SB 906: Civil Marriage Religious Freedom Act
We are happy to report that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed SB 906. On Thursday, September 30, the Governor delivered his veto message to the Senate marking the end to a lot of work by the Church State Council.
This bill was introduced by Senator Mark Leno(D) of San Francisco and had two parts. First, it adds the word "Civil" to the word "marriage" throughout the California Family Code. Second, it adds protection for religious practitioners who refuse to solemnize certain marriages.
The Church State Council initially took a stand in opposition to this bill as we saw it as a move by the gay and lesbian community to get same-sex marriages legal in California by changing the terminology and separating religious interests from secular interests. It also tries to remove one of the objections of the supporters of Proposition 8 by protecting clergy who refuse to perform same-sex marriages.
When it became apparent that SB 906 was going to proceed in both the Senate and Assembly, the Church State Council focused our attention on getting the bill amended because of a loophole created by the proposed wording. While we didn't get all we wanted, we are happy to say that the bill was amended to protect denominations as well as individual practitioners.
With this veto, we believe that the right decision has been made. Should this issue be raised in the next session, rest assured that the Church State Council will stay on top of it.
Workplace Religious Freedom Act
The effort for workplace religious freedom is still going forward – for example Congressman David Price's office has confirmed that he will join on as a sponsor. Yet there the political dynamic of a midterm election remains a challenge. It appears the Workplace Religious Freedom Act will not see the light of day in this Congress. The bill is still not introduced – and some key members of Congress have stepped back – waiting no doubt for the outcome of the upcoming mid-term election. Though the "dust" is flying – we continue the fight – and when it finally settles we will try again. We do not give up in a cause that must ultimately succeed. We simply keep on keeping on!
Global Faith and Freedom
Hope TV has six weekly airings of the Global Faith and Freedom Television show. This show is produced by the General Conference Religious Liberty Department and is seen on the Hope Channel at the following times (all eastern time zone):
Sunday – 3:00pm
Tuesday – 10:30pm
Wednesday – 5:00pm
Thursday – 11:00am
Sabbath – 12:30pm & 9:00pm
In the coming weeks a new Global Faith and Freedom website will be launched. Designers are working hard to put together asite that will keep your attention. You will be able to watch all of the aired shows.
Religious Liberty Blogs
Why I Would Not Want To Burn A Holy Book
There is growing angst about a small Florida congregation that plans to make a spectacle by burning the Qur’an this coming September 11. The stated purpose of this showmanship is to maintain their right of religious expression and to send a message to the Islamic fundamentalists that they – this one, small Christian church in America – is not going to be intimidated. “We feel it's maybe the right time for America to stand up,” says more...
Gay Judge Rules Proposition 8 Unconstitutional
Yesterday, Federal Judge Vaughn Walker struck down California’s Proposition 8, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman. He ruled that the Proposition, which had been passed by a majority of Californians in 2008, serves no legitimate government purpose. He held, rather, that it deprives same-sex couples of the fundamental right to marry, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. This ruling was predictable. Several months ago, as the trial was more...
A Mosque Two Blocks from the World Trade Center?
The last political hurdle to the establishment of a Muslim community center two blocks north of the World Trade Center in New York City was overcome yesterday, when the NYC Landmarks Commission rejected pleas to determine the status of a mid-nineteenth century building’s historic significance based on the religious identity of its owner. It unanimously determined that the building lacked historic significance, and refused to impose restrictions on the alteration more...
Featured Article: Christians & Politics
By Steve Allred
Seeking to develop a biblical worldview instead of allowing my personal political viewpoints to be shaped by the popular ideology among other Christians or simply by my own preferences, I have looked to the Bible as a starting place to determine how, as a Christian living in the twentieth century, I should relate to today's politics. My perspective is evolving, so please give me your thoughts about this short and incomplete synopsis.
1. FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE IS GOD'S IDEA: In the beginning, when God created this world, everything was good. At that point, there was no sin or evil and no human being knew what it was to choose anything other than what God wanted. Yet, in that perfect world, God included a choice. Notice that the option to choose evil was not the result of accident or of an act by theother party, but it was God Himself who placed "the tree" in the midst of the Garden of Eden so that humans could make a choice to not serve God if they so desired. (See Genesis 2:9 and 3:1-24.). Why did God do this? Because it is impossible for God to be true to who He is (God is Love – see 1 John 4:8)without allowing people the freedom to choose (because love necessarily involves a choice. Forced love is not love at all. Therefore, if God = Love and Love =freedom to choose, God must allow people the freedom to choose evil). God is still the same today. He does not force anyone to choose Him but allows every human being the freedom to choose – either to serve or not to serve Him.
2. THE THEOCRACY OF ANCIENT ISRAEL IS NO MORE: It is true that in early biblical times God ruled people directly on earth via an earthly government with kings and armies. This theocracy was discontinued immediately preceding the Babylonian captivity of the Jewish nation and was not to be continued until Jesus would come and set up His kingdom on earth (see Ezekiel21:25-27). When He did come, Jesus made it clear that the kingdom He came to establish was a spiritual one, existing in the minds of people and not apolitical, earthly kingdom (see Luke 17:20-21). Jesus then promised His disciples a literal, earthly kingdom that would be established when He returned the second time (see Luke 22:29-30; Matthew 19:28; 25:31-32). Since the second coming of Christ is still in the future, the earthly, literal Kingdom of God has not yet been established, and until then no earthly political system thatclaims to be a theocracy is from God. Neither is a government that calls itself" Christian" necessarily a good idea, in fact such a government runs the risk of crossing the line into becoming an illegitimate theocracy. (See F.D. Nichols, Answers to Objections, p. 866-872. "We have consistently held that the logic ofthe Christian-nation premise leads inevitably to a revival of the medieval doctrine that the king can do no wrong.")
3. JESUS EXPRESSLY ENDORSED SEPARATION OF CHURCH &STATE: When shown a coin with Caesar's picture on it, Jesus confounded His questioners by famously stating to "render... unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's." Matthew 22:21. Jesus had little concern for what Caesar was doing, other than that He cared for His eternal salvation. Interestingly, there is no record that Jesus was ever concerned with how well Caesar's government was doing on a legislating moral issues. We don't see Jesus lobbying for a proposition in Rome to protect marriage or to outlaw abortion (See below at number 4 to draw your own conclusions on when, why and how Christians should be involved in legislation). Not that He wasn't concerned with these issues – He was – only Jesus never told us that His kingdom operated by legislation. Instead, He told us that His kingdom operated by the Spirit changing people's hearts and transforming their lives in an environment of freedom of choice.
When asked by Pilate if He was a king, Jesus responded that He was a king, but that "My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were ofthis world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence." John 18:36. Clearly, Jesus did not intend for His servants to "fight" to advance His kingdom. Yet today, many Christians feel that they need to defend the kingdom of God with the "sword"(the sword represents any earthly form of force, i.e., legislation, military, or otherwise. See Romans 13:4; Rev. 13:10, etc.) and that Christianity needs to be legislated on the world at large. Jesus' method of changing the world is different and much more powerful than that. Those Christians who want to legislate Christianity are aiming too low and are misrepresenting the Kingdom of God. Jesus wants Christians to live their faith in the midst of a godless generation (Phil. 2:15) and through living the Christ-life, society around them will be changed (or not changed) one person at a time by freely accepting (or rejecting) the gospel (Mt. 5:13-16; 28:18-20).
Ultimately, Jesus Himself, who knows the hearts of men and women, will return and hold every person accountable for what they have done –whether good or evil. (See Eccl. 12:13-14 ; 1 Peter 4:5). Until then, God wants His people to preach, teach and live His gospel and persuade (not legislate or force) people to serve Him. Forced service is of no value to God – He who knows the heart cannot accept the service of hypocrisy. And therefore, freedom of conscience means freedom for everyone – the Christian as well as the atheist(and all those in between).
In summary, F.D. Nichols said it best: "Something so holy as religion should be freed from alliance with something so secular as the state. Christianity displayed its greatest purity and its greatest growth in the early centuries, when it not only lacked the support of the state but was the object of bitter attack." Answers to Objections, p. 865.
4. CHRISTIANS HAVE A PART TO PLAY IN POLITICS: Should Christians care about the political process? Absolutely. The question is how they should get involved and why they should be advocating their positions. The Seventh-day Adventist church has historically taken a very sensible position on this issue. Ellen G. White argued that Christians should advocate for the laws of the state to be "moral" laws and she encouraged people to vote about issues that mattered to them. However, she also argued strenuously for the separation of church and state, noting that even a "slight" union between the two would lead the church to become more like the world – and would lead to persecution (See The Great Controversy, p. 297). In 1906, she argued against the teachingof Christianity in public schools. "The early church, strong only in the power of God, triumphed grandly, even over the opposing forces of a false religion, upheld by the state. Only when she allied herself with the state, seeking it said, did she deny her God, lose her power, and darken the world into a night of a thousand years. The present effort of the church to get the state to enforce the observance of Sunday, and to introduce the teaching of Christianity into state schools, is but a revival of the pagan and papal doctrine of force in religious things, and as such it is antichristian." The Watchman, May 1, 1906.
Later, when explaining the Adventist position against prohibition, F.D. Nichols, the long time editor of the Review & Herald, noted that many Adventists were confused as to why they should be voting for prohibition. Most were doing it based on their biblical beliefs about drinking alcohol instead of based on sound civil reasons. Nichols noted that, to be consistent with the biblical position of freedom of conscience, Christians should vote for civil legislation based on civil reasons only. He noted that the Puritans in Colonial America tried the regime where the Bible was enforced as the law of the land and that it had brought about persecution. Nichols then observed: "As Adventists we have held up the program of the Puritans as an example of what ought not to be done. And as a denomination we have taken the position that the only escape from the dangers of religious intolerance that grow out of such a course as was followed by the Puritans is to apply Bible commands exclusively to the hearts and the free will of men and to enact only such civil statutes as can be justified on civil grounds." Nichols went on toargue that although Christians should be able to preach about moral issues fromthe Bible even while encouraging people to vote their conscience, Christian should never seek to enforce legislation because the Bible says so since this would be completely inconsistent with the Bible's teaching of freedom to choose in matters of conscience and faith. Answers to Objections, p. 859 (emphasis mine).
What good deed can government do for religion? The best deed of all: leave it free and unencumbered, burdened by neither enmity nor amity. Faith of Our Fathers (New York: Harper and Row 1987), p. 137
If the establishment clause was based on any values at all in our history, it was based on the value of neutrality, it was based on the value of no prescribed religious faith, and it was based on the value of no coercion.Testimony for the American Jewish Congress, U.S. Senate Hearings, Committee on the Judiciary, September 16, 1982