Arabia Mountain is a seemingly endless plain of granite outside Lithonia that used to be a rock quarry. This granite is a continuation of the same system of granite that makes up Stone Mountain. It’s hard to pin down exactly how far that system spreads but some reports claim it goes throughout most of North Georgia – all the way to North Carolina. Other reports say the stone goes seven miles deep. Stone Mountain is like the tip of an iceberg with the majority of its mass unseen, underground.
This reminds me of what’s happening in our Georgia Capital. There are issues that pop above the surface like gambling and marijuana, drinking and abortion legislation. And as your public affairs representatives, Tom Rush and I are continually at work tackling those issues and being a voice for the people of the Georgia Baptist Convention.
But, there’s one issue that is foundational. Like this granite, the impact of related legislation will spread (perhaps unnoticed) throughout our entire state – and even our nation. It’s the issue of Religious Freedom Legislation. Why? Because your ability to preach Biblical Morality and the Exclusivity of Jesus Christ in Missions and Evangelism is about to become severely hampered in ways you never dreamed of!
You may say, “NOBODY is ever going to tell me what to preach from my pulpit. I will go to jail before that happens!” If you’re waiting to get jailed before you speak up for your religious freedoms, it’s too late. Christian bakers, florists, photographers, and counselors have already been punished for holding to their religious convictions. Our very own Dr. Eric Walsh has faced it. Former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran, a Georgia Baptist, lost his job over it. Even our college students are severely restricted to “free speech zones” to share their faith. And every new case that is lost sets further precedent for future limitations on our free speech as Americans, and our duty as Christians.
There are currently bills introduced in the Georgia General Assembly that could become vehicles to usher in a series of Public Accommodation Laws that will put sexual orientation and gender identity on the same civil rights level as race and biological sex discrimination. That means, like in the case in Decatur city schools, those identifying as a gender different than their biological gender are being afforded the opportunity to share a bathroom, a locker room shower, and even share a bed for overnight field trips with students of the opposite sex. The school board is requiring it!
So how long until the state requires your church, your Christian school, or your youth group to offer the same accommodations … or suffer the consequences?
As Baptists, we believe we are all human beings created in the image of God and deserving of respect no matter your race, ethnicity, or biological sex. But deriving basic natural civil rights from someone’s perceived psychological and social construct is a recipe for religious censorship and persecution on a level that we have never seen before in our country.
If you want to stop religious censorship and persecution in the future, you are going to have to get involved now in protecting businesses, schools, and government agencies from discriminating against people of faith by supporting and demanding our leaders pass legislation like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)!
It’s not a popular position. Our governor in 2016 decided economics was more important when he vetoed religious liberty legislation. Many claim our position is discriminatory. But, in fact the highest and most obvious form of discrimination is pointed at you and me. Christian ethics are silenced and shunned at every turn.
Pastor, we’re working hard. We’re taking a lot of heat to stand up for God’s Word. We can fight, but we cannot win alone. Don’t be fooled by the obvious – realize there’s a lot happening under the surface that must be addressed.
First Peter 5:8 commands us to “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”
Please connect with us at our website (www.gabaptist.org/publicaffairs) or through our other connections on Facebook and Twitter. We’d love to count you on the team, helping us preserve Religious Liberty in Georgia.
Click below to see Mike Griffin’s Public Affairs Video Report to the 2017 Georgia Baptist Convention.