Martha Jean and I accompanied my brother and his wife on a trip to San Diego recently. San Diego, sometimes called America’s Finest City, is indeed beautiful, has an ideal climate, and many educational and recreational attractions.
We worshiped in Shadow Mountain Community Church where David Jeremiah is pastor. And yes, we did go to the San Diego Zoo, but one of the things I wanted to see in nearby La Jolla was the cross high atop Mt. Soledad.
The American Civil Liberties Union represented a group that wanted to get rid of the cross on Mt. Soledad. The ACLU proposed that: (1) the cross be dismantled, (2) sold to a third party and physically transferred off the public land, or (3) the government may hold an auction and sell the parcel of the land with the cross to the highest bidder, but must not give any preference to those buyers who are interested in preserving the cross.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals referred to the cross as a “distinctively Christian symbol” in its 2011 ruling that the memorial was unconstitutional. The court agreed with opponents who argued that the cross signified “that Jesus is the Son of God and died to redeem mankind.”
United States Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia suggested, “the cross was a war memorial," maintaining that it was “outrageous” to conclude that the only dead veterans it honored were Christians.
Last year the quarter-century controversy over the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial finally ended after the U.S. Department of Defense sold the government land on which the 29-foot cross stood.
The whole situation became a dead issue when the Mount Soledad Memorial Association, which has long provided upkeep for the cross, paid $1.4 million for the memorial’s half-acre of land.
For several years there is hardly a week that goes by that we do not hear of some threat to our religious liberty. The secularists and those who have set themselves against Christianity are unrelentingly chipping away at our First Amendment rights and the government does not seem to be particularly interested in protecting and preserving our religious freedom.
One of the most recent reports of religious liberty coming under attack can be traced back to California where a new law has passed the senate and is making its way through the Assembly. If signed into law, it will essentially silence the faith of Christian colleges and universities.
Senate Bill 1146 in California provides students the grounds to sue religious schools for teaching their religion, because of discrimination.
Senator Ricardo Lara, the author of the legislation, explained, “All students deserve to feel safe in institutions of higher education, regardless of whether they are public or private. California has established strong protections for the LGBTQ community and private universities should not be able to use faith as an excuse to discriminate and avoid complying with state laws.”
Jeff Iorg president of Gateway Seminary, stated, “Senate Bill 1146 is the latest attack on religious freedom – cloaked in the guise of civil rights being protected for everyone. This bill is a direct threat to the rights of Christian students who have always been eligible for government funding to attend the college or university of their choice. If it passes, these students who attend colleges and universities that do not support LGBT rights will be denied access to governmental assistance.
“As a seminary, we are largely exempt from the direct impact of this law. We do not accept any governmental funding and do not participate in other government programs tied to funding. While that’s good news for us, the bill is still bad news for our ministry partners. That way dozens of leaders from all religions have signed a statement opposing this bill.”
John Jackson, president of William Jessup University, said, “It discriminates against religious colleges. If we don’t play ball with the state – the state will attempt to drive us out of existence.” Jackson called the proposed legislation “chilling."
When this country was established religious liberty was carved into the fabric of western culture as an inalienable right for the first time. Religious liberty is our first right. This First Freedom is grounded in the unique, Judeo-Christian concept of man’s inherent dignity as a creature made in God’s image, endowed with reason, free will, and an eternal soul.
The Founders understood that one of government’s primary tasks is to preserve the freedom for each person to follow his own conscience, so they enshrined certain fundamental rights in our nation’s constitution to guarantee this freedom now in jeopardy.
Recent challenges to our First Amendment rights have placed our religious liberty in jeopardy. That is not acceptable! Furthermore, what seems to be happening in California could happen in Georgia. So, will the right coast become like the left coast? It will probably happen all too soon.
The South and Georgia in particular are becoming vulnerable to secular and liberal ideologies, because the Christian church has lost its consensus in American life and our influence is waning.
One pastor stated, “The once-vibrant Christian South is beginning to become a ‘bone yard of religious history.' Churches have failed to understand the Gospel and how it applies to people’s lives in a rapidly changing culture, he noted. Christian faith in the South exists primarily in mane alone.”
According to George Will, American newspaper columnist and political commentator, California is a laboratory of liberalism and is spiraling downward. Kevin Starr, author of an eight-volume – so far – history of the (formerly) Golden State, says California is “on the verge” of becoming something without an American precedent – “a failed state.”
Our states and nation are intricately linked together like a beautiful tapestry so much so that if you pull a thread at one end it makes a wrinkle on the other end. What happens in California, New York, and Washington, D.C. will ultimately impact Georgia.
We must become more active and diligent than ever to protect our freedom. Your vote matters! Your voice must be heard! It is time to speak up! Silence is not just golden; sometimes it is just plain yellow.
In the final analysis we are either actively for Christ and His kingdom or we are passively against Him. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German Lutheran pastor and anti-Nazi dissident, said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil; God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
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