Freedom of religion that is guaranteed by the United States Constitution is under attack.
The stories that are bubbling up are surreal and scary. One pastor refuses to change his words and his phone lines are burning up. A California couple was fined for bible study. Is it open season on Christians?
Story # 1 – Pastor Be Quiet or Else!
A pastor who spoke in support of a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage says he’s had “hateful” voice messages and a sign taped to his church’s marquee. The handwritten sign, according to the Rev. Keith Ogden of Hill Street Missionary Baptist Church said, “Focus on loving your own family.” He found it Sunday afternoon. Ogden on Sunday started a seven-sermon series called “Save the Family,” which focuses on defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
He’s had four voice mails calling him a hypocrite and claiming he hates the gay community. Ogden said that is not the case. He said he supports the amendment because he fears “liberal judges” might one day change the state law that already bans same-sex marriage.Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, said she was sorry to hear that Ogden had received harassing messages
Story # 2- How dare you do something in your home?
A California couple has been fined by the city of San Juan Capistrano for holding Bible studies and religious gatherings in their home, which has some wondering about the future of religious freedom in America. Chuck and Stephanie Fromm, residents of San Juan Capistrano, home to the oldest church in California, were fined $300 for the religious activities, which the city said violated a municipal code that prohibits “religious, fraternal or non-profit” organizations in residential neighborhoods without a conditional-use permit,” the Capistrano Dispatch reported.
The publisher of Worship Leader Magazine, a Christian music resource that combines biblical wisdom and best practices for worship, and provides added educational and congregational resources through its associated educational services, according to its website. However, the he insist that their weekly meetings are not affiliated with a church, nor are they seeking to establish a church.
Story # 3- Social Media Is Not So Social
The National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) group sounded the alarm Thursday about new media outlets such as Facebook, Google and Apple, which they say have written policies that violate the fundamental rules of free expression, particularly concerning religious free speech. The NRB released a report at the National Press Club Thursday analyzing the various content policies of social networking websites. What they found was disturbing: new media platforms Facebook, Apple, Comcast, AT&T and Google have adopted policies to censor lawful viewpoints expressing Christian views or controversial ideas on “hot button issues.” Some platforms, such as Apple’s iTunes App Store and Google’s search engine, have already started to use those policies to remove orthodox Christian viewpoints considered “offensive” or too controversial.
In a January 2010 interview with TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington, Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg praised social networking for opening people up to share “more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people.” However, Zuckerberg’s social network has removed content deemed “anti-gay,” according to the NRB report. It is unclear whether that censored material contained any religious expression. However, the NRB report warns, “The position of Facebook on the issue of homosexuality and its collaboration with gay right group the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination (GLAAD), coupled with its troublesome written policies, are all strong indicators that its social networking platform poses a high index of risk for anti-Christian discrimination.”
Google has also committed a number of free speech violations, the NRB report alleges. The world’s most powerful search engine initially prohibited the English Christian Institute from purchasing space for an advertisement about abortion. It also allegedly blocked a Massachusetts pro-family website because of its conservative Christian content. Google also has also excluded churches and other faith groups from free or discounted use of its web tool Google for nonprofits.
According to the laws of the United States the following is held true:
Written in 1779 by Thomas Jefferson, proclaimed:
- “[N]o man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.”
Those sentiments also found expression in the First Amendment of the national constitution, part of the United States’ Bill of Rights:
- “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
The United States formally considers religious freedom in its foreign relations. The International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 established the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom which investigates the records of over 200 other nations with respect to religious freedom, and makes recommendations to submit nations with egregious records to ongoing scrutiny and possible economic sanctions. Many human rights organizations have urged the United States to be still more vigorous in imposing sanctions on countries that do not permit or tolerate religious freedom.
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