Another religious liberty threat rears its ugly head

Published On April 18, 2014; By Don Hinkle »
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On April 7 the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will not take up the religious liberty case involving a New Mexico wedding photography company which refused to provide services for a same-sex wedding ceremony. The court, as is customary, did not offer any explanation for declining to hear the case. As a result, the ruling lets stand an earlier decision by the New Mexico Supreme Court declaring that Elane Photography of Albuquerque, N.M., violated the New Mexico Human rights law.

Elane Photography did not refuse to take photos of homosexuals, but it did refuse to photograph a same-sex wedding that ran counter to the owners’ Christian belief that marriage is a union between a man and a woman (a belief that New Mexico law endorses, but the state’s derelict Democrat attorney general has refused to defend). The New Mexico Human Rights Commission ruled the company discriminated against homosexuals for not photographing the ceremony and ordered them to pay $6,637.94 in attorneys’ fees. The commission’s ruling was upheld by the state Supreme Court, in which the court said under the state’s sexual-orientation and gender-identity law, the First Amendment does not protect a photographer’s freedom to decline to photograph a same-sex wedding even if it violates the photographer’s religious beliefs. Justice Richard C. Bosson went even further, claiming that requiring Elane Photography to relinquish its religious freedom was permissible as “the price of citizenship.” So by government coercion, bowing to the idol of the homosexual lifestyle is now “the price” for a Christian’s American citizenship.

We best not put our faith in the U.S. Supreme Court, but rather in our God who rules over all creation. Sadly, too much of the federal government seems to act like a god each passing day. Rom. 1:20-25 comes to mind. A government once established to protect our God-given rights seems to be gradually taking them away.

In reacting to the court’s decision on Elane Photography, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore offered this astute assessment: “At issue is the fundamental question of whether the state can pretend to be a god over the conscience. No one is seeking to outlaw photographers from working at same-sex marriage or civil union ceremonies. At issue is whether these persons will be forced by the coercive power of the state to participate in something they believe to be sinful. The audacity of the New Mexico Supreme Court in saying that the crucifixion of conscience is the price of citizenship is breathtaking. This ruling is more in the spirit of Nero Caesar than in the spirit of Thomas Jefferson. This is damaging not only to the conscience rights of Christians, but to all citizens. When we decide, as a country, that state power trumps the rights of conscience, we are treading on self-evident, inalienable rights, granted not by government but by God. The Supreme Court did the wrong thing, and our cherished American principle of soul freedom is the victim of their neglect.”

Lest you think this horror show is limited to New Mexico, think again. A member of the Missouri House of Representatives, Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, has filed a bill modifying the Missouri Human Rights Act that he says will protect homosexuals from being discriminated against. State Sen. Jolie Justus, an openly lesbian Democrat who represents parts of northwest Missouri, has filed a similar bill in the Senate. According to The Missouri Times, it is business organizations like the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Missouri that have voiced the most opposition, but have indicated they might compromise.

No one should be mistreated, but diabolical bills like Engler’s and Justus’ must not pass. Given the state of the federal judiciary on the homosexual lifestyle, any bill with religious protections for owners to run their businesses based on their faith would likely be in jeopardy. Whether such action would protect institutions like Hannibal-LaGrange University, Southwest Baptist University and the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home is doubtful as well. If the Engler/Justus bill moves out of committee, Missouri Southern Baptists should flood the State Capitol with visits and phone calls to convince lawmakers not to support such conscious-crushing legislation. Oh, and do not forget, it is an election year and God is watching. 

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Don Hinkle

Editor at The Pathway
Hinkle began his journalism career as a newsman for WDBL Radio in Springfield before joining the U.S. Air Force in 1977, serving 10 years as a newspaper reporter, editor and consultant. He won the Thomas Jefferson Award in 1981 as the top news writer in the Department of Defense for his reporting of President Ronald Reagan’s firing of striking FAA air traffic controllers. He went on to serve work at three major metropolitan daily newspapers before being named editor of The Pathway in 2002.

He earned a master of art’s degree in Christian Education in May 1998. Ordained into the Gospel ministry in August 1998, he was accepted into the PhD. program at Southern a year later. He ultimately earned a Master of Theology degree (ThM.) in May 2010.
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