This week's edition of The 3, including three stories of relevance to the Christian community, there is a story about a statement released by a federal agency head about religious liberty. There was also a court victory recently for a Kentucky t-shirt printer who would not provide products for an LGBT event. And, hundreds gathered in Washington for a meeting on Christian persecution.
3 - Agriculture head releases religious liberty statement
It will be interesting to see how the ramifications of the President's executive order on religious freedom play out. The order provided instructions to various federal officials to develop policies ensuring that religious liberty is protected.
And, recently, the Secretary of Agriculture, former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue, has a statement on respecting religious liberty, according to a report on the Family Research Council website, which provided quotes from the statement, which said: "Today, I want to reestablish this Department's commitment to safeguarding every American's First Amendment rights, particularly the right to free speech and the right to free religious exercise. USDA is committed to protecting both..."
This is especially relevant in light of an incident involving the USDA inspection of a meat processing plant in Michigan. The FRC site said:
Don Vander Boon, owner of West Michigan Beef Company, was threatened by inspectors to shut him down -- not because of the meat he was processing, but because they had a beef with the conservative materials on the break room table. That case is yet to be resolved, but hopefully, Perdue's unequivocal statement will lead to unequivocal actions to protect and preserve religious freedom.2 - Kentucky t-shirt printer wins appeals court victory
There is encouraging news on the religious freedom front in a case involving a t-shirt printer in Kentucky, who had declined to provide shirts for a Gay Pride parade in Lexington. According to the Alliance Defending Freedom website, the Kentucky Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of the printer, Hands On Originals, owned by Blaine Adamson.
The site reports:
In 2014, the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission ruled that Blaine Adamson of Hands On Originals must print messages that conflict with his faith when customers ask him to do so. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys appealed the order to the Fayette Circuit Court, which reversed the commission’s ruling and affirmed Adamson’s freedom to live according to his faith. The commission then appealed that decision to the Court of Appeals in Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission v. Hands On Originals.ADF says that in the opinion, Chief Judge Joy A. Kramer "explained that no evidence demonstrates that Hands On Originals 'refused any individual the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations it offered to everyone else because the individual in question had a specific sexual orientation or gender identity.'"
ADF went on to say that, "Adamson regularly does business with and employs people who identify as LGBT." Senior Counsel Jim Campbell said, "Today’s decision is a victory for printers and other creative professionals who serve all people but cannot promote all messages. It is also a victory for all Americans because it reassures us all that, no matter what you believe, the law can’t force you to express a message in conflict with your deepest convictions.”
This case bears watching, because the track record of creative professionals defending their right to decline to provide products and services for events with which they disagree based on conscience has not been good. We are still waiting to see if the U.S. Supreme Court hears the appeal of a cake baker in Colorado who declined to service a gay wedding. The high court declined to hear the appeal of a New Mexico photographer who had faced negative court rulings. And, a Washington florist's case received a ruling against her in the state supreme court.
1 - Persecuted church front and center in high-profile conference
This week in Washington, DC, the World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians was convened by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. According to an article at BillyGraham.org, over 130 countries were represented there. BGEA President and CEO Franklin Graham spoke on opening night, saying: “Nobody knows exactly how many Christians are killed or imprisoned for their faith,” adding, “But it’s safe to say over a hundred thousand a year.” He said, “It’s the equivalent of Christian genocide.”
The article points out that...
...By one report—Open Doors USA’s 2017 World Watch List—approximately 215 million Christians in the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian experience “high, very high or extremely high persecution.”Vice-President Mike Pence addressed the gathering on Thursday morning, and according to BillyGraham.org, he said to the 600-plus people who attended: "...I’m here on behalf of the president as a tangible sign of his commitment to defending Christians and frankly all who suffer for their beliefs across the wider world." He also said, "The Bible tells us all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” adding, “And those who are gathered here today are emblematic of millions across the world.”
He stated, referring to the Scripture in Jeremiah 29:11: “Know that America stands with you and will labor alongside,” adding, “But be confident, because in the midst of it all, He knows the plans He has for us. And even, as history records, even in times of persecution, this Church has prospered. It’s grown. It’s had hope. And a future.”