The loss of religious freedom
By Ninos Hadjirousou
Christians both in the UK and in the USA have been making headlines recently, simply because of their relationship with Jesus Christ. One story that really caught my attention (and the attention of other’s) was the case of Barronelle Stutzman, a grandmother florist from Washington DC, who was sued because of her relationship with Jesus Christ.
The CNN report reads: “In 2013, a long-time friend and customer came to her flower shop and asked her to provide flowers for his gay wedding. Stutzman had known this man and had done business with him for about nine years. Nevertheless, she told him that she could not participate in his wedding “because of my relationship with Jesus.”
The man’s partner subsequently spread the word via social media. As a result, the attorney general of Washington State sued Stutzman for violating the state’s anti-discrimination law. The two men also sued her in their personal capacity and were represented by the ACLU. As a result of these lawsuits, Stutzman stands to lose her business, her home, and her personal savings. Her whole life hangs in the balance with this case” (http://edition.cnn.com/2015/02/20/living/stutzman-florist-gay/).
Now the way Stutzman operates her life and business is following what the Bible says. The United States court and state judge have ruled that Stutzman “must provide full support for wedding ceremonies that are contrary to her faith”.
The court has also ruled that she must also pay damages and attorneys that the gay couple paid and filled against her, the money must be collected from her business and from her personally. The CNN article furthermore says:
“The court says that she is free to believe what she wants, but not to practice her religious beliefs. The court has ruled that if she wants to run a business in the state of Washington, she must defy her conscience and participate in same-sex weddings. If she does not, then the full coercive power of the state — as well as civil liability — will be brought against her”.
As you have read the above, you are witnessing a cultural change happening not only in the US but also in the UK.
For example, on the 2nd of March 2015, Mark & Spencer’s Company have banned the word ‘Jesus’ and ‘Christ’ when a customer ordered flowers online. According to the report, customer are allowed to use the words ‘Jihad’ ‘Buddha or Allah, but not allowed to use the word ‘Jesus Christ’.
The Sunday Times reported the story of a customer who “was prevented from buying a £35 bouquet for a funeral. Clergy wife Geraldine Stockford tried to attach a message to the flowers stating that they were from a family in “Christ Church Teddington’. She was prevented from doing so and when she telephoned customer services to find out why, was told it must be a blocked word. The customer services operator did then agree to write the message for her as she wished it” (http://www.christiantoday.com/article/marks.spencer.backs.down.on.ban.of.jesus.and.christ/49127.htm).
On February the 12th, Students in Aberystwyth University have asked for thousands of Gideon Bibles to be removed. “A poll conducted by the students’ union claims that more than half of students felt that having the Bibles in university accommodation as a matter of course was “uncomfortable” or “unacceptable”. For more on this story, follow the link (http://www.christian.org.uk/news/uncomfortable-students-call-for-ban-on-bibles/).
These are just some of the many stories that has proved one thing, that is, what Jesus Christ said was right and it came true. We are witnessing something that is not new under the sun, for throughout all of Church History, government, emperors and many rulers have always tried to prevent and stop Christians from living according to what God has commanded. The church has always been under trial because what Christ commands us to do is contrary to what the world does. Their belief, values and traditions are alien from what the Bible says. But the fact that this is happening, and the fact that a nation would allow this to happen; is not acceptable. This is not tolerance, but injustice and violation of a Christian’s religious freedom to live according to God’s Word. If this continues, no one’s conscience is safe if the US or UK Government try to force Christians to deny our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. But what’s worse, to allow these things to happen for the sake of celebrating what was prohibited 60-100 years ago. To permit the celebration of sin and the raise of disgraceful immorality; it is a violation upon those great Christian values that are the foundation of what makes Britain a great nation and the US.
In these recent events, many maybe thinking ‘what does this all mean for Christians’? What does this mean for the future of Christianity in any country?
The answer of course is found in the Bible, God’s Word. Particularly, the words of the Lord Jesus Christ. Five points I would like bring you that will be valuable to know:
- If you are a blood bought Christian, sooner or later, the world will despise you for Christ’s sake. In (John 15:18-21) Jesus said “if the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you”. It is an inevitable fact that whoever bears the name ‘Christian’ and proves it by living according to what Christ has commanded, then he or her will face opposition, trials, persecution even death, all for Christ sake. It is encouraging to read that even before His crucifixion, our Lord warns His disciples about the future events that will take place when they go and do as Christ has commanded. In (John 16:2-4) we see that our Lord warned them that those who will persecute them “will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.” The recent events that are happening in Syria with the ISIS movement be-heading many Christians, thinking that they are honouring Allah, is also true. Then He (Jesus Christ) says “But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you”. We maybe concern about the moment when we step out and proclaim or defend God’s Word before councils and governments, but take these words from our Lord. They ought to be an encouragement for anyone who will enter into the shadow of the valley of the dead.