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Supreme Court of the United States

Do You Really Have Religious Freedom If You Can’t Act on or Even Express Your Beliefs?

By Marissa Mayer posted on:
October 17, 2017

You’ve heard it before—you’re free to believe whatever you want, but not necessarily free to act on those beliefs.

This is a common lecture from anti-religion advocates who prefer a world where people of faith are downgraded to the fringe of society, safely hidden behind the closed doors of their homes and houses of worship.

Never mind that this country was founded on religious freedom. And that the First Amendment expressly protects the free exercise of religion.

But just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, and that what religious freedom means in America couldn’t be more misunderstood . . . in walks Bernie Sanders.

The fact is there is a new movement rearing its ugly head that takes that first statement a step further. Now, if some in our society are to be believed, not only are you not free to peacefully live and work according to your beliefs, but you’re not even allowed to express them! And if you do, be prepared to face the consequences.

Senator Sanders highlighted this perfectly in a recent rant during a Senate hearing for Russ Vought, President Trump’s nominee for Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Sanders’ entire line of questioning focused on Mr. Vought’s Christian belief that Jesus is the only way to heaven, which he expressed in an article years ago in support of his alma mater, Wheaton College.  The senator then ended his questioning by stating, “I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about.”

And unfortunately, it’s a sentiment that we’re seeing replicated across the country.

Consider the story of Michigan farmer Steve Tennes.

The City of East Lansing in Michigan recently banned Steve’s farm in a neighboring city from participating in the East Lansing farmer’s market because of his Christian faith. The Tennes Family, who owns Country Mill Farms, believes that marriage is a sacred union between one man and one woman. And they explained their beliefs on their farm’s Facebook page. But when the city saw this statement, it decided to stop the seven-year veteran vendor from participating in the farmer’s market.

The city didn’t like the Facebook statement and wanted to ban Country Mill Farms from the farmer’s market because of it. In order to do so, they came up with a new city policy that would apply the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance to people doing business outside of East Lansing. But the city has zero authority to do so. Steve’s farm is located 22 miles outside city limits, and therefore East Lansing has absolutely no jurisdiction to penalize Steve and his farm. The city’s actions boil down to punishing people because they hold a particular belief about marriage that they expressed in public.

The story of Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran is another good example. Chief Cochran expressed his beliefs about marriage in a book he wrote on his own time specifically for his men’s Bible study class. But that didn’t stop the city of Atlanta from coming after the American hero—although he had faithfully served his city as fire chief and his nation as U.S. Fire Administrator—and firing him.

In fact, Atlanta city officials were quite clear when Cochran was initially suspended that it was the beliefs he expressed that put him at odds with the city. The following quote is particularly revealing:

“I respect each individual’s right to have their own thoughts, beliefs and opinions, but when you’re a city employee, and those thoughts, beliefs and opinions are different from the city’s, you have to check them at the door.”  -  Atlanta City Council Member Alex Wan

Are we now supposed to be satisfied that, in America, at least the government can’t control our hearts and minds and tell us what to think or believe? Is that all our First Amendment amounts to?

Even nations that engage in persecution can allow their citizens to think and believe that salvation is through Jesus Christ alone, or that God designed marriage between a man and a woman. Is America really no better?

We profess to celebrate and dutifully protect religious freedom, but do we really have religious freedom if we can’t act on, or even express, our beliefs without punishment?

The answer is no.

Excluding Christians from the public square because of their beliefs is unconstitutional, and we must put a stop to this movement before it gets worse.

Your Gift to Help Defend the Right of Christians to Express Their Faith without Fear of Government Punishment Can Make a Difference

Followers of Christ are called to be His hands and feet, to go and tell the Good News. But now the government seems to prefer binding our hands and feet to prevent faithful service in our daily lives, and shutting our mouths from spreading the Gospel, calling it hate speech, intolerance, and discrimination. 

Alliance Defending Freedom is committed to standing with those who are being obedient to the call of Christ on their lives and fighting back when their religious freedom is threatened. Your support helps ensure a strong legal defense for the Tennes Family, Chief Cochran, and dozens of others like them. There is a lot at stake—not only for our clients, but for the whole country. But it is only by God’s grace, and through your faithful support and prayers, that we will be victorious. 

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Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer

Senior Copywriter & Editor

Marissa Mayer is an Arizona native who fell in love with the written word at a young age.

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