When Hollywood Takes Your Pastor To Jail

It's Now Big Business To Corrode Religious Liberty

Seen any good Hollywood movies recently?

Sarah and I recently saw 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. It was a good movie: great cinematography,  great action, and pretty close to the actual story.

Hollywood got that movie right. 

But Hollywood doesn’t get everything right. Far from it.

And I’m not just talking movies (Transformers, anyone?).

Last week, we learned that Hollywood got religious freedom wrong: very wrong. 

When Hollywood sends your pastor to jail

 

 

Last Monday, after pressure from Hollywood film companies (and other large corporations), the governor of Georgia (USA) decided to veto a Religious Freedom bill that granted legal protections to pastors and faith-based organizations.

Why?

1) The Concern

The bill was labelled by critics as ‘anti-gay’.

The L.A. Times writes:

The bill, dubbed the Free Exercise Protection Act, would have given faith-based organizations in Georgia more leeway to deny services to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.’

It’s a serious charge: and Christians should be very wary of any law that discriminates unjustly against any group of people.

(And we’ve heard this criticism before when a similar bill was introduced last year in the state of Indiana).

But was that the reality? Not at all:

2) So What Does The Offending Bill Actually Say?

You’d be surprised.

The bill contains the following legislation that was considered too contentious by Hollywood:

  • a measure giving clergy the right to refuse to perform same-sex weddings;
  • registered faith-based organizations have the right to hire and fire people who violate their “sincerely held religious beliefs,”;
  • registered religious non-profits (not businesses) don’t have to provide services that violate their faith, unless they agreed to do so in a contract or grant application;
  • the right for religious organisations to refuse to rent facilities for events they find “objectionable.”;
  • people are not allowed to be coerced to attend weddings (same-sex, or otherwise).

This list is even more limited than many other similar bills already in operation across 20 states, and at the Federal level.

Is it really that contentious? 

Using an Australian example, I would have thought the actions on this list are uncontroversial:  as uncontroversial as  a hotel’s gay owners refusing to host the Australian Christian Lobby’s annual dinner.

Which is why this situation is so concerning. It now seems that:

3) No opposition (either real or perceived) to LGBTI liberties will be tolerated.

Erotic liberty trumps religious liberty.

This bill is about as limited as one gets: it only protects pastors (or other faith professionals) and faith-based organisations from having to do things that violate their conscience.

(And even then, the government still has the right to limit that freedom,  if there’s good reason to).

If that’s not a bare-bones definition of religious freedom, then I don’t know what is.  

But even that’s too much in this day and age.

And we were told that same-sex marriage would never bother this long-standing and (up until now) respected freedom.

How times have changed.

This brings with it a growing challenge for Christians. And I think we need to think through some of the issues.

Here are some  of my reflections:

4) Religious Freedom Means Different Things To Different People.

For Christians, it’s the right to live all of life as Christians: for growing number of secular elite, it’s limited to attending church on Sunday.

For a growing number of secular elite, ‘freedom of religion’ means nothing more than the freedom to worship: whether at church, or at home. But either way, it’s a private thing, with no public consequences.

5) We Need to Convince Our Society That Freedom Of Religion Is A Good Thing.

We can start by showing them what it looks like to not have this freedom.

Gay activist Peter Tatchell is now convinced that freedom of religion (as we understand it) is a good thing.

Here’s what he says:

[S]hould Muslim printers be obliged to publish cartoons of Mohammed? Or Jewish ones publish the words of a Holocaust denier? Or gay bakers accept orders for cakes with homophobic slurs? ‘

He continues:

In my view, it is an infringement of freedom to require businesses [or faith groups] to aid the promotion of ideas to which they conscientiously object. Discrimination against people should be unlawful, but not against ideas. [emphasis added].

Furthermore:

6) Religious Freedom is Worth Defending:  It’s an Important Way to Love Our Christian/non-Christian neighbour.

It doesn’t penalise human beings who come to different convictions about life. 

Let’s face it: humanity is very diverse.

We’re made up of different races, cultures, and religions.

From a Christian worldview, we’re all made in God’s image, meaning  we’re rational (we think), moral (we have a sense of right/wrong),  and we’re religious (we worship something/someone).

We’re also finite, and we’re sinful.

Throw all those things together in 6 billion human beings, and what do you get?

Worldview/Religious Diversity. 

And so here’s the question:

How do we live with this diversity?

How do we live with these deep differences, in a fair and equitable way?

We can force people to believe the same as us: be ‘anti-diverse’.

Or we can give people the freedom to believe and practice whatever they want (unless there’s a good societal reason not to).

That’s what free societies have traditionally done.

And here’s the thing:

7) Religious Freedom is also good for social cohesion

It stops people feeling resentful and alienated.

If we allow people to live out their deepest convictions (as much as possible), then they won’t feel oppressed and violated: they’ll feel included in wider culture.

Which is more likely to lead to a stable society.

8) The Next Stage of the Revolution:

Big business uses its (anti-democratic) might to push for change

When Hollywood and other big businesses start using their economic might to oppose freedom of religion for pastors, then you know religious freedom is in dire straights.

And as Christian commentator Albert Mohler has said:

If this can happen in [conservative] Georgia, it can happen anywhere’.

Which is why I’m writing this post from Australia. We need to watch developments in America closely. Because what happens in America, doesn’t stay in America.

 

So what do you think? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below:

 

Photo: Dollarphotoclub.com

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12 thoughts on “When Hollywood Takes Your Pastor To Jail

  1. I have been watching America’s treatment of objectors to same sex marriage since the Supreme Court ruled in favor of it and I can say I’m very concerned especially with so many here in Australia being ignorant of what redefining marriage really means. Many have no idea of how this will impact our society. The problem is debate is not being done adequately and anyone who dares oppose is already labeled a bigot and it’s not even law here yet. Thanks for your commonsense comments on here. I personally feel encouraged by them. Sometimes one can feel very alone in one’s opinions and beliefs so I thank you very much.

  2. ’.

    ‘Or we can give people the freedom to believe and practice whatever they want (unless there’s a good societal reason not to.)’
    Akos, could this idea be used by the gay lobby to justify their opposition to all things anti gay? Thanks
    Greg Crome

    • Absolutely.

      According to the stereotypical gay lobby view (which we need to add is not the view of all LGBTIQ people), there is no good reason to be opposed to all things gay (as seen by the actions of Hollywood et al.).

      This is where we need to persuade the average non-Christian with good arguments (e.g. item 5 – Peter Tatchell has done us a great service), namely that freedom of religion is the better way to live in a pluralistic society.

      Not saying it’s easy: but I think that’s the way ahead.

      Cheers,

      Akos

  3. I have seen this coming for a long time. Persecution of Christians is inevitable and will increase. I don’t think we will be able to stop it. All the petitions I have signed, all the politics I contact has made no difference to the push for Safe Schools and other same sex rights.i see the only solutions are 1- the Lord returns or 2 the secular society turns on itself to get their own minority rights and destroys itself so people turn to the only thing that remains constant. Christ. In the mean time I pray unceasingly for my children and grandchildren to be protected from all the temptations that the secular world is offering along with my Christian friends and their families. I will also try to do my bit in getting alongside hurting people and show the live of Christ to them.

    • Thankyou for your comment!

      Yes, perhaps persecution is inevitable. But I wonder if there’s a place to raise these issues with wider Christian, and non-Christian society, to help them see what’s going on?

  4. This does not surprise me in the least l am sad to say, I have tried on different forums to put forward that Christians do love people but we do not agree with some life choices affecting society today, I have been called many names just for having a biblical worldview. I have closed my membership on some forums as l feel l am indulging is useless arguement, its not that l have given up but the world does not want to accept any other views than theirs. This can be very disheartening except l know we follow a risen King who is coming back for us one day…and l have read the last page of the bible 🙂 its nice to know their are fellow travellers out there…thanks for the input Akos

    • Yes, Cass, it can be disheartening!

      But, often the forums are full of people that are quite settled in their view: more so than your average Aussie. I know there’s a growing awareness by many non-Christians that certain freedoms are under pressure in the western world. You may want to click through to the article by Peter Tatchell (point 5, above), as he comes to a very similar understanding of freedom of religion to that of Christians…

      God bless,

      Akos

      • You might also want to check out this interview of Actor Stephen Fry, with the host of the ‘Rubin Report’. Although they’re both gay gentlemen, they’re nevertheless concerned by the growing censorship from the (progressive) secular Left:

  5. First thought from title: Gear up to visit him in jail. I.e., do what you should have been doing all along, visiting people in jail. And other places.

    Second: The writing has been increasingly obvious on the wall throughout my life (I’m retired). We must understand what it takes to be serious about God, and serious about fulfilling the Great Commission. Nothing else matters.

    Third: Take lessons from all the martyrs we know about. We give up our right to ourselves if we would follow Jesus. It’s frighteningly easy to interpret these matters in terms of our personal and collective (church) loss of rights/privileges/freedoms.