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What Religious Liberty Means to Christians Today

I don’t wear glasses. My departed friend and mentor Chuck Colson did, though. His glasses were iconic. But looking back on 2009 when he asked me to join him in Manhattan, I see now just how near-sighted I was and how clearly Chuck saw the cultural road ahead.


Chuck’s 2009 invitation to New York was to vet a document that would become known as the Manhattan Declaration, drafted by him and Drs. Robert and Timothy George. It called Christians of all traditions to stand together in defense of the sanctity of human life, marriage, and religious freedom.


By 2009 most Christians were awake to the cultural shift taking place on marriage. We understood that activists for so-called “gay marriage” had won over the public imagination and that the stage was set for political and cultural shakeups.


And with Roe v. Wade already an inter-generational issue and the pro-life movement in full flower, no one was surprised to see abortion make Chuck’s, Robby’s and Timothy’s list.


But religious liberty? To me, at the time, it seemed out of place. After all, Christians in America have long enjoyed the freedom to worship without fear and pass our convictions on to our children.


But what Chuck saw then that so many of us didn’t was that religious freedom is bigger than worshiping God in private, and that challenges to full-feathered political liberty for Christians were already on the horizon.


Now fast-forward five years and it’s jaw-dropping how right Chuck was. Judicial and legislative encroachments on religious freedom have come seemingly out of nowhere. When Chuck said on air several years ago that “gay rights” would occasion the greatest threat to religious liberty in his lifetime, a lot of people thought he was overstating his case.


But he wasn’t. Since then, cases like Elaine Photography, Hobby Lobby, Masterpiece Cake Shop and the latest in which a New York family farm was fined for declining to host a same-sex wedding on their property, have illustrated the conflict between religious freedom and the now-absolute “sexual freedom.”


The chilling logic behind restricting religious freedom was expressed by New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Richard Bosson, who wrote in the Elaine Photography case that setting aside religious beliefs in the public square is “the price of citizenship.”


Not all of these legal challenges have turned out badly, of course. Hobby Lobby’s victory over the HHS Mandate in the Supreme Court was enormously helpful, but its scope was narrow. And yet this collision of freedoms has just begun. Every Christian business, non-profit or individual punished for exercising their convictions is another sign that many Americans no longer believe that religious liberty, as enshrined in the Bill of Rights, encompasses the right to live according to our conscience in all spheres of life.


And that’s why we at the Colson Center gladly accepted the invitation to co-host an upcoming forum on religious liberty with Cedarville University on October 9th and 10th. In one of the biggest gatherings of thinkers on this subject in years, this conference’s speaking lineup is stellar: experts from The Heritage Foundation, the Alliance Defending Freedom, WORLD magazine, Georgetown University, Gateways to Better Education, Pinnacle Forum, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and The Colson Center.


And we’ll also be hearing from Hobby Lobby CEO Steve Green; also Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of pastor Saeed Abedini who’s imprisoned in Iran; Eric Teetsel of The Manhattan Declaration; Professor Mike Adams; Dr. Russell Moore; and many, many more.


Over a two-day period, we’ll lay out the most comprehensive and accessible vision and defense of religious liberty to date. And I want you to be there.


So please come to BreakPoint.org and click on this commentary for more information on the Religious Freedom Summit and how you can join us.


BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.

John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.

Publication date: September 2, 2014

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