A DISTURBING TREND [Excerpts]
Over the past decade, many Western democratic nations such as Germany,Sweden, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Britain, Canada and Australia havepassed laws criminalizing religious speech that is based on the Bible.Specifically, these laws target speech that could be deemed an aggressionagainst the dignity of its citizens, particularly those who engage inhomosexual behavior.
Repression of religious speech is nothing new in countries such as China and Iran. Many people around the globe live under the persistent threat of criminal penalties for espousing andsharing religious views inconsistent with those of that particular nation's official religion. But the recent development in those Western democracies is nevertheless unsettling considering that a minister who preaches directly from the Bible on the issue of homosexuality is likely to be prosecuted.
A second trend, however, makes this foreign hostility to religious speech significant within our borders. Over thepast decade, the U.S. Supreme Court has turned with increasing frequencyto foreign law when ruling on hot-button issues such as capitalpunishment, racial discrimination and gay rights.
Even more troubling, [October, 2005], theU.S. House of Representatives approved the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (H.R. 2662). This bill would extend hate crimes law, which currently covers classifications of race, religion and national origin, to now include sexual orientation. This would pave the way for banning speech directed at a lifestyle that millions of Americans believe is contrary to the Bible. Such legislation would actually obviate the need for the Supreme Court to draw upon foreign law to take this leap.
What does this mean for the American clergy andChristians? The net effect would be that a minister preaching againsthomosexuality as a sin would do so under the threat of criminalprosecution. Simply pointing out that a certain lifestyle is against theBible's teachings, without the suggestion of animus or violence against those who practice it (which would certainly go against the teachings of the Bible), could subject the speaker to possibleincarceration.
Fifty years ago, the Supreme Court recognized that it isnot "in the competence of courts under our constitutional scheme toapprove, disapprove, classify, regulate or in any manner control sermonsdelivered at religious meetings. . . . To call the words which one ministerspeaks to his congregation a sermon, immune from regulation, and the wordsof another minister an address, subject to regulation, is merely anindirect way of preferring one religion over another."
If the Supreme Court holds true to its precedents, America will weather theincoming storm of political correctness and preserve our most cherishedrights, that of free speech and free exercise of religion, without thethreat of criminal retribution. Should the court continue down thisforeign law slope, however, there is no telling the impact upon religiousspeech in America (Marc C. Anderson is an attorney in FortMyers, "Fort Meyers News-Press," 11/7/05).
TBC: It is better to take these issues before the Lord in prayer than to trust in the shifting sands of the laws of man.