Are Religious Freedoms Steadily Eroding?

Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick, president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, issued a statement today in response to the signing of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act:

“Today President Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The bill extends federal hate-crime laws to include crimes motivated by a victim’s gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

“The bill is named after Matthew Shepard, a homosexual 21-year-old college student who was killed in 1998 in Laramie, Wyo., reportedly because of his sexual orientation. Byrd was an African-American lynched in Texas in 1998. Members of Shepard’s family were in attendance at the White House signing today.

“Critics of the bill contend that its language creates the potential for federal prosecution of anyone whose speech (or sermon) ‘incites’ an act of violence against someone who is, or is perceived to be, homosexual, and that religious ministers and teachers may face possible prosecution if someone who commits a crime claims to have heard a religious leader speaking against homosexuality.

“Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund, said although he doesn’t believe there will be ‘immediate’ prosecutions of pastors and churches for teaching the biblical injunction that homosexual behavior is sinful, ‘I think the effect on speech and religious speech is nonetheless real.’

“Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.), a supporter of the bill, told the media after the Senate’s passage of the bill, 68-29, that religious leaders can continue to express their beliefs on homosexuality as they wish. The bill, he added, applies only to bias-motivated crimes of violence and includes strong protections of speech and association.

“Although we don’t know the full ramifications of this bill as of yet, my staff and I will be watching closely for any possible infringement on the rights of our members and pastors to speak out against the sin of homosexuality based on the Word of God (Lev. 18:22, Rom. 1:26-27, and 1 Cor. 6:9).

“We live in difficult times, when the traditional moral and religious foundations of our country are being slowly but steadily eroded. In the days ahead we may face persecution because of our pronouncement of the truths of Holy Scripture, God’s revealed, inspired, inerrant, infallible Word. Meanwhile, the LCMS, in deep humility and repentance, strives to remain faithful and steadfast in our calling to, ‘Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.’ (2 Timothy 4:2).”

The St. Louis-based Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, founded in 1847, has 2.4 million baptized members in 6,170 congregations and more than 9,000 pastors. The church body, which ranks as one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, owns and operates KFUO radio, two seminaries, and 10 colleges and universities. Its congregations operate the largest Protestant parochial school system in America. The LCMS has relationships and active mission work in 88 countries around the world and is in full doctrinal fellowship with 34 other confessional Lutheran church bodies on six continents. Also, the LCMS is a founding partner of Lutheran Services in America, a social ministry organization serving one in every 50 Americans. For more information, visit www.lcms.org.

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Are Religious Freedoms Steadily Eroding?

  1. Betty Carle

    It scares me

  2. Alex

    Dear American Christians, shame on you!

    You’re losing your freedom and 99.9% of you do nothing about it! Unbelievable… you notice satan's work, you sigh, you're scared, you try to cover you rear… some of you even ask other ppl opinion about it… but you, folks, do nothing about it.

  3. Alex

    I used to live in a country without freedom. When I went to school, I (as well as most other christian kids) was discriminated publically only because I was from christian family. Many ppl would lose their jobs if their bosses would find out that they are christians. Some ppl would go in jail or even dye because they believe in Jesus. However, it was good for building up stronger christians, because the only hope ppl had, was God himself. However it was different over there, because when government pushed ppl hard, they would resist, and would be closer to God… yes, many of them would go to distance places against their will, but those who left, would have much stronger relationship with God. This way, satan's plan didn't really work. However, it's a different story in the USA – you're not pushed hard, because this way you would resist probably even more then Russian christians did. So his tactic to push you from your positions has spread through years, and you already made many steps backwards, almost without noticing it…

  4. Alex

    Where you, folks, were couple years ago, when they signed bill 32 and relative bills here in Salem? There were hundreds of ppl from all Russian churches in the area, and probably less than 10 ppl from American churches!!! What is actual reason that you, guys, didn't come? Did you think that it wasn't really important, because it wouldn't directly affect your peaceful personal lives today or were you too afraid to stand up? Seriously, what was your reason for not doing anything about it? Most, if not all churches got invitations to participate, but almost nobody responded to it!
    Because there were only Slavic ppl in front of capitol building, nobody really cared about our opinion; they thought that we were standing for Russian culture, not for christian standards. Moreover, there was one gay pastor who proved that American Christianity has nothing against homosexuality…

  5. Alex

    We were not standing for Russian culture! If we would really care about it, we wouldn't be here at all! We care about christian freedom, about freedom to be a parent and to teach our kids our christian values, about children not thought in schools that being gay is cool, and, yes, not to be convicted with hate crime, when we preach God's Word.

    Also, if christians won't stand up, they will be pushed back further and further… actually, just standing won't help now, we need to go and fight or it will become even worse!

  6. Alex

    If two armies are fighting and one of them takes only defensive positions and never attacks its enemy, this army will be defeated. Unfortunately, this is exactly what is going on with Christianity in the US.

  7. Alex

    From the article: “The bill is named after Matthew Shepard, a homosexual 21-year-old college student who was killed in 1998 in Laramie, Wyo., reportedly because of his sexual orientation”

    That is lie! Yes, this guy was homosexual; but he also was a drug dealer, and he was killed only because of drugs. They use any catch to show the world how badly discriminated they are, but what about us christians?

  8. JDI

    The language of the new "additions" to Hate Crimes Legislation (because "hate crimes" are NOT new and have been applied to crimes based on nationality, race, age, and religious affiliation – such as, oh, "attacks on people simply because they are Christian") goes out of its way to specify the rights of people to share their opinions openly. Try reading the bill before becoming alarmist.
    The new language also includes attacks on people because of their gender and because of their physical disability…
    The only so-called "religious" persons who should be worried about this are people like Fred Phelps who intentionally tries to incite harm toward homosexuals – that is intolerable. No one would tolerate a church that preached "the only good African American (or whatever race you choose) is a dead one" because that is hateful and meant to cause harm; so why should a church that preaches a similar message about homosexuals not be similarly scorned?
    Certainly the First Amendment gives persons the right to be as bigoted as they like, but when that turns into a call for open violence, well, then there IS a problem and people need to be protected.
    As for your claim that Matthew Shepard was a drug dealer, I imagine you get this from some source that somehow did not come up during the trial following his murder. Because, were this the case, certainly his assailants would not be serving out life sentences – which were probably going to be death penalty sentences if not for the kind of 'true grace' shown by Judy Shepard in not pursuing the death penalty…
    And while you are checking your facts on Shepard (and even Byrd Jr.'s deaths), be sure to read up on the perverse nature of each of these crimes – they were not "accidental' but completely pre-planned and targeted towards individuals based primarily on their sexual orientation. If you are "scared" can you imagine how homosexuals must feel? And what does the church, by and large, show to the homosexual community?
    No grace. No emulation of Jesus with the sinners and the tax collectors. No compassion for the families of people, like Judy Shepard, who lose their children to such heinous acts.
    No, the church, in general, reverts to a hollier than thou Pharisee attitude, "Here comes this Jesus fellow talking to people about grace and making us think we are NO BETTER than everyone else… that we are ALL sinners and needing of God's love and grace."
    How dare He.
    How dare we be held to a higher standard as his people.
    How dare the United States be held to a higher standard on basic human rights.
    How dare legislation be passed to attempt to stop a string of violence against any group.
    I'm scared, too… of Christians like you.

  9. CJL

    What is the concern for Christians not advocating hate in their churches? Certainly if a school teacher preached hate to children that provoked or "incited" crimes, whether they be classified as "hate crimes" or not, I think that most people, including believers, would want justice to be served by punishing the teacher. This seems like a reasonable bill to me that in no way oversteps the bounds in regards to the type of hate speech JDI refers to in his comments. It is entirely appropriate to put a stop to the spread of hate and make a special classification for such crimes. We often hear people reference the most heinous perpetrators of crime as if there is "a special place for them in hell," which I know is not Biblical, but if our laws reflect the same sentiment, I am not troubled in the slightest and neither should you. Let's focus on the real issues here.

  10. JRI

    Seriously? What on earth was wrong with the statement made by a leader of the Synod to the members thereof? The article fully acknowledged that there was likely no need to be worried about this bill in particular, but noted that it may lead to later legislation. That is simply stating a fact.

    Why are NOW and Planned Parenthood so very much … Read Moreagainst what should be "common sense" legislation preventing abortions in the third trimester? It's not because they actually (by and large) believe that these should be done but because they understand the logical (and legal) ramifications. If a a baby in the third trimester is "human", then it is only a matter of time until it is the second, and finally the first. Both sides understand what is going on.

    The same is true here. Ignoring the fact that if just one case is successfully tried by stretching the terms of this legislation to the limits, a precedent can be set for further (more restrictive) legislation is simply being intellectually dishonest. A leader was simply making his followers aware of what may happen and preparing them. That is not hateful or reactionary. It is responsible and it is his job.

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