Rev. Kleyn is pastor of Trinity Protestant Reformed Church in Hudsonville, Michigan.
Religious Freedom and Homosexual Marriage
In our country, we often take freedom of religion for granted. There is no threat to individual safety when we identify ourselves as Christians. We are free to use the Scriptures and all their teachings in speaking to others and in showing them the way of life and the way of sin and death. In our homes we may teach our children from the Bible. As groups of believers we may gather in public worship. There is no fear of intrusion or persecution when we do this.
And what a blessing. We know that this is not the case all over the world. In some countries there is political oppression and persecution of Christians. As the day of the Lord draws nearer, we can expect the same in the affluent countries of the West. There are indications that these freedoms are fast losing their place in our society.
In a series of articles fromBreakpoint last fall (you can subscribe to this daily news commentary atwww.breakpoint.org), this topic of religious freedom was discussed. From the article below, “An Engine of Conflict: Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ and Religious Freedom,” October 19, 2006, it is clear that one of the biggest threats to religious freedom is the push for homosexual rights.
We often take freedom of religion for granted in this country. While Christians in the United States don’t face torture and death because of our faith, we do face very real threats to our religious liberty, and we would be fools to ignore them. We often take freedom of religion for granted in this country. While Christians in the United States don’t face torture and death because of our faith, we do face very real threats to our religious liberty, and we would be fools to ignore them.
Take for example just one headline issue this election season: same-sex “marriage.” As Anthony Picarello of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty has said, same-sex “marriage” in this country is “an engine for religious conflict.”
He explains that rewriting the definition of marriage does not just change one law, it changes everything. The legal term marriage permeates every sphere of law: taxes, education, and employment. These laws in turn regulate religious institutions and para-church organizations like schools, hospitals, orphanages, and Prison Fellowship.
There are a variety of cases that already point to this reality. In Massachusetts, where same-sex “marriage” is the law of the land, Catholic Charities announced that it would no longer serve as an adoption agency. Why not? Because by Massachusetts law, organizations that place children for adoption must have a state license. And organizations with state licenses may not discriminate against same-sex couples. So Catholic Charities had to choose: Either obey the law and violate the teachings of the Catholic Church, or get out of the adoption business altogether. It wisely chose the latter.
There are other troublesome legal issues concerning homosexuality besides same-sex “marriage.” In California, Governor Schwarzenegger signed a bill into law that makes it illegal for any nonprofit organization receiving state funds to portray homosexual or bisexual practices in a negative light—so much for preaching from the pulpit about homosexuality being a sin. In another case in California, a private Christian school expelled two girls for announcing they were in a lesbian relationship. Can the state call this discrimination and demand that the school violate its own moral convictions of right and wrong? Thirty years ago, we would have called that impossible. Today, it’s up for grabs.
Religious colleges might also be forced to extend married housing to same-sex couples, as was the case in a recent court decision involving a Jewish university in New York. Employees who voice dissent over practices that promote the homosexual lifestyle might risk censure or loss of employment, as did a 63-year-old Muslim employee of William Paterson University in New Jersey. He called homosexuality “a perversion.”
And even in cases where the government can’t compel faith based groups to affirm homosexuality, it can punish defiant organizations by banning them from using public facilities. A judge in San Diego just ruled against the Boy Scouts of America on this very point, because it refused to allow homosexual scout leaders.
Like it or not, the questions surrounding same-sex “marriage” and special rights for homosexuals are going to force us to deal with religious freedom issues—even what we can preach about from the pulpit.
This is a large, worldwide, issue. In many countries (Canada, Australia, and in Europe) there are already laws in place forbidding any public comment that may be against homosexuality. And just because those laws are not yet in place in the USA does not mean our country is still “Christian” in its values, or that these things are not coming. In the USA legislation is formed and enforced differently than in other parts of the world. For one thing, there are the “first amendment rights.” Before legislation that affects religion or speech is put in place, there is a lengthy discussion on freedom of speech and religion. The result is that once a law is in place all the issues of freedom have been discussed, and the infringing on these rights has been completely justified. And then the law can be rather rapidly and strictly enforced (the opposing issues are dealt with ahead of time). Besides this, there are massive lobbying groups with a lot of clout, and a massive media organization that is busy brainwashing a generation, and, in addition, a rather strict and heavy application of punishment against those who threaten the American way of life. It could be that when laws like this come in the USA they will be applied much more rigorously, judgment will be swifter, and policing will be more meticulous.
The center point in this battle over freedom of expression is becoming more and more the issue of homosexuality. And it is not anymore a discussion over whether their lifestyle is legitimate or whether they may have the same rights as others; rather, the issue is becoming more and more whether anyone may express himself against homosexuality. The tables have turned, and Bible-believing Christianity is being put on the defense. These are signs of the times, and we would be foolish to ignore them.
Religious Liberties in Education
Across the pond in Germany, the issues of religious freedom are also hot, only on a little different issue. Children: whose property are they? Yours? Or the state’s? Apparently some old Nazi laws that put the right of education in the state’s hands and not the parents’ are now being enforced. The reports are rather disturbing.
PADERBORN, Germany, September 14, 2006 (LifeSiteNews.com)—German police stormed into the residence of a Christian homeschooling family, and arrested a mother for homeschooling her children, an offense established since Nazi Germany. Now the woman’s husband has fled with their children to seek refuge in Austria, which allows homeschooling under certain conditions according to the Brussels Journal.
The Brussels Journal reports that Katherina Plett responded to a knock on the door from an undercover police woman Thursday morning at 11:00 P.M. Once the Baptist woman opened the door, police officers, hidden outside the house, stormed into her home and arrested her for the crime of homeschooling her children. The female officer insisted that she watch Mrs. Plett as she changed her clothes claiming, “She would arm herself and shoot us all.”
German police then hauled Mrs. Plett off to Gelsenkirchen jail, where she is serving a 10-day prison sentence for exercising her right to be the primary educator of her children.
However, on Monday, Mrs. Plett’s husband gathered their children and fled to Austria, finding asylum at a Christian family center in Wolfgangsee, Austria. Another homeschooling family from Germany has also taken refuge after a Paderborn court ordered the seizure of their children.
Laws against homeschooling are being enforced, not only by local authorities (police and city governments), but by the state and federal governments. December 22, 2006, LifeSiteNews.com gives this report.
In the most recent installment of Germany’s ongoing homeschooling saga, the Director of the Ministry of Education for the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg sent a letter to German homeschoolers that is in effect a declaration of war on homeschooling in the state.
In the letter K. Horstmann, the Ministerial Director, informs home-schooling families that “the Minister of Education does not share your attitudes toward so-called homeschooling.”
Horstmann, rather than acknowledging the right of the parents to be the primary educators of their children, continues to indicate that instead the family must step in line with the ideology of the state, saying, “the education authority is in conversation with the affected family in order to look for possibilities to bring the religious convictions of the family into line with the unalterable school attendance requirement.”
Horstmann concludes the letter with a threat, stating, “The education administration in future will also not recognize so-called homeschooling and act in proportionate measure considering the individual case and circumstances.”
Some homeschooling families in Baden-Wuerttemberg, however, are already intimately familiar with what the term “proportionate measure” may mean. Horstmann’s letter was written in response to concerns expressed by Netz-Bildung Freiheit about the case of the Romeike family, whose children were forcibly removed from their home in October of this year, and escorted to the local state-run school. Similar, and worse, stories abound throughout Germany.
What is disturbing is that this is not a government attack simply on homeschooling per se, but the attack is on Christian education and the right of parents to impart religious values to their children. This is clear from the statements of another government official (WorldNetDaily.com, December 21, 2006).
Brigitte Zypries, who serves as the German federal minister of justice, told ASSIST News Service that the nation “should not place any behavior under the protection of this important basic right.”
The 53-year-old said court rulings have produced “a kind of freedom for all sorts of behavior” and those need to be specifically defined.
She also challenged churches’ involvement in religious instruction in schools, saying they cannot simply be allowed to claim a monopoly on teaching values.
Subjects like ethics, law—and of course politics—also could be used to teach values, she noted.
And her opinions are backed by court decisions, not simply within Germany, but also in an international court, the European Human Rights court (WorldNet Daily.com, December 21, 2006).
The Strasburg-based court addressed the issue (of homeschooling) on appeal from a Christian family whose members alleged their human rights to educate their own children according to their own religious beliefs are being violated by the ban.
The specific case addressed in the opinion involved Fritz and Marianna Konrad, who filed the complaint in 2003 and argued that Germany’s compulsory school attendance endangered their children’s religious upbringing and promotes teaching inconsistent with the family’s Christian faith.
The court said the Konrads belong to a “Christian community which is strongly attached to the Bible” and rejected public schooling because of the explicit sexual indoctrination programs that the courses there include.
The German court already had ruled that the parental “wish” to have their children grow up in a home without such influences “could not take priority over compulsory school attendance.” The decision also said the parents do not have an “exclusive” right to lead their children’s education.
The court’s ruling said that schools represent society, and “it was in the children’s interest to become part of that society.” “The parents’ right to education did not go as far as to deprive their children of that experience,” the ruling said.
And so, what we have in Germany is the local enforcement of what is becoming international law against Christian education by parents in their homes. This is another sign of the times that we would be foolish to ignore. The goal is international standards for the religious education of children, and the physically forced separation of children from parents who refuse to comply—or, to put it more simply, persecution.