Religious Freedom

Kenneth L. Brokmeier

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.” I recall reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in eighth grade each Friday following our afternoon devotion. The pledge concludes “with liberty and justice for all.” As we celebrate the Fourth of July, we are truly grateful for our many freedoms as citizens of the United States. But recent legislation, and often the litigation that goes with it, may have some Christians contemplating how long we might enjoy such freedoms.

This past spring while the city of Indianapolis was putting on its final touches to host the NCAA Final Four men’s basketball championship, Indiana’s Governor Mike Pence was putting his signature on a piece of legislation called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Both events drew national attention, but it seems more ink was spilt over the latter.

Opposition to RFRA sprang up immediately, including public demonstrations. In protest, some states withdrew funding for their officials to travel to the Hoosier State for business purposes, including to attend the Final Four. National businesses threatened to leave the state or withdraw proposed plans for future expansion unless the law was repealed or modified.

Let me be clear by stating that I do not claim to know all the legal issues surrounding this hotbed topic. But viewpoints, including legal ones, appear to be all over the map.

Some supporters of the original bill fervently contend that a person who owns a private business should have the right to refuse services to individuals or organizations for religious reasons. Others will passionately argue that permitting such behavior constitutes a blatant act of discrimination.

For example, should a bakery or florist be forced by law to make a wedding cake or floral arrangements for a couple whose marriage they feel is not in keeping with the owner’s religious beliefs? In recent years in several states there have been cases in which business owners were sued for refusing to provide such services. On more than one occasion, those owners lost their court case, and in at least one instance, the business was forced to close.

Where exactly does that leave the Christian business owner? This question becomes even more pressing if judges and courts can seemingly dictate with whom a company must do business. Will the day come when local congregations or national church bodies may lose their tax exempt status because they refuse to follow certain laws that violate not only their consciences but also the truths of God’s Word?

The Bible reminds us, “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). God’s children, including those who operate businesses, have always had to struggle with the viewpoints and, at times, even mandates from the ungodly world. In some cases it may mean suffering loss for refusing to violate one’s own conscience. Other circumstances might afford the opportunity not only to fulfill a service but also, by “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), to keep a doorway open for further witnessing to the truth of God’s Word.

As we celebrate the Fourth of July and the freedoms we enjoy, remember that God’s Word clearly speaks that Christ did not practice discrimination when it came to saving the world. His perfect life and innocent death paid for the sins of all people. His atoning sacrifice is all inclusive.

But with the Bible we can properly state that heaven is exclusive. “Whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).

In his freedom, that is still God’s way of conducting “business.”

Contributing editor Ken Brokmeier is pastor at Our Savior, Brookings, South Dakota.

 

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Author: Kenneth L. Brokmeier
Volume 102, Number 7
Issue: July 2015

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