Religious freedom in America is under ever increasing fire, with assaults doubling in just the past few years, according to a recent report.
“Undeniable: The Survey of Hostility to Religion in America,” an annual report published by the recently-rebranded First Liberty Institute claims that
…hostility to religion in America is rising like floodwaters, as proven by the increased numbers of cases and attacks documented in this report. This flood is engulfing ordinary citizens who simply try to live normal lives according to their faith and conscience.
The Texas-based religious freedom organization began chronicling assaults on religious freedom in the United States in 2012. “In the first edition of Undeniable, [FLI] catalogued over 600 instances where religious liberty was threatened or suppressed,” according to a press release from the group. “This year, First Liberty Institute has identified 1,285 attacks on religion in the United States – seeing attacks double in just three years.”
The report outlines four areas in which hostility to religious belief and practice is growing at an “alarming” rate:
- The ‘Public Arena’ of public places, government, and the workplace.”
- The ‘Schoolhouse’ of education, from K–12 through higher academia.”
- Churches and Ministries,’ in which one might expect hostility to be the least.”
- The ‘Military,’ which includes our service members, veterans, and their memorials.”
Composed by a research team led by a Harvard-trained constitutional attorney, the survey’s 373 outline a laundry list of court cases, that after a while begins to look like the rap sheet of a rabid secularist movement bent on stripping all license to believe from every facet of public life.
According to a press release from the organization, some of the cases listed include:
- A high school football coach suspended for praying after football games
- A Marine court-martialed for refusing to take down a Bible verse
- An Orthodox Jewish synagogue sued by the government for meeting in a private home
- Veterans prohibited from practicing Native American faith rituals at a VA center
- Cheerleaders stopped from writing Bible verses on cheer banners
This militant secularization of the “shining city on a hill” is a problem for all Americans, according to the report. Rather than just an issue for the florist, the baker and the photographer, attacks on the First Amendment are a “national problem,” says First Liberty Institute’s President, CEO, and Chief Counsel Kelly Shackelford.
The attacks you will read about in these pages are sweeping away small businesses, careers, and ministries. Behind the legalities are tears, anguish, and the denial of basic human tolerance, compassion, and common decency…
The animus toward religion springs from a relatively small but powerful sector of society composed of influential people and organizations who consider active faith as irrelevant at best, and dangerous to essential social progress at worst.
Os Guinness, career-long religious liberty advocate and author of “The Global Public Square,” sees the report as a failure of America to live up to her own founding principles. "As a visitor to the U.S., I have followed the issues surrounding religious liberty for many decades. I have never seen it so poorly understood and so badly supported as in the last eight years,” Guinness, an English expatriate, told CR. “The present debate is both tragic and shameful. For one thing, it represents a massive squandering of the heart of America's heritage. For another, it demonstrates America's current failure to show the world a way forward on an issue now embroiling much of humanity."
While the outlook presented in this year’s report may seem bleak, it does cede that there is still hope for people of faith living in the last best hope of Earth:
[T]his survey also shows that those persons and organizations who stand up for religious liberty win when they fight. As more and more Americans become aware of the growing attacks on religious liberty and what their rights are, they can stand and turn back the tides of secularism and hostility that have so eroded our religious liberty rights, our First Freedom.
“The first step to recovery from any problem is to stop denying a problem exists,” explains Roger Severino, explains Director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation. “First Liberty Institute’s report shatters the myth that the left is on the side of tolerance by documenting countless examples of progressives using the power of government to target people of faith for hostility and exclusion because of their beliefs.”
The data come to light at a very troubling time for religious liberty advocates. Following the Supreme Court’s razor-thin majority ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges (which manufactured both a “constitutional right” and a “protected class” out of thin air), the federal government now possesses the truncheon of Fourteenth Amendment incorporation to strike at any person whose faith maintains a natural, biological and conjugal view of man and woman. Currently, the only legislative safeguard standing in the way of complete repression of the traditional teaching of most of the world’s religions on the subject (until just a few minutes ago, relatively speaking) is the First Amendment Defense Act, which:
Prohibits the federal government from taking discriminatory action against a person on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that: (1) marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or (2) sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.
However, at this time, the bill has yet to even be referred to committee in the House or Senate.
What “undeniable” does is provide hard data to corroborate what many already know to be true. Under the Obama administration, religious freedom at home and across the globe has entered a new, precarious age of contempt and loathing from leftists who wish to diminish, if not remove, its influence in the public square and conservatives afraid or unwilling to stand firm on the issues where it manifests itself, such as abortion, marriage, or men being allowed to use the ladies’ room. Even worse, many in the public square have been browbeaten into silence on the issue for fear of being labeled a “bigot” or “hater” by the cultural cronies’ protection racket (See: Mysteries Pizza).
With bullies and mafiosos to the left and political invertebrates to the center-right, those concerned with America’s first freedom, the liberty essential to our founding and identity as a nation, must look at these numbers and realize that this is one of the last few ‘warning: do not enter’ signs on the path to the catacombs. Working backward to a rightful understanding of religious freedom in the public square will not be easy, but it must be done. With a crucial election cycle, a vacant conservative seat on the Supreme Court and a doubled rate of religious persecution in the United States, it is probably best to look to the words of Thomas Paine and realize that these also “are the times that try men’s souls.”