A report by two U.S.-based religious freedom groups says anti-Christian persecution is on the rise in America.
The joint report by Texas-based Liberty Institute and Washington-based Family Research Council says groups like the American Civil Liberties Union aren’t the only culprits. The report says government agencies around the U.S. are trying to push Christian expression out the door.
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“It is dramatic,” says Liberty Institute Founder Kelly Shackleford, of the recent hike in reported incidents of persecution. “I have been doing these types of cases for almost 25 years now. I have never seen the levels of attacks like these and how quickly they are now proliferating.”
Shackleford says government, from schools to social programs, is the ringleader.
“There are children being prohibited from writing Merry Christmas to the soldiers, senior citizens being banned from praying over their meals in the Senior Center, the VA banning the mention of God in military funerals, numerous attempts to have veterans memorials torn down if they have any religious symbols such as a cross, and I could go on and on,” Shackleford said.
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WND reported in August 2011 on the Houston, Texas, veterans’ cemetery director who issued an order banning God from military or veteran funerals at the facility.
A pastor and family members of deceased veterans eventually filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the Houston National VA Cemetery is discriminating against their religious freedoms.
The suit alleges that cemetery administrator Arleen Ocasio required pastor Scott Rainey to edit a Memorial Day prayer so that the prayer was “general, and its fundamental purpose [was] nondenominational in nature.”
Christian civil rights organization ACLJ senior counsel David French says the exact rate of increase is hard to determine, but many of the new cases come from colleges.
“Our knowledge of incidents is only as good as the reporting,” French says. “However, it’s clear that – particularly on college and university campuses – we have seen a significant rise in attempts to silence Christian organizations by the misapplication of nondiscrimination laws.”
French adds that many public facilities are also covering over Christianity.
“One of the most strident examples: the misuse of the Establishment Clause to attempt to ban any mention of God from historical markers, monuments or even museum exhibits,” French says. “This represents an effort to whitewash God from American history and change our national identity.”
WND reported in February that the city of New York was attempting to cancel the leases of all church and religious groups renting city facilities.
“Our view is that public school buildings, which are funded by taxpayers’ dollars, should not be used as houses of worship,” said Marge Feinberg, spokeswoman for New York City’s Department of Education. “Public school space cannot and should not be used for worship services, especially because school space is not equally available to all faiths.”
Shackleford says the attacks are becoming violent, too.
“The recent attacks on the faith-based Family Research Council and the attack on the Sikhs are recent examples alone,” Shackleford says.
He also cites an example of a city trying to push out its Jewish residents.
“In one case I was involved in, a city literally tried to zone out Orthodox Jews from the city. An official city meeting perpetrated this,” Shackleford says. “Some said, ‘Hitler should have finished the job.’”
Shackleford claims the acts of persecution point to a deeply rooted spiritual issue.
“Religious hostility is the red light on the dashboard that tells us we have a problem and that violence will come next if not fixed,” Shackleford says.
French says although the Obama administration has contributed to the problem, the problem didn’t begin in 2008.
“While the Obama administration launched its own unprecedented assault on religious liberty through Obamacare,” French says, “the attack on Christian expression is the result of cultural changes that have been taking place for decades.”
“The Obama administration has been very hostile, from the HHS mandates to the VA case to many, many more; but it has been getting worse and worse each administration,” Shackleford says. “Government always tries to increase its power, and freedom has been fading in the process. It has been a steady and consistent.”
French says the current crisis has been brewing for decades.
“No, the trend began with advent of the sexual revolution and the mainstreaming of the 1960s counterculture,” French claims. “As leftist radicals have progressed through the academy, media, churches and government, the trend has only accelerated.”
Shackleford adds that some key court cases may have accelerated the trend.
“The seeds for these attacks were dropped in a Supreme Court opinions in the ’40s, and it really began to take off in the 1960s. The thing that is shocking now, and different, is that the attacks have dramatically picked up speed,” Shackleford says. “There can be as many as 100 new attacks in a month. While Liberty Institute has the highest win rate of any group in the country at over 99 percent, we just can’t currently cover all these with our current resources.”
Among the violations listed in the joint report:
A federal judge threatened “incarceration” to a high school valedictorian unless she removed references to Jesus from her graduation speech.
City officials prohibited senior citizens from praying over their meals, listening to religious messages or singing gospel songs at a senior activities center.
A public school official physically lifted an elementary school student from his seat and reprimanded him in front of his classmates for praying over his lunch.
Following U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ policies, a federal government official sought to censor a pastor’s prayer, eliminating references to Jesus, during a Memorial Day ceremony honoring veterans at a national cemetery.
Public school officials prohibited students from handing out gifts because they contained religious messages.
A public school official prevented a student from handing out flyers inviting her classmates to an event at her church.
A public university’s law school banned a Christian organization because it required its officers to adhere to a statement of faith that the university disagreed with.
The U.S. Department of Justice argued before the Supreme Court that the federal government can tell churches and synagogues which pastors and rabbis it can hire and fire.
The State of Texas sought to approve and regulate what religious seminaries can teach.
Through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, the federal government is forcing religious organizations to provide insurance for birth control and abortion-inducing drugs in direct violation of their religious beliefs.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs banned the mention of God from veterans’ funerals, overriding the wishes of the deceased’s families.
A federal judge held that prayers before a state House of Representatives could be to Allah but not to Jesus.