In just a few weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court will convene for its fall term, with a number of significant cases to consider.
Cases that have come before the current court relating to religious freedom have turned up mixed results—even with the conservative justices appointed by the prior administration. It appears as if the court is willing to somewhat protect the religious rights of institutions, but on very narrow grounds. And it’s extremely troubling that the justices have failed to rule on behalf of believers who have been persecuted by state and federal agencies for their personal faith and Biblical convictions.
This summer, Barronelle Stutzman’s case fell one vote short of being considered by the full Supreme Court. As you may remember, Barronelle is a florist in the state of Washington who was sued by the state attorney general and the ACLU for refusing to provide floral arrangements for the wedding of a gay man, a customer she had served for more than a decade. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch voted to accept her case. Why the others didn’t is completely incomprehensible.
I have had the pleasure of meeting Barronelle, and she is one of the kindest people you will ever meet—a grandmother who has no ill will toward anyone. But she is also a strong woman of faith who said she refused to provide the arrangements for this gay wedding because, in her words, “My faith teaches me that marriage is between a man and a woman.”
And now she is being threatened with financial ruin for her Biblical convictions. This should never happen in a nation founded by men and women seeking religious freedom from their tormentors!
Another Washington state case that could make its way to the Supreme Court this fall concerns Coach Joe Kennedy, who was fired by his high school administrators after he refused to stop praying on the football field following games, a practice that has long been commonplace across America. Can you imagine, being fired for simply praying publicly on a football field with willing players?
Well, I can tell you this—I had the privilege of spending time with Coach Kennedy this summer, and he isn’t backing down. Not one bit. He’s a Marine veteran, but most important he is a committed follower of Jesus Christ who will stand on his Biblical convictions, come what may. The case came before the Supreme Court two years ago and was sent back down to the lower courts to gather more facts. Let’s pray that this time the justices will have the wisdom to protect this man and his sincerely held and publicly demonstrated faith.
Yet another good friend of ours, Jack Phillips, has been relentlessly persecuted by the state of Colorado and the federal courts. Jack is the creative owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, a bakery that refused to design a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage ceremony. The state’s human rights commission sued, but Jack’s case was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2018. Now, once again, an LGBTQ attorney who ordered a cake for a gender transition has sued Phillips and won in a state court, resulting in a court-ordered fine.
Jack Phillips has suffered for his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and he is still being targeted by liberal activists. This kind of persecution must stop! Jack is a wonderful man and baker. He created a cake commemorating my father’s 100th birthday, and we have hosted him at the Billy Graham Library. Like Barronelle and Coach Kennedy, he isn’t about to give an inch.
How grateful we should be for courageous men and women like these, who refuse to bow to the gods of this age and are willing to pay whatever the cost may be for their steadfastness.
The flagrantly immoral course that our nation has taken just in the last decade should concern every single Christian who desires to live by the rights of their Biblically informed conscience. We have degenerated morally at such an accelerated rate that it will take God’s providential hand to stay His judgment on our land.
Millions of murdered babies. Laws and court rulings that increasingly prioritize the rights of LGBTQ individuals over the rights of Christians. All-out hostility toward anyone who dares to pray to Almighty God. All these are a stain on our soil and a stench in the nostrils of a holy and righteous God, before whom all must stand one day.
From an eternal perspective, there will be different outcomes for those of deep personal faith in the Lord and those who have been the oppressors.
Second Thessalonians 1:4-10 says: “Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering—since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed.”
In God’s mercy, He always leaves room for sincere and genuine repentance and faith—for those who turn from their sins and put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Scripture quotation is taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.
Above: Debi and Jack Phillips with Franklin Graham
Photo: Thomas J. Petrino/©2018 BGEA