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“Freedom of” vs “Freedom from”

By Rev Matthew | September 1, 2007

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Erica Corder was one of the valedictorians at Denver’s Lewis-Palmer High School in 2006. There were 14 other valedictorians so each student was allocated only 30 seconds to speak. When Erica’s turn came, she diverted from her rehearsal comments and invited those in attendance to get to know Jesus Christ. In return, she was denied her diploma (but allowed to graduate). To get it back, she was forced to publicly apologize for her remarks, something she reluctantly did. Now she has filed suit against the school for violating her rights to free speech. The school board claims their actions were constitutionally appropriate.

Seventeen year old Scott Balentine was graduating at the top of his class at Munford High School in Memphis. He had penned and was practicing his valedictorian speech, one of the moments he had been working so hard all these years to earn the right to do.

In a part of his speech, Scott says, “…thanks first and foremost, my wonder savior Jesus Christ, who without him I am certain I would not be here standing before you today.” In return Scott reports, “I received a call from my English teacher that I could no longer put that sentence in my graduation speech. No deities at all. No Jesus, no God none of that could be in any of the speeches this year.”

Scott’s mom, Teresa couldn’t believe it. “Christians must respectfully know that they have freedom. We have laws in the country – freedom of speech, so it was shocking to me.” “Jesus has been a tremendous impact in my life and I credit everything I am to him. For them to say I couldn’t thank him, that kind of hurt.” says Scott. These are just two of the many stories we’ve all encountered where any evidence of religion or God is being systematically forced out of schools, the courts and public buildings.

Powerful and insidious secular forces within America, backed by the ACLU, have decided that the First Amendment to the Constitution assures everyone the freedom from exposure to any religious beliefs rather than the right to hold and openly express whatever religious beliefs we want, even if that means believing in nothing at all.

Sadly, and as much you might wish it weren’t so, the problem lies not in the powerful and insidious secular forces who are slithering their way through our society. Nor does it lie within the ACLU, oft times a virtual handmaiden of the forces of darkness. No, the enemy here is far more dangerous and far more threatening to the Christian community than either of these threats against our souls. Brothers and sisters; in the words of the legendary cartoon philosopher Pogo, “I have met the enemy and it is us”.

According to research, 76.5 percent of Americans claim to be Christian. It stands to reason then, that three out of 4 members of the school boards who are making these policies and acting against their Christian students are Christians themselves. So why are these so-called Christians turning against our youth? Why are the courts in America being so corrupted as to disregard the Constitution and support the enforcement of illegal practices such as were experienced by Erica and Scott? Worse yet, why are we allowing the courts to support the suppression of religious expression using the very same Amendment to the Constitution that was enacted to protect that right?

Just the threat of litigation nowadays is enough to cause Christians to cower in fear and capitulate to those who would strip us of our right to acknowledge our faith openly. It’s gotten to the point where schools are making policies prohibiting free speech and denying their students the right to express their gladness for having Christ in their life based not upon litigation or even the treat of litigation but rather the fear that someone might threaten litigation.

It’s one thing to sell out our own principals out of fear but quite another thing entirely to sell out our children simply because we don’t want to take any heat. What kind of lesson does that teach our kids? What kind of example are we setting?

An understanding and celebration of His Grace through our faith is an essential component of Christian life. In fact, Grace is one of the things that set us apart from all the other religions in the world. But while we struggle to live a righteous and forgiving life, it’s time we also rediscovered the courage it takes to rightfully call ourselves Christian.

The foundations of Christianity are being besieged today unlike I have witnessed in my lifetime. We are being attacked globally by forces that desire to rid the earth of our very existence. We are being attacked locally and nationally by the forces of darkness in a concerted effort to rid America of all evidence of its Christian heritage and to outlaw any public Christian expression or utterances. Simultaneously, we are being attacked from the inside by a growing emphasis on a church-centered life instead of a Christ-centered life. We need to choose or reaffirm our Master.

“No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” Luke 16: 13.

Being a Christian is simple; it’s just not easy. It’s time we prayed to discover (or rediscover) the courage it takes to be a Christian in these trying times. It’s time we took a stand for Christ. Together and with His help, we can live a Christ-centered life and preserve the right to worship Christ and celebrate His presence in our lives freely and openly and without persecution.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:10-12

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