Religious Liberty

It’s been a few weeks since the Hobby Lobby decision from the Supreme Court.  What has struck me about this decision is the almost complete lack of positive recognition in the media or by almost anyone. This is a significant decision in the religious freedom arena yet it was received with almost unanimous disdain from any commentators. It has been decried as yet another step on the road to a theocracy, another blow to “reproductive rights,” another slap in the face to women in general.

I contrast this lack of concern except in the most negative sense with what happens any time gay rights are mentioned. Anyone who publicly comes out as gay is heralded as a hero/heroine. Any court case is lauded as a step toward equality (note that all the court cases strike down any law that prohibits marriages except between men and women).

Gay marriage will become the law of the land. That’s because marriage has been held to be a fundamental right and the only way a state or governmental entity can infringe on a fundamental right is to demonstrate a compelling need to do so. No state can do that without resorting to arguments based on morality, which is strictly forbidden. Discussions of what is moral have no place in the legal system anymore. Morality, it is argued, is a vestige of various religious beliefs and religion cannot be brought into government under the First Amendment, at least as the First Amendment has been interpreted by the Supremes over the years. Without morality as an argument states can show no compelling need to restrict marriage. The fact that 98% of the state’s citizenry support such laws is of no concern.

Religious freedom, particularly Christian religious freedom, is being challenged at almost every turn. I foresee the day when arguments will be made that the First Amendment allows people to believe whatever they want but the practice of that belief can be constrained in the name of tolerance and unity. After all, that very argument carried the day in Reynolds v. United States, the 1878 case that held that the federal government could enforce its anti-polygamy laws in Utah even though the Mormon religion taught that it was man’s duty to have more than one wife. It’s interesting to note that the Supreme Court there found polygamy to be odious and repugnant on moral grounds. The opinion of the court says in part:

From that day to this we think it may safely be said there never has been a time in any State of the Union when polygamy has not been an offence against society, cognizable by the civil courts and punishable with more or less severity. In the face of all this evidence, it is impossible to believe that the constitutional guaranty of religious freedom was intended to prohibit legislation in respect to this most important feature of social life. Marriage, while from its very nature a sacred obligation, is nevertheless, in most civilized nations, a civil contract, and usually regulated by law. Upon it society may be said to be built, and out of its fruits spring social relations and social obligations and duties, with which government is necessarily required to deal. In fact, according as monogamous or polygamous marriages are allowed, do we find the principles on which the government of the people, to a greater or less extent, rests. An exceptional colony of polygamists under an exceptional leadership may sometimes exist for a time without appearing to disturb the social condition of the people who surround it; but there cannot be a doubt that, unless restricted by some form of constitution, it is within the legitimate scope of the power of every civil government to determine whether polygamy or monogamy shall be the law of social life under its dominion.

The Court said that while marriage is by its nature sacred, it remains a civil contract and can be regulated by law. That part of the decision has gone the way of the dodo bird. Can you imagine making the argument that “an exceptional colony of gay persons under an exceptional leadership may sometimes exist for a time without appearing to disturb the social condition of the people who surround it; but there cannot be a doubt that, unless restricted by some form of constitution, it is within the legitimate scope of the power of every civil government to determine whether gay or straight shall be the law of social life under its dominion?” Anyone making making a similar statement would be in danger of his or her life today.

But the underlying premise, that religious liberty can be restrained, is the holding of the case and remains the law. Perhaps one day someone will try to prohibit missionaries of any religion from proselytizing on the grounds that espousing one belief system over another is a form of hate speech.

Meanwhile, the Hobby Lobby case stands as a beacon signifying that religious liberty isn’t quite dead yet.

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Signs of the Times?

The violence between Israel and Hamas has continued for four weeks. By some counts over 3,000 missiles have been launched against Israel. Around the world, anti-Israel sentiment is growing. Israel is becoming more isolated. Is this a sign of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ?

The Old Testament prophet Zechariah predicted that “I [The Lord] will gather all nations to battle against Jerusalem.” This is a prophecy concerning the Last Days and precedes the Second Coming.

If this is indeed a fulfillment of Zechariah, Israel should prepare for worse times to come. He goes on to say that Jerusalem will fall, half the city will be taken, houses will be destroyed and women will be brutally raped (ravished). Apparently this occupation will last for about three and one-half years, for John the Revelator says that Jerusalem will be “tread under foot” for forty-two months.  During this time “two prophets” will preach in the streets. Eventually the two will be killed and the world will rejoice for three days, until the prophets rise from the dead.

Some may say that the conflict between Israel and Hamas is just the latest in thousands of years of religious war and has no significance. It’s always possible to pooh-pooh events that the Bible predicts. People will find connections between current events and Nostradamus but disbelieve Biblical prophecy. Yet the Bible has much to say regarding Israel. For example, for 2,400+ years Israel had no sovereignty, from the time Jerusalem fell in about 500 B.C. until 1948 when the nation of Israel was formed. Ezekiel predicted this event:  I “will gather them [the children of Israel] from every side and bring them into their own land.” Then, suddenly, the world recognized the state of Israel. It’s kind of hard for Israel to stand alone if Israel doesn’t exist. Now it exists and now it appears it is standing alone.