Some religious-freedom experts believe that the massive economic stimulus bill contains dangerous language that could have a chilling consequence for churches and ministries nationwide.
The provision at issue reads: "Grants awarded under this section shall be for the purpose of modernizing, renovating, and repairing institution of higher education facilities that are primarily used for instruction and research." The problem lies in the fact that the stimulus funds may not be used for facilities that advance "sectarian instruction, religious worship, or a school or department of divinity; or in which a substantial portion of the functions of the facilities are subsumed in a religious mission."
On Thursday, I spoke with Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel and dean of the Liberty University School of Law about this issue. During our conversation, he stated in part that the so-called stimulus bill may lead to the banning of religious activity from public facilities, with public schools possibly being forced to expel after-hours Bible clubs and weekend religious services in order to access these government funds. This would have a chilling effect on religious ministries and church-planting organizations of all stripes, including new church plants being sent out from Thomas Road Baptist Church and Liberty University.
Sometimes you just have to scratch your head and wonder if our lawmakers have even a basic understanding of our nation's rich history of religious freedom.
Do you think that the lawmakers responsible for this section of the stimulus bill realize that Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison once attended church services within the U.S. House of Representatives? Do you think they realize that after the Civil War, church services continued to be held in the U.S. House? (In fact, then-Chaplain Charles Boynton wrote that 2,000 people "assembled every Sabbath" for services there.) Do you think they know that church services were once held within the U.S. Treasury Building?
This is our history, my friends. And yet today, under the shadowy guise of "the wall of separation," public religious expression is increasingly in the crosshairs of our government.
Thankfully, several members of Congress, including Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., are drawing attention to the anti-faith censorship language in the federal stimulus bill. Sen. DeMint stated that the bill would "empower the ACLU with ambiguous laws that create liability for schools, universities and student organizations." That's certainly frightening language.
Sen. DeMint proposed an amendment on Thursday to kill the provision in the Senate stimulus bill that prohibits renovation money for schools that allow religious groups to meet on campus.
As I write this column, both sides continue to haggle over the nearly $1 trillion stimulus bill. Christians everywhere should be praying that the anti-faith language in the bill is expelled. We don't need our government acting as Big Brother watchdogs opening new avenues for banishing religious expression in the public arena.
TRBC to host 'Global Warning' Prophecy Conference
On Saturday, Feb. 28, Thomas Road Baptist Church (TRBC) will welcome three of America's foremost biblical prophecy experts – Dr. Tim LaHaye, Dr. Ed Hindson and Dr. Gary Frazier – for a one-day "Global Warning" Prophecy Conference. I will be on hand to introduce the three speakers.
During this special symposium, which runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., the trio of speakers will examine many of today's world headlines, including recent events in the Middle East, to discuss how they relate to the 21st century church and the imminent return of Jesus Christ. Many of Jesus' own prophecies will also be investigated.
There is no charge for attending the conference, but attendees must pre-register by visiting this website.
EARLY-REGISTRATION BONUS: The first 1,000 people who register will receive a complimentary copy of "Global Warming: Are We on the Brink of World War III?" co-written by Dr. LaHaye and Dr. Hindson. Also, attendees may sign up for a box lunch ($8) when registering. Directions to TRBC may be found on the website under the "Visitors" link. I hope to see many friends at this exciting event.