Apr 3, 2015

Religious Freedom Under Fire

Andy Woods

Dr. Andy Woods
Sugar Land Bible Church

(THE WORD ON POLITICS)—I feel somewhat akin to what Jude expressed in verse 3 of the New Testament book that bears his name. I originally wanted to write a happier post about the Resurrection of Christ, since Easter Sunday is rapidly approaching. However, the breath-taking reaction by the homosexual lobby to Indiana Governor Mike Pence's signature on the Hoosier state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) has forced me to devote this week's blog post to scrutinizing this moral insanity. Certainly other subjects are far more worthy of our consideration, such as the Obama Administration paving the way for an Atomic Ayatollah in Iran. However, given what has transpired in Indiana this week, I feel the necessity to weigh in.

Mike Pence

Is RFRA Discriminatory Against Homosexuals?

In case you are living under a rock somewhere and missed this week's happenings, Indiana Governor Mike Pence last week signed into law a state-wide version of the Federal Law known as RFRA. This legislation merely mandates that the state government must first demonstrate what is called a compelling interest (the highest legal burden) and the least restrictive means toward the pursuit of this interest before it can impede upon the First Amendment's guarantee of the Free Exercise of Religion. Because this law affords cake bakers, florists, and wedding planners possessing the biblical conviction that homosexuality is a sin the legal freedom to not be coerced into providing their services at gay weddings, both Pence and the legislation have been viciously attacked as being anti-gay and promoting discrimination against homosexuals. The propaganda war has reached an intensity and fever pitch beyond what I can remember after decades of monitoring and studying this issue. Given this disproportionate media reaction, I would like to briefly explain what I think is really going on here that very few people are clearly articulating.

Is such legislation really discriminatory against homosexuals? Consider its origin. The Federal version of the law was originally introduced by now far left Democratic Senator from New York, Chuck Schumer. It was then signed into law by leftist, Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1993. Ironically, it was George Stephanopoulos on ABC's Good Morning America that drew first blood against Pence by labeling the new legislation 'anti-gay.' [1] As a former member of the 1992 Clinton election team and then the Clinton Administration, Stephanopoulos is in actuality a former Clintonista masquerading these days as an objective journalist. Ironically, it was Stephanopoulos' former boss that signed into law the very federal version of the new Indiana legislation that Stephanopoulos now labels as anti-gay. If the original legislation was discriminatory on its face against gays, then why would it have the initial support of politicians like Clinton and Schumer, whose core constituency consists of the gay lobby?

Beyond all of this, the original Federal law enjoyed broad bipartisan support. In fact, it passed the Senate with a lopsided 97-3 vote. Why?...because the law was completely reasonable. The original Federal RFRA law was a reaction to the highly criticized 1990 Supreme Court case Employment Division vs. Smith, [2] in which the United States Supreme Court dramatically lowered the government's burden that it had to demonstrate before it could lawfully interfere with an individual's Free Exercise of Religion. Most court observers concluded that in its zeal to win the drug war, the high court unnecessarily trampled upon the religious freedom rights of the Native American Church. The Federal version of RFRA simply restored the legal standard to where most believed it should remain, at the highest level of scrutiny.

As further proof that such laws are non-discriminatory against homosexuality, also consider the fact that now 20 states in the union currently have on their books state versions of RFRA. [3] Interestingly, "no RFRA has ever been used successfully to defend anti-gay discrimination, not in twenty years of RFRAs nationwide." [4] In fact, in one high profile case from Richland, Washington involving a Christian florist who refused to lend her services to a gay wedding, "The couple had no problem getting the flowers they needed. In fact, they received several offers for free flowers." [5]

Beyond this, there is no pattern of nation-wide discrimination against homosexuals in modern America. Quite the contrary, homosexuals are among the most affluent members of contemporary American society. According to USA Today:

...homosexual couples who live together may be wealthier than hetero-sexual live-in couples, an analysis of new census numbers suggests...gay male couples appear to be particularly affluent, out-earning even married couples: Gay male couples had a $56,863 household income; Married couples, $47,012; Heterosexual unmarried couples, $37,602. [6]

It is common for gay rights activists to point to the rash of violent attacks allegedly committed against gays as evidence of a societal pattern of discrimination against homosexuals. However, the stark contrast between reality and rhetoric here is as different as night and day:

Set against the so-called epidemic of hate crimes in America are the 1,401,313 total crimes committed against persons or property in 2006. This is compared to the 9,080 "bias motivation" crimes committed in that year. "Hate crimes" account for .08 percent of the total crime problem facing America. But that's not all. Just 1,415 of the 9,080 hate crimes reported to the FBI in 2006 were identified as offenses by prejudice against the victim's sexual orientation. Crimes against homosexuals as an identified class are just .012 percent of all crimes committed in America. [7]

Contrary to the widespread opinion perpetuated by the liberal media, even the infamous victimization and brutal murder of Matthew Shepard on October 6, 1998 had nothing to do with anti-gay bigotry due to Shepard's homosexual orientation. Separating emotional hype from the actual facts of the case has been well documented by Stephen Jimenez in the Book of Matt. ((Stephen Jimenez, The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepherd (Hanover, NH: Streetforth, 2013).))

Stephen Jimenez went to Laramie to research the story of Matthew Shepard's murder in 2000, after the two men convicted of killing him had gone to prison, and after the national media had moved on. His aim was to write a screenplay on what he, and the rest of the nation, believed to be an open-and-shut case of bigoted violence. As a gay man, he felt an added moral imperative to tell Matthew's story. But what Jimenez eventually found in Wyoming was a tangled web of secrets. His exhaustive investigation also plunged him deep into the deadly underworld of drug trafficking. Over the course of a thirteen-year investigation, Jimenez traveled to twenty states and Washington DC, and interviewed more than a hundred named sources. The Book of Matt is sure to stir passions and inspire dialogue as it re-frames this misconstrued crime and its cast of characters, proving irrefutably that Matthew Shepard was not killed for being gay but for reasons far more complicated—and daunting. [8]

Even the alleged rash of teenage gay suicides supposedly brought about by an intolerant society seem to be highly exaggerated. According to USA Today:

Gay and lesbian teenagers are only slightly more likely than heterosexual kids to attempt suicide, contrary to past studies that suggest gay youths have about triple the rate of trying suicide, says a Cornell University psychologist...Studies finding that about 30% of gay adolescents have attempted suicide exaggerated the rates because they surveyed the most disturbed youngsters and didn't separate thoughts from action, says Ritch Savin-Williams. Nearly all research on the topic has drawn teens from support groups or shelters, where the most troubled gather, and has taken at face value the claim of a suicide attempt, he says. Savin-Williams' own two studies...focus on 349 students ages 17 to 25. When they said they had tried to kill themselves, he asked what method they used. He also separated out the small minority that attended support groups...Over half of reported suicide attempts turned out to be "thinking about it" rather than trying anything...The other study of 266 college men and women found that gay youths were not significantly more likely than straight classmates to have tried to take their own lives. Again, the homosexual students were more likely to report "attempts" that further questioning revealed as thoughts...Poorly designed studies that exaggerate their suicide risk "pathologize gay youth, and that's not fair to them," he says. [9]

Thus, unlike the actual American historical pattern of discrimination against blacks due to the residuals of slavery and the segregation in the Jim Crow south, no similar pattern exists against gays. Thus, when all the data is objectively considered, RFRA represents no real threat to the gay lifestyle.

However, despite this reality, there has been a visceral reaction against Indiana's new RFRA law. "A number of companies, organizations, athletes and other high-profile voices have expressed strong opinions to Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signing the controversial 'religious freedom' bill into law last week." [10] Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, is even among these vociferous objectors. [11] Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe used the opportunity to invite Indiana located businesses to uproot and move to Virginia. [12] There have also been cancellations of numerous conventions and concerts originally scheduled in Indiana. [13] Even cancellation of the Final Four, which is scheduled to be played in Indiana this weekend, has been floated. [14] Many high profile Americans, regardless of their connection or lack thereof to the issue, have been asked their position on the new Indiana RFRA law. Even Mike Krzyzewski, the head coach of Final Four qualifier Duke University, has been queried. [15] Sadly, those supportive of the new law, in some cases, have had their businesses destroyed and their very lives physically threatened. [16] That these attacks have all been waged on what most Christians regard as holy week demonstrates what little respect these homosexual activists have toward Christianity in general. In fact, the criticism has been so severe, that Governor Pence seems to be backing off his original position. [17]

Sodom's Second Coming

If RFRA is not discriminatory against gays, then why this intense cultural backlash? The answer really has to do with Sodom's second coming. Recall the reaction of the homosexual mob that surrounded Lot's house in Sodom and Gomorrah when Lot offered the crowd his two virgin daughters (Gen. 19:4-8). "But they said, 'Stand aside.' Furthermore, they said, 'This one came in as an alien, and already he is acting like a judge; now we will treat you worse than them.' So they pressed hard against Lot and came near to break the door" (Gen. 19:9). This crowd became offended at the mere suggestion that their sexual proclivity was abnormal. Apparently they interpreted Lot's offer of his daughters as a criticism or judgment upon their lifestyle. This explains why they complained that Lot was, "acting like a judge."

Christ Himself predicted this identical moral climate would again exist upon the earth just prior to His Return. In Luke 17:28-30, Jesus prophesied, "It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed." Revelation 11:8 even predicts this same moral climate descending upon God's chosen city in the last days when it describes Jerusalem as "mystically...called Sodom."

Thus, we perhaps have now entered the time period when this very moral climate and militant homosexuality predicted by Christ is beginning to manifest itself. Mere criticism of the homosexual lifestyle is now being aggressively demonized and resisted just as it was in Lot's day. God's timeless Word still establishes heterosexual monogamy as the proper pattern for marriage (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:18-25; Matt. 19:3-6). The Bible is equally clear in its condemnation of homosexuality (Gen. 19:1-19; Lev. 18:22; 20:13; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Rom. 1:26-27; Jude 7). As long as there continue to be people in this culture who stand upon the authority of God's Word, they will be vilified and victimized by the gay lobby. In sum, the manifestation of a predicted end times' spirit that promotes homosexuality at all costs and without logic nor limits masquerading as an ambition to remedy discrimination against gays is the real motivation behind the public attacks against Indiana's new RFRA law.

The issue with RFRA is not remedying discrimination against gays. Rather, the true issue, and the reason for the backlash to Indiana's RFRA law, is that such legislation has the audacity to allow people of faith the legal freedom to believe that homosexuality is a sinful and abnormal lifestyle. In other words, RFRA gives them the freedom to not be legally coerced into accepting the homosexual lifestyle against the dictates of their consciences and deeply held biblical convictions. As long as such laws exist, the gay rights movement will never rest. The identical pressure that the gay lobby has consistently applied to the United States military, the Boy Scouts of America, the American Psychological Association, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, and Dan Cathy of Chick-fil-A is now being brought to bear upon Governor Mike Pence and the State of Indiana.

Americans need to decide whether they want to live in a country where the force of law can be used to compel people to violate their consciences and convictions. The first thing necessary to resist this negative societal tide is the need to see through the phony discrimination argument that is perpetually advanced by the pro-homosexual advocates. Then, Americans need to educate their neighbors on this issue and enter the polling place and vote for what is right. On the other hand, perhaps it's too late to resist this tide since the stage is now being set for the final events of world history. Given this eschatological perspective, things in America are not really falling apart. Rather, they are falling into place.


[1] http://mediamatters.org/video/2015/03/29/abcs-stephanopoulos-grills-gov-mike-pence-on-an/203077

[2] http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1989/1989_88_1213

[3] http://thefederalist.com/2015/03/30/your-questions-on-indianas-religious-freedom-bill-answered

[4] http://thefederalist.com/2015/03/30/your-questions-on-indianas-religious-freedom-bill-answered

[5] http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/70858

[6] Margaret L. Usdansky, "Gay Couples, by the Numbers," USA Today April 12, 1993, 1A, 8A.

[7] John Aman, 10 Truths About Hate Crime Laws (Fort Lauderdale, FL: Coral Ridge, 2008), 25-26.

[8] http://www.amazon.com/The-Book-Matt-Matthew-Shepard/dp/1586422146

[9] Marilyn Elias, "Gay Teens Less Suicidal Than Thought, Report Says," online: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/life/2001-11-26-gay-teens.htm, 26 November 2011, accessed 16 May 2014.

[10] http://www.indystar.com/story/news/2015/03/26/twitter-reaction-religious-freedom/70483274

[11] http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/tim-cook-apple-will-oppose-states-bills-indianas-religious-freedom-n332316

[12] http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/mcauliffe-invites-indiana-firms-to-open-and-welcoming-virginia/2015/03/30/e5c84a28-d70d-11e4-8103-fa84725dbf9d_story.html

[13] http://www.wthr.com/story/28651997/afscme-pulls-national-conference-out-of-indianapolis-over-rfra

[14] http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/25/politics/mike-pence-religious-freedom-bill-gay-rights

[15] http://chicksontheright.com/blog/item/28113-basketball-coach-refuses-to-talk-rfra-in-the-midst-of-the-final-four-how-dare-he

[16] http://dailycaller.com/2015/04/01/rfra-how-a-local-tv-station-ruined-a-business-and-threatened-a-familys-safety

[17] http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2015/03/31/full-text-of-indiana-gov-mike-pences-news-conference-on-rfra