The Emerging Legal Landscape.

Posted: August 18, 2010 in Uncategorized

The saying often repeated, but variously attributed is, “Preach with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.”  But what stories does a pastor focus on?

Many young pastors have no problem picking items from the Life or Entertainment section in order remain relevant but they stay away from the news and especially stories dealing with sensitive topics. 

Some older pastors are comfortable touching upon established cultural issues like abortion or racial reconciliation but nearly all ministers stay clear of trending news items.  But should we?

My father was at a pastor’s conference around 1970 or so and Dr. James Wilkie announced that abortion would be legal in every state within 5 years–nearly every pastor ignored him.  The Supreme Court announced that abortion fell within the new Constitutional “right” of privacy in their Roe v. Wade decision 3 years later.  What difference would it have made if God’s people had been praying about unborn children for years before Roe came before the Court?

The Alliance Defense Fund (www.telladf.org), the nation’s largest Christian legal organization, has launched The Church Project ( http://www.speakupmovement.org/Church) to protect congregations from a secular progressive movement to accommodate the faith to current liberal attitudes or silence it altogether.  The Church Project has many facets like fighting for the right to plant churches or knocking out the Johnson Amendment, which has been used by groups like the ACLU to intimidate pastors to stay clear of public policy issues. 

The strategy is to knock out the so-called separation of church and state (more on that later) by establishing federal precedent that the government has absolutely no say in the preaching and teaching of Holy Scripture. 

Why? Isn’t this a needless, right-wing move? Is there really a need to protect free speech on behalf of Christians in this country?

Consider this, in Canada today, a pastor can be fined or even imprisoned for preaching on texts that touch upon homosexuality.  In Europe, Pastor Ake Green was arrested for preaching on the issue. 

Well, that is there and this is here, right? 

The Methodist Church owns a pavilion in Ocean Grove, New Jersey.  A couple engaged in homosexual activity requested to use the facility for a commitment ceremony but the church turned them down stating that they only rented to facility for traditional weddings. The couple sued and the case is still in court.  Their argument would set what is called “persuasive precedent” (sorry for any legalize but I am an attorney!) that would make it a human rights violation for churches to deny use to same-sex couples.

In Gilbert, Arizona and San Diego, California, pastors hosting small group Bible studies in their home were told by the local governments to stop citing “zoning issues.”

In New York City, an injunction earned by the Alliance Defense Fund is the only thing keeping church plants in public buildings. 

Okay, so there have been an increasing number of attacks on the autonomy of the church but why preach and teach on it? These are legal and public policy issues that need prayer and funding.

If you go to older towns in our country then you will notice that there is normally a church at or near the town square.  Pastors were responsible first and foremost for preaching the Gospel, of course, but also for helping to educate those God had entrusted to him on how the Lordship of Jesus of touches every facet of a disciple’s life.

I’m not militant but it is important to remember, in the words of Bishop Harry Jackson, that Jesus did not come to take sides but to take over.

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