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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Freedom of Conscience

We live in interesting times. More and more we are being told what we can or cannot believe and practice. Much of this is being done through legislation. In Great Britain, Christian adoption agencies can no longer refuse to place children with gay couples. Some agencies have closed their doors rather than comply with the new law. Others have conformed, feeling that it is better to help some children than none at all. The archbishop of York stated that "The freedom of conscience cannot be made subject to legislation however well-meaning." The Freedom of Choice Act and the Hate Crimes Act, if they are passed in our country, could have similar effects upon us. Those in the medical field might be required to perform or assist in abortions in both their training and practices, no matter what their conscience dictates. Unless they acquiesce, they might lose their license to practice medicine. Pastors and priests might be arrested and charged with violating the Hate Crimes Act if they preach a sermon against homosexuality. The question has been raised, in semi seriousness, how long before they have to run their sermons by their church’s legal team before delivering them to their congregation? In addition, faith based ministries that accept federal funds may be prohibited from evangelizing or refusing to hire people who have differing religious beliefs.

The Freedom of Choice Act is, by its very nature, hypocritical. It implies that some people have the freedom to choose while others do not. Thus it makes a mockery of both “freedom” and “choice”. The Hate Crimes Act is full of political correctness. It only protects those individuals and organizations that are considered politically correct. Those not politically correct bear the brunt of the law, but are not protected if someone speaks against them. The Act is really not needed since there are already laws on the books that protect all citizens and institutions against personal attacks.

These potential laws open up Pandora’s Box. In many ways they are only the beginning. How long before other controversial things come under attack? How long before doctors are required to assist in suicides? How long before religious adoption agencies are required to place children for adoption with unmarried or gay couples? Will ministers and priests be forced to marry same sex couples even though it offends their conscience? Will parents be forced to put their children in state run schools even though they prefer other alternatives? Where will it all stop? How long before we find that we have lost the freedom of conscience?

If and when these things happen, we will find ourselves facing intense pressure to conform. Careers will be at stake, loss of licenses a reality, incarceration and huge fines a likely possibility, and the continuation of good work done by numerous organizations threatened. Our economic livelihood will be jeopardized – all in the name of “choice”. We need to always remember that without freedom of conscience there is no freedom. Without freedom of conscience we are all slaves to whoever is in control. We are bound to his or her whim, required to obey his commands. We become merely a puppet on a string, only doing exactly as the puppeteer wishes. Without freedom of conscience we will find ourselves again and again in the position of Peter and John before the Sanhedrin. When commanded to stop preaching in Jesus’ name, they responded “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.” (Acts 4:19). Will we, at that time, also resist the pressure to conform? Or will we accept the security of servitude?

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