December 15, 2018

Countdown To The Coming Persecution: Part II

In his book Speechless:  Silencing the Christians, Rev. Donald Wildmon (a Methodist minister who founded the American Family Association), writes:

For decades, a growing number of the American elite—the people who manage the media and mold the culture, run our great colleges and corporations, and train our lawyers and judges—has been gripped by a growing anger, now becoming a raging envy, against any person, group, church, or institution committed to Christian moral teachings.  Like the (ancient] Romans, these people hear Christ’s truth as an accusation.  They even see Christ’s love on the cross as their condemnation. And strangely enough, they see Christian families not as witnesses for Christ but as witnesses against them. . . . The coalition of liberal secularists and homosexual activists—let’s call them “homosecularists” for short—have some very real goals that they know they can achieve only by driving Christians out of public life.

This quote from Rev. Wildmon’s book succinctly describes the motivation of many of the contemporary enemies of the Church in America, and examples of the individual battles in their ongoing war on Christianity—sometimes successful, sometimes not—are many. The constitutionally-guaranteed religious rights of Christians are no longer automatically recognized in court; for instance, judges have imposed huge fines and even imprisonment on persons witnessing to Christ in public places, distributing Bibles or religious literature, or simply praying silently but visibly in a courtroom.  Local judges or municipal authorities sometimes arbitrarily refuse to allow religious symbols to be displayed in public—on occasion even on privately-owned land.  In several states, Catholic Charities has been forced out of the adoption referral ministry because it refuses to allow same-sex couples to adopt; even though this religious principle is in fact backed up by sociological data showing such arrangements are often detrimental to children, society’s insistence on “tolerance” for homosexuals frequently trumps common sense and morality.

Even a partial listing of recent legal and societal assaults on practicing Christians is lengthy and upsetting.  For instance, many medical and nursing schools now discriminate against candidates who refuse to participate in abortions or dispense contraceptives.  A Catholic employee of the transit authority board in Maryland who, as a private citizen on a cable television talk show, honestly answered a question on his view of homosexuality was afterwards fired by the governor of Maryland.  A Christian married couple in New Mexico who owned and operated a photography studio were fined over $6600 because they politely declined to take photos at the “commitment ceremony” of two lesbians.  An employee of Kodak Corporation was fired after 23 years simply because he refused, on moral grounds, to participate in the company’s “Coming Out Day” to celebrate the sexual orientation of homosexual, bisexual, and transgender employees.  A male university student who referred favorably to a book calling homosexual behavior sinful was accused of sexual harassment, and several professed filed formal charges against him.

In addition to individual victims of anti-Christian discrimination, parishes and religious organizations are sometimes targeted, and this trend seems to be growing.  A few months ago the federal government for the first time denied a grant to the U.S. bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services agency, despite its admirable record in helping victims of human trafficking, because of the Church’s refusal to allow or promote abortion.  A Baptist church in Montana “guilty” of biblical preaching on marriage was cited by local authorities for failing to register as a “political committee.”  A church in San Diego renting space at a city recreation center was forced to pay a much higher rate than other community groups.  There are many other instances of Christian churches or ministries denied use of public facilities or lands, unfairly burdened with selectively-applied local ordinances or restrictions, or investigated by state agencies because of their religious beliefs or moral principles.  Organizations such as the Alliance Defense Fund and the Thomas More Society are vigorously opposing this trend and defending the legal rights of Christians in court, and have won some important victories—but the fact that freedom of religion now has to be defended in court in the first place is deeply worrying.

According to the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, “For the first time in American history, the federal government [emphasis added] has waged war on the First Amendment rights of Roman Catholics.  Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, there were harsh attacks on the rights of Catholics, but they always emanated from the states and municipalities.  In other words, never before has the executive branch in Washington attacked Catholics the way the Obama administration is doing right now” (Catalyst, March 2012).  The unconstitutional contraceptive mandate is merely the most blatant example of this anti-Catholic animus, but certainly not the only one, and the administration has used a “divide and conquer” approach by appointing pro-abortion Catholics to important positions and expressing support for policies apparently reconcilable with the social justice agenda of many liberal Catholic bishops and lay persons.  Growing numbers of Catholics and other Christians are starting to recognize the dangers to their continued religious freedom, and are shaking off their previous passivity—and this is a hopeful sign.  However, history suggests that in response to a firestorm of religious and political opposition to its immoral and unconstitutional policies, the Obama administration will only appear to back off or compromise, while in fact looking for a stealthier and more successful means of implementing its agenda.

If an ever-growing and more powerful federal government wanted, in the name of “national security,” to monitor and restrict the activities of its citizens—especially committed Christians, political conservatives, and other allegedly dangerous or subversive groups—it would have plenty of resources and tools at its disposal.  Ours has become a “surveillance society,” with many ominous threats to individual liberty.  The pervasive use of RFID chips, high-speed cameras, DNA databases, and the constant monitoring of telephone and computer communications, are robbing us of our privacy.  Cass Sustein, the Obama administration’s so-called “regulatory czar,” had previously called for the government to infiltrate social network websites, chat rooms, and message boards for the purpose of censoring so-called “conspiracy theorizing” or other politically incorrect views.  The Department of Homeland Security is now monitoring dozens of popular websites such as Facebook and Twitter to collect “personally identifiable information”—data on law-abiding Americans which is then distributed to federal agencies, employees, and contractors with a supposed “need to know.”  Since Twitter was first launched in 2006, the Library of Congress has archived every single tweet ever sent.  There is also a little-known software program called Carrier IQ which is capable of tracking our every electronic move:  dialing a phone number, sending or receiving a text message, using a supposedly secure password to order something online or do online banking, and so on.  Carrier IQ also monitors your physical location by tracking your cell phone, and even if you’re aware of its existence, it’s said to be impossible to deactivate.

Such electronic capabilities in the hands of a trustworthy government would be frightening enough; the use of these surveillance tools by an arrogant and politically-driven administration willing to trample constitutional safeguards in the pursuit of its goals is extremely dismaying.  Will we as Christians long be able to continue proclaiming and practicing our Christian beliefs?  What of the federal “hate crimes bill” signed by Mr. Obama soon after his inauguration?  One conservative journalist writes, “That law enhances penalties based on the thoughts of the person suspected of committing a crime.  While there has not yet been a large-scale crackdown on pastors who preach against homosexuality, there are indicators that such developments could be in the offing.”  I believe it’s almost certain that in the next two or three years—especially if Obama wins reelection—widespread “sting” operations will take place, in which gay or lesbian couples come to a church office and demand the parish make arrangements for them to be married.  When Catholic and other Christian pastors refuse, they’ll be taken to court, found guilty of violating the homosexuals’ civil rights, and subjected to heavy fines—or worse.

Along with this, members of the pro-life movement—many of whom have already experienced vicious opposition and restrictions on their civil rights—will undergo even greater attacks; almost certainly, they’ll be labeled “domestic terrorists” and treated accordingly.  In fact, in 2009 the Department of Homeland Security warned of potential civil unrest by persons dedicated to a single issue, such as abortion, along with anyone regularly listening to talk radio or using internet news websites.  Executive orders now on the books would allow the president to suspend civil liberties and declare almost anyone an enemy of the state, allowing the confiscation of all his or her property and assets.  Moreover, the National Defense Authorization Act signed by Mr. Obama this past Dec. 31 is something of a Trojan horse in terms of undermining our constitutional rights.  According to one commentator, “For weeks prior to its passage by both House and Senate and Obama’s signing it into law, critics warned that buried within the 1,844-page bill was the legal authority for the president to send American citizens to jail without charges, without trial, without end. . . . voices from across the political spectrum expressed concern that the law opens the door for the military—led by the president as commander-in-chief—to indefinitely detain American citizens, even within the U.S.”  Also, according to one report, “There [are] over 800 prison camps in the United States, all fully operational and ready to receive prisoners. . . . These camps are to be operated by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) should Martial Law need to be implemented. . . .”

Countdown To The Coming Persecution: Part III

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Written by
Fr Joseph Esper

REVEREND JOSEPH M. ESPER is a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit and pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Anchorville, Michigan. He received his Master of Divinity degree from St. John's Provincial Seminary in Plymouth, Michigan. Through the years, Father Joe has lectured at Marian conferences, appeared on EWTN, spoken on Catholic radio, and written more than a dozen articles for This Rock, The Priest, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, and other publications. He is also the author of numerous books, including Saintly Solutions, More Saintly Solutions, After the Darkness, Lessons from the Lives of the Saints, and Why Is God Punishing Me? In addition to Amazon, many of his most recent books are available through Queenship Publishing.

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Written by Fr Joseph Esper