June 18, 2009
In China, Christians have a choice: Join a government-approved church—which is constantly monitored by the authorities—or join an underground church.
Thank heavens things like that don’t happen in the West, you may be thinking. Think again. In Britain, the government has begun sticking its nose in church business, telling churches what to do.
According to the Daily Telegraph, starting next year, the British government is going to begin forcing churches and other religious institutions to hire open, practicing homosexuals. It will happen under the provisions of the so-called Equity Bill, which forbids discrimination against homosexuals or transsexuals.
The law would “cover almost all church employees,” according to Deputy Equities Minster Maria Eagle. “The circumstances in which religious institutions can practice anything less than full equality are few and far between,” Eagle said. Church groups, she said, “cannot claim that everything they run is outside the scope of anti-discrimination law.”
What’s next—regulating the content of sermons? I’m not kidding. According to Eagle, “Members of faith groups have a role in making the argument in their own communities for greater” acceptance of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people.
Maybe it would simplify things if the government simply wrote the sermons for the pastors.
The Equity Law could lead to some interesting situations. What happens if a church, under pressure, hires a gay youth minister—and orders him to teach kids about the sinfulness of homosexual behavior? And I can only imagine the reaction of a British mosque when the religion police orders it to hire a lesbian secretary.
Neil Addison, a Catholic barrister who is an expert on religious discrimination laws, told the Telegraph that the Equity Law “is a threat to religious liberty.” “What we are losing,” he said, “is the right for [churches] to make free choices.”
He’s right. To put it more bluntly, the government is beginning to run the churches. And if they succeed, it will be the end of religious freedom in Britain.
Legislation like the Equity Law should concern Americans. So-called “social reforms” that begin in Europe soon wash up on our own shores.
And then, what will happen to the Church? Will we put our congregations under the authority of Caesar? Or will we resist and, if need be, abandon our elegant buildings and, like our faithful brethren in China, form underground churches?
The Bible teaches that the followers of Christ will be tested. We ought to be in prayer for the church in Great Britain, asking God to guide it as the government bears down.
Second, we ought to be preparing for similar laws here. Many churches are already under great pressure by homosexual activists to violate their own teachings under the guise of “fairness”—a much abused word.
This, by the way, is not a hysterical rant. The threat is very real.
Third, we ought to remind our neighbors that the First Amendment was written not just to protect the government from churches, but more so to protect churches from the government.
Chuck Colson’s daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.