Religious freedom is one of the most difficult and vexing issues of our day — whether the subject is Muslim schoolgirls in France or Christian photographers in New Mexico
And that's before government starts calling just about any sincerely held belief a "religion."
That is essentially what has happened in Britain. In July 2008, Tim Nicholson was let go from his job at a property management firm. According to Nicholson, his dismissal was due to his beliefs about man-made global warming.
Nicholson calls man-made global warming "the most important issue of our time" and believes that "nothing should stand in the way of diverting this catastrophe." This led to "frequent clashes" with his co-workers over his concerns.
For instance, Nicholson, out of concern about excess CO2 emissions, refuses to fly. He objected when the firm's CEO flew someone from London to Ireland to retrieve his Blackberry.
When he was dismissed, Nicholson sued under Britain's Employment Equality act, specifically the part that prohibits discrimination on account of "religion and belief."
According to Nicholson, "Belief in man-made climate change is... a philosophical belief that reflects my moral and ethical values."
For its part, his former employer countered that "green views were political and based on science, as opposed to religious or philosophical in nature."
In what's being called a "landmark ruling," a British judge ruled for Nicholson, saying that "a belief in man-made climate change... is capable, if genuinely held, of being a philosophical belief for the purpose" of laws covering discrimination in employment.
The judge's ruling opens the door to the possibility of employees suing their employers "for failing to account for their green lifestyles, such as providing recycling facilities or offering low-carbon travel."
Theoretically, an employer could say "I need you in Helsinki by tomorrow," to which the employee could reply, "Too much carbon, we'll have to aim for next week, since I'll be going by bicycle, train and boat."
The possibilities are, as advertisers say, endless. And the upcoming Copenhagen conference will, no doubt, add more "converts" to the faith. (And, by the way, be sure to visit ColsonCenter.org to see my "Two Minute Warning" about the upcoming Copenhagen conference).
And what of the faith that actually created and nurtured Britain? (That's Christianity.) Let's just say that British officials aren't as solicitous of its practitioners as they are of those belonging to newer arrivals.
For those of us who say that could never happen here, let me remind you of a Supreme Court case defining religion decades ago as "a sincere and meaningful belief which occupies, in the life of its possessor, a place parallel to that filled by God."
And remember that, last year, Al Gore argued that you could have civil disobedience morally justified in order to stop the construction of a coal-fired electric generating plant.
Listen, folks, in today's climate, the earth could soon enough take the place of that archaic idea of an ancient God of the Bible.
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.