Christians 'most persecuted religious group'


By Bob Unruh

Americans are well familiar, from events and court rulings over recent years, with the diatribes against Christians and Christianity – they are told they legally can’t refuse to promote “gay marriage,” for example.

Also, Christian holiday events are forced to be “winter festivals,” Christian symbols are banned from many displays and any statement of biblical belief, such as support for biblical marriage, becomes the latest “phobia,” almost certainly “violating” someone’s rights. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court now is considering whether to make that very belief a federal offense.

But now an international conference speaker has warned that Christians “are the most persecuted religious group on a global level, even in countries where they constitute a majority.”

A report from the European Center for Law and Justice documents comments and submissions from several experts at the recent conference held by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on “enhancing efforts to prevent and combat intolerance and discrimination against Christians, focusing on hate crimes, exclusion, marginalization and denial of rights” in Vienna.

The ECLJ report by Andreea Popescu explained the conference was assembled by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and heard submissions from governments, international organizations and representatives.

Among the speakers was Monseigneur Janusz Urbanczyk, a representative of the Holy See.

“He noted that ‘the lives of many people are being affected only because of their Christian faith, which actually can be found at the roots of the culture of tolerance and equality,’” the report said.

“He indicated that Christians and Christian communities are the most persecuted religious group on a global level, even in countries where they constitute a majority,” the report continued, “Offending, insulting and attacking Christians became almost legitimate and if Christians protest against these offenses, they are again accused of being opponents of free expression or of manifestation of rights of others.”

The report continued, “He expressed concerns about the limitation of the freedom of religion of Christians as ‘a sharp dividing line … between religious belief and religious practice, so that Christians are frequently reminded in public discourse or even in the courts, that they can believe whatever they like in private, and worship as they wish in their own churches, but they simply cannot act on those [beliefs] in public.”

WND reported less than a month earlier that that very strategy has appeared throughout the administration of President Barack Obama.

Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert and Nina Shea have collaborated to create “Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians,” which confirms that groups like Pew Research, Newsweek and The Economist also identify Christians as “the world’s most widely persecuted religious group.”

For example, early in Obama’s tenure in the White House, Catholic Online and other media outlets reported what appeared to be a deliberate attack on the Constitution’s “freedom of religion” protections.

The report noted a crucial change in Obama’s language between his June 2009 speech in Cairo, Egypt, where he spoke of a Muslim America and its “freedom of religion,” to the November 2009 memorial for the Fort Hood soldiers gunned down by a radical Muslim, where he termed it “freedom of worship.”

From that point on, “freedom of worship” has become the term of choice, the report said.

Recently, the Daily Signal reported, the federal government has been using the term “freedom of worship” instead of the constitutional “freedom of religion” when it tests immigrants who wish to become citizens on their knowledge of the Constitution.

Congress even started paying attention. Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., charged during a hearing that included Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson that the government is “misrepresenting” the First Amendment, the Daily Signal reported.

“We in the United States actually have freedom of religion, not freedom of worship,” Lankford said.

“The questionnaire civics test has in it one of these things, ‘What are two rights of everyone living in the United States, and it listed out six different things: freedom of expression, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to petition the government, freedom of worship, the right to bear arms. I’d love to see ‘freedom of worship’ switched to ‘freedom of religion.’”

Sarah Torre of the Heritage Foundation said the difference is significant. In practice across America, the “freedom to worship” seldom has been challenged or even questioned. But “freedom of religion” is under direct fire.

See WND’s Big List of Christian Coercion about this very topic.

Just ask the New York landowners who were fined by the state for following their Christian faith regarding their sponsorship of same-sex ceremonies, or the Oregon bakery owners fined $135,000 for the same thing, or the Colorado baker who is fighting for his economic future against state officials suggesting that he go out of business because his faith forbids support same-sex marriage.

Other cases

Then there was the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, established in 1869 to provide a place for Christian meetings and assemblies, which still operating as one of the more popular destinations for such events on the East Coast.

It houses one of the world’s 20 largest pipe organs, and there are both traditional and contemporary worship programs all summer long that have featured speakers such as Billy Graham, Norman Vincent Peale, Robert Schuller, Billy Sunday, D. James Kennedy and Charles Stanley.

But the location no longer is used for weddings, because a lesbian duo was denied permission to use it, and a state discrimination complaint was filed.

The Hitching Post Wedding Chapel is facing demands from the city of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, to perform same-sex “weddings” in violation of the owners’ Christian faith.

In Washington state, a state judge said the home, assets and savings of Arlene’s Flowers owner Barronelle Stutzman, 70, could be targeted in court by two homosexuals for whom she declined to provide “wedding” services.

Early in Obama’s administration, Catholic Online noted that Ashley Samelson of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty explained that to “anyone who closely follows prominent discussion of religious freedom in the diplomatic and political arena, this linguistic shift is troubling: The reason is simple. Any person of faith knows that religious exercise is about a lot more than freedom of worship.”

“It’s about the right to dress according to one’s religious dictates, to preach openly, to evangelize, to engage in the public square. Everyone knows that religious Jews keep kosher, religious Quakers don’t go to war, and religious Muslim women wear headscarves – yet ‘freedom of worship’ would protect none of these acts of faith.”

Catholic Online said: “Let’s be clear … language matters when it comes to defining freedoms and limits. A shift from freedom of religion to freedom of worship moves the dialog from the world stage into the physical confines of a church, temple, synagogue or mosque. … It … could exclude our right to raise our children in our faith, the right to religious education, literature or media, the right to raise funds or organize charitable activities and the right to express religious beliefs in the normal discourse of life.”

From the Vatican

The Vatican, the report said, described it this way: “Religious freedom, in turn, which men demand as necessary to fulfill their duty to worship God, has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society.”

The Alliance Defending Freedom has cited the Obama administration’s use, since Cairo, of “freedom of worship” to undermine “freedom of religion,” as one of the “direct attacks on religious freedom” by Obama.

The list points out that Obama appointed radical-homosexual activist Chai Feldblum to a federal office, and Feldblum is on record stating: “We should … not tolerate private beliefs about sexual orientation and gender. … Protecting one group’s identity may, at times, require that we burden others’ belief liberty … it is essential that we not privilege moral beliefs that are religiously based over other sincerely held, core, moral beliefs.”

The list also reveals the Obama administration “designated ‘religious public service’ as the only public service that will not be counted as payment toward student loans.”

And it specifically cited the shift from “freedom of religion” to “freedom of worship,” which “could limit religious freedoms outside the four walls of the church.”

Jonathan Imbody wrote in 2013 at the Washington Times that the administration’s shift in language was major.

“Worship at its core is essentially a private and personal process, a communion between God and an individual. No government could restrict such worship, any more than it could monitor and censor every citizen’s thoughts and prayers. Even forbidding individuals to worship together in public, which coercive communist governments like China’s have done, cannot actually prevent individuals from worshiping God in private. So a law that merely protected the freedom to worship would hardly be worth heralding in a presidential proclamation.

“The free exercise of religion under the American Constitution, by contrast, includes the freedom to openly express, follow and live out our faith – not just in private but also in the public square – without government coercion, censorship or any other form of restriction.

“The concept of religious liberty held by the Constitution’s framers included not merely the freedom to worship, but also the free exercise of conscience – carrying out one’s moral beliefs with conviction and action.”

In Europe, the situation for Christians has deteriorated to the point that there has been established in France an “Observatory for Christianophobia.”

Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert and Nina Shea have collaborated to create “Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians,” which confirms that groups like Pew Research, Newsweek and The Economist also identify Christians as “the world’s most widely persecuted religious group.”

The ECLJ report said Massimo Introvigne, director of Italy’s Cesnur organization, explained how intolerance leads to discrimination, and that leads to hate crimes. It said the conference heard reports from “manifestations of intolerance and violence” involving Christian sacred sites, such as places of worship, shrines, cemeteries, monuments” and more.

Gudrun Kugler, of the Observatory on Intolerance against Christians in Europe, submitted recommendations to address five areas of concern.

Those includes: 1) freedom of conscience rights in the medical and employment field; 2) freedom of expression rights on ethical issues; 3) freedom of assembly and association rights, including public funding, as demonstrators were not protected against counter-demonstrators and public funding was refused on the basis of incompatibility of the Christian ethics with the public institution ethics; 4) parents’ rights, regarding compulsory sex education in public schools and prohibition of homeschooling; and 5) private autonomy, including church autonomy and antidiscrimination legislation.

Among those suggestions: “To respect and tolerate Christianity, Christians and Christian positions in private and in public” and “Not to tolerate hate incidents against Christians, just as hate incidents against anyone else are not tolerated.”

She also recommended employers accommodate Christian beliefs and “opinion leaders” should “be aware of their responsibility in shaping a tolerant public discourse.” To do that, they should “refrain from negative stereotyping of Christianity.”

The ECLJ reported, “Father Vsevolod Chaplin, chairman of the Department for Church-Society Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, stated that Christians should enjoy the same rights to practice their faith and to participate in the public life of the society as any other person.”


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