Recent weeks have seen several victories for religious freedom not just in Texas, but in the greater United States. The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Bladensburg Peace Cross, and Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed SB 1978, the “Save Chick-fil-A Bill,” into law earlier this month. While these two events have been considered major victories for the preservation of Christian values and religious freedom, the circumstances that created these situations should be concerning for religious conservatives.
Consider for a moment the events leading up to this recent SCOTUS ruling. An atheist advocacy group, the American Humanist Association (AHA), declared that the Bladensburg Peace Cross monument must be unconstitutional because it is a clear religious symbol displayed in full public view. While the ensuing 7-2 SCOTUS ruling in favor of the constitutionality of the monument correctly outlined why a cross-shaped war memorial does not in any way “coerce” someone into Christian religious worship, the effect of groups such as AHA waging war against public displays of religious faith has started to significantly affect local communities across the nation.
At the beginning of the 86th Texas Legislative Session, Texas Democrats introduced a slate of bills – dubbed the “Ban the Bible” bills by Texas Values President Jonathan Saenz – targeting businesses and professionals that may act under some sort of Christian moral code. Jack Phillips, the now-famous owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado, is being sued for a third time under familiar charges of discriminatory business practices. If bills such as these should pass through the Texas legislature in the future, a similar situation could easily happen to a local business owner in Texas.
Texas Democrats have already begun to make headway on this secularist, anti-Christian agenda at the local level. Senate Bill 1978 was pushed this legislative session by Republicans as a direct response the city council of San Antonio barring popular fast-food chain Chick-fil-A from opening a store at a local airport. Chick-fil-A, a restaurant chain owned by an openly Christian family, has faced widespread criticism from left-wing activists for nearly a decade for the open expression of traditional Christian social views by the owners. The company also routinely donates to Christian charities, some of which openly endorse a biblical, traditional view of marriage and sexuality.
To progressives, Chick-fil-A’s endorsement of these groups is just as discriminatory as refusing service to someone based on their race, gender, or sexuality, although there is no account of such a thing ever happening at a Chick-fil-A store. San Antonio’s city council found Chick-fil-A’s friendly and relatively unthreatening business model (a reality that anyone who has actually been to one of the restaurants can confirm) detestable enough to say that the franchise is not welcome in their airport, despite the chain’s continued growth in popularity and positive reception in the court of popular opinion.
Another example of militant secularists attempting to force their agenda on small communities occurred this past May in Coldspring, Texas, when a Wisconsin-based anti-religious group called Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) attempted to force the county courthouse to take down crosses displayed in the windows of the building.
While the county lawmakers voted unanimously to keep the crosses present in the windows, this event shows that rabid secularist groups such as FFRF and AHA are not merely concerned with ensuring our federal government stays secular. Rather, they wholly intend to disrupt local communities in which religion is deeply entrenched and enforce their secularist agenda on law-abiding individuals. This is no longer a national issue to be fought in higher courts and in bills in Congress. It is a local issue that directly affects the lives of the average American citizen. The motivations of groups such as FFRF were not lost on the citizens of Coldspring:
“Their religion is humanism. What they’re saying is Christ followers cannot express their freedom, their voice of worship, their voice of God. Yet, they want to express themselves.”
“Freedom from Religion Foundation, you’re forcing up your beliefs upon others.”
Religious individuals that serve in local governments and especially in our state governments must not take these threats lightly. Simply staving off attacks from secularist radicals is not enough when they keep coming back for more. Conservative activists and legislators must draw a line in the sand when it comes to religious issues and make a firm commitment to uphold the values of our communities against enforced secularism through their votes and on the campaign trail.
While the US government is secular in practice, our nation cannot sustain the weaponized brand of secularism that is emerging in the form of lawsuits from anti-religious activist groups and targeting legislation. These groups do not want openly Christian citizens to succeed in business, and they don’t want to be reminded of the presence of Christians while out in public. They do not want to tolerate those views and lifestyles, despite proselytizing about their own perceived “open-mindedness.” There are few better examples of our freedom as citizens of this country than having the ability to worship where we choose, express our values openly, and run our homes and businesses the way we see fit. Once these freedoms are terminated, a fundamental component of our shared American culture will be lost.