- - Monday, July 18, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Christ told his followers, in the 22d chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, to “render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and render unto God the things that are God’s.” This is so plain and simple that even a cave man could understand it, but a number of busybody bureaucrats in Iowa have decided that everything belongs to Caesar. It’s a skirmish of the war on faith and the people of faith.

Other skirmishes preceded it. The feminist mayor of Houston earlier wanted to get advance copies of the sermons of the preachers and pastors of Houston, to make sure the clergymen were not saying anything to upset her and her radical sisters. Only an explosion of public outrage sent her to the showers, so to speak. Now the Iowa Civil Rights Commission has interpreted the state Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity law to enable it to censor sermons on Christian sexual ethics. If the sermons are open to the public, which obviously they are since open worship is what churches, synagogues and other places of worship are about, they’re subject to state review and editing. The Iowa bureaucrats further want to force churches to open restrooms to voyeurs. (Who says Iowa has to be dull and unexciting?)

The war on the First Amendment quickens. The Iowa Civil Rights Commission says “orientation and gender-identity” laws apply to churches “sometimes.” Churches, and the preachers in their pulpits, are susceptible to monitoring by the state — “Caesar,” in other words — when open to the public, or deemed not in operation for a “bona fide religious purpose.” Who determines what constitutes a “bona fide religious purpose”? The Civil Rights Commission, of course. A law applied “sometimes” is a law applied all the time.

“What’s happening in Iowa is insanity,” says Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. “Caesar has no authority over the worship services of churches.” The Alliance for Defending Freedom, which monitors civil-rights violations, has filed a federal complaint against the state and the Iowa Civil Rights Commission attempt to gag constitutionally protected free speech and religious practice.

“Churches should be free to teach their religious beliefs and operate their houses of worship according to their faith without being threatened by the government,” says Christiana Holcomb, a lawyer for the alliance. “That is a foundational First Amendment principle. Churches have always been protected from government intrusion, and they still are. They have a firmly established freedom to teach their beliefs and set internal policies that reflect their biblical teachings about marriage and human sexuality. One can hardly imagine a more obvious unconstitutional invasion of the state into the internal affairs of the church.”

Caesar and his lieutenants down to the present day occasionally attempt such an invasion, to control and eliminate religious teaching. Priests, rabbis and preachers were the original speakers of truth to power, and the powerful never appreciate advice and admonition. Thomas Jefferson, in his famous letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Conn., said he agreed with them that “religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship.” How the state hates such presumption, but the First Amendment, like Christ’s admonition to his followers, is so plain and simple that even a government lawyer can understand it: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” What’s not to understand?

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