Unification News for April 1997
Religious Persecution: A Worldwide Tragedy
Haven Bradford Gow
In his introduction to Paul Marshall's Their Blood Cries Out (Word Publishing), Hudson Institute scholar Michael Horowitz observes that "The mounting persecution of Christians eerily parallels the persecution of Jews, my people, during much of Europe's history. Today, minority Christian communities have become chosen scapegoats in radical Islamic and remnant Communist regimes, where they are demonized and caricatured through populist campaigns of hate and terror. As ever, shrewd tyrants understand that their survival depends on extinguishing the freedoms of communities which live beyond the reach of the bribes and threats on which their power rests. Modern-day tyrants further understand that terrorizing the most vulnerable and innocent best helps them achieve power over all."
A fellow at the Institute of Christian Studies, Toronto, Canada, and a fellow at the Claremont Institute, Dr. Paul Marshall tells us that Their Blood Cries Out is a "book about...religious persecution.... It is about Christians. It is a story that is all but ignored and unknown in the world at large, and little better known in the Christian world. It is about women and men and children who daily suffer pain, misery and death. They do not suffer only from the myriad ills that afflict all of humankind. They suffer because they are persecuted for what they believe."
As Dr. Marshall suggests in his book, religious freedom and Christian people also are under attack in the United States.
Is religious freedom under attack in the United States? Are Christians becoming the victims of religious persecution and harassment?
In his new book Original Intent (Wall Builder Press, Box 397, Aledo, Texas), historian David Barton provides some examples that make one wonder if Christians now have become second-class citizens:
1. "In the Alaska public schools, students were prohibited from using the word `Christmas' at school, from exchanging Christmas cards or presents, or from displaying anything with the word `Christmas' on it because it contained the word `Christ'."
2. "In a high school class in Dickson, Tennessee, students were required to write a research paper using at least four sources. Despite the fact that the students were allowed to write about reincarnation, witchcraft and the occult, because student Brittany Settle chose to write her paper about the life of Christ, she was given a zero by her teacher."
3. "An elementary school principal in Denver removed the Bible from the school library, and an elementary school music teacher in Colorado Springs stopped teaching Christmas carols because of alleged violations of the `separation of church and state'."
4. "In DeFuniak Springs, Florida, a judge ordered the courthouse copy of the Ten Commandments to be covered during a murder trial for fears that jurors would be prejudiced against the defendant if they saw the command `Do not kill'."
5. "In Omaha, Nebraska, a student was prohibited from reading his Bible silently during free time, or even to open his Bible at school."
Such actions are based on the argument that the Constitution demands a strict and total separation of church and state; but this view is contradicted by these facts:
Public prayer and the acknowledgment of a Supreme Being have been an important part of American life. The Declaration of Independence affirms that "all men...are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights." Our national pledge of allegiance proclaims that we are "one nation, under God." Our coins are inscribed with the words "In God We Trust."
The president-elect takes his oath of office with his hand on the Bible. The standard form for oaths for sworn testimony contains the phrase "so help me, God." Each new session of the U.S. Supreme Court opens with the declaration "God save the United States and this honorable court."
These facts serve to buttress the contention that, as Jewish Theological Seminary of America scholar-educator Rabbi Seymour Siegel observes, "whatever the meaning of the First Amendment, which prohibits the establishment of a state religion, it certainly did not mean the separation of religion from public institutions and functions."
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