December 27, 2004

By Doug Newman

Posted at Liberty Post, Old Right Pundits, The Price of Liberty, Sierra Times, Jim Babka's Blog,
Dave Black's Page,  Ender's Review of the Web, The Yahoo Christian Libertarian Group,
Repent America,
New Nation News, Lew Rockwell's Blog, Covenant News, Patriot Couple and Trumpet America.

On December 17, in Melbourne, Australia, two Christian pastors were found guilty of vilifying Muslims. The judge in the case stated that these pastors – one a former Muslim -- violated Section 8 of the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act of 2001 which forbids a person from engaging in conduct that "incites hatred against, serious contempt for, or revulsion or severe ridicule of, that other person or class of persons".

These accusations were spurred by – get this – these pastors reading directly from the Quran. In other words, it is now a crime in Australia for a Christian to quote from the sacred book of another religion.

This is not the Sudan, or Saudi Arabia or Iran.

This is Australia. It is, you know, like, a free country. Things like this don’t happen in free countries. (1)

Or do they?

On October 10, in Philadelphia, 11 members of a group called Repent America went to a homosexual rally where they peacefully displayed banners and quoted Bible Scriptures condemning homosexuality. They were arrested and spent a night in jail.

According to World Net Daily, they are now facing charges of “criminal conspiracy, possession of instruments of crime, reckless endangerment of another person, ethnic intimidation, riot, failure to disperse, (and) disorderly conduct and obstructing highways.” The “ethnic intimidation” charge stems from a new Pennsylvania hate crimes law, which now lists “sexual orientation” as a victim category.

That is three felony charges and five misdemeanor charges. The DA referred to the Scriptures quoted as “fighting words.” These protestors face 47 years in prison if convicted.

This is not Mecca or Khartoum. This is Philadelphia, the city that gave us the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Judge Petrese Tucker of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals denied the appeal of the “Philadelphia 11” to stop prosecution.

I have heard it said that just because you are paranoid does not mean they are not out to get you.

They are out to get us. I have said it time and again: Dubya is not Hitler. However, America is bobsledding down a very perilous course which must be reversed.

They are coming for the Christians.

Many of you are familiar with the following quote from Pastor Martin Niemoller.

"When the Nazis came for the communists, I did not speak out because I was not a communist. When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. When they came for the Catholics, I did not speak out because I was a not a Catholic. When they came for the Jews, I did not speak out because I was a not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me."

Is anyone speaking for the Christians? Is this the first time you have even heard about this outrage in Philadelphia? Focus on the Family and the Christian Coalition have condemned the persecution of the Philadelphia 11. However, you must delve deep into their web pages to find this out. You would think they would be on the front lines when it has become a crime to quote from the Bible on American soil. I could find nothing about this episode on the website of The American Center for Law and Justice, which purports to chase ambulances for Jesus.

Has your pastor said anything about the events in Philadelphia? Or is he so brainwashed by the Bush spin machine that he refuses to admit that this is happening. Does he even know what is happening? (2)

Christians have rightfully condemned the campaign to remove Christ from Christmas at shopping malls, in schools and in town squares. However, no one is facing a 47-year prison sentence in any of these cases. The outrage is curiously selective.

The failure of German pastors in the 1930s to denounce an out-of-control government had gruesome consequences. Those Germans who expressed concern about the coming nightmare were told that “It can’t happen here.”

In America, 70 years later, most pastors are silent about the limitless ambitions of their government. They condemn Janet Jackson, Harry Potter and Ozzy Osbourne, but they are silent when their brothers in Christ right here in America face 47 years in the joint for quoting Scripture.

Let people get out of control and you get Motley Crue concerts. Let government get out of control and you get Auschwitz.

What is with America’s pastors nowadays? Do they fear that overly controversial sermon content might alienate someone in the pews? They may say that the gates of hell will not prevail against their church, but they bend and break like toothpicks in the face of social pressure. To paraphrase Hamlet, conformity doth make cowards of us all.

Most American pastors were silent last summer when Chief Justice Roy Moore was removed from the Alabama Supreme Court after defying an arbitrary and capricious order by a federal judge ordering the removal of the Ten Commandments from the state court building. (This movement was spearheaded by Alabama Attorney General William Pryor, who was recently rewarded by Our Great Christian President with a spot on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.)

In an outstanding essay, Paul Walter, who hosts a very fine Christian conservative web page, wrote “Shame on the church leadership. May the fleas of a thousand camels infest their armpits.”

We hear no end about how our troops “fight for our freedom” in Iraq. Yet, Saddam Hussein isn’t taking away our freedom nearly as much as legislators in Harrisburg and prosecutors in Philadelphia. And while American boys from the South Bronx and from Overland High School in Aurora, Colorado, spill their blood in Iraq, pastors in the friendly confines of Denver and Scranton are silent while our liberties vanish on the streets of one of the very cradles of our liberty. A pox on them!

(1) (And, by the way, America is not a free country.)

(2) Were attorneys from Bush's Justice Department, under the leadership of Our Great Christian Attorney General John Ashcroft, complicit in these arrests? Read this!

Related column: Is America a Sudan Waiting to Happen?

One reader's response: 'What is with America’s pastors nowadays? Do they fear that overly controversial sermon content might alienate someone in the pews?' It's all about the money! If you irritate your parishioners, they are not as likely to put as much cash into the plate, and you (as a pastor), then, have to face an economic hardship. The same is true of criticizing the government - if you piss them off, you may lose your 501(c)3 status; your parishioners will no longer be allowed to 'write off' their 'contributions' to the church, so they will stop making them. The moment Pastoring a church became a profession, it became inherently corrupt; the moment a church receives 'tax-exempt' status from our government, it ceases to serve it's purpose. -- MJA

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Freely Speaking: Essays by Doug Newman