The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Zeitgeist Strikes Again

My, how the world has changed; and, sadly, most of the changes are not for the good.

For example, in the UK, a nation which once boasted a long tradition of free speech, a street preacher (he happens to be a Baptist) was arrested last week for telling a passerby that homosexuality is a sin in the eyes of God. According to the Daily Telegraph, the preacher, "Dale McAlpine was charged with causing 'harassment, alarm or distress' after a homosexual police community support officer (PCSO) overheard him reciting a number of 'sins' referred to in the Bible, including blasphemy, drunkenness and same sex relationships." When arrested, McAlpine was tossed into a paddy wagon and then locked in a jail cell for seven hours. And, by the way, the so-called PCSO stated that he was a homosexual and went on to identify himself as the "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender liaison officer for Cumbria police."

Could you have imagined such a thing happening in England say, 10 years ago? And the very fact that the local police have someone on their payroll with the title of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Liaison Officer is almost beyond belief. Based on this incident, I would think the Cumbria Police have a more pressing need for a Christian Liaison Officer who will defend the lawful free speech of those who want only to inform others of their religious beliefs.

According to the Telegraph article, McAlpine isn't the first religious person in the UK to be arrested under this bogus statute, euphemistically called the Public Order Act:
Harry Hammond, a pensioner, was convicted under Section 5 of the Act in 2002 for holding up a sign saying “Stop immorality. Stop Homosexuality. Stop Lesbianism. Jesus is Lord” while preaching in Bournemouth.

Stephen Green, a Christian campaigner, was arrested and charged in 2006 for handing out religious leaflets at a Gay Pride festival in Cardiff. The case against him was later dropped. 
If you'd like to read the Telegraph article in full, click here.

And lest we get too complacent, it's good to remind ourselves that there are many right here in the USA who would love to see these same kind of prosecutions (persecutions?) take place in our country. And, unfortunately, some of these people are in positions of power in all three branches of our government.

Every so often I pick up my little copy of the US Constitution and turn to the opening words of the First Amendment. And, you know, the words are pretty straightforward and were written by Mr. Madison and his friends to be easily understood by the average US citizen. In case you've forgotten them, here they are once again: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." These are the very first words of the entire Bill of Rights, leading to the obvious conclusion that our founders considered religious freedom paramount, the sine qua non of a free society.

And what is it about "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" that so many judges and lawyers can't seem to understand? Note, too, there is nothing here (or anywhere else in the Constitution) about any wall of separation between church and state. The citizens of late 18th-century America knew that the phrase "establishment of religion " was designed only to protect them from the creation of a state-sponsored religion similar to the Church of England, and that this prohibition would remove any state-imposed barriers to the "free exercise" of religious faith.

The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of AmericaKeep alert, friends! The mere existence of our Bill of Rights won't protect us from tyranny. As a free people we have the responsibility to ensure that those who represent us have the courage to resist the expansion of government power and control at the expense of individual rights.

One thing you might want to do is get copies of the US Constitution for friends and family -- a rather nice little gift. You can get the same copy I use (a nice, pocket-sized edition) at Amazon: The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America.

Wall of MisconceptionAnd if you want to learn more about the First Amendment and its misinterpretation by our courts, our politicians, and our educators, read this wonderful book by Peter Lillback: Wall of Misconception. In it Lillback examines our nation's historic understanding of and the founding fathers' intention as they relate to the Constitution in matters of faith, morals and ethics. The author examines the historical and biblical context and their relation to today's culture. It's a wonderful guide to the the subject and well worth reading.

Pray for our nation and those we elect to represent us.

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