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. – The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America
After Lenin and the Bolsheviks took over Mother Russia, Russian Orthodoxy, the predominant faith in Russia, was persecuted almost to extinction within 20 years. The Communists slaughtered hundreds of thousands of priests, sisters, and brothers.
Between 1917 and 1937, more than 50 million people were murdered by KGB extermination squads or in death camps, and 8 million people died of starvation in man-made famines designed to consolidate Communist power. All land was confiscated by the state.
Those who were left alive were allowed to live under Communist totalitarian control to help rally the people to fight the Nazi German invasion in 1939.
The Commies let some churches stay open if they were licensed by the Communist government. Of course,they were very limited in what they could do: they could celebrate liturgies and the sacraments, but they could not teach Russian Orthodoxy to children or to adults.
The Orthodox Church became just another a highly regulated arm of the Soviet government, and all newly ordained priests and bishops became agents or co-operates of the Secret Police (KGB). The sacraments of baptism and marriage, as well as funerals, were usually performed only after substantial fees were paid.
In all levels of the Soviet School System, Students were forced to learn and believe atheism as scientific truth. This belief system was reinforced in all youth organizations, as well.
There were no private Christian schools or clubs.
The fear of persecution and government reprisal during the period in which Joe Stalin ruled Russia (1927-52) made parents afraid to tell their children about the Triune God.
It only took two generations for Russia to become an atheistic society.
Is America headed in that direction?
Yesterday, the Alliance Defending Freedom announced that
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys have filed a motion in a Texas court to stop an attempt by the city of Houston to subpoena sermons and other communications belonging to several area pastors in a lawsuit in which the pastors are not even involved.
City officials are upset over a voter lawsuit filed after the city council rejected valid petitions to repeal a law that allows members of the opposite sex into each other’s restrooms. ADF attorneys say the city is illegitimately demanding that the pastors, who are not party to the lawsuit, turn over their constitutionally protected sermons and other communications simply so the city can see if the pastors have ever opposed or criticized the city.
“City council members are supposed to be public servants, not ‘Big Brother’ overlords who will tolerate no dissent or challenge,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley. “In this case, they have embarked upon a witch-hunt, and we are asking the court to put a stop to it.”
“The city’s subpoena of sermons and other pastoral communications is both needless and unprecedented,” said ADF Litigation Counsel Christiana Holcomb. “The city council and its attorneys are engaging in an inquisition designed to stifle any critique of its actions. Political and social commentary is not a crime; it is protected by the First Amendment.”
In June, the Houston City Council passed its “bathroom bill,” which sparked a citizen initiative to have the council either repeal the bill or place it on the ballot for voters to decide. The public submitted more than three times the legally required number of valid signatures, which the city secretary, who is entrusted by law to examine and certify petitions, certified as sufficient. The mayor and city attorney defied the law and rejected the certification.
After the initiative supporters filed a lawsuit, Woodfill v. Parker, over the matter, the city’s attorneys subpoenaed a number of area pastors, demanding to see what they preach from the pulpit and to examine their communications with their church members and others concerning the city council’s actions.
The ADF brief accompanying the motion filed in the District Court of Harris County to quash the subpoena “discovery requests” explains that they are “overbroad, unduly burdensome, harassing, and vexatious,” irrelevant to the lawsuit, and will have a profoundly negative effect on free speech and the electoral process should they be allowed to move forward.
“The message is clear: oppose the decisions of city government, and drown in unwarranted, burdensome discovery requests,” the brief states. “These requests, if allowed, will have a chilling effect on future citizens who might consider circulating referendum petitions because they are dissatisfied with ordinances passed by the City Council. Not only will the Nonparty Pastors be harmed if these discovery requests are allowed, but the People will suffer as well. The referendum process will become toxic and the People will be deprived of an important check on city government provided them by the Charter.”
According to Fox News’ Todd Starnes,
…Mayor Parker will not explain why she wants to inspect the sermons. I contacted City Hall for a comment and received a terse reply from the mayor’s director of communications.
“We don’t comment on litigation,” said Janice Evans.
However, ADF attorney Stanley suspects the mayor wants to publicly shame the ministers. He said he anticipates they will hold up their sermons for public scrutiny. In other words – the city is rummaging for evidence to “out” the pastors as anti-gay bigots.
Among those slapped with a subpoena is Steve Riggle, the senior pastor of Grace Community Church. He was ordered to produce all speeches and sermons related to Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality and gender identity.
The mega-church pastor was also ordered to hand over “all communications with members of your congregation” regarding the non-discrimination law.
“This is an attempt to chill pastors from speaking to the cultural issues of the day,” Riggle told me. “The mayor would like to silence our voice. She’s a bully.”
Rev. Dave Welch, executive director of the Texas Pastor Council, also received a subpoena. He said he will not be intimidated by the mayor.
“We’re not afraid of this bully,” he said. “We’re not intimidated at all.”
What right does the Houston City Government have, to subpoena sermons, spoken in private places of worship, constitutionally protected by the First Amendment?
With activist judges presently overturning the will of the American Voting Public, concerning allowing “Adam and Steve” to “marry”, why stops them from eventually deciding that preaching from the pulpit against homosexuality is a hate crime?
The following is Article 17 of the Baptist Faith and Message, found at sbc.net.
God alone is the Lord of the conscience and He has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are contrary to His word or not contained in it. Church and state should be separate. The state owes to every church protection and full freedom in the pursuit of its spiritual ends. In providing for such freedom no ecclesiastical group or denomination should be favored by the state more than others. Civil government being ordained of god, it is the duty of Christians to render loyal obedience thereto in all things no contrary to the revealed will of God. The church should not resort to the civil power to carry on its work. The gospel of Christ contemplates spiritual means alone for the pursuit of its ends. The state has no right to impose penalties for religious opinions of any kind. The state has no right to impose taxes for the support of any form of religion. A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal, and this implies the right of free and unhindered access to God on the part of all men, and the right to form and propagate opinions in the sphere of religion without interference by the civil power.
While God’s word does tell us to honor and obey our leaders, we are also warned of the consequences of being given over to “a reprobate mind”.
Do the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah ring a bell?
Until He Comes,