Frankfort—Kentucky Baptist Convention Executive Director Paul Chitwood; senior council with the Alliance Defending Freedom, Bryan Beauman; and pastor of Farmdale Baptist Church, Steve Weaver, participated in a panel discussion with East Frankfort Baptist Church’s pastor Kyle McDanell.
“It’s been my experience that previous generations could safely assume religious liberty, but now we must again defend it and promote it. That is why we are here,” McDanell explained.
The primary questions before the panel were: “Are we overreacting to the SCOTUS decision? Is religious liberty really under assault?”
“Is this a watershed moment? Is this important? Are we making too much of a big deal about this?” responded Beauman.
“Were there celebrations in the street? Were there hundreds of people in front of the Supreme Court when the ruling came down and they liked it? Did corporate America and practically every member of a Fortune 500 react with some type of rainbow colored ad? Did you see Twitter and Facebook and all your friends on social media change their pictures, paint rainbows across them? With all the support, did you see media glorify it?” he answered.
“If this opinion meant nothing, if it wasn’t a watershed moment, would there have been that nationwide a response of joy and celebration?” he reasoned. “We all know that answer. The question is where do we go from here and what’s next?”
“Is it over; was that the end of it? Was it just about marriage and now those advocacy groups fighting for that have stopped? No,” Beauman replied.
Chitwood added, “We are investing as Kentucky Baptists in defending the religious liberties of Kentucky Baptists because we believe this threat is real. The SCOTUS decision is a watershed moment. It can’t be overestimated. This is the tip of the arrow. This changes everything.”
Weaver emphasized, “There are implications that have indicated where we are in our society in many ways and demand that a certain type of behavior be accepted and celebrated.
“For those who are pastors or Christians of conviction, whether they’re operating as florists or bakers or in education, they’re being asked to lay down their religious convictions as they leave the church door on Sunday. That is something unprecedented,” Weaver observed.
“This idea that freedom of religion is only something we do on Sunday morning and doesn’t affect every aspect of our lives is also revolutionary in America, and now we’re seeing multiple cases where those rights are being trampled,” he asserted.
“The question is, what is the next step? That’s where we need to be involved in the process, communicating with our legislature and others, for whatever type of changes come down the pipeline,” Weaver urged.
Pointing out that both Hilary Clinton and President Obama have been quoted using the term “freedom of worship,” rather than “freedom of religion,” McDanell posed the question, “Does it really matter?”
“The President of the United States does not haphazardly use the English language,” Chitwood stated.
“No human being on the planet has his words more closely scrutinized, nor does any other human being’s words carry such authority as that of the President of the United States,” he noted. “I assure you, his words are spoken with great intentionality and very strategically.
“He is choosing to rewrite history and present a new perspective of the American experiment of democracy and religious liberty. When he chooses to use the phrase ‘freedom of worship’ rather than ‘freedom of religion,’ it is for some purpose and the reasons for it are obvious,” Chitwood said.
The panel also discussed the threat of churches and institutions losing their tax exempt status, practical steps the church can take to defend religious liberty, the consequences of “emergency contraception” and the Affordable Care Act, and if taxes should continue supporting Planned Parenthood.
The panel concluded with the question, “Where are we headed in the next generation?”
“I’m optimistic, because the gospel is the only answer,” Weaver said.
“The end result of erotic liberty is going to be broken hearted, broken people who will need the gospel. What they think will satisfy them will not,” he said.
“We have the only message that will satisfy their deepest longings, so what we’ve got to be ready to do, as the people of God, is to be the kind of people who are not characterized by anger or by fear, but who are characterized by joy in the gospel and the belief that the gospel is powerful enough to save people from their sins,” he continued.
Beauman added: “What we’re countered with is things aren’t easy, and we’re given the opportunity to show our faith, to live out our faith, to be obedient. Now is the time not to be down. Now is the time to be excited about. What greater times to reach out, to share truth! We have an opportunity to stand.”
“I don’t know where it’s all going in the short term, but we know where it’s all going in the long term,” Chitwood concluded.