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America’s heritage of faith noted by conference speakers

FORT LAUDERDALE (BP)–Courts have strayed from embracing God’s precepts to mocking them during the last 175 years, Alliance Defense Fund President Alan Sears told the 10th annual Reclaiming America for Christ conference.

Sears, one of the nation’s top experts on defending religious liberty, was among 19 speakers who addressed the conference’s 900 attendees from 40 states Feb. 18-19 at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Sears also criticized what he called the current activist behavior in American courts, and he warned about the dangers of international law being used as another weapon for constitutional revisionists.

An inherent hypocrisy exists between consulting European courts on homosexuality yet not considering the rulings of Muslim courts, Sears noted.

“There is a lot to be concerned about, but there’s a lot to be excited about,” said Sears, whose Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund has trained more than 800 lawyers in religious liberties issues.

Concerning the legal challenges on campuses, such as persecution of Christian clubs by requiring them to sign non-discrimination pledges, Sears said, “No matter what you think about public colleges, they are the training grounds of the future.”

David Limbaugh, the brother of nationally syndicated talk show host Rush Limbaugh, reminded the crowd that freedom is too easily taken for granted.

“We don’t pinch ourselves to the realization that freedom is the exception throughout history,” said Limbaugh, a lawyer, syndicated columnist and author of the book “Persecution: How Liberals Are Waging War Against Christianity.”

“I will defend to death the rights of Muslims to worship as they please,” Limbaugh said, stipulating that a Christian worldview is not about suppression and can “compete in the marketplace of ideas.” Passion should not be confused with anger, he said, noting that no converts will ever be won by coercion.

Religion historian David Barton, recently named one of Time magazine’s 25 most influential American evangelicals, in addressing the influence of the Bible in America, noted that the Pilgrims prominently carried Bibles and the founding fathers even printed a Bible in 1782 with the inscription: “A neat edition of the Holy Scriptures for our schools.”

In one ongoing study of the Constitution, researchers wanted to discover how the fathers got their radical ideas, Barton said. More than 15,000 of their writings were examined, and the Bible was found to be the overwhelming source of quotations -– representing 34 percent of the material, said Barton, founder of Wall Builders, a national organization that informs citizens on historical, legal and educational issues.

Barton said 24 of 56 Declaration of Independence signers had educations equivalent to attending a seminary or Bible college. He said it’s not an oxymoron to be a Christian in politics, he told the conference.

“If you’re concerned about policy, you better be concerned about politics,” Barton said.

National Right to Life President Wanda Franz targeted what she described as deceptions by proponents of embryonic stem cell research. Despite the harvesting of stem cells being equivalent to “killing a human being,” she said support for such research “grew to mythological proportions after [President] Reagan’s death,” with proponents pushing it as a “cultural wedge issue” like abortion rights.

“To date, attempts using embryonic stem cells for therapy in humans have met with failure,” Franz noted.

Rep. Walter Jones, R.-N.C., shared with conference participants a measure he has proposed in the U.S. House to of Representatives that will lift the federal ban on clergy support or opposition to candidates for public office.

Jones said his bill, H.R. 235, the Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act, “allows a minister to say whatever God puts in their heart and in their mouth.”

Current tax law penalizes clergy with the removal of their tax exemption if they engage in political activity — a potential death blow to donation-dependent churches, the representative said.

Jones ranked the return of freedom of speech to American clergy above the defense of marriage and the return of legal protection to unborn children.

“There is no hope for the moral future of our country unless pastors can speak freely,” he said.

Jones said his bill, first introduced in 2001, has been blocked by the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. He urged conference-goers to ask Speaker Dennis Hastert, a supporter of Jones’ bill, to instruct the chairman to let the bill pass.

“We have got to get it done this year,” Jones said. “I believe that after four years, that 2005 is the year, but it really is up to you and your energy.”

American University professor Daniel Dreisbach, a First Amendment expert, told the conference that clergy free speech is the purpose behind the First Amendment. The founding fathers recognized that religion was necessary to social and civic stability, he said. George Washington, he noted, said, “True religion affords to government its surest support.”

While the modern idea of a wall of separation between church and state “has been used to silence the religious voice in public life,” Dreisbach said the founders wanted “the prophetic voice of the church to be freely raised to ensure the very survival of the political order.”
With reporting by Joni B. Hannigan & John Aman. Story courtesy of the Florida Baptist Witness, online at www.floridabaptistwitness.com.

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  • Doug Waters