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FIRST-PERSON: Anti-Christian discrimination in America

McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)–Judge Roy Moore’s fight to keep a monument honoring the Ten Commandments on display in the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building was high profile and has been discussed from sea to shinning sea.

However, similar struggles are taking place with increasing frequency and without media fanfare. Throughout America there seems to be a growing trend of anti-Christian discrimination.

Recently Daria and Evan Buchanan, who live in Washington state, were refused a request to place a commemorative fund-raising brick in a state park because the inscribed message included the word “Jesus.” As a result the American Center for Law and Justice has filed suit on behalf of the couple.

According to an ACLJ statement, the state conducted a fund-raiser to build a playground at Saint Edward State Park in Kenmore, Wash. Members of the public were invited to pay $100 for the privilege of placing an inscribed paving stone in the playground.

“Thank you Jesus, Daria & Evan Buchanan,” the couple’s proposed message, was rejected by state officials on the grounds the inscription would violate the doctrine of separation of church and state.

The ACLJ says the coordinator of the playground program, Colleen Ponto, wrote a letter to the Buchanans in August which included the following explanation: “Because the Saint Edward State Park Playground is located on public land, our intent and unwritten policy for all of the 511 bricks sold was to engrave only non-religious requests in order to uphold the separation of church and state as dictated by our state constitution.”

A few months ago a couple from Chicago experienced discrimination similar to the Buchanans’.

In July, Rob and Mildred Tong sought to purchase an inscribed brick to be placed in Senn Park near their home. The $50 paver was part of a fundraiser park officials were conducting to help pay for improvements to the park.

The Tong’s chosen message, “Dear Missy, E.B. and Baby, Jesus is the cornerstone. Love, Mom and Dad,” was rejected by the Chicago Park District.

Park personnel expressed concerns over the Tongs’ proposed message and suggested the Tongs change the word “Jesus” to “God.” The couple declined to alter the inscription.

Chicago television station WMAQ reported a park spokesman as saying, “The reason for this display (in Senn Park) is to highlight people who have contributed (and) given money to improve the parks. The bricks highlight these people and are not to be a bulletin board for people’s religious, cultural or political expressions.”

The Tongs have filed a lawsuit seeking $1 in damages. The couple’s only desire is to be able to inscribe their original message on the brick they purchased.

The aforementioned are but two cases of what I call Christ-o-phobia that is occurring with increasing regularity throughout the land of the free.

“Persecution: How Liberals Are Waging War Against Christianity” is the title of a new book by David Limbaugh. The best-selling author of “Absolute Power” and brother of radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh utilizes 416 meticulously researched pages featuring 778 end notes to make his case that Christians in America are increasingly the targets of not-so-subtle discrimination.

In page after page Limbaugh highlights the sobering reality that the First Amendment rights of the followers of Jesus are routinely being ignored. However, unlike Judge Moore’s struggle in Alabama, many cases simply go unreported. And sadly, some Christians do not stand up for their birth right of religious freedom.

In the introduction to “Persecution” Limbaugh writes, “We all know the framers were among the wisest men in history. Ignoring their original intent for the First Amendment of the Constitution, as we shall see, has already had alarming consequences for our precious freedoms. And unless we do something about it, it’s going to get worse, seriously worse.”

While the title of Limbaugh’s book is provocative, it might be a tad bit hyperbolic. I would argue that the discrimination being faced by Christians in the United States falls short of bona fide persecution. That being said, I agree with Limbaugh that an ill wind has begun to gust against the public expression of faith in Jesus Christ.

If history teaches us anything, it is that overt discrimination is but one step away from profound persecution. Today it is the name of Jesus on a paving stone and the public display of the Ten Commandments, but what will it be tomorrow?
Boggs’ column appears each Friday in Baptist Press. He is pastor of Valley Baptist Church in McMinnville, Ore.

    About the Author

  • Kelly Boggs