(Re)Defining American Religious Liberty

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(Re)Defining American Religious Liberty

Once again, religious liberty is in the crossfire. The firing of Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran over his personal views on homosexuality has reignited the debate about religious vs. sexual liberty.

But who defines freedom and its limitations? Has religious liberty become a relic of the past? Has it become a “myth,” an “impossibility,” or a “tragedy”? We may disagree, but one thing is obvious—religious freedom is being redefined before our very eyes.

Commenting on the dismissal of Cochran, the New York Times editorial board wrote:

Mr. Cochran said he was fired “for no reason other than my Christian faith.” But he and his sudden coterie of supporters have it backward. This case is not about free speech or religious freedom.

Interestingly, Julie Roys, writing an op-ed in the Christian Post, finds parallels between Kelvin Cochran and the recent Charlie Hebdo terror attack in France. She notes,

Even those who said they found Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons offensive or racist, defended the magazine’s right to publish freely. “If speech rights only protected polite comments that everyone could agree with,” writes James Poniewozik in Time, “we wouldn’t need them.” Similarly, Matt Yglesias at Vox wrote: “The legal right to free speech requires that people’s right to speak freely be respected legally. That means no legal sanction for publishing racist cartoons . . . and it means that the law must protect you from acts of retaliatory violence.”

Ironically though, none of these righteously indignant journalists wrote anything to support another victim of strong-arm speech suppression last week. Granted, this victim was spared his life. Yet, Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran was stripped of his livelihood and a career that had been his passion for more than three decades. Why? He dared to write in a devotional book that homosexuality is a “perversion” and that homosexual acts are “vile, vulgar and inappropriate.”

In today’s culture wars on issues such as homosexuality, the line distinguishing conscience and coercion is fast becoming blurred. As The Compass Magazine previously reported, religious freedom is undergoing cultural redefinition (and neutering?). The prophecies of Revelation 13 speak about these events. “But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28, NASB).

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Valmy Karemera is associate editor of The Compass Magazine and posts daily news updates on the Compass Twitter page. Originally from Rwanda, he now lives and works in Texas with his family.