NASHVILLE, TN – Foundational American freedoms are under assault, according to two Thursday sessions at Proclaim 16, the NRB International Christian Media Convention, in Nashville, TN.
In the session “Losing the Freedom to Believe,” three small business owners shared how their religious freedoms had been legally challenged. Fox News host Todd Starnes led a Q&A with the business people and Kristen Waggoner of Alliance Defending Freedom, who is representing the three in court.
Greg Stormans is an owner of Ralph’s Thriftway in Washington, a 70-year-old family business that has provided jobs to four generations of his family. When they said they did not offer Plan B medications, an abortifacient drug, they unknowingly began a 10-year lawsuit that is still ongoing.
Waggoner said the state’s governor partnered with Planned Parenthood to construct a new law that did not allow pharmacies to decline to stock or sell these drugs based on religious reasons.
Currently, according to Waggoner, the Stormans have an injunction against the enforcement of the law, but they lost their case at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and are waiting to hear if the Supreme Court will hear their appeal.
“There are a lot of courts,” said Stormans. “There’s a court of public opinion, a U.S. district court, the Ninth Circuit Court—they’ve all weighed in. And maybe the Supreme Court will weigh in, but in God’s court with Him as judge is where we really want to win our case.”
If they lose their appeal at the Supreme Court, Waggoner said this would be the “first time in our nation’s history, going all the way back to colonial days, where we as American citizens have forced someone to participate in the taking of human life.”
For Blaine Adamson, owner of the T-shirt printing company Hands On Originals in Lexington, KY, his religious freedom was challenged after he decided not to print a shirt for a gay pride event. “For me, worship isn’t just what we do in a building,” said Adamson. “It’s everything we do on a daily basis and for certain it’s how I work.”
When asked if he would go back and change anything due to losing businesses and facing lawsuits, Adamson said, “God hasn’t changed, so I can’t change.”
Waggoner said there is currently not one case pending where an individual was discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. All the cases involve participation in events.
That’s the case for Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Washington. She served a young man for 10 years when he came and asked her for flowers for his same-sex wedding. She explained she couldn’t do that because of her faith. He said he understood and they talked about life and hugged before he walked out the door.
Because of her refusal, she was sued – not just her business, but her personally. She told those in attendance to stand up now. “It’s me today,” she said, “but it’ll be you tomorrow.”
Waggoner explained the results of these cases are important for every American. “Civil liberties travel together,” she said. “If you’re concerned about press, if you’re concerned about the economy or the free enterprise system, all of those things will erode if we lose the freedom of conscience here.”
Earlier, in a session titled “The Future of Our Freedoms in America,” speakers from the Washington, DC-based think tank Heritage Foundation dealt with some of those other freedoms.
Becky Norton Dunlap described the three areas in which Heritage focuses their research and education: culture, the economy, and rule of law.
James Roberts, a research fellow at Heritage, explained how the United States is declining in economic freedom. While globally the trend has been upward, America has dropped in recent years, according to their analysis.
Joel Anand Samy, a senior advisor at Heritage, spoke of the global example of America being desperately needed. He shared how missionaries shared the Gospel with his father and soldiers freed his father-in-law from a concentration camp in Italy.
For Waggoner bringing back that image of America comes from winning back the culture. “We need more educators. We need more artists. We need more entertainers. We need storytellers,” she said.
“If something isn’t culturally plausible, it’s probably not legally possible right now,” she maintained. However, change happens when people share stories winsomely and honestly. “We win when the truth gets out,” Waggoner said.
By Aaron Earls
Published: February 26, 2016