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Religious freedom is experiencing a global crisis

Restrictions on the freedom to choose a religion or to choose no religion at all are under serious threat or are already restricted.  So, also, is the free exercise of religion in manifest worship or practice, not only in autocratic regimes like North Korea, China, or several Middle Eastern countries, but increasingly also in Western democracies.

Globally, “40 percent of world countries suffer high restrictions to religious freedom or freedom of belief.  Since many of them are populous nations, however, this adds up to 5.9 billion of the world population.” And among Christians, “more than 300 people are murdered monthly throughout the world because of their religious faith.”  

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Christianity is “the most persecuted religion in the world.” Some 215 million Christians are being persecuted due to their faith, according to Open Doors, about 1 in 12 Christians worldwide. 

While Christians may be the most persecuted religion in the world, they are followed closely by Muslims, Jews, and other religious minorities. 

In the U.S., “according to Pew Research, more than a third of all Americans born after 1980 identify with no religion. That is the highest percentage ever. In a recent Gallup Poll, only 47% of American adults said they were members of a church, mosque or synagogue. It was the first time since Gallup began asking Americans about religious membership in the 1930s that a majority of Americans said they were not members of a church, mosque or synagogue.”  What this means for the future of religious freedom in the US is uncertain, but it does not appear to be a positive trend.

Religious freedom in the West, or what we call “free societies,” is becoming politicized.  Now, religious freedom or religious liberty are even being denigrated as just code words, or worse, “dog whistles.” For example, in 2016 the chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, created by Congress to protect the civil rights of all Americans, issued the following statement: “[t]he phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ [are…] code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, [and] Christian supremacy….” Such attitudes would have been unheard of just a few short years ago.

America’s Founders considered the fact of and practice of religion the best means of maintaining personal responsibility, social order, and self-government.  Without the moral compass religion provides, they believed, there is no restraint.  Men and women do what’s right in their own eyes, which is to say, chaos.

So, the need to protect the precious God-given unalienable right is not just something to worry about in authoritarian countries elsewhere in the world but right here at home.  

Recently it was my privilege to host a webinar for SAT-7 called “Collaboration for HOPE: Religious Freedom, the Most Precious God-given Right.” Our guests were Shirin Taber, Director of Empower Women Media, Rita El-Mounayer and Phil Hilditch, both of SAT-7 International. It was an enjoyable learning experience and can be accessed here:

Religious freedom is the bedrock freedom.  To lose religious freedom is to lose our foundation and potential as a free and open society.  Without religious freedom, the liberty to think, decide, worship as one’s convictions direct, how can we say we are truly free?

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2021    

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

In the past year, we’ve witnessed the wholesale politicization of media, science, law and order, Big Tech, entertainment, public education in the grades and higher academia, professional sports, and culture. 

This politicization is largely driven by a new ideology of identity (Woke or Leftist), i.e., “social justice” re race and ethnicity, SOGI=sexual orientation and gender identity, age, and class (group or collectivist mentality, especially “intersectionality,” not individualism, is the rule). It’s an ideology that rejects moral or objective truth and rationality, American ideals and patriotism, science, capitalism, and the traditional family.

This new ideology has pulled off a coup of immediate and immense cultural implications

Ironically, the new ideology pushes victimhood re the offense du jour as its path to power, wielding cancel culture to silence opposition.

Reasonableness, appeals to historical evidence, science, or even rationality are passe. 

It’s now nearly impossible to conduct a discussion or debate, based on reason or any respect for demonstrable evidence because feelings or “lived experience” or demography count more. This is apparent every day in what we still euphemistically call “the news.” Now someone might share what’s called “his truth” or “her truth,” but no objective determination of right or best or good or honorable can be made, unless of course it is the currently acceptable ideological narrative backed by the power of media.

The same is now the case for politicians: a lie or “alternative facts” are as useful as “the truth,” because no one knows, or seemingly cares, what that is. This is especially the case with race, sexuality/gender, and climate change, all on the current ideological holy list. 

Politicians, celebrities, and corporations rush to virtue signal their “social justice” bona fides because they are deathly afraid of being labeled “not inclusive,” or worse “racist,” the ultimate all-purpose Scarlet Letter for anyone who dares question the logic or evidence behind the latest oppression story. 

(I’m not saying racism does not exist. Of course, it does. I am suggesting that not every development every day is about race, even when two or more races are involved, nor is it necessarily about hate. This, too, exists, but the root cause is sin in the human heart across all races, ethnicities, and genders. If you think of social problems traceable to human depravity it is harder to make the leap that every ill, every crime, every negative development is somehow about the oppression of one race over another, particularly in what is, while not a perfect society, certainly one with lofty and timeless ideals and a track record moving toward liberty and justice for all.)

Big Tech rushes to censor anyone who dares to question government mask mandates and lockdowns or who discusses something like the merits of Hydroxychloroquine. And Big Tech labels as “misinformation” people’s post that question a lack of authorized police response or absence of prosecution of those who orchestrated race riots, which destroyed property and stymied businesses, largely based on false narratives about police. Similarly, Big Tech wielded its censorship power against politicians or stories, like the Hunter Biden laptop, that it considered unacceptable prior to the 2020 election.

Add to these trends, a pandemic that partisan politicians, stoked by media, have used to increase government intrusion via inconsistent “mandates” limiting civil liberties, closing businesses, schools, and churches, and more in the name of public health. These questionable and draconian lockdown orders decimated the American economy even as certain politicians, public health officials, and cultural elites ominously call for continuing restrictions, seemingly oblivious of, or at least not accountable for, the innumerable negative side-effects these pandemic orders generate, like social isolation and increases in depression and suicides, school children falling farther behind, and a surge in domestic abuse. 

This ideology argues anti-racism as it advances a racist re-segregation. It argues tolerance while expressing bigotry toward religion and religious moral views. It promotes victimhood and oppression mentality in the name of “equity,” while in essence arguing government should grant special awards and status to certain groups. It preaches “trust the science” but ignores science re sexuality and gender. It used the pandemic to argue for vaccines based on race. It promotes freedom while pushing for ever-greater control, power, and the capacity to silence opposition. Virtually everything about this ideology is anti-Christian, anti-American, and anti-freedom.

Meanwhile, the American public seems to have gone along to get along, apparently unaware of the singular changes afoot that threaten much that has been good in the American way of life. 

The issue here is not simply assessing a given response to the pandemic. It’s not to deny the existence of racism or to suggest people embracing hybrid sexualities should be denied their civil liberties. It’s not to argue a partisan point or align with a given political leader. 

The far greater issue is the long-term impact upon the ideals and aspirations of the American republic and whether it can continue to exist as a free and democratic society.

If the First Amendment can be willy-nilly set aside in the name of fear-mongered public safety—suppressing freedom of religion and assembly, 

If freedom of speech can be trampled by Big Tech and some governments and universities because the ideas being expressed don’t fit an acceptable narrative,

If objective truth really does not matter as much as subjective, i.e., changeable, feelings,

If American culture does not have enough moral and rational belief and understanding that we no longer think there is a difference between men and women, even contrary to biology and DNA,

If demography matters more than truth or right and wrong or knowledge and expertise, 

If the American people can no longer be trusted to make sensible decisions based upon accurate information to care for themselves,

And we need big government, oligarchs, elites, or ideological mobs to sustain us,

the United States of America is in trouble and may not have a future as a free and independent society.

If this sounds alarmist and exaggerated, how else would you describe the trends of Years 2020-2021 and how would you describe what’s next?

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2021    

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

US Constitution, Amendment I

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

This is a public service announcement for all those who seem to have forgotten or want to ignore this remarkable statement, first of the "Bill of Rights" amending the US Constitution, approved September 1789 by the first Congress of the United States, finally ratified December 1791.

The First Amendment is the core essential ideal defining "America." And the First Amendment is one of the most momentous political statements ever written.

Politicians, bureaucrats, academics, journalists, CEOs, celebrities, and social activists now smugly advocating cancel culture against all who differ with them ignore history and flirt with a danger they apparently don’t comprehend. 

Let them talk to people in North Korea, Iran, China. Let them ask immigrants why they sacrifice everything in an attempt to get to these shores. 

Please God, let them not be seduced by power and open their eyes to the blessedness of freedom hard won but easily, and quickly, lost. 

    

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2021    

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

 
Whatever you think of Trump, this is not the way. I don’t support censorship, which is to say restrictions on freedom of speech, of any kind. (I affirm the well-considered body of law that balances freedom of speech with society's interests in limiting promotion of sex trafficking, pornography and obscenity, or "yelling 'Fire' in a crowded room.")
 
And, Yes, Big Social Media are private companies, but they now function with enormous monopolistic power as public platforms—evident as Apple steps in to shut down Parler. I favor changing Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 that’s protecting them.
 
What if Social Media begins censoring categories of people or ideas they consider unacceptable? Well, they already have: various conservatives, certain Christian content, medical professionals presenting ideas about lockdown or C-19 that elites don’t like. I have 4 friends whose posts or accounts have been blocked because an anonymous committee didn’t like their ideas. Meanwhile, a list of international and domestic bad actors still have accounts.
 
Trump had 89 M followers on Twitter. I’ve been saying for 4 years that whoever owns Twitter should thank the Lord every morning for Donald Trump, who put them back on the map. Now it will be interesting to see how many people leave Twitter over this and what happens to the company. Rush Limbaugh just deactivated his Twitter account.
 
Certainly, putting pressure on private companies is a dilemma. But private companies have been held accountable to society’s civil rights standards in the past. The issue here for Big Tech is monopoly of a public forum. There is no forum if it isn’t free, and Big Tech is not acting simply in fair and equitable interests for all. Actually, they have their own huge biases. So, like railroads, telegraph, and telephone a century ago, like TV in the last 70 years, there needs to be competition and regulation like the FCC.
 
I generally side with free enterprise and no government regulations. But then again, we engage government to protect competition and just practice, like FDA, FCC. T.R. “busted” the monopolies of his day. I think we’re looking at that with Big Tech, particularly when they wield their power in highly biased ways.
 
Yes, Trump was shameful. Now he’s beginning to pay the price. I reject what he did and certainly condemn the violent invasion of the Capitol Building, just like I condemned the violent riots of this past summer. 
 
Trump is an easy target right now. People are cheering him getting a comeuppance. My point here is not about or trying to defend President Trump.
 
A far greater concern is preserving the spirit of the First Amendment in terms of freedom of speech, free access to information, and openness in a democratic society.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2021    

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

Media is laser-focused on the election. 

But I am far more concerned about certain cultural trends than I am about Biden winning the presidency and what Trump will do. These trends are not partisan as such but ideological, and they threaten the existence of the USA as a free country.

1-Suppression of freedom of speech. 

2-Restriction of freedom of religion in the name of tolerance.

3-Interference with freedom of peaceful assembly, even in one’s residence, in the name of public safety.

4-Promotion of sexual progressivism, in the name of tolerance, ironically for all except those with a religious, moral conscience, and at the expense of social order.

5-Rejection of objective truth and rigorous rationality in science and politics, in favor of subjective feeling even irrationality. 

6-Disavowal of historic, orthodox religion, specifically Christianity, and a growing embrace of DIY religion, a pastiche of “whatever” based largely on secular nihilism.

I wish these things were warnings, what-might-happen, but they are not. They’re happening now, promoted by “cultural elites” in universities and public schools, Big Tech, government, and journalism.

Ronald Reagan was right, "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free."

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020    

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

So as not to bury the lead, let me state it outright—

First Amendment freedoms in the United States are under threat from the Left via Big Social Media, on university campuses, and in “news” rooms.

For the first time, I’ve had a video “age restricted” on YouTube. I got the notice this morning. What’s weird is that the video in question is 5-years-old, and also strange is it’s harmless. I took the video standing on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, panning the city while church bells rang on Palm Sunday. It’s beautiful and I was pleased at the time to be at the right place at that hour.

That’s it. No commentary. Somehow this is deemed not suitable for all viewers?

Some have said this is just bots or YouTube algorithms going awry. Maybe.

Some say this is another example of Big Social Media acting like Big Brother, censoring willy-nilly what it finds objectionable based upon a Leftist agenda, and at times with a seemingly anti-religious point of view.

But where there’s smoke there’s fire. Just ask Prager University, a conservative nonprofit organization that’s had several hundred of its videos blocked by YouTube.

“The legal battle by the organization co-founded by commentator and talk radio host Dennis Prager began in October 2017. Prager University, known as PragerU, filed a lawsuit against Google after YouTube placed more than 100 of its videos in “restricted” mode, flagging them as “dangerous” or “derogatory,” according to a press release from PragerU.

“'Restricted’ means that families that have a filter to avoid pornography and violence cannot see that video,” Prager told a Senate subcommittee in a July hearing.”

PragerU said in the press release that it filed the suit because Google and YouTube have restricted 10% of its video content and “maintains that the organization’s videos have been restricted, not because they are explicit, vulgar or obscene in nature, or inappropriate for children in any way, but rather because they promote conservative ideas.”

“The videos categorized as restricted cover a range of topics, including the Ten Commandments, tolerance, climate change, free speech, and fake news, and tend to be three to five minutes in length.”

Religious conservatives have also been censored by YouTube and other Big Social Media.

“Social media sites continue to find new and imaginative ways to censor, ignore, or downplay opinions and facts that dissent from their failed worldview.” Public universities, sadly, are no better, and may in fact be worse.

I don’t know why my harmless little video was age restricted, but I don’t like it and don’t like the trend.

I am far more concerned about the anti-freedom trends I see in America than I am about COVID-19, Trump vs Biden, social unrest, and certainly climate change. Lose America’s First Amendment freedoms and you lose what since 1776 has been known as the United States of America.

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.