Author archives: Travis Weber

France Reminds United States of Importance of First Amendment

by Travis Weber

December 8, 2016

France’s legislative effort to ban pro-life websites passed the National Assembly last week, and just passed that country’s Senate yesterday. While the measure criminalizes a number of things, of note is the ban on making statements which bring “moral and psychological pressure” on a person as part of persuading them to not have an abortion. What about moral and psychological pressure to have an abortion? That is not banned.

This is what we in the United States call “viewpoint discrimination,” the most blatant kind of speech restriction prohibited by our First Amendment to the Constitution. Prohibitions on viewpoint discrimination prevent the government from “regulating speech when the specific motivating ideology or the opinion or perspective of the speaker is the rationale for the restriction” Rosenberger v. Rector & Visitors of the University of Virginia, 515 U.S. 819, 829 (1995). For we don’t want the government to be able to “‘effectively drive certain ideas or viewpoints from the marketplace’” Turner Broadcasting Systems v. FCC, 512 U.S. 622, 641 (1994). As the Supreme Court has said, “[i]t is precisely this element of taking sides in a public debate that identifies viewpoint discrimination and makes it the most pernicious…” Rosenberger, 515 U.S. at 895.

While in the United States we may have grown used to the pro-life viewpoint being marginalized and pushed out of certain sectors of culture and academia, we generally rest assured in our strong free speech protections which guard against government efforts to censor certain viewpoints.

Last year, a federal judge found that a public university’s efforts to ban “controversial” speech was actually an attempt to ban the pro-life viewpoint and thus unconstitutional. In that case, the “political and social controversy” the university cited was due to the students’ position on abortion. If the university was concerned with “controversy” connected to the topic of abortion, it might be able to prohibit all speech on that topic in certain areas on campus. But if, as alleged, the university was actually targeting the “controversy” arising from pro-life views, it would be targeting these pro-life students for their position on the issue of abortion, and would thus be engaged in viewpoint discrimination—something the government is strictly prohibited from doing.

France’s ban on pro-life views follows not too long on the heels of a government decision to bar a video featuring individuals with Down syndrome from appearing on French television because the smiles of the children in the video would “disturb the conscience of women who had lawfully made different personal life choices”—meaning, it would offend and upset women who had aborted their Down syndrome children.

Again, we can be thankful for free speech law in the United States, which, despite the efforts of university activists who want to ban offensive words, currently does not permit the banning of speech just because it is offensive.

These efforts by France should remind us of the value and importance of our own Free Speech law. While free speech infringements in France may be appealed, possibly up to the European Court of Human rights, this is already troubling enough. That the government can so easily shut down one side of an important public debate (or ban offensive presentations) are things that should make everyone who loves freedom (whether in Europe or the United States) worry.

Buzzfeed to Christians: No Freedom for You!

by Travis Weber

November 30, 2016

Much ink has been spilled over the assertion that the activist wing of the LGBT movement does not want to infringe on religious freedom, but only wants protections for itself.

Anyone who still seriously thinks this is true needs to wake up and look around.

The latest alleged outrage disproving this theory is a Buzzfeed “news” story titled: “Chip And Joanna Gaines’ Church Is Firmly Against Same-Sex Marriage.” The entire article is devoted to talking about how the well-liked and successful couple of the HGTV show Fixer Upper attend a Christian church that holds to the biblical view of marriage. The article then reviews the pastor’s comments reflecting this belief. If you’re waiting for more, you’ll be disappointed. That’s it. That’s the entire article.

Why this is a news story is unclear; there is nothing new or noteworthy in it. The church even told the reporter it has held the same views on marriage for 17 years. Where was Buzzfeed before when that “news” broke?

The entire point of this story appears to be to generate controversy and direct hostility toward the Gaines family. Thankfully, many Buzzfeed readers are quite dissatisfied with this approach, the top comment stating:

This is the dumbest story I have ever heard. It’s like a witch hunt for their beliefs, to try [to] stir the oil from a pot into the flames of the stove. This kind of article is exactly what is wrong with the media. Don’t go reaching out for a reason to hate people. The Gaines seem to be a wonderful couple and unless they are hurting anyone why does it matter. Also their beliefs are their own just like every other person. Don’t touch and don’t spew hate, this article is asking for hate to be spewed.”

Exactly. This is why most Americans can’t stand the intolerance of the modern progressive media and their allies in the activist wing of the LGBT movement. Most Americans want to be left alone to live in peace, and believe it’s ok for people to have different views. That’s the whole point of America. Not so for modern progressives. They have to force you to believe as they do.

This should be a lesson for Christians who think they can ignore the society around them. The Gaines have done nothing here—nothing except attend an orthodox Christian church and do their job well enough to draw the attention of busybody “news” sources. Christians who think radical progressive activists and their allies in the LGBT movement will not bother them are mistaken. At this time, those trying to live out their Christian faith in the marketplace and government are under scrutiny. But when the activists are done with them they will turn their attention to the churches. After all, that’s what happened here. Would there be a “story” if the Gaines’ church caved to pressure and abandoned its biblical position on marriage?

Countless Christians across our land wake up every day and do exactly what the Gaines have done here—work hard at their job and participate in the life of their local church. Most just haven’t been famous enough to be noticed. However, they won’t be able to live in peace forever.

Those who hear about religious freedom and think it’s still an issue for everyone else to deal with must grapple with what is happening to the Gaines’s. They won’t be able to avoid it forever.

Marine Corps: Spiritual Fitness Is a Necessary Component of Effective Military Service

by Travis Weber

November 22, 2016

Recently, the Marine Corps announced it is planning to develop a program of “spiritual fitness training” in order to “build the kind of mental resilience necessary for war,” according to chaplain Rear Admiral Brent Scott.

This is a welcome development, and it is good to see the military formally recognize a very basic truth about the human person: we are more than just a collection of muscle, bones, and tissue.

After a long time in the Middle East, Scott said he “found that much of the resilience we saw was not necessarily attributed to something that somebody could do in the gym. A lot had to do with the heart and soul of the individual.” Training is needed to develop this spiritual component of our humanity as it relates to military service. It will be a success, Scott notes, “if Marines begin talking about spiritual fitness and maintaining spiritual health as openly as they discuss physical fitness and physical training.”

A moral compass doesn’t just come from a faith foundation; it’s not enough to make a decision based on what is legally right or wrong,” Scott said. “Chaplains will help Marines discover that compass for themselves—that center of gravity that comes from their own upbringing, personal experiences, and religious teaching.” 

The message on the subject from the Commandant of the Marine Corps states as follows:

  1. Fitness is a vital part of being a United States Marine. Although we all understand the importance of being physically fit, it is also important to remember the other three aspects of overall fitness: spiritual, mental, and social. All of these aspects are essential to the well-being of each individual Marine and Sailor, and our Corps as a whole.
  2. As Americas force in readiness, we must be prepared to answer our Nation’s call on a moment’s notice. A large part of that ability is our capacity for resilience. Regardless of the battle we just fought, we must be ready for our next success. Research indicates that spiritual fitness plays a key role in resiliency, in our ability to grow, develop, recover, heal, and adapt. Regardless of individual philosophy or beliefs, spiritual well-being makes us better warriors and people of character capable of making good choices on and off duty.
  3. Beginning in October, the Marine Corps will be emphasizing all components of fitness, particularly the physical and spiritual aspects. During this time, I ask each of you to reflect on what you and the Marines and Sailors you lead are doing to achieve and maintain an optimal level of strength and resilience. Your leaders and chaplains at all levels stand ready to engage with you in this task. By attending to spiritual fitness with the same rigor given to physical, social and mental fitness, Marines and Sailors can become and remain the honorable warriors and model citizens our Nation expects.

Exactly right. This observation of the importance of spiritual fitness for our service members follows a long tradition of recognizing the importance of faith in our military. Early in our country’s history, George Washington recognized the need for chaplains in the military (and also that they be of a variety of faiths). Today, former Army Ranger Jeff Struecker describes how his spiritual strength helped him through the intense and traumatic moments of the Battle of Mogadishu, Somalia: “I had a very strong Christian faith before joining the Army. It gave me this overwhelming sense of peace when most people were around me panicking. The next day, many people were asking me how I kept it together. God was leading me. I became an Army chaplain. It was directly a result of the day after this battle in Mogadishu.”

In addition, spirituality is a crucial component of medicine and wellness,[1] and can’t be separated from the healing process which our veterans and service members undergo after returning from war.

As we continue to face instances of religion being scrubbed from the military, whether through the removal of Bibles from public displays in military facilities, or the censorship of religious references by commanders, the Marine Corps’ action reminds us of the potentially detrimental effects of the elimination of the spiritual aspect of military service.

It is undeniable that the spiritual component of our human nature plays an important role in the business of warfare. It must be addressed, and we neglect it at our own peril. For these reasons and more, the Marine Corps’ announcement recognizing its importance is welcome indeed.



[1] See David A. Lichter (D. Min.), “Studies Show Spiritual Care Linked to Better Health Outcomes,” Literature Review, Catholic Health Ass’n of the United States (March-April 2013); and, for example, Christina M. Puchalski (M.D.), “The Role of Spirituality in Health Care,” Proc (Baylor Univ Med Cent), 2001 Oct; 14(4): 352-7; Christina M. Puchalski (M.D.), “Improving the Spiritual Dimension of Whole Person Care: Reaching National and International Consensus,” J Palliat Med, 2014 June 1; 17(6): 642-656 (doi: 10.1089/jpm.2014.9427). Puchalski (2001), n.2, observes: The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations has a policy that states: “For many patients, pastoral care and other spiritual services are an integral part of health care and daily life. The hospital is able to provide for pastoral care and other spiritual services for patients who request them” (26).

Corporations Can Push Back Against Anti-Religious Freedom Activists

by Travis Weber

November 18, 2016

One important bit of recent religious liberty news which hasn’t gotten much attention is the pushback by Proctor & Gamble shareholders against anti-religious freedom activists seeking to eliminate corporate neutrality and enlist large firms in their culture war exploits. This is a promising development, and shows that large corporations abandoning their neutrality and enlisting in the battle against religious freedom is not inevitable.

When it was recently proposed that the “company should join Apple, PayPal, Disney, and others in the political fight against religious freedom laws in Mississippi and Tennessee and should take a stand against North Carolina’s transgender restroom policy,” 94% of shareholders rejected the idea. Such a rejection shows there is sanity in the corporate world, after all.

In recent years, large corporations have almost universally abandoned their cultural neutrality and sided against religious freedom laws at the state level, many times issuing threats to pull out of the state or not expand if such laws are not eliminated. State officials often capitulate, believing resistance is futile.

This development within Proctor & Gamble shows that the struggle is not in vain, however, and all citizens and government officials alike should take heart and understand that this is a fight worth having.

Georgia Still Needs to Remedy the Wrong Done to Eric Walsh

by Travis Weber

November 1, 2016

Last week, Family Research Council and others publicly called for the state of Georgia to back down from its intrusive request that Dr. Eric Walsh turn over his sermons and other religious materials to the state as part of an ongoing lawsuit.

After a public outcry, the state attorney general’s office withdrew its request for sermons. However, the AG is still demanding that Dr. Walsh turn over a number of things which should be off-limits, including:

  1. A validation of Dr. Walsh’s credentials as a minister
  2. Proof that Dr. Walsh has served as a minister with the Seventh-day Adventist denomination
  3. All contracts Dr. Walsh has, or has ever had, with the Seventh-day Adventist Church
  4. A report to the State of Georgia on how—and how much—he has been compensated for producing and delivering his sermons

Such intrusive government overreach is completely unacceptable. Our freedoms don’t permit the state to assess a minister’s credentials. The government may not inquire into discussions and agreements between a religious denomination and its leader. And what legitimate reason could the state have for wanting to know how much (if anything) Dr. Walsh was paid for preaching?

The ridiculousness of this discovery request only underscores the outlandish nature of this entire lawsuit. The State of Georgia hired a man as its public health director, but then fired him after reviewing his sermons. Why the state thought that was a good idea, or why a man was fired for the content of his preaching in the first place, remains a mystery. Then the state only compounded its error by requesting, as part of the lawsuit, copies of his sermons and other religious materials.

While withdrawing the request for sermons is a welcome development, Governor Deal and the state of Georgia need to fix the wrong done to Dr. Walsh that led to this lawsuit in the first place. Governor Deal’s administration, from its rejection of religious liberty legislation to its appointment of officials who have created this mess for Dr. Walsh, has permitted an environment to fester in which government officials think these types of actions are acceptable. Governor Deal should actively work to resolve this matter, and restore Dr. Walsh’s career immediately.

For those who remain steadfast in refusing to believe religious liberty is an important issue this election, look no further than the case of Eric Walsh.

Sign our petition in support of Dr. Walsh at Frc.org/Walsh.

Debunking Right Wing Watch

by Travis Weber

September 14, 2016

Right Wing Watch (RWW) is again sending out alarms about the supposedly alarmist words of FRC.

RWW says FRC “relies on a constant stream of easily debunked tales of martyrdom, and points to “a fundraising email from the group’s president, Tony Perkins, in which Perkins lists a number of debunked tales of Christian persecution in the military.”

RWW then continued by citing portions of the FRC email, but neglected to quote FRC in saying that “[n]o service member should ever be denied the very freedom he or she bleeds and dies to defend!” (Perhaps RWW agreed that was quite reasonable.)

The word “debunk” is defined as “to show that something (such as a belief or theory) is not true,” or “to show the falseness of (a story, idea, statement, etc.).” RWW really seems to like using this term with regard to FRC’s claims. Well, are they “debunked?” Let us examine the two references to the term.

First, RWW claims FRC “relies on a constant stream of easily debunked tales of martyrdom,” with a link to an article posted by its also-biased media buddy People for the American Way. Only one of the incidents listed by FRC is mentioned in the article—the matter concerning Sergeant Monk. The link to the mention of Sergeant Monk contains another RWW posting about his case, claiming it is false (the hyperlink to this claim does not work), and quoting military officials claiming he was not reassigned because of his views on same-sex marriage (of course they are going to say that; they are defending their position). It is quite possible they are wrong, as Sergeant Monk contends, especially since the military exonerated him of making false statements after they had accused him of doing so. At a minimum, Sergeant Monk’s claims that he was reassigned in retaliation for his views have never been “debunked.”

Second, RWW claims FRC President Tony Perkins “lists a number of debunked tales of Christian persecution in the military,” with four different hyperlinks enclosed.

The first link contains a supposed debunking of Chaplain Lawhorn’s claim, but the link (to RWW ally Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU)) does nothing to rebut the claim that Lawhorn’s public mention of his faith got him in trouble (he has humbly maintained he was sharing his personal story). Indeed, the linked source only affirms that it was the public mention of faith which draw the ire of activists.

The second link contains a story on Chaplain Modder by liberal website Think Progress. How this “debunks” his story is quite unclear. The story discusses Chaplain Modder’s allegation of retaliatory action for counseling according to his beliefs on sexuality in private counseling sessions. He suffered adverse action, which was ultimately reversed by the Navy. This is not even close to being “debunked.”

The third link is a story at the Huffington Post by Chris Rodda of Mikey Weinstein’s foundation (which spends its time trying to suppress traditional Christian views from being expressed in the public square) on Monifa Sterling, a Marine who was court martialed after refusing to remove a Bible verse from her workstation. While Rodda can offer her opinions on the matter, that does nothing to debunk the fact that Sterling alleged her religious exercise was suppressed.

The fourth link is a November 2013 AU story further discussing Sergeant Monk’s case, repeating the Air Force’s findings as objective fact and dismissing Monk’s assertions. The story claims the Air Force “found that Monk has made false official statements.” Yet an October 2013 memo from the Air Force to Sergeant Monk states it “determined that the allegation” that Monk made a false statement “was unsubstantiated.” Assuming good motives on the part of AU, we can assume the author of its story didn’t know about this Air Force letter, and was not intentionally misrepresenting the status of Monk’s case. If the letter was publicly available, perhaps AU was just negligent. However, another AU publication one year later still only states the following with regard to Monk’s situation: “The investigation also determined that Monk made false official statements to the Air Force. The Air Force considers the matter closed.” It seems AU’s representation of this matter is what is “debunked” here. Such an intentional mischaracterization of the facts reminds us that we can’t trust organizations this scared of religion to be fair in describing these incidents. Their fear of freedom always gets in the way.

Setting the Record Straight on RFRA (Again)

by Travis Weber

September 8, 2016

A recent NBC article about Indiana’s RFRA and its use by religious minorities (in addition to highlighting the ACLU’s ongoing hypocrisy on religious freedom) fails to accurately describe how RFRA operates.

At one point, the article states:

One week later, after intense national criticism, Pence amended the law explicitly preventing businesses from denying service based on ‘race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or United States military service.’ With this, the Indiana state law came closer to the federal religious law and similar laws in other states.”

This is false. The federal RFRA and almost all state RFRAs contain no such amendment. They’ve operated well for years, protecting individuals like the Muslim inmate highlighted in this article, and others.

The article also implies that RFRA without the “fix” could not help the inmate:

After Pence’s “fix” the law became largely disarmed from doing what many critics said was its original discriminatory intent. In fact, the opposite happened, the law has since become an extra tool to fight against religious discrimination, [Professor] Katz said.”

Yet a Muslim inmate bringing a claim under RFRA with the “fix” is not the “opposite” of what he could have done before the “fix.” The provision of RFRA he is using to bring his claim (the same provision which has been around since 1993 with little controversy) was not changed at all. His claim is the exact same under RFRA with or without the “fix.”

To its credit, the article did accurately frame RFRA in this quote by another law professor:

What people tend to forget is that the statute is not a ‘broad exemption or a get out of jail free card,’ he said. Even though there is an exemption for religious freedom under the law, it doesn’t mean the state will grant it, he said.”

That certainly seemed lost on the media in the public debate last year. This balancing test has been a part of RFRA since its inception, and is true regardless of whether the “fix” is part of the law. If only everyone would take the time to understand this.

How can Christians oppose same-sex marriage and yet pray and care for the LGBT victims in Orlando at the same time?

by Travis Weber

August 31, 2016

In a word: Love.

To some people, that may sound preposterous—but bear with me as we work through this.

Many have difficulty reconciling how Christians can engage in both of these activities. Don’t Christians oppose same-sex marriage because they hate gay people? While some would like to say so, that’s just not true. Yet it is easier for many to continue in this belief than deal with the tension brought about by sorting through the above question.

To help understand how Christians can tread both of these roads, we must examine what they actually believe.

Christians believe that all of humanity have turned their backs on God and none measure up to God’s holiness on their own effort. A big price needed to be paid for this violation of God’s high standard of holiness. Jesus paid this heavy price, by going to the cross and becoming the object of God’s wrath against all humanity’s sin. The benefit of his payment for sin is now available to all (including you)—if you believe that Jesus paid the price on your behalf. This is the gospel (or “good news”) of Jesus Christ. He restores our status with God for all eternity, regardless of how we have offended God. We just need to turn from our sin, repent, and believe. If we truly believe, we will want to follow and obey this God who saved us.

So what are we saying here? We are saying that God fully loves and forgives, yet his standards fully matter. Indeed, the very reason Jesus had to go to the cross was because the violation of the standards was serious enough to require a serious sacrifice. Yet the reason God sent Jesus to the cross was that he loved us so much that he wanted to be with us for eternity. When a Christian realizes how much Jesus loves them by dying for them, they can’t help but want to extend that love to others and seek their well-being—such as praying for hurting people like the LGBT victims of the Orlando attack.

The price that Jesus paid on the cross was very great because the seriousness of humanity’s departure from God’s standards was very great. So God’s standards matter. But he has also made a way for us to satisfy them.

If he has restored us to himself spiritually through Jesus, don’t we want to live consistently with the standards for whose violation he paid a great price? We will all remain sinners while we are on this earth—including Christians! But it is good for us to strive to live according to God’s standards. It is so good that God cared about it enough to send Jesus to pay the price for our departure from these standards. So any Christian who really understands the good news of Jesus can’t compromise God’s standards and say they don’t matter.

Christians therefore also think this way about how we conduct our sex lives. God’s principles in that area are for our best. Because Christians care for people, we don’t want to see them engage in harmful sexual practices contrary to God’s design for sex—which is only between a man and a woman in marriage. This also means, as a single person, it is good for me to not have sex. It may seem difficult, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is good. It brings me contentment, wholeness, peace, and joy. But even when I don’t feel those things, I still trust that God’s plan is good. Submission to God is not always easy. At times it is difficult, and doesn’t feel smooth. Yet it is still good—for me, as it is for all people. Therefore Christians urge all to not engage in actions outside of God’s plan—whether these are heterosexual or homosexual acts. God has designed marriage to be between a man and a woman. Humans can’t change that. Just as we can’t change it to be between two men or two women, we also can’t change it to be between three men and four women, or any other variation. Just because people have broken this standard at different times throughout history doesn’t mean we can say it is not God’s ideal—which we must remember, is ultimately for our good.

It is true that we have all fallen short, and all need the covering and forgiveness that Jesus had to provide on the cross. But we all know our choices on earth still matter, and can harm us or help us. Indeed, the whole reason Jesus had to go to the cross was because the choices of human beings harmed our relationship with God. Yet God has restored this relationship through Jesus.

It is natural that Christians therefore want to share this good news with others. It is the central message of Christianity, and it goes to the core of our existence on earth. We want others to hear this news because it is good for them. At the same time, this doesn’t change God’s standards on sexuality—which remain in existence, and work for our good. When we seek someone’s good, we are loving them. Therefore pointing someone toward God’s guidance on sexuality is loving toward them.

Christ provides a covering for our actions on the cross. But we can still harm ourselves on this earth even after we are spiritually purified by his sacrifice on the cross.

When we decline to agree that same-sex marriage (or any sexual conduct at odds with God’s standard) is okay, we are doing this for the good of those who may engage in that conduct which is harmful to them. When we pray for the well-being of the LGBT victims of violence in Orlando, we are doing it for their good. There should be no tension between the two for a Christian.

Many may not agree with my message. But I want everyone to clearly understand my motive.

If you desire to know more about God and the good news of Jesus discussed above, I invite you to find a Bible and open it to the book of John. Or contact me through our FRC website. I’d be happy to talk.

The New Thought Police

by Travis Weber

August 24, 2016

Several things are notable about David Gushee’s recent column describing the marginalization of orthodox Christian teaching on sexuality. It may at first appear to be a review of legal and policy developments, but it quickly morphs into a cheerleading piece urging the marginalizing to keep on going. Perhaps Gushee simply takes glee in finding himself sitting on the side of the discriminator. The piece is saturated with policy preferences, not theological explanations. In this context, his mention of doctrine as a factor in the discussion makes no sense. If social and political trends and preferences are what matters, who cares about doctrine?

Yet it wasn’t any of these points which stood out the most as I read the piece, but rather the apparent celebration (or at least satisfaction) of the uniformity of the view Gushee saw developing across society. To him, it’s apparently no problem that everyone influential thinks alike—as long as they have the right thoughts.

As Rod Dreher has pointed out, Gushee’s thinking goes hand-in-hand with the suppression of freedom and religious liberty. As I read Dreher’s commentary and Gushee’s piece, my mind went to a book I’m currently reading: James Michener’s The Bridge at Andau—his nonfiction account of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 against Soviet Communism. As Michener recounts in his book, pervasive throughout the secret police apparatus the Soviets helped establish in Hungary was a paranoia about being suspected of disloyalty, of being turned in for perhaps even a comment that could be construed as hostile to the authorities. Conformity was the goal. Disloyal suspects were interrogated and tortured until they “confessed”—until they admitted what the authorities wanted to hear. They had to think as the authorities thought or they were no good.

Yes, we are a far cry from such a system. But never for a moment should we think the evil and oppression underneath it can’t arise in other circumstances and in other forms to take us unawares. Such celebration of uniformity is a threat to the foundational freedoms of our society, and is much larger than any one policy issue. It is a way of thinking about society at large, and Gushee seems to be failing at it in his new piece. At a minimum, he should reconsider his celebration that our elites seem to be “confessing” what he likes to hear.

I invite him to read The Bridge at Andau and welcome a discussion at any time.

Religious Freedom at Home and Abroad

by Travis Weber

August 17, 2016

At Family Research Council, we have consistently made the point that religious freedom must be protected at home and abroad. It is a human right, protected in the United States most prominently by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause. Internationally, it is protected by Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other instruments. While the language differs slightly, the right protected is the same. People are free to choose the faith they will have and live out that faith in their lives.

So we were pleased to see The Economist highlight the link between protecting religious freedom at home and abroad in a recent piece on the Ahmadiyya Muslims. Ahmadiyyas believe their founder was a prophet, and for this belief, are viewed as outcasts and non-Muslims by many others within Islam. They have come to the West in hope of peace, where they eagerly pledge allegiance to the civil governing authorities of those countries. The Ahmadiyyas seem to have developed a theology of separation of church and state (as Christians had to do hundreds of years ago) as we currently know it in Western countries—places where the Ahmadiyyas appear to appreciate the legal protections for all faiths. They certainly need it, being subject to legal discrimination, violence, and murder for their beliefs. Yet this no longer occurs only in their home countries:

This year anti-Ahmadi hatred seemed to break out in Britain, with the murder in March of a popular Glasgow shop-keeper called Asad Shah. His family had moved to Britain in the 1990s in the hope that life for Ahmadis would be easier than in Pakistan. But Pakistan’s religious passions have clearly been felt in Britain; it emerged in April that literature urging the killing of Ahmadis was being circulated in at least one London mosque. The assassin, from the northern English city of Bradford, openly declared his intention of punishing his victim for “disrespecting” Islam, and in particular, for having wished his Christian neighbours a happy Easter.”

The Economist continues:

The story suggests a wider point. Back in the 1990s, when American officaldom was first mandated by Congress to start making annual assessments of the state of religious liberty round the world, there was widespread confidence in Western capitals that liberal-democratic norms, including religious liberty, would steadily be established in those countries which still oppressed their citizens and curbed their freedom to believe and worship. That missionary confidence is now greatly diminished. But that makes it doubly important that Western governments use all their might at least to protect their own subjects from brutal assaults on freedom of thought. Families like that of Asad Shah, who look to Western democracies as a beacon, must not be disappointed. Or to put it another way, the Ahmadis should feel they are getting something in return for their loyalty to the flag.”

Indeed. This is all part of making sure that true religious freedom—not religious freedom curtailed by blasphemy laws, or religious freedom contained to one’s private life—is protected both in the West and around the world. The United States must do its part to protect this right at home, while revitalizing the role of religious freedom protection in foreign policy.

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