A Line in the Sand

CHUCK COLSON: Do we still have religious freedom in America? You may think so—unless you've heard as many horror stories as I have. With me today is Pat Nolan, the president of Justice Fellowship. Pat is both my colleague and a close friend and brother in Christ. I've invited him to tell BreakPoint listeners and readers about some of these abuses, and about why it's vitally important to pass the Religious Liberty Protection Act. Pat: PAT NOLAN: Thank you, Chuck. You're absolutely right about those religious freedom horror stories. For example, in Los Angeles, a group of Orthodox Jews asked for a zoning variance to hold religious services in a residential area because their beliefs don't allow them to drive on the Sabbath. There would have been no parking or noise impact—yet the city council refused to give them the zoning variance. But outrageously, the same council okayed a variance for a gay sex club located within 500 feet of a residential area. Then there's the case of the man in Spring Green, Wisconsin, who allowed a pro-life group to display crosses representing aborted babies on his property along the highway. The township threatened to fine the landowner unless the crosses were removed—yet it cited no ordinance violated by the crosses. In Philadelphia, Christian day-care centers have been threatened with closure if they don't change their hiring practices, which bar hiring gays. This is what passes for religious "freedom" in America today, and it's why Justice Fellowship is working to pass a law that will strengthen our religious rights: the Religious Liberty Protection Act, known as RLPA. My colleagues at Justice Fellowship and I have spent two years lobbying for RLPA, and a few months ago it was passed by the U.S. House. Now, we're gearing up for a fierce fight in the Senate. The history of this bill goes back to a 1990 Supreme Court decision, Employment Division v. Smith, which did away with crucial restrictions on governmental interference with religious liberties. In response, an outraged Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, known as RFRA. The law seemed like an answer to prayer—but just a few years later, the Supreme Court shot RFRA down. Ever since, the religious rights of Americans have been trampled on, as in the cases I just described. Those of us who work at Prison Fellowship are especially concerned about the religious rights of prison inmates. We've heard of cases in which inmates have had religious literature confiscated, and some of our volunteers have been kept out of prisons altogether. Christians everywhere must work together to get RLPA passed. Senator Trent Lott has put this bill on the short list of legislation to be voted on, and we expect the full Senate to consider it within the next couple of weeks. So please, pick up your phone and ask both of your senators to support RLPA. If you need more information about this bill, you can contact our web site at Or call BreakPoint at 1-800 995-8777, and we'll send you a fact sheet. Please help Prison Fellowship pressure the Senate to act. If we don't pass RLPA, religious freedom for all of us will be in serious jeopardy. Chuck Colson: Thanks, Pat. You've made a powerful case for why we must pass RLPA—it just may be the most important legislation of our lifetime. Nothing less than the cause of religious liberty is at stake. And the outcome of this battle is anything but clear. RLPA passed overwhelmingly in the House, but it's seriously threatened in the Senate. Some opponents want to gut it by attaching a gay-rights exemption or by excluding prisoners from its protection. I'm always reluctant to ask BreakPoint listeners to pick up the phone, but I am asking you now. Please, call us at BreakPoint, 1-800-995-8777, for a free fact sheet about RLPA; then call the congressional switchboard, 202-224-3121, and urge your senators to support RLPA—with no exemptions. Please call today; we really can do something for the cause of religious liberty.  


Chuck Colson


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