When a Kentucky judge jailed Kim Davis for refusing to sign marriage licenses due to her Christian beliefs, the situation heralded various responses from the 2016 GOP candidates. Most notable, perhaps, was Gov. Mike Huckabee’s claim that her jailing marks “the criminalization of Christianity.”
His statement seems to have been lost in the shuffle of debate over Davis’ role as a government employee and the details of making a religious exemption. So, was Huckabee exaggerating the situation? Was the jailing of Kim Davis a random case, or does her situation really mark the criminalization of Christianity in America?
Kelly Shackelford, president and CEO of the Liberty Institute—a non-profit law firm that takes cases similar to the Davis case—might say her situation is not as unexpected or isolated as we would hope.
“Each year, Liberty Institute publishes a survey titled ‘Undeniable,’ cataloging incidents of religious hostility in America,” Shackleford wrote yesterday in an article for the Washington Times. “Since we started conducting the annual survey three years ago, we have seen an astonishing 133 percent increase in attacks on religious freedom over the past two years.”
Shackleford then goes on to detail several cases that the organization has taken in the past few years, including “everything from a 5-year-old girl who was ordered to stop praying over her meal by a school official to senior citizens being threatened with having their federally funded meals taken away because they were praying over their food. Government officials insisted the seniors’ prayers would violate ‘separation of church and state.’”
Looking back to the debate over marriage leading up to the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, one of the most common arguments that traditional marriage supporters heard (and still hear) was that a legal redefinition of marriage wouldn’t affect heterosexuals or those who believe that marriage is between one man and one woman.
Sadly, reports from the Liberty Institute prove how empty these claims really were. Since the Obergefell decision, Shackleford reports, the institute has seen a 400 percent increase in requests for legal help with religious liberty violations. Liberty Institute expects this trend will continue to rise nationwide.
The situation seems bleak for those who wish to live out their faith as they believe Christ requires. There is hope, however, as Shackleford reports that the Liberty Institute wins 9 out of 10 cases for those facing legal threats to their religious freedom.
The Liberty Institute will also be rolling out their new Religious Liberty Protection kits at this year’s Values Voter Summit, what Sean Hannity calls “the premiere conservative event now in the country.”
Designed to educate people on how they can stand up for their rights in schools, churches, the military and the public arena,” Shackleford laments that such kits are actually necessary right now. As John Adams wrote, “nothing is more dreaded than the national government meddling with religion,” so we are relieved the Liberty Institute and similar organizations are so actively engaged in this fight for our first freedom.
Anna Pfaff works for American Principles in Action.