Your church is told to get a license to conduct services. A government official comes with a recording device to gather evidence. The congregation is told they have to vacate the facility. Where do you think this episode of government intrusion and monitoring took place? If your answer is Iran, China, or North Korea, think again. It happened in the “land of the free,” the U.S.A.
The Common Ground Church in Lake Worth, Florida, had been meeting in a coffee house owned and operated by the congregation. The church, along with others in the city, received a notice to take out a business license. According to the pastor, Mike Olive, it didn’t stop there. On February 8, 2014, a government official showed up at his church with a video recording device to gather evidence to be used in court if necessary. He was told he had one week to leave. If the church failed to comply a 500 dollar fine could be levied and possibly foreclosure.
In response to this, Mat Stover of the religious liberty law firm, Liberty Counsel, said, “Government employees are public servants and prohibited by the Constitution from inhibiting religious freedom.” An article by Believers Stand United made this statement: “This is a clear case of religious persecution. Not only did they create a law aimed at regulating churches, they have gone out of their way to investigate those churches and attempt to shut them down…” This apparently all started with a pro-gay commissioner assuming, and telling others, that the church was teaching an anti-gay message.
When pressed on the issue, the city manager said the notices were sent out by mistake. He further tried to explain it away as a misunderstanding. Oh, really? Was it also a misunderstanding to send an official to record the service?
How is the congregation handling this? The pastor said he will take his flock “underground,” until the situation is resolved. Until now, we have heard the above word only in reference to persecuted Christians in other countries. The agenda to silence Christians began with the atheists, then it spread to the gay community with flower shops and bakeries. They have succeeded in shutting down some businesses and putting people out of work. Is this an initial attempt to shut down churches as well?
It is past time for Christians to get out of the pews and into the “spiritual trenches” in the battle for Christian religious expression. Ephesians 6:12 describes the battle as being “…against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” The next verse tells us to “take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything to stand firm.”
What do you think is the best course of action to take in a case like this? How can and should Christians fight the battle for Christian religious expression?