Anyone paying attention knows that Christians face increased persecution across the United States. As I’ve said before, we don’t have to wait until we are being made lunchmeat for lions before we can label certain acts of discrimination and harassment against faithful Christians as examples of persecution.
One area in particular that has been increasingly hostile to Christians is higher education. Most public universities are openly antagonistic to the Christian students who step foot on their campus. Professors mock them for their faith, they aren’t allowed to have their student groups without being forced to compromise on their beliefs about marriage, and they are subjugated to all kinds of false and wicked ideas put forward as positive facts.
In light of this situation, Christian colleges and universities that are serious about their Christian commitments and provide excellent conservative education are more important than ever. Still, the Marxists march on all institutions, and the revolutionaries are by no means content to leave Christian colleges alone.
Consider the case of Hunter v. U.S. Department of Education. In March 2021, a group of LGBT activists led by Elizabeth Hunter filed a lawsuit in a U.S. District Court in Oregon in an attempt to force the U.S. Department of Education to stop providing federal financial assistance (grants, loans, etc.) to any college or university that operates according to beliefs or commitments that don’t fully embrace homosexuality, transgenderism, etc.
In October 2021, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed an intervention in the case on behalf of three Christian institutions, so they were invested in this case.
Forbes summarized the case as follows:
“Students from 25 religiously-affiliated colleges and universities have filed a class-action lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education, claiming the schools are unconstitutionally discriminating against students in the LGBTQ community.”
Now, to be clear, these students didn’t face any “discrimination.” And they weren’t having any constitutional rights violated by the religious schools they attended, which operate according to their religious beliefs on human sexuality. The beliefs and standards of these institutions are well-advertised, longstanding, grounded in religious teachings, and known to students before they choose to attend these schools.
Concerns about the federal government influencing Christian colleges through financial aid are why some Christian schools proactively reject any federal funding. But for the hundreds of Christian and religious institutions of higher education that accept federal grants and loans, it would have been very costly if this lawsuit had succeeded. More importantly, had the activists won, it would have been a significant blow to religious liberty for all Americans.
But they didn’t. On Thursday, January 12, the federal district court dismissed the case.
After the decision was delivered in favor of the schools, David Cortman, senior counsel and vice president of U.S. Litigation for ADF, said this:
“A federal district court today rightly rejected an unfounded assault on the religious freedom of faith-based educational institutions. Title IX, which applies to schools receiving federal financial assistance, explicitly protects the freedom of religious schools to live out their deeply and sincerely held convictions. A group of activists asked the court to strip that protection away from schools that educate the next generation and advance the common good. The court correctly concluded that Title IX’s religious liberty exemption doesn’t violate any of the plaintiffs’ claimed rights.”
This is very good news — for now. No doubt other activist groups will continue this unfounded assault on Christian colleges and any other faith-based institution that won’t bend the knee to the radical LGBT agenda and its ongoing immoral revolution. Lord willing, every other effort to penalize Christian colleges for being faithful to God’s Word will also get dismissed.
Again, it’s essential to recognize that these efforts are a form of legal persecution of believers. It’s an attempt to induce “death by litigation” for faithful Christian and religious institutions across our country. There is more than one way to lose your freedoms: Spending years in and out of a courtroom, and millions of dollars on legal fees, all for simply exercising your First Amendment right to refuse to say something you don’t believe, or to compromise your faith, is no way to live.
Think I’m exaggerating? Just ask Jack Phillips, the baker who is now entering his second decade of legal persecution by the state of Colorado for refusing to custom-design cakes for LGBT activists — who insist that he be forced to celebrate their same-sex weddings and gender transitions.
Still, we can be thankful for ADF’s work on this case and the present victory. We can pray that God would grant our nation repentance, revival, and renewal so that these malicious efforts to force Christians to abandon clear biblical teaching about marriage and sexual morality would be abandoned.
In the meantime, we would all do well to remember the example of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and their brave refusal to bow before the false god of the golden image. When wicked men saw that they refused to compromise their faith in God, they said to Nebuchadnezzar, “These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:12)
In his rage, Nebuchadnezzar threatened to throw the three men into the fiery furnace. Coolly facing him down, they answered,
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”–Daniel 3:16-18
Of course, losing financial aid isn’t the same as being thrown into a furnace. And in our society, we aren’t being asked to bow before a golden image, but rather to kneel before a Pride Flag. Still, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, we must be willing to say, ‘No! I will never bow before your false god. Go ahead and do your worst. I serve Christ, not the culture.
Be ready, fellow Christians. Others will undoubtedly try to do to Christian individuals what this group tried to do to these Christian colleges the moment they get a chance. Be ready. Be ready and remember that come what may, Christ is King. And pray that you will serve Him faithfully, whether that service comes with federal student loans or not.
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Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.