Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
A nonprofit organization devoted to advancing religious liberty for Christians has scoured the news, sought the opinion of its e-mail subscribers and selected a list of “the top 10 incidents of anti-Christian defamation, bigotry and discrimination in the U.S. from last year.”
“It is arguable that anti-Christian hatred has spilled over into material forms of persecution in 2009,” said Gary Cass of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission. “Christians were killed and bullied for their witness, ministers and churches threatened with violence and vandalized for standing for marriage and Christians were fired for not compromising their faith. If these are not bona fide examples of persecution, than I wonder what more it might take?”
CADC subscribers chose from a list of 20 stories – both those that made headlines and those that were conspicuously absent from wide media coverage – to pick their top 10.
The winners included a wide array of events deemed to insult, injure or marginalize Christianity. They included acts of violence, laws and judgments, actions by schools against students and decisions by the Obama administration to promote causes and leaders at odds with Christian teaching.
Here, then, is the list, as reported by the CADC:
1. “The Federal Hate Crimes Bill that attacks religious liberty and freedom of speech.”
As WND has reported, Canada’s experience with “hate crimes” legislation has caused many American Christians to fear the U.S. will follow a similar path of censoring or even punishing in the name of “hate speech” people who declare the Bible’s teachings on homosexuality.
Gerald Chipeur is an attorney working to defend a Canadian pastor whose letter to the editor of a local newspaper prompted a complaint, a $5,000 fine and a court order not to express his beliefs further.
Chipeur told WND he expects the same issues now to be raised in the U.S., because of the expanded “hate crimes” law signed by Obama.
“I would be shocked if you did not have 100 times more problems with this legislation than we are. Your system is set up to encourage lawyers to do this, and you have so many more people, there is more opportunity for people to take offense,” he said.
“There are certain people in society who look to the government for everything, including to help them with their hurt feelings. The government was never made for that,” he said.
Regardless, “there are those who want the government to bless their approach to life, whatever it is, because they have this view,” he explained. “They come to the point they want the government to say … you are right.”
Chipeur concluded, “We’ve learned from history that’s a very bad idea. You get persecution, which is exactly what’s happening here.”
2. “President Obama’s appointment of radical anti-Christians like homosexual activist Kevin Jennings as the ‘safe school czar’; pro-abortion advocate Kathleen Seblius made secretary of Human and Health Services; and Chai Feldblum, pro-homosexual and anti-religious liberty judge nominated for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.”
In May, WND revealed Jennings, Obama’s pick to oversee “safety” in the nation’s public schools, is founder of the homosexual-activist group GLSEN, which promotes homosexual clubs in public schools and launched the annual “Day of Silence” celebration of homosexuality.
In October, WND brought to light Feldblum’s leadership in an organization she said was out to “revolutionize social mores,” as well has her signature to a petition pushing for the acceptance of polygamy.
3. “The Federal Department of Homeland Security issued a report entitled ‘Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate’ that labeled conservative Christians extremists and potential terrorists.”
As WND reported, the DHS report also labeled as “extremists” citizens concerned about illegal immigration, increasing federal power, restrictions on firearms, abortion and the loss of U.S. sovereignty. It also singled out returning war veterans as particular threats.
4. “An activist judge ordered a homeschool mom in New Hampshire to stop homeschooling her daughter because the little girl ‘reflected too strongly’ her mother’s Christian faith.”
Despite being described by court documents as “well liked, social and interactive with her peers, academically promising and intellectually at or superior to grade level,” the local court determined Brenda Voydatch’s daughter defended her faith too rigorously, suggesting the girl “has not had the opportunity to seriously consider any other point of view.”
Ten-year-old “Amanda” was therefore ordered to go to public school. In November, the state’s Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.
5. “Pro-life activist Jim Pullion was murdered in front of his granddaughter’s high school for showing the truth about abortion.”
While the nation was commemorating the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the well-known Owosso, Mich., man was shot multiple times in front of the local high school. The police said it was a targeted attack by a man who objected to the anti-abortion signs Pullion displayed.
6. “Police called to East Jessamine Middle School in Lexington, Ky., to stop 8th graders from praying during their lunch break for a student whose mother was tragically killed.”
The school later relented and allowed the children to pray the next day.
7. “The overt homosexual participation in Obama’s presidential inaugural events by ‘Bishop’ Vickie Eugene Robinson, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C., and a homosexual marching band.”
8. “HBO’s program ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ aired an episode where the main actor urinates on painting of Jesus. When confronted HBO would not apologize.”
The episode depicted the comedian Larry David accidentally splashing on a painting of Christ and then walking away. When the owner of the painting later enters the bathroom, she concludes the image is weeping and kneels to pray.
“Why is it that people are allowed to publicly show that level of disrespect for Christian symbols?” asked Deal Hudson, publisher of InsideCatholic.com. “If the same thing was done to a symbol of any other religions – Jewish or Muslim – there’d be a huge outcry. It’s simply not a level playing field.”
In a statement to Fox News, HBO answered, “Anyone who follows ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ knows that the show is full of parody and satire. … Larry David makes fun of everyone, most especially himself. The humor is always playful and certainly never malicious.”
9. “Rev. Fred Winters was murdered while preaching in his pulpit in Maryville, Ill.”
The gunman shot the pastor four times during a church service in March before pulling out a knife. Members of the congregation tackled the assailant and held him until police arrived.
A doctor declared the murderer, Terry J. Sedlacek, suffers from schizophrenia. Sedlacek is being treated at a state facility operated by the Illinois Department of Human Services.
10. “Pro-life Pastor Reverend Walter Hoye of Oakland, Calif., was jailed for exercising peaceful, pro-life speech.”
As WND reported, in May 2008 Hoye filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court, arguing that an Oakland city ordinance banning counselors or protesters from approaching within eight feet of people entering an abortion clinic is a violation of constitutional free speech rights.
Twelve days later, Hoye was arrested for allegedly violating the law he was seeking to overturn.
Hoye was found guilty of violating the law when he was caught holding a sign that read, “Jesus loves you and your baby. Let us help you,” outside an Oakland abortion clinic.
He was fined and jailed for 18 days earlier this year.
LifeSiteNews reports one of Hoye’s lawyers, Michael Millen of the Life Legal Defense Foundation, has announced his intention to appeal the ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
“It is now illegal to stand still on the sidewalk and extend your arm to hand out a piece of literature,” Millen said, referring to the city ordinances eight-foot bubble rule. “Mark this day down. … On this day, a federal court judge ruled that it is constitutional to put someone in jail for a year for holding out a hand with a leaflet.”
The CADC’s other stories that weren’t voted into the top 10 included the following:
The ongoing saga of Rifqa Bary, the 17-year-old Ohio convert to Christianity from Islam who fled to Florida because she feared her family would kill her, only to be returned by the courts to Ohio.