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Youth Supplement – Religious freedom

March 2008 | by Heidi Simms
Religious freedom
Who cares?

Politics – not exactly the most riveting subject, especially for teenagers. Most of us don’t much care what these boring men in grey suits think. After all, politicians are all the same, aren’t they? And what Gordon Brown and David Cameron say and do isn’t really going to make much difference to us – so what’s the point of following politics?

True, many of the laws passed by Parliament don’t affect young people. But some certainly do! In recent years the government has tried to limit the religious freedom of Christians.

Religious freedom is the fundamental right of people to express their beliefs – and the government has tried to restrict what Christians can say about their faith. This may have bypassed your attention – it doesn’t really seem a big thing when in other countries Christians are martyred for their faith. But, in our multicultural and politically correct society, attempts are being made to restrict Christian freedom.

Interrogated

Why should we care? Because young people are the future. We’re the ones that are going to have to live with the laws being passed today. And if we don’t make a stand, things could get worse.

In December 2005, a Christian couple were interrogated by the police for expressing their belief that homosexual practices are wrong.

In March 2007, the Sexual Orientation Regulations were passed, outlawing discrimination against homosexuals. While the Regulations include an exemption for churches, they have led to pro-homosexuality storybooks in primary schools and the closure of an adoption agency.

In September 2007, the Regulations were successfully challenged in Northern Ireland. ‘Harassment’ was removed from the law, giving greater protection for religious free speech, and the Regulations in NI will not apply to lessons in schools – but the law still exists.

In October 2007, a law was proposed that would ban ‘incitement to homophobic hatred’. Unlike existing ‘race-hate’ legislation, this proposed law contains no protections for religious free speech. This law is currently going through Parliament.

While Christians should not be homophobic, we should be free to state what the Bible says about homosexuality. Under this law, Christians could be prosecuted and jailed for up to seven years for expressing their beliefs.

Too young to be heard?

But what can we do? We’re too young. Nobody will listen to us. We don’t know enough. There are hundreds of excuses why young people shouldn’t get involved. But God says something different.

Jeremiah told God he was too young to be a prophet, but God thought otherwise. Daniel was only a young teenager when he was taken to Babylon, but God still used him. Timothy was an early church leader used by God, despite being a young man. Above all, Jesus was just twelve when he amazed religious teachers in the temple in Jerusalem. Being young isn’t an excuse to sit back and ignore the world.

So what can we do? The most important thing is to pray. We are told in 1 Timothy 2 to pray for those in authority – and that includes politicians! Praying is something we can all do, no matter how young or inexperienced we are.

Gift from God

We can pray for organisations that are trying to influence and challenge the government on issues affecting Christians. One such organisation is The Christian Institute which defends Christian principles (they were heavily involved in challenging the Sexual Orientation Regulations).

Their website is a good way to keep track of what’s happening in Parliament regarding religious freedom – so you can pray about specific laws, individuals and events.

Lastly, use the opportunities you have to share the gospel with friends and family. We don’t know how long we will be able to do this openly – but right now we can make the most of the chance. It is no good having religious freedom if we don’t use it to tell others the amazing news of Jesus Christ!

So, maybe politics do matter. Religious freedom is a precious gift from God and we should guard and protect it. The laws passed this year will undoubtedly have a future impact on you and me – so surely we should care?