May 03, 2017
The West Michigan Beef Company should be where cattle is slaughtered — not freedom. Unfortunately for the Vander Boon family, the U.S.D.A. made their property a dead end for more than livestock. Don and Ellen, the devout Christians who started the plant, found that out the hard way when inspectors threatened to shut down their operation over something as innocent as a piece of breakroom reading material — which not one employee had complained about!
As Don shared yesterday on our special “Free to Believe” broadcast, the article was mixed in with the stacks of newspapers celebrating the Supreme Court decision that redefined marriage. Even so, the on-site federal officers took offense to the literature, walked into Don’s office, closed both doors, and told him they’d remove their inspectors if the material wasn’t removed. He was stunned. “From the very beginning, we started the business in faith, and made it clear to employees that we run our business according to Christian principles.” But, he said, the company was in an impossible situation. “Within a few hours, I’m being threatened with the closure of my business. [And] if the U.S.D.A. removes its inspectors, then I’m immediately unable to operate.” In an impossible situation, he pulled the articles from the table — permanently.
For two years, Don’s fought for the rights that every American is guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution: free exercise of religion. And in a privately owned company, whose faith is no secret (its own website says the company “seeks to glorify and honor God in all we do”) this is a shocking case of government harassment. If the U.S.D.A. – or any agency — can come to your business and dictate what you believe, then you have to wonder where we are: China, North Korea or the United States of America? “I never expected to have to deal with this,” he told us soberly. “I’d done a lot of reading about others that have dealt with it, so all of the sudden it was me — not somebody else. It’s really made me go back and think about what this country was founded on and that our forefathers fought for this freedom. And suddenly I’m in the battle too.”
And Don’s not the only one. Millions of Americans — from service members to social workers – are losing their freedom to live their beliefs out in the open. As the Vander Boons’ attorney, Alliance Defending Freedom’s Greg Baylor, pointed out, “For the government to come in and say we’re not going to let you operate, we’re going to jeopardize your company and jeopardize the jobs of your people just because we find offensive a particular viewpoint on marriage really is remarkable.” But this is exactly what’s at stake if the White House doesn’t step in to shield believers from the fierce climate of hostility created by the Obama administration. As we’ve said from the beginning, this whole issue could be resolved with an executive order. Every American, regardless of their beliefs, should agree: This kind of runaway government censorship is exactly what needs to be reined in by President Trump.
Archbishop William Lori, who was part of the Catholic coalition urging the administration to act on religious liberty, chimed in yesterday with his take on what has become a very serious crisis in the church. Like us, he’s watched as everyone from Catholic nuns to Christian adoption agencies have been told to swallow their convictions or be punished for them. But, as the Archbishop explained:
“Religion is not something we do externally for an hour or two each week to make us feel better. Religion is a way of life. Once you’ve been exposed to the word of God and the love of God has touched you in your depths and transformed you… it gives rise to a whole way of life. As Pope Benedict said, ‘Someone who has hope lives differently.’ And it’s this different way of life, it’s something that causes us to go about our daily life and work differently according to God’s plan. It’s something we bring into the workplace… and it’s going to reflect their deepest convictions. Religious freedom means you have a right to shape your whole life according to your faith and you have a right to bring it into the workplace. And it certainly means that religious institutions have a right to do their ministries according to the faith that inspired them.
I would say that the biggest challenges that we have faced do not pertain to worship, as such. In fact, there has been in many statements and descriptions of religious freedom, a tendency to describe or reduce it to a freedom to worship. In other words, if you want to get together with a church to pray on a Sunday morning, that’s fine with us. But once you step outside the church you have to get along and go along and [the government] will see to it that you do.”
This morning, rumors swirled that President Trump was close to doing what conservative leaders, House and Senate members, pastors, and 168,000 of you (in our joint petition with AFA) have asked: issuing an order on religious liberty that would end the dark shadow cast by eight years of Barack Obama. We’re working to that end! Of all the promises this young White House has fulfilled, defending our First Freedom would certainly be one of the most significant.
Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.