Attorney General William Barr Stands Up for American Churches
United States Attorney General William Barr is taking action to protect America’s churches from government orders that threaten religious liberty. As cities across the nation impose strict quarantine measures, Barr is emphasizing that government “may not impose special restrictions” on religious gatherings not levied on other types of gatherings.
“In exigent circumstances, when the community as a whole faces an impending harm of this magnitude, and where the measures are tailored to meeting the imminent danger, the Constitution does allow some temporary restriction on our liberties that would not be tolerated in normal circumstances,” he noted in an April 15 statement. “But even in times of emergency, when reasonable and temporary restrictions are placed on rights, the First Amendment and federal statutory law prohibit discrimination against religious institutions and religious believers. Thus, government may not impose special restrictions on religious activity that do not also apply to similar nonreligious activity. For example, if a government allows movie theaters, restaurants, concert halls, and other comparable places of assembly to remain open and unrestricted, it may not order houses of worship to close, limit their congregation size, or otherwise impede religious gatherings.”
This announcement is a U.S. Department of Justice response to legal clashes between mayors and local churches over religious freedom. In Greenville, Mississippi, local police fined worshipers $500 apiece for attending a drive-in church service. The mayor of the city had banned drive-in church services, despite the fact that those who attend are separated in different vehicles. Since no similar bans against drive-in restaurants have been issued, these bans are an attack on freedom of worship. One Baptist minister interviewed on the Todd Starnes Radio Show said, “One of the police officers said the mayor wanted to make an example of our church.”
The mayor of Louisville, Kentucky, also tried to ban drive-in services, but a federal judge overturned his ruling as unconstitutional.
“Government is clearly overstepping its authority when it singles out churches for punishment, especially in a ridiculous fashion like this,” noted Ryan Taylor, director of the Center for Christian Ministries at Alliance Defending Freedom. “In Greenville, you can be in your car at a drive-in restaurant, but you can’t be in your car at a drive-in church service. That’s not only nonsensical, it’s unconstitutional, too.”
Attorney General Barr made similar comments on April 8 in an interview with Laura Ingraham. “I think religious liberty is the first liberty,” he said. “It is the foundation of our republic, and a free society depends upon a vibrant religious life among the people. So anytime that’s encroached upon by the government, I’m very, very concerned. As a technical matter, as you know, in facing an emergency, the government can put whatever restrictions the government’s willing to put on everybody else, like athletic events or concerts and so forth; they can technically do it to religion as well, as long as they’re not singling out religion, as long as it’s really necessary.”
The government cannot deprive people of the right to peaceably assemble, except by due processes of law. And it cannot put restrictions on religious gatherings that it does not put on other types of gatherings. These actions represent a lawless power grab by politicians.
During Barack Obama’s presidency, the government spearheaded the greatest assault on religious freedom in modern American history. Bakers were forced to provide homosexual couples with wedding cakes against their religious convictions; employers were forced to pay for their employees’ abortions; chaplains were disciplined for quoting the Bible; pastors were banned from expressing biblical views on human sexuality in public.
It is refreshing to see the government regaining respect for religious freedom and the rule of law under Attorney General Barr. Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry noted shortly after Mr. Barr was appointed attorney general that “Barr loves the Constitution and understands it as few men do. During his confirmation hearing, he said he reveres the law. It has been a long time since America has had someone like this in the Department of Justice. It is refreshing to have someone praise and uphold the law at a time like this!”
It is vital the Americans do not take their freedoms for granted.
When God gives a people freedom of religion, they have no excuse for turning away from His law. The decision to obey or disobey God is completely up to them. The rule of law is being temporarily restored in America to give people a chance to repent. If people refuse to repent then the Bible prophesies they will lose their freedoms.
Many religious people recognize that the radical left is attacking the Bible and Christianity. In response, they have turned to the Trump administration for help. “The Christians are being treated horribly because we have nobody to represent the Christians,” Mr. Trump said in a May 2015 interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network. “Believe me, if I run and I win, I will be the greatest representative of the Christians they’ve had in a long time.”
The late Herbert W. Armstrong explained in The United States and Britain in Prophecy that Bible prophecies directed toward end-time Israel apply to the United States and Britain. And a prophecy in Amos 7 speaks of a time when the U.S. is ruled by a type of the ancient Israelite King Jeroboam ii. A strong religious movement referred to as “sanctuaries of Israel” and “the king’s chapel” advises and supports this Jeroboam figure (verses 12-13).
“When this says ‘the king’s chapel,’ it is talking about a place of worship that belongs to the king,” wrote Mr. Flurry. “United States President Donald Trump has a strong following among evangelicals and quite a few Catholics. Many Christians in America today look to President Trump for leadership.”
Now we see Mr. Trump’s administration stepping forward to help protect churches. This is only going to strengthen the bond between Mr. Trump and evangelical movement.
In his booklet Great Again, Mr. Flurry identifies President Trump as a modern-day type of King Jeroboam ii. So far, President Trump has kept his campaign promises to protect religious liberty. But America’s Christians need to be careful that they do not put faith in a political figure above faith in God and obedience to His law.
God allowed the Obama administration to attack religious liberty to wake people up to their need to repent. And God has empowered the Trump administration to defend religious freedom so Americans have a chance to repent. If people vote for “the greatest representative of the Christians” without examining themselves and repenting, then they are guilty of trusting men and turning their backs on God.
Anciently, the northern kingdom of Israel fell into ruin after King Jeroboam ii rejected the warning message God gave him through the Prophet Amos. Instead, Jeroboam listened to an evil priest named Amaziah, who told him that he did not have to repent for God to continue blessing Israel. The Apostle Paul tells us that the history in the Old Testament was written for the admonition of modern-day Christians (1 Corinthians 10:11).
Jesus Christ warned that before His return to Earth, His followers would be persecuted for their beliefs. When His disciples asked Him for a sign of His Second Coming, He answered: “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. … Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake” (Matthew 24:4-5, 9).
Christ said His followers would be “hated of all nations.” He warned that they would be persecuted—not just by the radical left—but by those professing His name. The Prophet Amos wrote about this same time period, a time when a leader of end-time Israel would expel from the nation those who declare God’s prophecies (Amos 7:10-13).
This isn’t just a warning for an ancient nation; it is a prophecy of events in modern times. (Request a free copy of The United States and Britain in Prophecy for abundant proof.) Amos’s prophecy shows that this persecution culminates in a “famine of the word”—a time when God’s truth will no longer be readily available—caused by deliberate suppression of that message (Amos 8:11-12). Based on these prophecies, we can know that the restoration of the rule of law in America is only temporary. Soon, the assault on religious freedom will return and intensify—not only in America, but also in every nation.
Jesus Christ prophesied that His Church would be small and persecuted, but never defeated. To learn the epic history and the immediate future of the true Church of God, request your free copy of Gerald Flurry’s book The True History of God’s True Church.