Americans overwhelming identify themselves as Christian – 75 percent call themselves “Christian” or “Catholic.” Yet every year the government, law enforcement, the court system, and educators across the country dismiss citizen’s religious rights and punish them for living to their values. Fox News columnist Todd Starnes tells dozens of these true stories in his new book, “God Less America” to be released May 6.
In the book, Starnes consults studies by Tony Perkins of The Family Research Council and Kelly Shackelford of Liberty Institute that detail “more than 600 recent examples of religious hostility.” And much of that hostility comes from the top of government. “The Obama administration is trying to force religious organizations to provide insurance for birth control and abortion-inducing drugs in direct violation of their religious beliefs,” Starnes writes.
“The administration banned Bibles from the Walter Reed Medical Center. The Internal Revenue Service launched investigations into pro-life organizations, demanding to know the contents of their prayers. They ordered a Wyoming church to turn over its membership rolls.” These aren’t tales from some dystopian future, warns Starnes. “This is happening right here, right now, in the United States of America. We are under attack from within.”
From Tim Tebow to Sarah Palin to military personnel to students, teachers, and business owners, believers are being stigmatized and bullied over their faith. According to Starnes, the news media tacitly aids this soft persecution of Christians, and the entertainment media ignores or outright mocks the values of the everyday American. Instead they spotlight the weird and out-there fringes of society. Think about the 2013 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which featured a transgender cross-dressing musical number, among the familiar cartoon character balloons.
In a recent interview, Starnes told the MRC’s Culture and Media Institute, “That is really disturbing for me. There isn’t a Christian influence or even family-friendly influence coming out of Hollywood anymore.” He cited the increasingly anti-Christian Saturday Night Live, which in a single recent episode mocked pro-lifers and the Bible. Another example is ABC’s mercifully cancelled “GCB” (“Good Christian Bitches”). The name says it all.
“God Less” is rife with examples of Christians forced to stand by while gays and other liberals relentlessly push their agenda. The litany is becoming familiar: bakery owners from Colorado and Oregon that refused to bake wedding cakes for same-sex couples; a Christian t-shirt company that would not print shirts for a gay pride rally; a New Mexico wedding photographer that would not give her services to a lesbian wedding; college students across the country who were bullied by their professors to wear “gay pride” apparel or write essays that contradicted their Christian beliefs; and teachers who were punished for signing pro-traditional marriage pledges, not attending pro-gay plays or posting their beliefs on their personal Facebook pages.
In all these cases and more, the common theme is that of courts, school systems and other institutions choosing sides against religious liberty and leaving believers with little legal recourse. It’s the march of the intolerant left through red states and blue states, unsatisfied until diversity or opinion or belief is stamped out.
“A classic example of the bias is with ‘Duck Dynasty,’” Starnes told CMI. “Hollywood sees Miley Cyrus’ antics as the norm. The strong family unit, such as with the Robertsons, is the anomaly.”
Telling such stories, of course, makes Starnes awfully unpopular in certain circles, “It’s getting to the point that I don’t mind the death threats,” he laughed, “as long as they’re creative.” To him, it’s a matter of preserving the right to speak up. “Sometimes stuff gets to you but its all opinion and everyone has one. That is what I love about America –hearing everyone’s ideas. The Left doesn’t appreciate that. They have this mentality that you can have an opinion as long as that’s myopinion. I know that because I live among them in New York.”
One recent contemptible example is Sharyl Sandberg’s effort to ban the word, “bossy.” Somehow, she’s gotten support from ostensibly intelligent people on the left. “I mean, we are in the process of banning words!” Starnes mused.
On the other hand, the anti-faith atmosphere can have deadly serious consequences. In “Godless,” Starnes relates the story of American pastor, Saeed Abedini, who has been imprisoned since Jan. 2013 in Iran, where he had journeyed repeatedly to build orphanages. Abedini was formally convicted and charged to eight years in prison for preaching the gospel. The media has been largely mum on this story – a Nexis search of the broadcast networks revealed just two passing mentions of Pastor Saeed, both from ABC News.
Starnes relayed how the pastor’s wife has waited for any kind of information or help from President Obama or his administration, but has received no word. Just a few weeks ago, at the National Prayer Breakfast Feb.6, President Obama finally acknowledged Saeed’s predicament but gave no details or plan to rescue the American citizen. “To this day,” Starnes said, “the president or secretary of state has not called Mrs. Abedini.” Saeed is an American citizen,” he said. “We [Christians] are not asking for special treatment.”
Starnes told CMI the administration’s response to Abenini’s plight is telling. It’s not like American hostage situations are new to the President. In 2009, Obama dispatched former President Clinton to rescue two American women held hostage in North Korea. Then again in 2011, he demanded that Iran release a group of American hikers who were arrested and detained there. Starnes figures the difference is that Saeed is a former Muslim-turned-Christian, making the case more sensitive for Iran’s clerical government.
Another story Starnes mentioned was the German family, the Romeikes, who came to America to home school their children in a Christian manner since doing so in any way –religious or secular – is illegal in Germany. The family sought asylum on the basis of religious liberty. Obama’s Homeland Security Dept. denied it, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, leaving the Romeikes facing deportation. After the administration received significant pushback, the Department of Homeland Security finally granted ‘indefinite deferred status” to the family. Starnes told CMI: “The Romeikes symbolize religious liberty in this country. Yet we have a presidential administration that says you aren’t welcome. Your kind is not welcome here.”
Starnes commended the Media Research Center and said he and other political commentators were “relying on the MRC and Newsbusters to expose this bias.”
Starnes’ book calls Christian audiences to solidarity and boldness in defending the values and beliefs long-held in this nation. “We are in the midst of a culture war ... We saw firsthand what could happen when people of faith mobilize,” he told CMI. “Hollywood and the Mainstream media would have you believe we are the minority in this country. But I disagree. The outcry over Chick-fil-A and Obamacare and ‘Duck Dynasty’ has proven them wrong.”
— Kristine Marsh is Staff Writer at the Media Research Center. Follow Kristine Marsh on Twitter.