In Luke 18, Jesus speaks of a widow who, besieged by an opponent on a matter of law, took her case to the local judge – and found him less than interested in her predicament. In fact, Jesus says, this judge was a man who didn’t take God any more seriously than he did the widow.
Nevertheless, the widow persisted. Again and again, morning, noon, and night, she kept making her case to the judge who ignored her. And finally – finally – the judge relented. Not because he saw her point, or felt guilty, or recognized his duty to serve justice … but simply because she exhausted him. He wanted her out of his hair so much that he decided in her favor.
“Take note,” Jesus says. If a secular judge can be moved by a client’s persistence, “shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?”
In the last few days, those of us who cherish religious freedom have been reminded again that prayerful persistence is crucial in the ongoing legal struggle to secure and protect our liberty.
Last week, in our Bronx Household of Faith case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that New York City churches cannot meet in public schools on weekends. This week, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case of New Mexico photographer Elaine Huguenin … leaving in legal limbo the increasingly pressing question of whether Christians can be compelled to use their creative talents to celebrate, commemorate, and promote ideas, events, and activities that conflict with their deepest biblical conventions.
In a concurring opinion supporting an earlier New Mexico Supreme Court ruling against Elane Photography, Justice Richard Bosson tried to justify the suppression of her religious liberty and freedom of speech by writing that “the sense of respect we owe others, whether or not we believe as they do . . . is the price of citizenship.” That ominous statement – left unchallenged by our nation’s highest court – bodes ill for all of us, if we do stand up and speak up for our deepest beliefs as Christians and our most basic rights under the Constitution. As Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence (who represents both the Bronx Household and Elane Photography) has written:
“Our Founding Fathers gave us the First Amendment to protect people’s freedom of expression and freedom of conscience from these emotional spasms of government coercion. All Americans ought to see this growing threat to our liberty and our First Amendment traditions and speak against it. That is the true ‘price of citizenship.’”
So: we persist. The question at the heart of the Huguenins’ case lives on in several other ADF cases coming through the courts, and the Bronx Household case, now in its 18th year, will continue through legal channels. And while it does – week after week – more than 50 churches continue to meet in New York City schools, presenting the good news of Christ to their communities.
It takes patience to persist – in prayer, and in the courts – and wisdom to know how to keep bringing back to the judges these issues of such critical importance. Please be in prayer for Jordan Lorence, and for all of our staff and allied attorneys, as they work faithfully to defend religious freedom for you and your family, and for all Americans.