Rights Won, Battles Lost

“Uncle Sam v. First Church” [News, Oct. 7] was well written and researched. The warning from the Christian Legal Society’s Steven McFarland—“All is not well in the judiciary, and I think the church needs to wake up to that fact”—is easier said than done. Church leaders who take up the challenge to stir a “complacent” church face stiff cultural resistance.

Bethel, Connecticut, has denied Grace Community Church a permit to build. Unlike Hastings, Minnesota, which allowed churches [such as Cornerstone Bible Church] to build in 45 percent of its land area, churches in Bethel are not permitted to build anywhere unless licensed, in violation of “free exercise.” If a church’s civil rights are violated, it is entitled to collect damages under the Civil Rights Act of 1983. However, the court challenge is proving very difficult for Grace, now meeting in a high school.

Those of us raised “born again” in the fifties and sixties recall it was vindictive even to bring suit—especially against those in authority, whom we are told to obey. Arguments to “live peaceably with everyone” and that “it must not be God’s will to build there” are difficult to counter. The issues quickly become emotional, not constitutional.

People like McFarland need to develop a solid Christian apologetic for pursuing our rights as churches. It is useless to win our rights to worship freely but lose the church in the battle.

Nelson Malwitz

Grace Community Church

Brookfield, Conn.

CT’s coverage would have profited from editorial comment on the role of the Humanist Manifestos (1933 and 1973) in leavening our entire culture ...

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