Archive for June, 2009

Introduction from my new book which is out soon

Introduction to the Work of the IHRG

“Helping the helpless find justice—with you”

 

            Our work began from a bigger work that makes a huge difference in America.  While working for the American Center for Law and Justice (“ACLJ”) I realized that we needed to create a Christian religious freedom organization that concentrated primarily on Europe.  No one else was doing this; no one was giving the same standard of care to protecting religious freedom in Europe.

             I worked for 15 years with the ACLJ, working on cases from student-led Bible clubs on public school campuses in America, to pro-life cases, to the use of public buildings by religious organizations, and a number of other religious freedom issues.  During those years I was blessed to work with some of the most gifted attorneys in America and the world.  I was able to learn how to protect religious freedom through the legal systems of America and a variety of other avenues.  This included using the media to make sure that the discrimination and ultimately the persecution does not occur in darkness. Often the best solution to a problem involving religious freedom is simply to make the problem known.  No one wants to be considered a bigot.

             Pursuing my vision for Europe, the ACLJ set up the European Centre for Law and Justice (“ECLJ”).  I headed up their office in Strasbourg, France for over a year.  The ECLJ continues to concentrate primarily on political solutions to the problems facing religious people and institutions in Europe.  It is a valuable work, but it seemed to me that there was also a need for legal strategy along the lines that exists in America.

             So we stepped up and began to use the model we had learned and developed in America in Europe.  In these pages you will see the effects of this work.  You will see how we are working with some incredible people to do incredible things.

             I have had the pleasure of working with some of the greatest attorneys in the western world—both in America and around Europe.  It is always amazing to me that there are men and women who will take their vocation and make it their calling.

             I have made friendships and developed relationships that have changed how I view the world.  I have been given the honor of working with Christian lawyers from Russia, England, Norway, France, Germany, Greece, and a variety of other countries around Europe.  I have been permitted to look into these cultures in ways a tourist never gets to see.  Often they have invited me into their homes to share time with their families.  We have committed to pray for each other.  We are committed to work together to bring change to Europe where it is so vitally needed.

             After over twenty years in ministry, as a church planter, an associate pastor, and an attorney working for ministries, I have learned that it is not always the big things that make the biggest difference.  It is often the small things that make the biggest difference.  It is often a young girl standing firm in the face of great persecution.  It is just as likely to be someone you have never heard of doing nothing more than continuing to do what God has put before them.

             I am not called to proclaim the Gospel message in foreign lands.  I understand that we are all called to share our faith in the places where God leads us, but I am talking about going to a foreign land for the sole purpose of serving as a missionary.

             At the same time, I am called to be a door keeper.  Our ministry keeps the door open in various places so that missionaries, pastors, and church planters can proclaim the Gospel message without fear of being arrested.

             There is a time coming when our work will not be able to keep the doors open for the proclamation of the Gospel.  There is a time coming when men and women will again be asked to pay the ultimate price for their faith in the western world.

             My calling is to hold that day off for as long as we can so that as many as can are able to easily hear the word that Jesus, God become man, has come to set them free from the futility of modern life.

             The same Jesus who turned the world upside down two thousand years ago is still working to turn the world upside down again.  It is not ours to judge the work; it is only our responsibility to do what God has called us to do.  It is our responsibility to use the talents He has given us to bring about whatever He wants it to bring about.

             It is an honor for me to serve in this ministry.  I never would have believed that God would use me in such a dynamic way to bring change to such a large area.  When I first decided to attend law school I had no idea it would lead here.

             Placing one foot in front of the other, I have arrived here.  Being as faithful as I knew how to be at what was placed before me, I have arrived here.  I am not the right one to judge the work of our ministry.  I do believe, however, that we serve as a great encouragement to a large number of people in America and Europe.  I believe we are making a difference, keeping the door open for the proclamation of the Gospel in America and Europe.

             Whether or not we ever bring the change we are fighting to bring about, we are doing what we believe we are called to do.  The victory is not ours, it is the Lord’s.  We will leave the heavy lifting to Him.

             It would be easy to take the judgment of man and decide that some of these matters are not important enough to make a difference.  It is more difficult to see the real impressiveness of the smallest obedience which leads to great breaks in the most difficult lands.  There are countries in Europe where Christians are beginning to experience more than discrimination.  There are places where these simple people of the ancient faith are facing persecution—the loss of their freedom, the loss of their families, the loss of great amounts of money—for nothing more than being true to their Christian faith.

             These people are our clients, and some of the people who work along side us at the IHRG.  These people really are modern heroes of the faith.  Faithful like the saints whose commitment is recounted in Hebrews 11—men and women of whom the world is not worthy.  They have counted the cost and stood when many of us would have found the price to stand too high.

             In many cases, they have laid aside their own dreams and ambitions and done the hard work the Lord has asked of them.  They are struggling forward without the benefit of seeing the end of their labors.  Many of them will find the day ends without seeing the objects of their faith.

             Yet, everyday they stand in the face of persecution.  I know there are many more standing than just those mentioned here.  Their courage is a source of strength for us as well.  These reports are meant to encourage you; to let you know about men, women, and children who are standing for their faith without regard to the price that has to be paid.

             These stories are not the end of the battle we are fighting around the world for religious freedom.  These examples are merely the beginning.  We need to see hundreds more standing strong for their faith without concern for their own wellbeing.  It is time we returned to New Testament Christianity.  A Christianity where believers are more concerned with the wellbeing of the church than they are with their own wellbeing.

             These are by no means the only ones out there fighting for the faith in Europe.  These friends of mine are not the only fighters.  There are many we have not met yet.  There are many we have yet to connect with in the ministry.  Their work is just as valuable as those whose stories are retold here.  These are the ones we have seen first hand.

             This is their story.  Without them our work would be meaningless.

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Germany’s Continuing Battle Against Home Schooling–the Schimdt Family Story

with Richard Guenther 

Hans and Petra Schmidt live in Bavaria, Southern Germany.  From their home, they have been teaching their children, Josua and Aaron, for 9 years, with great success.  Were they in America this would be considered an appropriate way to educate their children.  Unfortunately for the Schmidt family, they are not Americans.  Since they are Germans and are educating their own children in Germany, the Schmidt family is considered to be violating the law.

To date the Schmidts have been forced to pay nearly 13.000 Euros ($18,300) in home schooling fines.  Like most German home school families, they have a very modest income.  Needless to say, the position of the government against them pushed the Schmidts to their limits.  When the family could not pay all 26 of their fines the government placed a lien on their home.

During this time there were talks with the chief district administrator.  These talks were entered into by the Schmidts in hopes of arriving at some type of settlement that would permit them to finish educating their children at home without being forced into bankruptcy by their own government.  At the same time the children were tested by the school authorities.  Testing both children showed that they have extraordinary academic abilities.  The tests also showed the children to be social competent.  This is critical as the Germans still hold to the disproven belief that home school children are socially retarded.

The oldest son, Josua,, who is 16, was tested at a local high school and scored very high.  As a result, Josua was awarded his high school diploma.  These exams are required of all students upon completion of their last year in high school.  This shows that the Schmidts have done an excellent job of educating their children at home.  As he is through with high school, Josua is no longer subject of the compulsory school attendance.

Aaron, age 14, has just successfully completed an internship at the big Stuttgart zoo. He is still subject to the mandatory school attendance laws. The authorities are attempting to force the parents to place him in school.

At the beginning of this year, the family court set out to take the custody for Aaron from the parents.  The sole reason for this was that the Schmidts continue to home school Aaron, something that is illegal in Germany. Pursuant to this attempt to remove Aaron from the family home legal proceedings began early this year. Aaron is 14 years old.  He is looking to complete his school education in another two years.

Mr. Schmidt has a heart and passion for the disadvantaged.  So he works in a handicap workshop where the handicapped are trained in a vocation. Both parents are  devoted Christians and have it in their hearts to preserve their two boys from the secular, anti-Christian culture in Germany. They believe that sending their boys to school would be traumatic for the whole family.

Working with the IHRG, Armin and Gabriele Eckermann, both lawyers with the German Home School Association SchuzH, are helping develop the legal strategy to challenge this case in the courts.  Johannes Hildebrandt has agreed to help the Eckermanns and is taking the case as it goes into the court of first instance. He is a successful lawyer in family issues and in addition to his law degree, holds a degree in social development of children.  He saw Melissa Busekros returned to her family, defending her successfully in the courts

The International Human Rights Group is standing with these lawyers and the Schmidt family.  We are doing everything in our power to protect this family and see that they are permitted to educate their children according to the dictates of their own beliefs—something that is guaranteed by the German Constitution and the European Court on Human Rights.  We will be there all along the way to stand with them. 

Your prayers are an important part of this battle.  Without your prayers we cannot stand as strong.

How The Arrest Of Evangelists At Oslo’s Independence Day Parade Was Discriminatory

 

I have seen a lot of discrimination up close and personal.  As an attorney, I have represented evangelists for years after they have been threatened with arrest for sharing their faith in public places.  This is amazing considering that there is very little other activity that authorities care about in public places.  You can sale almost anything.  You can play music that borders on obscene, but do not read from a Bible or tell people how to become Christians.

 In Europe this is becoming even truer—Europeans are afraid to confront Muslims and the homosexual community in public places, but it is slowly becoming open season on Christians.

 In Oslo, Norway the discrimination currently seems to be limited only to large gatherings like parades.  Normal days come and go with no arrests.  Let there be a big event, like a Pride Parade or a parade celebrating independence and the rules are suspended.  The rules are not suspended because of any great theory.

 Before the Pride Parade in 2007, Petar Keseljevic and I spoke on the telephone regarding what his rights were in public places in Oslo.  I informed him that he had a right to be in public areas as long as he did not block the ability of people move along the sidewalks.  He should be careful not to block any vehicles.  Finally, he should not speak directly to individuals; rather he should speak to the group as a whole about the principles of eternal life he was sharing.

 For several days before the parade Petar asked local politicians and local police departments if he could get a permit that would allow him to be on the sidewalks during the parade.  He was told repeatedly that no permit was necessary for public speaking in public places. 

 After all, the logic went, Norway is a democratic country.  We permit free speech and religion.

 Yet, when the day in question arrived, Petar was arrested.

 The next year there was no point in asking whether he needed a permit.  So, on Norwegian Independence Day 2008 Petar and Larry Keffer showed up and began to share their faith.

 First they were merely asked to move somewhere away from the Palace of the King and Queen.  They complied, but because this was a day with a large public gathering they were arrested.

 Never mind the fact that one a couple of occasions Petar and Larry were accosted by “standers by.”  Both of these incidents occurred while the police were present, watching the evangelists work.  There were only two arrests—the evangelists.

 The discrimination in question took place when the police decided to target only Christian speech.  We are quickly moving toward a world where anything offensive is not permitted.  At the same time, we are moving toward a world where Christian speech is, by definition, offensive.

 This is a discrimination we cannot live with.  This would mean that only secularism or other, less insistent religions are acceptable.

 The European Convention on Human Rights and Norwegian law guarantee free speech and religious freedom to all people.  Yet, when the message is New Testament Evangelical Christianity those rights are suddenly not guaranteed.

 Not only were Petar and Larry arrested, but the Oslo Criminal Court ruled that they were rightly arrested.  The appeals court agreed, as did the Supreme Court.  Now, their fate is in the hands of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.

 This level of discrimination is just beginning for Christians in America and in Europe.  It is deep rooted and the roots are growing deeper as both Continents grow more and more secularized.

 If we are uncomfortable with this level of discrimination we are going to be even less happy with the levels to come.  Eventually, we will be going from discrimination to persecution. 

 Then we really are in trouble!

Religious Tolerance Begins At Home

 

Religious tolerance is a good idea, but religious freedom requires participation from two groups.  Furthermore, I am all for showing respect to moderate Muslims and as soon as I find one I will show respect!  I just read Obama’s speech in Cairo, Egypt.  I have to confess that I cannot listen to him speak because his cadence is too contrived for me—even more than Bill Clinton’s. 

 The difference between Clinton and Obama is I was never convinced that Clinton believed what he was saying—I think Obama really believes what he is saying.  Of course, with Obama it is usually what he is not saying that is more important than what he is saying.  It is easy for him to believe what he says, because in spite of all the words there is seldom anything of substance in his statements. 

 This is not a consequence of his race, or even of his political beliefs—I believe it is what is at the core of the man—nothing that is not for Obama.  This is a man who has finally kept a campaign promise—he took his wife to New York for a date because he promised her when all this was over he would do it.  I, for one, am left to wonder why he did not do this in between the time he won the election and the time he took office.  That way it would not have cost us at least $24,000 dollars.

 I would like to take my wife on a date night like that—maybe I can be king next!  If not, then I have a piece of advice for the current ruler—park the damn plane.  It is to be used for company business.  Date nights are on your own!

 Continuing on his roll, Obama kept another campaign promise this week—as to negotiations with Iran he has announced that “we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect.”  Remember in the campaign when Obama promised to meet with all the world’s tin pan dictators without preconditions.  Oh, but then there was the debate when he said that was not what he said.  Well, at least now that he has anointed himself king we can know what he really meant.

 What he really meant was WITHOUT PRECONDITION.  After all, why should we squander all the “mutual respect” Americans have for Iran and the crazies at the helm.

 While in Cairo, our leader decided to promote the Islamic faith that has made America so great.  After all, Thomas Jefferson owned a copy of the Koran.  Muslims built our tallest building, long before they brought them to the ground violently.

 I was happy to learn from Cairo that Islam is responsible for the Enlightenment and the Renaissance.  They probably started that when they were trying to overthrow the Christian Europe of the Middle Ages and establish more enlightened Muslim reigns like the one in Modern Saudi Arabia.

 This regime is so progressive and religiously tolerant that they will not allow churches to be built in their country.  They will not allow Bibles to be brought into their country.  They will not allow women of western culture to express their culture of not covering up their faces in submission to the man’s world.

 Before we begin to blames anyone let’s remember, it is the “colonial” aspirations of some nations that is the real root of the problem.  America, after all, is known for its taking over of other lands.  I am reminded of the words of an Obama advisor who told the Europeans at the UN in the build up to the Iraq war that America is not a colonial power.  The only land we have ever asked for is enough land to bury the dead who have fought for freedom in foreign lands.

 Of course, that type of colonialism is probably offensive to everybody.

 I have a message for Mr. Obama—it is not religious freedom when only one side grants it.  Western countries are not allowing their courts to sentence people to death and carry out the sentence merely because those people have a contrary religious belief.  That is only happening in Muslim countries, under Muslim law.

 It is nice to declare, in your meaningless dribble, that “throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.”

 I am sorry, “Say what?”  Religious tolerance and racial equality?  Wake up, oh dear king!  There is no religious tolerance to be found in Islam.  There is no racial, or sexual, equality.  There is oppression and intolerance.

It is not enough that we say they are tolerant, they have to be tolerant.  They have to quit beheading Christians for being Christians.  They have to speak out against such injustice.  They have to quit killing their daughters for sexual impurity while rewarding their sons for the sexual abuse.

Until then there is no religious freedom—not because the west will not grant it.  We continue to grant it to our own harm.

No, there is not religious freedom because Islam cannot grant it.  It seems that it might be against their theories of ruling the world with one religion and one religion only.

And I do not even have to get to their treatment of the Jews to verify the truth of my statements.  It is not enough to say something; history alone shows us what the truth is.  One man, with an unknown agenda, does not write history.  He might play a role, but so far the role is not in keeping with truth or reality.


Books Worth Reading

C.S. LEWIS--Mere Christianity; CLAIRE BERLINSKI--Menace in Europe: Why the Continent's Crisis is America's Crisis, Too; BRUCE BAWER--While Europe Slept: How Radical islam is Destroying the West from Within; DAVID LEVERING LEWIS--God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215; THOMAS SCHIRRMACHER--The Persecution of Christians Concerns Us All; PHILIP JENKINS--God's Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe's Religious Crisis

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