As a kid in Sunday school, I loved joining my classmates in the singing of “This Little Light of Mine,” complete with the hand motions. One of the verses went something like, “All around my neighborhood, I’m going to let it shine.” In our innocence, we never thought for a moment that in our lifetimes it might not be possible to let the light of our Christian faith shine publicly, but increasingly, that’s happening. In a widely publicized case last year, Michael Salman of Phoenix, Arizona was sentenced to 60 days in jail for holding a Bible study in his home. You can be a Christian at Vanderbilt University, but you can’t belong to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at the university because the group was banned for requiring its members to be Christian. And faith-based organizations like the one I lead, Bethany Christian Services, are being pressured to hire people who do not share our religious beliefs and values or otherwise violate our Christian principles.
These alarming threats to religious freedom didn’t happen overnight. Laws and ordinances generally make their way through a very public process, so in a sense you could say these restrictions occurred right under our noses. Awareness is the first step toward making sure we don’t lose our freedoms, but few of us have the time or capacity to monitor the goings on at our city halls, county commissions, school boards, State Legislature, the House of Representatives, or the United States Senate for example.. Fortunately, a lot of good people and organizations are now working overtime to keep us informed and help us preserve our religious liberty.
One of those groups is practically in my backyard—the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Founded in 1990 by Rev. Robert Sirico and Kris Mauren, the Acton Institute exists to help people make their faith and public lives work together. Their resources alone—which are free—are reason enough for you to visit their website: www.acton.org. But I also appreciate the fact that they base their positions on detailed and highly-respected research. These are really smart and dedicated people who care deeply about your right to live out your faith in the public square.
I spoke recently with Elise Hilton, communications specialist for the Acton Institute, and as you listen here to our conversation I think you will agree that it’s great to have friends like these working to protect our freedom. With their help, and the diligence of all of us, we can continue to let the light of our faith in Christ shine brightly—all around our neighborhoods.