The headline reads, “Christian Judge Fights to Keep Job.” It is a story that seems to have rendered little attention; no surprise in the antagonistic culture in which we live in. Even Christians may be tempted over look the story as something seemingly insignificant, and it is not really the story itself that garners my attention. Instead the story provides something more: first it provides us with tangible realities by which we can evaluate society and secondly, it is the potential effects that may result.
The story first crossed my desk on Saturday, but the fact that the case has made it all the way to Wyoming’s Supreme Court indicates it has been in the works for quite some time. As Wyoming postured itself in alignment with other states promoting homosexual marriage, a reporter found Judge Ruth Neely. Casually, the reporter asked if Judge Neely was excited for the opportunity to preside over homosexual marriage to which the judge responded only that it conflicted with her religious views. The response was swift and fierce as critics accused her of violating the court’s codes of conduct regarding impartiality and bias . . . and to add some irony to the story, she helped write those codes of conduct. Regardless, it set off a firestorm of criticism that has seen people call for her removal from position, a lifetime ban, and a fine of $40,000.
Rather than look for alternative ways to ‘accommodate’ those who may request someone to preside over a homosexual wedding, Neely is being asked instead to compromise her own core values. Never mind answering the question of why you would want to force someone to be part of this when they do not want to. Never mind the fact that it would make more sense to accept someone’s willful acknowledgment of disagreement. And never mind the fact that it would make more sense to find an alternative solution that would allow Ms. Neely to keep her job and in her place bring in a person who would be genuinely happy to serve in these special cases. No, this is clearly about punishment, as evidenced by the extreme punitive measures being taken against her.
It is easy to overlook the severity of this story. After all, Christians are being hit on all fronts these days and it has become commonplace, although many on the opposite side would publicly disagree with that statement. It is no surprise then, for us to see a story and simply regard it as so common, there is nothing that can be done. So what should make us concerned in a story like this?
First, this story has the potential to set a precedent. If it did not deny an established morality and established foundation, a precedent would not be such a bad thing. However, as the last year since the Obergefell v. Hodges decision has shown, a little leeway leads to a lot of takeaway. People will push the limits as far as they can and then demand more.
In this particular case there is a further danger. Depending upon the outcome of this case, the precedent could be set that it is OK to punish those who either disagree with one’s own views or for holding to a particular religious view. Even more, the punishment being demanded comes in the form of exorbitant fines and even the loss of a job. In other words, they intend to take away a person’s whole livelihood.
Such a precedent also gives approval to prejudice. I know to claim such a thing will be called duplicitous by those who disagree with the Christian views, but that allegation fails to consider the true Christian position, something that I am not going to dwell on here because that is not my focus (I have previously defended some of the basic arguments of Christian principles that follow along these lines and you can read them by clicking here or here). What I do want to consider though is how the approval of such catastrophic sanctions says that it is OK to discriminate against Christians. This also suggests that if it is OK to ask in a discriminatory manner against one group, then in the future it will be OK to do so against other groups as well, it is simply a matter of what the culture wants to do at any given time.
Finally, what is taking place here sets the stage for the persecution of Christians. I am not referring to persecution of the physical form, but instead more of an oppression that seeks to supplant Christians and Christian views from society by removing them from active involvement in society.
This is exactly the case for Judge Neely. Her voice is being removed by removing her from society. No longer is she able to participate in society in a gainful way. An approval of such discipline for her expressing freedom of religion approves of the oppression.
If the court allows the sanctions against Judge Ruth Neely to go through, one can say for certain that the devolution of society is in the midst of a major descent. As Christians we should express a deep concern by this. However, the concern must be tempered with Christ.
Our love for Christ causes a love for people. Thus to see them perishing at such a rapid rate with little regard for the consequences of their actions is met with anguish, an anguish that compels us to call out to them in the name of Christ. Thus, we keep sharing the truth with them.
Our concern is tempered with Christ in yet another way as well. In our worry we recognize that God is sovereign and Christ reigns. Despite how dire the circumstances may seem, God is in control over all things. Therefore we can trust Him and His will while not denying our own responsibility that he has designated to us.
Therefore, we read such a story with through the lens of God’s word and meet it with confidence in our Lord, trust in His word, and the proclamation of His gospel message to a lost world.
To read the initial story about Judge Ruth Neely from World Magazine, click here.