A Victory for Freedom of Religion

In Washington Elementary School District, in Maricopa County, Arizona, a school board member, Tamillia Valenzuela, found herself in the news recently when she led a motion to terminate Arizona Christian University (ACU) from continuing to provide student teachers for the district due to its biblically based values regarding marriage and sexual behavior. The district is the largest in Arizona and serves Phoenix and Glendale. ACU had provided teachers for eleven years without incident. The ensuing termination led to a federal lawsuit wherein the university, aided by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) sued the district for “discriminating against ACU’s religious beliefs on marriage and sexuality, a blatant violation of the U.S. Constitution, along with state law that protects ACU’s religious freedom.”

Ms. Valenzuela said, "My concerns, [are] when I go to Arizona Christian University's website, [they are] ‘committed to Jesus Christ, accomplishing his will and advancements on earth as in Heaven,'" she said. "While I full-heartedly believe in the religious freedom and people being able to practice whatever faith that they have, I had some concerns regarding looking at this particular institution… And I think it's a really good time for us to take a moment and really pause about where our values lie."

If she genuinely believes in religious freedom, then why any push back at all? What’s the rub here, other than the fact is that here is a group that espouses beliefs that are not like her own? Valenzuela describes herself as "a bilingual, disabled, neurodivergent Queer Black Latina… who loves a good hot wing (but only with the right ranch) and things that sparkle." Which to me is ho hum, big deal, that is her personal life, and I am truly sorry for her disability. 

She went on, “Part of their values is... [to] ‘transform the culture with truth by promoting the Biblically informed values that are foundational to Western civilization, including the centrality of family, traditional sexual morality, and lifelong marriage between one man and one woman.” "Because if we're bringing people in whose mission [has]… been with their institution's education that very plainly on their website... that above all else, it was to influence people to be Biblically minded. How does that hold space for people of other faiths? How does that hold space for our members of the LGBT community? How does that space for people who think differently and do not have the same beliefs," she said.

A couple of observations. First, if the values of the LGBT community are superior to the biblically based Judeo-Christian ones, then so be it. Stack them up next to each other and make an honest comparison. Are the values which spring from the reality of “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” inferior to those whose values emanate from their sexual practices? I think not. What is really going on here is what Carl Trueman described as “LGBTQ activism is distinct in its claim to exclusive rights over who is allowed to opine on sexuality, on identity, and on what it means to be an acceptable member of society. Criticism is not a sign of intellectual dissent but of moral reprehensibility.” Well said. The LGBTQ community refuses to engage in dialogue with those who do not support their lifestyle. They expect strict compliance to their impositions, which includes the outrageous expectation that their demands supersede the relationship between a person and their God. When confronted, their only defense is to shout you down, demand you acquiesce, all the while claiming their victimhood, and often, taking you to court. Just ask Rich Penkoski, who has received a five-year restraining order that prevents him from protesting online or in person on the activities of an LGBT organization in Oklahoma.

Centuries ago, there was a showdown between Elijah, Israel’s prophet of God, and the hundreds of prophets of Baal and Asherah, demonic entities who had the allegiance of the wife of King Ahab of Israel, the infamous Jezebel. These false gods had enticed the people of Israel and led them astray from the one and only God. Elijah called for a showdown. The challenge was whichever God sends fire down from above onto a large sacrifice which Elijah and the prophets of Baal each built on a mountain peak, He is God. The God of Israel, the one who released the Israelites from bondage in Egypt, who led them through the Red Sea on dry ground, and the one who led them into the Promised Land prevailed. Only He could send the fire, since only He is the true and living God. In many ways, we face the same test today. The forces of darkness, knowing their time is short, are ramping up their efforts to mislead people by offering a counterfeit reality to keep them from coming to a saving knowledge of God through His son Jesus Christ. We indeed live in a time wherein doctrines of demons permeate public discourse.

At the same time, God is not silent nor idle. His Holy Spirit is breathing new life into people, especially young ones, across the country. Most have heard of the revivals or awakenings beginning at Asbury University in Kentucky in February, which has since spread to a number of universities and colleges in that region, and across the country. Just last weekend in Oklahoma, 60,000 young people gathered for three days of praise, worship, and preaching at the University of Oklahoma football stadium. In contrast, that same weekend, ‘SatanCon,’ billed as the largest gathering of its kind ever, was held at the Copley Square Marriott in Boston. It drew 800 satanists.

In the end, the Washington County school district conceded ACU’s case and renewed its teacher contract with the university. The university and the ADF scored a major victory. The ACU must be commended for having the courage to fight back, and not simply accept the board’s decision. America desperately needs that kind of backbone, not only on campuses against destructive teachings and policies, but throughout all society. This case also stands as a clarion call for God-fearing, patriotic Americans to engage in local politics en masse. The big elections, federal, and state, may be important, but so are the local ones for mayors, school boards, trustees, district attorneys, and the like.

Image: ADF

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