I wanted to share with you my speech from the March for life event on January 16th:
My name is Jim Hochberg and I am a Christian, religious-liberty/pro-life, activist lawyer. Since the 1980's I have included in my legal practice representing believers in religious liberty cases on a pro bono basis. My Christian ministries include working through the legal system to keep the way open for the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ - by you and other Christians.
In addition to my law practice, between 2011 and 2016 I served as the President of Hawaii Family Advocates, and now again since January of 2019 I am serving in that capacity again. HFA is a 501(c)(4) charity which means it is permitted by the IRS to publicly support and/or oppose candidates for public office. HFA’s seeks to elect legislators that share our Christian values. Christian values should form our individual world views as Christian people. What does that mean?
“Religious faith speaks to the purpose of life, the meaning of death and the nature of the human person. It’s a God-given right, inherent to human nature. It precedes the state. It is not dependent in any way on any human authority for its legitimacy. And any attempt to suppress the right of people to worship, preach, teach, practice, organize and peacefully engage society because of their belief in God is an attack on the cornerstone of human dignity.” Archbishop Chaput, “tri-diocesan catechetical congress.” Victoria, British Columbia: Oct. 15 and 16, 2010.
Religious Liberty is guaranteed in the First Amendment to the US Constitution and also in the Hawaii State Constitution. The definition of religious liberty has changed since 1789 when the US Constitution was adopted, and now it is becoming FREEDOM FROM RELIGION. It will fully become freedom from religion if the Christians fail to defend freedom of religion when issues arise in their lives. How can you prepare yourself for those instances where you may be called to defend religious liberty? Let’s look at the old testament prophet Daniel.
What can we learn from Daniel about Religious Liberty Today?
Why is the Book of Daniel important for us today? Aside from prophetic themes that are of interest to some, it’s tells of how four young men, devoted to God of Israel, were thrust into a pagan and hostile cultures, but determined to serve God in those circumstances. Also a story of how they thrived in that culture and rose to positions of influence, without compromising their faith. Archer says, "the whole narrative in Daniel relates a series of contests between false gods of human invention and the one true sovereign Lord and Creator of heaven and earth."
Our culture is increasingly hostile to faith-inspired beliefs that contradict new state orthodoxy. We’re increasingly told our doctrine is discriminatory and our beliefs are biased, and that our religious motivations have no place in the public debate. The so-called separation of church has become a battering ram to pulverize religion out of the public square, and increasingly we are told we must abandon or even violate our beliefs as the cost of doing business or getting our professional license.
The pressure on Daniel and his friends to conform to Babylon’s pagan culture was severe. They were only teenagers, and put under the instruction of elite but ungodly teachers who were regarded as the top scholars.
How did they succeed? PURPOSE
1. Purpose: Dan. 1: 8 says Daniel purposed in his heart he would not defile himself with the king’s food, which would have violated Jewish law.
How could Daniel (modern Christians) have rationalized his decision? Some possibilities:
· Under “normal” circumstances we would have to obey God’s law, but this is abnormal. God can’t expect obedience to his law under these unique circumstances.
· God is to blame for all this. If He had not exiled us, we wouldn’t have to break his law.
· If we eat the king’s food, we’ll be placed in government posts, and think of all the impact we can have for God in those positions! God has to think that serving him in a big position is ore important than obeying his law.
· If we disobey the king, it may cost us our lives. Surely God values the preservation of human life more than obedience to him.
· If we don’t eat the King’s food, it may cost the life of the official watching us. Doesn’t love dictate that we eat the food to save that official’s life? Isn’t love more important than obedience to a divine command?
Daniel was willing to trust God and take him at his word; he was called to obey God, and he purposed – he determined beforehand – that he would do so. He didn’t know what the outcome would be, but he went to the head servant over all the captives and asked for a ten day test. But if he hadn’t reached out in faith and a determination to obey God, he would not have seen the miraculous answer.
So how do we know we can successfully purpose in our hearts in advance of adversity to obey God?
1 Cor. 10: 13 - No temptation (test) has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation (test) will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
We may be facing difficult times ahead, even in choices we are called to make in our profession.
CONVICTIONS ARE SETTLED IN ADVANCE
Daniel made a commitment in his heart that he would not defile himself, and this kind of conviction does not happen overnight or in the midst of difficult circumstances. Purity is a matter of the heart, and is independent of the external pressure a culture exerts to change our beliefs. Daniel had to leave all his possessions behind, but not his convictions – the most possession he had went with him to this new world.
Story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego
Background: The king had built a figure of gold, and commanded that on a given signal, the playing of musical instruments, everyone was to bow down and worship that figure.
For the Hebrew children, the figure was an Idol. The King’s pride in the idol was evident. And that pride turns to anger – and demands the three worship – value and affirm – what the king wants. The king offers the three one final chance – they must bow, or they will be destroyed.
How like what we still face. A feature in so many of religious liberty cases is the push for re-education.
· Julea Ward at Eastern Michigan University – counseling program – values conflict (offered remedial training)
· Jack Phillips – CO Baker, forced (with his staff) to undergo sensitivity training and submit quarterly statements on his progress
We will continually face the demand that we bow and worship before the idols of society – and we will face punishment if we refuse to figuratively bow and affirm the activity.
The three Hebrews would not bow before the figure, since it would have violated the first two commandments.
The king gave them a second chance.
How might we have responded: I’ve got a plan – when the music sounds, we’ll bow down – but we won’t really bow down in our hearts. When everyone else is bowing and you are not, it’s not hard to see who you are. They answered quickly, which shows they had already considered the matter and (like Daniel) purposed in their hearts what course they would take.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”
We know the result for those young Hebrews. We, ourselves, all hope for a timely miracle, and the three didn’t know if they were called to die for their faith, or be delivered. They likely hoped for deliverance before getting thrown in: This would be a good time to do something, Lord. But sometimes deliverance comes through the fiery-test, and not before it.
See the king’s reaction; he is his usual blustery self (no half-hearted punishments for this king!). Although civil government is instituted by God (Rom. 13), officials can abuse that authority and command things that violate God’s law. But when we choose to obey God instead of man (John and Peter – Sanhedrin) we accept the penalty.
Knowing that God was in control of all things caused Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to respond with perseverance. They were not going to give in and conform to the king’s standards when they knew that those standards were against the law of God. Their decision to remain faithful is that it was settled beforehand.
Convictions like these are not decided in the heat of the moment. They resisted the temptation to be like everyone else. How do you think these three felt when everyone else around them was bowing to the image? No doubt they felt strange, out of place, and different. No person, no matter how godly they are, likes the feeling of being different.
Standing up for what it right is often lonely and painful, and as we shall soon see it can be downright dangerous.
Then Daniel in the Lion’s Den had the same predetermined purpose to serve God no matter what. What were Daniel’s options? He could have taken the easy way out – stopped praying for 30 days? Or less drastic, prayed away from his window – or prayed silently while standing and not kneeling. But he would not compromise.
The point of this verse is to show the reader the law had no effect on Daniel; nothing changed. He was not a secret disciple but a man who was not ashamed to let others know that his allegiance was to the God of Israel; he would not compromise, even in the face of death. Daniel was trusting in the Lord to take care of what would happen if he were caught breaking the law and this seems to be exactly what he did.
MODERN DAY DANIELS
More like the Green and Hahn families of the Hobby Lobby cases, who told the Obama administration that they were required to worship a certain way – and to act on those beliefs. Why was it important to the Greens and Hahns to live according to their faith?
Why was it important for Daniel to pray (act on his beliefs) at a particular window where he was visible to the public?
His beliefs dictated how he lived in society, not the rituals he performed on the Sabbath, but how he conducted his entire life.
Has your God been able to deliver you from the lions?
When we are witnesses for Jesus Christ in this life, the world asks the same question: Is your God capable of bringing you safely through this life? Is he truly sufficient to rescue you from the emptiness of life and suffering and to bring you the peace, meaning, and purpose that nothing in this world gives? Is he able to deliver you – ultimately – from death?
God has a purpose in every experience that we endure, and He did not say it was going to be easy or comfortable, but the end result is always for our good: This too is an important point for us to understand. God is not committed to our comfort. He is not committed to making our path through life smooth. He is committed to sanctifying us and demonstrating his own glory in and through us; and, very often, that commitment means he will subject our earthen vessels to pressures that would certainly shatter us, were his grace not sufficient for us.
Today’s Daniel can be found throughout ADF cases.
A. Hobby Lobby successful challenge to the HHS mandate that every pay for abortion via their medical insurance.
B. President Trump’s “Protect Life Rule” mandating that Title X Family Planning grant recipients not be co-located with abortion clinics and not refer for abortions. Planned Parenthood challenged the rules but later withdrew from the grant program instead.
C. Pregnancy Center in the states of California and HAWAII, and in the cities of Hartford, Connecticut, and Rochester, NY, have been mandated by legislative bodies to: 1) post signs and verbally share messages in support of abortion availability; or 2) hire employees who disagree with the fundamental beliefs and mission of their organization. In California and Hawaii, the Federal Courts have struck the legislation. In Rochester New York and Connecticut, the lawsuits were filed last year to challenge those laws.
II. Gender Identity and Expression
B. Locker room shower access
C. Employment Harris Funeral Home case
D. School curricula demanding that transgender issues be taught as normal.
E. Pastor Andrew Brunson published a memoir “God’s Hostage” recounting his captivity for two years in a Turkish prison. He reminds his readers that religious persecution is very normal throughout history and the last couple hundred years without religious persecution is abnormal. Because in the west we are just now beginning to see it we are not prepared for it.
III. RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN THE USA IS THE FIRST FREEDOM.
Religious liberty has always been “the first freedom” in our Bill of Rights and in our national identity. Our country’s founders recognized that religious freedom is a RIGHT ENDOWED BY GOD, not a privilege granted by government. And they respected that what God has given, no one - not a court, a legislature, or any institution - can rightly deny.
It is up to you to purpose in your heart to serve God no matter what in this world. Alliance Defending Freedom will be here to assist you should that be appropriate. Work with us in advance and we can make sure your case is set up the right way.
In addition, you must not leave government to non-believers. You must be involved in your government processes enough to know what changes are being proposed that will change your ability to maintain Freedom Of Religion. You have to sign up with Hawaii Family Forum during this current legislative session in the Hawaii state government. Eva Andrade will then send you via email updates on what the legislature is doing and give you the information you need to participate. Make your voice heard to support religious freedom.
You also need to sign up with HFA to get the information you crave about the candidates that do and don’t share your values. Often pastors don’t discuss that topic in order to stay within the tax exemption limitations of the church.
Thank you for the opportunity.