By JOHN FORTMEYER, CNNW publisher
PORTLAND — Four women — all nationally known to Christians for their faith-oriented stance on traditional values — updated several hundred people here Feb. 9 on how best to respond to current challenges to religious freedom.
And there are a lot, all four emphasized.
The occasion was the annual Freedom Rally sponsored by the Oregon Liberty Alliance, a coalition of eight statewide organizations. Held at the Portland Airport Holiday Inn’s Columbia Conference Center, the gathering featured energetic talks from Star Parker, Kayleigh McEnany, Kristen Waggoner and Carol Tobias.
Tobias, president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Right to Life Committee, began by thanking her Oregon audience for standing strong on pro-life issues in a part of the nation well known for its liberal stances.
“Between abortion and assisted suicide, it may seem like there is a cloud of darkness over this beautiful state, but that’s when your light shines,” she said.
Her comments came only days after New York state leaders celebrated passage of legislation authorizing abortion right up to the moment of birth, and also just days after Virginia’s governor promoted legislation that would, if passed, let newborn babies die if chosen by the mother and her doctor — what shocked critics nationwide term infanticide.
“Thank them” for showing their true intentions, Tobias said of the New York and Virginia leaders. “They have pulled back the curtain … (People) are now realizing that an extremist position is actually being pushed.”
Tobias also noted some U.S. senators are repeatedly blocking a Nebraska senator’s bill that would guarantee protection for newborns. “I cannot imagine the cold-blooded, bloodthirsty convictions these people have,” she said. Tobias shared three reasons for hope in the battle for life. One is a decline in abortions nationally since the 1990s, from 1.6 million annually down to about 900,000. Another is that the rate of abortions per capita is at its lowest level since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion on demand. Thirdly, youth are showing a “passion and fervor” on life issues, she said.
“This is the greatest human rights battle of our time, and you are a critical part of it,” Tobias said.
In introducing Waggoner, a southwest Washington native and senior vice president for legal rights organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), local businessman Tim Nashif asked the crowd how many are seeing religious liberties eroding today. Hands everywhere went up.
That trend keeps Waggoner and her organization busy. Since she assumed her current role, ADF has prevailed in eight High Court cases on religious freedoms, including the Masterpiece Cakeshop case regarding a Colorado bakery, which she argued at the Supreme Court and won. She continues as lead counsel in a similar case involving Richland,Wash., floral shop owner Barronnelle Stutzman, who declined to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding.
Waggoner said efforts by people of faith in the legal arena to defend traditional values sincerely aim to bless the nation as a whole: “We know Scripture is true, obviously, but we know the principles of Scripture serve all people.”
There also is a sound legal basis for such efforts, she said: “While our culture and political debate may shift here and there, what should not shift is our constitutional rights,”
Waggoner said American Christians and religious institutions face “polite persecution” that sees government punishing positions on marriage or human sexuality. “But these threats are not limited to the wedding industry or creative professionals,” she said. She presented a brief ADF video that documented a wide range of other careers, ministries and agencies affected, including firefighters, physicians, pregnancy help centers, printers, videographers, churches, colleges and universities, adoption agencies, and homeless shelters.
Waggoner expressed hope that liberty “will continue to flourish at the U.S. Supreme Court,” and quoted Justice Samuel Alito: “The most important thing we can do is to evangelize our fellow Americans on the importance of religious freedom.”
On her first-ever Oregon visit, McEnany, a spokesperson for the Republican National Committee and a frequent CNN panelist, affirmed to the crowd her Christian faith. She said those who adhere to traditional values are increasingly challenged, particularly in social media: “There are millions of conservatives censored every day.”
Like Tobias, McEnany pointed out what she termed shocking positions being taken by some political leaders.
“I never thought I would see the day in America that government officials openly endorse infanticide,” McEnany said. “It is very, very frightening.”
She called for vigilance: “We have got to protect this country and its values — faith and family and equality.”
Passionately echoing the same theme was Parker, the closing speaker. “We are in a cultural war,” she said. “Hopefully we can rescue this God-ordained nation.”
Parker is founder and president of the Center for Urban Renewal and Education, which leads a network of 800 pastors serving in at-risk communities nationally, and also hosts the website BlackCommunityNews.com. She readily testifies her faith in Christ brought her out of a very troubled youth of criminal activity, abortion and drug abuse.
“It wasn’t until a Christian conversion that I was able to change my life,” she said.
Parker said there is a war on religious rights, on traditional marriage and on private property rights, and that government overreach “has crept into every part of our life.”
She also declared staunch opposition to any attempt to redistribute the nation’s wealth. “God is a God of personal responsibility — not theft,” she said. “The Biblical values of personal responsibility must be predominant.”
When governments reflect secularism, progressivism or liberalism, economic and moral distress follows, Parker claimed. “Whatever ‘ism’ you want to put behind it, it is anti-Christ,” she said.
She said America’s future depends on its traditional values, which she identified as Christianity, capitalism and the Constitution. But the ultimate hope for the nation is found in its faith, she added.
“The good news is that 100 million Americans still get up on Sunday morning and go to church,” Parker said.
Oregon Liberty Alliance comprises Oregon Family Council, Oregon Right to Life, Parents Education Association, Oregon Women’s League, Oregon Anti-Crime Alliance, Taxpayer Defense Project, Common Sense for Oregon and Taxpayers Association of Oregon.