Christians in Action

Day after day "BreakPoint" listeners hear me lamenting the battles that confront us in a culture that is often hostile to Christian faith. But today I want to tell you about a battle we won-and I say "we" because many of you helped fight it. Last week the U.S. Senate restored one of America's most basic freedoms-the right of religious free exercise. Three years ago a Supreme Court decision had granted the government sweeping new powers to restrict religious freedom. But the Senate has now reversed that decision by passing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act by an overwhelming vote of 97 to 3. From now on, if the government places restrictions on religious practice, it must first prove that there's a compelling state interest at stake. This is a stunning victory for religious freedom in America. And as I said, it's a victory many of you helped win. A few months ago here on "BreakPoint," I spoke about the upcoming legislative debate. Nearly 1,300 listeners called our office to request a fact sheet to use in writing Congress. With a brisk response like that, the prospects for religious liberty looked good. But then a roadblock was thrown in our path. The Senate proposed to amend the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to exclude prisoners from its protection. States would be allowed to place severe restrictions on Christian ministries to prison inmates-ministries such as Prison Fellowship. And if prisoners were excluded, who would be next? Some lawmakers speculated that public school students might be denied religious protection as well. One amendment could lead to another, and religious liberty could become an empty promise. The amendment seemed certain to pass. Key senators and many state attorney generals supported it. It looked as though they would steamroll the amendment right through. But you helped us fight that battle as well. A week before the Senate debate, I alerted "BreakPoint" listeners to the peril. I told you about Maryland, a state where many Christian prison ministries have been effectively handcuffed-a situation that could be duplicated across the country if the prison amendment passed. Nearly 1,800 of you called "BreakPoint" requesting our fact sheet. Together, we helped shape the debate on the Senate floor. Senator Orrin Hatch spoke movingly about ministries like Prison Fellowship, and about the power of religion to transform an inmate's life. Senator Dan Coats read a statement distributed by Prison Fellowship into the Congressional Record. Senators Mark Hatfield and John Danforth retold the Maryland story-a story that brought the debate out of abstract legal realms and into the world of real people, who were being denied the opportunity to hear the Gospel. In the end, I'm happy to report, the prison amendment was defeated. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was passed with no exclusions. I want to thank all of you who helped win this victory. It happened because of people like you-Christians who aren't thinking only about their own freedoms but also about the plight of those behind bars. When Christians take the time to become informed and to make an intelligent case, we can make a difference.


Chuck Colson


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