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Signs of Religious Persecution in Defiance County, Ohio

war against christianity

The overwhelming majority of Americans self identify as Christian. Here in rural NW Ohio, I suspect  there are few non-Christians. The number of public atheists I know number three. That’s right, three.  Christianity is on full display everywhere one looks. Churches on every street corner, Christian radio and TV stations, Christian book stores, Christian coffee houses, and business signs with the ichthys (fish) symbol, all testify to the fact that America is a Christian nation and rural NW Ohio is God’s Country.

Christians are free to start new churches and worship anyway they please. No matter how crazy their beliefs and practices are, there is no government or private agency  keeping them from practicing their form of crazy. From strict liturgical churches to snake handling Baptists, there is a flavor of Christianity for everyone. Christian sects, churches, religious institutions, and pastors are given special tax benefits, from real estate and sales tax exemption to the clergy housing allowance. Christian churches are considered by many to be dispensers of morality, and when bad things like a school shooting, tornado, flood, or hurricane hits a community, local Christian clergy are called in to calm fears and let everyone know God is still on the throne.

Someone visiting from another country would likely be amazed at the religiosity of Americans. I doubt they would see any signs of religious persecution, especially if they hail from a country where there’s real persecution. Thanks to fear mongering and lying  by Evangelical preachers, Catholic prelates and priests, Mormon bishops, Christian parachurch leaders, Christian college presidents and professors, Christian TV and radio programmers, and Fox News hosts, many Christians believe they are being persecuted by liberals, secularists, socialists,communists, abortionists, homosexuals, and atheists. The annual War on Christmas® has now morphed into the War on Christianity®.

There is not one shred of evidence to back up the claim that there is a concerted effort to persecute American Christians and keep them from worshiping their God. From my seat in the pew, I see government at every level bending over backwards to accommodate Christians. As a nation, we value religious freedom so highly that we grant sects, churches, and each Christian special privileges. There is no other nation on earth that has more religious freedom, yet many Christians still think they are being persecuted. Why is this?

Here’s my take. When people live in a country that values personal rights and freedom, especially religious freedom, they tend to see small accommodations or denials as frontal assaults on their rights and freedom. When groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), American Humanist Association (AHA), American Atheists (AA), or the ACLU demand that Christians abide by the Constitution and the separation of church and state, Christians see this as personal attack on their faith.

Let me give a local example of this. Recently, the ACLU of Ohio sent nearby Edon Northwest School District a letter about the school district’s core values statement found in the front of the student handbook:

core values edon northwest school district

Graphic from The Friendly Atheist

Here’s what the Toledo Blade had to say:

The American Civil Liberties Union sent a request today to a Williams County school district to stop what it calls its “sectarian policies and practices that violate the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

The letter to the Edon Northwest Local School district, which is near the Ohio-Indiana border, cites the school system’s student handbook, which references “Christian values,” and what the ACLU says is a practice of inviting ministers to pray at mandatory school assemblies. John Granger, interim superintendent who joined the district in January, said he has not witnessed some of the incidents referenced by the ACLU, but that if the allegations are true, the district should make changes.

”This has already been settled by the United States Supreme Court,“ Mr. Granger said. “I would make a recommendation to the board of education that if we are in violation of the law, we should stop.”

The district’s website includes a copy of the student handbook, and the first page lists the district’s “Core Values.”

As we strive to achieve our Vision and accomplish our Mission, we value…” the handbook states, with “Honesty and Christian values” as the second entry.

The ACLU letter claims ministers attended assemblies before the Thanksgiving and winter holidays, and that students need parent approval to opt out of the events.

“These reports also allege that the ministers pray aloud, ask the students to join in the prayer and recite homilies concerning upcoming holidays,” the letter states.

The ACLU in its letter, signed by ACLU of Ohio’s Legal Director Freda Levenson and staff attorney Drew Dennis, recognizes that Mr. Granger is new to the position and the started before his arrival in the district.

“We now take this opportunity to make you aware of the unconstitutionality of the described practices, and request that you investigate them and bring an end to them immediately,“ the letter states…

I have no doubt that local Christians are outraged over the ACLU’s demand that the Edon Northwest School District abide by the establishment clause and the separation of church and state.I am sure they see this as a sign of religious persecution. It’s not. This kind of stuff has been going on in rural schools since the days I roamed the halls of Farmer Elementary in the 1960’s. The difference now is that groups like  FFRF, ACLU, AHA, AA, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) are paying attention to what is going on in the schools and government and are willing to litigate any violation of the Constitution.

Today, Polly took me on a short nineteen mile drive on Route 18 between Defiance and Hicksville. The following pictures succinctly illustrate the religious climate in rural NW Ohio. They tell the story far better than I could.

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The Faith4Freedom signs litter the rural NW Ohio landscape. According to their defunct Facebook page, 20,000 of these signs were printed and distributed in Ohio and Michigan. This is primarily a Catholic endeavor. Based on the lack of activity on their Facebook page, Twitter account, and a no longer available website, I assume that local Catholics have lost their religious freedom and are living in nearby catacombs. Once the black anti-Christ, Barack Hussein Obama, is divinely removed from office, they will no longer fear persecution and return to the safety of Facebook, Twitter, and the internet.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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    It all comes down to practice what you preach. Often, I hear Christians saying that they don’t hate LGBTQ folks, they just wish they would “keep it in the privacy of their own homes.”

    Exactly what I think about religion.

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    If you or other atheists were this “in your face” about expressing your views, I’m sure at the very least your signs would be vandalized. Yet you have to endure the constant barrage of messages every time you drive somewhere. And that amounts to religious persecution?

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    There are many Christians in this country who do not give a second thought to stepping all over the civil rights of people outside of the purview of their cultural parameters. But when the people whose rights are being violated stand up and demand that their civil rights be respected by people of faith all you hear is, “Our religious freedom is being attacked!”, or “We have a right to practice our beliefs!”. I think it’s about time people of faith woke up to the idea that their right to practice their faith ends where it infringes upon the civil liberties of people who do not share their worldview.

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    Is this a midwest cultural thing? Why do Conservative Christians feel the need to impose their way of life on everyone? Indiana is a great example of this right now, in which their new law is going to open a huge can of worms. It is obvious to me that there is no real persecution here. If someone wants to see real persecution against their religion, then there are places where they can go and see it first hand. Funny how they want little government in their fiscal and religious lives, but they want government to impose their beliefs on everyone. I truly wonder what is next? I also don’t think people who claim to be Christian really adhere to their reilgion, for example the Sunday only version.

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      Angie, I think I understand you to mean that the persecution of others is different in your eyes in some other places, and I understand and agree with that…. but your statement, “it is obvious to me that there is no real persecution here…” is quite insensitive to the reality of abuse in the USA. The many cults that isolate and brainwash children, that demean and subjugate women, ruin lives and create wrecked human beings. The term ‘survivor’ does not only apply where some wildman male beheads a journalist. What do you imagine life is like in the family of a KKK father or a White Power dad and mom? They are good American Christian folk, right? I do not subscribe to the nationalist nonsense of us-and-them.
      And your statement at the end, that some do not adhere to their religion is right on. In most cases I have experienced, their religio-flavor is cherry-picked to please their present needs.

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    While many Christians interpret the official secular state as atheistic it really isn’t. I was reading about the French Revolution recently. What I found interesting is that it may be one of the first examples of a truly atheistic state. Since the Catholic church was such a powerhouse in the process of overthrowing the old guard it may have been necessary to have such draconian measures as shooting a priest at sight. There was also a revolution in measurment and the metric system is still extensively used. Decimal time didn’t stick, but is interesting to see how time itself was reworked to scrub all religious references out of it. At the end of the ten day week worship services to the goddess of reason were done in the old churches renamed temple of reason. While I obviously prefer our secular state, the French revolution is a good case study in precisely what an oppressed Christian looks like (though at least they weren’t fed to the lions for entertainment!)

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    Comment deleted.

    It has nothing to do with having my views challenged and everything to do with your insolent, argumentative, bombastic, arrogant behavior.

    Had I known you were King James only, I wouldn’t have bothered to reply to even your first comment. In my experience, people who hold to this view cannot be reasoned with. Until they/you are disabused of the notion that the Bible is an inerrant, infallible text, there is no possible way to have a profitable discussion.

    Matt, I encourage you to read Bart Ehrman’s books. If you ever do so, then we can talk. If not, there’s nothing more that I can say that will matter to you or be helpful to the readers of this blog.

    I wish you well.

    Bruce Gerencser

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Bruce Gerencser