When you read about anti-conversion laws in other nations, it can seem like a problem unrelated to life here in the United States. But there are some sobering indications that our nation is trending in the same direction. Freedom from religion, rather than freedom of religion, seems to be the expectation of the day.
This weekend, The Washington Post carried an article about the new anti-proselytizing policy at Georgetown University, a Jesuit-founded institution. Despite its own religious history, this school is trying to define what kind of evangelism is acceptable on campus.
A new anti-proselytizing policy at Georgetown University has spurred debate about where the line is between vigorous faith-sharing and intolerance.
In adopting the policy, the Jesuit school joined a growing number of colleges and universities trying to spell out what constitutes acceptable evangelism in an America that is increasingly religiously diverse and less comfortable with absolutes.
Major denominational groups have made similar efforts over the years, and employment lawyers say cases about evangelizing in the workplace are becoming more common as well.
The trend in the new rules is to equate proselytizing, a neutral word in the dictionary for the act of trying to convert or convince someone, with badly intentioned or harmful evangelizing. But the lines aren't always so neat for evangelical Americans, who say evangelism -- at Georgetown and elsewhere -- seems to have entered a new zone.
John Borelli, special assistant for interreligious initiatives in the Georgetown president's office, was the main driver behind the new policy's language, which was announced in May. The difference is clear, he said, between evangelizing and banned actions, which include "moral constraint," and depriving people "of their inherent value as persons."
"It's not about the conversation being uncomfortable, it's about tearing down another person's church in order to show how superior yours is," he said.
I'm not issuing a gloom-and-doom warning. Our Lord is still sovereign and on His throne, fulfilling all His promises in Scripture. But I do think that discerning Christians should be paying attention. When we intercede for other nations, we also need to pray for our nation, for the potential of future difficulties here, and for our own faith and witness to survive the test.
UPDATE: A few days later, I read this article about a school in San Diego accommodating Muslim prayer times during the school day. The school understands that regular prayer is part of the expression of Islam. In the same way, evangelism is a part of the Christian faith. True believers are compelled to share the good news of Christ's redemption. But I doubt this corollary will be easily grasped by public officials. In the meantime, I am genuinely surprised that the ACLU hasn't challenged this kind of prayer in schools, as it has so predictably in other situations. (HT: Founders Ministries blog.)