‘We are frogs in the kettle’: Persecution watchdog sounds alarm on growing threat facing American Christians

News & Politics

Open Doors, the watchdog group born of an effort to smuggle Bibles into communist-occupied Poland, indicated in its
latest annual report that one in seven Christians worldwide faces “high levels of persecution and discrimination for their faith.” That amounts to over 365 million Christians with targets on their backs. Things appear to be getting progressively worse, granted five years ago, the statistic was one in nine.

The 10 worst countries for Christians are reportedly
North Korea, Somalia, Libya, Eritrea, Yemen, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sudan, Iran, and Afghanistan in that order. While a Christian faces a good chance of torture, imprisonment, rape, and death on account of their faith in any one those oppressive nations, supposedly civilized countries further up the rankings are not much better.

China’s 96.7 million Christians, for instance, have in recent years been subject to harassment,
torture, detentions, and executions. Since Christianity is regarded as a foreign threat to the communist regime, churches are frequently desecrated, destroyed, or closely surveilled.

In India, anti-Christian attacks have spiked, frequently executed by Hindu nationalists.
According to the Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, numerous pastors and and believers have been arbitrarily detained and savagely beaten while their churches are wrecked, especially in Uttar Pradesh.

Christian persecution is not just a foreign phenomenon. It’s a problem in the United States as well and — according to another watchdog group — poised to worsen.

Forbidden prayers

Jeff King, president of the Washington, D.C.-based International Christian Concern recently
suggested to the Christian Post that American Christians are right to get their hackles up.

“Basically, we are frogs in the kettle, and the bubbles keep coming up under us,” said King. “Too many people are not aware politically, and they’re so used to thinking of how things were that they can’t figure out where these bubbles are coming from, not realizing they’re being cooked.”

King’s sense that things are getting worse in the U.S. is reportedly informed, in part, by Staci Barber’s case in Texas.

Barber is a teacher who has spent the past eight years of her 26-year teaching career at the Katy Independent School District near Houston. According to her
lawsuit against the district, filed in March on Barber’s behalf by the American Center for Law and Justice, she desperately wanted to create a chapter of Students for Christ at Cardiff Junior High, having previously sponsored a chapter at Alief ISD.

The principal, Scott Rounds, allegedly shut her down on multiple occasions. However, in the 2023-2024 school year, Barber and some Christian students prevailed in starting a Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter, which Rounds apparently reluctantly approved.

In September, there was a prayer event on campus called See You At The Pole, which was scheduled to take place before school hours. Ahead of the event, Rounds allegedly sent out a memo stressing “district personnel shall not promote, lead, or participate in the meetings of non-curriculum-related student groups.” The principal apparently also sent an email to Barber, stressing that she could not take part as she would be “on campus visible to students in [her] role as an employee.”

Barber ultimately met at the pole to pray before work hours on Sept. 27, 2023, and was joined by two other teachers.

According to the complaint, the principal chastised Barber and “forbade the teachers from praying in the presence of students,” indicating the purpose of the prohibition was to avoid the risk of students potentially joining in.

Following the prohibition, Barber apparently faced more antagonism from the administration.

“The Supreme Court has made it clear that student and teacher prayer, including prayer at SYATP events, is undisputedly a protected form of speech that school officials may not ban,” says the lawsuit.

The American Center for Law and Justice
said in a statement, “The primary goal of this lawsuit is to ensure that the school amends its policy to reflect what the Constitution actually requires. This school policy strips teachers and school employees of their fundamental right to express their faith freely, and must be struck down. We need your support in our legal battles for your right to pray.”

King told the Christian Post that Barber’s case not only “highlights the depth of ignorance among school boards and even at the principal level of what rights the Constitution grants people” but also a wider hostility toward Christians.

“The big picture, and what people need to grasp, is that’s what’s going on here in the West, and that’s what a lot of people who dislike Christianity are proposing and trying to push forward,” said King.

Hated for His name’s sake

King suggested that countries whose leaders are antipathetic toward Christianity and enjoy influence over a politically weaponized judicial system can suppress Christians’ speech and even prompt them to withdraw from public debate.

The president of the watchdog highlighted how India, for instance, has religious freedom in its constitution, “but it doesn’t matter.”

“It’s what
happens in practice,” continued King. “And so when pastors are often attacked in the streets or in the churches, guess who gets arrested? It’s the pastor. What happens is you keep your head down. So this is what we’re seeing in the States.”

“People learn that you do not stick your head up, and you start being quiet because the process is the punishment,” added King.

Extra to an increasingly antagonistic justice system, King suggested that Christians face legislators keen to shut them up or handcuff them linguistically. He cited as examples
hate speech legislation in other Western nations as well as Democrats’ proposed Equality Act.

The Equality Act, which resembles in spirit the recent Title IX rewrite announced by the Biden Department of Education, would have defined sex to include gender ideology.

“It’s strategic, it’s banana republic, and these are political enemies of Christianity,” said King. “They’ve gained power, and they’re using the very laws, the very power of democracy, to go against their political enemies.”

While anti-Christian forces are advancing in legislatures and courts around the country, they are also active on the streets.

Arielle Del Turco, director of the Center for Religious Liberty at the Family Research Council, noted in a February
report that between 2018 and 2023, there were at least 915 acts of hostility against American churches. The attacks ranged from vandalism and arson to bomb threats.

Blaze News
previously highlighted Turco’s finding that between January and November 2023, there were at least 436 such attacks — eight times as many as there were in 2018 — such that 2023 ended up being the worst of all six years reviewed by the FRC.

The FRC observed 315 incidents of vandalism last year; 75 arson attacks or attempts; 10 gun-related occurrences; and 20 bomb threats.

Tony Perkins, president of the FRC and a former chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said of the observations in the report, “There is a common connection between the growing religious persecution abroad and the rapidly increasing hostility toward churches here at home: our government’s policies.”

In the way of a remedy, King thought beyond legislation or politics, stating, “This really comes down to revival, and it starts with us personally.”

“We’ve all got to turn back and cry to the Lord about not the political state of our country, but the religious state,” said the watchdog. “We desperately need revival, and that all starts with us personally looking to the Lord and saying, ‘Call me back and I’m completely yours, whatever you would have me do. All of my life is yours.'”

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