Some evangelicals agree with much of what you say-but they also say that persecution is a "holy" word and should be reserved for truly dangerous situations, not the discrimination American evangelicals sometimes feel. What is your reaction to that criticism?
I think that's a reasonable point--that people could think the title is over the top and sensationalistic. People normally think of persecution as what Christians experienced during the Roman period and what the Jews experienced in the Holocaust.
Or that Christians are experiencing today in Sudan.
Right, and I rarely mention the world persecution in the book. I talk about discrimination. The title was not mine, but I'll stand by it. I chronicle the actions that lead to the first steps of persecution. There are various levels of discrimination and persecution. It's a subject that reasonable people can debate about-the use of the term.
I don't mean to diminish the actual cases of persecution that have occurred in the world in history, and are occurring today. But I do think the kinds of discrimination Christians are being subjected to and the intolerance being demonstrated toward them is a very chilling thing.
I don't think the sky is falling or we've lost all our religious freedom--but I think Christians are being scrubbed away from the public square, Christian religious liberty is being suppressed, and Christians are being impugned by people for whom tolerance is the highest virtue. And these are the first steps that happen in society that eventually gravitate toward persecution. This is an incremental process, and I prove it my book with almost 800 examples. Some are more egregious than others, I will acknowledge. We can disagree about the degree of persecution in different examples, but there is a double-standard being applied to Christians.
People will suppress our religious liberty under the separation of church and state language, while they promote the concept of the state endorsing secular humanist values or those of other major religions. They demand tolerance from everyone, but they are willing to give none toward Christians.
On some level, I can agree with you--yet Christians are such a majority, the dominant culture, maybe they can take it on the chin a little bit and understand what people from minority religions are feeling. What do you think about that?
The very reason this country was founded was to escape religious persecution and seek religious freedom. The framers of the constitution, who were predominantly Christian, incorporated their biblical world view into the constitution. And the first two clauses of the constitution had to do with safeguarding and preserving religious liberty. So they obviously thought it was of paramount importance.
Now, often in the name of preserving separation of church and state, ostensibly to promote religious freedom, they are using the separation argument as a weapon to suppress Christians' religious liberty. You can say this is not a big deal-but it's a very big deal. When a student invokes the name of Christ in a valedictory speech or when a group of students hold an election to choose a student who will go out and give a prayer at a high school football game over the PA system, they are merely exercising their religious liberty.
Every slightest connection between state and religion doesn't constitute an infringement of the Establishment Clause. In the process of trying to be strict and pure on this separation argument, we are thwarting the very cause the Establishment Clause was written for, which was to guarantee religious freedom. You're telling kindergarteners they can't hold hands over their snack table and pray, even when it's voluntary.