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Ed Stetzer: “Why Burkinis Should Matter To Christians Who Care About Religious Freedom”

Yesterday I wrote an article for Religion News Service about women and burkinis. But, it was not really about women and burkinis. It was about secularism and its march.

Before you go much further, click here and see this picture at the New York Times. It’s of the French police making a woman take off more clothes to stay on a beach.

So, this is not really about burkinis, but it is about the right of religious people to live out the implications of their beliefs, even in the face of the secular march of the Western world.

I’ve written on that before, talking about religions freedom in an earlier RNS column.

In “3 reasons Christians should back religious freedom for all,” I explained:

1. The First Amendment does not protect certain faiths, but all faiths, and people of no faith.

2. Minority faiths, like minority viewpoints, are the ones who need the most protection.

3. When those of us who identify as Christians allow the government to pick whose freedoms are recognized, we undermine our own religious liberties.

So, why do I, an evangelical Christian, who wants to see women (and men) liberated from the oppression that the burkini represents and set free in Christ, write the RNS article and now this post? As I state in the RNS article, because of religious liberty.

If we don’t speak out, Muslims in France will not be the only ones stripped of their religious liberty. We can’t stand idly by today because it is not “our” religious liberty that is being trampled upon. Next time, as secularism continues its march across the West, it very well might be us.

Religious liberty for some soon means religious liberty for none.

I don’t want Muslim women forced to strip off some of their clothes on the beaches of France under the watchful eye of the police.

Or Catholic adoption agencies stripped of their participation in Massachusetts’ adoption system because of their views of marriage.

Or a baker stripped of her business because she did not want to participate in a wedding with which she disagrees.

Around the world, nations often deny religious freedom. We need to show the world a better way—the one our Founding Fathers laid forth. When Christians demand religious freedom for ourselves and do not speak up for others, we miss the teaching of Jesus, who said, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 7:12).

These religion liberties continue to surface in the Western world, most recently in California where Christian colleges were threatened (see my article on an earlier version of the bill), but then the lawmaker relented and the bill was changed.

These issues keep surfacing because religious liberty always needs defending, even when it is not our own. That’s why I am speaking into this issue of banning burkinis. Because in the end, religious freedom is critically important not only for Christians, but also for all who hold to different values and beliefs.

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Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books.