In a sermon given in 2021, pastor of Grace Community Church in Simi Valley, CA John MacArthur called the idea of religious freedom “nonsense,” arguing that religious freedom is what sends people to hell.
In a message that looked back on 2020, MacArthur recounted the major events in the life of Grace Community Church, including its handling of the pandemic and the legal battles that ensued when the church refused to comply with COVID-19 safety guidelines.
MacArthur then made a veiled reference to the Biden Administration’s expressed affirmation of religious liberty in light of anti-Muslim sentiments among some in America.
“I read the other day that one of the evangelical publicists said that he’s happy to let us know that the new administration will uphold religious freedom. Really? The new administration will uphold religious freedom? I don’t even support religious freedom,” MacArthur said. “Religious freedom is what sends people to hell. To say I support religious freedom is to say I support idolatry. It’s to say I support lies, I support hell, I support the kingdom of darkness.”
“You can’t say that. No Christian with half a brain would say, ‘We support religious freedom.’ We support the truth,” MacArthur continued, and the congregation broke out into applause.
“Oh, guess what? We don’t win down here. We lose. You ready for that? Oh…oh, you were a postmillennialist? You just thought we were going to go waltzing into the Kingdom as you took over the world? No. We lose here,” MacArthur said. “We lose on this battlefield. But we win on the big one, the eternal one.”
MacArthur went on to say, “If the new administration supports religious freedom, get ready. Persecution will be ramped up. Because the more supportive they are of the Devil’s lies, the less they’ll tolerate the truth of Scripture.”
“We’re not going to lobby for freedom of religion. What kind of nonsense is that? We are in the world to expose all those lies as lies,” MacArthur concluded.
MacArthur’s comments came mere weeks after the riot at the United States Capitol, an event that deepened ongoing concerns among many about Christian nationalism in America. Further, the comments stand in contrast to how many evangelicals have understood the constitutional value of freedom of religious expression in America, regardless of what that expression may be.
For example, some questioned the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) in 2016 when they came to the defense of a Muslim group after a New Jersey town sought to block them from building a Mosque in the city.
Arguing that religious freedom is not a government benefit “but a natural and inalienable right granted by God,” then ERLC president Russell Moore said, “At issue is whether or not the civil state has the power to zone mosques or Islamic cemeteries or synagogues or houses of worship of whatever kind out of existence because of what those groups believe.”