Fanning the Flames

Two hundred years ago, the great abolitionist William Wilberforce spent 20 years fighting to end the slave trade in England. Wilberforce was ultimately successful, and today it seems providential that Wilberforce—a Christian of oratorical prowess and dogged persistence—was raised up at exactly the right time and right place to lead one of the greatest legal and moral battles of the eighteenth century. Today I believe God has raised up another man to fight a great moral and legal battle, this time in America. I’m talking about Charles Canady, a congressman from Florida. I’ve known Canady since he was in the Florida legislature. He’s a deeply committed Christian, the kind of man who puts God first in his life. Many years ago, when people asked Canady why he wanted to get into politics, he said he wanted to protect religious liberty. Canady recently told me that he really was not sure why he said that. Well, I’m convinced it was the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Canady was first elected to the U.S. House in 1994. Last year he was named chairman of the Subcommittee on the Constitution. And this is where the story gets interesting. Last June the Supreme Court reversed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The ruling was perhaps the greatest threat to religious liberty in this century. If Congress does not overrule this decision, religious liberty will be reduced to a second-class right. Already the RFRA decision has been cited in two cases: In Texas, Catholic schoolboys were forbidden to publicly display their rosaries. In Los Angeles, a Jewish congregation was ejected from a neighborhood where it had met for two decades. If Congress does act, any legislation it comes up with will go before—yes, you guessed it—the House Subcommittee on the Constitution, chaired by Charles Canady. Canady says he’ll convene hearings this month, and he plans to get a bill ready by early next year. The hope is to reinstate RFRA in such a way that it will escape another Supreme Court challenge. But Canady warns that for a bill to pass, our lawmakers must know of their constituents’ outrage over the Supreme Court’s treatment of religious liberty. I’m convinced God prepared Charles Canady for just this assignment and placed him in a position to shepherd this legislation through Congress. Now it’s up to us. The American people must provide a groundswell of support for Canady’s bill. Please pick up your phone and call us here at BreakPoint so we can send you materials about RFRA. And pray that Congress will have the wisdom to enact a law reinstating our religious rights. Pray as well for Charles Canady, that God will grant him wisdom and protection. He will face enormous opposition when he takes on the authority of the Supreme Court—just as, 200 years ago, William Wilberforce faced tremendous opposition when he took on the powerful interests of the slave trade. As the battle over slavery heated up, Wilberforce declared, "It is on the… feeling of the nation we must rely… so let the flame be fanned." And that’s exactly what you and I must do today: Fan the flames. With God’s help—and plenty of voter outrage—Christians can prevail in the battle to restore our religious liberty.  


Chuck Colson


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