World Congress of Families IX: Churches, individuals must defend religious freedom

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Evan Lenlow addressing the need to faith groups to defend religious freedom. (Austin Tenny)
Evan Lenow tells World Congress of Families delegates that faith groups must organize and lead out in defense of  religious freedom. (Austin Tenny)

The World Congress of Families IX opened its final plenary session with panelists who discussed the need for future laws and policies to protect life and the family.

Evan Lenow, Elklund Chair of Stewardship, Director of the Land Center for Cultural Engagement and Assistant Professor of Ethics at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said religious liberty is the foundation for pro-life and pro-family policies.

On a light note, Lenow explained that Halloween is the only family-sanctioned redistribution of wealth he and his family take part in, but it is also marked as a day of religious reformation.

“It (was) the day Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany,” Lenow said.

He said the Reformation set the foundation for the religious freedoms Americans enjoy and encouraged faith groups to defend their rights in areas of marriage, healthcare, and education.

Lenow said the current shift in political views on marriage will further encroach on religious freedoms. Educational and corporate institutions looking to maintain the historic view of marriage run the risk of losing government funding and their tax-exempt status or violating national law if the government’s perspective on marriage and the family isn’t upheld, he said.

To counter these potential threats, Lenow encouraged delegates to defend their freedom.

“It is when people of faith practice their faith in a society that respects their right to freely exercise such faith that we will see the most effective pro-life and pro-family policies.”

Bill Norton of the National Center for Constitutional Studies titled his remarks, “Everything in its Rightful Place.”

According to Norton, the best policies in a free nation are often no laws at all, where people are allowed to govern themselves.

“This is most often the best policy to protect our unalienable rights and will most often be the best protection for families,” he said.

Norton said family and marriage were naturally given to man, and originally existed outside the bounds of government.

He quoted Benjamin Franklin who said of the family, “It is the most natural state before man and, therefore, the state in which you are most likely to find solid happiness.”

Authority over the family should reside within its trilateral construction, where parents and children show mutual respect for one another, and are obedient to instruction and counsel.

Norton argued that redefining these principles is the result of too much government authority. In effect, it gave government officials power to make adjustments to the meaning of marriage and family.

Norton concluded his remarks with powerful proposal for change.

“I propose, as with all things, that we place everything in its rightful place, that marriage should be placed back outside of the bounds of government and back into the sole hands of the people,” he said.

Speaker C. Gwen Landolt addressing the audience about the degeneration family values. (Austin Tenny)
C. Gwen Landolt describes the societal forces that she says are undermining traditional family values. (Austin Tenny)

After a standing ovation for Norton, C. Gwen Landolt, national vice president of REAL Women of Canada, concluded the panel with a discourse on the denigration of the family.

Landolt attributed marriage failures to a variety of factors including no-fault divorce, cohabitation, abortion, gay marriage and pornography.

She said no-fault divorce and cohabitation are selfish acts committed by individuals who prioritize self-interests over more important institutions.

She argued that abortion and gay marriage are also wrong, because they cannot make the same contributions to the community that a traditional family can.

“(Traditional marriage) procreates the children necessary for the continuation and survival of society,” she said.

Finally, Landolt condemned the widespread use of pornography.

“Pornography has become little more than the depiction of rape and sexual assault,” she said. “This has had a profound judgmental effect on gender relations.”

Landolt sees a lot of work ahead for defenders of the family, but reminded them that God will help them in their endeavors.

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