TYLER: America’s Persecuted Pastors Are Fighting For Freedom


Robert Tyler Contributor
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America’s persecuted pastors are quickly becoming some of the most vocal advocates for faith and freedom in this country. With court cases from California to Maine, these pastors are making a stand to ensure that all Americans have the freedom to practice their faith without government interference.

Though religious freedom is a fundamental right enshrined in the United States Constitution, it has come increasingly under attack. These pastors are fighting so that normal Americans do not have to.

In California, Pastor Mike McClure of Calvary Chapel was spied on by Santa Clara County and, at one point, was fined nearly $4 million dollars during the COVID-19 pandemic. The county implemented aggressive measures to enforce its fines, including putting a geofence around the church to spy on churchgoers.

Geofencing is a tool typically used in police investigations of criminal activity and requires the government to request a warrant to track individuals through cell phone data in a specific area for a limited period of time. This geofencing operation, which effectively amounts to a targeted sting operation by the government against churchgoers who were not suspected of any crime, took place over the course of two years with seemingly no oversight, boundaries, or limitations.

In Maine, Pastor Matt Gioia of The Pines Church faced discrimination while applying for a lease to use a local public school gymnasium for weekly services.

The Pines Church was forced to answer questions about their stances on same-sex marriage, abortion, and gender before a determination on their lease application could be made. These questions were not asked of any other organization that currently leases the space.

In both of these instances, the governments — both local — violated the rights, not just of the church but the congregants who worship there.

By spying on innocent Americans and forcing churches to pass a social litmus test for a lease, these governments deliberately violated the constitutional rights of the church, the pastors, and their members.

These are not the only cases. Pastor Jack Hibbs, Pastor Jim Franklin, Pastor Artur Pawlowski, and Pastor Art Hodges are all examples of religious leaders targeted by the government.

The COVID-19 pandemic opened the door to explicit discrimination by our government. The moment they determined places of worship were not considered essential, they gave local, state, and even the federal government a green light to begin interfering with religion at an individual level.

These stories are not unique to our clients. For years, pastors, churches, and religious groups across this country have faced deliberate attempts to silence their voices.

If we do not take a stand now to protect religious freedom, it might be too late. With radical ideologies infiltrating our classrooms, religious persecution of America’s pastors, and social wars impacting communities across this country, now more than ever, we need faith leaders to fight for our shared values and morality.

There are about 100 of us in the United States who stand in the gap between these politicians and institutions who seek to take away your most sacred freedom — the freedom to worship and believe freely and without punishment.

We must stand up again and again until there is not one more persecuted pastor in this country.

Robert Tyler is the president of Advocates for Faith and Freedom.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.