by Leon Hartwell

CLEVELAND, Ga. (TMNews) – A group of Truett-McConnell College students, faculty, and staff members attended a Religious Liberty Rally to support the Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Atlanta, March 3.

“This is a time for Jesus and the Church to shine,” said Bishop Wellington Boone, Senior Pastor of The Father’s House Church in Atlanta, Ga. Gaining popularity from the crowd, Boone expressed his beliefs and disdain toward the increasing persecution which Christians have faced in the United States.

Boone asked questions which didn’t go unanswered: “Who owns the earth?” he said. The audience responded with much enthusiasm, “God!” Then he asked, “Who made the earth?” Once again the audience replied with passion, “God!”

Continuing to challenge the audience to stand and fight for religious freedom, Boone suggested from a biblical standpoint, God, the Creator, owns the earth and those who seek to usurp Him from His throne have no ground to stand upon. He explained that Christians around the earth are called by Jesus to spread the Gospel.

“Why should we be challenged with one state when the disciples had the responsibility of preaching to the whole world?” he said.

A stand for truth

The focus of the trip was not only to take a stand for religious liberty in the state of Ga., but to support the Christian agenda nationwide. The “Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act” is a bill designed to prevent specific types of persecution against the Christian church. It is a bill that seeks to protect religious liberty and suppress unjust attacks against it.

There have been specific events and issues which have led to the introduction of this bill. Present at the rally was Kelvin Cochran, former Atlanta Fire chief who was terminated for expressing aspects of his Biblical faith in a book he authored and distributed to employees. This is merely one aspect of the war which has been brewing between current United States culture and Christianity in America.

Dr. John Yarbrough, Truett-McConnell’s Director of Alumni Relations and an Associate Professor of Christian Studies, is passionate for the protection of Christians as they share the Gospel and led the group from TMC to Atlanta. When asked why the religious liberty act was important to him both as a Christian and an individual, Yarbrough replied: ” Individually, I’ve been involved now for a number of months very diligently working with a coalition across the state to get this passed. At my age, I feel like I’ll continue to enjoy a relative degree of freedom, but for my son, my daughter, my grandchildren, the students on this campus, and this entire generation…I think it’s extremely important if you’re going to enjoy the same freedom that I’ve enjoyed all these years – to be able to share my faith in the public domain.”

A voice to be heard

Another prominent speaker, Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King Jr., shared with the house, “I want to urge you today to pass the religious liberty bill without amendments!” Speaking of freedom and liberty in the religious aspect and with equal rights for all people, King beckoned members of the house to “Remember the God of MLK.”

“We still have a dream and it is rooted in the American dream,” King stated as a sober reminder of the freedoms which the founding fathers stood for.

Dr. Gerald Harris, editor of The Christian Index, also spoke and urged people to fight for the religious liberty which is rapidly being lost in the United States. “For those who believe that separation of church and state is not enough, that the world would be better off with no church at all, ask yourself this question: How many hospitals, orphanages, homeless and abuse shelters have been founded by the ACLU or American Atheist Society? It is the inclusion of the word Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, Christian, etc., in the name of so many of these institutions that proves by actions, not just words, who really cares for the suffering of mankind and desires to make the world better.”

Harris continued: “The question that people should be asking is: ‘When will we realize that no nation in the history of the world has ever separated itself from God and evolved to a better society?’ Freedom of religion is a great asset to our society and should never be restricted. It is the first right of all our rights.”

Standing together

There is no doubt that the religious liberty and freedom rally was an important stand for Christians in the state of Georgia. However, the issue of religious liberty is an increasingly prominent concern for the United States as a whole. If the bill is passed and becomes law, it will be an important milestone for Christianity, especially in the state of Georgia.

The Truett-McConnell students who attended the rally were very enthusiastic and receptive toward the fight for religious liberty.

George Loomis, a TMC junior, shared his view of the rally saying: “I thought the rally was a great stand for religious freedom and religious liberty.”

Senior James Ferrell shared how the group was encouraged at the rally: “It was a great time to be in a government building – particularly the Georgia State Capitol Building – and have church, sing worship songs, and lift the name of Jesus high,” he said. “The political goal today was to push our congressmen to pass a bill that would protect the freedom of the church.”

Kyle Rushnell, added: “You know, it’s important that we stand up for our rights as Christians because we’re called to be the salt and  light of the earth; we’re called to represent Christ in all facets and all arenas of life – that includes politics., Our agenda is the will of the Father and that the Gospel is upheld,” he said. “Our right to exercise that preaching needs to be protected.”

At the conclusion of the rally, Yarbrough shared how his hopes for the rally itself were satisfied: “I think the speakers did an excellent job giving everyone in the audience a background of what the Religious Liberty Restoration bill is all about and why we have to take a stand and be involved right now as the church if we’re going to see people of faith have religious liberty and freedom to impact the culture.”

“If we don’t stand at this time, I fear we are going to miss an open window to be able to stand,” he said.


Leon is an junior English major and a freelance writer for TMC.

Photos/Bryan Nowak – Georgia Baptist Convention and TMC junior Leon Hartwell



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