RABBI MICHAEL BARCLAY: Religious freedom has powerful defenders

In a world concerned with “clicks” and becoming a “social influencer”, it is all too easy to miss the work that is being done by real heroes: people who are more interested in making a difference in the world than being known. It is these heroes that we all need to support, for they are the ones who truly are fighting for righteousness in this world. And these are the heroes we each need to emulate in our own lives as we strive to make the world a better place filled with holiness.

One of these heroes is the Advocates for Faith and Freedom, a legal group run by Robert Tyler; and they did all of us a great service this past week with yet another victory for people of faith. It was Tyler and his associates who defended those of us in California who refused to close our doors during the pandemic. Temple Ner Simcha, where I am the Senior Rabbi, was the one synagogue in the state that never closed during the pandemic even for a day nor ever required masks or vaccination passports. We were blessed, along with over 1400 other pastors and churches, to be legally supported by this legal advocacy group that champions religious rights. Tyler and his team have been fighting for multiple churches on a variety of fronts, including against the State of California in their attempts to geo-track congregants who are affiliated with houses of worship that didn’t close. And this past week, they successfully defended a church and families of faith again.

Calvary Chapel in San Jose has a school named Calvary Christian Academy. In December of 2020, inspectors for California Division of Occupational Safety and Health obtained a warrant to inspect the Academy for OSHA violations, including not forcing masks on students. Despite a lack of evidence, the warrant was obtained, and the Academy was fined for twelve citations totaling over $67,000. The Advocates fought the case for the warrants being obtained illegally, and the State’s evidence has now been thrown out.

Tyler and the Advocates have done a terrific job defending religious rights for individuals, churches, and at least one synagogue. But that’s not the most important take-away from this victory.

The Advocates for Faith and Freedom grew out of one attorney’s desire to reflect his profession into a ministry to help others. Out of his own pocket, he started with a commitment to defend religious rights, and it grew from there into a large non-profit advocacy firm funded by donors from around the world… all devoted to protecting religious freedoms.

And that’s the important lesson.

Each of us has our own type of “ministry”; our own skills and ways of promoting our religious beliefs to help others. Many people have dreams of accomplishing that ministry, but never get around to it. But this past week is another example of how trusting God to shape our ministerial work can so positively affect others.

In Judaism, we call that “tikkun olam”; repairing the world in the way only we can. For Robert Tyler that meant taking on pro-bono work for houses of worship to battle the draconian authoritarianism of an anti-religious government, especially in California. For a doctor, it may mean offering complimentary exams to members of the church. There is a beautiful insurance company that expresses their ministry by giving deeply discounted insurance rates, but only to Christians. The Jewish Free Loan Association is financed by people who want to financially help others in need. A writer may offer his services to a publication like Human Events, PJ Media, or American Thinker as a way of expressing his ministry; and a gardener may offer to beautify gardens of the elderly or teach the spirituality of a garden to children.

We can all express our own ministry through our words and actions. Thank God for Robert Tyler and his team, who have once again successfully triumphed over the State and protected children of religious families. But we all need to extend our personal ministerial work to help others in God’s name. In doing so, we join together in a holiness, and can ensure victory against a state that has declared a war on religion…. A war that they cannot win as long as we stay united in God’s name and under His protection together.

May we all emulate the commitment of the Advocates for Faith and Freedom in our own ministries; and may we all enjoy similar success in expressing our love for God through helping others in their lives of faith.

Image: Title: rob tyler
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