Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Iowa pastor swears off NFL over Georgia religious liberty veto: 'Begun to throw away my NFL gear already'

Love this ... taking a stand on principle and for Jesus, regardless of how small to the human eye it might seem. No doubt, such goes over big in Heaven.

An Iowa pastor watching with alarm a governor's veto of a religious liberty bill in Georgia – a veto that came in part because of the NFL's thinly veiled threat to remove the state from its list of potentials to host an upcoming Super Bowl – has now fired back with a campaign of his own: He's sworn off one of his favorite fall-time past-times, watching football on television.

And he's hoping his NFL boycott carries weight with his congregation and beyond, and sparks others to do similarly.

"I have begun to throw away my NFL gear already," said Ray Peters, pastor of Harvest Alliance Church in Minden, in one of several emails, sent after reading WND coverage of the matter.

In another email, he wrote: "It is time for Christians to take a stand where they are and say no to the world where they can. Maybe we can use our time wiser than sitting around for three hours watching men playing a game and making far more money than the president."

His protest comes on the heels of Gov. Nathan Deal's refusal to sign into law a bill aimed at hampering lawsuits against certain faith-based organizations, like churches, that were asked to do businesses with those who violated the "sincerely held religious beliefs" of the owners or managers. The bill was intended to shield Georgia groups from suffering the same sorts of legal challenges that have erupted in recent months around the country that have pitted gay activists against Christian business owners. In 2013, for instance, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled photographers couldn't use a religious freedom argument to refuse to snap pictures at a gay wedding, and in 2015, Christian bakers were forced to pay $135,000 in fines for turning down a lesbian couple's request to make them a cake for their wedding.

The Georgia bill, which passed both sides of the Republican-controlled General Assembly in record time, was criticized by gay rights' groups and some businesses, like Disney, Coca-Cola, Home Depot and Google – and by the NFL.

As various media reported, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in the days after the legislature advanced the bill: "NFL policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard. Whether the laws and regulations of a state and local community are consistent with these policies would be one of many factors NFL owners may use to evaluate potential Super Bowl host sites."

Atlanta was one of the cities that made the final round of NFL consideration for Super Bowl hosting duties in 2019 or 2020.

Deal ultimately vetoed the measure in late March, upsetting both those in the legislature that saw it simply as an underscore of what's already contained in the Constitution and in the First Amendment, and those in the faith community who saw it as a necessary precaution in the face of an advancing and vocal gay rights movement.

Peters, meanwhile, put his protestations to paper and penned a letter to his congregants, church leadership and family asking they join him in his boycott of all things NFL.

"Not much, I know, but it has to begin somewhere," he wrote in an email.

In his letter, titled "No More NFL, he wrote how "in the past, I played football and coached football and followed it for decades," even watching on television both professional and college play most days of the week – but the time has come to "make a stand" on principle.

"It seems that not only does the NFL own a day of the week," Peters wrote, "it owns many people's time and pocketbooks. ... However, the NFL has overstepped its bounds and in good conscience, I cannot continue to support or watch any more NFL games."

He then cited Georgia's religious liberty bill and how Deal's veto, under pressure from various groups and businesses, showcases the "unraveling of our society on a grand scale," when looked at through the lens of the Bible.

"The Bible very clearly warns that nation Israel and any other nation when wickedness takes over," Peters wrote, citing Isaiah and its caution against calling "evil good and good evil," as well as its caveat against relying on human wisdom.

"Yet there is nothing new under the sun and everyone is doing right in their own eyes," he wrote. "At the same time, there is something I can do on a personal level and that is to discontinue viewing NFL games and purchasing NFL merchandise. Though I cannot do much financial damage or change the NFL, it is imperative that something is done on my end and done immediately. If I do not take a stand now, then when? And if I do not begin to stand, then I fail to honor my God and Savior."

He then wrapped: "It may not be significant in the big picture, but it does make a difference in my personal faith walk. No longer can I support that which openly condones sin in the realm of this increasingly pervasive issue. ... The United States was founded on a Constitution that was based upon the morals of the Bible. And now we are going against two of our founding documents of this great nation. However, going against the morals of the Bible will result in catastrophic results. Let us pray for our nation with greater regularity than we ever have."

Peters added in yet another email that giving up football, as easy as it may sound to some, is actually a significant personal sacrifice.

"I believe King David said he would not sacrifice that which costs him nothing," Peters said. "It may sound lame but giving up watching NFL and taking my time back will be challenging when fall comes.  But right now I am at perfect peace with it."

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