Threats to Freedom in the Land of the Free
[This photo by Jerry Newcombe shows Harry Mihet speaking at a church breakfast in May 2015.]
Every week there is a new story of Judeo-Christian values under fire. A high school football coach in trouble for saying prayers. A Christmas program at school that dares to mention the reason for the season. A Christian baker being sued for being unwilling to violate her conscience.
The move to censor God from society is all too familiar to a man who grew up in an atmosphere of forced atheism. As a child, all he ever wanted was to live in “the land of the free.”
Horatio (Harry) Mihet grew up as the son of an evangelical pastor in Communist Romania. He knew firsthand what it is like to live under complete tyranny.
In 1990, when he was 12, the day came when Harry and his family were able to emigrate from Romania to America. His first act in this country was to get down and kiss the ground in thanks to God. Finally, the land of the free.
That was twenty-five years ago. Fast forward to today where Harry serves as Senior Litigation Counsel for Mat Staver’s Liberty Counsel. Harry deals with all kinds of cases where Christians are losing their rights to practice their religion in a land which has a constitutional right to religion.
In an interview, Harry once told me, “I grew up in Communist Romania under a regime that was determined to control every aspect of your life, from the cradle to the grave—what you thought, what you believed, who you worshiped and how you worshiped.”
And today in modern America? Says Harry: “You see a big government that is trying to control every aspect of the people life and to cause them to be dependent on the government.” And freedom is lost as a consequence.
His pastor father dealt with tyranny: “Growing up, I saw him arrested and taken to jail and interrogated, and persecuted for doing nothing more than speaking the truth and speaking the truth to power. I see some of those same things happening right now in the work that Liberty Counsel is doing each and every day across the country.”
He adds: “I represented two individuals in Pensacola, Florida, who were brought up on charges for criminal contempt because they simply said a blessing over their meal in a public school. [I’m] not talking about China or Communist Romania—but in Pensacola, this decade, people were brought up on trial as criminals for uttering the name of Jesus Christ in a public school. It’s like déjà vu all over again.”
Today, we are rightfully concerned about school-bullying, although even that message is sometimes being hijacked by an agenda of political correctness. But Harry knows true bullying—even at the hands of school authorities themselves.
The Communists would assign special classes with mandatory attendance on Sunday mornings in order to make sure no student went to church.
Harry notes, “Well, we refused to comply, we refused to go to school on Sunday. On Monday when we showed up at school, they would have school-wide assemblies much like we have in the United States, except the attraction of the day was to single-out those ‘Christians;’ they called us the ‘repenters.’”
He says, “They would bring us out in front of the assembly and invite the entire school to point fingers at us, to make fun of us, even to throw things and to spit on us because we had not conformed to the conduct that the Communists had imposed.” The authorities were the bullies, as well as his fellow students. And the reason? Harry went to church.
Harry says, “In modern America today, we are living in an age, where people are no longer allowed to think certain things and to express certain things. It’s truly the Orwellian times of, you know, 1984…Where there is a price to pay if you conform your life and your thoughts and your behavior to a certain moral code, that is no longer allowed in the land of the free.”
Harry provides some examples: “We see those same exact things happening today in this country, where unless you fully approve and condone of the homosexual lifestyle, unless you renounce your convictions and fund abortion with your dollars as a business. Unless you do all of these things that are being imposed upon you by the government, then you are going to be shut out; you’re going to be taken to court. You are going to be penalized and ultimately bankrupted, because you chose not to worship at the altar of Nebuchadnezzar.”
These are sober warnings for our time. Harry said we should all remember what Patrick Henry said, “It is when a people forget God that tyrants forge their chains.”