Does religious liberty equal discrimination? In more liberal Christian denominations and certainly among radical social activists, that seems to be the understanding. However, there is more to the question, whether it’s promoting gay marriage and total acceptance of the lesbian, gay, transgender, and bisexual communities’ (LGTB) lifestyle, healthcare mandates, or other social concerns.

The first keynote session at the International Christian Retail Show, is “Religious Liberty: Can You Be a Christian and in Business?” 3-4 p.m., Sunday, June 28 in Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, Fla. Craig Parshall, a constitutional law and policy consultant to Christian organizations and special counsel to the American Center for Law & Justice, is the keynote speaker.

In light of several recent court cases involving Christian businesses declining their services for same-sex weddings and federal legal assaults over healthcare laws and forcing tax-funded abortions, Parshall said many believe it is only a matter of time before Christian-retail stores face similar lawsuits.

Most Christians recognize that Jesus welcomed all and said the two most important laws are to love God and to love others as you would your self. Religious liberty doesn’t mean ostracizing, condemning, or judging LGTB people, but it does mean that the government shouldn’t force Christians or others to reject positive and longstanding social foundations and violate personal principles.

The keynote session will include a panel discussion with other prominent legal experts who are fighting assaults on Christianity and religious liberty every day: Doug Napier, senior counsel, executive VP, and chief alliance officer with Alliance Defending Freedom, and Daniel Blomberg, legal counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

They all believe that Christian stores and their suppliers are likely targets for social activists and more test cases to force acceptance of a new and predatory social order.

Parshall said, “The legal landscape for Christian retailers is an increasingly fluid environment, and in some instances, has become overtly hostile. I believe it is biblical for Christians to take a stand against the erosion of basic religious liberties.”

Parshall said Christian retailers could have legal risks in two key areas: hiring and whether for-profit, closely held religious companies have religious rights.

Napier advises Christian businesses to be aware of local legislation relating to same-sex issues and to take legal steps to minimize the threat of a challenge.

“People are starting to wake up and realize that it’s worse than we thought, and if we don’t stand up now, we are going to lose the store—figuratively and literally,” he said.

“More challenges are coming, so the faithful must continue working hard and banding together to protect the fundamental human right to follow God,” Blomberg said.

The panel also will discuss how Christian storeowners can stand up for their beliefs in the public arena while continuing their mission to extend the love of Christ to others, regardless of their worldviews. Blomberg said Christians can “disagree without being disagreeable.”

“Protecting your faith from government overreach doesn’t require being shrill or using government to attack someone else’s beliefs,” he said. “Rather, it’s just a matter of resolutely reminding the government that, while certain things must be rendered unto Caesar, others can only be rendered unto God—and the state shouldn’t get confused about which is which.”

Parshall agrees. “[The apostle Paul] both exercised his rights of citizenship and also lovingly shared the Gospel. I believe we can, and should, do both, too. He urges us to speak the truth in love. That is a dual command, not a multiple-choice test.”

A follow-up breakout session will present tactical strategies that Christians in business might implement as a hedge of protection.

International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) will be held June 28-July 1 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL.

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