Portland, Oregon is, “the most non-religious city in America,” according to the Public Religion Research Institute in 2015. 42% of its residents identified as non-religious that year.
According to Portland Mercury, “Just as different religious minorities can face discrimination when applying for a job, looking for a place to live, or attempting to patronize a business, religiously unaffiliated people can experience prejudice as well. A recent Pew Research Center survey found that Americans continue to hold unfavorable views toward atheists, though that trend is improving.”
Commissioner Amanda Fritz is proposing legislation today to the Portland City Council adding atheism, agnosticism and lack of belief to the protected classes code in her city. Amanda said, “We need to make these changes to our Civil Rights Code to remove discriminatory barriers, so they may participate equally in employment, housing, and public accommodations in the city.”
Religion, gender, race and nationality are already protected classes. But this legislation will also make it unlawful to discriminate against, “those who do not believe in a god, multiple gods, or religion.”
This new ordinance is expected to go to vote on February 27th.
Christians and Discrimination
Christians are already not to see ethnic distinctions between people. Every person has value, no mater what their culture, class, race or background. At the very beginning of time mankind was created in God’s image. And God shows no partiality(Genesis 1:27 and Romans 2:11). Christians are to be obeying Christ’s last commands to preach the gospel to everyone(Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8).
The Book of James gives Christians a charge to not discriminate between social classes. And this can be applied to employing others as well as race, nationality, religion and lack of religion. James 2:2-4 says, “For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”
The Christian Response to Discrimination
However, as a Christian if you are being discriminated against, Jesus said you are to pray for your persecutors (Matthew 5:44). We are to obey those in authority over us as long as it does not forbid us from obeying God (Romans 13:1-5, Acts 5:27-32).
Bias, prejudice and discrimination has no place in our hearts. It is unfortunate legislation must be proposed protecting any class of persons. This proposed ordinance does not compromise Christian ideals, but should be common practice within the Church, the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16).
Because we live in a sinful and fallen world, everyone will unfortunately face some form of discrimination in their lifetime. As a Christian, how you respond to discrimination reflects your spiritual growth. Galatians 5:14 states, “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
A Heart Change is Needed
However, in my honest opinion, legislation will not solve the issues at hand. It can curb discrimination from taking place for any persons. But only a heart change through hearing the Gospel message and receiving the wonderful Holy Spirit will truly end discrimination.
Portland, Oregon needs revival. If it is the most non-religious city in America, then pray for more gospel messengers. Jesus said in Matthew 9:35-38, “Then he said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”