As a kid, the grown-ups used to ask us
all the time: what do you want to be when you grow up. I told them, “I want to be a
fireman when I grow up.” In 1981, my dream came true. Being one of the first African Americans
on the Shreveport Fire Department had significant challenges.
After living a life experiencing a lot of discrimination, it gave me a
conviction that should I ever be in a position of leadership, that I would
never allow anyone to have the same experience I had as a minority. That’s
why I was so surprised that writing a book for a Christian men’s Bible study
would cause my career to come to an abrupt end. These tombstones represent a life that
are taken by abortion every single day in the United States of America. This is
a personal issue for me. When I found out that our pro-life club on campus was
denied, it shot me right back to when I was 16 and I found out that my mom
considered aborting me. When we got the news, I was angry. They were denying us
the opportunity to express our diverse viewpoint on campus. Since the physician assisted suicide
law was passed, it certainly brought home the reality that we’re in a whole new
world in the field of medicine. Being forced to talk to someone about
committing suicide and ending their life artificially, and having me be complicit
with it, violates my sense of conscience because my role is to protect life.This is
something that really could end my practice. If I’m forced to do this, I
won’t continue to practice medicine in the state. I would leave my practice.
There is no compromise here. At the end of 2016, there was a state law
that was passed that would force pregnancy help centers to refer for
abortions. The thought of actually having to give an abortion referral to a young
woman was just unbearable. This law is such a violation of my conscience.
It’s truly unthinkable because it really totally erases the whole reason why I’m
here, the whole reason why Aid for Women is here. Five years ago, we were approached by a
customer who asked us to print a message that conflicted with my conscience. So we
respectfully declined the order and I had a another print shop and would print the
same job at the same price but they ended up going to our local government
and they filed a lawsuit against us to try to get us, in the future, to print
shirts that had a message that would conflict with my faith.
I received a phone call after I made the decision to decline the message and the
gentleman called and didn’t give me his name and he just asked me, he said, “Are
you sure you want to stand for this? Are you sure you’re going to hold your
beliefs on this issue? I want to know before we do this.” And I just said, “I had
no option.” said, “I can’t print that message.” And he hung up on me.
When that happened, I knew this wasn’t going to be a small issue. Every creative
professional has a list of reasons why you would choose a project and why you
would decline a project. And that’s true for everyone I work with. But there’s a
law in Minnesota that would force us to tell stories that conflict with our core
beliefs. Preserving freedom conscience is important for every single person. We
don’t want anyone to feel or fear that the government will punish them for
simply holding an opinion that might be unpopular. One of the great joys I have
is leading a Christ-centered University, a faith-based University. This
legislation, if it would have passed in its original form, would have ended up
setting ourselves up for the possibility of being sued just for practicing what
we believe. Ministry is not just about being on a pulpit but rather serving a
community. So our church recently bought a property that we are developing to
help victims of domestic violence. All of a sudden this law came out that was
going to make it very difficult for us to be able to serve these women that
have been abused. So we worked with ADF to defend the freedoms
that the church had. Everybody in our country should care about right of
conscience in all aspects of our public life. When someone else comes and
dictates that you must do something against your conscience, it brings us
back to some of the worst times in history.
Everybody should care about this because if we’re the first or some of the first
to be targeted, it is assured that other professions will eventually be targeted.
Religious freedom helps everyone. It’s not just freedom for me, it’s freedom for
everyone. It’s bigger than just the one person. It’s about the freedoms
for all of us to live by our conscience. We were meant to be free. The world is a
place that flourishes that grows under freedom.