This week, police in the city of Brussels shut down access to the NatCon conference. The official reason was for concerns that the Right-leaning attendees might provoke a violent reaction by far-Left groups like Antifa. However, there was more to the story.

As Paul Coleman of ADF International reported, the local authorities simply didn’t like what the conference had to say. In the order to shut it down, the mayor who made the decision declared:

[NatCon’s] vision is not only ethically conservative (e.g. hostility to the legalisation of abortion, same-sex unions, etc.) but also focused on the defense of “national sovereignty”, which implies, amongst other things, a “Eurosceptic” attitude.

The conference featured former heads of state and mainstream conservative thought leaders, but political powers didn’t want to allow the debate. Instead, using the authoritarian playbook, they attempted to silence it. As Coleman posted on social media, “Imagine deploying police to barricade entrance to a conference and thinking you’re on the side of ‘democracy.’” Thankfully, their attempts failed.

According to Kristen Waggoner, CEO and general counsel of the Alliance Defending Freedom:

Free speech is on life support in Europe—and this is how it dies. (1) Smear speakers as being “disrespecters of human rights.” (2) Issue vague warnings that their speech might create “public disorder.” (3) Swiftly shut it down.

Thankfully, the Prime Minister of Belgium opposed the decision by the authoritarian mayor, and the event was saved when the Alliance Defending Freedom International issued an emergency challenge. Belgium’s highest court ruled that the police could not prevent the conference from continuing.

According to The Washington Post (whose catchphrase is “Democracy Dies in Darkness”), the real problem with this attempt at censorship was not that it was a suppression of speech or important debate, but that it gave “Europe’s hard-right elites a further opportunity to rail against cancel culture and Brussels’ overreach.”

At the risk of implying a connection between Kristen Waggoner’s tweet with The Washington Post’s motto, this is how basic freedoms will die here, not in darkness or by government fiat alone, but by a cultural shift. This shift is one in which our most basic and important freedoms are seen as liabilities rather than features. It’s a shift that is happening across the political spectrum.

Recently, an American pastor claimed from his pulpit that “before we can rebuild and have the grace of God renew our nation,” the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution must be “swept away.” Some advocates of Christian Nationalism have argued similar things about the freedoms of speech, assembly, and religion. Voices online and in academia have argued that the entire long project of liberty and democracy has, in fact, failed. This is more than a few distressed by election results or the words of the other side. This is the beginning of doubts about the desirability of elections and free speech entirely.

The last few years of media-sponsored news suppression and attempts by activists to silence dissent should be more than enough to remind us of the ugliness and danger of censorship. Still, we will never avoid tyranny, including the tyranny which comes of purportedly good intentions, with different tyranny. Instead, as Francis Schaeffer put it, we must always note this "simple but profound truth":

If there are no absolutes by which to judge society, the society is absolute. Society is left with one man or an elite filling the vacuum left by the loss of the Christian consensus which originally gave us form and freedom.

We must not abandon the principles of liberty that delivered so many blessings and that are rooted in the earliest days of Christian teaching. Even more, in addition to speaking out against tyranny, we must make the case for what Schaeffer called “true truth,” including what is true about our “first freedoms,” and why they are good for the world. We’ll better serve and love God and our neighbors if we speak out for what’s right, and not just shout down what’s wrong.

This Breakpoint was co-authored by Dr. Timothy Padgett. For more resources to live like a Christian in this cultural moment, go to

Image credit: ©Getty Images/cla78

John Stonestreet is President of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and radio host of BreakPoint, a daily national radio program providing thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of CrosswalkHeadlines.

BreakPoint is a program of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. BreakPoint commentaries offer incisive content people can't find anywhere else; content that cuts through the fog of relativism and the news cycle with truth and compassion. Founded by Chuck Colson (1931 – 2012) in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends. Today, you can get it in written and a variety of audio formats: on the web, the radio, or your favorite podcast app on the go.