Four Reasons Christians Must Defend Religious Liberty

Bill-of-Rights3By April 1777, John Adams—then a delegate in the Continental Congress—felt a sense of growing despair. Facing the realization that American success in the War for Independence was anything but certain, he grew concerned that his countrymen were losing their resolve to fight in the face of consecutive military defeats and that they were growing wearisome of the sacrifices necessary to secure independence and liberty for all.

Distressed but still clinging to the hope that God would come to the aid of his fledgling nation, the future president wrote a letter to his wife Abigail, in which he made this startling declaration:

“Posterity! You will never know, how much it cost the present generation, to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.”

Perhaps the most treasured of these freedoms is religious liberty. Called the “first freedom” because of its place as the first inalienable right protected by the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, religious freedom is also protected by the Idaho Constitution, which forcefully affirms:

“The exercise and enjoyment of religious faith and worship shall forever be guaranteed; and no person shall be denied any civil or political right, privilege, or capacity on account of his religious opinions.”

Despite its legally protected status under our federal and state constitutions, religious liberty is under attack today.

Here are four reasons Christians should be concerned about preserving religious freedom:

  1. Our ability to openly preach the Gospel is at stake: As historian Bill Federer astutely puts it, “Our most important job is to preach the Gospel. Our second most important job is to defend our right to preach the Gospel.”
  2. Religious freedom is biblical: The Bible tells us that we are accountable to God for our religious beliefs and the actions that flow from those beliefs. Romans 14:4 says, “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall.” The Bible makes clear that civil government should neither infringe on our duties to God (Acts 5:17-42) nor coerce someone to believe or act contrary to their conscience (Daniel 1, 3, 6).
  3. Our right to live, and raise our children, according to the dictates of our faith is in jeopardy. And not only living out our faith just at home or church, but at work and in school and in public, too.
  4. Love for neighbor: We should work to ensure religious freedom is preserved not only for ourselves, but for our neighbors as well, whatever their faith may be.

Our founding fathers warned that a government willing to infringe religious liberty will soon begin violating other dearly held rights. James Madison, the ‘Father of the Constitution’ and our fourth president, rightly cautioned:

“There is not a truth to be gathered from history more certain than or more momentous than this: that civil liberty cannot long be separated from religious liberty without danger, and ultimately without destruction to both.”

The founding generation sacrificed much to secure our freedoms, as have generations of soldiers, statesmen, and citizens since. Christians today must take seriously their duty to preserve religious liberty for their neighbors and children, and for future generations.

For their sake and ours, let us recommit ourselves to this righteous cause, protecting our freedom to share the Gospel and our right to live, work, and raise our families according to the precepts of God’s Word.


This article was written for Family Policy Alliance of Idaho.


 

How Well Do You Know the Idaho Constitution?

IdahoFlag“We, the people of the State of Idaho, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, to secure its blessings and promote our common welfare do establish this Constitution.”

Like many of you, I cherish our federal constitution. Remarkably, not only has it produced the most free and prosperous society in human history, but it has outlived every other constitution adopted by other nations. During the 230 years our constitution has been in effect, France has had 15 constitutions, Brazil has had seven, and South Korea has had four. There should be no doubt that the U.S. Constitution is indeed “exceptional.”

Much of the reason for its success can be found in the “self-evident truths” that informed those wise men who framed our founding documents. These first principles, deeply rooted in divine truth as revealed through God’s Word and right reason, provided our founding fathers with a framework that would enable them to create the most just and enduring government the world has ever seen.

Calvin Coolidge, our 30th president, recognized Christianity as the source of these first principles. He said, “The authority of law, the right to equality, liberty, and property under American institutions, have for their foundation reverence for God.”

But did you know these same transcendent truths also served as the foundation for the Constitution of the State of Idaho, which was ratified by the people in 1889?

The opening line of the Idaho Constitution begins with the unashamed declaration that the people of Idaho are “grateful to Almighty God for our freedom.” From the very beginning, Idahoans and their state government recognized God’s providential role as the Author of our freedom. They joyfully gave thanks for the ways He has blessed the people of this state with the ability to enjoy their inalienable rights. How great is that?

For what purpose was constitutional state government instituted in Idaho? The Preamble answers that question: the people of Idaho have framed a constitution that will empower them to “secure [the] blessings” of our freedom and “promote our common welfare.”

Additionally, the framers of the Idaho Constitution recognized the equality of all people and sought to ensure that inalienable rights would be recognized and protected. “All men are by nature free and equal, and have certain inalienable rights, among which are enjoying and defending life and liberty; acquiring, possessing and protecting property; pursuing happiness and securing safety.”

One of the most fundamental of these inalienable rights is religious freedom. Idahoans are constitutionally guaranteed religious liberty: “The exercise and enjoyment of religious faith and worship shall forever be guaranteed; and no person shall be denied any civil or political right, privilege, or capacity on account of his religious opinions.”

If our state government stays true to the eternal truths exemplified in the Idaho Constitution, we will remain a happy and prosperous people. Idaho families will flourish, and our children will enjoy the blessings of freedom.


This article was originally written for Family Policy Alliance of Idaho.


 

This Independence Day, Remember to Give Thanks to God

Praying-with-Flag-960-wSir William Jones, the renowned eighteenth-century English jurist and scholar, once remarked of his native England, “We live in the midst of blessings till we are utterly insensible of their greatness and the source from whence they flow.”

Sadly, the same could be said of the American people today. We are blessed to live in the most prosperous, secure, politically stable, and free nation in the history of the world. Yet too many turn their backs on our national foundations, indignantly sneer at the biblical morality we once shared, and speak with contempt of the founding fathers and other faithful men who have—by their vigilance and sacrifice—secured, maintained and preserved our republic for future generations.

What was, to paraphrase Sir William Jones, the source from whence our blessings of liberty, prosperity, and security flowed? What was the source of our national greatness?

In his first Thanksgiving Proclamation, President George Washington unequivocally answered: “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor.”

That, indeed, was the unanimous opinion of the founding fathers who appended their names to the Declaration of Independence exactly 243 years ago. In fact, Independence Day in early America was celebrated as a day of national thanksgiving to God.

Our founders attested to God’s intervention on our behalf during the War for Independence and His goodness in guiding them as they created a nation rooted in the idea of liberty under God’s law and built upon His unchanging Word. They believed the American people should come together to extend gratitude and worship to God for His protection, favor, and blessing.

Writing to his wife Abigail immediately after joining with his fellow delegates in voting for independence, John Adams presciently foresaw both the importance of the event in which he had just taken part and the traditions that would be celebrated by successive generations of Americans:

I am apt to believe that [Independence Day] will be celebrated, by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations [fireworks] from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.

Yes, John Adams predicted that Independence Day would be celebrated with fireworks, parades, sports, and guns! How’s that for a prediction come true?

But also notice that John Adams says Independence Day ought to be celebrated by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. God, who is the source of all blessings, deserves our worship and thanksgiving today. He has given us our liberty, and He has allowed us to live in a nation that has done better than any other in offering opportunity to all and empowering everyone to exercise their rights freely.

As you celebrate Independence Day, take a few minutes to pray with your family, thanking God for all he has done for the United States of America. Join with me in following the wisdom of President Washington, who over two centuries ago encouraged his countrymen to acknowledge God’s providence and authority, obey His law, be grateful to Him for the blessings we have been given, and humbly ask him for his continued protection and favor.


This article was originally written for Family Policy Alliance of Idaho.


 

The Link Between Virtue and Public Welfare

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For the founding fathers, virtue and public welfare were inseparably linked. In their understanding, a society lacking virtue was left without the ethical framework necessary to generate the moral character that allows for a healthy and happy society.

While overseeing the formation of his new nation, President George Washington advised his fellow citizens not to forget this indispensable axiomatic truth. At the start of his presidency, Washington warned in his first inaugural address, “We ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.”

As his presidential administration came to a close eight years later, Washington reiterated this statement, asking rhetorically, “Can it be, that Providence [God] has not connected the permanent [happiness] of a nation with its virtue?”

The founding generation likewise believed that the American experiment of republican self-government and constitutionally limited civil government would only survive if the people remained virtuous.

John Adams, writing to the Massachusetts Militia, explained, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion… Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

The blessings of a free and prosperous civil society can be preserved only if the people maintain their virtue. Our collective happiness depends on us advocating strong morals in the public square and imparting them to the rising generation.

Let’s recommit ourselves to this critical task. Our national welfare demands it.


The article was originally written for the Indiana Family Institute.


 

Public School Employee Threatened With Discipline After Offering to Pray for Coworkers

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Private expression of religious faith is under attack in public schools.

Toni Richardson, who works with special needs children at a Maine high school, was approached by school officials for allegedly violating the First Amendment and the “separation of church and state.”

What misdeeds had she committed? She had told a Christian coworker that she was praying for him or her and used phrases including “That’s such a blessing.”

After learning of these supposedly grave violations, school officials told Richardson that telling other teachers “‘I will pray for you’, and ‘you were in my prayers’ is not acceptable—even if that other person attends the same church as you.” She was informed that continuing to “use phrases that integrate private and public beliefs when in public schools” would result in “discipline or dismissal in the future.”

Thankfully, our friends at First Liberty accepted Richardson’s case and filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on her behalf. School officials have since backed off their original claim that Richardson must give up her First Amendment right to free religious expression when she enters school each morning. In an updated memo, they now affirm that “comments such as ‘God Bless You’ or ‘I am praying for you’ are permissible when made to co-workers outside of the hearing of students.”

The Constitution protects a person’s right to express their faith. Public school teachers shouldn’t be forced to pretend as if they aren’t Christians at their workplace. Unfortunately, more and more Christians are finding themselves in the crosshairs of school officials who are armed with a dangerous misinterpretation of the First Amendment and ignorance of the true meaning of “separation of church and state.”

The founding fathers who framed the U.S. Constitution believed that our nation’s schools should teach the Bible and Christian morality. Prayer and Bible classes were once common in public schools. Yet our school system, aided by the Supreme Court, has strayed from this founding conviction.

We’ve not only forgotten the central importance of teaching the Bible and Christian morality to the next generation so that they may faithfully fulfill their obligations as free citizens, but we’ve also begun targeting Christians within the public school system.

Fortunately, Richardson is no longer at risk of losing her job for showing Christian love and care to her coworkers, a privilege many other Christians in public schools currently lack.


This article was originally written for the Indiana Family Institute.


 

Do Our Rights Come From Government or From God?

Chuck Todd, MSNBC commentator and host of NBC’s Meet the Press, was seriously uneasy after Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore won the Republican primary last week.

Chuck.jpgAfter disparaging the senatorial candidate’s religious beliefs (“The phrase Christian conservative doesn’t even begin to describe [Moore],” Todd said disdainfully), the NBC pundit questioned how well Moore understands the Constitution.

Roy Moore, who has previously served as the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, often says our rights come from God, not government. Chuck Todd calls Moore’s view “very fundamentalist.” According to Todd, those who believe our rights are God-given don’t “believe in the Constitution as written.”

In accusing Roy Moore of infidelity to the Constitution, Chuck Todd demonstrates his own ignorance of the American founding.

The founding fathers understood that our rights come from God. As the Declaration of Independence proclaims, all people are created equal, “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”

The constitutional framers recognized this important truth: if our rights are given to us by government, then government can take those rights away. In the words of John Adams, it’s because our rights are “derived from the great Legislator of the Universe” that they “cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws.”

Like too many today, Chuck Todd believes government can give, change, and take away the rights of the people, depending on the whims of the majority and the ambitions of those in government. Their philosophy asserts that some rights, like the freedom of speech and religious liberty that protect the right of bakers and photographers to decline participation in same-sex wedding ceremonies, are antiquated. On the other hand, the “right” to marry a person of the same sex, which was never given by God, can be declared into existence by a Supreme Court decision.

But our founding fathers knew the truth—our rights do indeed come from our Creator, and no government can take those rights away.


This article was originally written for the Indiana Family Institute.


 

Is abortion constitutional? Let’s ask the founders

Supreme_CourtIs abortion constitutional? The Supreme Court concluded in Roe v. Wade (1973) that an expectant mother has a “fundamental right to abortion.” According to Supreme Court logic,  this right to abortion is protected under the penumbral right of privacy supposedly guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.

To see whether the Roe decision is an accurate interpretation of constitutional rights, it is important to understand the intentions of the authors of the Constitution. Did they advocate legal abortion protected by the Constitution?

One of the most authoritative sources for learning law during the founding era was William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England. Blackstone, a distinguished English jurist, was so well-liked by the founding fathers that he was the second most frequently cited thinker in the American political writings of the founding era. American law students studied his work so religiously that Thomas Jefferson wrote to a friend that “Blackstone is to us what the Koran is to the Muslims.”

Blackstone affirmed in his Commentaries that an individual’s right to life is an “immediate gift of God.” This right to life is legally binding “as soon as an infant is able to stir in the mother’s womb.” Per Blackstone,

“For if a woman is quick with child, and by a potion, or otherwise kills it in her womb; or if any one beat her, whereby the child dies in her body, and she is delivered of a dead child; this, though not murder, was by the ancient law homicide or manslaughter. But at present it is not looked upon in quite so atrocious a light, though it remains a very heinous misdemeanor.”

Interestingly, Blackstone also explains that fetuses “in the mother’s womb” are legally considered “to be born.” Thus, the law considered a fetus to be his or her own person, independent of the mother.

From these commentaries, the founding fathers learned that any abortion perpetrated after the stirring of an infant in the mother’s womb was a “heinous misdemeanor.”

American courts upheld this traditional common law approach in characterizing abortion as a misdemeanor. Founding father James Wilson, a signatory of the Declaration of Independence and original U.S. Supreme Court justice, taught his law students that,

“With consistency, beautiful and undeviating, human life, from its commencement to its close, is protected by the common law. In the contemplation of law, life begins when the infant is first able to stir in the womb. By the law, life is protected not only from immediate destruction, but from every degree of actual violence, and, in some cases, from every degree of danger.”

Similarly, St. George Tucker, a Madison judicial appointee and professor of law at the College of William and Mary, explained in his celebrated legal treatise on American law that it is  “a great misprision [misdemeanor]” to “kill a child in its mother’s womb.”

Laws in American states criminalized abortion from the beginning. For example, Virginia law outlawed the practice of using “potion” to “unlawfully destroy the child within her [womb].” These laws were crafted by many of the same individuals who framed the Constitution.

It is therefore inconceivable that the framers intended constitutional protections for abortion as a “fundamental right.” Indeed, the framers believed the opposite. From their perspective, the unborn child has a fundamental right to life, a right that would be infringed by an abortion that ends his or her life.

A “fundamental right to abortion” does not exist in the Constitution or its amendments. It is the height of intellectual dishonesty to argue that the authors of the Constitution and its amendments intended to protect abortion under some vague and unwritten “right to privacy.” That so many courts and judges have for so long upheld a legal doctrine antagonistic to the Constitution reveals the rogue nature of the modern judiciary.


This article was written for the Family Policy Institute of Washington.