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.


 

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.