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.


 

Freedom of Association: Does it exist or not?

Last month, fashion designer Sophie Theallet said she would refuse to dress First Lady Melania Trump and encouraged fellow designers to follow her lead.

Believing that Donald Trump’s presidential campaign unleashed “the rhetoric of racism, sexism and xenophobia,” Theallet said that her personal convictions of “diversity, individual freedom, and respect for all lifestyles” disallowed her from “dressing or associating in any way” with the first lady.

“As a family-owned company, our bottom line is not just about money. We value our artistic freedom and always humbly seek to contribute to a more humane, conscious and ethical way to create in this world,” Theallet wrote in an email to the fashion designers.

Many of those on the political left cheered Theallet’s courage in taking a bold stand against ideas she finds contemptible. After all, isn’t Theallet’s decision to discriminate against the president-elect’s wife protected under freedom of association, the constitutional right that enables her to decide for herself who she will do business with?

Maybe freedom of association only applies to those on the left?

Ironically, the same people that extolled Theallet’s choice not to dress Melania Trump have long denied that Christians share the same right exercised by the fashion designer.

Here in Washington State, Barronelle Stutzman, a septuagenarian Christian florist, is facing the wrath of the state after she refused to decorate a same-sex wedding. Like Theallet, Stutzman believed that her moral conviction demanded that she not provide a service. And like Theallet, Stutzman felt that her conviction precluded her from using her artistic talents to support or endorse something she views as morally inappropriate.

Unlike Theallet, who was celebrated by liberals everywhere, Stutzman ended up in court being sued for discrimination by the homosexual couple and Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Because the state has sued her in her personal and professional capacities, she stands to lose her home, life savings, retirement, and business.

In oral arguments presented to the Washington State Supreme Court last month, Attorney General Ferguson claimed that Christians surrender their right to act upon their religious convictions when they start businesses.

To make matters worse, Stutzman isn’t alone. Christians in other states are also being targeted for exercising their right to free association – the same right that protects Theallet’s decision not to dress the wife of a man who holds views she believes to be immoral.

According to the ACLU, “Religion is being used as an excuse to discriminate against and harm others…. The ACLU works to defend religious liberty and to ensure that no one is either discriminated against nor denied services because of someone else’s religious beliefs.”

I’d love to ask the ACLU why they believe it’s permissible for a fashion designer to discriminate against First Lady Trump because of political convictions, yet it’s unacceptable for a Christian to refrain from using her artistic expression for an event she finds morally objectionable.

Our nation’s founding fathers believed that all individuals, including business owners, were entitled to freedom of association. Businesses and customers had the right to decide whether they wanted to do business with someone else. If the other party engaged in morally objectionable behaviors, or if the other party was asking you to violate your personal convictions, then you had the right to refuse to do business with them.

Yet the political left, which has long denied that businesses and individuals possess this fundamental right in issues of sexual orientation and religious conviction, seems perfectly fine with a fashion designer not providing a professional service to the First Lady of the United States.

This intellectual dishonesty from the political left is noxious.

America needs to decide whether it will remain faithful to its historical tradition of protecting freedom of association and other conscience rights for everyone, regardless of their religious and political beliefs. If not, it needs to apply the standard consistently. There shouldn’t be a different standard for Christian florists and liberal fashion designers.


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