No Liberty Without Religious Liberty

Posted: April 30, 2010 in Category - Religious Issues, No Liberty Without Religious Liberty

There Is No Liberty without Religious Liberty

With Rick Tyler, Founding Director of Renewing American Leadership

http://www.RenewingAmericanLeadership.com

“The God who gave us life gave us liberty.” THOMAS JEFFERSON, 1774,

A SUMMARY VIEW OF THE RIGHTS OF BRITISH AMERICA

The revolutionary idea contained in the Declaration of Independence is that certain fundamental human rights can neither be accorded nor taken away by government. They are gifts fromGod, whichmakes those rights “unalienable.” Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are listed in that order, for without life there can be no liberty, and without liberty there can be no pursuit of happiness. This central idea was the foundation upon which a free people determined to govern themselves.

The forerunner of the Declaration was signed over a century and a half earlier in 1620. The forty-one families who signed the MayflowerCompact knewtheir very survival would depend on their ability to rely upon each other and uponGod. Plymouth,Massachusetts, being their “accidental” landing place, theywere in uncharted territory. Beginningwith the words, “In the name ofGod. Amen,” the extraordinary Compact created the terms of self-government that bound one to another and each toGod.Unlike theMagnaCarta, the Compact was not a contract between a king and a servant or a superior and a subordinate. It reflected the radical notion that by binding themselves together as equals before God, they could govern themselves without a king. It was a covenant. Covenantal language was found in dozens of organizing documents in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century colonial America. The fifty-six signers of the Declaration similarly pledged themselves to each other and each toGod. They placed their pens to the parchment  with full knowledge that a massive British armada was assembling on behalf of the most powerful empire in the world in order to crush the rebellion. We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Later, in Philadelphia during the Constitutional Convention in 1787, some of the delegates worried that, as drafted, the Constitution would not adequately protect the rights of individuals. To address these concerns, James Madison drafted amendments that Congress sent to the states for ratification, eventually forming our Bill of Rights. These ten amendments offered the protections necessary to secure individual liberty. Together they guard the individual from infringements the Founders recognized would inevitably result from instituting a strong central government. These amendments reflect the Founders’ understanding of the inherent dignity and value of each individual. Every person has certain rights because those rights ultimately come from God. The First Amendment begins, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” With this right, the Founders prohibited the establishment of any church at the national level while protecting the individual’s free exercise of religion. The First Amendment was not written because the Founders were anti-religious, but precisely because they favored religion. Today, the foundations for religious freedom are being eroded. The secular-socialist Left have twisted the meaning of the First Amendment to fit a post-modern world they helped create. People of faith have been systematically marginalized by a two part secular campaign waged by the cultural elite. First, there has been a sustained effort to change the culture by spreading propaganda through the schools and through the media, where the values of the secular-socialist Left are advanced while historic American values of God-given rights are silenced and mocked. The second part of the campaign is to give secular values the authority of law through the courts, state houses, and the Congress, while removing There IsNo Liberty without Religious Liberty the individual’s right to, as Jefferson put it, “profess and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion.” As a result, public expressions of faith have gone from normal to unacceptable. The abuses are well documented. Year after year, the courts are filled with hundreds of cases based upon the anti-religious misconceptions of the First Amendment created by the secular socialist Left and often reinforced by judges. The reason secular socialists adhere to an agenda that includes tearing down crosses, arresting people for talking about their faith in shopping malls, redefining marriage, prohibiting crèches and menorahs on public property, preventing students fromreading the Bible, and removing God from the public square, is really quite simple: the religious worldview is the single most serious threat to the secular Left’s utopian vision. This vision relies upon a powerful, centralized, bureaucratic government that must be the highest authority in the land to ensure compliance. Dissent is not tolerated. Adherence is essential. Every aspect of the lives of citizens must be controlled by the authority of state law, including personal belief. America, however, was founded on Judeo-Christian principles with a limited national government that upheld the individual’s rights of conscience. Therefore, it is necessary for the secular Left to keep citizens ignorant about their history, their heritage, the Judeo-Christian roots of American culture, and even their Creator if they are to impose their secular-socialist agenda on this nation. Protecting religious liberty is the foundation stone for protecting all liberty. The liberty of every American, whether religious or not, is at risk if even one American’s religious liberty is abridged. There is a profound reason our religious liberties are delineated in the first sentence of the First Amendment. In the twentieth century, hundreds of millions of people were killed by the totalitarian ideologies of Marxism, Nazism, and Fascism, each of which required the use of a powerful, centralized state authority to control every aspect of the citizens’ lives. Those who resisted were eliminated, often by imprisonment or death. Religion was enemy number one and the first to go. The regimes tore down crosses, destroyed churches, hounded and coerced church officials, crushed free worship, and replaced religious texts with nationalist propaganda in schools. The enemy of dictatorship was God. There are many parallels between the anti-religious governments of the twentieth century and the anti-religious elite of the United States in the twenty-first. But our country wasn’t always ruled by secular absolutists. Before the United States entered World War II, President Roosevelt, the most successful liberal Democrat in the twentieth century, invoked the imagery of religious battle to describe who we were and who the enemy was: “Today the whole world is divided between human slavery and human freedom—between pagan brutality and the Christian ideal. We choose human freedom—which is the Christian ideal.” In less than a generation, the cultural elites have created a national amnesia about both our history and our Godly heritage. Today, the Founders’ original intent is all but lost in a post-modern world patrolled by the totalitarian impulses of self-appointed enforcers of political correctness.

Eleven score and fourteen years from the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Lincoln’s injunction at Gettysburg remains as relevant as when he uttered it: “That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government: of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

SOLUTIONS TO PROTECT RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

Ensuring religious liberty is a sacred tenet of America’s foundational principles. Below is a list of immediate steps to protect There IsNo Liberty without Religious Liberty people of faith from further government encroachment on their liberties.

Restoring Our Crucial System of Constitutional

Checks and Balances

We must restore constitutional limited government by reviving our system of checks and balances. Failure to invoke constitutional checks and balances has allowed the Judicial Branch to legislate from the bench, imposing its judgments on the elected branches of government.

This is the main reason why religious liberty is under such sustained assault today. Here’s what we need to do:

• Congress must exercise its constitutional responsibilities to check the abuses of the Judicial Branch by restricting the jurisdiction of the courts where necessary and even by following President Jefferson’s precedent of abolishing or threatening to abolish defiant courts, as per the Judicial Reform Act of 1802.
• The president and his attorney general must exercise their constitutional responsibilities by only nominating judicial candidates who are committed to upholding the original intent of the Founders of our nation and to overturning the malignant decisions of previous judges that have violated those principles.

• The Senate must exercise its responsibility to assure that the only judges or justices that it confirms are committed to upholding the Founders’ original intent.

• Citizens must ensure that candidates for the U.S. Senate commit to carrying out these policies once they are elected. And they must hold those who violate their pledge accountable and defeat them.

• Citizens must also ensure they elect candidates at the state and local level who are committed to resisting the preemption of their proper, constitutional roles and functions by the federal government. Freedom of Speech and the Right to Assemble . The liberties of both religious expression and speech in general are guaranteed by the First Amendment.We must preserve these foundations of our republic by educating Americans about their true meaning and relevance so they can defend their own rights. Therefore, the following measures should be pursued:

• Repeal so-called “hate speech” legislation. Allowing the courts to broadly determine what they consider “hate speech” is profoundly dangerous to a free people. Congress has no constitutional authority to regulate thought. Speech is already protected, and criminal activities are already legally defined, as are their punishments. Religious leaders who speak either from the pulpits and or by electronic medium are particularly vulnerable to state punishment for alleged violations of hate speech, even if that speech reflects their religious teachings.While religious leaders are most at risk, we cannot seek a free speech dispensation for one class of people. Therefore, all Americans must be protected from this arbitrary abridgment of their rights.
• Protect personal religious expression. The individual has an inherent right to express her faith either in speech, religious displays, or on her person. The Founders clearly believed in freedom of religion, not freedom against religion. Congress and the state legislatures There IsNo Liberty without Religious Liberty should ensure that an individual’s rights to take a Bible to work, have a religious bumper sticker on her vehicle, talk about her faith, or wear clothing or jewelry that contains religious symbols or expressions are not infringed.
• Bar public universities that enforce campus speech codes from using taxpayer funding. The forerunner to recently  passed “hate speech” legislation can be found in many of today’s publicly funded universities. College campuses historically have been the incubator of ideas and the strongholds of free expression. Today, those same schools that once promoted freedom have instituted intolerant rules and reporting systems designed to silence speech deemed politically incorrect.

• Ensure equal access to public facilities. People of faith and their organizations have as much right to assemble as any other group. Therefore, religious organizations should have equal access to public facilities. Invoking the First Amendment’s establishment clause as an excuse for denying access should not be tolerated. The use of a public facility by a religious group no more constitutes an establishment of religion than the same use by the local garden club or any other non-religious organization.

• Keep the so-called Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) from becoming law. People of faith have the right to organize and seek like-minded people to fulfill their ministries. Religious organizations must be able to freely choose their members, employees, and leadership while remaining immune from state-imposed membership or employment quotas. It violates the Constitution’s guarantee of free exercise of religion to require that a person who does not hold the beliefs of the religious group be considered formembership,  leadership, or employment. Faith organizations must not be a government ideological quota.

• Congress and the state legislatures must protect the right of citizens and clergy in civil settings to pray according to their own religious traditions. Limited Government Because government power expands at the direct expense of individual freedom, the best way to protect liberty, particularly religious liberty, is to limit the size and scope of governments at all levels. To do that, we should:

• Pass a balanced budget amendment. Passing on our massive federal debt to the next generation is immoral. The best way to stop the politicians from bankrupting our country and limiting freedom is to pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

• Help the poor by expanding opportunity. Americans, who are far and away the most generous people in the world, have always been committed to helping those in need, but we must recognize that the government is not the best vehicle to render this assistance. Historically, the churches and other organizations Tocqueville called “intermediating institutions” most effectively helped the poor because they ministered to more than their earthly needs.We need to relearn that model for helping those in need and unlearn our dependence on the welfare state. The Founders were clear on the right to pursue happiness, which speaks to self-reliance. Therefore, the government should foster the condition. There Is No Liberty without Religious Liberty where the self-reliant have the best opportunity to prosper.

Healthcare

President Obama and Congress have put us on the road to nationalized healthcare. State-run healthcare services are typically intolerant of religious objections by medical workers to certain procedures. If national healthcare can’t be undone, we must ensure the system maintains freedom of religious conscience. To protect the doctor-patient relationship and put personal or religious conscience over the policies of the state, we should:
• Protect healthcare workers’ right to conscience. People of faith have as much right to pursue careers in the healing arts as anyone. If conscience dictates, healthcare workers
should not be required to either participate in or refer procedures such as abortion.

• Put individuals ahead of “society.” “First do no harm” is the physician’s covenant to his patients. We must oppose the state’s inclination to put the physician’s obligation to “society” before his obligation to individual patients.
Education

The myth that the establishment clause requires government to purge religion from public life is omnipresent in our public schools, contrary to the express intention of the Founders. To protect religious liberty in education we should adhere to the following:
• Since it is the prerogative and the responsibility of parents to choose the instruction that is best for their child, we must preserve the homeschooling option.

• Home schooled children and their families should not be denied participation in extra-curricular, school related activities that their tax dollars help fund.

• No individual should be denied equal access to government employment or education based on the accreditation status of his credits, diploma, or degree. This is a situation often faced by home school and Christian-school students.

• School districts should be allowed to offer optional religious instruction including Bible study. Providing this option in noway constitutes an establishment of religion.

• Parents should be free to choose the school of their choice, including religious schools. They should be given an education credit coupon (a Pell Grant for K–12) allowing them more options to choose a school that best fits their own values, not those imposed by the state.

• Parents must have the right to choose which value instruction their child receives and therefore must be able to opt out without qualification.

• Teachers should not be discouraged from or punished for using historical examples that involve religion in their classroom. Nor should they be discouraged from answering questions about religion or discussing it objectively in the classroom.

• Teachers and education workers should have the same protections of religious expression as any other citizen in a free society.

• Students should be allowed to study, on their own time, religious texts or engage in religious expression at school without fear of punishment or ridicule from school officials. There Is No Liberty without Religious Liberty

• Art, drama, and music classes should not exclude religious themes.

• U.S. history classes should study the influences of religion on the Founders and other historical figures.They should specifically study and explain the religious themes and foundations contained in our historical documents, including the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, and the Northwest Ordinance.

• Religious texts, including Bibles and scriptures, should not be banned in public schools.

• Federal regulation of local faith-based residential childcare facilities should be repealed and these responsibilities returned to the states where the Founders intentionally left them.

GOD IN THE PUBLIC SQUARE

In a single generation, religious expression in the public square has become abnormal. This cultural shift is no accident. The secular Left, first through the media and the schools, then through the courts and now the legislative bodies, have effectively denied people the right of corporate and individual religious expression in public. The followingmeasures will help counter the secular assault on public expression of faith:

• Remove the financial incentive for secular groups like the ACLUto sue towns, counties, and states over establishment clause issues by eliminating the financial damages that can be rewarded in these cases.

• Congress should remove the jurisdiction of any court review of our nation’smotto “InGodWe Trust” and the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.

• Congress and the state legislatures should pass laws stating that the display of crosses, crèches, and menorahs do not constitute the establishment of a religion by the state.

• Congress and the states should clarify that government employees have the same rights to express religious opinions as people who are expressing secular opinions. Moreover, they should be protected from harassment for wearing jewelry or other clothing that displays symbols of their faith.

RIGHT TO LIFE

Few areas of public policy stir passion like the life issue does. Listed first of the three unalienable rights of the Declaration, the Founders clearly intended the federal government’s chief priority to be protecting life. People of faith have brought the issue of life—not limited to abortion—to the forefront time and again. At aminimum, we must acknowledge that life is a precious gift from God. Americans, more than most other nations, place life in high cultural regard. Anytime a child is lost, a hiker is stuck on a mountain, or people are in harm’s way, we move mountain and earth to save life. Valuing life from beginning to end is central to a healthy culture. To uphold life we should:

• Ensure that taxpayer dollars are never used for funding elective abortions, which are cases that don’t involve rape or incest or where it is necessary to save the life of the mother. • Defund the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which is using U.S. taxpayer dollars to help enforce China’s mandatory one-child policy that compels, There Is No Liberty without Religious Liberty sometimes through force, millions of women to undergo abortions.

• Reinstate the “Mexico City Policy,” which banned funding to organizations that promote and/or perform abortion overseas. President Obama rescinded it shortly after his  inauguration.• Protect the frail, the infirm, and the elderly from the state’s arbitrary decision to terminate life.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

• Pray—for our nation and its leaders, thatGod will continue to pour out his blessings on America.
• Register to vote.
• Learn about the issues, especially those that threaten religious liberty.
• Learn the religious liberty positions and records of elected officials and candidates for office.
• Vote in every election.No candidate will agree with you on every issue, every time, but vote for the candidates who most closely represent your views.
• Use your influence to educate and persuade others about the importance of being informed and voting.
• If you know someone who has leadership ability and understands the importance of protecting religious liberty, encourage them to run for office.
• If you have leadership ability and want to fight to protect freedom, consider running for office yourself.
• If you are concerned that a measure in Congress, your state house, or county or town board will adversely impact religious freedom, tell your elected representatives how you want them to vote.
• When you see or experience an encroachment on religious freedom, write a letter to the editor or an opinion  article for your local paper, or call talk radio. If you don’t speak up, maybe no one will. But if you do, you can frame the debate and help get good legislation passed and bad legislation defeated.
• Organize a voter registration drive at your church.
WHAT CHURCHES CAN DO

In 1954, when then-Senator Lyndon Johnson wanted to silence opposition from some non-profit groups, he attached an amendment to a bill that prohibited non-profits from engaging in political activities. The bill passed. Since then, the secularists have used that law to convince churches and their leaders that they cannot be involved in politics. So for over four decades, many churches have been silent and uninvolved. Before 1954, Christian clergy and other religious leaders were a dominant influence upon the culture, the issues, and political campaigns. It was the pastors in colonial times who were speaking about rights coming fromGod, long before Jefferson used that concept in the Declaration of  Independence. It was the sermons preached by George Whitefield, an English evangelist who made seven tours in the colonies during the first Great Awakening, that helped spark a rebellion that led to the American Revolution. It was pastors that founded the great learning institutions of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, William and Mary, and others for one specific reason: they understood the importance of an educated and moral citizenry to the survival of a free society. And after America There IsNo Liberty without Religious Liberty became a country, abolitionism was a religiously inspired movement led from the pulpit. Pastors formost of America’s history were the thought and opinion leaders of the nation. But today, too many have confined themselves and their cultural influence within the walls of their churches. That must end. There are three centers of influence in America today—economic, political, and spiritual.Wall Street will not restore America’s foundations. Politicians mostly reflect the culture that keeps them in office. That leaves pastors, priests, and rabbis as the last best hope for renewing freedom. But where do churches start? What can they do? What should they do and not do? All good questions. Here are some answers. Churches are uniquely deemed non-profit by definition. Every election year, the secular advocacy group People United for the Separation of Church and State sends letters to pastors warning them their not-for-profit status could be revoked if they talk about political issues or get involved in elections. But that letter is pure intimidation that stands on thin legal precedent. No church in America has ever lost its non-profit status. Not one. There are many ways churches and pastors can address the issues of our day. The idea is not to make churches and their leaders into political operations. That is not the purpose of a church. But if churches don’t provide moral leadership to the citizens in their pews and apply their teachings to today’s issues, they are doing a major disservice to their congregations and their communities. There is a lot of ground to make up if we are to reverse our cultural decay. Here are some basic, fully legal forms of church engagement:
• Churches can conduct voter registration drives to make sure every congregant is registered to vote. Better yet, have all the members stand and ask those who are registeredto sit down, leaving those unregistered standing. Have ushers pass out voter registration cards and pens and ask them to fill them out right then and there. The ushers should then collect them and get them to the registrar of voters.
• Talk about issues from the pulpit.Don’t wait until election time, when your congregation may get uncomfortable hearing the pastor address contemporary issues for the first time. Get them used to hearing about how Biblical principals apply to today’s issues. There are organizations that provide sermon resources on how to do this correctly, such as United in Purpose (www.unitedinpurpose.org) and the Pastors Rapid Response Team.
• At election time, talk about the importance of voting. American history is full of wonderful stories showing how people of faith created this great nation. You can use these stories to encourage your members to vote.
• Make voter guides available explaining issues that affect your church and where the candidates stand on those issues. Many faith organizations like Wallbuilders (www.wallbuilders.com) produce them.
• Invite guest speakers who have expertise in America’s Godly heritage to address your congregation. If every church and synagogue did these things, it would be very difficult for the secular Left to get their candidates elected. The secular socialists know this. That’s why they work so hard to intimidate churches from getting involved. But does it really make sense for  people of faith not to be involved when the secularists are working overtime? There Is No Liberty without Religious Liberty. There are nearly 65 million evangelical Christians in the United States who are eligible to vote. But in some areas, nearly half are not. That’s almost 45 million Americans  who sit out some elections. If  only  10 percent of those voted in every election, the secular-socialist Left would be in dire straits. They’re terrified people of faith will wake up one day and decide never to sit out the process again. But it is up to the faith leaders to mobilize them. A couple precautions: under current law, churches cannot endorse candidates but pastors can, if done correctly. Politicians can speak to the congregation but they cannot ask people to vote for them. To find out what churches can and cannot do legally, contact either Liberty Council (www.lc.org) or the Alliance Defense Fund (www.alliancedefensefund.org). If a church is threatened, these groups can provide the legal defense, usually pro bono. The Founders who declared our independence and created a government based upon their understanding of God’s principles were committed to the idea of a federal government with limited power. Because of their success, our government today is now the oldest government on earth. The best way to ensure its continuation and to secure religious liberty is to further limit federal powers and maintain the right of redress articulated in the Declaration of Independence:
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Remember Jefferson’s great insight: “The God who gave us life gave us liberty.” Religious liberty is much too precious to allow it to be further eroded. People of faith must educate themselves, get involved, and encourage others to do the same. For too long the secularist campaign against religious freedom has gone unanswered. But to change that we need only reflect on Psalm 11:3 (NIV): “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” There is a great deal we can do. And when we do it we will not be without God’s help. Our national motto says it all: “In God we trust.”

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