That’s a pretty broad, sweeping statement, but it’s absolutely true. America was founded by Christians who recognized the danger in using the government to coerce religious beliefs. But at the same time they recognized the importance religious beliefs had in shaping any government. They firmly believed, as their writings clearly show, that the most dependable citizens were the most devout Christians, but true Christianity could only be chosen, never forced, so the only way to ensure the best government, was to provide for the best opportunity for sincere religion, thus their emphasis on religious freedom.
“It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.” — Patrick Henry
But Religious Liberty has gone through a semantics assault recently, as many insist the true Religious Freedom means the freedom from religion. Nothing could be further from the truth, and the actions of those same people have demonstrated their opposition to the very concept of Liberty itself.
“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” — John Adams
A student in Citrus Heights, California was suspended from school for wearing a t-shirt that said “Don’t touch God’s rainbow.” The student found the use of the rainbow to represent homosexuality, offensive, and wished to express that view. But the school decided that the offense of other students at that particular student’s viewpoint outweighed the concept of freedom of speech, freedom of religion and overall fairness. The idea that certain religious ideas can and should be censored because someone might find them offensive is directly contrary to both clauses of the First Amendment, but most importantly against the Freedom of Religion clause. The idea that one must exercise a bit of open-mindedness when it comes to the tolerance for the religious beliefs of others have been soundly rejected by those who push the “Freedom from Religion” mantra. In essence, they wish to turn Freedom of Religion into the exact opposed, and silence religious speech, expression and practices.
“God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just that His justice cannot sleep forever.” — Thomas Jefferson
Nothing can be as contentious as religion. If a society can live with people practicing diverse faiths, peacefully, then they can overcome many other obstacles as well. Our attitude toward allowing diverse faith, practices and even the expression of those beliefs goes far in how we accept other diverse ideas. Liberty comes from the idea that others deserve what we want. When we lose focus on that concept, we lose liberties. More than any other liberty, Religious Liberties test the limits of our acceptance of the very concept of liberty. So what are we teaching our children when we tell than that religious concepts that some might find offensive should be forcefully silenced? What kind of future are we creating?
“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hears, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!” — Abraham Lincoln, from a proclamation appointing a National Fast Day, March 30, 1863
In Germany, recently, a fifteen year-old girl was forcibly removed from her family, because they wanted to homeschool her, and the government refused to allow it. The families appealed all the way to the European Union courts, but were told that the “state” had a right to prevent philosophies and ideas it felt was contrary to their own. When Religious Liberties are not cherished, oppressive laws follow quickly. America needs to avoid the oppressiveness being demonstrated by the European Union, and maintain the respect for Religious Liberties that has been one of our badges of honor.
“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of man and citizens.” — George Washington, in his Farewell Address to the United States in 1796
One of America’s greatest tools has been our economic attitude. Capitalism thrives in the US, making us the most prosperous nation on the planet. But we are seeing an alarming trend among large companies to abandon ethics in pursuit of profits. Historically what has tempered the blind pursuit of profits has been the respect for morality and ethics present in society. But our morality and ethics are derived directly from religion. When society restricts religion it removed the dampening rods on the nuclear reactor of raw Capitalism. Without those boundaries, Capitalism become an evil thing, rather than a positive tool. We, literally, cannot afford to lose Religious Liberties. Our churches, synagogues, temples and even many mosques maintain a critical balance in this societal equation.