Either We Defend Religious Freedom Now Or Mourn For It Later

By: Tia Johnson 0 Comments   3/27/2012

"Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed,"

said Martin Luther King, Jr.

King's quote encapsulates the truth that freedom-- including religious freedom-- requires sweat and perseverance to take root. Freedom is certainly not free.

We would be arrogant to think, then, that freedom could survive on its own after being reached at such a high cost. On the contrary-- once established, freedom can be taken in a flash flood or will more slowly erode with the gradual waves of opposition if not seriously defended and protected. Just as freedom requires sweat and sacrifice to become established, it requires the same to be maintained.

The United States has a brave history of fighting for and achieving freedom. It has historically been a beacon representing religious freedom to the world. Even others have taken notice of this.

The Economist is a popular secular magazine on world news. In a recent article, they describe America as a promoter of "the freedom to profess any religion or none" and said that other "more secular" Western countries should do more to defend that right. "...the West should not back down. Otherwise believers, whether Christian or not, remain in peril," wrote The Economist.

But will the U.S.A. continue to play its role defending religious freedom? That depends on its citizens.

Christians in the U.S.A. must make it a priority to fight for the continuance of religious freedom. When our country's laws were set in place, perhaps the highest priority on the minds of those first politicians was freedom of religion. It was, after all, the first amendment to the Constitution, which says,

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

The religious aspect was mentioned first in this amendment and historically stressed the importance of government not mandating a national religion. Through the centuries, though, courts began interpreting this clause as meaning that government shall not prefer one religion over another, as illustrated in this 1994 case found at Wikipedia.com: "Justice David Souter, writing for the majority, concluded that 'government should not prefer one religion to another, or religion to irreligion.'" 

"Prefer"-ing a religion is loosely defined and has placed Christianity, namely, on the chopping block. This idea is stretched by some to promote the removal of religious statements from pieces of government history, like monuments with scriptural ideas, or plaques of the Ten Commandments.

However, this battle over the removal of religious material threads deeper-- it's a battle over the removal of history. Religion, particularly the Christian faith, was part of our nation's history. That's a fact, and the pursuit to cleanse our government buildings and monuments of religious material is not only erroneous, it's absolutely ridiculous.

No Law Respecting An Establishment Of Religion

A nation in which "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" is a nation which does not mandate a religion upon its people. This religious freedom is written into our Constitution adjacent to freedom of speech and the right to assemble. We are free to choose which god we will serve, which opinions we voice, and who we gather with. These rights are imperative.

In my opinion, religious freedom needs to be our highest priority when lobbying for government affairs. As we continue to watch news reports on the decisions made in Washington, D.C., pay special attention to those battles challenging freedom of religion. Do your part to protect this precious right.

Resources are available that make it easy for us to do this. American Family Association-- http://www.afa.net/-- posts regular governmental happenings of interest to Christians. Recently, they posted an alert that the Air Force decided to remove a latin reference to God from its logo after an atheist group complained. AFA also makes it easy to get involved. You can search for legislation in your area by zip code and email your legislators directly from their website.

CitizenLink, a Focus on the Family affiliate, operates comparably. At www.citizenlink.com, a recent story summarized the case of a child who was disallowed to have a Bible study during recess at his school. Other groups, like the Alliance Defense Fund - www.alliancedefensefund.org - sits in the trenches and fight religious freedom cases in the courts.

Recently, they posted the victory that a court order protects New York City churches from being kicked out of public schools where they hold Sunday services. (Previously, the city had mandated that churches could no longer rent space in their public schools.)

While we must defend our religious freedom, I hope our government never mandates the Christian faith (or any other faith) over its people. That would be just as disastrous as China's position to abolish all "unapproved" practices of faith! Pure religious freedom provides the environment necessary for authentic devotion to Jesus Christ. After all, faith that is mandated is no faith at all.

As former president Thomas Jefferson said, "Almighty God hath created the mind free; all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments of burdens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in His almighty power to do."

His grace is enough to compel us to worship Him. May that natural desire never be puffed out by an authority figure mandating that we believe. And for those under religious persecution from their government, thank God for the freedom Jesus provides in our hearts when we are forgiven of our sins.

This freedom cost the blood of one life and lasts for eternity. Nobody can take that away.  


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