Religious Freedom Is A Human Right

By: Tia Johnson 0 Comments   3/29/2014

As I write this story, Christians everywhere are waiting on a ruling from the Supreme Court regarding Obamacare and religious freedom. Decades ago our citizens would have been shocked that such a controversy of religious freedom could even exist.

It's just one piece of evidence of the increased criticism toward this inalienable, human right.

Religious freedom is more than the ability to congregate or call yourself "Christian." Religious freedom includes the ability to think, reason and believe without coercion from the government or elsewhere.

This freedom to use our minds and practice and vocalize what we think and believe is precious. It's the cornerstone of all healthy societies. But in our country it's been threatened.

It is imperative that we fight for and educate others on the importance of religious freedom for all religions and for the non-religious. As Roger Williams said in "The Bloudy Tenent" (1649): "It is the will and command of God that… a permission of the most paganish, Jewish, Turkish, or anti-Christian consciences and worships, be granted to all men in all countries: and that they are only to be fought against with that sword which is only (in soul matters) able to conquer, to wit, the sword of God's spirit, the Word of God."

This quote was included in Os Guinness' book "The Global Public Square," a book I found advertised in a mailing from Ravi Zacharias.

Guinness clearly points out from Williams' quote that the qualms we have with other religions are best fought with the word of God. It truly is our Christian duty to fight for religious freedom for all, for just as God did not force us to believe in Him, so we should not force others to do so. As I stated before, religious freedom is more than just going to church-- it's the freedom to think, believe, and to change beliefs. "After all," Guinness wrote, "to be human is to search for truth, and we all have both a need and a right to be able to [willingly] change our minds and our beliefs..." (bracketed word added)

Religious freedom is a human right. Guinness delineates between inalienable, human rights and civil rights. Inalienable, human rights are granted to everybody at birth. We were all given the right to think and reason. Yet what we see in our culture is an undermining of human rights so that certain civil rights, like contracts for marriage, can be elevated. "A human right should never be outweighed by a civil right," Guinness wrote. "We are humans before we are citizens, and we are humans even when our citizenship is denied."

Yet what we've seen is not only a reduction of the value of human rights. We've also seen such rights used in a "power play" between special interest groups. "As with free speech, the issue is not whether any belief is worthy and appropriate… but who is to decide," Guinness wrote. See, when our freedoms are reduced and stepped on in a game of power by special interest groups, they are no longer held as inalienable, human rights. When we reach the point where somebody else is deciding what is appropriate to believe or not believe, anarchy is not far behind.

We've seen religion attacked at several levels in our country, but more widespread, especially among young people, is a disdain for religion. Do hindrances to religious freedom have to follow this feeling of disdain in a nation? Historically, it has. We have legislators in place- especially young legislators- who no longer see the freedom of religion and thought as an inalienable right to every human being. At least, it's not treated as such. But, according to Guinness, these "liberal" legislators are really quite illiberal. "Truly liberal societies are those that can accommodate differences and disagreements without resorting to coercion through law," Guinness wrote.

"Again and again, America now gives the impression that its freedoms are in countless, small retreats-- surrendering here in the name of national security, there in the name of health regulations, elsewhere in the name of protective safety, and often in the name of the new technologies and their ever-encroaching advance," he wrote.

Yet I am encouraged by a case in the Wisconsin Supreme Court in the 1970s-- a case that is still used to argue law today-- where an Amish family (named Yoder) was defending the right to educate their children apart from the public school. In this case, an interesting definition of "religion" was made. According to Wikipedia and another source, the court said that in order for "religion" to be recognized in that case, it had to carry this quality: a deep conviction or belief that obviously impacted your way of life (my paraphrase). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wisconsin_v._Yoder#The_court.27s_decision

This leads us all to ask, "Do my beliefs alter my way of life? Do I live differently from the rest of the world?" The Wisconsin Supreme Court decided that yes, the Amish family's religious beliefs held deep convictions that guided their daily living, and for that and other reasons the Yoder family won the case. The court literally recognized that they lived their faith. When I heard this, I wondered, would they say the same of me? If I followed my religious convictions according to Scripture, my life would be very different from the rest of this nation. Am I?

I hope that the United States Supreme Court will recognize the importance of defending the ability to practice religious beliefs for Hobby Lobby and other businesses. I hope that more Americans will recognize and protect this precious freedom of religion and thought. And I hope that we Christians would exercise that right with gusto-- that our lives would reflect the deep convictions we espouse.

Romans 12:1-2: Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. 

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