Laying Siege to Religious Freedom

The November election is more than just a presidential election. It is a vote for or against our Republic, a vote for or against our Constitution and the Bill of Rights. 

“Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote…that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which is is accountable to God and this country.” Samuel Adams

A nation truly committed to religious freedom would, in a time of national crisis, welcome the essentiality of religion’s exercise, not ban it.

Historically, America has been singular in its dedication to preserving the freedom of its people to expect and experience religious freedom.  But that is changing.  The number of violent attacks on churches and church gatherings witnessed in recent months is unsettling. Protesters and rioters across the country have decapitated statues of Jesus, desecrated images of the Virgin Mary and vandalized monuments to a Jesuit priest. Churches across the nation have been set ablaze as “symbols of oppression.” Fire, chain and boot are the tool and trade of a culture laying siege to religious freedom.

Using COVID-19 as an excuse, elected officials have threatened to permanently shut down synagogues, banned drive-in church services and forbidden singing or chanting in religious services, while decreeing that massive protests with shouting and singing are allowed.  Add to these the toxic comments of leading newspapers recklessly blaming churches for the spread of COVID-19.

For the first 110 years of the American Republic, the U.S. Supreme Court decided only three questions concerning religious liberty. Put another way, for the first almost 100 years of our Republic, there were zero cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court concerning the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, and 110 years passed before the high court heard a case on the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause—and then not another case on either clause for another 41 years after that.

Since 1940, litigation on religious liberty has exploded  with more than 70 cases regarding  school prayer, legislative prayer, release time education, religious land use, distribution of religious literature, conscientious objection, wearing religious head coverings in military service, the Pledge of Allegiance, religious beard length and so forth.   Just look at what is now being litigated across the nation’s lower courts. 

A coach loses his job for taking a knee in silent prayer after a high school football game.  A multi-ethnic church in Nebraska is being denied the right to build a Gospel Ministries on a dilapidated town square.   An Orthodox Jewish synagogues in California has faced 10 lawsuits from animal rights activists in just 5 years over religious tradition dating back to the 7th century.   The Little Sisters of the Poor have been embroiled in litigation to protect their fundamental rights of conscience since 2013.  And that is just the tip of iceberg.

Take the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Not only has the once-wildly popular statute, which almost passed unanimously through Congress, now become the central target of one political party’s sworn opposition, but in 2014, just five of the nine justices of the Supreme Court agreed that its protection extends to religious freedom in the marketplace.  That it was just one vote away from defeat reveals the progress of the siege against religious freedom. 

We have, in our recent “pandemic,”  lived through what many on the legal, political and cultural Left envision as religious freedom, but often downgrade to “the right to worship”: stay in your homes, worship in a virtual environment and don’t let your religion outside and certainly not into your workplace, lest you infect the rest of us. That has rightly chafed many Americans. They understand that religious freedom is something more: that one’s duty to the Divine is not something granted by government and, therefore, not something permissibly taken by it, either.

Rather, it is a freedom attached to our humanity. It is a right meant not merely to permit religious worship, but for it to be exercised. It is a liberty not only to hold one’s convictions and conscience, but to speak about them publicly and to live them out freely. It is a sacred human benefit to be fought for and protected by neighbor, elected official and jurist alike.

Religious freedom is not the default experience for human history. It will not protect itself against the siege laid at its gates. That duty falls to you and me.

On November 3rd, we will be voting for more than a person or personality or party.  This is about principles that have been proven to work and are the primary reason our nation has been blessed beyond any other nation in history.  We will be voting on sustaining the freedoms guaranteed under our Constitution.   

Our vote represents more than a political preference. It is a declaration before God that our faith informs our politics; that we wish to see the statutes that rule this land flow from the principles of His kingdom.

 “If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher.  As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”  Abraham Lincoln

Source:   Religious Freedom Is Under Attack Like Never Before, by Kelly Shackelford, Newsweek; Why Christians Must Stand United When They Vote by Jason Yates, Charisma News

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