The Exercise of Religious Freedom
- Nancey McMurtry
- April 04, 2020
We find in Genesis 1: 27 that God created man in His image and the Bible further expands upon the fact that God endowed His creation with liberty. Those facts have engendered the conclusion and concept that Man created in the image of God has dignity and equality and forms the basis for the theological and fundamental principle of human liberty; particularly the liberty to worship God and to approach religious discussion in any forum whether that forum is within or without the Church House.
A distinctive expression of this foundational fact was incorporated within the Declaration of Independence wherein one of the “Truths to be self-evident” was declared to be “that all Men are created equal and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights”. Let it be observed that every member of the Congress sitting in Philadelphia in 1776 signed the Declaration after making approximately 90 changes and adding two paragraphs to the original draft document. By affixing his signature to the document each member of Congress agreed with the expression that they were created and the Creator had given each of them rights. The direct implication here is that God the Creator, not government nor any king, had granted these rights and that it was not within government’s purview to diminish any of those rights. This Declaration is held in great esteem by most Americans, but sometimes without remembering or knowing exactly what it says with the result that the fuzzy point of remembrance is simply “freedom” without any reference for evaluating the source of freedom or freedom from what or freedom to do what.
The founders of the US believed the fundamental principle of God given rights so strongly that when time came to write and adopt a constitution for the federal government the Bill of Rights was added in 1791 to explicitly state again those liberties over which the federal government was to have no say.
Amendment I plainly states:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;………………………..”
This right was deemed so precious it was the first one listed among the other rights stated with the first Amendment. These are the unalienable rights referenced previously in the Declaration of Independence. It is important to note the exact wording of this amendment. It does not use the words “freedom of worship”, but it does strictly prohibit laws which would restrict the free exercise of religion which obviously includes worship.
Listen closely to the words of current political leaders or those who would attempt to restrict religious freedom.
When supposedly quoting the Constitution of the United States of America the words used are often “freedom of worship”. Freedom of worship by concept could limit the exercise of religion to the Church House and perhaps our homes, but exclude the exercise of religion in the public square. Does this interpretation sound familiar?
Also notice within the Constitution that the fundamental belief in God as creator is not reiterated. Why? I do not recall reading or hearing anyone else raise this issue or answer the question. Perhaps it is because so many people confuse the wording of the Declaration with the wording in the Constitution. A federal judge in Texas quite recently issued a ruling based on the supposed wording in the Constitution that “all Men are created equal”. That judge should have known better! My own explanation for the omission of the concept of God as creator from the Constitution lies within the Declaration itself. The founders considered that to be a self-evident fact which did not require repeating in another document. After all, if it is so self-evident everyone should know it. What we are fighting today is the attempt of government and others to redefine what the Constitution says and what it means. If we permit those around us to incorrectly quote the Constitution and limit our exercise of religious freedom to freedom of worship, we have failed. We have failed to grab a firm hold on our God-given unalienable right and defend it as such. We have also failed to fight for what the founders of our nation fought for and died to defend. And while this discussion has been centered around the US, the fundamental fact that God created Man in His own image and gave him unalienable rights is not geographically limited. That truth exists for every person no matter in what nation he resides.
The question is this. Are we going to exercise our religious freedom? That means outside the Church House. To me, that sounds like a daunting task as the false interpretation has become so ingrained in public thought. This question is precisely what is being debated in the US Supreme Court at the present time. Must an entity, in this case the entity is Hobby Lobby, provide something to its employees that is contrary to its religious beliefs? In other words, are the owners of Hobby Lobby free to exercise their religious beliefs? A very straightforward reading of the First Amendment to the Constitution would say “yes”. The reasoning is that Congress is prohibited from enacting a law which would restrict that freedom. Every believer in this country should be praying that the Supreme Court has the capability to both read and reason and the courage to stand against political foes.
The people of the US need to be educated as to what the Constitution actually says. My practical solution to doing this is to start small, but start. Whenever you hear an inaccurate statement of our religious freedom, correct the one speaking in a courteous manner. If it is written in an article in the newspaper, send a comment correcting the concept. If it is a discussion on the Internet, post a response. In doing so we are not only reaffirming what the Constitution says; we are reaffirming our God-given right.
God rewards a diligent effort.