The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is the constitutionally-protected right of freedom of religion. This freedom is closely linked to the idea that church and state should be separate.
We are all aware of the many assaults on freedom of religion. We know of the baker, the florist, the photographer and others who all got into trouble for not catering at same-sex weddings. Church-sponsored adoption agencies have gone out of business to avoid placing children with same-sex marriages. Christian-owned companies have been forced to pay for insurance policies that cover abortion.
David Bernstein is a professor at the George Mason University School of Law and author of Lawless: The Obama Administration’s Unprecedented Assault on the Constitution and the Rule of Law. He mentioned several of the above problems, and then wrote this statement.
“Troubling as those developments are, they pale in comparison to ultimate threat to religious liberty in the U.S., the desire by many on the secular left to deprive churches and other religious organizations of the right to choose their own clergy free from government interference.”
Bernstein claims that the Obama Administration has argued to “the Supreme Court that the Free Exercise Clause does not protect the right of religious bodies to decide who should serve as their priest, minister, or rabbi.” He continued: “Until President Obama was elected president, federal courts consistently, indeed unanimously, held the constitution’s Religion Clauses protect the right of religious organizations to choose their religious staff free from the interference of secular law.
“The right to choose religious staff became known as the `ministerial exception,’ and the only real controversy in the courts was how broadly the exception should apply.
“It obviously applied to actual clergy – ministers, priests, imams, and rabbis – but what about church organists? Sunday school teachers? Administrative staff?”
This religious freedom was challenged by a former teacher who sued for discrimination. The case is known as Hosanna-Tabor. The Obama Justice Department got involved in the case, but the Supreme Court ruled against the administration 9-0. Bernstein believes the fight for religious freedom will return to the Supreme Court one day when progressives try again to gain control of the churches.
I tried to imagine my own church – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – operating under government-approved leadership. I just cannot see it happening although I can see a government causing problems for us. Any government that tries to get involved in choosing leaders in this church will have to contend with God because He reserves this right to Himself. You see, God restored His gospel to the earth and called the boy Joseph Smith to be His prophet. Jesus Christ stands at the head of His Church, which is “built upon the foundation of apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone.” Jesus Christ makes the decisions about leaders and reveals His will to His prophets, apostles, and others.