Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Religious Freedom

                    The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is that freedom of religion is part of the foundation upon which the Founders built their American experiment.  Religious liberty is just one of America's characteristics, but it is just as important as its political system and free market economy.

                    Jennifer Marshall at The Heritage Foundation posted an essay on December 20, 2010, entitled "Why Does Religious Freedom Matter?" "Freedom of religion is a cornerstone of the American experiment.  That is because religious faith is not merely a matter of `toleration' but is understood to be the exercise of `inherent natural rights….
                    "The model of religious liberty brilliantly designed by Madison and the other American Founders is central to the success of the American experiment.  It is essential to America's continued pursuit of the ideals stated in the Declaration of Independence, the ordered liberty embodied in the Constitution, and peace and stability around the world.
                    "The key to America's religious liberty success story is its constitutional order.  The Founders argued that virtue derived from religion is indispensable to limited government.  The Constitution therefore guaranteed religious free exercise while prohibiting the establishment of a national religion.  This Constitutional order produced a constructive relationship between religion and state that balances citizens' dual allegiances to God and earthly authorities without forcing believers to abandon (or moderate) their primary loyalty to God.
                    "This reconciling of civil and religious authorities, and the creation of a Constitutional order that gave freedom to competing religious groups, helped develop a popular spirit of self-government. 
                    "All the while, religious congregations, family, and other private associations exercise moral authority that is essential to maintaining limited government.  The American Founders frequently stated that virtue and religion are essential to maintaining limited government.  The American Founders frequently stated that virtue and religion are essential to maintaining a free society because they preserve `the moral conditions of freedom.'"

                    In thinking about and discussing religious freedom, we must be careful about how we frame our thoughts and statements.  Americans enjoy freedom of religion no matter their religion.  The United States is the only nation founded on this principle. 

                    In the NewCommon Sense - Applying First Principles to the Issues of Today blog from The Heritage Foundation, the author stated that "everyone has an ideology" or a set of "bedrock principles" as the foundation for a particular view of the world.  Liberals tend to "hide their ideology," but conservatives are not shy about sharing their "philosophy."  "We are also comfortable enough with our intellectual history that we don't shy away from arguments, invoking authorities from the Bible and Publius to Hayek and Reagan."  

The author suggested that conservatives should avoid using certain clichés.  One of the clichés the author suggested that we avoid is a statement similar to the following:  "America is a Christian Nation."  This suggestion came as a surprise to me as I am guilty of making this statement more than once.  I was very interested in the author's reasoning for our not making this statement.

"Yes, Christian morals and many biblical principles influenced the American Founders, and yes Christianity has thrived in America.  But America is not a Christian Nation in the strict sense of the term:  Christianity isn't the official religion to the exclusion of all others, nor is it the basis for membership in the political community.
                    "The better way to defend Christianity's place in the public square is by arguing for religious liberty.  The Founders all agreed that practitioners of every faith have a right to the free exercise of their religion - in their houses of worship and in the public square.  They enshrined that right in the First Amendment.  Why use an inaccurate cliché when you have the original meaning of the First Amendment on your side?"

                    In a lecture given on May 13, 2011, a Heritage lecture was presented by Mark David Hall, PhD, entitled "Did America Have aChristian Founding?" on June 7, 2011.  Hall concluded his lecture with the following: 

"So did America have a Christian Founding?  History is complicated, and we should always be suspicious of simple answers to difficult questions.  As we have seen, there is precious little evidence that the Founders were deists, wanted religion excluded from the public square, or desired the strict separation of church and state.  One the other hand, they identified themselves as Christians, were influenced in important ways by Christian ideas, and generally thought it appropriate for civic authorities to encourage Christianity.
                    "What do these facts mean for Americans who embrace non-Christian faiths or no faith at all?  Although the Founders were profoundly influenced by Christianity, they did not design a constitutional order only for fellow believers.  They explicitly prohibited religious tests for federal offices, and they were committed to the proposition that all men and women should be free to worship God (or not) as their consciences dictate….
                    "Yet it does not follow from this openness that Americans should simply forget about their country's Christian roots.  Anyone interested in an accurate account of the nation's past cannot afford to ignore the important influence of faith on many Americans, from the Puritans to the present day….
                    "The Founders believed it permissible for the national and state governments to encourage Christianity, but this may no longer be prudential in our increasingly pluralistic country.  Yet the Constitution does not mandate a secular polity, and we should be wary of jurists, politicians, and academics who would strip religion from the public square.  We should certainly reject arguments that America's Founders intended the First Amendment to prohibit neutral programs that support faith-based social service agencies, religious schools, and the like.
                    "Finally, we ignore at our peril the Founders' insight that democracy requires a moral people and that faith is an important, if not indispensable, support for morality.  Such faith may well flourish best without government support, but it should not have to flourish in the face of government hostility."

                    Freedom of religion was so important to the Puritans that they left their natives lands in search of a place where they could practice their religion freely.  Religious freedom has been important to Americans from the beginning, and it is just as important to Americans today.  We must not force our religious views on others, but we must defend our natural, God-give right to practice our religion wherever and whenever we so choose.


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