By April 1777, John Adams—then a delegate in the Continental Congress—felt a sense of growing despair. Facing the realization that American success in the War for Independence was anything but certain, he grew concerned that his countrymen were losing their resolve to fight in the face of consecutive military defeats and that they were growing wearisome of the sacrifices necessary to secure independence and liberty for all.
Distressed but still clinging to the hope that God would come to the aid of his fledgling nation, the future president wrote a letter to his wife Abigail, in which he made this startling declaration:
“Posterity! You will never know, how much it cost the present generation, to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.”
Perhaps the most treasured of these freedoms is religious liberty. Called the “first freedom” because of its place as the first inalienable right protected by the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, religious freedom is also protected by the Idaho Constitution, which forcefully affirms:
“The exercise and enjoyment of religious faith and worship shall forever be guaranteed; and no person shall be denied any civil or political right, privilege, or capacity on account of his religious opinions.”
Despite its legally protected status under our federal and state constitutions, religious liberty is under attack today.
Here are four reasons Christians should be concerned about preserving religious freedom:
- Our ability to openly preach the Gospel is at stake: As historian Bill Federer astutely puts it, “Our most important job is to preach the Gospel. Our second most important job is to defend our right to preach the Gospel.”
- Religious freedom is biblical: The Bible tells us that we are accountable to God for our religious beliefs and the actions that flow from those beliefs. Romans 14:4 says, “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall.” The Bible makes clear that civil government should neither infringe on our duties to God (Acts 5:17-42) nor coerce someone to believe or act contrary to their conscience (Daniel 1, 3, 6).
- Our right to live, and raise our children, according to the dictates of our faith is in jeopardy. And not only living out our faith just at home or church, but at work and in school and in public, too.
- Love for neighbor: We should work to ensure religious freedom is preserved not only for ourselves, but for our neighbors as well, whatever their faith may be.
Our founding fathers warned that a government willing to infringe religious liberty will soon begin violating other dearly held rights. James Madison, the ‘Father of the Constitution’ and our fourth president, rightly cautioned:
“There is not a truth to be gathered from history more certain than or more momentous than this: that civil liberty cannot long be separated from religious liberty without danger, and ultimately without destruction to both.”
The founding generation sacrificed much to secure our freedoms, as have generations of soldiers, statesmen, and citizens since. Christians today must take seriously their duty to preserve religious liberty for their neighbors and children, and for future generations.
For their sake and ours, let us recommit ourselves to this righteous cause, protecting our freedom to share the Gospel and our right to live, work, and raise our families according to the precepts of God’s Word.
Standing with you for religious liberty,
Director of Advocacy
Next Tuesday marks Constitution Day, a day of federal observance celebrating the signing of the U.S Constitution by the delegates to the Constitutional Convention on September 17th, 1787.
We often forget, however, that the Constitutional Convention almost failed spectacularly. The earliest days of the convention were fraught with contentious disagreements among the delegates, who together comprised an assembly of the greatest political minds of the founding generation.
Realizing that the increasingly fractious clashes risked breaking the convention apart, Benjamin Franklin offered his best hope for finding unity and agreement — recommending that they pursue God’s intervention and favor through prayer.
Bemoaning the “small progress” made during the first several weeks of the Convention as “melancholy proof of the imperfection of human understanding,” Franklin made a motion to hold morning “prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations” to be led by local clergymen:
In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings?
Harkening back to “the frequent instances” of God’s intervention on behalf of the Americans during the War for Independence, Franklin asked his fellow delegates whether they had forgotten that God was the reason for their previous success:
In the beginning of the [War for Independence], when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection. Our prayers were heard, and they were graciously answered…. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? I have lived a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth – that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?
While Franklin knew godly wisdom would lead to national flourishing, he worried relying on “human wisdom” alone would be disastrous:
We have been assured in the sacred writings, that ‘except the Lord build the House they labor in vain that build it.’ I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages.
Thankfully, the delegates heeded Franklin’s wise words by humbling themselves in prayer and seeking God’s wisdom and favor. Benjamin Franklin later remarked that the Constitution they drafted was “influenced, guided, and governed by that omnipotent, omnipresent, and beneficent Ruler in Whom all inferior spirits ‘live and move and have their being.’”
Steeped in biblical truth and full of courageous faith, the delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention came together to petition God for guidance and unity as they framed the government under which we still live today. That, my friends, is worth celebrating this Constitution Day.
Celebrating with you,
Director of Advocacy
By Stephanie C., Esq., policy manager
“Government shall not attempt to control the ideas a man has. . . . It shall let anybody talk in this country.” Former Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black
Recently, I read a story about a doctor in the U.K. who was fired for continuing to use pronouns that identified a person’s biological sex, instead of their “chosen” sex. So, even though Dr. Mackareth might be treating a man (who said he was a transgender woman), he would still refer to the individual as “he” or “him.” After 26 years of treating people, Dr. Mackareth was no longer free to speak the truth because that truth is in opposition to the transgender agenda, which has become the state agenda in the U.K.
Here in the U.S., his story is becoming all too familiar. Teachers are also being fired for not using a student’s “preferred gender pronoun.”
In Indiana and Texas, teachers have been forced out of their positions for continuing to use correct gender pronouns and names to refer to students. Schools cite this “improper” use of language as “harassment” and in violation of school policies to use “preferred gender pronouns.” For these teachers, using a pronoun like “her” to refer to a boy was wrong –biologically, linguistically, and quite literally.
The Christian Civic League of Maine and New Yorker’s Family Research Foundation (our state allies) have worked hard over the past year to fight new school policies that seek to control the ideas teachers and students have about gender by requiring teachers and students to use cross-gender pronouns and names. Teachers and students face termination, expulsion, and suspension if they do not conform their speech to promote the school’s radical agenda—an agenda that denies the biological reality of sex and imposes the idea that sex is changeable.
Teachers and students are also subject to school “sensitivity training” if they use language to express the view that sex is biological. Teachers and students should never be forced to attend government training of an ideology or political perspective. This is yet another way the government is attempting to control the ideas that teachers and students have about sex and gender. This is a gross infringement upon our right to ideas and, by extension, our right to free speech.
Our nation was founded upon inalienable rights. Rights that cannot be taken away or removed or reduced. One of those inalienable rights is Liberty. From this right of liberty, flows the absolute right to our ideas and to share our ideas. We share our ideas through speech. Which brings us to our nation’s strongest free speech protections in the world.
Our own Supreme Court recently warned about the dangers of our state government “suppressing unpopular ideas or information” for no legitimate government purpose. In a recent Supreme Court Case, Justice Thomas wrote:
“The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market. . . and the people lose when the government is the one deciding which ideas should prevail.”
There is a reason America has been a symbol of light and hope to much of the world. We fiercely protect our liberty and have a unique system of checks and balances to limit the power of our government. But that system requires our constant participation, and our freedoms require our constant protection. Stand with Family Policy Alliance today! Unleash your biblical citizenship ™ by donating to Family Policy Alliance—to promote good policy, elect honorable leaders, and hold our representatives accountable for protecting our Liberty.
Did you realize that Jesus somehow sneaked into the U.S. Constitution? Do you know how many state Constitutions mention God?
In his Stoplight® commentary, Stuart Shepard answers those questions – and builds a bookshelf.
Thank you for sharing Stoplight with your friends.
After you watch the video, you can read the Pew Research Center analysis.
by Stuart Shepard
You won’t find this word in our nation’s founding document. You can search every Article, every Section. It’s a word that, given the historical context and how common it was in the late 1700s, you would expect to be in there.
But it’s not.
I was sitting in a packed classroom with the men and women attending our second Statesmen Academy in July. Matthew Spalding, a professor at Hillsdale College, was highlighting the importance of governing with “prudence” and “principle.”
He asked the class what that missing word in the Constitution might be.
There were a couple timidly offered suggestions. Both were incorrect. I wondered aloud, “God?” He said, “No, it’s in there. It’s signed ‘In the Year of Our Lord.’ Anybody else?”
Then someone a couple rows in front of me guessed it:
I won’t pretend to be as brilliant as Dr. Spalding, but here’s the gist of what he said: The Founders meticulously avoided enshrining forever in our cornerstone document the idea of one human being owning another. Looking down the long hallway of history, they left open a door for the end of the slave trade in this very new United States of America.
And, sure enough, about 75 years later, it was done.
President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Congress and the states followed up with the 13th Amendment: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
That path was made easier, thanks to the foresight of the Founders. Many of them knew slavery was wrong, but they also knew they couldn’t change it in their lifetimes. So, they left open a door for when the time was right, when the nation was ready.
This week, the question has been raised whether to topple statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. That raises questions about the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial. Do we dynamite Mt. Rushmore? Will we need to rename Washington, D.C.? And don’t forget all those U.S. cities and counties named “Jefferson.”
Here’s the larger question: Do we erase every memorial to the Founders because they failed to live up to our values? Or do we honor them as imperfect humans, living in a specific time in history, who brilliantly wove biblical truth into the framework of a nation? Including the timeless concept that human rights are bestowed by our Creator – equally – to every person.
And who also thoughtfully chose to leave one particular word out.
A federal district court has ruled that churches in Iowa are not “public accommodations.” That means they are not subject to government control.
The ruling came in a case brought by Fort Des Moines Church of Christ after the Iowa Civil Rights Commission issued guidelines censoring church statements on biblical sexuality and forcing churches to open changing rooms, showers and restrooms to transgendered individuals.
“The government cannot legally censor pastors or coerce churches to use their facilities in a way that violates their religious beliefs,” said Steve O’Ban, Alliance Defending Freedom attorney. “The Iowa commission’s guidance was vague and empowered government bureaucrats far beyond what the Constitution allows. The court cut off this unconstitutional power grab by clarifying that the law does not apply to churches and reassured Iowa churches that they are free from improper state interference.”
Fort Des Moines Church of Christ will now drop its lawsuit against state officials.
The Iowa Civil Rights Act bans places of “public accommodation” from expressing a view on sexuality. Church leaders worried that it could have been used to violate freedom of speech on topics of sexuality and would leave the Civil Rights Commission in charge of deeming what was “bona fide” religious speech.
Christina Holcomb, an Alliance Defending Freedom attorney, said churches should be free to communicate their religious beliefs according to their faith without fear of government punishment.
“This lawsuit was necessary to ensure that the state won’t try to enforce the law against churches,” she said, “and we’re pleased that Iowa churches now have the reassurance and clarity that they need.”
Gateways to Better Education helps public schools teach about the important contribution the Bible and Christianity make to the world. Eric Buehrer is the president and founder.
School officials in Middleton, Wisconsin, are upset at a group of moms who are eating lunch with their high school children and their friends. Middleton High School allows students to go off campus for lunch. Since the school is next to a public park, a group of five moms started meeting their children at the park for a picnic lunch once a week. The problem? They are Christians and they dare to talk about their faith, and the group has grown to 300 or 400 students.
The school district would like the public to think that they are only concerned about the safety of the students. But, from the school principal’s remarks to local news outlets, clearly the issue is about religious expression.
Middleton High School principal Steve Plank told a local news outlet, “Some students feel excluded or left out. We have students of different faiths, Muslim students or Hindu students or Jewish students who feel like this is happening and it’s not for them.”
First of all, it’s just lunch with 3-5 minute Christian message. Second, it’s a public park (and the moms have a permit from the city to use the park). Third, students are free to eat and leave without listening to the brief thought-for-the-day. Fourth, the high school students freely choose to attend; and fifth, the 300-400 students who attend are only 15-20% of the 2,065 students at Middleton High Schools. The other 1,600-1,700+ students are eating somewhere else.
Last week, the school district posted a statement on its website that it was consulting with its legal counsel to see if it was responsible for the students attending the picnics since the district leases the park for its use (even though the park remains a public park for all to use).
What responsibility? If they are concerned about food safety, are they willing to monitor the other 1,900 students’ sack lunches in the lunch room? Are they saying no student can even go to the park when they leave campus for lunch, even if it is to eat their own lunch?
Clearly, the issue isn’t the health and safety of students; it’s about district’s concern that students may somehow be traumatized by voluntarily choosing to hear a Christian message during their free time off school property.
Predictably, the Freedom from Religion Foundation, whose offices are just down the road in Madison, Wisconsin, have now protested the students’ choice of lunch time activity. According to their press release, they offered dessert and handed out uplifting and tolerant pamphlets such as “What’s Wrong with the Ten Commandments” and “Why Women Need Freedom from Religion.”
To help the moms and students, Gateways to Better Education has offered them Free to Speak pamphlets (a joint project of Alliance Defending Freedom and Gateways to Better Education) explaining public school students’ freedom of religious expression.
What was a simple activity involving food and fellowship has now become yet another opportunity for the politically correct to claim that they are traumatized, and for activists to rail against people of faith.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed HB 1523, the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act. The law means that the state cannot violate the conscience of business owners or individuals because of their views on marriage.
Our friends at Alliance Defending Freedom wrote model legislation for the bill. Kellie Fiedorek, an attorney with ADF, said people know the value of religious freedom.
“The people of Mississippi, from every demographic, support this commonsense ‘Live and Let Live’ bill, which simply affirms the freedom of all people to peacefully live and work according to their deeply held beliefs without threat of punishment from their own government,” she explained. “We commend the governor for signing into law protections for schools, churches, businesses and public employees, so they won’t face such discrimination. What makes America unique is our freedom to peacefully live out those beliefs, and the Constitution protects that freedom.”
God’s Not Dead 2 takes on one of the most pressing issues of our time – religious freedom.
In the sequel, a school teacher (played by Melissa Joan Hart), is challenged because she mentioned Jesus in answer to a student’s question. The story unfolds as she heads to court to defend her faith.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Erik Stanley defended a case in real life that served as the inspiration for one of the subplots of the film.
“The movie really illustrates the ongoing attack on Christianity in the public square, in the schools and on university campuses,” Stanley said. “And we see that every day in the number of cases that we deal with on this issue.”
In a secondary plot, pastors face pressure to turn over their sermons as part of the case. It mirrors a case he worked on involving Texas pastors who opposed a bathroom bill that allowed men access to women’s locker rooms.
“All that these pastors did was to stand up and speak out against an ordinance that they felt was immoral,” Stanley said, “and in return the city of Houston subpoenaed their sermons, their communications with their members about issues such as homosexuality — really as a message to these pastors that you better be quiet, you better not speak out.”
Grace, the main character in God’s Not Dead 2, stands firm despite intense pressure. It’s a lesson Stanley says more American Christians may have to learn.
“People might think this is sensationalized,” Stanley explained. “but Christians will have a decision to make in the coming days. Do you stand and do you fight, or do you sit down and take it? We know that more often than not, when Christians stand and fight, we win.”
The movie opens in theaters April 1.
New ordinance only allows the chaplains of the city police and fire departments to open the meetings with prayer.
The Council had approved a moment of silence to replace the regular prayers after a Satanist from Tucson was scheduled to give an opening prayer in February. The new ordinance only allows the chaplains of the city police and fire departments to open the meetings with prayer.
“What we passed was reinstituting invocation or prayer at the city of Phoenix,” Councilman Sal DiCiccio told the Catholic News Agency, “we made it stronger than it ever has been in its 65-year history.”
CitizenLink’s allied policy group, the Center for Arizona Policy (CAP), is thrilled with the vote.
“Prayer has been a part of the legislative process throughout our nation’s and our state’s history,” CAP President Cathi Herrod said. “Allowing this cherished tradition to continue with a commonsense, respectful policy is the right decision for the City of Phoenix and its citizens.”