Religious Liberty may be the hardest pill to swallow in America, especially in light of “the war on terrorism.” But those who don’t know their history are begging us to repeat some very tragic mistakes.
When the Pilgrims arrived on this continent they were not searching for religious Liberty, they were fleeing religious persecution. The difference in these two ideas is evidenced by what they did when they got here. They didn’t set up new governments based upon Liberty of conscience, they established government mandated religion.
Not many know that within the original colonies men and women were fined, imprisoned, beaten, tortured, and even executed based upon their religious beliefs. Massachusetts had a law that stated if any shipman imported a Quaker in Mass., the shipman would be imprisoned and the Quaker would be hung. Yes, this is Massachusetts, not Iraq or China.
When government can mandate what we can and cannot believe tyranny is always the result. Therefore, learning from our history, we ought to be very careful when demanding that a person’s belief be made illegal.
Surely we wouldn’t do that in America, would we? That is exactly what we are doing when we demand that Islam be outlawed. We do not have to allow Shariah Law to allow Islam. We do not have to allow the violent acts to allow Islam. But we must allow people the Liberty to believe as they choose as long as those beliefs do not deprive anyone of their Liberties.
I have many tell me that we can outlaw Islam because it is not a religion it is an ideology. I say even moreso that is wrong. Liberty does not live in a place where government outlaws ideology or religion. Remember many say Liberty is an ideology and government would love to have the majority opinion to outlaw that.
Funny thing is that Islamic terrorists were not unknown at the time of our founding; look into the Barbary Pirates. Yet our framers established religious Liberty where “all could be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans, and Christians.”
Remember this, Islam has been a religion recognized by governments for centuries. Governments cannot distinguish one religion from the other without being tyrannical. The government that can outlaw Islam can outlaw Christianity just as easily. The sword you put in the hands of government to protect will easily become the sword that cuts you down.
We don’t need to outlaw Islam to prosecute murderers and child abusers. Perhaps we have forgotten that Muslims have lived in America for centuries under our laws, why all of the sudden is that perceived to be impossible?
I am not wrong and history proves me right. I will not ever back down on this position. It is the only position that will allow my child to have Liberty of conscience. Unfortunately too many are ignorant of the consequences of the history they are trying to repeat.
I would also remind that Hilter did a very good job of convincing the German people that all of their economic and national security problems were because of the Jews. You cannot argue that that is different just because Jews were not really a threat. The government convinced the people that the Jews were such a threat that they all needed to be eliminated from the country. Most didn’t question or care how. What the people believed to be true drove this genocide.
Do we forget that Americans imprisoned Americans of Japanese decent and Hopi Indians because they were believed to be a national security threat? How many died in those camps?
That is not who America should ever be…again.
So let us remember when we allow government to outlaw something we give government the power to make laws and enforce them. What is the appropriate penalty for deviating from the government’s belief system? Who do you want to decide what is acceptable? Who do you want enforcing those laws? It wasn’t that long ago when Christians were executing Christians for their denominational differences.
We cannot allow government to outlaw any belief. Without freedom of thought there can be no Liberty and there is no limit to a government with that kind of power.
Religious Liberty requires government stay out of our churches, but it is Christians who have the hardest time making that happen. Because Christians have forgotten Matthew 6:24, No man can serve two masters, it is Christians who have invited government to destroy separation of church and state.
Our forefathers at the founding of our Constitutional Republic recognized that there were differing religious beliefs in America. Richard Henry Lee stated:
“It is true, we are not disposed to differ much, at present, about religion; but when we are making a constitution, it is to be hoped, for ages and millions yet unborn, why not establish the free exercise of religion, as a part of the national compact.”
Recognizing that there were differing beliefs they wanted to ensure that all had the Liberty to believe according to their conscience, not according to government mandate. John Leland, leader of The Virginia Baptist General Convention made this proclamation:
“Every man must give an account of himself to God, and therefore every man ought to be at liberty to serve God in that way that he can best reconcile it to his conscience. If government can answer for individuals at the day of judgment, let men be controlled by it in religious matters; otherwise let men be free.”
Simply saying that if God doesn’t strike you dead for not believing what He wants you to believe, government should never exercise a power greater than God chooses to exercise himself.
Yet, knowing all of that, our founders almost committed a major error in religious liberty. In 1784, several legislators put forward a bill “Establishing A Provision for Teachers of the Christian Religion.” James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, to name two, were vehemently opposed to the tax, as were the Baptist coalitions.
Madison was opposed to this bill “Because the Bill implies either that the Civil Magistrate is a competent Judge of Religious Truth; or that he may employ Religion as an engine of Civil policy. The first is an arrogant pretension falsified by the contradictory opinions of Rulers in all ages, and throughout the world: the second an unhallowed perversion of the means of salvation.”
Jefferson was also opposed, “That to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical.”
Our framers believed that Liberty was a gift from God. They also believed that understanding was the only means to preserve Liberty. Thomas Jefferson said, “”God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?”
But they knew that government as a driving force for religion and religious education would bring the end of Liberty itself.
The Baptist Coalition made this statement: “That it is believed to be repugnant to the spirit of the gospel for the legislature thus to proceed in matters of religion and should the legislature assume the right of taxing the people for the support of the gospel it will be destructive to religious liberty.”
The framers knew that Religious Liberty required Christians to operate by faith, trusting God to be their provider and the the leader of the moral conscience. They did not support government supported education of religion because they KNEW that it would make government the ultimate determination of truth.
This is why Christians should not be begging government schools to teach religion and why Christians should not support vouchers to send kids to Christian schools. It is “arrogant pretension” an “unhallowed perversion of the means of salvation,” it is “sinful and tyrannical,” “repulsive to the spirit of the gospel” and “destructive to Liberty.”
Christians don’t need vouchers to send their kids to Christian schools. Christians have God who has promised to provide all their needs and God doesn’t need a government bail out. Vouchers are only a testimony of lack of faith not a provision for education. By the way, most State Constitutions require public school funding. So if you take a voucher then the State can tax you AGAIN to replace the money you took so the public schools have funding. What if Christians actually believed the Bible and God’s promise of provision? Maybe pastors don’t preach Matthew 6:24-30 anymore?