“While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian.”
George Washington, 1st U.S. President
“Suppose a nation in some distant Region should take the Bible for their only law Book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love, and reverence toward Almighty God … What a Eutopia, what a Paradise would this region be.”
John Adams, 2nd U.S. President and Signer of the Declaration of Independence
There were several subjects that I had thought of talking about for this column. This morning, as I wait for children, to celebrate Christmas with them, it hit me. With all of the problems going on around us, city to city and state to state. Why not talk about the constant attacks on Christians, our faith God and Jesus Christ, and the true meaning of Christmas.
For many people, Christmas is a time of sorrow. They don’t have the extra money to buy presents for their children, family, and friends. Many are saddened at Christmastime when they think of their loved ones, who will not be able to come home for various reasons. On the other hand, Christmas can be a season of great happiness and joy. It is a time of God showing His love for us. It can be a time of healing and renewed strength. Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of the child, Jesus Christ. God sent His Son, Jesus, into the world to be born. His birth brought great joy to the world. Shepherds, wise men, and angels all shared in the excitement of knowing about this great event. They knew this was no ordinary baby. The prophets had told of His coming hundreds of years before. The star stopped over Bethlehem, to mark the way, for those who were looking for this special child.
Over the last seven years, this nation, along with many states, has been pushed away from faith and God. We have endure the ridicule and chastising of a government, constantly telling us that we must change. The courts saying that we cannot openly practice our faith. We are forced to adhere to some belief that we, as Christians, are wrong, for being Christian. We are expected to allow our beliefs, our values, and our faith to be pushed further back, to allow muslims, atheists, and others to have their way. They say they are offended by our Christian beliefs, we Christians are forced to change or to accept their wishes. What about Christians being offended? Why are we Christians the ONLY ones expected to change or to adhere to some flawed acceptance? Why do we Christians not have the same value, when we are offended?
Inevitably, someone will make some wrong assumption, as to what the Constitution says. So, before that, allow to quote the 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
The portion we’re concerned with, of course, is the first sixteen words. But, what do those words mean? What do they actually say? For starters, Congress has no authority to make any law, as to a state religion. That’s basic and easy to grasp. No part of this amendment says “freedom from religion”. What it does say, is that every citizen has the free choice and exorcise of their religion. In finding the best way to explain this, I decided to use Wikipedia. Their text is below:
“Freedom of religion means freedom to hold an opinion or belief, but not to take action in violation of social duties or subversive to good order,” In Reynolds v. United States (1878), the Supreme Court found that while laws cannot interfere with religious belief and opinions, laws can be made to regulate some religious practices (e.g., human sacrifices, and the Hindu practice of suttee). The Court stated that to rule otherwise, “would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect permit every citizen to become a law unto himself. Government would exist only in name under such circumstances.” In Cantwell v. Connecticut (1940), the Court held that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment applied the Free Exercise Clause to the states. While the right to have religious beliefs is absolute, the freedom to act on such beliefs is not absolute.
In Sherbert v. Verner (1963), the Supreme Court required states to meet the “strict scrutiny” standard when refusing to accommodate religiously motivated conduct. This meant that a government needed to have a “compelling interest” regarding such a refusal. The case involved Adele Sherbert, who was denied unemployment benefits by South Carolina because she refused to work on Saturdays, something forbidden by her Seventh-day Adventist faith. In Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972), the Court ruled that a law that “unduly burdens the practice of religion” without a compelling interest, even though it might be “neutral on its face,” would be unconstitutional.
The need for a compelling interest was narrowed in Employment Division v. Smith (1990), which held no such interest was required under the Free Exercise Clause regarding a law that does not target a particular religious practice. In Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah (1993), the Supreme Court ruled Hialeah had passed an ordinance banning ritual slaughter, a practice central to the Santería religion, while providing exceptions for some practices such as the kosher slaughter. Since the ordinance was not “generally applicable,” the Court ruled that it needed to have a compelling interest, which it failed to have, and so was declared unconstitutional.
In 1993, the Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), seeking to restore the compelling interest requirement applied in Sherbert and Yoder. In City of Boerne v. Flores (1997), the Court struck down the provisions of RFRA that forced state and local governments to provide protections exceeding those required by the First Amendment, on the grounds that while the Congress could enforce the Supreme Court’s interpretation of a constitutional right, the Congress could not impose its own interpretation on states and localities. According to the court’s ruling in Gonzales v. UDV (2006), RFRA remains applicable to federal laws and so those laws must still have a “compelling interest”.
What the 1st Amendment guarantees us, is an individual right to choose a faith, choose to not believe, or choose to make no choice. It also guarantees us the ability to exorcise that religion, free from government obstruction and harassment. Why are we Christians having our rights obstructed by government? Why are the courts allowing the government to do this? There are no easy answers for this. For one thing, I do not believe that we have a president, who is at all concerned with our rights and freedoms, or even the very document, guaranteeing them, unless it fits his twisted agenda. I also believe that the president is a muslim and that he allows his individual religion to guide his decisions and choices he makes. Even if those are directly contradictory to the Constitution and the rights and freedoms guaranteed therein.
What can we, as Christians, do to combat this and maintain our rights and freedoms? We must continue to attend church, read and follow the word of God, fellowship with others, and not be afraid to openly be a Christian. Even in the face of our government. We must vote for candidates, who promote the Constitution and guaranteeing our rights and freedoms. We must stand up and be vocal of our rights and freedoms. We must continue to follow our individual religions and respect the choices of others. Christians need not fear, for God is always with us.
My family and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and wonderful New Year. God Bless You! God Bless West Virginia! God Bless America!
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