In all my writing about politics and government, my greatest concern is the encroachments on religious liberty. I’ve often highlighted attacks, both direct and indirect, on the role of religious belief in our nation. The nation, by the way, is not synonymous with the government; the former is the whole people, the latter simply the representative of the voters that is supposed to carry out policies for the good of the whole. We have been too eager to elevate the government to the highest place of allegiance. When we do so, we dethrone God.
I’m indebted today to Matthew Franck, director of the Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute, an independent research center housed at Princeton University. In an article published by Hillsdale College, Franck summarizes so well the series of recent attacks on the significance of religious faith.
He begins with the universities:
At the Hastings College of Law in San Francisco, the student chapter of the Christian Legal Society was denied any status on the campus because it would not abandon its requirement that members commit themselves to traditional Christian norms regarding sexual morality. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling in 2010, held that the student group’s rights were not violated by a “take all comers” policy. Following this lead, Vanderbilt University has rewritten its student organizations policy and effectively chased every traditionally Christian group off campus, denying them regular access to campus facilities.
In effect, the Supreme Court has said that a Christian organization cannot be limited in membership to those who are Christians. In this instance, the absurd has become the norm.
State and local governments have also taken steps to deny deeply held religious beliefs. In Washington and Illinois, attempts have been made to force pharmacists to dispense “morning after” pills, which cause abortions, even when doing so is a violation of their consciences. In New York City, if you are a church, don’t bother trying to use a public school building for a church function. Churches are banned from using them. A Christian wedding photographer in New Mexico “was fined for violation of a state ‘human rights act’ because she refused to take the business of a same-sex couple who claimed to want her services at the civil union ceremony.” In other states, Catholic charities have been excluded from taking part in adoption or foster care services because they won’t put children with same-sex couples.
One of the more publicized instances of overruling Christian morality occurred in 2010 when Judge Vaughn Walker of the U.S. District Court of San Francisco [naturally] gave his controversial ruling on Proposition 8, a referendum approved by the California electorate to define marriage as between one man and one woman. Walker, who is also an outspoken homosexual, ruled that proposition to be unconstitutional. Franck explains,
He held that the affinity between traditional religion and the moral case against same-sex marriage was reason enough to strike down the popular referendum, and went so far as to say that religious doctrines holding homosexual acts to be sinful are in themselves a form of “harm to gays and lesbians.” In this he followed the lead of the Iowa Supreme Court, which held in 2009 that the state’s law restricting marriage to a man and a woman was an expression of a religious viewpoint, and for that reason unconstitutional.
Then of course there are this year’s HHS mandates for carrying out Obamacare that force religious schools, universities, hospitals, and charitable institutions to violate their consciences with regard to contraception and abortifacients.
What we are witnessing is a shift in the significance of religious beliefs in our nation. They are now being shoved to the periphery, whereas they used to be right at the center of our culture. Two hundred years ago, the Founders recognized the priority that religious faith had in society. When James Madison wrote his famous Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, he clearly expressed the consensus of the age when he said,
It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent, both in order of time and in degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society. [emphasis added]
Madison’s perspective was that our allegiance to God and what He requires of us is greater than the allegiance we owe to our government. Today, we are in the process of reversing that. Here, I believe, is where the real battle for the soul of our nation lies. Yes, I’m concerned about the economy, taxes, healthcare, foreign policy, and all the rest. Yes, I speak out constantly about the need to limit the federal government to the authority granted it in the Constitution. But even more than all that, it is imperative that our government not declare itself to be above an individual’s conscience before God. Government is not God; only God Himself can make that claim. We owe our ultimate allegiance to Him, and Him only.
That’s why I write about the dangers of another four years of Barack Obama. His mindset is the new one, the one that subordinates religious beliefs to the dictates of whatever the government deems more important. The danger is real, and it must be met head-on and defeated.