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Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Freedom of Religion

It's in the news again. A Madison, Wisconsin, photographer is going to court to try to retain her freedom of religion against laws that try to strip it away.

One of the best known amendments in the Constitution's Bill of Right is the First Amendment which ensures several rights at once. These include the freedom of religion, the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, the freedom to assemble, and the freedom to petition the government. Good things. But just as our culture has been drifting in its definitions of words for so long, I think they are drifting in the meaning of these as well.

For instance, somehow the "freedom of speech" has been stretched to include the freedom of strippers to take their clothes off. It's "self-expression", they argued, so it is "free speech". Without words, written or spoken. Go figure.

One clearly changing meaning is the common understanding of "freedom of religion". The language, first, does not speak of "freedom of religion." Here's what the bill says:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...
Notice, then, that the phrase, "freedom of religion", is not in there. What it does say is two-fold. First, Congress shall make no law to establish religion. (Oddly, many court cases these days are not about Congress or lawmaking, but about simply having anything religious in public.) That's one side. On the other, it says that Congress shall not prohibit "the free exercise thereof."

So, how is that different than today? Today our society is happy to say, "Believe what you want" (in terms of religion, of course). "You want to believe in a flying spaghetti monster? Go right ahead. You can believe it 'til the cows come home. But, do not bring that into the public square. Do not allow it to influence anything 'out here'. 'In there' is fine. What you believe in the privacy of your own home is fine. But not out here." "See?" they say. "You are free to believe whatever religion you want."

That's not freedom of religion. That's not what the amendment promises. That's not even rational.

Religion, by its nature, changes lives. No matter what religion it is, it alters your life. Buddhists are supposed to act "this way". Muslims are supposed to live "that way". Christians are supposed to be changed entirely, from the innermost being on out. We are to "be transformed by the renewal of your mind" (Rom 12:2).

The problem in Christianity is the heart (Matt 15:19). The correction to this problem in Scripture is to be "born again" (John 3:5-6). We aren't called to be good little believers; we're called to die (Gal 2:20). We are saved not by proper beliefs held in private, but by faith in Christ that produces works (Eph 2:8-10; James 2:17). To be a Christian requires a changed life wrought by a new relationship with the Living God that alters the heart, the mind, and every aspect of being. That, in the language of the First Amendment, is "the free exercise" of the Christian faith.

So when they tell you, "You cannot bring your religion into the public square", they are telling you "You cannot exercise your faith." When they say, "You can't bring your religion into the legislature", they're telling you, "You do not have the right to the free exercise of your religion." When they tell you, "Believe what you want, but don't tell anyone about Christ", they're telling you, "You do not have the freedom of religion promised to you by the Bill of Rights."

No religion can be limited to private access. It is not part of the nature of religion. Fundamentally a religion must, if it has any validity, alter your actions wherever you are. Even if that religion is science, materialism, or humanism. Particularly if that religion is Christianity. Christianity that does not effect all of life is "dead faith".


Marshal Art said...

This article demonstrates what we already knew about the corruption of the establishment/free exercise clauses by the lunatic left. Thought it would be relevant.

Stan said...

Excellent article.