Of the beloved “Four Freedoms” famously described by Franklin Roosevelt in his 1941 State of the Union address and immortalized by Norman Rockwell in a 1943 quartet of paintings—freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear—the second is probably the one most high on our nation’s endangered species list.
Yes, there are those stoking fear, those trapped in genuine need, and those who would silence any speech that doesn’t meet the current “woke” culture’s impossibly narrow standard of acceptance. But none of our hallmark liberties are being hunted as relentlessly as religious freedom.
That hunt marks an extraordinary turnabout in our nation’s affections. Those who founded this country understood intuitively the priority of giving each person elbow room to seek God, profess faith, and live out his or her deepest convictions. Their commitment to that ideal made religious freedom the quintessential strand of our national DNA.
But time and a changing culture have steadily worked to fray that hard-wiring of America’s conscience. Over the last 50 years, the so-called Sexual Revolution, in particular, has endeavored to portray traditional churches and especially conscientious Christian faith as the great antithesis to personal (and particularly, sexual) autonomy…and as the engine that drives the most stubborn opposition to the Leftist political agenda.
But for all its effort, the secular establishment finds itself frustrated by its inability to erase the history of Western Civilization or silence the teachings of Christ. So it’s resorted to increasingly aggressive efforts to lock faith in the church and out of the popular culture. Once Christians would be called out as hypocrites if they fell short of Christ’s words. Now those words are themselves being characterized as intolerant, hateful, and dangerous to society.
Across the culture, the antagonisms accumulate. We see a deepening obsession with “separation of church and state” that calls for the all-but-abolition of public prayer, sincere religious reference to Christmas, even crosses in public memorials to America’s fallen heroes. And mean-spirited assaults on personal conscience that—under the carte blanche of “tolerance”—encourages the legal persecution of anyone whose heartfelt faith informs their business decisions.
All of which makes any public commemoration of religious liberty, such as last month’s Religious Freedom Day, of growing interest to the millions of us who see our nation’s soul besieged by those who would supplant it with an insatiable political correctness.
How to ward off the siege? There are ways—ways that allow for effective confrontation even while making a sincere effort to act with calm grace and an assumption of mutual good will. They include:
·Engaging the assaults on religious freedom directly, in our nation’s courtrooms.
·Challenging the anti-faith partisans boldly on their most cherished fields of battle: school and college campuses.
·Offering young people incisive teaching on faith and the law, and support their steady maturation into positions of authority and influence.
·Investing generously in the work of attorneys and organizations who are willing, in turn, to invest themselves in the defense of religious freedom and rights of conscience.
None of these things are easily accomplished. I know—for 25 years as of Jan. 31, I’ve been part of a group, Alliance Defending Freedom, that has worked tirelessly to accomplish them. We haven’t been doing it alone. We’ve had the privilege of standing alongside a widening spectrum of churches, ministries, private organizations, and heroic individuals who have risked much—in some cases, virtually everything—to defend the faith that is their choice and the freedom that is their birthright.
Together, we have been creating opportunities to reassert religious liberty for the benefit of all. We’ve held up a light to the Constitution, and a beacon to those all over the world who still see America as the place they can live out not only the dreams of their heart, but the convictions of their soul.
Religious liberty is not, as some insist, the most pernicious threat to an increasingly capricious culture. Rather, it fosters the true tolerance that this society was built—and must stand—upon. And real hope for the enduring freedom of all Americans.
For if we give our government, our courts, our fellow citizens license to tear out rights of conscience…to padlock that inner sanctum where we respond to truth and humanity…to violate the sanctity of each individual’s soul—what does freedom mean?