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PERSPECTIVES: Securing Liberty

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In 1781, Thomas Jefferson asked, “Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure, when we’ve removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of people that these liberties are the gifts of God?” [1]

Sadly, those liberties, particularly our religious liberty that was to be guaranteed by the First Amendment, are under a relentless assault by those who seek to impose a secular agenda on America.

Consider this statement made by Chai Feldblum, recently appointed to serve on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by President Obama:

“…we should similarly not tolerate private beliefs about sexual orientation and gender identity.… Protecting one group’s identity liberty may, at times, require that we burden others’ belief liberty. This is an inherent and irreconcilable reality of our complex society. But in dealing with this conflict, I believe it is essential that we not privilege moral beliefs that are religiously based over other sincerely held core, moral beliefs. [2]

How did we get from a common agreement on Jefferson’s words to the proposition of Chai Feldblum? From a country whose citizens acknowledged that religious – and all – liberty was a gift from God to one that believes that religious liberty should not be “privileged” over claims for the latest demands for new “liberties?” Where “private beliefs” are not even to be tolerated, but punished?

It didn’t happen overnight. Like the proverbial frog in the kettle, those hostile to the Gospel have slowly turned the heat up on people of faith to the point where the legal attacks to marginalize, silence, and, in some cases, punish religious faith are beginning to boil over.

Take Julea Ward, a graduate student in the counseling department at Eastern Michigan University. When Julea learned that she had been assigned someone seeking counsel about a homosexual relationship, she asked to have the client referred to another counselor. Her faculty advisor agreed. Julea said later, “I had never refused to counsel [those who engage in] homosexual behavior. I had simply refused to affirm their behavior. It was a values conflict.”

Nonetheless, Julea was booted from the program. Alliance Defense Fund attorneys have filed a lawsuit on Julea’s behalf against the university to defend her rights of conscience and religious freedom, and her case is presently pending in federal court.

Julea’s case is a classic example of what will happen if “identity liberty” is allowed to trump “religious liberty.” She joins ADF client Elaine Huguenin, who was ordered to pay nearly $7,000 by a human rights commission for respectfully declining to use her talent to photograph a same-sex “commitment” ceremony, and Marcia Walden, a counselor who was fired, like Julea, for politely asking not to be placed in a situation in which she would be forced to affirm homosexual behavior. These women have seen their religious liberty trampled by “identity liberty.”

Situations like these are why I joined with other leaders to help draft and sign the Manhattan Declaration, to draw a line in the sand, and to say we will not compromise the free exercise of the liberties that Jefferson called “a gift from God.” We’ve subsequently been joined by over 440,000 other Christians – people like Julea, Elaine, and Marcia – who are willing to take a stand and refuse to render onto Caesar what is God’s.

Since the declaration was unveiled, many others have been emboldened to stand up for their religious freedom. Veteran military chaplains have joined together to express their concerns about the substantial negative repercussions for religious liberty if the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law is abolished. When the District of Columbia Council fabricated a “right” to same-sex “marriage”, the Catholic Archdiocese, which placed foster children in the district, had no choice but to stop its program lest it be compelled to compromise its sound religious principles and place children into same-sex living environments--all for the sake of political correctness and activist demands. [3]

It s also been reported that a bipartisan commission on religious freedom has expressed alarm about the Obama administration’s “softening” on the right to practice one’s faith by deliberately using the words “freedom to worship” instead of “religious freedom.” The commission recognized that this lexicon shift will allow some countries to claim that they are not oppressing religious beliefs as long as “those faiths exist in a form acceptable to the regime.”[4]

These issues are not new. In 1940, when the agenda of Adolf Hitler had become abundantly clear, Albert Einstein, a self-described agnostic said, “Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing truth. I never had any special interest in the Church, but now I feel a great affection and admiration because the Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom. I am forced thus to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly.”[5]

We must stand for religious liberty. It’s the foundation of all other freedoms, and when lost, history has shown that all other freedoms are diminished as well. It’s not a coincidence that the regimes most hostile to religious liberty are also the ones that refuse to affirm the God-given dignity of man. As Jefferson warned, our liberties are only secure when we acknowledge that God is their source. That is why millions more must read and sign the Manhattan Declaration, which is so vitally important, and why ADF will continue to vigorously and uncompromisingly defend and protect our First Liberty – religious freedom – so that all of our liberties will be remain secure for future generations.

Alan Sears is the President, CEO, and General Counsel of the Alliance Defense Fund



[1] Thomas Jefferson, 1781, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVIII, 1781, 1782, p. 237.

[2] Chai Feldblum, “Moral Conflict and Liberty: Gay Rights and Religion," Brooklyn Law Review, (Vol, 72, No, 1, 2006) pp. 121, 123

[3] Michelle Boorstein, “Citing Same-Sex Marriage Bill, Washington Archdiocese Ends Foster-Care Program,” Washington Post, February 17, 2010, p. B1.

[4] Aamer Madhani, “Obama Blasted, 13 nations cited on religious freedom,” USA Today, April 30, 2010.

[5] “German Martyrs,” Time, December 23, 1940.

 

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