Freedom of religion is the first right mentioned in the Bill of Rights. The Founders knew how integral this would be to the United States of America. Without religious freedom, we cease to be free. Religion and the free exercise thereof is slipping through our fingers little by little, every day. But most people don't even even notice it, and they also don't understand why it's important.
In this four-part series, Glenn examines our religious rights as Americans --- where they come from, why they're essential and how the progressive left has slowly eroded them away.
The four-part series is compiled below for your convenience.
Part I: The Beginning
In 2009, the president of the United States made this announcement at a press conference in Turkey:
“One of the great strengths of the United States is — although as I mentioned — you know, we have a very large Christian population. We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation. We consider ourselves a nation of citizens,” President Obama said.
That statement would no doubt come as quite a surprise to Founders like John Adams who declared the general principles on which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity.
James Madison, author of the Constitution, said, “religion is the basis and foundation of government.” Author and world-renowned historian David Barton concurs.
“George Washington, in his Farewell Address, said that religion and morality were our indispensable political supports, and that he would not allow anyone to call himself a patriot if he tried to exclude religion from public political life,” Barton said.
These founding principles were stated over and over again by most of America’s founders and reaffirmed in 1854 by Congress. From the Journal of the House of Representatives: “The great, vital, and conservative element in our system is the belief of our people in the pure doctrines and the define truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Progressives have worked hard over the past century to secularize America and turn the country toward a European style of government. But even Woodrow Wilson, father of the progressive movement, said America was ‘Born a Christian Nation.’
Part II: War on Christianity
America was founded in large part because of the desire for religious freedom. But it’s been 225 years since ratification of the United States Constitution, and now, with the passage of centuries, Americans sometimes take the freedoms they’ve enjoyed for granted.
Most of the world, however, can only dream of being able to take such a right for granted. Communism, for example, has never been friendly to religion, especially Christianity.
The communist purge of Christianity began almost immediately with the Bolshevik Revolution of 1918. The once thriving Catholic church in Russia was all but annihilated after the communist takeover, and atheism became the official state religion. Catholic institutions were dissolved, and its property confiscated under Lenin. Things got worse under Stalin, with millions of people carted away to the dreaded gulag camps. Between the Soviet Union and the Communist Revolution in China, Christianity was all but wiped off the Asian continent.
It may surprise some that, from the beginning of their movement, German Nazis planned to eliminate Christianity, just as they did Jews and Judaism. The Nazi leader of the German Youth Corps, which would literally be known as the Hitler Youth, said, “The destruction of Christianity was explicitly recognized as a purpose of the national socialist movement from the beginning.”
Many people don’t think that type of persecution exists today, except perhaps in the Middle East. However, in communist North Korea, a nation of 26 million people, there are only 300,000 Christians. Some 50,000 to 70,000 North Korean Christians are now suffering torture and horrific living conditions every day in North Korean labor camps.
Right now, the biggest threat to Christianity comes from ISIS. In Iraq, where in 2003 there were some 2 million Christians, there are now only an estimated 180,000. Over 90 percent of the entire Christian population gone. In the city of Mosul, 100,000 Christians fled their homes in one night.
With so much going wrong that needs to be righted, with Christians being displaced by the millions, murdered by the thousands, abused, crucified and used as sex slaves, what has the president of the United States said?
“Unless we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ,” Obama chastised at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2015.
Clearly, based on the president’s comments, the war on Christianity is alive and well in the United States.
Part III: Today’s Battles
Since the ratification of its founding document, Americans have always been able to count on their number one God-given freedom. It is the first of all rights, spelled out at the very beginning of the United States Constitution:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
It is positioned at the beginning of the First Amendment for a reason: It is the most important. It is sacrosanct. Until recently.
In 1962, the Supreme Court ruled that praying in school was unconstitutional, setting the stage that began the assault on America’s religious freedom.
Interestingly, children saying prayers in school does not and cannot qualify as Congress making a law to establish religion. But it certainly could be interpreted as prohibiting the free exercise thereof. Yet, that somehow was not the determination made by the Earl Warren-led Supreme Court. For religious freedom in America, the ruling was a significant turning point.
Another blow came in 2008 with the presidential election of Barack Obama. He brought a new attitude to the executive branch of the government in the United States.
Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation.
It was an attitude that stunned many Americans who knew that America, in fact, was founded on Christian-Judeo principles. His understanding or lack thereof concerning the scriptural passages, context, culture and frame of reference also shocked many believers.
Passages of Scripture should guide our public policy. Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is okay and that eating shellfish is an abomination? Or he could go with Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount, a passage that is so radical that it’s doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application?
No American president had ever been so brazen in his disdain for the Bible. And he was just getting started.
Part IV: The Easter Story
They say time itself does not exist as we know and understand it. Time is a way for us to find out where we have been, where we are now and where we are headed. Today, we’re going on a journey, back in time to the most important moment in human history.
We travel back to a time before radio and TV, back past the signing of the Declaration of Independence, past the Age of Enlightenment, before Martin Luther hung his protests on the church doors, before Columbus rediscovered the fact that the world was round, we go past Newton, Galileo, the Dark Ages, the Crusades, back to a time before books, when most of the world couldn’t read or write and history was oral.
We leave this world for a seemingly simple one, yet brutal beyond our understanding. It’s approximately 29 of the common era, and we stop at a small walled city in the Middle East, just a few of days before Passover.
While eleven of his disciples slept, Jesus couldn’t, for he knew. He was in a garden in prayer, praying so hard about what he knew was about to come, praying so hard that blood actually dripped from his pores in place of sweat. Returning to his disciples, Jesus found the twelfth one had betrayed him — and his path toward the Crucifixion was laid out.
On that fateful day, despite having been found guiltless by the Governor of the land, the people shouted for his crucifixion. Mocking the Son of God, Roman soldiers placed a crown of thorns on the King of the Jews and whipped and scourged him, tearing his flesh, trying to break his spirit.
While criminals hung by his side, bound by rope, Jesus was nailed to his cross – through the hands, the wrists and feet. One criminal demanded Jesus free them, if indeed he truly was the Son of God. In a moment of humanity, Christ called out in agony.
“My Father, my Father, why have you forsaken me?”
The sky grew dark. It was approaching 3 o’clock on a Friday afternoon, when Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, spoke once more, saying his last words, “It is finished.”
Today, people all over the world thank that lone carpenter for dying, dying on that Friday afternoon so we all may live again.
Listen to the Full Series on Religious Freedom