07 Nov Religious Freedom: America’s Heritage Under Attack
The Pilgrim Separatists fled their homes in England, endured starvation and hardships and the deaths of many of their loved ones in order to establish a colony in the New World free from religious intolerance. The sacrifices of these first settlers began a tradition of religious freedom in America.
Known as the Father of Religious Freedom, Roger Williams came to America in 1631 with many of the same hopes as the Pilgrims. Ironically, William’s religious zeal led to his banishment from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In 1636, Williams bought the land of Providence. He eventually obtained a Royal Charter to form the colony of Rhode Island based on this mandate:
“No person within the said colony, at any time hereafter, shall be anywise molested, punished, disquieted, or called in question for any differences in opinion in matters of religion … but that all persons may … enjoy their own judgments and consciences in matters of religious concernments.”
For another century and a half religious freedom became a way of life for the American settlers. The Founding Fathers enshrined religious freedom into the United States Constitution as the first and most fundamental right.
Using, Thomas Jefferson’s metaphor a “wall of separation between church and state,” not found in the Constitution, the ACLU, and many anti-Christian/ anti-religion groups have been seeking to rid the nation from all public expressions of faith.
As Daniel L. Dreisbach from the Heritage Foundation stated, “This figure of speech is accepted by many Americans as a pithy description of the constitutionally prescribed church-state arrangement, and it has become the sacred icon of a strict separationist dogma that champions a secular polity in which religious influences are systematically and coercively stripped from public life.”
Today in the courtrooms, the schoolrooms, the private offices, shops, and businesses, in the public buildings and even in churches, people who believe in God are increasingly threatened, punished, and silenced.
Today, the Supreme Court is hearing an important case on prayer in public meetings. In the case of the Town of Greece vs Galloway, the Supreme Court will hear about and decide on the constitutionality of public prayer for the entire nation.
The case began in 2008. The town council of Greece, New York for many years had begun its council sessions with prayer. The counsel invited anyone from any religion who would like to volunteer to give the prayer.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) filed a lawsuit claiming a “religious imbalance” and that their client, Galloway, took offense at the way people prayed. The second court of appeals ruled that because the citizens of Greece are predominantly Christian, the town would need to censor prayers or import others from outside the community.
AU is using this lawsuit to attempt to eliminate all public prayers or to have the government censor any language someone may find offensive.
Alliance Defending Freedom, who represents the town of Greece in the case, has illustrated what is at stake as the Supreme Court takes up this case.
- The continuation of the public prayer tradition that began with our founding.
- The freedom of community volunteers to pray according to their faith in a public setting without censorship.
- The preservation of freedom of speech in the face of one “offended” person’s demands for censorship.
- The foundational American principle of freedom of religion.
“Americans today should be as free as the Founders were to pray,” said Senior Counsel David Cortman. “The Founders prayed while drafting our Constitution’s Bill of Rights, and the Supreme Court has ruled that public prayer is part of the ‘history and tradition of this country.’ The numerous and significant parties that have filed briefs in this case support the continuation of this cherished practice.”
“It would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being Who rules over the universe, Who presides in the councils of nations, and Whose providential aids can supply every human defect – that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes.”
The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives begin the day’s session with prayer. Many times, government leaders have prayed for the families facing a tragedy such as a school shooting or natural disaster. Prayer is our heritage. Religious freedom is our heritage. It is enshrined in our constitution. Prayer is an expression of that freedom.
Alliance Defending Freedom is asking all those who support public prayer and think this valuable tradition should continue to sign a statement and pray for the freedom to pray.
To read more:
Small Town, Big Impact: Supreme court Case Could Define Religion’s Role in Public
“A small town in upstate New York is at the center of what legal scholars say could be one of the biggest religious freedom cases in decades, as the Supreme Court prepares to open its 2013-14 term next week….” Continue reading
A Good Day For Prayer (regarding Supreme Court Oral Arguments, Nov. 6)
“Supporters of religious liberty clearly had the upper hand today at the U.S. Supreme Court, as the lawyers representing those offering invocation prayers at town board meetings overpowered those who tried to have the Court declare those prayers unconstitutional.” Continue reading