Religious Freedom and Conscience Rights are Guaranteed. Right?

by Nathan A. Cherry, 08/03/2012

Founding FathersIt seems to me that people are beginning to wake up and take their rights seriously. Maybe we got too comfortable here in America, believing that nothing – and no one – would ever trample our rights. Maybe we became far too apathetic and unconcerned with the amazing gift our Founding Father’s created in this representative republic. Whatever happened, it took a very liberal president with a seemingly socialistic agenda to awaken the moral outrage in many Americans. Now what?

First we must realize that this new battle we are engaged in is not about one single issue. It’s not simply about the HHS insurance mandate to provide contraception or abortifacients against our moral, religious objections. It’s not simply a fight to retain our First Amendment right to free speech, including the right to share our support for traditional marriage as a business owner (think Chik-Fil-A). And it’s not even about the right of business owners to refuse their services to homosexuals for “wedding” ceremonies as in the case of Elane Photography and the Masterpiece Cakeshop.

This is about the inherent right of our Constitution which guarantees that none of us will be forced by our government to unnecessarily violate our consciences. The great protection in the First Amendment is that our government cannot impose any law that would reduce, limit, or remove our free speech, nor can it impose any law that would cause a violation of religious conscience and freedom. I’m not sure most Americans understood this principle until recently. For that matter I’m not sure I fully understood it until recently.

Melissa Moschella, in her recent article at, points to a valid argument in understanding religious convictions and conscience rights:

“The key to understanding conscience rights correctly is to recognize that there is a world of difference between a law that makes me do something I don’t want to do, and a law that makes me do something I have an obligation not to do. The former is an annoyance, the latter an assault on my moral integrity. I may not want to follow the speed limit, but that doesn’t give me a claim to be exempted from the law. On the other hand, if I believe that killing animals is morally wrong, no law should force me to serve meat in my business’s cafeteria, or give my employees gift certificates to a steakhouse, even if encouraging people to eat more high-protein foods would promote public health.”

This is where the Obama administration falls short in their understanding. For whatever faith President Obama claims to have, it surely has no absolutes that, if crossed, would violate his moral, religious convictions and conscience. So far he has shown unwavering support for abortion up to the moment of birth – which is nothing less than killing an innocent human being. He has shown total support for the radical gay agenda – including redefining God’s definition of marriage. And he has shown nearly no support for public expressions of faith (public Bible reading, prayer) or for personal religious convictions (as evidenced by his HHS mandate).

So if our president has no religious convictions that can be violated we can hardly expect him to honor the convictions of people he largely doesn’t identify or associate with. Cardinal Timothy Dolan explains in a recent article that human dignity and freedom go hand in hand:

“Human dignity is an essential value. It cannot be disregarded. Indeed, justice demands that the human person be accorded his appropriate freedom. Human dignity is a moral value. Laws that violate human dignity are not just.”

We could say the same for the religious convictions of millions of Americans. For these Americans the very definition of freedom is wrapped up in their religious convictions and the ability to live peacefully according to their particular religious leanings. To remove these religious freedoms and the protections to freely express the tenets of their faith is to remove freedom altogether and create a hostile, subservient America.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, a more hostile America is exactly what President Obama has created with his insistence on violating the free speech and religious freedoms of millions of Americans. Are we going to continue to sit in silence until we reach the point where the government forces us to convert to a state religion? It’s happening around the world, particularly in Muslim countries, are we so naïve after all we’ve experienced recently to believe that it can’t happen here? I’m not.

What absolutely must be understood, especially by Christians, is that it our way of life, our churches, and our ability to carry out the Great Commission that is jeopardy in these assaults on freedom. I’m not interested in the self-righteous claim that greater persecution will cause the Gospel to spread. Anyone that willingly admits they want the U.S. to look more like China because it will somehow be “good for us” needs to move to China for a while then we can talk.

It’s an affront and slap in the face to the devoted, Godly Founding Fathers and their great sacrifice to be so apathetic as to say there’s no need to stand up for and protect our freedoms. And frankly, as I have pointed out before, the Bible is full of examples of God’s men, prophets and preachers confronting the rulers of the day for immoral and sinful behaviors, laws, and practices. Where are those men today?

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About Nathan Cherry

Nathan Cherry is the chief editor and blogger for the Engage Family Minute blog, the official blog of the FPCWV. He serves also as the Regional Development Coordinator as a liaison to the pastor's of West Virginia. He is a pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, pro-religious freedom conservative. He is also a husband, father, pastor, author, musician, and follower of Jesus Christ.

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