Sunday, July 2, 2017

The point of the First Amendment is to be free to pray and worship wherever and whenever

Your recommended reading for this Sunday before Independence Day is a Quinn Hilyer essay at PJ Media on the Founders' understanding that God was the true architect of their project:

There is a straight line of reverence for one true God that runs from the settlers writing the Mayflower Compact to the patriots of liberty declaring independencefrom the mighty British Empire, and from thence to the statesmen who hashed out the Constitution of the new United States. How do we know that the Constitution's framers, too, thought faith essential to a successful polity, even though that document originally made no mention of God? Because not only was the Declaration's second-leading author, Ben Franklin, also influential at the Constitutional Convention (wherein he noted at a key point that God governs men's affairs), but the Constitution's most influential catalyst and advocate, James Madison, drafted the first and most famous amendment to that Constitution.
That amendment not only guaranteed the "free exercise of religion" — the absolutely essential provision that anti-religionists conveniently ignore — but also, in its first clause, guaranteed that government would not "establish" any particular sect. There are those who are uninformed who mistakenly think the anti-establishment clause is hostile to faith. That's wrong. Madison based that clause (indeed both clauses on religion) on his own work on the 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights, whose final, key guarantee of religious liberty was worded specifically via his own amendment at that legislature in Williamsburg. And why had Madison become such a passionate advocate of free religious exercise? It wasn't on behalf of atheism or agnosticism; it was in reaction to mistreatment of Virginia Baptists who wanted to celebrate their faith. He too wanted them to be able to openly practice their religion, not just in private but in public.
Madison was later to attest that "Belief in a God All Powerful wise and good, is so essential to the moral order of the World and to the happiness of man, that arguments which enforce it cannot be drawn from too many sources." 
Again, these were not men hostile to faith in the public square. They were hostile to any restrictions on faith in the public square; what they wanted was a public square that encouraged active expression of the faiths of all denominations. Their God was the Judeo-Christian God, and their belief in individual rights grew directly from the Judeo-Christian tradition that each individual human is given intrinsic worth, by God, that no government can take away.
Freedom was not in conflict with their faith; their conception of freedom grew from their faith. 

I am in agreement with the fundamental libertarian principle that the individual human being owns himself or herself. What good religious teaching during one's upbringing ought to impart is the understanding that the proper use of that freedom is to give oneself back the the God who created him. But God will never coerce that decision out of us. It's pretty much the message that the insipid 1970s meme was conveying: If you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you, it's yours.

The second greatest gift He gives us, after our lives, is our freedom. And, yes, this is the point at which I used to get confounded: The whole arrangement struck me as a rigged game. The only way to avoid eternal darkness was to use your free will to turn back to God.

And you know what? It is a rigged game. That's because, ultimately, God owns the universe. There's only one place to go if one, of one's own volition, refuses to turn back to His love, and that's the unbearable solitude of Hell.

There are a number of ways to articulate the reason why no one - not a burglar, not a rapist, and not even government - has the right to infringe on your freedom, but the one that covers all the bases is to point out that no one has the right to deprive anyone else of the opportunity to turn back to God.

This is in some ways a very sacred week we're embarking on. It invites reflection on a divine, precious gift that needs to be regarded with proper awe.

In 2017 post-America, with its distractions, obscenely distorted notions of "rights," and temptations to part with our birthright for a pittance, the darkness has not yet overcome the light.

Will it ever? That's up to you.


  1. God governs men's affairs is so Franklin, it implies inclusive interpretation. Adam's was often frustrated with Franklin. When the continental congress sent Adams, Jefferson,and Franklin to plead on the revolutions behalf before the King of France it was Franklin who acquired the Kings arsenal on behalf of the American Patriots. Franklin's (or other founders) religious principles do not seem solely Judeo-Christian God. I completely agree that religious majorities have rights to exercise political influence, not control.

  2. Yes, freedom of religion is very very precious in America. In reality, it never quite meant that in peoples' minds and hearts. Responses to God often so rife with strife it seemed to be impossible to heed the call. But, amen, I say to you, borrowing from the Catholic convert Walker Percy: "If I had the choice of knowing the truth or searching for the truth, I'd take the search."

  3. "The proper use of that freedom is to give oneself back to the God who created him. But God will never coerce that decision out of us."

  4. "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."
    --Matt 7:7

  5. What really hurts is when your ilk denies us our sinful diversions such as NPR, PBS and herbal delights. Keep praying that these are denied to all.