Thursday, February 6, 2014

Essential Religious Freedom

“Here is my creed. I believe in one God, the creator of the universe.
That he governs it by his providence. That he ought to be worshipped.”
—Benjamin Franklin
One of the basic principles of civilization in the Civilization Sphere of the Spherical Model, is that “every civilization is a religious civilization. This absolutely does not mean state-sponsored religion or lack of religious freedom; in fact, the opposite is true. Freedom of religion is essential, and the flourishing of religion in general must be encouraged.”
I came across a brief video, from People of Faith; Clay Christensen, professor at Harvard Business School, tells the story of a conversation with a Chinese Marxist student. Here’s how he relates the conversation:
Some time ago I had a conversation with a Marxist economist from China. He was coming to the end of a Fulbright fellowship here in Boston. And I asked him if he had learned anything that was surprising or unexpected. And without any hesitation, he said, “Yea. I had no idea how critical religion is to the functioning of democracy."
“The reason why democracy works,” he said, “is not because the government was designed to oversee what everybody does, but, rather, democracy works because most people, most of the time, voluntarily choose to obey the law. And in your past, most Americans attended a church or synagogue every week, and they were taught there by people who they respected.”
My friend went on to say that Americans follow these rules because they had come to believe that they weren’t just accountable to society; they were accountable to God.
My Chinese friend heightened a vague but nagging concern I’ve harbored inside that, as religion loses its influence over the lives of Americans, what will happen to our democracy? Where are the institutions that are going to teach the next generation of Americans that they too need to voluntarily choose to obey the laws? Because, if you take away religion, you can’t hire enough police.

Here’s the short video, if you’d like to see it, rather than just read:


In The 5000-Year Leap, by Cleon Skousen, the requirements of a civilizing religion (from Benjamin Franklin’s description) are summarized:
1.      There is a Creator who made all things, and mankind should recognize and worship Him. [first 4 of the 10 Commandments]
2.      The Creator has revealed a moral code of behavior for happy living which distinguishes right from wrong. [the rest of the 10 commandments]
3.      The Creator holds mankind responsible for the way they treat each other.
4.      All mankind live beyond this life.
5.      In the next life mankind are judged for their conduct in this one.
Beliefs can’t be imposed; they have to be real, and chosen. Our founders knew this when they made freedom of religion the first of the basic God-given rights included in the Bill of Rights.
When the original Constitution was written, it didn’t have those first ten amendments. It was assumed that these were so basic to everyone’s understanding that they were a given. But some of the founders (Edmund Randolph, Governor of Virginia, among them, who had been instrumental in forming several parts of the Constitution) decided they couldn’t ratify the Constitution until the Bill of Rights was included—because there could come a day when the minds of the people didn’t keep alive these beliefs.
And they were right. Here we are in a day when, even with the clearly written Bill of Rights, our government tries to parse and peel apart those God-given rights to usurp authority the people have not granted.
One case to watch is the Hobby Lobby case, coming up in March. In short, Hobby Lobby—a family-owned corporation of Christian people, always run with Christian principles, even closing on Sundays—is being forced to act against their conscience to pay for employee insurance that includes birth control, including abortifacients. (I wrote about this in more detail here.)
The dictatorial administration fought giving exemption to churches, and failed. And it is trying to avoid giving exemption to corporations that aren’t actually churches (such as parochial schools, or, a current case of Little Sisters of the Poor, which provides care to the elderly) but are incorporated separately from a church. The administration is likely to lose that battle as well; you have to admit it looks bad to force nuns to pay for someone's abortifacients.
But the Hobby Lobby case claims that anyone who forms a corporation for commerce purposes has no religious rights—because a corporation is a fictional entity without the ability to have moral beliefs. Unless the corporation is a religious entity. Or unless the corporation is formed to accomplish primarily religious-related purposes, perhaps. [There’s a good discussion of both sides, from Hugh Hewitt’s show February 5th, with John Eastman and Erwin Chemerinsky.]
And, of course, a corporation is required to behave according to any moral purpose the government decides is required—such as eliminating racism, or avoiding harm to any species the government deems significant, or abiding by any of hundreds of thousands of regulations the government defines as morality simply by making them law. In other words, what this government is trying to do is force upon every American who engages in commerce the “moral values” of the government.
We are at the precarious position of being at the mercy of the judiciary again. It will always be wrong for government to force Americans to pay for something against their own conscience, regardless of what the Supreme Court rules. While Hobby Lobby (my personal favorite “toy” store), is continuing to do business as if it will win the case, if the SCOTUS rules against them, they would rather cease to do business than comply.
What Obama deems a necessary moral practice—third-party payers to accommodate women having sex to avoid pregnancy—is irrelevant to Hobby Lobby’s human board members, even if a court decides there is an overriding government interest that nullifies their religious freedom. (Such overriding interests do exist. For example, human sacrifice in the name of religion would be proscribed, and there are limits to the use of psychotropic drugs in certain Native American religions.) But it’s hard to wrap a reasonable mind around the Court’s reading the First Amendment with Obama’s skewed view.
Nevertheless, the very fact that we have a tyrannical chief executive trying to assert that his preference overrides the beliefs of people of faith is a dangerous position to find ourselves in. It is time to pray—and trust that the Lord will show us the way out of this savage tyranny and back up into freedom and civilization.
In honor of Ronald Reagan’s birthday today, we’ll close with some of his words:
“What America needs is spiritual renewal and reconciliation—first, man with God,
and then man with man.” (Campaign stump speech, 1976)

Going around this country, I have found a great hunger in America for a spiritual revival; for a belief that law must be based on a higher law; for a return to traditions and values that we once had. Our government, in its most sacred documents---the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence and all—speak of man being created, of a Creator; that we’re a nation under God. (Reagan-Anderson presidential debate, September 21, 1980)

Without God, there is no virtue, because there’s no prompting of the conscience. Without God, we’re mired in the material, that flat world that tells us only what the senses perceive. Without God, there is a coarsening of the society. And without God, democracy will not and cannot long endure. If we ever forget that we’re one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under. (Speech at the Ecumenical Prayer Breakfast, Republican National Convention, Dallas, TX, August 23, 1984)

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