Religious Liberty: The Coming American Battle

By Graham Glover

Social conservatives in America have been on the losing end of two epic battles over the past 43 years. The first occurred in 1973 with the decision of the United States Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade to legalize the innocent slaughter of unborn children. The second occurred in 2015 when the Court fundamentally altered the legal and historical definition of marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges.

While many are pessimistic about Roe v. Wade ever being overturned, I remain hopeful that in the relative near future the Court could reverse course. The Pro-Life movement continues to grow and at times is fortunate to enjoy victories in individual states. This, coupled with its steadfast stance over the past 4 decades, puts us, I believe, on the cusp of a new generations of pro-life citizens, voters, and politicians, that will once again protect that must fundamental human right: the right to life.

As for the marriage debate, I’m not so optimistic. The radical change in public opinion and law that we have seen over the past few years on this issue is startling and really without precedence. Additionally, the insistence of the current administration to further alter society’s understanding of what it means to be a male and female under the guise of “transgender rights” is a sign of what is to come, that is, a desire and plan to completely and utterly redefine what it is to be human.

Despite these setbacks, social conservatives march on, holding true to our principles, advocating and fighting for what is right and true. This march must continue, even if the future becomes darker as more political battles are lost. For upholding truth on the issues of life and marriage should never be compromised, even in the midst of a political culture which is intensely committed to an ethos that runs contrary to it.

But there remains a battle that social conservatives will likely fight that should make every freedom loving American cringe. This battle could get ugly. Real ugly. It’s the battle over religious liberty.

church and state

As the 1st Commandment is the commandment which forms all others, so too is the 1St Amendment with respect to the United States Bill of Rights. More than any other liberty, Americans hold their right to religion, speech, and assembly.

Why then is religious liberty at risk? How could this enshrined national right be something that social conservatives would have to fight to preserve?

[A quick caveat: no matter what may happen to American’s freedom to practice their faith freely and without recourse, Christians should never lose hope over what the government does with respect to religious liberty. Christians have, are, and will continue to suffer and be persecuted because of our faith. But this doesn’t mean that the Church ceases to exist. The Word of God and the promises of our Lord do not depend on “rights” that the government grants to its citizens. In other words, the Church remains Church no matter what “Caesar” says or does.]

The coming fight over religious liberty is rooted in the desire of some in our society to control and dictate speech, specifically, religious speech. These religious liberty deniers have no problem with one’s “personal” faith (remember, they have no problem with what you personally want to do to your body). You can believe whatever you want. Their problem is with the public proclamation of your faith. Here, in the outward expression and practice of certain teachings within some religions, the religious liberty deniers want to radically reinterpret how the 1st Amendment is understood. Ultimately, they want to deny religious teachings and speech that they find offensive.

This desire is really a desire to completely redefine religion. The denies of religious liberty want to be the authors of what religion is and how citizens should practice it. Never mind if they are not adherents to the religion they critique or if they are, it matters not that they have no power in that particular religious organization. Religious liberty deniers have one goal in mind: to take away the ability of some religions and their members to freely and without recourse practice their faith.

This battle is coming. The threat is real, it is direct, and those who wish to fight it have an agenda that should make every freedom loving American cringe. Our responsibility as Americans is to be ready to fight. Our hope as Christians is in the love of our Savior and the promise of forgiveness and eternal life that he offers.

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11 thoughts on “Religious Liberty: The Coming American Battle

  1. I like this one, Graham. It’s realistic, passionate, and eloquent. I even agree with you, but I don’t think it would change my opinion on the article – even if I didn’t agree.

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  2. Abortions were legal in several states (20) pre-Roe. The statutes that existed in the states against abortion were established in the states largely from the mid-19th to early 20th centuries. Abortion was a common practice for unwed mothers in the colonial era and years following the revolution. This is what one would call “liberty” – freedom from interference in our religion means freedom to believe and practice differently from those of other religions, not freedom to regulate other’s faiths in false gods.

    The government cannot, by any statute, define or redefine marriage. I would contend that marriage was redefined in the Western mind, already, by making it a civil issue and promoting divorce over forgiveness a long time ago. If anyone wants marriage as a civil, legal issue and not tied to God and scripture, they can have it. Just because they call it marriage does not make it marriage. The Church should separate from the State and marry those within the Church by the authority of scripture – let’s take that bold step and ignore state licensing requirements, then we can talk about the Church being uncompromising and defending freedom. Start looking at marriage outside the Church as a peaceful compromise with the pagan world and natural law. We are Christians, stay on the offensive, not the apologetic and defensive.

    The Church’s refuge is not appeal to the state, the law, the courts. Certainly, we should demand our freedom as we give other’s freedom but leave it at that. Our appeal should always be the Word of God.Take the opportunities that persecution offers and speak the Gospel. Do as Christ, when you are beaten and nailed up, forgive, even if it seems out of context to the world and what is being done. We are already prepared and, I think, the best defense is a good offense. Instead of worrying about what might happen, start living the life in Christ we already have been given. Don’t just preach from the pulpits to the converted, get out into the streets, go out to the sinful world proclaim on the other side of the church doors. Don’t do it in the courts where the Gospel gets muddled up with syncretic efforts and ecumenical “common” interests, keep it at a neighborhood level and keep it pure. You’d think those purporting to learn from conservative politics would have picked something up form Republicans who fueled their Reagan revolution by taking tons of low-level and menial local offices, first.

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    1. HLewis, I agree, we don’t appeal to the State to validate us or that which the Church proclaims to be true. And your are correct that the real battle is won one on one with those we encounter every day in our lives. But, I still think there is a place (not one of primacy) for the Church to speak to the State on the issues of life, marriage, and religious liberty. We cannot ever let this be our focus, but I think we Lutherans (esp. LCMS) have been too quiet for too long in the public square.

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      1. We. as Lutherans, need to be very careful and very crafty in the public sphere. Christianity is not about deterring sin, that is not how we deal with it. Framing abortion as murder, as it is, in fact, will get you an argument for justifiable homicide when the life in question impinges upon the freedom of a woman, her sovereignty over her body. In civil courts, security in one’s person is unassailable. Only a heart directed by God can confess that the individual is not sovereign in choosing vocation, in one’s person (we are at God’s disposal). The inevitable path of exercising liberty, of free will, is rebellion that leads to the seemingly insane immorality of even determining one’s gender.

        We need to be careful not to be satisfied with what people are or are not doing, that if we deter the act of abortion, we ignore that the sin is committed in secret and even in their hearts. That if we hid same sex attraction, consing it the shadows, it will become hardened to the voice of Gospel. we must never use the law to consign sin to the darkness where it nourishes itself – iron sharpens iron, indeed, works both ways. We should never be deceived by an outwardly moral world or content to leave the lost in the darkness. Yet, I fear this is where too much energy in the anti movements is placed.

        What we can offer is a testimony, we can offer the Word which says we cannot determine our gifts, our talents, our gender, our salvation, our vocations. We cannot choose to be righteous or holy. We don’t get to pick out a comfortable god or tell God how we will use our bodies. We don’t get to bargain and say “this is love, we are really good, deep down”.

        I think this is a wonderful time for the Church. We, like Christ, get to dine with great Pharisees and magnificent sinners. We get to go out among people crippled in body and spirit and provide healing. Often, that means loving acts toward those who openly disagree with us and not tying mercy to their reformation but drawing confession from them through acts of mercy. That is how grace works. That is how God serves the lost through us. The Church cannot do this if the members are spitting venom, hiring lawyers, lobbying, and building prisons.

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  3. Simply put, the Church abdicated its role in Holy Matrimony to a state licensing fee. And as always happens, gummint now rules the roost. Now, we are subject to the whims of gummint as the winds of change blow. Hence the authority in marriage has dissipated. No-fault divorce could have been easily predicted, as was the state’s involvement overseeing every aspect of the family, likewise creating messes where none need to have happened.

    In short, the Church rendered unto Casar the things that are God’s. We are now paying the price. jb

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    1. And, in this country, the government is not an alien force, it is us. The PEOPLE want easy divorce and they vote it in. The PEOPLE – your family, friends, neighbors, fellow citizens, coworkers,, etc. – want abortion rights, so they vote it in. These things are not imposed, they are won. they do not come upon us top down, they grow among us.

      It is really simple: man is created free, with free will. The first thing he does with it is reject God’s Word. It’s called original sin. The more we talk about looking within, looking to the freedom of the individual, to self-determination, independence, liberty, the farther we are from God. In God, there is love, vocation, service, choosing other over self, righteousness from without, law, guidance, dependence on each other (masks of God).

      We, as the Church, certainly abdicated by being Americans and adopting Americansm or trying to co-opt it into our churches. time to stop compromising and being the Church. change what the people desire and the laws will change.

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      1. HLewis, yes! And the only thing that changes desire is the Gospel. The Gospel changes hearts, which subsequently change laws.

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    2. JB, good points, especially on the no-fault divorce issue. That said, does the Church now remain silent? Or are you suggesting that because we abdicated that we no longer have a voice.

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  4. HLewis: “I think this is a wonderful time for the Church. We, like Christ, get to dine with great Pharisees and magnificent sinners. We get to go out among people crippled in body and spirit and provide healing.”

    Magnificent.

    Couldn’t agree more.

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