As Ronald Reagan once said, "Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of law under God is acknowledged. When our Founding Fathers passed the First Amendment, they sought to protect churches from government interference.
Reagan added, "They never intended to construct a wall of hostility between government and the concept of religious belief itself. The First Amendment of the Constitution was not written to protect the people of this country from religious values; it was written to protect religious values from government tyranny."
In the 20th century, our nation faced a momentous challenge to freedom. We stood up against evil and defeated, first, fascism, and, then, communism.
Today, America faces a new challenge: an assault on religious freedom, which is the most fundamental of our human rights. Religious freedom is inseparable from the rest of our liberties. The question is, whether Americans can maintain their moral discipline and virtues to defend them?
Freedom of religious belief and practice is a fundamental and universal right enshrined in various moral and legal traditions, including ours.
According to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, a milestone document in the history of liberty, "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. This right incudes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance."
Pope John Paul II, who suffered for faith under the Nazis and Communists, asserted that “religious freedom … is the basis of all other freedoms and is inseparably tied to them all by reasons of that very dignity which is the human person.”
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI reminds us that "The right to religious freedom is rooted in the very dignity of the human person whose transcendent nature must not be ignored or overlooked.” Freedom is oriented to truth, moral values, and "is a means of achieving personal union with God."
In this sense, unlike utilitarianism and pragmatism, religious freedom is an inviolable right.
Then, the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 states, "From its birth to this day, the United States has prized this legacy of religious freedom and honored this heritage by standing for religious freedom."
As our National Security Strategy so clearly express that, "Our Founders understood religious freedom not as the state’s creation, but as the gift of God to every person and a fundamental right for our flourishing society."
Indeed, our Founding Fathers believed that the Christian moral system --- where people "Love God with their whole heart, soul, and mind; and to Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself' — corresponds to the true nature of man. They were convinced that religion helps create moral discipline within society.
On May 29, 2018, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in his remarks on the release of the 2017 International Religious Freedom Annual Report, declared, "Religious freedom is in the American bloodstream from the beginning. It’s what brough the pilgrims here from England. Our founders understood it as our first freedom. That is why they articulated it so clearly in the first Amendment … Religious freedom was vital to America’s beginning. Defending it is critical to our freedom."
Constitutional protection of religious freedom in the United States reflects the Founding Fathers’ belief that religion was necessary for existence of a free system of government. Why? Because free government was only "suitable and sustainable for religious people" — a people who have believed that God is the source of human freedom and dignity.
As John Adams put it, "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other."
James Madison described religious liberty as "a right towards men" but "a duty towards the Creator," and a "duty… precedent both in order of time and degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society."
The First Amendment of our Constitution — which was intended to separate church from state providing for limited government, while giving "the People" broad liberty — reminds us that the freedom to belief and practice is a fundamental liberty.
Standing for religious freedom is standing for God, natural law, moral values, and truth in America. It's standing for liberty of human person and his dignity.
Whether Americans can maintain their moral discipline and virtue to defend them?
I truly believe so, but we still need Christian leaders who will act on our religious values and morals in public and private. We need young people "who will go beyond the political and cultural impasses of the present and proclaim the Gospel with fresh hope, insight, and conviction." We need political leaders who are ready to fight for our liberties: the freedom to live according to our faith and beliefs.
Dear fellow Americans, now it’s the time for all of us to defend our Church and our religious freedom. It’s also time to defend our own freedoms and the freedom of our families. Freedom of religion not only strengthens the nation's but also serves as a necessary foundation of peace and security in America and globally.
Defense of faith helps us shape our culture for the better.
"Be not afraid," as St. John Paul II appeals to us from the house of God, "throw open the doors to Christ."
Monika Jablonska is an author of "Wind from Heaven: John Paul II, The Poet Who Became Pope." Her next book on Saint John Paul II is forthcoming in 2021. She is a lawyer and a literary scholar living in Washington D.C. Read Monika's Reports — More Here.
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