Perspectives

A brief roadmap for restoring religious freedom in 2017 and beyond

Religious liberty, our first freedom, has increasingly found itself on the cultural chopping block in recent decades. We have seen First Amendment protections of religious freedom eroded by rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court (i.e. Employment Division v. Smith (diminishing free exercise of religion), Obergefell v. Hodges (creating same-sex “marriage”), federal statutes (the so-called Affordable Care Act (a.k.a Obamacare) and state laws (sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) “discrimination” laws hurting Christian florists, bakers, photographers, etc.). Believers have found themselves tarred and feathered with conversation-ending names like “homophobe,” “bigot” and “hater.” Why? Is it because we harbor hatred in our hearts? No! Primarily, it is because many of us have refused to drink the radical sexual liberty “Kool-Aid” as we answer to an Authority much higher than culture.

Yet, the “silent-no-more-majority” recently found its voice at the voting booth. The most powerful voting block who ensured the recent defeat of the radical leftist Hillary Clinton was evangelical Christians. Hillary captured just 17% of their votes. Indeed, one of the primary issues driving evangelical’s to the ballot box was profound concern about the growing elitist-driven diminishment and loss of religious freedom in America.

Now, the 81% of evangelicals who voted for Donald Trump may be wondering what is next for religious freedom? How can we recapture what we have lost? Here are a few ideas:

  • Recapture the history & importance: Many Christians do not understand the rich history of religious freedom and its profound foundational influence importance on the very structure of our republic—including other civil rights embodied in the Bill of Rights. Going forward, if we are going to value religious freedom properly and robustly engage in its defense, it is absolutely critical that we understand what religious freedom is, why it is worth fighting to preserve it, and the deep value of passing it on as a legacy to our children and grandchildren (Read Why Atheists Should Mourn the Loss of Religious Freedom in the Christian News Journal).
  • Repeal the Johnson Amendment: Pastors and ministry leaders are protected by the First Amendment. One of the biblical roles of our shepherds is to protect the flock from evil and harm by speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). They should be free to speak up and speak out, publicly applying transcendent truth to the important moral and political issues of our day without fear of retribution. Yet since 1954, the Johnson Amendment has forbidden tax exempt organizations from endorsing or opposing candidates for public office. The Johnson Amendment violates the First Amendment by unconstitutionally chilling the speech of Christian leaders. The Johnson Amendment must go! Its repeal is mentioned in the Republican platform, and President-Elect Trump has said that he will work for its demise. Let us pray that this happens very soon.
  • Federal Court Appointments: We need more judges on the federal bench, including of course the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), who are committed to an originalist/textualist approach to interpreting the U.S. Constitution and Federal law. We do not need more judges who feel that it is their job to push an uber-liberal agenda by legislating from the bench and creating new fake constitutional rights like abortion and same-sex marriage. In this regard, President-Elect Trump’s list of judges to fill Justice Antonin Scalia’s spot is a great start (Read SCOTUS: What a difference election day makes in the Christian News Journal).
  • Conscience Protections: We must not allow a misguided radical political correctness to destroy religious freedom. Religious freedom, a fundamental constitutionally protected right, should not be crushed and destroyed by the unconstitutional “new kid on the block”—radical sexual liberty. Christians with sincerely held religious beliefs should not have their consciences coercively burdened or violated by misguided SOGI (Sexual orientation and gender identity) “discrimination” statutes. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and other conscience protections like the Weldon Amendment must be expanded. RFRA is federal law that has helped restore proper respect for religious rights. Some states have also enacted state RFRA’s. RFRA’s help by finding that even if a law is generally applicable, the law will be strictly scrutinized by the court if it substantially burdens religious freedom (Please read a powerful new public statement signed by religious leaders “Preserve Freedom, Reject Coercion”).
  • Prayer, Repentance & Revival: Biblical Christianity gave the world the gift of religious freedom. It is scripture that affirms, and our Declaration of Independence that confirms, the self-evident truth that our minds and hearts are free by the Creator’s design and, therefore, that our consciences should not be subjected to coercion by the state, especially in the areas of religious belief and practice. God acknowledged the pattern of repentance and restoration in II Chronicles 7:14, “[I]f my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” If we see widespread repentance, revival, and reformation in our land—a deep and lasting change of heart and mind—then I truly believe that more Americans will authentically value religious freedom, will more effectively engage the culture, and will more actively work for its protection.

Students of history understand that there is an inverse relationship between government power and freedom. As government power and control grows, freedom always shrinks. That is why our U.S. Constitution is so important. It recognizes the intoxicating power of original sin and therefore embodies effective checks and balances and puts healthy boundaries around the otherwise unchecked rise of Orwellian government domination and coercion of the details of our lives—including our faith. If we desire to remain free, every generation of Americans must re-embrace the priceless principles and freedoms which have truly made America great and will continue to make us great in the future.

Dean Broyles

— by Dean R. Broyles, Esq.

Broyles is a constitutional attorney serving as the President of The National Center For Law & Policy (NCLP), an organization fighting to promote and defend religious freedom. Copyright© The National Center For Law & Policy. Reprinted with permission.

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