I’m a new American. A few hours after my son was born two years ago, I raised my right hand and took the oath of citizenship. I swore to “defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America” because the Constitution’s values are essential to a healthy, just and moral society. This fact seems to be lost on some of our elected officials who should renew their own commitment to the Constitution, particularly the First Amendment rights to religious liberty.
America was founded by Christians who wanted a nation where the free exercise of religion was permitted and encouraged. George Washington famously said that “of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”
John Adams, the second President, added to that idea, saying that “our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Over the past several decades, the culture has taken the Founding Fathers’ idea of religion as an unshakable support for freedom and turned it on its head. The First Amendment allows for the “free exercise” of religion. But activist judges and the mainstream media have interpreted the “freedom of religion” as the “freedom from religion.” Groups like the ACLU strive to eradicate of all religion from the public square.
And when Christians stand up to voice their concerns, those in power do everything they can to silence them. In March, the Bridgeport diocese bused Catholics to a rally to protest a bill that impinged on religious freedom. Bishop William Lori urged parishioners to contact lawmakers about that legislation and another bill to legalize same-sex “marriage.”
In June, the Connecticut Office of State Ethics launched a probe into whether the diocese acted as a “lobbying organization” in heading off the bills. When a Catholic diocese can’t exercise its constitutional rights to free speech and assembly, something has gone terribly wrong with the American Experiment. There’s little doubt that much of the blame is ours. Irish statesman Edmund Burke said that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
However, we might want take a page from the ACLU’s playbook, which urges its members to be in touch with legislators who “believe that a letter represents not only the position of the writer but also many other (100) constituents who did not take the time to write.”
I’ve always contended that politics follows culture. If lawmakers want votes, they have no choice. By changing the culture one soul at a time and urging our lawmakers to follow, we will light the way to reestablishing religious freedom in America.
Patrick Novecosky is the editor of Legatus Magazine. He emigrated to the United States from Canada in 1996. This editorial appeared in the July/August 2009 issue of Legatus Magazine.