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RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AND THE FIRST AMENDMENT
By Lynn Stuter
September 17, 2003
Across America, people are rising up in protest of the order to remove the Ten Commandments from an Alabama Courthouse, just as the people rose up when the Ninth District Court ruled that saying the Pledge of Allegiance in public school classrooms violated the U.S. Constitution.
As a student of the U.S. Constitution and the men who wrote it, I have to agree with both these decisions. Before you grab your buckets of tar and feathers with which to render me unrecognizable before riding me out of town on a rail, let me explain.
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution reads:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof; ... "
At this point, a little history is in order. One of the reasons so many people came to the colonies from England prior to the Revolution was because of religious persecution under the Church of England as the established and recognized religion of the government. That persecution extended to the colonies and to those practicing religions not recognized by the Church of England. In the colonies, pastors in those religions not recognized by the Church of England could not perform certain religious rites, including marriage. Often times, couples had to travel great distances to be married in a church not of their own faith or wait until a minister of a recognized faith visited the colony.
While this may seem ancillary, it is not. It is one of the primary causes of the American Revolution. It is also the reason our Founding Fathers wrote the First Amendment as they did, prohibiting a state established and state recognized religion and prohibiting government from interfering in the free exercise of religion, synonymous with world view or how one views the world and the purpose of it..
But our nation was founded on Natural Law ... Biblical Law ... Christianity. That is true. Then how is it possible that our nation was founded on Christianity, but Christianity cannot be recognized as the state established or state recognized religion?
When Jesus traveled the land, teaching the word of God, did he seek audience with governments or did he seek audience among the people? He sought audience and walked among the people. Why is that? Because Christianity is the very foundation of civil governance, starting with the individual, then progressing to successively higher levels of governance.
As way of example, say that I, as an individual, choose to live by the teachings of Christianity and submit myself to the authority of God as the recognized Higher Authority. In so doing, I have established, as an individual, self-governance in accepting a moral and religious creed that not only addresses my rights as an individual, but the rights of others as my equal.
Next comes the family in which I, as a parent, practicing self-governance as laid down by the teachings of the Higher Authority, raise my children by the same moral and religious creed.
Now, if we, as a family, live in a community in which every individual and family has done as we have done, then a civil governance structure exists in which each chooses to live by the same moral and religious creed, respecting the rights of self and all others.
Under such a structure in which I choose to live by a moral and religious creed acceptable to the community, a limited form of government is all that is required as I, as an individual, and every other individual in the community, as well, have chosen to accept the responsibility of governing self according to a universally accepted moral and religious creed.
Now continue to build that structure from the community to the highest form of government and you have a nation of people, all living by the same moral and religious creed, establishing self-governance at every level, requiring a limited form of government to secure order, justice and liberty.
This is what John Adams referred to when he stated: "Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people; it is wholly inadequate for any other."
Also what James Madison was referring to when he wrote;
"We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God."
Self-governance cannot be decreed from on high ... from the highest form of government. Self-governance must be chosen and practiced by the individual under free will. This is why our nation was established with the flow of power from God to the People to the Government.
As so adequately put by John Adams and James Madison, our nation was established as a nation of Christians, not as a Christian nation, denoting Christianity as the force of government as was in England with the Church of England. A nation of Christians, practicing self-governance, need only the limited form of government established by our Founding Fathers in writing the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Well, what about laws? A nation of people who, by their own choosing, submit to the Higher Authority of God will also make laws, if needed, that reflect their Christian beliefs.
Christianity, not as a force of law from on high, but as a moral and religious creed that the people choose to live by, thereby establishing order, justice and liberty for all.
Edmund Burke, one of the leading scholars of his time, wrote (sic) freedom without virtue is not freedom but license to pursue whatever passions prevail in the intemperate mind; man's right to freedom being in exact proportion to his willingness to place chains upon his own appetite, the less restraint shown from within the more must imposed from without.
In those few words, Burke laid out the driving force of Christianity ... to provide to the individual the means by which to place chains upon whatever passions prevail in the intemperate mind (man's inherent sin nature), such that his actions would recognize and take into consideration that others are his equal — the very foundation needed for self-governance.
Under this concept, if I am a public servant, I have every right to practice my religious beliefs in the conduct of the people's business. In fact, I have a responsibility to the people to do so. I do not, however, have the right to place a monument of the Ten Commandments on property owned by the people as a whole. Nor do I have the right to force children to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in a public school classroom. If, however, those children choose to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in the public school classroom, it is their right in practicing their religious beliefs on public property just as it is the right of a non public servant to lead those who choose to participate in a prayer on public property.
Many have said that what we are experiencing, in these times of uncertainty and increasing chaos, is a spiritual battle. They are so right ... what world view, under the First Amendment, will prevail? Our Founding Fathers, in building our form of government on Christianity, as the only world view that truly allows mankind to be free under self-governance, truly established a form of government wholly inadequate for any other world view. If the American people reject Christianity as their world view, both as individuals and as public servants, they will, in the words of John Adams, "merit even greater punishment than other nations have suffered, and the indignation of Heaven..." (1787)
God cannot and will not save our nation. In 1996, James Briggs of the Associated Press wrote an article stating that Free Inquiry, an international secular humanist magainze, had commissioned a poll in which 92% of all Americans stated they believed in God. Believing in God will not save our nation. Only the people, as individuals, accepting the responsibility of self-governance according to the teachings of the Higher Authority, can save our nation.
© 2003 Lynn M. Stuter - All Rights Reserved
Mother and wife, Stuter has spent the past ten years researching systems theory with a particular emphasis on education. She home schooled two daughters, now grown and on their own. She has worked with legislators, both state and federal, on issues pertaining to systems governance and education reform. She networks nationwide with other researchers and citizens concerned with the transformation of our nation. She has traveled the United States and lived overseas. Web site: www.learn-usa.com E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
"When Jesus traveled the land, teaching the word of God, did he seek audience with governments or did he seek audience among the people? He sought audience and walked among the people. Why is that?"