Saturday, September 19, 2009

Constitution Day

I recently received an email from Randall Niles commenting on the biblical foundation of our nation at its founding. (September 17 was Constitution Day.) In the email he writes: "There are more than 4,500 recorded public quotes by our Founding Fathers about the Bible, God, and yes, the importance of ethics based on Christian principles. All of these statements were delivered while government leaders stood on government properties." Relate that to today. Quite a contrast, right?

If you have been listening at all to the conversation in America lately, there has been a growing rejection of the principle of freedom of religious and religious speech. Recently two school administrators in Florida were arrested for offering a prayer at a public meeting. (Benjamin Franklin called for prayer at the Constitutional Convention, if we remember. Shocking.) But that is only the most recent example of the anti-Christian sea change. We all know that in every local school district from the Bible Belt to Olympia, WA, where I now live the mention of God or a personal testimony of faith in God whether by teachers or students is now either illegal or seriously discouraged by the threat of lawsuits by the ACLU. As an example, the school district in a small eastern Oregon town where I served as pastor for a number of years, dropped every religious allusion in the "Winter Holiday Program" even though there had been no local objection. So what's ahead?

Probably we will see further restrictions on our rights of free speech and freedom of religion. Probably we will see something like what happened in this video of a school teacher standing on her constitutional rights. The issue here was not freedom of religion, but the example of the police and the law overextending their control in the name of "protecting us" is scary. It is the very thing that is happening to our constitutional right of freedom of religion. We do not need this kind of "protection." If anything we need to be protected from it. What can we do?

First, we can exercise the rights we still have. Write letters to the editors of your local newspapers. Comment on news stories online - most news sites have a provision for that. Blog. Write to your legislators. Use the media to extend your voice. Speak personally when you have the opportunity. Defend your rights (these rights are founded on the conviction that God has given them to us, not our government; read the Declaration of Independence) and your faith. But do so with the respect and humility that Peter advises in I Peter 3:5, 16.

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