The outrage of the Political Left over passage of the Indiana religious freedom law demonstrates that with them it is no longer about tolerance, but tyranny, i.e., running roughshod over the consciences and religious convictions of others. This attitude is completely out of sync with the principals of liberty and values of tolerance on which this nation was founded.
The Indiana law, which does not authorize discrimination against anyone, was designed to offer protection for people of faith, such as Baronelle Stutzman, the Washington grandmother and long-time florist who has been ordered by a judge to provide a centerpiece floral arrangement for a same-sex wedding even though it violates her conscience and is at odds with her religious convictions.
That is tyranny! When a government thinks it has the right to compel its citizenry to think and act in ways that violate their consciences and ignores their religious convictions it has become tyrannical.
Religious liberty and freedom of conscience have been hallmarks of American liberty since its inception. Many of America’s Founders knew by experience the awful tyranny of an overreaching government that seeks to control the thinking and actions of its citizenry.
William Penn, who founded Pennsylvania and the city of Philadelphia, spent time in prison, not for any crime, but because his religious beliefs conflicted with those established by the state and the state church. For one thing he refused to pay tithes to the state church, which he could not do with a clear conscience since he believed it was a corrupt religious system.
In 17th century England, individual freedom of conscience and religious liberty were in short supply and many good people suffered for their faith. When Penn, therefore, opened Pennsylvania he invited all those persecuted sects to come and guaranteed the freedom for each to worship and live according to the dictates of their conscience so long as their actions did not harm others.
Many others came to America to escape tyrannical governments that sought to control how they lived out their Christian faith. These included the Pilgrims of Massachusetts, Baptists, Presbyterians, Quakers, Dutch Reformed and others.
From the very beginning individual freedom of conscience in matters of faith has been paramount in America. This was the context of the First Amendment guaranteeing that "Congress will make no law concerning the establishment of religion, nor hindering the free exercise thereof."
Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in which he mentions a wall of separation between church and state, was written to reassure these Baptists that they would have the freedom to live out their faith in the newly formed nation. Baptists had been one of the most persecuted groups in the Old World and Jefferson, an Anglican, wrote to assure them that the First Amendment provided a wall of separation to keep the new American government from meddling with how they lived out their faith in God.
Jefferson’s wall of separation was unidirectional, put in place to keep the government out of the lives of people of faith. This is why he also warned, “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”
I am thankful that some politicians are seeing the need to reign in an increasingly voracious government that would run roughshod over the consciences and religious convictions of its citizenry. However, it will take more than new laws to preserve the freedoms that so many have fought and died for. Only another great Spiritual awakening, directing this nation’s attention back to God, will preserve these rights and liberties for the another generation.
This is what John Adams, signer of the Declaration of Independence and our second president, had in mind when he said;
We have no government, armed with power, capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.If you believe this, join me in praying for another Great Awakening in our land!
Dr. Eddie Hyat is an author, historian and ordained minister. He is the founder of The Revive America Project that is committed to reclaiming the vision and restoring the hope for another Great Awakening in our land. To learn more about his ministry and to check out the books he has written, visit his website at www.eddiehyatt.com.