Religious freedom can no longer be taken for granted. James C. Dobson specially for the Newssweek.
There was a time when it would have shocked me that such words would even need to be uttered. After all, religious liberty is foundational to a free society. It is an inalienable right from God, which means it doesn’t come from the government. America’s founders recognized the fundamental importance of religious freedom and enshrined its protection in the First Amendment. Since this nation’s founding, the free exercise of faith has formed the bedrock of our country.
Over the past several decades, our nation’s moral underpinnings have been drifting from their Judeo-Christian roots, as has our shared loyalty to religious liberty. In recent years, this struggle for America’s soul has reached a fever pitch. Secular groups have opened their war chests and invested untold millions in an effort to exile faith from the public square. Even worse, their efforts have often been aided by political officials, the very individuals sworn to protect our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.
This is no exaggeration. Consider these all-too-real examples:
Groups like Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) boast of their efforts to “promote non-theism” and “freethought,” which they describe as “atheism, agnosticism, skepticism.” The FFRF relies on the so-called separation of church and state to justify the suppression of public expressions of faith in schools, in the workplace and in the community. These groups willfully ignore the truth that the First Amendment was never intended to stamp out religious expressions—it was designed to protect it.
Schools and universities continue to wage war against Christian values and individuals. The freedoms of Bible-believing students are targeted, Christian teachers are punished and American history is rewritten to eliminate our heritage of faith. One need look no further than Chike Uzuebgunam, a student who was prevented from sharing his faith on his college campus (the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear his case), or Dr. Nicholas Meriwether, who was punished for refusing to speak and act contrary to his Christian faith. Meanwhile, public schools are increasingly being exposed for offering “one-size-fits-all secular humanistic indoctrination.”
It doesn’t stop there. In our very own communities, Christians who seek to operate their businesses consistent with their faith are labeled as bigots and threatened with fines or even jail time. Jack Phillips, a Christian cake artist in my home state of Colorado, was targeted twice by government officials in his own state and had to plead his case before the Supreme Court. Jack now faces a third lawsuit. And he isn’t alone. These breaches of freedom are happening across the country.
Is this America, the land of the free? What can be done to change this oppressive trajectory?
First, stand up for the truth! Christians must be bold and courageous in speaking about our biblical convictions to our children, our friends and our co-workers. Our Constitution guarantees the protection of our religious liberty, which encompasses the freedom for Americans to believe, act, speak and peacefully live consistent with our beliefs. We must be vigilant in safeguarding this liberty because a government that invades this sacred arena will not hesitate to restrict other freedoms. Accordingly, we must demand that our government officials aggressively uphold religious freedom for all its citizens.
Second, we must resolve to carry out our civic duties as Christians and as citizens. As people of faith, we have an unavoidable spiritual obligation to be “salt and light” in our communities, and to seek the good of our nation in all sectors of life—private and public. And as citizens, we have an inescapable moral obligation to participate in our constitutional republic. At an absolute minimum, we must go to the polls equipped with knowledge about the candidates and their positions on the issues. Our government is one of “we the people,” and we have a responsibility to ensure that our public servants discharge their duties faithfully. To do so, we need to learn about the candidates running for office. How have they previously voted? What have they communicated in regard to policies that matter most to you and your family? We must also pay careful attention to the platforms of the major political parties. In multiple issues, Republicans and Democrats offer two competing visions for America. The parties’ stances on religious freedom are in stark contrast.
President Ronald Reagan stated, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
God help us if we fail to act when our country’s circumstances dictate that we must. I believe we are on the edge of a “now or never” moment in the history of our nation.
James C. Dobson, Ph.D. is a celebrated psychologist, Christian leader, and founder and president of the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute (JDFI), which is dedicated to preserving the biblical institutions of marriage and family.