Freedom of Conscience Must Be Defended
As we countdown to Election Day on Tuesday, I’m rerunning an article that I wrote in 2013 after attending a community conversation at the Tri-City Herald. The concerns we had at that time about freedom of conscience have since become even more pressing in Washington State and nationwide.
Make your voice and your vote count! Defend freedom of conscience and uphold laws that protect the right to life from conception to natural death!
State is Trying to Silence Moral Authority
Just before I attended a community conversation at the Tri-City Herald on freedom of conscience, I read this statement in an editorial on the history of the Herald’s community conversations, “In our 20-plus events, we have only had one raised voice,” I remembered, with some consternation, that this raised voice had been directed toward — me! I do seem to possess a talent for annoying people. Whether it’s a liberal relative, a nonbelieving friend — or participants at a community conversation — you name ’em, I’ve irritated ’em.
My opinion here may also annoy someone. But the wonderful thing about our constitutionally protected freedom of speech is that we’re free to be annoying! We’re also guaranteed the free exercise of religion — the right to put our beliefs into practice, not only in our churches but in public life. But recent attempts to redefine the free exercise clause as “freedom of worship” or “freedom from religion” should have us all worried, whether we are liberal or conservative, Christian or atheist, homosexual or heterosexual, because it puts us on a trajectory toward the loss of all freedom.An examination of 20th century history reveals that governments wishing to replace God-given rights with state-granted rights must first silence the churches. The state “god” will countenance no other God and recognize no human rights except those that it arbitrarily grants — and just as arbitrarily revokes. State-sponsored ideologies, from Nazism to atheistic communism to the Taliban, have proved to be harsh “gods,” subjecting their citizenry to genocide, mass murder and oppression.
In contrast, the Judeo-Christian ethic dominant in America has fostered a free nation that has honored God and safeguarded human rights — while never succumbing to theocracy.
Now, using subtle but effective methods, our government has begun working to silence the moral authority of the church at home. Guised as new “rights,” many laws are being enacted by mandate, ballot or judicial action, backed by all the government’s considerable power, that cripple the free exercise of religion and freedom of conscience, placing Christian businesses, hospitals, schools, charities, and individuals on a collision course with the state.When physicians are asked to assist a patient’s suicide; when insurers are required by federal mandate to provide contraception, including the abortion drug Ella, in their health care plans; when “reproductive rights” mean that Washington parents need not be notified of a minor child’s abortion; when the “right” to same-sex marriage means that Christian businesses must participate in celebrating same-sex weddings or face lawsuits; when our governor prioritizes passage of the Reproductive Parity Act to mandate that all employers/insurers offering prenatal care must cover surgical abortion, we are already living in Aldous Huxley’s anti-utopian Brave New World.
How should Christians respond to such laws? Pope Pius XII once advised, “When state laws attack divine law, the church is morally obliged to oppose them.” Christians must defend true human dignity and rights. We may annoy some people; voices may be raised; but we must speak out. If our religious freedom is lost, we will certainly face persecutions. The world may hate us — but take courage: Christ has overcome the world.