Religious Liberty: The Litmus Test for all Human Rights
Freedom of religion has always been the hallmark of our American way of life. Our Founding Fathers migrated to the shores of the New World primarily to seek religious freedom, fleeing as they were the religious persecution they suffered in England. The Founding Fathers were seeking the freedom to live according to a conscience based on their religious beliefs, and to live according to the moral and spiritual order based on a foundation of adherence to God’s Word.
Their right to religious liberty was a litmus test for all human rights. Religious rights were to become the very foundation for all the rights and freedoms we have enjoyed in the United States, and for which we’ve been known throughout the world. When religious rights are protected, prosperity, participation in culture, and peaceful coexistence for all is guaranteed. When religious rights are protected, the Church is free to be involved in the social and political life of the nation. But when religious rights are threatened, all other rights become vulnerable.
Central to religious freedom is the freedom to follow one’s conscience. When religious freedom is reduced to freedom of worship, and religious leaders are expected to remain silent in the face of national debate, basic religious freedom is threatened. The government is more than happy to welcome the social and charitable aid of the Church, and happy that we help the homeless, feed the hungry, and operate hospitals that meet the needs of society. Yet the government would limit the religious freedom of our faithful to operate these very institutions according to a moral and religious conscience that has been formed within the life of the Church, and based on an adherence to the moral teachings of historic, biblical Christianity.
When the government forces court clerks and other civil servants to sign legal documents authorizing same sex marriages, or doctors to make referrals for abortions, and pharmacists to sell abortifacients, religious freedom is compromised. When governmental agencies, and the military, deny religious exemptions from mandated vaccines, a fundamental freedom of religion is cancelled.
Certainly there are far more violent persecutions of Christians in other countries, such as the massacre of Coptic Christians in Egypt that took place a few years ago, as well as the terrorist attacks on Christians in Nigeria, but when our government would dismiss Christian clergy from the sphere of public debate, and relegate religious freedom to nothing more than private belief, we will have seen the beginning of the end of all our constitutionally garenteed freedoms.
When individual Christians who oppose laws that violate their conscience, and who are therefore marginalized by a government that would limit religious freedom to freedom of worship, ultimately have no freedom. I am in no way suggesting freedom of conscience should be denied those who do not agree with me, or with the Church’s stand on moral issues. Protection for same-sex unions, in my opinion, is between them and the government. However, to call such contractual relationships marriage, and to demand State employees who disagree because of their religious views with such contractual relationships act as agents of the State, goes against their conscience, freedom of religion disappears. When a person, because of their religious convictions, refuses to take a vaccine, and loses their job, constitutional freedom is dispelled, and we move ever closer to a Marxist way of life, where all freedom is governed by the mind of the State.
Love in Christ,
About the author
Fr. Tryphon is the Abbot of the Monastery of the All-Merciful Saviour, which was established in 1986 by Archimandrite Dimitry (Egoroff) of blessed memory. The Monastery is under the omophore of His Eminence Kyrill, Archbishop of San Francisco and Western America, of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.