by Philip Rhein
July 6, 2017
This question is especially relevant today because of two recent events:
First, recent comments made by Senator Bernie Sanders in a Senate Committee Hearing made believers consider whether they still have the right to practice what they believe (watch the video here).
Secondly, the Supreme Court has agreed to review Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. In this case, the Supreme Court will decide whether craftsman and artists still have the right to decline the promotion of a message they disagree with if it violates deeply-held religious beliefs, or if they can be forced to participate in a ceremony that violates his or her faith.
To better understand this question, we should refer to the First Amendment, which states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof (emphasis added); or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” The First Amendment makes it clear that personal faith and the practice of faith are not to be separated by the government.
On June 26, 2017 in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch referred back to the First Amendment, when he stated, “that clause guarantees the free exercise of religion, not just the right to inward belief (or status).” This statement aptly outlines why artists, craftsman, etc. are not only free to believe in their faith but are also free to practice what they believe within their business. This case was a victory for all Americans who try to put their faith and beliefs into action.
In the name of “inclusiveness,” the Left has attempted to coerce individuals of faith to violate their consciences. But polling shows that a majority of Americans support the freedom to believe and live out those beliefs in the public square. The American Founders understood that threats against religious freedom would arise. For this reason, Madison wrote in Federalist 51: “It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part.” Madison understood that harmony can only exist in a republic if the beliefs of individuals are protected—whether they’re in the majority or minority. In our country, people of faith have the freedom to believe and to act in accordance with that belief. The Left should take note that the right which protects a Jewish butcher from being compelled to serve pork is the same right that permits Christians to decline to bake a cake for a court-created same-sex marriage. This is not just a Christian issue, this is a question that affects anyone who has a conscience and wants to put their beliefs into practice.
As stated on FreetoBelieve.com, “When Americans believe something, they back it up with their actions (emphasis added). Our core beliefs define who we are, and how we live. The freedom to believe and live according to those beliefs is the foundation for a civil society where people of differing beliefs can live and work together with mutual respect.”
Like other challenges to faith and freedom that America has faced, we are hopeful that this current trend of religious liberty violations be put behind us. However, if freedom is not properly defended in situations such as Senator Sanders’ challenge of Mr. Vought or in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the potential to cause devastating consequences for faith-filled Americans is daunting.
The recent Supreme Court ruling in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer should encourage all lovers of freedom. However, this is just one victory in many cases that the Supreme Court will review. All believers are called to pray for our country and that the Supreme Court will continue to defend the right of all people to put their faith into action.