Tag archives: Religious Liberty

Persevering in Political Engagement: Lessons from the Life of William Wilberforce

by Worth Loving

July 29, 2020

The abolition of slavery. Women’s suffrage. Civil rights for black Americans. None of these reforms happened quickly. They only came about through years of dedicated efforts from people who refused to give up, despite overwhelming odds.

As we fight to protect life, family, and religious freedom, we can find inspiration in the lives of men and women who never gave up fighting for causes they believed in. One such individual was the great statesman William Wilberforce. Wilberforce played a central role in the abolition of slavery in the British Empire, but he did not see his reforms implemented within a few weeks or months. In fact, it took decades for Wilberforce’s ultimate goals to be accomplished. He experienced many crushing defeats yet remained steadfast in his pursuit. As we work toward reforms in the present, we can learn much from the life and example of William Wilberforce.

Born into an affluent British family, Wilberforce attended St. Johns College in Cambridge, where he became close friends with future prime minister William Pitt. Raised in a Christian home, Wilberforce drifted away from his religious upbringing as a young man. In 1780, at the age of 21 and while still a student, Wilberforce was elected to Parliament. Pitt followed his friend to Parliament, becoming the youngest prime minister in British history at the age of 24.

The first few years of Wilberforce’s parliamentary career were mostly uneventful, although he was known as an eloquent speaker who frequented bars with drinking and gambling. It wasn’t until 1785 that things began to change. Influenced by his friend Isaac Milner, Wilberforce rediscovered the Christianity of his youth. Over the next few years, Wilberforce’s newfound faith sparked a strong desire for humanitarian reform. Yet Wilberforce wrestled with whether he should leave Parliament and devote himself to full-time Christian ministry. He reconnected with his childhood pastor John Newton, a former slave trader who became an influential adviser to Wilberforce. Around this time, Wilberforce was also approached by Thomas Clarkson, co-founder of the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, about taking up the cause in Parliament. Through the counsel of Newton, Pitt, Clarkson, and notable antislavery groups like the Clapham Sect, Wilberforce was persuaded that he could still do God’s work while remaining in politics. Around this time, he wrote the following in his journal: “God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the Slave Trade and the Reformation of Manners” [i.e., society].

At the time, calling for the abolition of the slave trade was deeply unpopular, given the strong economic interests many influential businessmen and members of Parliament had in the British West Indies. Over the new few years, Wilberforce and Clarkson embarked on an unprecedented public awareness campaign across Great Britain. Clarkson visited the ports where slave ships docked, taking detailed notes from crew members about the deplorable conditions slaves endured aboard ship. He also took measurements of the small quarters in which slaves were housed and gathered shackles and branding irons to demonstrate to the public how slaves were being treated. In 1787, Clarkson published a booklet titled A Summary View of the Slave Trade and of the Probable Consequences of Its Abolition, detailing the horrific conditions slaves endured while aboard the ships. Clarkson began traveling the country, distributing leaflets describing these conditions. In 1789, Wilberforce used Clarkson’s evidence in a powerful speech before the House of Commons to present his first bill for the abolition of the slave trade. While Parliament did not act on his bill, public opinion was starting to change. In 1791, the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade distributed leaflets calling upon the public to boycott sugar produced by slaves in the West Indies. Consequently, around 300,000 British citizens stopped buying the sugar, resulting in a significant loss of profit to companies that used slave labor in the West Indies.

Across the English Channel, trouble was brewing in France. Parliament was soon consumed with protecting Britain from the violent revolution engulfing France. That revolution resulted in an overthrow of the French government and eventually culminated in Napoleon’s rise to power. The British political establishment often viewed abolitionists like Wilberforce in the same light as the radicals leading the French Revolution. During this time, Wilberforce was slandered, libeled, and even received death threats. To compound his difficulties, Wilberforce battled an intestinal disease (believed today to be colitis) that prevented him from fulfilling his parliamentary duties from time to time. Despite these setbacks, Wilberforce remained resolute in his quest to end the slave trade.

Year after year, Wilberforce would present a motion in the House of Commons calling for the abolition of the slave trade. Although some of the margins were narrow, his motion was defeated every single time. Wilberforce’s motions were often defeated by fellow members of Parliament who had strong economic interests in the slave trade. In a 1791 speech, Wilberforce boldly reminded his fellow members: “Having heard all of this you may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say you did not know.” But Wilberforce remained unfazed by the defeats and continued his fight with public awareness campaigns, bringing to light the horrors of the slave trade. Wilberforce and Clarkson gathered thousands of petition signatures from enraged British citizens who demanded an end to the slave trade throughout the Empire.

By 1807, public opinion was squarely in his favor, and Wilberforce had persuaded many members of Parliament. After nearly 20 years of fighting, the Slave Trade Act was passed, and Wilberforce realized one of his two “great objects”—the end of the slave trade.

Because this bill did not free currently owned slaves, Wilberforce began calling for the immediate emancipation of all slaves in the British Empire. In 1825, Wilberforce resigned his seat in Parliament due to health reasons but continued his quest to abolish slavery. On July 26, 1833, the Slavery Abolition Act was passed by the House of Commons, effectively freeing all slaves in the British Empire. William Wilberforce died three days later with the satisfaction of knowing that the cause to which he had dedicated his life had finally been accomplished.  

Wilberforce had also worked hard on his second “great object”—the “reformation of manners.” When Wilberforce began his Parliamentary career, British society was incredibly corrupt and immoral. Workers suffered poor conditions, animals were abused, and prostitution was rampant. Wilberforce had a special place in his heart for the poor and those rejected by society. By the time he died, Great Britain was a completely different place.

For more than 50 years, Wilberforce dedicated his life to building a better Great Britain. While advocating for Christians to be involved in politics, Wilberforce once said that “a private faith that does not act in the face of oppression is no faith at all.” As Christians, we are called to engage our culture and influence others for Christ. Wilberforce never attacked his opponents but instead appealed to their conscience.

Now, 187 years since Wilberforce’s death, we can draw many parallels between Wilberforce’s battles and our current ones over abortion, religious freedom, pornography, human trafficking, and many more. Since 1973, we’ve been fighting to correct the flawed decision in Roe v. Wade. While the pro-life movement has experienced many victories, hundreds of innocent unborn children are still killed every day. The Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges undermines the sacred institution of marriage. And the religious liberty of Christian business owners and government employees is under increasing attack, most recently in Bostock v. Clayton County.

Despite recent setbacks, we must never give up. We can find inspiration in William Wilberforce, who faced crushing defeats and vicious attacks from his opponents but never relented his fight for what was right.  We can learn much from Wilberforce’s tenacity and his unwavering commitment to the cause to which God had called him. The fight may be long and grueling, but the ultimate reward we are seeking is well worth any struggle we face now.

Socialism, the Coronavirus, and Bernie Sanders’ America

by Worth Loving , Israel Lopez Ramirez

April 7, 2020

Over the last month, normal everyday life in the United States has come to a screeching halt as the government works to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus. Busy cities like New York, Los Angeles, and even Washington, D.C. have become ghost towns. Most businesses and restaurants are either shut down or open only on a very restricted basis. Grocery store shelves are empty as people scramble to grab essential items like toilet paper, water, and meat, not knowing when the lockdown will end. The stock market has plummeted and wiped out most of the Trump-era gains. Companies are being forced to lay off employees as events are canceled and revenue falls. For the first time, many in America are experiencing what food shortages and government-imposed mandates are really like.

A couple weeks ago, my roommate and I visited our local grocery store to stock up on some essential items. We weren’t planning to hoard all the toilet paper, meat, or bottled water, but we wanted to get enough in case the virus prevented us from getting out much over the coming weeks.

Growing up in eastern North Carolina, I’ve experienced my fair share of hurricanes. I’ve seen people board up their homes and stock up on generators and bottled water more times than I can count. I’ve also experienced many times how unaccustomed Southerners are to snow and ice in the winter. At the first sight of a snowflake or ice pellet, people rushed to the stores to stock up on bread and milk. To this day, I’ve never figured out why those two items seemed to fly off the shelves with the threat of winter weather. Milk sandwiches never appealed to me.

When my roommate and I visited the grocery store a couple weeks ago, I was shocked. It was relatively late in the evening and the store was still full of people. All the meat, produce, pasta, soup, milk, eggs, water, toilet paper—completely gone. As we tried to scrounge up a few essential goods, I looked at my roommate and said, “I’ve never seen anything like this before.” To which he replied, “This is what it’s like in Venezuela—but always.”

My roommate, Israel Lopez Ramirez, has lived here in the United States in Washington, D.C. for nearly three years now. Before that, he spent his entire life in Venezuela. He owned a graphic design company and enjoyed many years of economic success. That is, until socialism overtook his beloved country.

Venezuela is one of the richest countries in South America in terms of natural resources, particularly oil. As the country became more industrialized in the 20th century, it borrowed money to develop those natural resources. When the world economy went into a recession in the 1970s and 80s, demand for oil decreased and its price plummeted. In Venezuela, this resulted in skyrocketing inflation, stagnant wages, and many people losing their jobs.

Capitalizing on the nation’s economic distress, Hugo Chavez was elected president in 1999 on a pledge to save working Venezuelans from the “evil capitalists and evil corporations.” Inspired by his hero Fidel Castro, he conducted a massive takeover of the country’s health care system and private sector industries and instituted sweeping social welfare reforms. As a result, many companies left Venezuela, leaving the country with few jobs and skyrocketing inflation. Chavez also pushed through a new constitution, which gave his government more central control and began restricting many fundamental liberties like freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and freedom of speech.

In 2013, Chavez died and Vice President Nicolas Maduro assumed the presidency. Maduro has continued the socialist policies of his predecessor. Many Venezuelans are out of work or severely underpaid. Inflation continues to skyrocket, and most Venezuelans cannot afford even the most basic of necessities. Grocery stores continue to experience shortages due to government controls and a lack of supply. Crime is now rampant in the country as people resort to desperate measures to find these basic necessities and as the Maduro-backed military hunts down its political opponents.

When my roommate compared the empty shelves at our local grocery store to what is happening every day in Venezuela, it really hit me. Many young Americans my age are embracing socialism at an alarming rate. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has capitalized on the enthusiasm of these millennials as well as the fury of the working class. He has normalized once radical proposals like Medicare-for-All, the Green New Deal, and free college.

But what’s more disturbing is Sanders’ praise for totalitarian regimes around the world. He has repeatedly refused to call Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro a tyrant. Among other things, he praised the Soviet Union’s investment in culture and their mass transit system in the 1980s. In 1985, Sanders praised the media censorship of Nicaragua’s Sandinista-led government. And he has repeatedly praised the housing, education, and health care programs of Fidel Castro’s Cuba. In a 60 Minutes interview with Anderson Cooper in February, Sanders once again praised certain aspects of the Cuban dictator’s regime. Many Democratic leaders quickly condemned Sanders’ comments, and his remaining rivals for the nomination immediately capitalized on that anger. As a result, Sanders’ polling lead evaporated, all but ending his chances at the nomination.

My roommate was forced to leave Venezuela because the government seized his assets and took over his business. Because of statements he has made on social media against the brutal Maduro regime, he cannot return to the country for fear he might be thrown into prison or worse. His family remains in Venezuela and continues to experience critical food shortages and skyrocketing inflation.

Venezuela is an example to the United States and any other capitalist nations—socialism does not work. It is always best to let markets operate free of government intervention. More importantly, it is critical to protect our fundamental First Amendment rights, something all socialist regimes inevitably take away. And while Bernie Sanders will deny any perceived comparison to the human rights violations of authoritarian regimes, some of his past statements indicate otherwise. In 2017, Sanders suggested that then nominee for Assistant Director of the Office of Management and Budget Russ Vought was unfit to hold the office because of his Christian belief that Jesus Christ is the only Savior.

While Sen. Sanders no longer has a viable shot at the Democratic nomination, we came dangerously close to having a presidential nominee from a major political party who embraced communist ideas. And while likely Democratic nominee Joe Biden is quick to criticize Sanders for his praise of communist regimes, he still supports many of the same socialist policies. He plans a further government takeover of the economy, education, and the health care system. Even more concerning is that he has made passing the Equality Act a centerpiece of his campaign, a radical piece of legislation that will severely infringe on our First Amendment and privacy rights. To put it plainly, Joe Biden is just like Bernie Sanders, except with more charm and subtlety. If he is elected president in November, he will take us down the same socialist road.

Make no mistake. History has proven time and again that socialist leaders start out by promising to work for the people. But they always inevitably descend into total government control of the economy, health care system, and education, and end up taking away fundamental freedoms. In November, we must get out to the polls and resolutely reject this radical agenda, sending a clear message to the Democratic Party and to the world that socialism is not welcome in the United States. Not now and not ever.

California’s AB 493: The Very Definition of Indoctrination

by Matt Carpenter

August 6, 2019

The dictionary defines “indoctrination” as “the process of teaching a person or group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically.” The California legislature is considering a piece of legislation that fits that description exactly: AB 493, or the “teacher indoctrination bill.”

Under the guise of creating a “safer environment” for students, AB 493 would require every junior high and high school teacher in the state to undergo training written by LGBT activist groups. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. This bill requires California teachers to perform “sustained input and participation,” affirmation of LGBT identities, and requires teachers to refer their students to LGBT activist groups in the community.

Anytime a person’s “sustained input and participation” is required, it can aptly be described as indoctrination, even more so when someone’s job is on the line. The changes AB 493 would make to teacher training in California clearly amounts to state-sponsored indoctrination.

Earlier this year, concerned parents and students in California rallied in opposition to the state’s new sexually explicit health curriculum, but now the legislature is taking it a step further by considering the teacher indoctrination bill.

Many parents today are rightfully concerned about school curriculums that seek to indoctrinate their children with leftist agendas rife with sexual anarchy that run counter to biblical values. Children, after all, are impressionable and parents are right to question school curriculum especially when what their children are being taught directly contradicts what they teach their children in their homes.

AB 493 would force Christian junior high and high school teachers to affirm LGBT identities despite a lack of beneficial medical evidence and which are counter to their personal beliefs about sex and sexuality. This bill presents a real religious liberty threat to people of faith who simply want to teach children, not become activists for LGBT organizations.

Unfortunately, this training has already been implemented in one California school district. Teachers in the state are already being shamed for their belief about sex and sexuality. One teacher described her experience:

Many times we were asked harsh questions and asked to raise our hands,” the first-grade teacher explained. Questions included, “Were you raised to only believe there are two genders? Did your parents ever discuss choices to you of gender?”

Teachers who admitted their parents had a binary/biblical view of gender were told how wrong and backward those views were. “I was truly offended knowing my parents raised me in a solid Christian home,” the teacher wrote. “I know my parents were outstanding parents. I was also blessed to attend a wonderful church.”

Teachers also received instructions on keeping secrets from parents. “It was shared with us that when a child tells us they are transgender, gay, or want to be the opposite sex we are not allowed to share it with their parents,” the teacher explained. The preferred name and pronoun of the student should be used, but “it should be kept private until the child is ready to share it with the parents.”

To be sure, everyone is an image-bearer of God and should be treated with dignity and respect, including junior high and high school students who identify as LGBT. Everyone should have access to a learning environment free of harassment, including teachers who hold a biblical view of sex, sexuality, and marriage.

If the California legislature implements this change to teacher training, they will find themselves harming the dignity of teachers with sincerely-held religious beliefs to pay for the LGBT activism in junior high and high schools. Ultimately, AB 493 amounts to nothing more than a displacement of harassment—not the eradication of it.

Fortunately, there is still time. Soon the California Senate Appropriations committee will meet to discuss AB 493. Take a stand for California teachers. Click here to email the California Senate Committee on Appropriations and tell them you oppose the indoctrination of California’s teachers!

The Religious Freedom of Public Officials Is Under Attack. These Three Aren’t Backing Down.

by Worth Loving

May 15, 2019


The liberty to worship our Creator in the way we think most agreeable to His will is a liberty deemed in other countries incompatible with good government and yet proved by our experience to be its best support.” - Thomas Jefferson

Often called America’s “first freedom,” religious freedom was key to our founding. In fact, it’s no accident that the Founders listed it as the first freedom in the Bill of Rights. It was the reason the Pilgrims made the treacherous journey across the Atlantic—to escape persecution and establish a haven of religious freedom.

In both their public and private lives, the American Founders were not shy about expressing their faith. But today, there is a growing movement to silence the religious expression of public officials, particularly Christians. On Easter Sunday, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, a born-again Christian, posted John 11:25 on his government social media accounts. The verse reads, “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live.’” Next to the picture was the caption “He is risen! Have a happy and blessed Easter!” The Arizona Republic quickly denounced the post as a violation of the separation of church and state, arguing that Gov. Ducey cannot use his government social media accounts to promote a particular religion. Yet when former President Obama wished everyone a “Happy Ramadan” in 2013 and 2015 from his official White House account, he was never criticized for endorsing Islam.

But Gov. Ducey isn’t the only public official who has faced such unfair scrutiny. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine was attacked a few days prior for his comments about a Christian ministry. At a fundraiser for Capitol Ministries, an organization whose sole mission is to reach every public servant with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Bridenstine gave a few words of praise for the ministry: “I love what Ralph said earlier: We’re not trying to Christianize the US government. We believe in an institutional separation, but we also believe in influence. And that’s a big distinction and an important distinction, and that’s why I love this ministry.” Once again, leftist groups were quick to denounce Bridenstine’s comments, claiming that he used his government position to endorse a religion and violated the Establishment Clause. Yet these groups were strangely silent when former President Obama spoke at fundraisers for Planned Parenthood and even called for God’s blessing on the abortion giant.

The Left won’t even leave the Second Lady alone. In January, Karen Pence was lambasted for teaching at a Christian school that holds to a biblical view of sexuality, meaning that individuals who identify as LGBT are prohibited from working at the school. Apparently, the Left believes any association with Christianity by a public official is tantamount to violating the Establishment Clause.

It seems the Left is intent on silencing Christians who hold public office from expressing their faith. However, they seem to conveniently forget that our nation was founded on freedom of religious expression and that our Founding Fathers actively exercised that freedom while holding public office. In fact, as President, George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson all called for national days of prayer. In the states, many governors including Samuel Adams, Elbridge Gerry, John Hancock, Caleb Strong, and Jonathan Trumbull all called for days of prayer and repentance.

Furthermore, the First Amendment is clear that there should be “no law respecting an establishment of religion.” This was directly in reference to the Church of England, which the former British colonies were required to support and attend. Under the new Constitution, Americans were free to support or not support the religion of their choice without any fear of government repercussion—and they don’t forfeit this right just because they serve in public office. It is just silly to claim that the comments and actions of Gov. Ducey, Jim Bridenstine, and the Second Lady “established” a religion.

One doesn’t leave their religion behind when they are elected or appointed to a government office. Yes, public officials are rightfully held to a higher standard. But one’s faith remains just as much a part of him or her as it was before, and we remain free to express it while holding public office.  

Gov. Ducey was quick to respond to his critics and showed no intentions of backing down: “We won’t be removing this post. Ever. Nor will we be removing our posts for Christmas, Hanukkah, Rosh Hashanah, Palm Sunday, Passover, or any other religious holiday. We support the First Amendment and are happy to provide copies of the Constitution to anyone who hasn’t read it.” Responding to The Arizona Republic, Ducey said: “With respect to your ‘experts,’ people don’t lose the right to free speech when they run for office. So, no, we STILL won’t be taking the post down. Not now, not ever.”

Gov. Ducey is right—it might do the Left some good to read the Constitution. They’ll be surprised to find that “separation of church and state,” which they are so quick to espouse, is found nowhere in the Constitution. In fact, it is from a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1801 to a Baptist church congregation from Danbury, Connecticut—and the letter states just the opposite of what the Left calls for today. A committee from the church had written a letter to President-elect Jefferson, congratulating him on his election and urging him to protect religious freedom. President Jefferson wrote “that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God.” Jefferson assured the Danbury Baptists of his commitment to protecting the freedom of religion. He went on to quote the establishment clause and that it had built “a wall of separation between church and state.” Jefferson still made public expressions of faith as president but never came close to establishing a religion as defined by the First Amendment.

The Left’s double standard is unbelievable. While advocating for tolerance, they demand that every public official submit to their agenda. Those that do not face a complete sabotage of their career. Because of this, attacks like the ones on Gov. Ducey, Jim Bridenstine, and Karen Pence will continue to escalate on Christians in public office. Like Gov. Ducey, we must be ready with swift responses. The key to preserving our freedoms—including religious freedom for public officials—lies in exercising them. If we don’t exercise those rights, we will lose them. But as long as we keep fighting, religious liberty will remain alive and well.

Even in Retirement, Air Force Veterans Continue Their Fight for Freedom

by Worth Loving

April 11, 2018

For over thirty years, Oscar Rodriguez served his country honorably as a Senior Master Sergeant in the United States Air Force. Since 2001, Rodriguez has delivered a speech at over 100 flag-folding civic and military events. The speech makes six mentions of God, mostly near the end:

Our flag is a beacon, recognized around the world to represent freedom during times of peace, or during times of war. This is what we live for. This is what we will fight for, and if necessary to touch the hand of God in her defense, the charge that we accept as Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines is a noble one for there is no heart stronger than that of a volunteer. Let us pray that God will reflect with admiration the willingness of one nation in her attempt to rid the world of tyranny, oppression, and misery. It is this one nation under God that we call, with honor, the United States of America. God Bless our flag. God bless our troops. God bless America.

Rodriguez delivered this speech many times in his official role as a member of the honor guard. In 2005, the Air Force issued an official script that was the only one to be recited at flag-folding ceremonies.

Rodriguez continued to deliver his own flag-folding speech, albeit not in any official capacity. In March 2016, the now-retired Rodriguez was asked by fellow airman Master Sergeant Chuck Roberson to give his flag-folding speech at Roberson’s retirement ceremony.  After learning that he could not prevent Rodriguez from attending, Roberson’s commander, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Sovitsky, told Roberson that Rodriguez could not give the speech as it ran afoul of the codified scripted speech, especially the references to God. However, because Rodriguez was retired from the Air Force and therefore a private citizen, he was entitled to give whatever speech he chose for the ceremony. Even after the disagreements over the speech, Roberson still wanted Rodriguez to give the speech at the retirement ceremony. On April 3, when Rodriguez rose to give the speech at the ceremony, he was forcibly removed by three uniformed Air Force officers. On June 19, 2016, the U.S. Air Force JAG Corps recommended an assault charge be filed against the officers who removed Rodriguez. The next day, Rodriguez’s attorneys at First Liberty sent a letter to the Air Force demanding an apology. On February 1, 2018, the Air Force refused to do so.

On April 3, 2018, two years to the day after the incident occurred, Roberson and Rodriguez are now suing the Air Force, Sovitsky, and the officers who removed Rodriguez. The charges include violations of due process, freedom of speech, free exercise of religion, and unreasonable seizure.

What seemed like a move towards uniformity was actually a veiled attempt to squelch Oscar Rodriguez’s freedom of speech. There is so much more at stake in this case than simply a formal apology from the Air Force; the First Amendment rights of every member of the U.S. military are in jeopardy. In 2016, 44,365 of you signed a petition in support of Senior Master Sergeant Oscar Rodriguez (Ret.) and Master Sergeant Charles Roberson, demanding that Colonel Raymond A. Kozak, commander of the 349th Air Mobility Wing, issue a formal apology on behalf of the Air Force. Now, we must continue to pressure the Air Force to acknowledge that they violated the First Amendment rights of Oscar Rodriguez, assaulted him, and disrupted a memorable ceremony for Charles Roberson and his family.

Our forefathers fled the persecution and oppression of western Europe because their freedom to speak and live out their faith had been compromised. Countless men and women have sacrificed life and limb so that everyone—civilian and soldier alike—may enjoy the God-given rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion. That’s why we must continue to stand with Oscar Rodriguez and our friends at First Liberty as they continue fighting for the right of every American to freely express themselves.

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Conservative Values Won Big Across America, Except in Contested Swing States
by Connor Semelsberger (Nov. 20, 2020)

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