By Sen. Patrick Colbeck
7th Senate District
We live in troubling times. The nightly news is filled with stories that seem to indicate that up is down. Our nation’s moral compass is struggling to find true North.
We face important decisions about marriage, life, coveting our neighbors’ goods, porn in schools, caring for the poor, and how to truly make America great again that need guidance. In our past, we have received this guidance from the pulpit. Today, sadly, many of our pulpits are silent on the issues that matter most in our lives.
Why are they silent? Fear.
Many are afraid of violating the Constitutional requirement for the “separation of church and state”. If you are one of those who believe this, please dust off your copy of the U.S. Constitution and seek out the words “separation of Church and State”. You won’t find them. The so-called “separation of Church and State” is a myth. In fact, the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution explicitly protects the “free exercise” of one’s faith. It is supposed to protect the pulpit from the state not the other way around. Yet despite this truth, many of us still choose to live in fear of crossing the mythical “separation of church and state line.”
Many churches are afraid of losing their Federal tax exempt status under the 1954 “Johnson Amendment” if their pastor speaks out on political matters. Not all are afraid, though. Thousands of pastors have recorded overtly political sermons and sent a copy to the IRS as part of the Pulpit Freedom Initiative. The IRS has yet to prosecute a single pastor because they would prefer that people of faith live in fear rather than risk a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court that would strike down the unconstitutional “Johnson Amendment”.
Some churches may even be intimidated by an 1877 MI law that makes the expression of political views as a pastor subject to a misdemeanor with a $500 fine and up to 90 days in jail. During its 139 years on the books, there has not been a single pastor tried in accordance with this law yet the fear of prosecution still lingers over many pulpits. I have introduced SB 832 to finally remove this unconstitutional state law from the books.
In the absence of the moral compass provided by our pulpits, our nation has wandered off course. Our navigation has instead been guided by the worldly passions of talk shows, internet blogs, and movies.
Why is our moral compass so important? I believe the answer can be found in 2 Timothy, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”
Our nation had an intellectual founding based upon sound doctrine and fundamental truths. The nations from which many people flee to become Americans were founded upon myths such as the divine right of kings and the use of force.
John Adams once said, “…we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
America relies upon self-governance to keep us strong. In the absence of self-governance, our elected officials will pile on more and more laws to regulate our behavior until we become indistinguishable from the nations our immigrants sought to leave.
A quote often attributed to one of our foreign visitors, Alexis de Tocqueville, put it this way, “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, she will cease to be great”.
For America to be truly great again, we need to remember what it is to be good. Throughout our history as Americans, that guidance has always come from the pulpit.
Sen. Patrick Colbeck represents the 7th Senate District, which encompasses the cities of Livonia, Northville, Plymouth and Wayne, as well as the townships of Canton, Northville and Plymouth.