Sen. Patrick Colbeck
Nov. 20, 2015
Religious liberty in our nation is at risk. This risk has been steadily escalating over the past century, but has reached alarming levels in recent years.
On Monday, May 5th, 2014, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court reversed a decision by the Court of Appeals that held that the practice of praying before legislative assemblies violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
As a reminder, this clause reads “Congress shall make no laws respecting the establishment of religion”…
Praying before a public assembly does not make a law. I am thankful that five members of the Supreme Court did not stop their reading of the First Amendment at the Establishment Clause, for the first amendment goes on to say…
”or prohibiting the free expression thereof or abridging the freedom of speech” .
Four of the members of the Supreme Court sought to prohibit invocations before legislative assemblies.
Thankfully, five of the members appear to have read the entire First Amendment.
The opinion of the five carried the day by the narrowest of margins…by one vote.
I wish this case was an isolated case, but it is not. In fact, the Family Research Council documents over 1,200 court cases over the past decade dealing with the infringement of religious liberty in our nation – a nation founded on the principle that our rights were “endowed by our Creator”. You can review this list at www.religioushostilities.org. Remember, these are only those incidents that have become court cases. These 1,200 cases are simply the tip of the iceberg. You can find additional information on religious persecution in America in Todd Starnes book God less America.
Thankfully, many Americans are waking up and taking a stand. Nationally, you may recall the Houston Mayor that subpoenaed the sermons of five pastors because they promoted the biblical view of marriage. The subpoena was withdrawn after the Mayor received pressure from the community and leaders such as Senator Ted Cruz and Governor Mike Huckabee.
The Pulpit Freedom Initiative is another example of the faith community fighting to defend our First Amendment rights. Thousands of pastors every year challenge the IRS to enforce the prohibition of political speech in their sermons by taping their sermons and sending them to the IRS. These pastors know that the statute prohibiting such speech is unconstitutional. The IRS prefers that pastors live in fear of prosecution under an unconstitutional law. The IRS knows that they would lose any court case taken up by the Supreme Court so they have not attempted to prosecute these pastors. The Bible says “Do not be afraid” 63 times. Perhaps God is trying to tell us something?
In our own backyard, I am encouraged by a wellspring of revival throughout our state. Did you know that we have a bi-partisan Michigan Legislative Prayer Caucus? Did you know that we have weekly Bible studies featuring 20-30 legislators? Earlier this year, almost 200 pastors and legislators came together in Lansing to commit ourselves to the truth of 2 Chronicles 7:14 which says, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land”.
In September, I participated in a forum entitled “The Body of Christ in the Public Square” and another called “Covenants and Courage” to bring awareness to the erosion of our civil liberties. On December 2, people of faith will be holding a “Religious Liberty Rally” on the steps of the Capitol in Lansing. Throughout the state, people of faith are waking up and reaffirming the fundamental right upon which all other rights rest…the freedom of religion.
It is time to fearlessly expose the myth of the “Separation of Church and State”. The establishment clause of the First Amendment protects us against a “theocracy” such as our Founders left behind in Great Britain under the Anglican Church. We now need to take a stand to assert the “free exercise” clause. Our Constitution ensures the freedom OF religion not the freedom FROM religion.
In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God?” We would do well to heed his wise counsel.