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 Rally for Religious Freedom at Moreland Park Owensboro, June 8, 2012 

Remarks by Richard Nelson of the Commonwealth Policy Center:

Good afternoon. It is good to see so many here today to gather and rally to support our most precious freedom—freedom of religion, actually the right to life is the most precious, but religious freedom is right up there. It is good to see many denominations represented today—there are Catholics, and Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians, Pentecostals and other denominations united with a common purpose. 

It was 52 years ago when the country was deeply divided in matters of religion when voters considered the prospect of a catholic becoming president. Today, we are finding that when it comes to family, culture and morality there is more that unites us than divides us. So we stand together in the public square as Christians from many denominations to say that when the government imposes laws that violate conscience and moral teaching then it is our duty to let our voices be heard and appeal to a higher standard. And that’s what we’re doing. 

The First Amendment makes clear that the federal government cannot restrict the “free exercise of religion” Yet that’s precisely what they did in February of this year when the Department of Health and Human Services announced new regulations that required religious institutions to pay for contraception, sterilization and abortion inducing drugs. Some have called it a women’s rights issue, but it is a moral issue. Some say that its not a church issue but a public policy issue. But they are wrong. This is a church issue. And it’s a religious liberty issue. 

For too long we’ve heard cries of “separation of church and state” in
order to disqualify Christians from the formation of public policy.
Where are these same cries when the state is now entangling itself in affairs of the church on the church? Where are these cries when the federal government encroaches into the realm of conscience?

Martin Luther King Jr reminded us that the church is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. He said 
that “It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If 
the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority."

Some say that churches still have the freedom to worship, but friends, this is much different than freedom of religion. Freedom of worship is confined to a certain place at certain times. Freedom of religion on the other hand is the ability to live out the faith in our culture. This mandate which forces many to violate conscience and to do that which they believe is wrong, it is a violation of our freedom. What’s just as dangerous is that government in a sense becomes god—the ultimate moral authority. And when government becomes god–with nothing over them holding them accountable, then tyranny follows. 

A few months ago the Kentucky senate passed the Religious Freedom Amendment which would have protected people of conscience by “prohibiting the government or private institutions from violating someone’s actions based on religious belief.” This bill, which passed the senate, (and I want to thank Senator Joe Bowen for voting for this bill) would have shored up religious freedom, This bill, which passed the senate, would have provided conscience protections by requiring the government to have a compelling interest before infringing on religious freedom. The bill unfortunately died in the State House.

Thomas Jefferson the author of the Declaration asked "Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure, when we’ve removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of men that these liberties are the gift of God?" The reason why we are in this place is because we have removed God from our government. We have kicked him out of the public square, we have kicked him out of the classroom, we have kicked him out of the courtroom and we wonder why we are losing our religious freedom today. Friends, our system of government is incomprehensible without God. Our nations’ charter, the Declaration says “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This makes clear that there is a God and our rights come from Him. God is part of our political foundation. You can no more remove Him from our foundation and expect us to maintain our freedom, than you could a footer from a house and expect it to stand. 

If we are to see religious freedom restored, then God must be welcomed back into our culture—not a sectarian God where particular doctrines are mandated to the public—but the God who made each of us in his image and endows us with rights. The God who gave the law to Moses on Mt Sinai. The God who implores us to seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with him. The God who gave us his only begotten son, Jesus Christ and through faith in him we find true freedom—religious and otherwise. Thank you and may God bless you.

 

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Director, Commonwealth Policy Center