Wickern: Feds overreach with limits on faith displays
“Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one.”
— Thomas Paine,
Common Sense, 1776
Paine stated the essence of what our forefathers believed as the Constitution was drafted. In order for the colonial states to ratify the Constitution, 10 amendments had to be crafted guaranteeing certain rights. The first among these was the freedom of religion: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or the prohibiting of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ...”
Christ and his disciples lived their faith by serving others who did not share their beliefs. Serving others who don’t share the same faith is the reason they would not be exempt under the extremely narrow and radically new exemption crafted by this administration.
President Barack Obama’s administration is now forcing those with deeply held religious convictions to violate their core beliefs and principles. They recently argued in court a business is a secular entity, and “a secular entity by definition does not practice religion.” They are redefining our private businesses as public, and therefore beyond our faith.
More fundamentally, any business is composed of people. Each employee has rights that are supposed to be protected by our government. Many people of faith work for private employers, as I do. Through this mandate, government is using its coercive powers to force employers to comply with these requirements. It is imposed on the employer and not directly on the individual, but the most egregious effect is to the individual. The process used means the individual has no legal standing in the court system for their voice to be heard. Not only is the right taken away, but the legal means to object is denied.
The effect of the administration’s policies and rules is one where faith can no longer be practiced as it has been since the country was founded. We can no longer bring our core beliefs and principles, that which forms us and guides us, into our public lives. This violates the foundational principles of both faith and freedom. In other words, you can have faith, but don’t live it in the public square. Keep it within the walls of your home or the walls of your church. It demands that we deny our faith and forces us to participate in something we believe is gravely wrong. Freedom of religion is being redefined into a freedom of private worship, the same freedom of worship as practiced in the Soviet Union under Stalin.
Viewed from the perspective that many current polls state 80 percent of Americans call themselves Christian, this is an astounding triumph for secularism. Atheists and secularists continue to present their personal choice not to believe as being somehow superior to the constitutionally protected right to believe. Their choice is considered an unwritten right. It has been elevated to such prominence that today the unwritten right not to hear a prayer, not to see acts of faith in public and not to see a religious symbol in public is considered superior to the constitutionally protected right.
Our government, a necessary evil, is becoming as Paine said so well, an intolerable one. The government is requiring through direct and indirect actions that many millions of its citizens take part in what we believe is inherently evil, and no, we aren’t forcing our beliefs on anyone. We are being forced to deny our beliefs and to support a public policy we simply cannot. It will be remembered that Aug. 1, 2012, is the day our first freedom fell.
It won’t be long before others follow. I support people of all faiths and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who are standing up proclaiming, ‘We cannot, we will not comply.’
Chris Wickern, of Sedalia, is a land surveyor.
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