Summary: Freedom of religion is very expensive with one of its major prices being respect for those whose religion is different than ours.
The Cost of Freedom
A Christian group has proposed an amendment to our constitution. Here’s why: “Believing that Almighty God is the source of all power and authority in civil government, that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Ruler of Nations, and that the revealed Will of God is of Supreme authority in civil affairs;
“Remembering that this country was settled by Christian men, with Christian ends in view, and that they gave a distinctly Christian character to the institutions which they established;
Perceiving the subtle and persevering attempts which are made to prohibit the reading of the Bible in our Public Schools, … to corrupt the Family, to abolish the Prayer in our National and State Legislatures, and other Christian features of our institutions, and so to divorce the American Government from all connection with the Christian religion;
Viewing with grave apprehension the corruption of our politics, … and the disregard of moral and religious character in those who are exalted to high places in the nation;
Believing that a written Constitution ought to contain explicit evidence of the Christian character and purpose of the nation which frames it, and perceiving that the silence of the Constitution of the United States in this respect is used as an argument against all that is Christian in the us-age and administration of our Government.
To the Honorable, the Senate and House of Represen-tatives in Congress assembled:
We, citizens of the United States, respectfully ask your honorable bodies to adopt measures for amending the Constitution of the United States, so as to read, in sub-stance, as follows:
We, the people of the United States, humbly acknowl-edging Almighty God as the source of all authority and power in civil government, the Lord Jesus Christ as the Ruler among the nations, his revealed will as the supreme law of the land, in order to constitute a Christian govern-ment, and in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the inalienable rights and the blessings of life, liberty, and the pur-suit of happiness to ourselves, our posterity, and all the people, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
This “Christian Amendment” is not the work of Tom DeLay, Bill Frist or Rick Santoram. It was not proposed by Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson, or James Dobson. It came from the National Reform Association on January 27, 1864. This group of Christian ministers presented it to President Abraham Lincoln because they were convinced that the Civil War in which the nation was embroiled was not about slavery. But was an act of God. They believed that God inflicted this gruesome war upon the people of the United States of America in order to punish them for leav-ing Him out of the Constitution. They were not the first to make such a claim. During the War of 1812, Timothy Dwight, the President of Yale University, argued that the British bombardment of Washington was God’s punishment for having been omitted from the constitution.
They were a part of a movement which began when the Constitution was written. A movement that wanted this to be a “Christian” nation. That wanted God and Jesus Christ written into the law of the land. For you see we Americans have been fighting about the place of religion in politics from the very beginning.
But most of us slept through our American History classes. Or maybe they left the part out about the battle that was waged in the when representatives from the 13 colonies came together to write the Constitution of the newly created United States of America. As I prepared this message I discovered things that I did not remember about the conflicts that almost prevented the ratification of the Constitution by the thirteen colonies. For you see they were just as divided as a people as we are today. Nine of the thirteen colonies had to approve in order for the Constitution to go into effect. Proposed in September of 1787, it was finally approved by all thirteen colonies almost three years later.
Just ten votes decided the issue at the constitutional conventions of two states: New Hampshire 57-47, and Virginia, 89-79. Three votes carried the day for the state of New York, 30-27. And Rhode Island was the last to ratified on a vote of 34 to 32. And one of the major issues that divided the country was a religious one. Eleven of the thirteen colonies had a religious test for any person who would aspire to elected office. Only protestants were allowed to run. Catholics were excluded along with any other religion and those who professed not faith at all. With the power of the states government behind them, these officially sanctioned denominations often persecuted the members of various minority religions. Baptists, Quakers, Jews and others were denied the right to hold public office and were required to pay taxes to support the established church. By the time the Constitution was framed; many of its authors had come to believe strongly that state sponsored denominations was wrong.