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Chuck Colson's responses on Speak Out - Freedom of Worship

Dictated July 16th, 2010


From Chuck Colson - in response to some of the comments made in the Speak Out With Chuck blog on Freedom of Religion:

To Debbie Christie

Thank you for your comment.  I appreciate your question, and I can understand how your friend might think it is simply a question of semantics.  I thought that the first time I read what Mrs. Clinton said.  But then I discovered it was actual State Department policy.  I also found that President Obama had been using that phrase.

There is a world of difference between freedom of worship and freedom of religion.  Our founders

believed, correctly, that freedom of religion was the first right because it underlies all other freedoms.  They believed it was pre-political and natural.  And so if you read Madison you will see that the reason we put the ten amendments known as the Bill of Rights in was to protect the newly formed and powerful central government from denying in any way a natural right of a human being.

As I argued with Vasili Kuznetsov of the Soviet Union in 1973 when I sought and successfully got the release of 35,000 Jews, in our Christian-influenced culture we believe that all men are created equal and endowed with certain unalienable rights; among these life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  He kept telling me it was an internal affair.  And I continued to dispute him.  I believed that before I was a Christian because it is so evident from our constitutional history.

It was not a question of semantics to the founders, nor to the first settlers in this country who came so that they would be free to exercise their faith in every aspect of life.  In fact, they very self-consciously established Christian communities.

 

I think the First Amendment was a work of genius.  It says that Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof.  China, like the Soviet Union during the Cold War, like many Muslim states today, allows freedom of worship, but not freedom of religion.  In the case of Muslims that’s because freedom of religion is anathema to them.  It means that Islam cannot be the sole theocracy.  Thanks to our Christian heritage we do not believe in theocracy.  We believe in free choice and free will.

I would argue that Mrs. Clinton’s interpretation of freedom of worship by any standard could not possibly advance American human rights interests outside of America, but only undercut it.  Had I not been able to make the argument I did with Vasili Kuznetsov, 35,000 Jews would not have been released from the Soviet Union.

To Irving Happel

Thanks for your very well-informed comments about the history of the First Amendment.  What you say is absolutely right.  You also need to read Madison, who talked about freedom of religion being a pre-political, natural right, so that people are free to act on, and express their religious opinions and convictions, and in fact be bound by them in all of life.  A strong central government, Madison argued, should not be able to take that away.

To Simon Sockpuppet

The reason I didn’t raise the Hillary Clinton issue earlier is I thought that she had misspoken, that she really did honestly equate freedom of religion and freedom to worship.

But the more I thought about it, and the more I discovered how wide-spread this was I realized that it had to be done knowingly.  I’ll give Hillary Clinton a great deal of credit; she’s highly intelligent, and very well trained at Yale Law School.  She has to know the history.

To Kirby Killman

Thanks for the enthusiastic challenge of your comments.  You’re right; this is why I keep pleading for people to respond.  We cannot sit by idly and let somebody else do it.  We as Christians have to get involved.

To Ian Ferguson

You’re absolutely right; the University of Illinois case is simply another sign of the times, and why we have to constantly be educating our own troops on this issue.

Chuck Colson

(Go to Speak Out With Chuck main page):

To Debbie Christie

Thank you for your comment.  I appreciate your question, and I can understand how your friend might think it is simply a question of semantics.  I thought that the first time I read what Mrs. Clinton said.  But then I discovered it was actual State Department policy.  I also found that President Obama had been using that phrase.

There is a world of difference between freedom of worship and freedom of religion.  Our founders believed, correctly, that freedom of religion was the first right because it underlies all other freedoms.  They believed it was pre-political and natural.  And so if you read Madison you will see that the reason we put the ten amendments known as the Bill of Rights in was to protect the newly formed and powerful central government from denying in any way a natural right of a human being. 

As I argued with Vasili Kuznetsov of the Soviet Union in 1973 when I sought and successfully got the release of 35,000 Jews, in our Christian-influenced culture we believe that all men are created equal and endowed with certain unalienable rights; among these life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  He kept telling me it was an internal affair.  And I continued to dispute him.  I believed that before I was a Christian because it is so evident from our constitutional history.

It was not a question of semantics to the founders, nor to the first settlers in this country who came so that they would be free to exercise their faith in every aspect of life.  In fact, they very self-consciously established Christian communities.

I think the First Amendment was a work of genius.  It says that Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof.  China, like the Soviet Union during the Cold War, like many Muslim states today, allows freedom of worship, but not freedom of religion.  In the case of Muslims that’s because freedom of religion is anathema to them.  It means that Islam cannot be the sole theocracy.  Thanks to our Christian heritage we do not believe in theocracy.  We believe in free choice and free will. 

I would argue that Mrs. Clinton’s interpretation of freedom of worship by any standard could not possibly advance American human rights interests outside of America, but only undercut it.  Had I not been able to make the argument I did with Vasili Kuznetsov, 35,000 Jews would not have been released from the Soviet Union. 

To Irving Happel

Thanks for your very well-informed comments about the history of the First Amendment.  What you say is absolutely right.  You also need to read Madison, who talked about freedom of religion being a pre-political, natural right, so that people are free to act on, and express their religious opinions and convictions, and in fact be bound by them in all of life.  A strong central government, Madison argued, should not be able to take that away. 

To Simon Sockpuppet

The reason I didn’t raise the Hillary Clinton issue earlier is I thought that she had misspoken, that she really did honestly equate freedom of religion and freedom to worship.

But the more I thought about it, and the more I discovered how wide-spread this was I realized that it had to be done knowingly.  I’ll give Hillary Clinton a great deal of credit; she’s highly intelligent, and very well trained at Yale Law School.  She has to know the history. 

To Kirby Killman

Thanks for the enthusiastic challenge of your comments.  You’re right; this is why I keep pleading for people to respond.  We cannot sit by idly and let somebody else do it.  We as Christians have to get involved.

To Ian Ferguson

You’re absolutely right; the University of Illinois case is simply another sign of the times, and why we have to constantly be educating our own troops on this issue.