Protecting Our Freedom

A Christian magazine recently featured a major story suggesting there were deep divisions within the religious community over the passage of the Religious Liberty Protection Act. That is simply not the case. The broadest coalition of Christian groups in recent memory has come together to urge Congress to restore the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, known as RFRA. The Supreme Court threw RFRA out last summer in a dreadful decision called Boerne v. Flores—and now our religious liberties are in peril. Since that decision was handed down, zoning officials have clamped down on Bible studies, Christian facilities have been ordered to hire gays, and prisoners are forbidden to take Bibles to Bible studies. The Supreme Court decision gave the green light to local and state jurisdictions to crack down on religious exercise and they're doing so with gusto. So, Jim Dobson, Gary Bauer, Don Hodel of the Christian Coalition, and I organized the Religious Freedom Alliance. We've been joined by the Southern Baptists, the Roman Catholic bishops, most mainline denominations, the Christian Legal Society, the Association of Christian Schools International, and on and on. After eight months of painstaking work, we've gotten the congressional leadership to introduce and support a bill to restore the provisions of RFRA and stop states and local jurisdictions from taking away your liberties and mine. The congressional leadership decided to do this under the commerce clause. Some organizations, three in particular, have taken issue because they don't like giving the federal government the right to tell states what to do. But this legislation isn't telling the states what to do—it's telling them what they can't do; that is, encroach on our liberties. Furthermore, this objection is purely political. The dissenters favor limited government. That's fine, but it's not a Christian issue. Religious freedom is, and disagreement over political theory shouldn't be the basis of blocking our most cherished liberty. Let me tell you what's at stake. If this bill is not passed, the free-exercise clause of the first amendment will be a second-class right and self-government will have suffered. Imagine the audacity of the Court last summer, throwing out RFRA, which has been passed unanimously by the House and with only three dissenting votes in the Senate. If we believe in the right of self government of the people to legislate in accord with their own moral traditions, then Congress must challenge this power grab by the courts. Third, if this Religious Liberty Protection Act isn't passed, if we can't use the commerce clause, as the dissenters argue, our efforts to stop partial-birth abortion will be undone. Why? Because the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act is also based on the commerce clause. Well, I don't know about anybody else, but I'm not going to stand by and let babies be killed and religious liberties trampled on because somebody has political objections to which clause of the Constitution to use. And we must act now. Nothing is left when our most fundamental liberty is at stake.


Chuck Colson


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