To understand why the Religious Liberty Protection Act is a wolf in
sheep’s clothing, you first must remember that all of our freedoms and
unalienable rights as Americans descend not from the government but from
This is important. Because what government can give you, it can also
just as easily rescind, abridge and usurp. It happens all the time.
That’s why the Constitution, not temporal congressional acts, must be
our permanent and unchangeable litmus test of our fundamental freedoms.
This is the basic flaw in a bill, ironically, pushed by some very
sincere Americans distressed at our eroding religious freedoms. Who is
attacking those freedoms? Government — government gone crazy creating
new laws and reinterpreting old ones. And here comes yet another new one
supposedly designed to protect us.
Yeah, right. “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.”
We’ve heard this one before.
Even some of the proponents of the RLPA admit that the proposal
wouldn’t protect the religious freedom of all Americans — just some. In
fact, under the bill now on the fast track to approval by Congress,
someone deprived of religious liberty would need to demonstrate either
that a specific government program, funded by Washington, was
responsible or that the religious activity in question substantially
affects interstate commerce.
Interstate commerce? That’s right. Interstate commerce. So, let’s
imagine a not-too-far-fetched scenario. A local or state school district
decides to regulate home schooling. Most home schoolers have left the
government system for two reasons — total educational failure and to
ensure that kids receive religious instruction.
According to Michael Farris, president of the Home School Legal
Defense Association, the RLPA leaves home schoolers completely out in
the cold. It protects big ministries involved in interstate commerce,
but leaves the individual exercising his or her constitutional rights
with no protection whatsoever from the encroachment of militant
Here’s another scenario. Suppose a church refused, on religious
grounds, from renting a facility to homosexual activists in a city that
had adopted one of those fashionable new ordinances banning
discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation? Would RLPA offer any
relief? Not according to some of the top legal experts promoting the
bill. What if the church refused to hire practicing homosexuals as
ministers or youth directors? Nope.
Some of the big ministries, good folks like Focus on the Family, are
dead wrong when they tell their followers otherwise. There’s nothing in
this proposed legislation to suggest it will exempt churches from such
insidious local laws.
Worse yet, the RLPA — like so much federal legislation — actually
opens the door for even more mischief and future attacks on religious
freedom. Like what? Like taxing churches.
Remember, to win a case under the RLPA, religious organizations will
have to prove that their exercise of faith has a substantial impact on
interstate commerce. Yet, the more churches prove they are centers of
commerce, the more they position themselves as targets of taxation. Did
the Founding Fathers really believe religious freedom warranted
protection because churches were hubs of interstate commerce? Why should
such a test be necessary? By adopting such a standard now, churches are
playing right into the hands of those who would like to turn them into
The interstate commerce clause has been used time and again to attack
the principles of federalism that limit the power of the federal
government. In fact, it is a “loophole” used and abused to pass more
blatantly unconstitutional legislation than any other part of the
Constitution. Thus, lawyers arguing religious freedom cases in the
future will be forced to promote a reading of the Constitution that
requires the acceptance of even broader and more intrusive federal
Now do you understand why so many nanny-state proponents are actually
behind the RLPA? It will have the effect of authorizing Washington’s
already long arms to extend even further into the private lives and
personal decisions of individuals in all 50 states.
One step backward, two steps forward.
This is not the way to protect religious freedom. A more literal
reading of the Constitution would be a much better first step.
Many well-intentioned people have fallen for this sham. With the
support of so many influential Christian ministries and religious
leaders, it may take an act of God to stop it. But it should and must be