(Editor’s note: This month marks the 10th anniversary of Chuck Norris’ weekly column at WND.)
Article Six of the U.S. Constitution prohibits religious tests for the presidency, but it doesn’t prohibit the exercise, discussion or debate about a president’s faith, or their views of the role of religion in our republic.
In fact, the First Amendment secures the exercise of our religious preferences and free speech, as a right for every American, including the president.
Nevertheless, in all three presidential debates, not a single question was asked about the candidates’ personal faith. In roughly five hours of the national broadcasts, not one question was asked about the role of religion in our republic, either, save the mainstream media’s intoxication with Donald Trump’s alleged anti-Muslim views.
Even at the vice presidential debate, the moderator asked the two candidates: “You have both been open about the role that faith has played in your lives. Can you discuss in detail a time when you struggled to balance your personal faith and a public policy position?”
Wouldn’t that have also been a great question to hear the presidential candidates answer?
In addition to most Americans’ concerns about what role religion will or won’t play in a future White House, there is one more reason why it should have come up in the presidential debates: Religious liberty as defined in the First Amendment has never been under more assault than it is today.
A 2016 report explained that attacks against religious freedom in America are growing at an alarming rate, with assaults doubling in just the past three years, according to Conservative Review, or CR.
“Undeniable: The Survey of Hostility to Religion in America,” an annual report published by the First Liberty Institute and composed by a research team led by a Harvard-trained constitutional attorney, explained: “… hostility to religion in America is rising like floodwaters, as proven by the increased numbers of cases and attacks documented in this report. This flood is engulfing ordinary citizens who simply try to live normal lives according to their faith and conscience.”
In 2012, the Texas-based religious freedom organization cataloged more than 600 instances where religious liberty was threatened or suppressed.
In 2015, it cataloged 1,285 additional attacks on religion in the United States.
CR explained, “The report outlines four areas in which hostility to religious belief and practice is growing at an ‘alarming’ rate:
- “The ‘public arena’ of public places, government, and the workplace.
- “The ‘schoolhouse’ of education, from K-12 through higher academia.
- “Churches and ministries,’ in which one might expect hostility to be the least.
- “The ‘military,’ which includes our service members, veterans, and their memorials.”
There is no speculation or controversial calls in this report, just hundreds upon hundreds of bona fide religious liberty attacks, like:
- A high-school football coach suspended for praying after football games.
- A Marine court-martialed for refusing to take down a Bible verse.
- An Orthodox Jewish synagogue sued by the government for meeting in a private home.
- Veterans prohibited from practicing Native American faith rituals at a VA center.
- Cheerleaders stopped from writing Bible verses on cheer banners.
Unfortunately, and even tragically, there is no greater traitor of the First Amendment and culprit of secular progressive assault on religion than our current president himself, Barack Obama.
Wallbuilders has literally cataloged dozens of the Obama administration’s assaults on religious liberty – from the military to American business and churches – in its article, “America’s most biblically hostile U.S. president.”
While the details of the First Liberty report might sound gloomy, there is hope as it also explained: “[T]his survey also shows that those persons and organizations who stand up for religious liberty win when they fight. As more and more Americans become aware of the growing attacks on religious liberty and what their rights are, they can stand and turn back the tides of secularism and hostility that have so eroded our religious liberty rights, our First Freedom.”
Roger Severino, the director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at the Heritage Foundation, explained to CS: “The first step to recovery from any problem is to stop denying a problem exists. First Liberty Institute’s report shatters the myth that the left is on the side of tolerance by documenting countless examples of progressives using the power of government to target people of faith for hostility and exclusion because of their beliefs.”
We need a new president who understands and advocates real religious liberty and a nationwide re-education of the truths and our rights in the First Amendment. We also need a Congress who will amend the Johnson Amendment.
The Founders would have never approved the Johnson Amendment, a provision in the tax code that was introduced in 1954 by Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson, D-Texas, as a way to restrict and even stop his political opponents.
Section 501(c)3 bans “[c]orporations … organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes” from “participat[ing] in, or intervene[ing] in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”
Tony Perkins put it well in his Daily Signal article: “[Lyndon Johnson] never intended to bar advocacy organizations from mentioning elected officials, or pastors and churches from commenting on candidates. … Unfortunately, the Johnson Amendment certainly has been used in this way.”
So, the mainstream media can shape news and political opinions across our country, but church leaders can’t even inform their local parishioners to make educated votes without “breaking the law”?
Perkins added, “This ban is at odds with our own history. Since the birth of our nation, pastors and churches have been at the forefront of shaping public debate and our choice of public servants.”
We are light years away from our founder’s original intent for the First Amendment or their understanding of the role of religion in America, which was to produce and maintain civility and morality.
George Washington warned the American public about the future restrictions on religion in his Farewell Address (1796) after his two terms as America’s first president: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
Washington – and every great president since – understood the power of personal faith and the role of religion in our republic. Our next president should, too.
Speaking of standing up for faith and religious liberty, opening this weekend is an awesome movie, “I Am Not Ashamed: The Rachel Joy Scott Columbine Story.” It recounts the Columbine high school massacre on April 20, 1999, and particularly the courage and faith of its first victim, Rachel Scott, who is the beloved daughter of our dear friends, Darrell and Sandy Scott. (They started Rachel’s Challenge in her memory.) The movie uses Rachel’s own words from her journals and family to tell her story, and how her strong faith in God made her a target. Please, go see it, and let it inspire you, too!