What Does Freedom Of Religion Really Mean: Our Constitution is still alive and applicable today! As citizens, we all have a duty to study the Constitution, to understand where our rights and our freedoms are laid out in that document, and how our government structure should work. The reason our government continues to overstep its boundaries is that “we the people” don’t know what those boundaries are! Tune in now for the first part of our three-part series!
Air Date: 07/10/2019
On-air Personalities: David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton
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Transcription note: As a courtesy for our listeners’ enjoyment, we are providing a transcription of this podcast. Transcription will be released shortly. However, as this is transcribed from a live talk show, words and sentence structure were not altered to fit grammatical, written norms in order to preserve the integrity of the actual dialogue between the speakers. Additionally, names may be misspelled or we might use an asterisk to indicate a missing word because of the difficulty in understanding the speaker at times. We apologize in advance.
Faith And The Culture
Welcome to the intersection of faith and the culture. This is WallBuilders Live! Where we’re talking about today’s hottest topics on policy, faith, and the culture, always doing that from a Biblical, historical, and Constitutional perspective. We’re here with David Barton and Rick Green. Thank you so much for joining us today.
We’re going to dive into Constitution Alive today. There’s been so much talk about! Freedom of religion, and whether it’s freedom of worship or the freedom to exercise your religion, actually live it out, not only in your home and at your church but also in the public square, certainly where you work and in all of these other areas it’s just it’s such an important freedom and it is being changed drastically in America today. So we want to dive a little further into that for the next three days.
It’s going to be an excerpt from Constitution Alive with David Barton and Rick Green. It’s where we actually went into David’s library, and we dug out all those incredible documents, and then we went out to Independence Hall, and there, in the very room where the Constitution was framed, where the Declaration was signed, in that very room we dive into the details of our Constitution and the history of where these things come from.
Where these ideas come from, where the principles come from, and what the founding fathers actually intended by the phrases found in our Constitution. So, Constitution Alive, we have a great program. We encourage you to check it out. You can find out more at WallBuilders.com or ConstitutionAlive.com. We’ve shared a few segments from Constitution Alive here in our program because we want you to dive deeper into these issues. That’s what we’re going to do here.
Section 8 of Constitution Alive
This is actually Section 8 out of Constitution Alive, and it’s going to take three programs—so today, tomorrow, and the next day we’ll be sharing it with you here on the airwaves.
If you want the DVD, and workbook, and all that, go to ConstitutionAlive.com and you can find out more there.
Let’s dive right in. We’re going to check our Constitution Alive with David Barton and Rick Green. It’s going to be covering the First Amendment, freedom of religion.
Welcome back to Constitution Alive with David Barton Rick Green. In this section, we’re going to dive into the First Amendment.
David, obviously it’s important because it’s the First Amendment that they gave us, also very important to you. Your book, Original Intent, really keys in on this freedom of religion, one of those freedoms in the first amendment.
It does. If you look at the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment, there are those five elements of the First Amendment protected. The Bill of Rights—in order to understand the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights, you got to understand the Bill of Rights. So let’s back off a little bit and say, “What’s the Bill of Rights about?”
Like battle maps?
That’s right. We’re making battle maps, getting the big view, and then we’ll go down and fight the battles in the First Amendment.
Endowed by Our Creator
And looking at specifically, go back to the Declaration, because the Declaration sets our philosophy of government. In our philosophy of government we have, in those hundred and fifty five words, six principles that we stick with. Those six principles we stick with, the first one is there is a Creator. All men are endowed by their Creator. The second is the divine Creator gives certain inalienable rights, that they’re endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.
The third one says that, to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men. Now, here’s where we get to this thing. The purpose of government is to secure inalienable rights. That’s what the Bill of Rights does. These aren’t the only inalienable rights, but these are the key rights back in the Declaration, originally in 1776, they said, “Among others, is life, liberty, and property—”or pursuit of happiness.
Then here we are, 11 years later, and we’re saying, “Hey, it’s time to do it.”
Eleven years later, the Constitution. Four years after that, they do the Bill of Rights, and it’s like, “Remember we told you these were three among others? We’re going to give you some of the others now.”
So they go through in the Bill of Rights and start listing other rights.
Now, the problem we have today is most folks cannot define an inalienable right. They can identify a few, they can’t identify the five in the first amendment, they can’t identify what the Second Amendment is about. They don’t know that. We’re not taught very well in school.
What Are Inalienable Rights?
But nonetheless, you go back to what an inalienable is, and then it starts making sense. So let’s go back to the definition, and the guys who wrote the documents told us the definitions. For example, John Dickinson is a guy who had an impact on the Declaration, becomes a signer of the Constitution, and here’s his definition.
John Dickinson says, “An inalienable right is a right which God gave to you and which no inferior power has a right to take away.”
This goes back that jurisdictional thing. It’s like the marriage thing that comes from God. Government can’t mess with it.
“You can’t go paint your truck you know that.”
That also goes back to the first three principles you enforce through period: God exists, God gives us these rights, we empower government to protect them, but government government cannot take them away or regulate them. Can’t restrict them.
He continuously said, “Human governments could not give the rights essential to happiness. We claim them from a higher source, from the King of Kings and Lord of all the earth. They are not annexed to us by parchment seals.”
In other words, “These aren’t rights that come in government documents. They’re created in us by the decrease of Providence which establish the laws of our nature. They’re born with us, exists with us, and cannot be taken from us by any human power without taking our lives.”
That’s strong stuff. So that’s available, it’s come from God.
Now, here you’ve got Alexander Hamilton. He signed with the Constitution, he was a General in the Revolution, he’s one of the three guys of the Federalist Papers. I love his definition.
Antecedent to Earthly Government
He says, “Inalienable rights are not to be rummaged for among old parchment and musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, and a whole volume of human nature by the aid in the event itself and can never be erased or obscured by any moral power.”
So God writes these in us. They come from Him. These are not given by government. Government can regulate what it gives, and those are called social compact laws. That’s a consent of the governed. If the government says sidewalks are going to be four and a half feet wide, they can regulate that.
That’s one of those areas where we come together so that as a society we elect representatives, and we decide on this area we’re going this way or that way, and are not things that we get to decide on.
This is a category that comes from God.
Here’s another definition: Samuel Adams said, “Inalienable rights are imprinted by the finger of God on the heart of man.”
They’re part of our nature, part of the way God made us.
And then another definition from John Adams, “Inalienable rights are antecedent to all earthly governments, rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws, rights derived from the great Legislator of the universe.”
At that point notice what he says inalienable rights are antecedent to our earthly government, which means they came before earthly government.
Here’s a fun thing to look at:
These inalienable rights that they gave us… What’s the first earthly government we have in the history of humankind? Noah.
It’s Genesis Chapter 9. Noah gets off the ark.
God delivers to him what to call the Noahide Laws, seven categories of laws, that’s the first time we have single government model.
This is David Barton with another moment from America’s history. Around 1790 the infamous Thomas Paine wrote his age of reason attacking religion and Christianity. Interestingly, one of the strongest defenders against Payne’s attack was Benjamin Franklin.
In fact, he stiffly rebuked and told him, “He that spits in the wind spits in his own face. Do you imagine any good would be done by this attack against religion. Think how great a portion of mankind consists of youth who have need of the motives of religion to restrain them from violence to support their virtue. I would advise you not to attempt unchaining the tiger but to burn this piece before it is seen by any other person. If men are so wicked with religion what would they be if without it?”
Benjamin Franklin believed that the practice of religion was one of the greatest assets of American society. For more information on God’s hand in American history. Contact WallBuilders at 1-800-8-REBUILD.
When God Gave Us Rights
If inalienable rights are antecedent to all earthly governments, then that means they came in Genesis 1 through Genesis 8.
So the rights that man has in Genesis 1 was before there was ever a government. These are available rights.
Now, here’s how it works. God gave us a right to life. We’re born. We have the right to live without our life being taken from us in an unjust way.
Murder? Shedding of innocent blood? Dead wrong every time.
Cain violated Abel’s right to life. Abel had a right to life. He had a right not to have his life taken an unjust manner. Cain violated that. God dealt with Cain.
But then it becomes so prevalent across mankind that they’re violating so many inalienable rights, they’re taking somebody else’s property, taking somebody else’s wife, they’re taking somebody else’s possessions, and taking somebody else’s life.
They’re doing all of this. They’re violating you’re an inalienable rights.
Then God said, “Alright, I’m wiping it out. We’re starting this again.”
So He wipes out the earth through the flood.
Noah gets off and says—first thing you tells Noah—Genesis Chapter 9:6, He says, “Noah, whoever sheds man’s blood, by him will man’s blood be shed. I’ve given an inalienable right to life. Whoever violates that right to life, you take them out. You get them out here.”
That’s the first government.
Why was it created? To protecting.
Another Noahide Law says, “You cannot take stuff that belongs to somebody else. You cannot steal. If somebody violates that an inalienable right to property, you take care of it.”
Government Has Forgotten that there is a Power Higher than Them
That’s your first government. That’s why the Founding Fathers said that to secure these rights. The purpose we have civil government was to protect all those rights God gave us originally, but because of our bad human nature, we violated those He said. That’s why government comes in, and so literally that is why you have the Bill of Rights.
They are called a negative liberty. Yeah. Because they take rights away from government, because the government has no right to tell us what to do in these areas. So the first amendment, it is a God given right to worship God according to the dictates of conscience.
How backwards are we, if we had these inalienable rights, and the purpose of government is to protect those rights, and now where it’s government itself that is infringing upon and taking away those inalienable rights?
If government was created to protect them, and now governments are the one taking them away, whether it’s freedom of conscience or any of these other inalienable rights,
how far have we gone?
We’ve only gone one step. We’ve only moved one step, and it just means government has forgotten that there’s a power higher than itself.
Government is us, right?
Government’s role is and we keep electing guys that forget that there’s a power higher themselves and they think when they get it. It’s an easy fix.
You just get people in office who recognize there’s a power above them.
70% of Americans Still Believe in the Constitution
It’s not that we’ve fallen that far, we can fix that now. Where we have fallen far is five out of six not choosing the President, seven out of eight not choosing Congressmen. Our value system America is still very strong. The number of people who think the Constitution is relevant today is over 70 percent. Man, you watch the news, you would think we’re in the 5 percentile range..
So the instincts of most people are correct. They may not know what these rights are but they respond.
In the Bill of Rights you have all these rights that have been set aside. Governments are told they can’t mess with that. The First Amendment has five of those rights. The First Amendment says, “From God we get the right to worship God according to the dictates of conscience.”
Free Exercise of Religion
We get the right to free exercise of religion, we get the right to express our faith openly publicly, we get the right to freedom of speech, we get the right to freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and freedom of petition. The five rights the First Amendment that are higher than the government. Government can’t regulate them.
All those definitions we had, our inalienable rights, they’re not to be restrained or changed by any human power. Their rights that are off limits to government. They’re an animal rights that came to us from God. That’s what the First Amendment is all about as part of the Bill of Rights.
We’re gonna dive into it, specifically one of those five from the first, that freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. You know the Freedom From Religion Foundation? Totally opposite of what the founders actually intended. So we’re gonna go back to Philly and dive into freedom of religion find out what the founders actually meant by that in Philadelphia where it actually happened.
We Want To Hear Your Vet Story
Hey friends! If you have been listening to WallBuilders Live for very long at all, you know how much we respect our veterans and how appreciative we are of the sacrifice they make to make our freedoms possible. One of the ways that we love to honor those veterans is to tell their stories here on WallBuilders Live. Once in awhile, we get an opportunity to interview veterans that have served on those front lines that have made incredible sacrifices have amazing stories that we want to share with the American people.
One of the very special things we get to do is interview World War II veterans. You’ve heard those interviews here on WallBuilders Live, from folks that were in the Band of Brothers, to folks like Edgar Harrell that survived the Indianapolis to so many other great stories you heard on WallBuilders Live.
You have friends and family that also served. If you have World War II veterans in your family that you would like to have their story shared here on WallBuilders Live, please e-mail us at [email protected] Give us a brief summary of the story and we’ll set up an interview. Thanks so much for sharing here on WallBuilders Live!
What is the First Amendment?
Welcome back to Constitution Alive, it’s time to dive into the Bill of Rights. Everybody’s always talking about the rights in the Bill of Rights. We’re going to walk through all of them. One particular, one we’re going to spend a little extra time on, the First Amendment. Then we’ll get through the rest of at least get an idea of where some of those other rights are, like a grand jury or the right against self incrimination.
But let’s start off by stepping right into the First Amendment, and I’m actually going to get a little bit of help on this one. My oldest son, Trey, he’s going to come share on the first amendment.
The first amendment to the Constitution contains five our most cherished freedoms. These are not freedoms the Founding Fathers believed that they were giving us, these are freedoms the Founders said we were given directly by God, and the purpose of the First Amendment, was to make sure that our government can never take them away on September 25th 1789.
Congress adopted the following words and sent them to the states for ratification. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press, the right of the people to peaceably assemble, or to petition their government for redress of grievances.” First, we have the freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.
This means we each have the freedom to live out our own chosen faith, or no faith at all, and we must respect the rights of our fellow Americans to live out theirs as well.
Second, we have the freedom of speech, which means we can say whatever we want even if it’s not popular.
Freedom of Religion is not Freedom From Religion
At the time, our freedom of the press means that we get to choose from a free market competition of news outlets rather than having a state controlled media.
Fourth, like we’re doing here today, we have the right to assemble together to worship as we choose, or even speak out against the actions of the government when we disagree. Fifth, the right to petition our government in a letter to our congressmen, or to the editor, or by joining in a tea party or even a march in Washington DC.
In the past, we have all taken these freedoms for granted. Let us together commit that we will live out and protect our freedoms of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition.
Welcome back my dad, Rick Green.
Thanks, buddy! All right.
OK, so there’s those five freedoms we talked about last night that I couldn’t name when I was sitting in my capital office and reading that poll. Only about 5 percent out of all Texans could name even two of them. Now you know all five. We cherish all five of them, right there in our First Amendment. We’d all fight for them because we want to preserve them pass them to the next generation.
Let’s dive into one of those, and a little bit behind the thinking of these guys. When they gave us this in that first Congress and our freedom of religion, there’s a lot of debate today over what that means.
Separation of Church and State was Not a Founding Concept
How far does it go? When is it a bridge? And of course we often hear the phrase separation of church and state as the language for the First Amendment. I do a lot of speaking at a lot of law schools, and I’ll be on a law school campus and I’ll ask the students, “OK, where are separation of church and state in the founding documents?” There’s always one student says, “The Declaration of Independence.”
No, it’s not in there.
“OK, well, it’s in the Constitution.”
No, it’s not.
“It’s in the First Amendment. I just took my First Amendment class, and it’s a bedrock principle the nation was built upon.”
Well, I’ll take whatever I take out your constitutions. Let’s read the First Amendment. Then they say, “Well, they don’t give us constitutions here at law school. They just tell us what we should think about the Constitution.”
Oh man, we got to work on that too. So we passed on our Constitutions. We all take a look. Everybody here has their Constitution, so let’s turn to the First Amendment. Let’s turn to the Bill of Rights.
What Did They Mean?
The very first amendment they gave us, “Congress shall make no law respecting established religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Anybody see separation of church and state?
It’s not there.
Then I’ll always have a student raise your hands say, “Well, Mr. Green, it’s not there, but that’s what they meant.”
Alright, I can follow that thinking. As a former legislator, I believe in legislative intent. I think you have to know what was going on in the minds of people that give you a law. You’ve got to be able to determine, “What did they actually want the law to do? How far was he supposed to go? What was it not supposed to do?”
All those things.
Have you ever wanted to learn more about the United States Constitution but just felt like, man, the classes are boring or it’s just that old language from 200 years ago or I don’t know where to start? People want to know. But, it gets frustrating because you don’t know where to look for truth about the Constitution either.
Well, we’ve got a special program for you available now called Constitution Alive! with David Barton and Rick Green. It’s actually a teaching done on the Constitution at Independence Hall in the very room where the Constitution was framed. We take you both to Philadelphia, the Cradle of Liberty and Independence Hall and to the WallBuilders’ library where David Barton brings the history to life to teach the original intent of our Founding Fathers.
We call it the QuickStart guide to the Constitution because in just a few hours through these videos you will learn the Citizen’s Guide to America’s Constitution. You’ll learn what you need to do to help save our Constitutional Republic. It’s fun! It’s entertaining! And, it’s going to inspire you to do your part to preserve freedom for future generations. It’s called Constitution Alive with David Barton and Rick Green. You can find out more information on our website now at WallBuilders.com.
So we have this great thing—back home, when I was a Texas legislature, that slide you’re looking at, the Texas House, we get up with that front microphone. We lay out our bill while we wax eloquent, we’d pontificate about how the world can’t survive without this piece of legislation, and then we get a friend to go to the back mic and toss a softball questions so we’d sound smart.
That’s what everybody did.
- So, after everybody ends up sounding smart, and everything you say goes in the journal, why would you want all of that debate to go on the journal if you pass the statute? Isn’t that enough?
The reason is because someday somebody’s going to be confused about that language. Somebody is not going to be sure about what you intended, what the legislative intent was. We can all go back to the Journal and say—well, in fact, the two attorneys are arguing about it in court trying to determine the intent of that law, they can say, ”Well, look, here’s the journal. Rick Green passed the law and he said on the floor of the House, before they voted on the law, it was going to do this. It was not going to do that.”” Complete Description of the law.
There’s the intent where we’re cracking open the minds of the legislators that gave us the law in order to understand the law better. That’s what we mean by legislative intent. So if we want to know what the First Amendment was intended to do, we’ve got this great thing in the Constitution. In fact, just flip back in and look at it real quick. This in Article 1, Section 5. I believe it might be five. Let’s get back there.
The Annals of Congress
“The House shall keep a journal of its proceedings, and from time to time published the same, exceptinsuch parts as may, in their judgment, require secrecy, and the ayes and nays of the members of either house on any question shelf the desired one fifth of those present be entered on the journal.”
So we’ve got two great things here.
First of all, we have a journal that’s going to tell us what our representatives in Congress are up to. It’s going to tell us what they said and what the intent of the law is that they actually pass. So we can go all the way back to that very first Congress, we can look inside the annals of Congress, and we can see the debates on the First Amendment. These guys debated the Bill of Rights for months, so there was a lot of back and forth about what it was going to do, what it was not going to do, how far it was supposed to go, what it was intended to do, etc..
If you go back to this old copy of The Annals of Congress, this one actually a print in 1834, but it’s the actual congressional record for when they were debating the First Amendment, and these other these other amendments to the Constitution, and in the annals of Congress, if you read through all those months of debate, how many times do you think we’re going to read separation of church and state there in the journal?
Not one time do we see the phrase, “Separation of church state.”
The Origins Behind the Phrase
If that’s the intent of the First Amendment, then wouldn’t it be there in the journal?
So it’s not in the journal. So they didn’t say it on the floor of Congress when they’re debating it. You remember last night we had a question, and we talked about the Muhlenberg brothers, John Peter Gabriel, and Frederick Augustus.
They were both in Congress, and Fredrick Augustus was speaker of the house when the Bill of Rights was adopted.
So you’ve got all this debate going on, and nobody says the phrase, “Separation of Church and State.”
Well, what about in here. Maybe it happened here when they were debating the Constitution?
Surely they talked about this. They did, in fact, talk about the freedom of religion. They talked about individual protections.
In fact, remember that was why George Mason didn’t sign because it didn’t have the Bill of Rights in it. But you go back to the journals. You look at all the debates that happened here in the Congress.
We can read Madison’s records of what happened here. Nowhere in there do we find separation of church and state.
They say, “Well, I’m just getting confused now. If that’s what the intent was, then why nowhere in the debates do we hear it?”
In fact, you’re not going to see it in writing. You’re not going to hear it discussed or in the vernacular of the American people until more than a decade after these guys had gathered here, and it was this one Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson, and Jefferson, in one letter, from one Founding Father, not an act of Congress, not a law, not an amendment to the Constitution, in one letter.
Thomas Jefferson said to the Danbury Baptist Association, who had written to him and said, “Hey, we’re concerned about the First Amendment. We’re concerned that, by codifying the freedom of religion in the Constitution, someday someone will say Congress gave us this freedom of religion and Congress can take it away.”
He said, “No, we’re never going to let that happen. There’s a wall of separation of church and state. It’s not going to happen. They’re not going to infringe upon your freedom of religion.”
He was, of course, talking about the free exercise clause, not the establishment clause.
Well, we’re out of time for today folks. You’ve been listening to Constitution Alive with David Barton and Rick Green here on WallBuilders Live, and we’re gonna have to finish this up tomorrow and the next day.
No time to get the whole segment in there. What you’ve been listening to is actually a Section 8 out of Constitution Alive is we walk through the entire Constitution, so every article, every amendment, and specifically this particular program deals with that first freedom in the First Amendment, our freedom of religion.
Obviously there are the freedoms in the First Amendment, but we specifically want to spend a lot of time on this issue of freedom of religion because it is so under attack today.
Learn More About Freedom of Religion and More At Our Website!
With Constitution Alive we’re actually in David’s library, then we’re out at Independence Hall, we’re walking through this literally in the footsteps of the Founding Fathers as we walk through these constitutional principles. So be sure you tune in tomorrow and the next day. If, for some reason, you joined us in the middle of the program today, we’re going to have it available for you right now at WallBuildersLive.com. You can listen to the whole program and then, if you’re going to miss tomorrow, the next day the same thing. You’ll be able to go to the website and get them, which strongly encourage you to take these three programs today, tomorrow, and the next day, and share them with your friends and family.
Go to the website, click on the archives, grab those links.
We would be thrilled if you shared them with other folks and get that information in their hands. This is all about educating our fellow citizens to understand where their freedom came from, and be ready and willing to defend and protect it.
So tomorrow we’ll pick up right where we left off today with Constitution alive with David Barton and Rick Green.