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 last part of our three-part series!
Air Date: 07/12/2019
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, with David Barton and Rick Green.
We’re going to actually take you to a recorded program today called Constitution Alive, and we’re gonna pick up where we left off yesterday. Now, if you’re just tuning in with us, or have been with us all week, go to our website WallBuildersLive.com and click on the archives. The day before yesterday, yesterday, and today is a three part series on the First Amendment, freedom of religion.
We’re bringing it to you from Constitution Alive.
For more information on that, you can visit ConstitutionAlive.com. Without any further ado, let’s pick up right where we left off yesterday with Constitution Alive.
They’re talking about those basic concepts of what is right and wrong. Why is murder wrong? Because religion and morality says that it’s wrong.
Why is child molestation wrong? Because religion and morality says that it’s wrong. Why is stealing wrong?
And just so happens you hear a lot of Ten Commandments stuff coming in here. Oh no! Let’s be careful now!
Guys like Roger Sherman, Jacob Broom, and John Dickinson, these guys were major theologians of their day. It’s impossible to claim the founding fathers were mostly atheists, agnostics, and deists.
The Heart of Man is Evil
The reason I harped on that, the reason I spent so much time on that, is because, again, we want to know where these guys got their ideas. Last night I mentioned the study that was done by the university Houston, and Don Lutz and, how he went and ranked all those writings of the founding fathers, and what their major influences were, and the fact that the Bible was quoted 34 percent of the time.
So let’s not forget that stuff and the way it influenced the document itself. It influences those concepts that we put into our Constitution that people hadn’t even seen before. So much of that came from that biblical worldview.
Even some of those basic ideas that—in fact, even the idea that our president should be a natural born citizen. Those guys trace that back to the Bible.
They talked about our separation of power.
Jeremiah 17:9, the idea that the heart is evil, no man can know it. What our Republican form of government, we talked about that earlier, the idea that we choose from among us leaders of tens, fifties, hundreds, and thousands.
All of that is a biblical influence on our Constitution.
Now, why do people say it’s a godless Constitution.? I don’t know.
I wish I could tell you, but I go to the back of their book, and at the back of their book it says, “We’ve dispensed with the normal scholarly method of end notes because what we’re saying is so well-known. Just trust us on this thing.”
I don’t trust them, folks,I don’t want you to trust me.
I don’t want to trust any expert.
Why Would I Trust the “Experts” If I Can Read It Myself?
Why do I need to trust some expert about what the Founding Fathers said when I can go read this one, and this one, and this one, and then I can find out what they said?
I don’t want some expert telling me what they said, I want to know what they said. I want to get inside their minds.
That’s why what you’re doing is so important. We get to study the Founding Fathers. These guys will talk to us. They will tell us what they believe. They will tell us what their position was on issues if we’ll just dig, if we’ll go read those things. So the First Amendment, one of our bedrock principles, one of the most important things we cherish, all five of those freedoms—that freedom of religion—the very first one, because we love it the most, because it’s so important to who we are as a nation. Let’s protect that freedom of religion.
I don’t care if you’re atheist, if you’re a Christian, if you’re Muslim, if you’re Jewish, if you’re Hindu, whatever faith you subscribe, to I will fight and die for you to be able to express that faith both publicly and privately. That’s what these guys believe, that’s what Jefferson was famous for, that’s what we need to be doing as citizens today.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
What Is the Right of Petiton?
These are freedoms the founders said we were given directly by God. And the purpose of the first move was to make sure that our government can never take them away.
We covered freedom of religion out of the First Amendment. Trey went quickly through the other four, but we didn’t spend a lot of time on press or assembly, especially petition.
Nobody really talks about petition.
Nobody talks about petition. There are some great examples, historically, of how that works.
And in saying this one of the things that I want to emphasize is, if it’s an inalienable right, you need to stand up for and assert it whether you use it or not.
I may not be the guy that has the gun, and carries guns, and owns 20 guns, but you know what? That’s an inalienable, God-given right and I’m going to stand up for your right to do that because the government doesn’t need to get into regulating them at all. So it may not be mine necessarily, and may not be something I partake of, may not be something even helps me, but if it’s available right I’m going to keep government from getting into it regardless.
I probably should exercise it, there’s probably a reason for it. I can’t really think of one that I wouldn’t exercise. But if I’m not exercising, I still ought to stand up for your right. David:
There’ll be occasions, for example, will see in conscience in a minute, that there’s gonna be some things you disagree with, that you don’t agree with what some people think is the right of conscience.
“Duty is Ours, Results are God’s”
You stand out in that area, and you defend the right of conscience whether it’s your application or not. Let me take you—for petition—for a moment to John Quincy Adams.
This is this John Quincy Adams, the first President to ever have a picture taken. Now, he wasn’t present here. He was serving in Congress at this time.
But John Quincy Adams, son of John Adams, he’s the sixth President of the United States. He came into Congress at a point in time where, when he came in, he was being called a Hellhound of Abolition. He wants slavery ended, period.
Well, he says when he got into the house, it was probably about 80 percent pro slavery in the house. He’s just not doing really doing well at getting his agenda through the house. He’s got this statement is associated with him, “Duty is ours, results are God’s.” “Who cares whether it gets passed? I’m doing it cause the right thing to do.”
Like you said in one of our other sections.
That’s right. Even if you don’t get the results you want, you just keep you keep it. And that’s what he did. Adams was that kind of a guy. He just stayed after it because it’s the right thing to do.
Well, one of the things that the House allowed to be done back then is, if you look at what they did in the House and the House chamber, because of the right of petition you could petition Congress to do whatever you wanted.
So literally I could take a business card or a napkin, and write, “Congressman Adams, I’m petitioning Congress to do whatever…” and they would take that and present it to the committee to see how they should handle this—just a citizen request, basically.
It could be just me as a citizen?
I have a constitutional right to petition Congress for the redress of grievances. I have a right to do that.
He stood for this. One particular occasion, this is in 1837 and, he the second paragraph says, “Mr. John Quincy Adams presented sundry petitions praying for the abolition of slavery or and the slave trade in the District of Columbia, or in the District of Columbia and the territories of the United States. For example, of Belizza Callmoor and sixty two females of Pembroke in the state of Massachusetts, of Ralph Sing and forty one…” And it goes on for line after line after line, literally hundreds of petitions that he introduced time after time across those sessions, week after week, he kept after this.
Moment From American History
This is David Barton with another moment from America’s history. At the time of the American Revolution numerous other nations also had revolutions. Yet, 200 years later America is the only of those nations still under its original form of government. Is this just good luck? Not according to Founding Father Benjamin Rush.
He declared, “I do not believe that the Constitution was the offspring of inspiration, but I am perfectly satisfied that it is as much the work of a Divine Providence as any of the miracles recorded in the Old and New Testament.”
George Washington agreed, “In fact, he declared, “I should be pained to believe that the United States have forgotten that divine interposition which was so often manifested during our revolution or that they failed to consider the omnipotence of that God who is alone able to protect them.”
Our Founders acknowledge that our national success had come from God. For more information on God’s hand in American history contact WallBuilders at 1 800 8 REBUILD.
The John Quincy Adams Gag Order
The difficulty you have is that 80 percent of the House is pro-slavery.
They didn’t want to have 900 hearings to end slavery, so they did, at that point in time, what they can still do today, and that is they use the rules committee to control what goes on the house.
So they went down specifically and they passed a rule that said, “You can introduce any petition in the house you want to, so long as it is not an anti slavery petition.”
They don’t want to have to listen to him.
They don’t want him because he’s not just turning these in these acts, he’s advocating them on. It was literally called the John Quincy Adams Gag Order. It was designed to get shut him up.
Now, how come these guys in Congress don’t uphold the First Amendment right for the petition? Well, he did, and he fought for it, and he advocated, and years later he had converted enough to his position that actually lifted the gag order off of him. They gave him, at that time, an ivory cane with a gold handle and his name engraved with the date, and that’s at the Smithsonian.
But there’s a guy who stood for the right position. Here’s how much he stood for the right to petition. If you wanted to petition government, he would introduce your petition even if he totally disagreed with it.
So that’s what you’ve talked about earlier. Even if I’m on the other side, I’m still going to respect your right to petition, and I’m gonna defend your right to exercise that inalienable right.
A Man of Integrity
Here’s an example. The House has now passed a rule that says he can’t introduce any antislavery petition. He stands up a few weeks later, and he’s got another petition form them and says, “I have a petition here addressing slavery.”
And they all go ballistic, and they say, “You can’t do that! You’re violating the law!”
And he said, “Oh, this is a petition calling for keeping slavery.”
That’s not his position. It’s the opposite of his position, but he’s honoring that citizen’s right. He’s honoring system.
And it also embarrassed the stupidity of the House because they’re objecting to what they believe in.
But it’s that thing where you get a stand for rights regardless of whether it hurts you or helps you.
He even introduced a petition calling for his own removal from Congress because pro slavery people back in his district circulated a petition get him out of Congress. So he introduces a petition saying, “Get me out of Congress.”
He didn’t agree with that.
It didn’t go anywhere in the House, but he wasn’t scared to introduce and petition because you have a constitutional right to petition government for redress of grievances. So that’s the petitioning government, and that’s why you don’t just pick and choose what petition you’re going to hear.
That takes some really serious integrity to introduce a petition from back home that’s going to remove you, because you’re saying, “I don’t agree with them. I hope this doesn’t get adopted, but hey, this guy back home has just as much of a right to petition as I do.”
Freedom of Conscious
That’s what we had.
So that’s that’s part of the right of petition out. One of the others that is in there that doesn’t get as much attention as it should. Because it’s incorporated but not explicitly worded is the right of religious conscience. Now, the First Amendment we have the right the free exercise of religion.
Notice again that Bill of Rights is a negative right. It doesn’t say anything enforcement about separation of church and state. It says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
The only entity limited by the First Amendment is Congress.
It doesn’t say that people can’t express their faith. This is Congress. You can’t set up a national denomination in Congress. You can’t stop anybody from expressing their faith. So the limitations are on Congress, because that’s the whole purpose of an inalienable right, is you’re not supposed to regulate them, you’re supposed to protect them.
So Congress, you keep your fingers off free exercise of religion, which you’re free exercise of religion is dictated by how you believe, which is your conscience.
Now, conscience is not included in the first amendment. It does not say conscience—the word conscience is not there—but every Founding Father said, “Oh yeah, it’s there.” Because you’re free exercise of religion is guided by what you believe, the way you express your faith, and that’s your conscience.
And therefore, that’s why to this day I’ve got two kids serving in the military, activity, right now. I love the military, I support the military, I work for them, I do a lot of events for military.
Backing Up the Right of Conscious, Even if You Disagree With It
But you know what? I will go to the mat for Quakers not to have to fight in the military, because their conscience says, “Pacifist. We will never pick up arms in anger against anyone.”
That’s not going to be my view of conscience, but I’m going to support your view of conscience.
I’m really patriotic, and we talked earlier earlier about what that means in definition with Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration, and I really like the Pledge of Allegiance, but I will go to the mat for Jehovah’s Witnesses not to have to say the Pledge of Allegiance because their faith says, “No, there’s nothing higher than God. We won’t pledge to anything except God.”
So they won’t say the pledge.
And in the same way you know my kids are subject to compulsory education laws. They got to be in school for 12 years.
I will go to the mat for Amish who say, “No, in our religion, eight years of education is all you get.”
Well, I will fight for your rights of conscience.
It’s the same way with Christian Scientists. Everybody else has got to get kids vaccinated. Christian Scientists know, in our faith, “We don’t do vaccinations.”
That’s great. I’ll fight for your right not to have to do vaccinations.
Then something that developed about 30 years ago is we started getting new technology under President Clinton. Farming fetal tissue issue.
People say, “Whoa, I can’t be involved in an abortions or anything that might kill an embryo—fertilized embryo—and my conscience won’t let me do it.”
So we had medical conscience protection that says, “Hey, nurses at the medical school in Illinois cannot be forced to perform abortions against their religious conscience.”
So this does fit with other things too? What if you’re a pharmacist, and you don’t want to distribute the medication—
Or if you’re Catholic you don’t want to sell contraceptives. The point is you answer to God with your conscious, not the government, for what you believe.
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“The Most Sacred of Property”
For the government to punish you for your religious beliefs is the government saying, “I’m God. I’ve judged your theology. It stinks. Therefore I will punish you.”
And is flipped on its head government’s role, because their role is to secure those rights. So they’re supposed to protect your rights of conscience, and now they’re going to force you to do something against your conscience?
And this is why there is such an insidious thing in our states to reduce the First Amendment to protecting your freedom of worship.
“You can stay inside a church and worship as much as you want, but don’t take your faith outside.”
You’re now changing conscience and religion to an act of worship in church, and therefore your business can’t decide what it’s going to do.
Whatever that is, if it’s a conscience issue related to marriage, or a conscience issue related to any other expression, related to abortion, related contraceptives—we’re being told that, “Well, in your business you don’t have conscience. Conscience is an act of worship we do at church, but you can’t take your faith outside.”
No. The First Amendment guarantees your free exercise of religion, which comes from what you believe, which is your conscience, so your conscience is always protected. Exercising that religion not just in private, but in public and in everything you do is protected.
Let me show you how emphatic the founders were on this.
There’s some quotes here from James Madison. Remember, we’ve talked about the purpose of government.
Number one: there is a Creator. He gives rights. Government exists to protect those rights.
So here’s what Madison says, “Government is instituted to protect property of every sort. Conscience is the most sacred of property.”
Conscious Answers to God
Now, if government is instituted to protect property, that means my beliefs, my thoughts, they’ve got to protect my conscience.
Now, if my beliefs lead to behavior that hurts someone else, this were Thomas Jefferson sent that separation church state letter to the Danbury Baptist Society he said, “Unless someone’s behavior causes them to work ill.”
So if I believe in human sacrifice as part of my religion? We’re going to stop that. If I believe in infanticide, if I believe in pedophilia as a result of my religion, we’re not going to do something about that.
I never thought of that as property before. It’s like a work of art, or creation, or whatever. It’s intellectual property.
And we protect that in Article 1, Section 8, with patents and copyrights. Intellectual property, and the ability that conscience is a property, it is a property subject.
Then you get folks like George Washington who said, very simply, “We should be very cautious of violating the rights of conscience in others.”
And he said that at a time when he was sending some soldiers out to a group he disagreed with. He disagreed with what they believed, and what they believed religiously.
But he said, “You guys be really careful how you speak, and be really careful what you do. We should be very cautious of violating the rights of conscience in others, ever considering that God alone is the judge the hearts of man, and to Him only are they answerable.”
He said, “If it was up to me, I’d disagree with them. But they don’t answer to me. They answer to God. That’s why I will protect the rights of conscience. I’m telling you soldiers, when you get there, you don’t violate the rights of conscience.”
That’s what we understood was the First Amendment.
You also have William Livingston, a signer or the Constitution.
He said, this guy’s the governor of New Jersey, “For what business, in the name of common sense, has the magistrate with our religion? The state does not have any concern in the matter.”
That’s the First Amendment. He puts it out of bounds for the state.
He continues, “In what manner does it affect society in what outward form we think at best pay our adoration of God?”
If we think we should pay adoration God by mentioning God at a graduation ceremony, what business is that of the state? If we think we should parent adoration to God by having the Ten Commandments in public, what business is that a state?
That’s our way of living out our freedom. That’s our convictions.
That’s exactly right. And that’s why this is always protected until about 30 years ago, because we understood this.
He continues, “The consciousness of men are not the objects of human legislation in contrast with the spiritual tyranny.”
Notice what he calls it? Spiritual tyranny.
We need to resurrect that phrase, “Spiritual Tyranny”.
Subject to No Control by God’s
Don’t tell me the government is secular and doesn’t get involved in spiritual stuff, it sure does.
He said, “How beautiful that it appeared at our Constitution, disclaiming all jurisdiction over the souls of men, securing by a never to be repealed section the voluntary, unchecked, moral persuasion of every person by his own self directed communication with the Father’s Spirit.”
That’s what the First Amendment protected.
One other quote from this, John Jay, Chief Justice Supreme Court, said this.
“Security under our Constitution is given to the rights of conscience and private judgement. They are, by nature, subject to no control but that of the Deity, and in that free situation they are now left.”
That’s what we have with the Bill of Rights including that free exercise of religion, which is our conscience. But this applies for all of the Bill of Rights, not just the First Amendment. The government is not supposed to be involved.
I’ve got a feeling—just from the language there—that these guys had some experience with not having those rights of conscience protected, and it was one of the reasons they wanted so heavily to protect it.
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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.
Freedom of Religion Since 1640
This is pretty unique, isn’t it?
This is unique, and what you’ll find as early as 1640, we started protecting the rights of religious conscience in American documents all over the colonies, because so many people came here because they were being persecuted for what they believed religiously. William Penn was on trial because the laws in England said, “You can only attend the Anglican Church.”
He went to a Quaker church.
“You’re on trial.”
So he’s literally being held accountable and being imprisoned for attending the wrong church. The government didn’t agree with his church.
You had people—you had 110,000 folks in France killed because they had the wrong religious beliefs according to what the government defined it as. They were Huguenots. The government says, “No, you can’t be a protestant, you have to be a Catholic.”
So 110,000 and Protestants died.
America was populated with people, Catholics who came here fleeing Protestant persecution, Protestants who came here fleeing from Catholic persecution, Jews who came here fleeing Christian persecution.
Anytime you had a state established church where you put the government in charge of religious beliefs, people got hurt. ‘
That’s why, in America, we said, “Come on! Come on! We want you here because we’re not going to let government mess with your beliefs, and you can express your faith!”
So starting in 1640 and going all the way through the First Amendment, the number one issue that brought people to America was the rights of conscience.
John Quincy Adams said, “The transcendent, over ruling principle of the early colonists was that of conscience.”
Religion is the Basis for Conscious
That’s what drove them more than anything. To think that the Founding Fathers were not protecting conscience from the first amendment? No. They knew that if you can keep the government from messing with religion, you can protect the rights of conscience. If you let government start regulating what you can do with religion, you lose your rights of conscience.
That may be the most important part of this entire course, because really, if you lose this, if you lose the rights of conscience, what good is the rest of it if you can be forced to do things you don’t want to do?
That is exactly right. Everything you do is based on what you believe. And for so many people in America, it’s based on their religious beliefs. Whatever that is, our benevolence—I’ve seen recently where that they are now prosecuting people for the Good Samaritan law. If you actually believe you should help someone?
One of the laws said that—you and I dealt with on a radio program—it was the law that, literally, during the government shutdown, you get fined if you went out and voluntarily helped someone else.
Government’s supposed to take care of others if you go helps. If you did the Good Samaritan thing and you go help someone else, you were you were subject to imprisonment—was it for two years?—and a five thousand dollar fine, if you voluntarily went to help someone doing the government shutdown.
So you’re punishing me for what? I’m doing what’s right. My faith says I should help others. And you’re gonna punish me for that? So if you lose the rights of conscience, you’ve lost all of your inalienable rights.
Learn More About the Freedom of Religion With WallBuilders Live
We’ve forgotten how precious this is. You have forgotten how valuable this freedom is. So maybe, by going back to studying it, seeing what the founders said about it—
I would say now that we’ve forgotten the jurisdictional lines.
We still think our faith is important, but we’ve just got the line messed up on what government can and can’t do with that. If we cherish our rights and remember the jurisdictional lines that the Constitution has established, we’re in good shape.
And we’ve got to restore it. We’ve got to get more people educated on it. Let’s jump into some more of the Bill of Rights when we come back to the next section. We’re gonna jump into one of your favorites, I know, we Texans love the Second Amendment. We’re going to cover the rest of the Bill of Rights when we get to Section 9 here in Constitution Alive with David Bach and Rick.
Well folks, that’s the conclusion of Constitution Alive, Section 8, dealing with our First Amendment Freedom of Religion. If you enjoyed that and you’d like to learn more about our Constitution, get the entire Constitution Alive program available on our website today at WallBuilders.com or ConstitutionAlive.com.
You can also go to WallBuildersLive.com and click on the archives section. We’ve shared many of these sections out of Constitution Alive over the last few months. You can search through there and listen to him right there on our podcast. Thanks so much for listening today. You’ve been listening to WallBuilders Live.