Which is More Important, Freedom of Religion or Freedom From Religion?

Today it is repeated often freedom of religion is our most basic right, “the first freedom”.  Both Presidential candidates, especially Romney, talk about it.

The Catholic Church has been successful in pushing their problems with pedophiles  off the front page by talking up their “religious liberties”.

Charleton Heston, when he headed up the National Rifle Association, explained in a speech the right to bear arms was the “first freedom”.  If you couldn’t shoot at the government, it would take away all the other rights.

It’s interesting the term “religious liberty” in not in the constitution.  While the constitution talks up freedom of speech, it talks down government religion.

In that way, one could say, the focus of the founding fathers was on freedom from religion, and only as a result of that is there freedom to practice it.  Conventional wisdom, however, has mostly placed the priority the other way around.

This is typical.  The Constitution, like the Bible, is often referred to as a document we are  to take literally.  In practice, even those most enamored by the literal concept do not do so.

Personnally, I cannot imagine the founders would like the way the Catholic Church is using religion in the workplace, especially when it received a billion dollars from taxpayers.  They receive this from federal contracts and by avioding local taxes.

Which is more important, freedom of or freedom from? In my view the balance tips at least slightly to freedom from.


51 thoughts on “Which is More Important, Freedom of Religion or Freedom From Religion?

  1. Jon: “Charleton Heston, when he headed up the National Rifle Association, explained in a speech the right to bare arms was the “first freedom”.”

    I could see you objecting to the above, Jon. If you had your way, all of us would be running around in long sleeve shirts.

  2. In Australia the Koala bear is facing extinction, to aid the preservation there is a movement demanding the right to arm bears.

  3. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

    The first right of the Constitution is the right to religious expression. All other rights are based on this. The freedom of speech is to publically proclaim the gospel. Of the press is to publish Bibles, gospel tracts and other religious literature. The right of assembly is the right to public worship in homes, churches, as well as public facilities such as parks, schools, city halls etc. The framers knew that apart from religious liberty no other liberty existed. The apostle James refers to God’s Law as the “perfect Law of liberty” (James 1:25). And it was the lawgiver Moses that declared: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof”(Leviticus 25:10). No other freedoms exist apart from that of religion.
    That is what the First Amendment is saying.

  4. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”. The Federal government is forbidden to offically support a church, denomination or system of beliefs. It cannot require you to attend church, pay a tithe, or profess any beliefs. This was the system of Europe the settlers in the new world sought to escape. This was also practiced in Islamic countries. In fact the Treaty of Tripoli ‘s wording: “The government of the United states is on no way founded on the Christian religion” was only to insure the Moslem signers that the U.S. would not impose Christianity on the moslem world as was the intent of the Crusaders a few cwnturies previous. The so- called “separation of church and state” was intended for the formal orginizations only. It does not mean separation of God and country or God and government. Both the church and state are under the authority of the Holy Scriptures.

    • This then would provide equality to Islam, Hindi and Bahia faithful. And as the likes of Henry and others insist that atheism is a religion and a faith, then that too must be a protected faith, along with freethinkers, Confucians, Taoists, Animists and you name it. How about Wiccan and Witchcraft and Aboriginal beliefs?

      Or as with most religious people it only means your own particular version.

      • ” The real object of the First Amendment was not to countenance, much less advance Mohammedanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostating Christianity, but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment which would give to an hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the national government.”

        ~Joseph Story
        Supreme Court Justice (1811 to 1845)

        • Michael 3:08 “The real oject of the First Amendment was not to countenance…Mohammedanism…”

          Was that one of the Supreme Court Justices who also thought black people were inferior?

    • Michael 5:07 “Both the church and state are under the authority of the Holy Scriptures.”

      That is, until the majority changes their minds and follows some other shaman. Somewhere a new book of faith is being written, or, a current one being promoted that will sweep the Bible into the dust bin of history. Many forget, the Bible has been at the top of the hill for a short time in human history and will not remain there forever.

  5. I think Michael stated the intent of the religious freedom clause of the constitution quite well. The gov’t will not establish a religion as in England at the time. Thanks to Henry VIII, the Church of England was the official church and the monarchy was head of that church. Both puritans and Catholics were persecuted in England.

    • And both Puritans and Catholics have done their share of persecution when they have had the opportunity. That is the nature of absolute belief you have to convince (by any means) the rest that you are right and they are wrong.

    • .e 10:28 “as in England at the time.”

      It could be England was the most important model. There was a lot of knowledge about France, and Europe in general, at the time. Thomas Jeffereson was living in France at the time the Constitution was written. Ben Franklin, present at the Continental Congress, had lived in France earlier. In genereal, they knew about wars fought over religion.

      I disagree with people who say (this is not necessarily you) stopping the display of the 10 Commandments, prayer in schools, etc., was not the intent of the authors of the Constitution, that the only prohibition intended was for Congress passing a motion establishing “Church of America” as the religion of the country.

      We now know there are many ways a particular religion can become the only accepted one, but done without Congress and the President formally adopting it. It can be done through appointments to courts and governement agencies. It can be done through spending money on advertising and public relations. The majority of the Supreme Court has mostly recognized this second way a religion can be established.

    • Thinking about this reminded me that Queen Mary (Bloody Mary) crowned July 1553 did her own share of persecuting when she rejected the reforms of her father Henry VIII and under the Heresy Acts, numerous Protestants were executed in the Marian Persecutions.
      There has been blood spilled on all sides.

  6. One of the current issues that is being fought on the grounds or limiting the practice of religion is the HHS mandate that employers must PAY for contraceptives. Look even putting aside my faith this irks me. President Obama promised to write in a conscience clause, but he lied.

    Now let the Catholic retribution begin….

  7. Ok, I will stop with the big words. My intent was the expection that some readers here would not stay on topic, but deflect the conversation to something done by Catholics, not condoned by the Church.

    How is the reisistance to pay for someone’s morning after pill (no charge remember) imposing my beliefs on you? Why should we be shelling out our dollars for this anyway? I would think the Libertarians out there would be mad as hell.

  8. Entech 12:10 “And both Puritans and Catholics have done their share of persecution when they have had the opportunity. That is the nature of absolute belief you have to convince (by any means) the rest that you are right and they are wrong.”

    Yes, I persecute at my every opportunity given to me. Slay the atheists, burn the materialists, I say. Sheesh.

    Yes, I believe in a set of truths. I do not believe in relativism, so it is natural that I am going to argue. I think relativism is a cop out.

    But I also believe that there is common ground that we can agree on. You don’t have to believe in my God to work toward the common good in our society. There is room for all to worship (or not) within that common good.

    • “Yes, I persecute at my every opportunity given to me. Slay the atheists, burn the materialists, I say. Sheesh.”

      I wouldn’t say that. The last “book burning” that occurred in Fargo was from from the political liberals who couldn’t stand to have conservative Mallard Fillmore in the local newspaper. They couldn’t tolerate the humor that apparently struck a little close to home, and subsequently squeeled. The newspaper felt obliged to remove it based on the complaints and censorship ruled the day.

          • Now that is laughable!
            In the context of the previous couple of posts I was actually attributing that sentiment to you. Of course, to some people deliberately misunderstanding, twisting and attributing your failings to others is considered a good argument, as far as this refers to you If that is what you believe, I’ll go along with you this one time

          • Laugh all you want. I think it is hillarious that the local political liberals practiced censorship. I also find your twisting equally hillarious.

        • Hypocrisy is not limited to any ideology.
          In this case it would seem to be worse as liberal thought is supposed to be against censorship.

    • I was thinking of the groups as groups not individuals, Puritans hanged Quakers, Calvinists killed Servetus and so on. When a group has a strong influence on the laws of the land they are not inclined to be tolerant. The secular atheists of communism and the Jacobins, modern day Iran and Isabella and Ferdinand’s Spain. I think that these were the sought of things that were to be avoided (bit of clairvoyance needed for Iran, The Spanish throne started the Spanish Inquisition purely as a land and money grab using religion as an excuse – there is no doubt that Torquemada was a willing accomplice.

      I think to make a categorical statement that a set of beliefs is a set of facts is pushing a bit hard.
      Relativism has a lot of problems, I don’t think it can be put down by the declaration that the absolute truths, the truths that they know in their hearts is all that there is and that relativism is an attack on God. There are some things that can be thought of as absolutely wrong under any circumstances, rape and random murder come to mind. You can find all kinds of reasons and explanations for the mental state that brings these things on, but they are still wrong regardless of the reasons. Cultural relativity can be different, in the Trobriand Islands it is common that a married woman will have a lover, this is a widespread and longstanding practice, it is accepted, expected and never causes problems, male dominated religions would try to stop this practice. But this is not the relativistic aspect that would be most worrying to the good church people, the lover is expected to give the woman presents to take home to the husband – in that society it would be considered very immoral not to do this – you probably have another word for it.

      Of course there is common ground, Stan and I agreed that the golden rule is a good start.

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