William Murray speaking at the site of the drafting of the Virginia Act Establishing Religious Freedom in 1777.


By William J. Murray

All liberty, known more popularly as freedom today, is born in the heart of God. The forces of evil are always ready to steal our liberty and our hope away from us. In America the liberty we have was handed down to us by men of good character who did indeed believe the Bible was the supreme guide, and this America must never forget.
The seeds of liberty for America and for the entire world were sown in Virginia by such men as James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. Before there was an American Constitution or a Bill of Rights, there was the Virginia Declaration of Rights and the Virginia Statute for Establishing Religious Freedom.
Turning into reality the Founders’ vision for personal liberty did not come without bloodshed on this land we now call free. The seeds of liberty were nurtured with the blood of brave men from the forests of Massachusetts to the James River in Virginia. Foreign tyranny so feared this liberty that we were forced to defend it, first in 1812 and in many wars since. To extend that concept of liberty, brother fought brother in a great civil war. Although there of have been blemishes, this nation still exists today as a shining light upon the hill for the entire world to see.
The Founders believed that of all the liberties they were prepared to fight and die for, that religious freedom was the first liberty.
Our Constitution was written in 1787 and the Bill of Rights in 1789. The bill of rights was virtually copied from the Virginia Declaration of Rights passed by the Commonwealth’s legislature in 1776. Written by Thomas Jefferson, Section 16 states, “That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love and charity toward each other.”
In 1779 Thomas Jefferson drafted the Virginia Act of Establishing Religious Freedom which in its preamble stated, “Well aware that Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burdens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion…”
Although not ratified until 1786, still well before the Bill of Rights, the document held: “That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.
The concept of religious freedom was important to the Founders because they did indeed believe that it was the “first liberty” and without it no freedom, no liberty could exist at all.
Were they right?
Let me ask you this:
If you do not have religious freedom, then do you have freedom of assembly?
If you do not have religious freedom, then do you have freedom of speech?
If you do not have religious freedom, do you have freedom of the press?
Can any nation which does not allow true religious liberty then call itself free?
We do indeed have religious freedom in the United States, a very tolerant religious freedom. In the birthplace of liberty, the Commonwealth of Virginia, we find one of the largest Islamic schools in the Americas. It is called the Saudi Islamic Academy. In the name of religion this academy teaches hatred and religious intolerance at an unparalleled level. The core belief of the school is that democracy is an apostate religion that must be destroyed through violence. One of its valedictorian graduates is now in a federal prison facing charges of conspiracy to assassinate the president of the United States. Yet this cauldron of hatred, which is financed directly by a foreign government, is allowed to preach its hatred and violence in the name of religious freedom.
Our nation is so committed to the concept of religious freedom that we tolerate those who in the name of religion call for our system to be violently overthrown and replaced with a fascist Islamic state. We even allow foreign powers to openly operate in this nation with the purpose of destroying our democracy and replacing it with a system of total intolerance of religious beliefs.
The light of freedom has burned so brightly here in America that it has set fires throughout the world. When our Bill of Rights was ratified by the States there was not a single free nation in the world, not even one other democracy. Some European nations such as Monaco and Liechtenstein are still monarchies.
The Europeans have never thought much of human liberty in general and surely not of religious freedom which is why our ancestors fled to these shores. So many times did totalitarian European armies move against us that we were finally forced to impose democracy in Europe at the point of a gun. Even after World War II, Europe had huge areas under totalitarian rule including Spain, which did not become a full fledged democracy until 1982. And democracy in Europe has been no guarantee of freedom. Still today in Europe the governing democratic nations have difficulty establishing and protecting religious liberty. France leads the way in religious persecution, with numerous laws on the books to limit expression, proving that freedom and democracy are not the same thing. Elected governments have the ability to take away religious freedom, as they have tried to do in Sweden by censoring pastors such as Ake Green. Pastor Green’s arrest last year for preaching that homosexuality is a sin aroused great concerns in our Congress.
Where there is religious liberty there is genuine freedom. Where there is religious liberty the concept of democracy rises up as the sunshine of day.
The greatest enemies of our republic and of our freedoms have always been the nations where religious freedom does not exist. During the Cold War we faced nuclear annihilation at the hands of the godless dictators of the Soviet Union whose goal was to eradicate all religion.
Today our greatest enemies in the world are those who continue to repress religious freedom. The Islamists are no less fascists than Hitler’s Nazi Party. Human freedom and religious freedom mean the end of their monarchies and of their dictatorships.
The war in Iraq today is not about oil, it is about freedom. We have introduced freedom to the Middle East and totalitarian nations such as Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia see the threat to themselves. If freedom succeeds in Iraq the fascist Mullahs of Iran, the corrupt dictator of Syria and the perverted monarchs of Saudi Arabia will join the Soviet Union in the dust bin of history.
Our intervention in the Middle East after the Islamist terror attack upon us on 9-11 has brought that region to a tipping point. The region will move to some semblance of democracy or will be pushed back to totalitarianism. We cannot allow the latter, regardless of the cost, because this will cause our freedoms, including our first liberty, our religious freedom, to be in jeopardy.
Nations with religious freedom, with real freedom, will never be a military threat to America and it is for this reason that religious freedom has become a strategic goal of our nation. The external threat to our religious freedom must be combated.
The internal threat to our religious freedom must be combated as well. Our unelected courts have become as great a threat to our religious freedom as have the Islamist fascists. Federal courts have since 1948 continually attacked the religious heritage of the United States which is the guarantor of our rights. The religious symbols of our faith are being stripped from public view and the courts have tried to suppress our freedom of religious speech. When a child cannot invite a classmate to his church, do we still have religious freedom in America? How can we send good men and women to die in Afghanistan and Iraq to establish something that the courts are so willing to remove from us here?
The judicial threat to our freedom has always existed and none other than Thomas Jefferson warned of it. In a letter written in 1820 Thomas Jefferson said: “To consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions [is] a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. Our judges are as honest as other men, and not more so. They have, with others, the same passions for party, for power, and the privilege of their corps. Their maxim is ‘boni judicis est ainpliare jurisdictionem,’ [good judges have ample jurisdiction] and their power the more dangerous as they are in once for life . . . The constitution has erected no such single tribunal, knowing that to whatever hands confided, with the corruptions of time and party, its members would become despots.”
The Supreme Court and its inferior courts have created new “freedoms” which they believe overrule those guaranteed by God and established by the Founders. In the name of “privacy” they have given women the sole right to kill unborn babies for any reason, even frivolous ones. Yet, nowhere in our Constitution is the word privacy mentioned. They have granted our God given constitutional rights to our enemies, even to terrorists who would kill innocents, even those in jail cells outside our borders. And now the courts are suppressing our freedom of religion in the name of some new right, the right not to be offended.
Pardon me, but freedom is about offending others. If I am not allowed to offend someone today then I must not have freedom of speech. No one can have an opinion without offending others. I am sure my words today would offend the Islamist fascists who operate the Saudi Islamic Academy in Virginia.
It is this new “freedom” the courts would use to strip away the words “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance to our flag. It is this new freedom that the courts would use to prohibit pastors from teaching that marriage between one man and one woman is God given.
Let us pause for a moment and look at the situation in the streets of our big cities in particular. The homeless are in the street not because we lack compassion, but because courts have stripped the laws from the books that allowed communities to provide real help to them. As a result people now have the right to sleep on the streets and cause health and welfare concerns to communities. If they are offered aid by faith based organizations it must be “sensitive” aid which does not offer them the real solution they could find in Jesus Christ. Some cities, because of their fear of the courts, demand that faith based organizations hire those who are diametrically opposed to their basic theological beliefs.
The ACLU and other organizations are utilizing the courts to move forward an anti-Christian, anti-freedom agenda. While the ACLU claims to support democracy, the very first action after its founding was to defend anarchists like those who assassinated one of our presidents and murdered dozens of people in the streets of New York. The ACLU has always sided with the forces who wish to destroy our democracy whether they be anarchists, communists, Islamic terrorists, or common criminals, while at all times trying to destroy the heart of our democracy which is our faith.
President John Adams said, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”
Once all aspects of our Judeo-Christian faith are removed from government there will be no reason inherent therein to continue to guard or defend religious liberty. We must resist the temptation of yielding to those who would vilify us for our beliefs, and we must continue the battle for our first liberty, our religious freedom. We must continue the battle for basic moral principles while, as Jefferson so elegantly stated, protecting the beliefs of all because to do otherwise would be “…a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion.”
We must be unified in raising our voices in defense of our rights to preach not only in the pulpit, but in every venue our nation has to offer. As Christians we must not allow ourselves to be forced from participating in government as the ACLU and the federal courts would so much desire. Our preachers today have as much right to speak out in public as did those of previous generations, like Reverend John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg, Rev. John Brown and Rev. Martin Luther King.
The ACLU would say that we do not have the same rights as anarchists, that those who are atheists and who propose the complete destruction of government have a right to be heard in the classrooms of the nation and that we Christians do not. Far from it– we have the right to protect our children from the nonsense of the anarchist and the atheist with the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We must not retreat; we must not surrender that right, not today, not ever. If we do surrender, it is not just Americans who will lose that first and most basic right of freedom of religion; it will be all of humanity.

William J. Murray, Chairman
Religious Freedom Coalition

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