Aug. 9, 2012
Dr. Tom Farr, who has spoken twice on the importance of religious liberty here at FRC, has published a provocative new column asking if religious liberty is essential to all other freedoms.
He states the core of his argument eloquently in two essential points: (1) Our duty to God precedes any duty we have to the state, and thus (2) it is the duty of the state to protect this foundational right to religious liberty and the exercise of conscience. Taking his cue from James Madison, Dr. Farr writes:
America’s founding generation identified religious freedom as “the first freedom” because they saw it, in effect, as a precondition for the other freedoms. James Madison wrote that each of us has rights that flow from the duty we owe God. This duty is precedent, both in order of time and degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society. Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governour (sic) of the Universe.
Further, Madison insisted that if men were to fulfill their obligation to God they must have freedom — especially freedom from the coercive powers of the state. The Duty which we owe our Creator, and the manner of our discharging it, can be governed only by Reason and Conviction, not by Compulsion or Violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the full and free exercise of it according to the dictates of conscience, unpunished and unrestrained by the Magistrate… .
The additional implications of religious liberty with respect to any government are profound. As Dr. Farr writes, Any state that protects religious liberty thereby limits itself. Religious liberty empowers religious actors both to perform services that might otherwise be carried out by the state, and to adhere to an authority beyond the state.
To authoritarian and dictatorial regimes, this is a chilling prospect. Thats why Communist China, North Korea, and many Islamist-run governments so stridently penalize Christian believers: Those believers bend the knee to King Jesus, not their human governments. This simple fact sends shivers down the spines of totalitarians everywhere.
Dr. Farr invites comment on these arguments in space provided at the end of his article, linked above. Please share your thoughts with him and with us here at FRC, where we honor religious liberty, at home and abroad, as critical to the freedom and justice for all that we cherish.