The Wall of Separation and the Crumbling of Freedom

Anyone that has been paying any sort of attention to any media outlets over the last few years has inevitably seen the cultural shift that has taken place. Gone are the days when one can freely and openly express their religious conviction in the public realm. Sure, one can openly go to the religious center of their choosing, but to publicly take a stand for their convictions is to risk societal backlash. This is no more evident than in the lives of Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa in Gresham, Oregon.


(Everton Bailey Jr./The Oregonian via AP)

We are all familiar with the case. If not the details, we have at least heard it referenced in some way. The case involves two bakers who declined to bake a cake for a homosexual wedding, citing their religious convictions. As a result, the owners of the bakery were sued for $135,000. The resulting lawsuit forced the couple to close the doors to their bakery. Regardless of your feelings, and regardless of your particular opinion on the matter, the fact of the matter is that the ruling is a gross miscarriage of justice that completely disregards any sort of constitutional precedent. The First Amendment states that Congress shall pass no law prohibiting the free exercise (or lack thereof) of religion. The simple fact that a court of law ruled against the bakers and allowed feelings to trump fact should sound some alarms.


The ruling cited the Oregon Equality Act that makes it illegal for a business to refuse service based on sexual preference. But the simple fact is that the Oregon Equality Act, as cited in this case, effectively deprived the Kleins of their first amendment rights. This has caused many to question when does an individuals rights end and the rights of another begin? Is being forced to do business with an individual, and thus violating your religious beliefs, really equality? Or is it force submission? This conversation has been the epicenter of social commentary for the last several years. And with the executive order relaxing the Johnson Amendment, it is only expected to gain traction.


This has led to a rise in the conversation regarding religion in the political sphere. Many are calling, and incorrectly citing, the separation of church and state. The fact that one would cite that particular statement in such a manner only illustrates their lack of understanding with regard to it. First, we need to realize that this particular phrase, in and of itself, does not appear in the constitution. Anywhere. The phrase “separation of church and state” is derived from a letter penned by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association in which he was reassuring the Association that the government would effectively stay out of religion. This is often used to attempt to keep the private practice of religion out of politics. But here is the truth of the matter: You can’t.


There. I said it. You cannot, nor have you been able to, keep one’s religious beliefs out of government. In order to do so you are asking an individual to divorce their worldview from the way that the see the world. Think about that for a second. You are asking them to stop seeing the world in the manner in which they see it. Now, the particulars of this is often manifested with regards to an individual who espouses Judeo-Christian values by one who disagrees with them.


The fact that the argument of homosexual marriage is such a hot button political topic is a clear and concise example of this. How, you ask? On one hand, we have a group who says that their Holy Text states that to engage in such behavior is sin and as such they feel that the actions should be illegal. On the other, we have a group that denies the authority of the text due to the worldview that they hold, and desires to see the law reflect that. Do you see what this is? No matter what particular religion you hold to, be it Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or the lack of religious beliefs, the moral authority that one holds to is ultimately the source in which they derive their basis for public law. You see, that is what makes these conversations so challenging. We are not asking for an individual to put aside a small opinion. But rather we are asking an individual to compromise the beliefs that make up the lens in which they see the world.


While we argue over the belief of what laws should be in place we can all agree, or at least I would hope so, that any time the governing authorities extend a ruling that disregards a private individual’s right to religious worship, we are crossing a dangerous line. Whether or not we agree with the ruling, the fact that the governing authorities are taking a stand and saying what tenets of their faith an individual can and cannot follow is, unequivocally, wrong and is, in fact, the government prohibiting the free exercise thereof.


So while the leftist media and liberal society can rejoice in the ruling, America as a whole suffers. Because as the left celebrates this victory, the government is reaching far beyond its constitutional limits and dipping into the most private and sacred aspect of millions of American lives.

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