Rick Warren has a new war: A war of religious freedom.
He shared this in a column in the Orange County Register where it was announced that he was canceling the Presidential Civil Forum that he held during the past election due to the “uncivil discourse between the campaigns”. He used this opportunity to promote his event to address the restrictions of religious expression within America today.
Now let’s overlook the fact that a month prior to canceling the Presidential Civil Forum, both campaigns had already decided not to attend. Moreover, after Warren’s announcement for the reasons for canceling the forum, both campaigns explained their positionswhich calls into question the truthfulness of Warren’s statements. Let’s be honest, we’ve got pastors and politicians involved here, so I doubt either side is telling the truth. So let’s move along to the most interesting part of the story for me.
In an interview with the Register, regarding his forum on religious freedom, Warren makes the following assertions:
“[The larger issue] is the crumbling of our Constitution’s first guaranteed freedom: the freedom of religion. This issue is more significant and has far greater implications for America’s future. Freedom of religion is… mentioned in the Bill of Rights – before freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble and every other freedom.
And yet today, at the city, the state and the federal levels, government bureaucrats are daily trying to limit that freedom, impose restrictions and stifle expressions of faith on campuses, in hospitals and in businesses. There are widespread attempts to redefine the First Amendment to simply mean “You are free to believe anything at your place of worship, but you are not free to practice your conscience elsewhere.”
The Constitution doesn’t just guarantee your freedom to worship; it guarantees you freedom from government intervention in you daily living out what you believe.”
In typical Warren hyperbolic fashion, he states that freedom of religion is “crumbling”. He infers that the big bad government is trying to keep you from expressing your personal faith and beliefs. He also says that freedom of religion has far greater implications for America’s future and that since it is mentioned first, it is more important than the freedom of speech, a free press, the right to assemble and – get this – every other freedom! Being an opportunistic literalist, Warren assumes that because something is mentioned first it is most important as opposed to being equally important. I should only need to mention the Ten Commandments to illustrate the fallacy of his logic.
Warren also fails to acknowledge or respect that prior to stating that government should not prohibit the free exercise of religion, it guarantees that the government should make no law establishing a religion. It appears the Bill of Rights is asserting that government is to be neutral on the subject of religion, not promoting it or preventing individuals from exercising it.
Freedom of religion doesn’t guarantee that a public school teacher can lead her class in prayer any more than freedom of speech allows for libel and slander of another human being. Warren knows this and is being disingenuous in promoting the idea that people are legitimately being limited in the practicing of their beliefs outside of their place of worship. This is blatantly false and he offers no proof of such. Instead he gives this ludicrous analogy:
“If the government suddenly decreed that all Jewish delis must now offer pork, you’d find me opposing that with my rabbi friends. I don’t have a problem with pork, but I support your right to follow your faith”
In perfect political posturing, what Warren is referring to is the recent debate regarding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) which mandates institutions provide coverage for birth control or sterilization, even if they are a religious group. Warren is opposed to this and said he would rather face jail time than support such a mandate by the government. Warren’s war seems to be as much with Obama as anything else:
“President Obama’s policies clearly shows what he values, and I have told him that I adamantly disagree with those particular policies.”
Warren can’t be further from the truth when he says that government is daily trying to limit our freedoms. On the contrary, it is the establishment and endorsement of religion by our government that should be our concern. As an example, the motto “In God We Trust” being placed recently in the City Hall of Anaheim as it is in 16 other cities in Orange County, California. Or, the attempt to institute prayer to mark the beginning of city, state or national government gatherings. Or, as we’ve more recently seen, the plethora of city seals that contain religious symbols (mainly crosses). All of these are attempts by the government to implicitly or explicitly promote religion.
Warren seems to think that freedom means that there are no limits. Freedom of religion for Warren means the freedom to do whatever you want with your religion, especially it seems, when you are the majority. This is incorrect. Warren is correct when he says this: The First Amendment does simply mean that you are free to believe anything you want at your place of worship. What he needs to understand is this: You are free to practice your conscience elsewhere, but not anywhere or anytime you please.