Psalm 119:45 “I will walk in freedom, for I seek Your precepts.”
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution (Freedom of Religion, Speech and the Press) says these words: “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.” This is your God-given right of conscience. This first amendment to the original Constitution is known as the first of ten “Bill of Rights”. People sometimes get confused between our Constitution and the Bill of Rights. What’s the difference?
The Constitution was adopted and signed on September 17, 1787. But two years later, James Madison introduced the first ten amendments to the Constitution, known as the “Bill of Rights”, to resolve a problem the states were having with the original Constitution – that it didn’t provided enough protection against a centralized government controlling the rights of its citizens. Why did Madison call them the “Bill of Rights”? They aren’t the rights of government over your life. They detail your inalienable rights and liberties promised from the God of the Bible that no government can take away. They begin with Amendment #1: your right of conscience. We may not appreciate how radical this concept of government really is.
In his essay “What I Saw In America”, English writer GK Chesterton explains the uniqueness of our Constitutional form of government:
“America is the only nation in the world founded on a creed… that enunciates that all men are equal in their claim to justice, that governments exist to give them that justice, and that their authority is for that reason just. It certainly does condemn anarchism, and it does also by inference condemn atheism, since it clearly names the Creator as the ultimate authority from whom these equal rights are derived.”
And do the Founders give this Creator a name? As John Quincy Adams said:
“Jesus Christ… came to teach and not to compel. His law was a Law of Liberty. He left the human mind and human action free.”
The right to conscience came from Christianity’s central figure – Jesus Christ.
This past week, we witnessed an historic Supreme Court ruling that reinforced our First Amendment right to conscience, but also brought to full disclosure the war underway in America today over two opposing worldviews. The secular view holds that the rights of individuals come from government. The Christian view holds to the Constitution’s directive that individual rights are “inalienable” – they derive from the God of the Bible – and cannot be taken away by government. All eyes were on Jack Phillips and his Masterpiece Cakeshop to how the US Supreme Court would judge the decision of the Colorado Court of Appeals.
Mike and Jonathan Whitehead, of Whitehead Lawfirm, summarized this SCOTUS decision in their article ‘Christian Baker Win Free Exercise at SCOTUS’. Here are some excerpts:
“Jack Phillips’ six-year trial-by-ordeal to defend his “free exercise of religion” ended with a 7-2 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that is great victory not only for Jack but for all people of faith who seek to practice their faith freely in the marketplace in America. Jack was sued in 2012 by two customers after he declined for religious reasons to create and design a custom wedding cake for their same-sex ceremony. Jack said he did not do custom wedding cakes for same-sex unions because he believes God created marriage for one man and one woman for life, to symbolize Christ and His church. Jack explained that he would gladly sell any product in his store to any customer who walked in, but … he did not do custom cakes for same-sex weddings because of his religious beliefs about marriage. The Colorado Court of Appeals ordered Jack to bake custom wedding cakes for same-sex and opposite-sex couples – or get out the wedding cake business.
The Court Opinion by Justice Kennedy relies primarily on the First Amendment Free Exercise Clause, finding the State… showed hostility toward Jack’s belief in biblical man-woman marriage: ‘To describe a man’s faith as ‘one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use’ is to disparage his religion in at least two distinct ways: by describing it as despicable, and also by characterizing it as merely rhetorical– something insubstantial and even insincere… This sentiment is inappropriate for a Commission charged with the solemn responsibility of fair and neutral enforcement of Colorado’s anti-discrimination law—a law that protects discrimination on the basis of religion as well as sexual orientation.”
Our Supreme Court enforced the Founding Fathers’ intent of the First Amendment – that government only exists to protect human freedom, including freedom of conscience, not take it away. A cherished precept engrained in our Bill of Rights, taken from the Bible and it’s central figure, Jesus Christ.
“The Evidence of Faith’s Substance”, Article #298 – June 09, 2018