The Statute of Liberty
January 16, 2013 - Wednesday
If you've ever toured Monticello, then you know that Thomas Jefferson had very strong opinions about what his legacy should be. He wanted to be remembered as the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence and as the "father" of the University of Virginia. Both are inscribed on his tombstone, along with his second proudest achievement--authoring the Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom.
That might surprise Americans today, who wrongly believe that our third President wanted to divorce the government of all religious expression. On the contrary, what Jefferson wrote in Fredericksburg some 230 years ago was such a groundbreaking defense of freedom that the men who drafted our Constitution relied on it for the framework of the First Amendment. "No nation," the third President said years later, "has ever existed or been governed without religion. Nor can be." Thomas Jefferson understood then, as we do now, that religious freedom is fundamental to every other freedom on earth. Maybe that's why, despite all of his other accomplishments, Jefferson considered the statute one of his greatest legislative feats.
For 20 years, Americans have set aside this day to honor the tradition of liberty that sets our nation apart. In a world where three out of every four people live in regions hostile to faith, America is still one of the brightest lights on freedom's shore. But for how long, no one knows. Under this administration, Jefferson would barely recognize his country. The government, once the guardian of liberty, is now the aggressor. It tramples our consciences with health care mandates, silences our chaplains with radical marriage policy, and expels our pastors from public ceremonies. In four years, we have become a people afraid to pray, teach, practice medicine, or even manage a business without fear of government backlash. When President Obama recognizes Religious Freedom Day, as he did this morning, he is doing so as the leader of the most oppressive administration in American history.
"Foremost among the rights Americans hold sacred is the freedom to worship as we choose," his proclamation states. Therein lays the problem. The Bill of Rights guarantees us the freedom of religion, which goes far beyond how we choose to worship to how we choose to live. This administration's tolerance of religion stops at the church's front doors. If the President and his administration truly agreed with Jefferson's view of religious freedom, there wouldn't be 110 plaintiffs fighting his administration for those very rights lost under ObamaCare. Like millions of other Americans, they are no longer free to embrace religion if it means opposing abortion. Under the administration's rules, men and women of faith are forced to provide life-destroying drugs--or face the consequences. Devout Christians like the owners of Hobby Lobby are facing penalties of almost $1.3 million a day. Thomas Jefferson would have considered this the worst kind of tyranny.
In the meantime, the President has not only hurt our nation but failed its friends. "[R]eligious liberty," he continues, "is not just an American right; it is a universal human right to be protected here at home and across the globe." While families are being terrorized for their faith in many countries, leaders like Rep. Frank Wolf have begged the administration to get off the sidelines and defend the persecuted church. But if the President cannot recognize America's freedom, how can he fight for the world's? For now, the job is ours. "Enlighten the people," Thomas Jefferson said, "and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day." For more on the significance of this date, check out my op-ed on FoxNews.com, Ken Blackwell's column in the American Thinker, and Chris Gacek's piece in the Washington Times.
Sons of Guns
Now that he's trampled our First Amendment, President Obama is ready to tackle the Second. After weeks of speeches and task forces, the White House made good on its promise to bypass Congress and take executive action that would limit our right to bear arms. While we need more time to assess them, 23 new rules, impacting everything from background checks and privacy to law enforcement and health care, went into effect today. And according to reports, these executive actions did not come cheaply. In his plan, the President wants $4.5 billion dollars for what many are calling the most sweeping gun control effort in decades. He promises to push Congress to pass limits on the Second Amendment that are most likely to be found unconstitutional and to have no impact on violence.
"These are our kids," the President said of the children who surrounded him in the White House. "This is our first task as a country: keeping our children safe. This is how we will be judged. And their voices should compel us to change." Unfortunately, too many of their voices are never heard because of this administration's radical abortion agenda. The recent shooting was horrible, but remember: this is the President who, in the debate over the budget resolution, was willing to shut down the entire government to fund Planned Parenthood, America's largest abortion provider.
"The bottom line is," said Congressman Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), "[his] hypocrisy is off the charts. A President who supports the taking of 4,000 little lives every day has lost all credibility when it comes to protecting the innocent, especially children." As is the custom of this President, he uses children when it's convenient. The reality is, if President Obama had sincerely focused on kids--and in particular, family breakdown--America would be well on its way to better protecting children from violence.
But instead of focusing on the environment of violence, liberals are focusing on the instrument. As the Sandy Hook community can attest, limiting or banning assault weapons--as some states like Connecticut do--will not deter criminals intent on ignoring the law. Encouraging strong families with a vibrant faith can. As I've said before, what America needs is not a cop in every school, but a dad in every home. Although mental illness can be a factor, most delinquents, FRC's Dr. Pat Fagan explains, are children who have been abandoned by their fathers. "The real work of reducing violent crime is the work of rebuilding the family," he writes.
Institutions in the community, such as the church and the school, have demonstrated their importance in helping to restore stability. Government agencies, on the other hand, are powerless to increase marital and parental love; they are powerless to increase or guarantee care and attention in a family; they are powerless to increase the ability of adults to make and keep commitments and agreements. Instead, thanks to policies that do little to preserve the traditional family and much to undermine it, government continues to misdiagnose the root cause of social collapse as an absence of goods and services. This misdiagnosis is government's own contribution to the growth of crime. Having misdiagnosed, it misleads.
The cause of violent crime isn't gun policy--it's family policy. And until Americans step back and examine the real problem, the President will continue exploiting these tragedies to accomplish his ultimate goal: expanding government at the expense of personal freedom.
** With the fiscal debate still looming in Congress, Heritage Action, Club for Growth, and FRC put together a conservative response to the crisis in our new joint op-ed, "Why the Debt Limit Must Be Used to Force a Balanced Budget." Check it out here.
*** Also, if you missed today's edition of "Washington Watch with Tony Perkins," check back tomorrow to hear the on-demand version with Liberty Institute's Kelly Shackelford and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul (R). Also, join us Thursday at 5:00 p.m. (ET) for another great show with Texas Senator Ted Cruz (R) and Father Frank Pavone.