Revisiting the Statute of Liberty
On any given day, the line into the National Archives can stretch for blocks. Less than a half mile from FRC, hundreds of Americans wait patiently for the chance to look through thick glass at the yellowed documents that gave rise to the greatest republic the world has ever seen. There, in the dimmest of lights, the founders' handwriting is almost too difficult to make out. The irony is unmistakable, as freedom's faded text gives way to a fading reality. After more than 200 years, time has taken its toll, not just on the parchment but on its principles. In a world where two out of every three people live in regions lacking religious liberty, America is still one of the brightest lights on freedom's shore. But for how long, no one knows.
Today, while the country celebrates 228 years of religious freedom, its greatest threat sits in the Oval Office, penning a hollow tribute to America's most fundamental right. Government, once the protector of religious liberty, has become the predator. 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. While he praises religious freedom as a "universal right," more than 110 plaintiffs are in court, fighting the White House over the loss of it under ObamaCare. While he insists "America proudly stands with people of every nation who seek to think, believe, and practice their faiths as they choose," millions of suffering Christians beg the U.S. to intervene on their behalf. While he sends our troops into harm's way to defend this rich "legacy," thousands of service members are too worried about the backlash to exercise it themselves.
After authoring the religious liberty statute, Jefferson would barely recognize his country. In five years, we have become a people afraid to pray, teach, practice medicine, or even manage a business without fear of government backlash. Of course, American Christians have experienced nothing compared to the gruesome punishment Christians undergo daily around the globe for simply practicing their faith in Christ. But the precursor to persecution is always repression, the forcing-down of faith into quiet corners where its visibility and impact are limited.
For the more than five million people around the world who face the harshest religious liberty conditions, America's silence is leading to a rise in the global threat. On this President's watch, the State Department's international religious freedom department has "missed some of the biggest crises of our day," according to leading advocate Nina Shea. While families are being terrorized for their faith from Saudi Arabia to Somalia, leaders like Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) have begged the administration to get off the sidelines and defend the persecuted church. But if the President cannot recognize the First Freedom of Americans here at home, how can he fight for the world's?
Where the government has failed, the church must not. Although our persecuted brothers and sisters should continually be in our prayers, praying is not enough. We need to be financially supporting the vital ministries that are helping persecuted and imprisoned Christians around the globe. As believers, it's our duty to call on our elected leaders to fight for those who can't fight for themselves. "Freedom," wrote Alexis de Tocqueville, "sees in religion the companion of its struggles and its triumphs, the cradle of its infancy, the divine source of its rights. It considers religion as the safeguard of mores; and mores as the guarantee of laws and the pledge of its duration."
For more on the significance of this date, check out my op-ed in the Christian Post, "Persecution, Repression, and Religious Liberty."
Liable in Libya
According to a new Gallup poll, America's biggest problem isn't the economy or even unemployment -- it's the government. Riddled with poor leadership, corruption, and the abuse of power, nearly a quarter of Americans identify government as the most important problem facing the U.S. That percentage is certain to increase if Americans wade through an 850-page bipartisan report released yesterday on the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence tried to fill in the blanks on the 2012 attack on the U.S. Mission in Benghazi after two dozen hearings, meetings, briefings and interviews. At the top of the list of 14 official findings was that the tragic deaths of the four Americans, including the U.S. Ambassador, were avoidable.
Although former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is only mentioned once, the former First Lady's fingerprints are all over her agency's failures. By not accepting the military support offered to State, the senators conclude that the incident was "likely preventable." "The bottom line," said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) "is Hillary Clinton wanted the appearance of normalization" in Libya. Security was not driving these decisions. Politics was." But the deadly case of mismanagement, marked by security failures and confusion over agencies' roles, is just part of the story. For the first time, Democrats and Republicans make the case that the President willingly lied about what the White House knew and when it knew it.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), speaking on Fox yesterday, said, "I can tell you that within hours, as the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, [I] knew that it was a terrorist attack. And within 24 hours knew that there was a suspected al-Qaeda leader involved and maybe even more than one individual involved with an al-Qaeda affiliate involved. So as to what the White House knew, surely they knew more than I did, quicker than I did."
But instead of admitting to the American people that the pre-election attack was the work of terrorists -- or even suggesting that the administration didn't have all the details -- the President spent the first several days blaming the violence on a ridiculous internet video. Is it any wonder Americans' distrust of the government is at an all time high? Under Barack Obama, truth -- whether about your health care, the nation's military, or foreign policy -- is sacrificed to political expediency.
The Life of the Parties...
With just six days to go before the March for Life, members of Congress are spending the next several days in solemn reflection of the devastation wrought on our country as a result of Roe v. Wade, the infamous U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down abortion laws in all 50 states and invented a right for women to kill their innocent unborn children. Last night, 22 members took part in a special order, commemorating their commitment -- not only to the unborn, but to overturning this horrific ruling. We applaud members of Congress who went down to the House floor last night to mark this anniversary and remembered the over 55 million children who have been lost due to abortion.
Don't miss their remarks -- click over to the FRC Blog for a link to the videos, and thank the congressmen who took part: Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.), Rep. Robert Latta (R-Ohio), Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Nebr.), Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.), Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.), Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.), Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kans.), Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas), Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.), Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.), Rep. Dan Benishek (R-Mich.), Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.).
** Check out Ken Blackwell's response to Religious Freedom Day, "Quenching America's Sacred Fire," on Catholic.org.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.