President Ronald Reagan once said, “To those who cite the First Amendment as reason for excluding God from more and more of our institutions and everyday life, may I just say: the First Amendment to the Constitution was not written to protect the people of this country from religious values, it was written to protect religious values from government tyranny.”
Yesterday was Religious Freedom Day, and in recognition of this important day to celebrate this indispensable freedom, FRC hosted a Washington Watch Special Report with Tony Perkins. The first guest, Senator James Lankford (R-Ok.), pointed out that it’s currently an “odd season” for Christians who want to live out their faith. “Religious freedom and the free expression of your faith has been a given throughout American history, and now for some reason, people of this country and in this cultural time are becoming afraid of faith and afraid of people of faith.” He went on to emphasize that there cannot be a “wall of separation” between one’s faith and the public square that they participate in through their job or through recreation, echoing Reagan’s proper interpretation of the First Amendment.
An unfortunate tendency in our culture today is for many people of faith to assume that there must be a “wall of separation” between their public and private faith lives. But as Senator Lankford underscored, that’s not the proper understanding of a truly lived faith: “If church and faith is only something you do on the weekend, that’s not a faith, that’s a hobby … A faith permeates everything that you do.”
Next, former Congressman Frank Wolf joined Tony to discuss international religious liberty issues. He declared religious liberty to be at greater risk today than it was 40 years ago, with 5.5 billion people currently living in religiously repressive nations. He also pointed out the outrageous fact that Squire Patton Boggs, one of the most powerful law firms in Washington, D.C., represents persecutors of religious freedom like Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir, an indicted war criminal, as well as China, which imprisons and executes Christians, Buddhists, and Uyghurs.
Wolf also issued a strong challenge to pastors and churches to stand up more forcefully for those being persecuted around the world for their faith. “I think we need some men like Martin Luther King. I think we need pastors to go to jail. I am disappointed in the church. There are exceptions … but overall the church has fundamentally failed.” Wolf also mentioned the current anti-Semitism phenomenon happening on college campuses, and how the “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” movement is in reality thinly-veiled anti-Semitism. When asked what we can all do to fight religious persecution, Wolf emphasized the fundamental importance of prayer, supporting groups like Voice of the Martyrs, Open Doors and Samaritan’s Purse, contacting congressmen and senators about religious liberty legislation, and hosting a “religious freedom day” at your church.
Dr. Alveda King was the show’s next guest, and she pointed out that religious liberty issues are particularly relevant to her personally in light of a recent incident in which Facebook blocked ads from being displayed advertising a movie about Roe v. Wade that she served as an executive producer for. She quoted her uncle Martin Luther King who said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Ryan Bomberger, who is a tireless advocate for the unborn and for equal justice through his Radiance Foundation, closed out the show, noting that he himself was the target of a free speech lawsuit filed by the NAACP, who didn’t like the fact that he was unafraid to point out the organization’s support for the abortion of black children. He also underscored the need for Christians to be fearless in living out their faith: “What good is religious liberty if we are silent? What good is that freedom if we are complacent?” He also noted how fundamental these issues are: “Without religious freedom, America no longer matters. Without life, nothing else matters. So for me, those two issues [religious freedom and the right to life] go hand in hand, and that’s why the Radiance Foundation really sees these things as so imperative, and why we have to fight for both.”
Tony and Ryan both emphasized the need for more courage among Christians to boldly stand up against injustice and live out their faith without fear. This could mean something as simple as posting an article about the importance of religious freedom on Facebook without being afraid of the negative comments. As Ryan succinctly put it, “At the heart of Christianity is self-sacrifice. Self-sacrifice unleashes purpose. When we’re courageous, we enable opportunities to happen that allow others to be set free.”