Second Thoughts on First Amendment?

Second Thoughts on First Amendment?

June 01, 2018

If there were a book on how to agitate an anti-faith extremist, chapter one would almost certainly recommend talking about the importance of religious liberty in America. That definitely worked on LA Times's opinion writer Michael McGough, who was so perturbed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's speech on international religious freedom report that he spent 446 words quibbling over the order of our First Amendment.

What did the secretary say that was so offensive, exactly? Nothing that isn't common knowledge to everyone who's taken fifth grade history. "Religious freedom is in the American bloodstream," Pompeo said. "It's what brought the pilgrims here from England. Our founders understood it as our first freedom. That is why they articulated it so clearly in the First Amendment."

McGough, who must have missed the class on religious persecution in 17th century England, took issue with Pompeo's observation that religious liberty was the key to all other freedoms. "Not quite," he fired back.

"[B]y linking 'first freedom' to "First Amendment," the secretary of state seemed also to be suggesting -- erroneously -- some connection between the two 'firsts.' If so, he wouldn't be alone. In 1993, during a debate on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said: 'It was no accident that the Framers of our Bill of Rights chose to place the free exercise of religion first among our fundamental freedoms.'"

"It's true that the 1st Amendment mentions religion before it moves on to guarantee freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances... But the idea that this makes either the First Amendment, or freedom of religion, more important than other constitutional rights is a pious fiction."

Of course, the freedom of religion was of preeminent importance to the framers. They were only a century and a half removed from the nightmare that drove 102 people to take a two-month journey to an unforgiving land on a ship the size of a volleyball court. They didn't do that because they were adventurers -- or in search of great riches. They came here for the freedom King James I denied them: the ability to worship freely and in peace. Years later, Samuel Adams talked about the relationship between these liberties when he said, "Driven from every other corner of the earth, freedom of thought and the right of private judgment in matters of conscience direct their course to this happy country as their last asylum."

If McGough wants to squabble over the order of our First Amendment freedoms, let him. But that still doesn't alter the reality that a free society hinges on free religion. And, ironically, by invoking Jerrold Nadler (who is as liberal as they come), McGough is exposing just how far outside the mainstream his position really is. If the importance of religious liberty is acknowledged by even the fiercest of New York Democrats, then this reporter is only marginalizing himself by attacking it. That -- not Pompeo -- is the real extremism.

Religious liberty is for everyone -- not just for conservatives, and certainly not just for Americans. It's a human right on which all other freedoms are built. "God who gave us life gave us liberty," Thomas Jefferson said. "And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God?"

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Obama Reflects: Hope, Change, and Confusion

June 01, 2018

If there was anyone more surprised than Donald Trump by his come-from-behind 2016 win, it was the person he was succeeding: Barack Obama. In a new book, The World as It Is, former advisor Ben Rhodes says Trump's predecessor couldn't seem to come to grips with the results, wondering, "What if we were wrong?"

The backlash, after eight years of bulldozing American values, was fierce. No one on the Left, which had spent the better part of two terms remaking the nation in their extremist image, could have predicted it. They didn't realize how deeply their elitism offended, or how strongly their contempt for mainstream ideals hurt them. And the deep frustration with the way Obama governed wasn't just from the Republican side either.

If you ask the Democratic base in the Rust Belt, they'll tell party bosses exactly where they went wrong. In the aftermath of the election, local party chairmen and union bosses were repulsed by the direction of the country and the campaign. "Look, I'm as progressive as anybody, okay? But people in the heartland thought the Democratic Party cared more about where someone else went to the restroom than whether they had a good-paying job," Ohio's David Betras complained. As even the Washington Post pointed out, "The local chairman feels very strongly now that Clinton could have won Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan if she had just kept her eye on economic issues and not gotten distracted by the culture wars."

Still, President Obama was "shell-shocked," Rhodes wrote. "Sometimes I wonder whether I was 10 or 20 years too early," Obama told aides, according to the memoir. "Maybe we pushed too far..." For once, he was right. What we witnessed in 2016 was the revenge of the "deplorables," who, after a decade of being mocked and maligned, finally said, "enough!" As Tony Perkins pointed out, and a lot of conservatives agreed, Americans "were tired of being kicked around by Barack Obama and his leftists. And I think they are finally glad that there's somebody on the playground that is willing to punch the bully."

The idea that his country would choose a return to restraint, patriotism, and common sense and decency was astonishing to Obama. "Maybe this is what people want," Rhodes quotes him as saying. "No facts. No consequences. They can just have a cartoon." Then, in a moment almost comical, the book describes Obama the day after the election, waxing poetic. "There are more stars in the sky than grains of sand on the earth," he insists to his aides about the results.

On Fox News, our good friend Bill Bennett almost laughed out loud (video below). "[Imagine] if Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said to his coach Bill Belichick, 'Why did we lose to the Eagles?' [And he said], 'There are more stars in the sky than there are grains of sand.' No, the Eagles were better. Trump is better... It's dumbness posing as profundity."

Like other conservatives, Bill could see the heartland uprising coming. "No one was more assured of his own rightness than Barack Obama. So when this occurred... the reaction was, how could this happen?" Asked what he thought Obama meant by, "maybe we pushed too far," Bill talked about the disdain the former president had for everyday values.

"I think he means what we heard him caught him on tape earlier in the administration, when he talked about guns and religion and so on... The American people [are] still clinging to their flag, to their country, to their faith, to their guns -- and he just doesn't understand it. ...He went to all the right places, went to all the right universities, but he doesn't quite understand what the American people are about. Never got it."

Will they get it in time for the midterms? No one is quite sure. There are flashes of recognition from the Left in the success of Pennsylvania's Conor Lamb and others, who recognize that they need a more moderate platform to win. But then, in the last three primaries, we've also seen a flood of far-Left progressives who don't seem to be heeding the warning from Heartland Democrats to party bosses: "You're killing us." "The Democratic brand," said Illinois state Rep. Jerry Costello Jr. warned, "is hugely damaged, and it's going to take a while to bring it back."

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

'I Have Set Watchmen on Your Walls, O Jerusalem...'

June 01, 2018

There were a lot of inspiring moments at FRC's Watchmen on the Wall gathering last week, but one of the best had to be the presentation of our annual award to Pastor Jeremy Schossau, the courageous leader of Detroit's Metro City Church.

A lot of you probably remember the story of Pastor Jeremy, who was trying to help teenagers who might be struggling with their sexuality -- only to come face-to-face with the entire LGBT activist movement. No sooner had Schossau launched the six-week program and the harassment began. Death threats started streaming into the church office -- on Facebook, Twitter, and Metro City's phone lines. Angry activists threatened to burn the church down or shoot members of the staff all because one congregation dared to offer healing, wholeness, and hope.

Through it all, (and "all" included a legislative call to investigate the church), Pastor Jeremy stood firm, insisting that what he was offering wasn't hatred or intolerance -- but love and truth. Local news outlets picked up on his tribute at Watchmen, noting how pastors from all over the state rallied around him and supported him.

At the award presentation, Tony explained that "God has blessed Pastor Jeremy's faithfulness to His word." His response was like his ministry -- graceful and powerful:

"When you preach the truth of God's word, the fight will find you. And it's odd and humbling to receive an award for doing the right thing... People keep saying this was an act of courage. But I can tell you, this wasn't birthed out of an act of courage. It was an act of love. Because love, without truth, is not love."

You won't find a better response to the pressures of today's culture than Pastor Jeremy's speech. Listen to it in its entirety here.

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

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