James Madison was George Washington’s go-to man during Washington’s prime. Madison was a prime-mover in composing and passing the Constitution, a leader in his own right. As a commentary on the Constitution, he wrote a eye and ear witness essay on its meaning known as “The Federalists Papers.”
In Federalist Paper Number 51, Madison wrote: “The security of civil rights must be the same as that of religious rights.”
If A equals B, then B equals A. Consider this principle, known in math as “symmetric property equality” and evaluate religious rights today.
Religious rights were a given at the time and the confirmation of civil rights was the objective. In seeking to establish one right, he appealed to an established right.
Religious rights were the established right.
Civil rights were the rights desired to be established.
This leads to the present-day conclusion that religious rights deserve to be equal to civil rights. Civil rights are well-defined and established in our day. They are the given against which to conceptualize religious rights.
Contrary to popular belief, even Thomas Jefferson believed in religious rights. His statement regarding a wall of separation between church and state comes from a letter he wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association. The purpose of the letter was to insure the Baptists there was a separation intended to prevent the state from restricting freedom of religion by establishing one denomination as an official state-church to the exclusion of all other denominations. His purpose was to insure all denominations religious freedom and affirm the state would not restrict their free exercise.
The Baptists were so grateful to Jefferson they used the milk from 900 cows to make him a 1,235 pound block of cheese as a gift of gratitude.
If all freedoms noted in the First Amendment were interpreted to be restricted like the part related to religion, we would lose our freedom of speech, the press, the right to assemble and the right to petition the government. They are all grouped together.
Separation is essential, however, some restrictions that have been placed on religion are not beneficial to society. Often when something is written favoring religious freedom, some “flamethrower” comes out blazing about efforts to form a state church. One word regarding that: “never.”
On May 4, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order “promoting free speech and religious liberty.” It does two primary things:
One, it instructs the Internal Revenue Service to “not take any adverse action against any individual, house of worship or other religious organization” that endorses or opposes candidates from the pulpit.
Secondly, it instructs the Departments of Treasury, Labor and Health and Human Services to consider amending regulations in the Affordable Care Act that require most employers to include contraception in employee insurance.
It both instances, it was determined the state did breach the wall of religious freedom.
To have a freedom and not use it is little better than not having it. Freedom of assembly and freedom of religion are two inherently important privileges. Yet, attendance at traditional churches is declining as persons do not exercise their freedoms.
Conversely, while attendance at established churches declines, there is a proliferation of startup churches. They are populated by younger people who enjoy a contemporary style of worship. It truly is “freedom” not of, but freedom in worship style.