Redefining America’s First Amendment: More Than Just Worship

By Chuck Colson | August 26, 2016 | 3:06pm EDT
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

In this classic BreakPoint commentary, Chuck Colson warns of an ominous shift in language when it comes to religious freedom. And he was right.

For some time now, I’ve been warning you about the various threats to religious freedom. We’ve talked about the gay-rights movement, which insidiously insists that religious believers and organizations bow before the altar of sexual freedom. We’ve talked about the so-called health care reform bill, which does not protect freedom of conscience of medical practitioners.

But now I’m seeing the threat to religious freedom in its most pernicious and dangerous form ever. I speak about this today on my Two Minute Warning video commentary. I urge you to go to and watch it, and download the other resources.

In a nutshell, here’s what happened. In a speech at Georgetown University, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a speech on human rights. Not only did she talk about the right “to love in the way you choose,” (an obvious attempt at making protecting gay rights a top priority for the U.S. government), she also talked about “freedom of worship.”

But she never mentioned freedom of religion. Only freedom of worship--a big change.

In the First Amendment, the founders (whose work we celebrate this weekend) wisely ensured that government could not prohibit the “free exercise” of religion. And that means so much more than freedom of worship. It guarantees that we're not restricted just to living out our faith in the privacy of our homes or church sanctuaries. It means we're free to exercise our religion—and contend for faith—in every area of life.

Just this clever dissembling of words is an apparent attempt to restrict freedom of religion to freedom of worship only. Do you see the implications? Sure, I'm free to attend church, sing hymns, pray over meals, offer thanks to God for my children and grandchildren. That’s my own private affair.

But should the government succeed in redefining freedom of religion, how much longer can I practice my faith in public? See my Two Minute Warning to understand what this really means.

If you read history, you will see that that the first act of a tyrant is to suppress religion, which means of course, religious practice. Our Founders knew this. They knew the first English settlers came to these shores precisely so they could practice their faith.

And if you read history, you’ll know that the one true threat to a tyrant’s rule is always a believer’s loyalty to a God Who is above the god of the state.

This is why Christians were thrown to the lions in ancient Rome. The earliest baptismal confession of the young Christian Church was “Jesus is Lord.” And that meant Caesar was not. This is why Hitler and Stalin first went after the church. The star of David and the cross were symbols of an authority higher than their own.

We all know about the battles over the Pledge of Allegiance and the phrase “under God,” the battles over manger scenes on public property. These are important, but they're skirmishes, mere skirmishes. The real battle is about whether God is Lord, or whether government is Lord. And make no mistake, if government can redefine or restrict our freedom of religion, our first freedom will be gone.

And, as our Founders understood, when that freedom is gone, we will, in short order, lose all of our other freedoms as well.

(This commentary originally aired June 30, 2010).

Chuck Colson founded BreakPoint in 1991, a daily radio broadcast that provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.

Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by BreakPoint.


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