Under a government “by the people,” we as U.S. citizens are permitted to help shape public policy. Further, as Christians, God calls us to be salt and light wherever we are. “What should our top policy priorities be?” is the critical question, given that we still enjoy the freedom to participate in the governing process.
The Two Pillars
CHEWV has carefully maintained a focus for 25 years on legislation that affects home schooling. Currently, two key legislative initiatives are being considered in states across the nation that go far beyond our home educator community, but seek to guard the fundamental liberties exercised by Christian home schooling families. These initiatives are aimed at clearly reasserting parental rights and religious liberty, long assumed to be “self-evident” under the U.S. Constitution but now under assault. You need to know that this assault not only threatens families but organizations like CHEWV in the free exercise of speech and advocacy from a Biblical perspective and could, for example, deny the right to require that Board member families affirm their Christian faith.
The late Chris Klicka, as Senior Counsel at the Home School Legal Defense Association wrote,
The two constitutional pillars that support homeschooling are the parents’ fundamental right to direct the education and upbringing of their children as secured by the 14th Amendment and the parents’ right to freely exercise their religious convictions as guaranteed by the First Amendment.
Because most homeschoolers teach their children at home in order to train them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, our right to freely exercise our religious beliefs is paramount.
Sadly, in recent years, the Obama administration has demonstrated support for limits on religious liberty when that works to their advantage. Christian families, whether home schooling or not, need to care about these attacks and be ready to defend our “first freedom”: Religious Liberty.
Why the Religious Freedom Restoration Act?
In a significant 1990 case, the US Supreme Court ruled that if a law is generally applicable to everyone, and does not target people of faith, then it must be obeyed if it is a “reasonable” regulation. The Court later said in 1997 that if individual states want to protect religious practice, or the living out of one’s faith in daily public life, then they could pass a Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Although over 30 states have already secured these protections, the West Virginia State Legislature, specifically the State Senate, has blocked the passage of the RFRA. Through God’s grace and the efforts of HSLDA, CHEWV, and the Catholic Diocese, RFRA passed the House in 2012….and died in the Senate.
You should be aware that powerful forces – the gay (LGBT) lobby, pro-abortion lobby, and the current administration – are actively working to restrict freedom of religion to “freedom of worship.” Their goal is to turn the U.S. into a secular society like Europe, where church buildings are museums and the State determines how kids are raised and what they are taught. Fortunately, because America is made up of states, we have a precious opportunity to preserve the freedoms Europe has so tragically lost. It is time we value religious liberty, not simply as a philosophy but in more concrete terms, as an indispensable shelter to protect us from the elements and allow followers of Jesus Christ to flourish in a culture that is increasingly secular.
Let’s not be those who merely stare in astonishment out of our window as the freedom thieves do their work! Instead, let us be those who labor together with God to guard our homes, protect our children, and advance our freedoms.
To Catch a Thief
Picture religious liberty as a house and your family as the residents. Attacks like those from the President and, most recently, from the US Supreme Court, have the same impact on our liberties as if someone decided to begin pulling the wood siding off one end of your house. While this won’t bring your house down overnight, it clearly does weaken the structure and eventually will be very costly to repair if left unaddressed. If you and the kids decide to just peek out the window and watch, it will become clear to the siding stealer that it’s probably okay for him to start working on another side. Being shocked or dismayed yet refusing to take action only guarantees further theft and damage. The sure way to change the situation is to actively trust God as you step outside your home and, probably with help from your friends, confront the criminal in order to restore your stolen property.
Doing nothing with regard to the current attacks on our religious liberty encourages those who want to steal our freedoms to continue. Secondly, we may not feel the loss of freedom right away; but eventually we will. Finally, it always helps to have a little help from your friends.
Friends in High Places
Speaking of friends, while we have many at the Capitol in Charleston, they need to hear from us! Legislators are busy – and understand that we are, too – which means that any respectful input you provide holds more value than you realize. Whether you express yourself in detail or politely deliver your position’s bottom line, it will be noted and appreciated.
It may come as a surprise, but a mere 10 calls or emails to a Delegate will get their attention and is likely to cause them to vote for or against a certain bill. For a Senator, just 25 contacts can make the difference and cause them to stand apart from legislation that otherwise would have reduced our freedoms. The key is that those calls need to come from the folks back home in their district.
To Sum Up
So what does the RFRA do? It says to the government in no uncertain terms that religious liberty is a fundamental right worthy of protection. It places on the civil government, not citizens, the burden of demonstrating why a regulation is critically important. Further, the RFRA requires the government to limit its regulations so that our freedoms are protected. Headquartered in Oklahoma City, for instance, the folks at Hobby Lobby were protected from being forced to support abortion because the Oklahoma Legislature had signed its own RFRA. And when you say, “I home school in order to raise my children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” those in power have to respect your religious preference because the law requires it. You cannot be set aside, silenced, and ignored; instead, they must listen because the RFRA asserts that because of religious liberty, you have a fundamental right to be heard.
Remember, it is families working together whose Salt can effectively preserve our liberties and whose Light establishes truth and justice in public policy. Nothing scares a freedom thief more than a well-informed legislator and citizenry who stand boldly on the side of what is right. Let’s not be those who merely stare in astonishment out of our window as the freedom thieves do their work. Instead, let’s be those who labor together with God to protect our homes and advance our freedoms.