Big government is a constant threat to religious freedom
Freedom of religion means that the government cannot force religious institutions to act against their fundamental beliefs.
Unfortunately, many on the left seem to think that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment offers a blank check to impose secular values on any religious institution that interacts with the federal government in any way.
Recently, the ungodly left has set its sights on Brigham Young University (BYU), a private university affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The school was under federal investigation by the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) for alleged discrimination because of its ban on “homosexual behavior”.
What gives the federal government the right to poke its nose into the honor code of a private religious institution? According to the left, receiving any kind of federal funding — even in the form of financial aid given to individual students without school involvement — subjects institutions to federal jurisdiction. That makes virtually every religiously-affiliated institution of higher education in the country subject to the shifting winds of partisan politics — relatively untroubled under Republican administrations, but operating with a target on their backs when Democrats occupy the White House.
BYU apparently enjoys numerous “exemptions” from federal law because of its status, but it is clear from the ongoing investigation of its internal rules and procedures that these exemptions are not worth the paper they are printed on. The mere existence of the survey is a form of intimidation designed to coerce the school into moderating, or even abandoning, its adherence to fundamental religious beliefs.
The saddest part of this attack on religious freedom at BYU is what former BYU President Jeffrey R. Holland — a respected gentle giant with a doctorate in American studies from Yale — spoke out just a year ago. a brilliant and compassionate discourse on how to offer a place for all, tolerance and love for all, while respecting the standards of religious groups who stand on the ground of religious freedom.
BYU is not alone. It is one of approximately 1,400 schools currently under investigation by federal trades. Since it is virtually impossible for them to operate without somehow becoming entangled in the tentacles of the Federal Leviathan, religious institutions are forced to operate with a sword of Damocles hanging over their heads.
This is not how our founding fathers wanted this country to run. They well understood that civil authority must remain completely separate from religion, for as soon as the two intertwine, the government begins to make decisions about which aspects of American spirituality to allow and which to repress. They also understood that religious faith is vital to the character of any self-governing people.
We must reform our public education system so that children in private and public schools receive an excellent education that teaches core values, first principles, and pride in being American. Unfortunately, public schools today are more likely to welcome assaults on religious faith than to support the diversity of beliefs that America needs.
I would be outraged – as I’m sure the BYU community is, and parents in my home state of Ohio would be – if government bureaucrats sought to dictate what elements of our faith are allowed to be practiced and taught in my children’s Orthodox Jewish school. in Beachwood, Ohio, or schools like Open Door Christian in Elyria, Ohio, or Cincinnati Hills Christian in Cincinnati.
Americans are a tolerant people – tolerance is enshrined in our founding documents and takes pride of place in the nation’s highest law, the US Constitution. But we must never tolerate the loss of our basic freedoms, especially the right to freely practice the religion of our choice.
We must fight for the religious freedom of every American or our country will turn into a secular wasteland.
Josh Mandel is a Marine Corps veteran who has served two tours in Anbar Province, Iraq. He also served two terms in the Ohio Legislative Assembly and two terms as Ohio State Treasurer. Josh is running for US Senate in Ohio.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.