Few affronts to the First Amendment have been so menacing and wrongheaded as the advocacy for freedom from religion — a freedom we do not have. And few individuals have done more to counter this threat than President Barack Obama, a warrior for prayer. The Lima News can praise few aspects of this presidency to date, but Obama has been stalwart in his defense of religious liberty. It’s a significant contribution to keeping our country free.
The Freedom From Religious Foundation, which seeks to silence religious people, filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration in an effort to end the president’s National Day of Prayer. The foundation is an organization of atheists and secularists who believe they have a right to government-enforced protections from the sights and sounds of religious messages, which they consider offensive. They are no different than anti free-exercise activists who use planning and zoning laws to prevent the construction of mosques because they oppose Muslims and/or the Islamic religion.
The foundation has a broad and bizarre interpretation of the “separation of church and state,” a phrase borrowed from a political letter written by President Thomas Jefferson and abused for more than 200 years by those who want freedom from religion. The First Amendment prevents governments from passing laws that respect “an establishment of religion.” It does not prevent presidents and others in government from expressing their beliefs or even from advocating prayer and respect for God. Words and ideas are not laws, and they have no authority a listener does not give them. The Establishment Clause speaks only to the making of laws, which are acts of force.
That’s what the Chicago-based U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals explained in its dismissal this month of the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s nuisance lawsuit. The court wrote that Obama’s Day of Prayer “does not require any private person to do anything — or for that matter to take any action in response to what the president proclaims.”
On prayer day, people are free to pray or not to pray. That’s the same if it’s Obama having a day of prayer or if it’s happening anywhere else with anyone else — and they’ve been around the Lima area, including in Lima, Ottawa and Wapakoneta. The lawsuit advocated a taking of freedom, as it sought to silence the Day of Prayer.
“Since the founding of the republic,” the judges wrote, “Congress has requested presidents to call on citizens to pray.”
Obama wasted no time basking in the freedom the court protected for him and all other Americans. He oozed his love and respect for Jesus at his second annual Easter prayer breakfast Tuesday at the White House.
“As busy as we are, as many tasks as pile up, during this season, we are reminded that there is something about the resurrection ... of Our Savior Jesus Christ that puts everything else in perspective,” Obama said.
He recounted Christ’s march to Calvary, the crucifixion and the resurrection. He spoke of an “unfathomable grace” on the part of Jesus, for assuming the sins of the world. It’s a grace, he said, that “calls me to reflect, and it calls me to pray.” He credited his wife and children for helping him to maintain perspective but said Scripture guides him even more.
Obama spoke his heart and mind. He did not pass a law forcing others to feel the same or to respect a word he said. He enjoyed, obeyed and upheld the First Amendment, for which he deserves great credit.