The right to both freedom of speech and the right to freedom of religion are something that is inherent as far as rights are concerned. What those rights entail is something that has historical significance and context. In both of our countries we have seen attempts by government to ride roughshod over our rights in ways that even 10 years ago we thought to be unimaginable.
I will deal with the right to freedom of religion first because I think it is the most important of these two rights, but I also see the two rights being intertwined. The right to freedom of religion is something that is historical, and it is something that goes beyond the birth of Jesus Christ. I refer to the oppression of the Jews at the time that Damascus had the upper hand during the period of the Greek occupation of Jerusalem. During that time (the period of the Maccabees), the suppression of the Jewish faith was almost without equal. The Greeks brought a statue of one of their gods into the Temple and they forced the population to make sacrifices to that god. The Books of the Maccabees outlines the terror of that time, including how mothers and their babies were killed because the babies were circumcised by their family.
The Maccabees won the fight against the Greeks and sent them packing, but they also invited the Romans into their land, and the Romans were in occupation prior to, during and after the time of Jesus Christ. The Romans had a different form of pagan worship, and in their case the emperor was considered to be a god (I think that started with Caligula). The leadership of the Jews attempted to suppress the followers of Jesus Christ. This happened prior to the death of Jesus on the Cross, as well as afterwards. These attempts are recorded in the Scriptures. The Sanhedrin had eyes and ears everywhere, and there were people who would report back to them what Jesus was doing. Jesus was “in hiding” prior to the death of Lazarus, but he returned when his friend was close to dying, arriving 3 days after his death. It was this miracle that caused the Sanhedrin to be even more determined to kill Jesus. This is only one of the episodes where there were attempts to silence Jesus. After the death, Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven, followed by the sending of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles were emboldened and they began to preach in public. They were brought before the Sanhedrin and admonished, told not to preach again, but of course they ignored the Sanhedrin in this regard. Then came the first of many persecutions in Jerusalem, and later on a much wider scale. That first persecution led to the death James, the brother of John. The Christian sect continued to grow despite this persecution.
Christians were persecuted on a regular basis up until Constantine decreed that Christianity would be the State Religion. We need to understand the context here, because Constantine as emperor of Rome was decreeing that Christians were no longer to be persecuted because they refused to sacrifice to pagan gods. However, that was not the end of the persecutions, more were to follow right up until Mohammed began killing both Christians and Jews.
For now, I will leave aside much of the murky history of this period and move to the period of the Reformation. What is important to note here is that Christianity was the State religion, and those who deviated were in turned persecuted. This was due to the fact that in that society there was no differentiation between the authority of the Church and the authority of the State. It meant that any deviation was considered to be tountamount to treason. The period of the Inquisitions need to be seen in such a light. What I am leaving out is the story of those deviants and why they were frowned upon. Unfortunately the Church was not successful in stamping out the heresies and today we see an upsurge in some of them, including the heresy of the Catharists – yes, those vegetarians are Catharist at heart and they seem themselves as being the pure ones, even if they do not follow all of the beliefs of the Cathars of the past.
The Reformation stands out because it was a revolt agains the authority of the Church over the authority of the State. It was the beginning of the end of the authority of the Church on such a level. When Henry VIII broke with Rome, he was breaking with the authority that was exerted by the Chair of St. Peter. This brought about the formation of the Church of England. The Church of Scotland appeared around the same time, and ditto for the Church of Ireland. None of these existed prior to Henry VIII. As a result of the actions of Henry VIII more and more groups sprang up because people began to openly express their own interpretations of the Scripture. What must be kept in mind here is that in England the authority of Church and State continued to remain equal, but this time it was the monarch in charge. Protestants persecuted the Catholics, the Puritans persecuted both Anglicans and Catholics, and they in turn persecuted the Puritans. Thus we get to the point of the voyage of the Mayflower to the New World. (please note my history here is not perfectly accurate but it is close enough for the purpose of this essay).
The people who sailed to the New World were in fact fleeing what they saw to be persecution for their religious beliefs. They came from England, Holland, Germany and France to the New World. In each case they had helped to create a mess but they did not stick around to clean up a mess of their own making. Instead they traveled to a distance land to start over.
We now fast forward past the American Revolution because that period is mostly irrelevant with the exception of the authority that the king of England attempted to exert over the people who had moved to the New World. It was an authority that was ultimately rejected.
This brings me to the Constitution of the USA and everything that it embodies. In particular it brings me to the First Amendment rights that are inherent: the right to have freedom of expression in regard to religion and the right to freedom of speech.
The First Amendment is based upon ensuring that the State does not have the ability to decree any one belief system as the State religion. It is in effect stating that Catholics and Protestants are equal within the Constitution. Unfortunately this right also allows Scientology to exist as a church, when in fact it is nothing more than a cult. It also gives the Mormons a right to exist, as well as the Seventh Day Adventists. Unfortunately it also allows Islam the right to exist in society.
Islam remains the biggest threat to our freedom of both religion and speech. The practice of Islam is totalitarian in nature. One of the aims of those who follow the Ummah is to force everyone in the world to follow Islam. In other words they want to impose a State religion.
Thus we get to the point where the Left is once again attempting to suppress Christians. There are many, many ways in which the Left has been attempting to suppress the voice of Christians. As someone who has read the books of Fulton Sheen, I am reminded of some of the things that he is stated especially the fact that the Left do not want to be reminded of their own immorality. The Christian faith is one thing that stands in the way of the Left when it comes to some of the worst of their crimes. Clearly I place the push for Abortion on Demand as one of those crimes where Christians keeping pointing the finger, and the way in which the Left attempts to silence those against them is evidence that they do not like the sunlight.
The Left have been using their power within the IRS in a form that is an absolute abuse of process. There are many examples of the lengths to which the Left has gone in their attempts to silence Christians. Some examples stand out better than others including the conversation caught on tape where the IRS person actually gets quite irate at a pro-Life group. The application of the pro-life group was held up for 2 years. The point is that what the agent said goes against the First Amendment and therefore that agent and the agency should be challenged in the Legal system over this abuse of power.