Once upon a time, in a land once known for her foundational Biblical truths, there were churches and Bible studies meeting in homes across her great landscape. A shared love of God and Scripture drew these men and women of faith together to peacefully discuss the Bible and share in fellowship with one another. Slowly however, these once common meetings became a legend, as they quietly disappeared from local neighborhoods. No longer was laughter and singing heard through the open windows on a balmy Friday night. No longer were burdens lifted in prayer in the homes of fellow Christians. Where did these peaceful assemblies vanish? Are there still meetings taking place or have they all moved underground?
Only a few days ago, this conversation was reported in a small town in Southern California on 10 NEWS.com.
The county worker asked the woman, “Do you have a regular meeting in your home?”
She said, “Yes.”
“Do you say amen?”
“Do you pray?”
“Do you say praise the Lord?”
The county employee notified the couple that the small Bible study, with an average of 15 people attending, was in violation of County regulations.
A few days later the couple received a written warning that listed “unlawful use of land” and told them to “stop religious assembly or apply for a major use permit” — a process that could cost tens of thousands of dollars. http://www.10news.com/news/19562217/detail.html
Not too long ago, stories such as this were only documented in third world and communist countries, yet today religious persecution happens routinely, even in democracies. Americans naively have believed that they would remain untouched by such practices and such stories. America after all is the land of the free, but freedom is lost when her defenders become complacent, forgetting the price of this treasure.
The colonies that in 1776 became the United States of America were settled by men and women of deep religious convictions who in the seventeenth century crossed the Atlantic Ocean to practice their faith freely. That the religious intensity of the original settlers would diminish to some extent over time was perhaps to be expected, but new waves of eighteenth century immigrants brought their own religious fervor across the Atlantic and the nation’s first major religious revival in the middle of the eighteenth century injected new vigor into American religion. The result was that a religious people rose in rebellion against Great Britain in 1776, and that most American statesmen, when they began to form new governments at the state and national levels, shared the convictions of most of their constituents that religion was, to quote Alexis de Tocqueville’s observation, indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions. http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/religion.html
Freedom to worship was at the crux of America’s birth and for many at great price. Those around the world who routinely worship in secret, value their religion even to the point of imprisonment and death. Yet we in America have had it so good for the past two hundred years, that the value we place on the right of religion is a presumption that the Constitution has it handled and so we relax into a comatose state, while those who hate the “God” of the religious covertly work to strip away this right, utilizing the government and it’s systems to do so.
Once upon a time in America the following meant something truly profound and worth dying for,
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievance.” U.S. Constitution Amendment I
In California, the Constitution stated similarly,
“Free exercise and enjoyment of religion without discrimination or preference are guaranteed. This liberty of conscience does not excuse acts that are licentious or inconsistent with the peace or safety of the State. The Legislature shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” California Constitution Article 1, Section 4, Declaration of Rights
Happily ever after is only possible when concerned citizens wake up from their stupor and recognize that a thief has broken in to destroy all that is priceless and irreplaceable in America. To remain apathetic is to seal one’s fate and accept, without a fight, the rights guarenteed by the Constitution, paid for with the blood of fellow Americans and rooted in a foundation that was built on the ideas of religious freedom and peaceful assembly.