Last week, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky held the floor of the Senate for nearly thirteen hours as he conducted an old-fashioned, Mr. Smith-goes-to-Washington type filibuster. This was no political stunt; Paul was literally standing (a long time) for principle. He delayed the vote on the nomination of John Brennan as CIA director to draw attention to the Obama administration’s reluctance to affirm basic constitutional rights guaranteed to every American.
Many of us share similar concerns about the Administration’s treatment of religious freedom. Through word and deed, the White House continues to pursue this dangerous idea that our religious freedom only relates to worship and does not exist outside of our homes and churches, spurring significant and regrettable tension between those governing our nation and those who want to live out their faith.
This tension is perhaps best reflected in the Administration’s unconscionable contraceptive mandate that forces religious organizations to either facilitate insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs contrary to their missions and convictions or face terminal fines and penalties. Churches and religious orders are exempt from this requirement, while distinctly Christian groups – like American Family Association (AFA) – are mandated to comply despite their religiously-based beliefs. The White House refuses to acknowledge religious freedom outside of the church setting, causing AFA and others to secure those rights in federal court.
The Bill of Rights was written to keep the government from restricting the freedoms of American citizens in this way. As Senator Paul explained during his filibuster,
“The rights of the individual that were enshrined in the Constitution are important things that democracies can’t overturn… the Bill of Rights are yours. You got them from your Creator. They were enshrined in the Constitution. Nobody gets to take them from you. Nobody.”
Though Paul was referring the Fifth Amendment, the sentiment applies equally to the First Amendment (containing Free Speech and Free Exercise of Religion clauses) and the balance of the Bill of Rights. These rights are God-given, not government-driven.
Senator Paul’s filibuster triggered action. In response, U.S. Attorney General Holder wrote a letter to him promising that the U.S. Government would abide by the Bill of Rights after all. And Brennan was subsequently confirmed as CIA Director. It is foreboding, though, that when Brennan took his oath, he opted to do so with his right hand on an original draft of the Constitution – a document that does not contain the Bill of Rights.
To assure continued recognition of our cherished liberties delineated in the Bill of Rights, we must be willing to follow Senator Paul’s lead and stand on – and perhaps for – principle. Coping with a government that marginalizes the Bill of Rights, we must be vigilant in defending and exalting our inalienable rights, including our First Liberty (religious freedom) articulated in the First Amendment. These guarantees were no mere after-thought to the U.S. Constitution; they define who we are as a people. We cannot forsake the Bill of Rights without forsaking ourselves.
Posted by Nate Kellum