Allow me to make a very direct statement. I believe it is time for the Church in this country to stand up for religious freedom.
Especially over the course of the last few years, we have seen repeated efforts-in the courts, in state legislatures, in Congress, and on Pennsylvania Avenue-to erode what has been called the first freedom: religious liberty.
It isn't hard to cite numerous cases where Christian organizations and individuals have been singled out and punished for adhering to their faith.
In New Jersey, a Methodist camp lost its tax exempt status for refusing to hold a same-sex civil union ceremony. In California, Christian doctors were successfully sued for refusing to offer in-vitro fertilization procedures for a lesbian couple. Catholic Charities in Boston had to shut down its adoption services because it was being forced by the state to place children with same-sex couples.
The current health care bill has no protections for religious medical personnel or health care providers who, by reason of conscience, refuse to participate in abortions. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act is gathering momentum in Congress. The bill would require even Christian-owned enterprises with more than 15 employees to hire those who do not share their faith.
The list could go on and on.
So why is religious freedom such a concern to us as Christians? Freedom of religion is called the first freedom for a reason. Our founding fathers recognized that without freedom of conscience, no other freedom can be guaranteed.
Christians, in fact, are the greatest defenders of religious freedom and human liberty-not just for Christians, but for all people. Compare religious freedom in those countries with a Christian heritage to the state of religious freedom in Islamic nations, communist countries, and Buddhist and Hindu nations, and you will see my point.
The reason that Christians place such a high value on human freedom is that freedom itself is part of the creation account in the Bible. God made humans in His image. He gave us a free will to choose to love, follow, and obey Him, or to follow our own way.
That free will, given us before the Fall, is part of human nature itself.
Perhaps more than anything else, it was this understanding of individual freedom that turned me into the kind of patriot who would willingly give his life for his country. It was the words of the Declaration of Independence that inspired me to join the Marines: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
So this question of human freedom goes to the very heart of who we are as Christians and as Americans.
So this Friday at the National Press Club in Washington, a statement signed by 125 evangelical, Orthodox, and Catholic leaders will be released - a historic declaration on life, the family, and religious freedom.
And please, today, go to ColsonCenter.org to view my Two-Minute Warning video on religious freedom. We will have some great resources for you. Then Friday at noon, we will have for you the declaration itself-probably the most important document I've ever signed.
The Church needs to understand the urgency of the hour and do its duty.