First Amendment Rights

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution deals with the “Freedom of Religion, Speech, Press, Assembly, and Petition.” It was passed by Congress on September 25, 1789 and ratified on December 15, 1791.

The First Amendment states that “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 grievances.”

Our nation was in part founded on the basis of religious freedom. The people desired to be able to worship God without interference from the government. Thus, the inclusion of religious freedom made incredible sense, both then and now.

Quoting an article written by Pete Peterson (Dean of Pepperdine’s School of Public Policy) and Mario Mainero (Professor at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law):

“As contentious as any measure this past session, the California Legislature passed and Governor Brown recently signed Senate Bill 1146, written by State Senator Ricardo Lara (D–Bell Gardens). The original premise of the bill was to equalize the treatment of same-sex married and transgendered students, faculty, and staff in the use of facilities on private, religious California colleges and universities who admitted students using state educational grants. The bill was amended before final passage to require certain disclosures related to the religiously-based policies for these private universities…

In the bill’s previous versions, if a California college offered married campus housing to heterosexual students or staff, they would have to do the same for same-sex married couples. Similarly, if faith-based colleges with on-campus chapels offered them to heterosexual couples for wedding services, they’d have to do the same for same-sex couples — no matter what the religious principles of the institution.”*

In some respects, Senator Lara’s measure makes sense in light of the recent Supreme Court Decision upholding gay marriages. He argued that faith-based organizations, which will eventually include the church, should not be able to use faith as a reason to discriminate. On the other hand, it flies in the face of what the First Amendment was meant to be and protect.

However, as Peterson and Mainero point out, “While the world’s great religions invite all prospective adherents, they at some point offer a choice to step into affiliation that is inherently discriminatory in what is asked only of its members. This right to ‘freedom of religion’ and related faith-inspired obligations have provided the basis for the world’s most deferential civil society in terms of protection of religious association. From soup kitchens to parish schools, from hospitals to adoption agencies, America has – and protected the rights of – religiously-affiliated groups and institutions.”*

As I shared this past Sunday, we are in an age where the Christian church and Christian faith-based organizations are going to be challenged more and more regarding the tenets of their faith and a life that is God-honoring and Bible-based.

Ultimately, as Christians, we are to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33) and everything else will follow, even if it is laced with persecution and loss of freedoms.

In the words of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, "God assumed from the beginning that the wise of the world would view Christians as fools and he has not been disappointed… Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. Be fools for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world."

In the final analysis, a Church persecuted is a Church that will stand strong in faith and works.

Something to think about…


* Pete Peterson & Mario Mainero, “An ‘Inverse Prop 8’ For California”, Mark-Up, October 18, 2016.

** Penny Brown Roberts, “Scalia: Faithful Live for Christ,”; submitted by David Slagle, Atlanta, Georgia.