Free Exercise of Religion is More Than Just Freedom of Belief

firstamendmentIt is not an insignificant thing that Justice Kennedy has stood against the liberal tide that seeks to redefine the constitutional right of the freedom of religion. Constitutionally, the freedom of religion is the freedom to exercise one’s religion both inside and outside the doors of one’s place of worship. However, many today are striving to limit this freedom by redefining this constitutional right to mean merely the freedom of worship. By this subtle change in terminology, the freedom to exercise one’s religion is limited to within the walls of one’s place of worship and barred from public spheres such as politics and commerce. Kennedy has shown that he disagrees with this redefinition.

In his concurring opinion, Kennedy writes:

In our constitutional tradition, freedom means that all persons have the right to believe or strive to believe in a divine creator and a divine law. For those who choose this course, free exercise is essential in preserving their own dignity and in striving for a self-definition shaped by their religious precepts. Free exercise in this sense implicates more than just freedom of belief. […] It means, too, the right to express those beliefs and to establish one’s religious (or nonreligious) self-definition in the political, civic, and economic life of our larger community.

Justice Kennedy and the four other Justices in the majority got it right this time. As Christians, we should not have to check our religion at the doors of our churches. To do so would be to compromise the very essence of what it means to be a Christian. Paul (and Jesustaught that to become a Christian is to become a completely new person. Christianity is not just an accoutrement to this life, it is a new life. And we can be thankful that the Supreme Court has sided against the Obama Administration—at least for today—in defending a Christian’s right to live as Christ commanded.

Read the full text of the Supreme Court’s decision here.

HT: Denny Burk


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