By: John Van Der Brink
We often take for granted the religious freedoms we still enjoy. The freedom to live and worship according to the dictates of our conscience has always been a part of our national heritage. Will that freedom still exist tomorrow? There are forces alive today that seem to want to take away those freedoms. But there are also people who are becoming aware of this threat and are letting their voices be heard. Even in the halls of Congress and in our nation’s courtroom, a voice is being raised in defense of religious freedom. Amidst all that opposition, there are also some bright spots. May the Lord give strength, energy, and concern to our leaders who have a desire to maintain the morals and values of God’s Word.
The upcoming presidential election cycle seems to be filled with candidates that will largely restrict or extend the religious freedom we still have. We would encourage everyone to be vigilant in researching what each candidate stands for and to vote for those who seem best qualified to defend our religious freedoms.
While there are many concerns, we would like to highlight some positive events related to religious freedoms. In the last few years, there have been those who have resisted the trends, challenged rulings in courts, and have been surprisingly successful in promoting religious freedoms. A few of them are listed below.
- Recently the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a US Postal worker who was dismissed from his job because he refused to work on Sunday. His dismissal violated the employer’s requirement to make reasonable accommodations for religious beliefs. This should help our young people when faced with similar situations in the work world.
- In 2021 Tandon v Newsom, the Supreme Court of the United States reversed a lower California court decision that forbade church services of more than three families while at the same time allowing larger gatherings for other purposes. This decision clearly was in favor of extending religious freedoms to churchgoers.
- In 2022 Fulton v City of Philadelphia, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a religious organization that placed children in adoptive homes to refuse to place them in the home of same-sex couples. This case reinforced the rights of organizations to make and follow policies that are consistent with their religious beliefs.
- The concept of School Choice is extending across America, especially in states run by Republican governors. These programs provide tax relief to parents who choose to send their children to religious-based schools. Tuition is sometimes tax deductible, and in some cases, private schools are funded similarly to public schools.
- Of course, we all know the long sought-after but unexpected reversal of the infamous 1973 Roe v Wade decision which legalized abortion nationwide. Who could have thought that there would come a time when this awful decision would be reversed? But elections have consequences, and in God’s providence, it was the justices appointed by President Trump who dared to take a stand against this awful law. And although abortion is still practiced in many places, many politicians who oppose abortion have dared to speak out, and they are being elected to office. May the Lord grant further reforms in our country.
- Finally, the Supreme Court also ruled in 2022 that the State of Maine which provides tuition assistance to nonreligious private schools must also provide equal assistance to nonpublic religious schools.
All the above serve as examples that the concerns that we have about Religious Freedoms are also felt by a growing number of others in our society. Some are speaking up and being heard. And while Christianity is shrinking in America and atheism is growing, there still are a small group of people, even among our leaders, who desire to hold on to the principles and values of a former generation. May God remember our nation and be with the upcoming generation.
John Van Der Brink, director of the Netherlands Reformed Christian School in Pompton Plains, New Jersey, and a member of the Board of Directors of Christian Council International (CCI)