On July 4th Remember Freedom Tradition
This year we as Americans have a reason to celebrate the victory of the 13 British colonies that became the United States of America besides that of the overwhelming desire of the Founding Fathers to shake off domination by a government not on these shores and achieve economic as well as political sovereignty. This year, the Fourth of July falls on a Sunday, giving us reason to be thankful for the Founding Fathers’ belief that not only are all men endowed with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but also the right to worship according to their own beliefs in their own way, including the right to no belief at all.
“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,” runs the First Amendment to the Constitution, part of the 10 Amendments that we commonly refer to as the Bill of Rights. It is no accident that freedom of speech, the press and “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” are included with the Amendment pertaining to freedom of religion. It was in houses of worship as well as around tavern hearths and in the homes of citizens in all 13 colonies that the concept of a free, independent and sovereign nation first arose—in fact, that what may have been the opening shot in the battle for religious freedom in the New World took place some 120 years before the Declaration when 30 English colonists in New Amsterdam published the Flushing Remonstrance and John Bowne allowed the sect known as Quakers to worship in his home. The Founding Fathers, including the signers of the Declaration of Independence and in 1787 the Constitution of the United States, recognized that a congregation, whatever its faith might be, was a powerful source for spreading news and promulgating opinions, not only by the pastor, whoever he was, but also by the members of the congregation. Some denominations encouraged their members to mount the pulpit and voice their opinions, whatever those opinions might be. In any case, the Founding Fathers recognized that religion involves speech, publication of ideas and congregations engaged in peaceable assembly.
Throughout this nation’s history social and political reform movements have arisen from houses of worship and their members. Everyone in government, including the president takes an oath of office that requires him or her to acknowledge God, in whatever form perceived by the oath-taker, as the Ultimate Arbiter of human behavior. The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence that preceded it acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being and by doing so grant the right of all Americans to worship however they choose or not at all.
On this, the 234th anniversary of the founding of this nation, we salute the Founding Fathers and their willingness to pledge their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to allow us the right to worship as we please. From that right arose freedom of the press, freedom of speech and the right of Americans to gather, form new political parties and challenge the status quo—all of which help to enable this nation to continue to reinvent itself to meet ever changing challenges while maintaining the traditions that first made us the great nation that we are.