“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.”
When our forebears wrote the Declaration of Independence, I believe they set in motion not only a chain of events that secured the blessings of liberty for our nation, but they refined basic principles of how humans were created to understand and relate to one another.
The Declaration states that the created equality of all people is self evident. No one is greater or lesser than another. We are all brothers and sisters; children of the Creator. We may have written and unwritten rules in our country that some are less equal than others, but from the beginning the core concept is that we are all equal before God. I wish all our laws, past and present, would be held up to this powerful truth. I hope each of us, despite laws and practices that segregate, denigrate, and abuse others, will choose each and every day to embrace the equality of all people.
After stating that all are equal, the Declaration asserts “that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Within this trio of rights I see the basis of religious liberty. Here in the United States each of us has the right to pursue any religious belief and practice we choose. No one can force another to believe anything. Yet in reality, we try to do so all the time. Parents have broad power to require things of their children, even religious practice. In our politically divided nation, leaders on both sides not only argue the merits of their positions, but insist that we cannot believe a word coming from the other side.
On the other hand, there are those who insist that my simple stating of my beliefs impinges their own. Or that my practices devalue or defame theirs. They conclude that my pursuit of faith restricts their beliefs in some manner and must stop. We see this in our nation when a church, mosque or temple is set on fire or bombed. We see this when people attack those who gather peaceably to worship. We see this when children are threatened, bullied or humiliated in school because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning. We see this when marriages and families are attacked because they don’t have a husband and wife.
Religious liberty is not a theological issue, but a foundational principle of this nation.
As a nation we believe that no one person, no group or agency, no government or leader has the right to limit or question “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
In this week of celebration I ask that you read through the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution and consider if our nation is on the right path. Do our leaders stand in line with the principles set forth in these documents? Do we live enslaved to a particular political, economic or religious belief or as free citizens, equal in the eyes of our Creator?