Rev. Dave Aucoin: The Religious Community Must Awaken


Most people don’t realize just how important it is to preserve our religious freedom. They also don’t realize just how close we are to losing it and what the consequences will be. One of the major reasons for the steady erosion of this freedom in recent years is a false understanding of the ‘Separation of Church and State’ that has been circulating for many years. Churches and people of faith have operated in fear due to the IRS threat of losing their ‘tax-exempt’ status and possible lawsuits.

The ‘Fake News’ phenomenon is not just for politics. There has been a lot of it directed at religion and the faith community as well. The truth is that religion has always been an integral part of life in America and our founding fathers often expressed just how important it was. Where would America be without founding fathers like John Adams who said…

It is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue.

I wonder if American Freedom would even exist today if the leaders of the American Revolution were atheist or humanist. Look at who they attributed their freedom to in ‘The Declaration of Independence…

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.

One of the first rights to be protected in early America was the right of conscience — the right to believe differently on issues of religious faith. Look at the 5 rights in the First Amendment: #1 – RELIGION, #2 – PRESS, #3 – SPEECH, #4 – ASSEMBLY, #5 – PETITION.

What is the Purpose of The Bill of Rights? The Bill of Rights serves to protect citizens from excess government power like colonists experienced from England at the time. Government should not be telling us what to think and what to say, yet that is exactly what is happening more and more.

A recent article in the Washington Examiner raises a red flag for those who value religious freedom.

In the last two months before the election, 50 House Democrats became new cosponsors on a bill gutting the 25-year-old Religious Freedom Restoration Act (signed into law by President Clinton with solid bi-partisan support). That brought the total to 172 House Democrats, a solid majority of their party, who now support H.R. 3222. They are ready to undo RFRA as a prominent part of the agenda as their party takes control of the House. This bill would declare that religious freedoms must yield when they run counter to the LGBTQ agenda or to other progressive causes such as abortion rights. Pushing this are progressive groups which claim that religious beliefs are just a cover for discrimination, bigotry, and hate.”

I believe the religious community in RI has been asleep and needs to wake up to the reality that we are being persecuted for our religious beliefs and it’s going to get worse. Jesus gave a warning to the religious community of his day about our tendency to fall asleep, when he said, “And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake” (Mark 13:37).

  • Rhett Hardwick

    If I recall correctly, the purpose of “religious freedom”, as established by our Founders, was to prevent a state church from being formed. For example, the C of E. It is seldom noticed now that the King of England (historically, he was “anointed by God”) is also head of the church. How convenient.

    There is a lesson here, it seems to me the government is attempting to circumscribe religious beliefs.

    • BasicCaruso

      “The declaration that religious faith shall be unpunished does not give immunity to criminal acts dictated by religious error.”
      –Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1788

    • BasicCaruso

      Again, Jefferson…

      “Whatsoever is lawful in the Commonwealth or permitted to the subject in the ordinary way cannot be forbidden to him for religious uses; and whatsoever is prejudicial to the Commonwealth in their ordinary uses and, therefore, prohibited by the laws, ought not to be permitted to churches in their sacred rites. For instance, it is unlawful in the ordinary course of things or in a private house to murder a child; it should not be permitted any sect then to sacrifice children. It is ordinarily lawful (or temporarily lawful) to kill calves or lambs; they may, therefore, be religiously sacrificed. But if the good of the State required a temporary suspension of killing lambs, as during a siege, sacrifices of them may then be rightfully suspended also. This is the true extent of toleration.”
      –Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Religion, 1776

  • BasicCaruso

    Quoting Jefferson (the author of the Declaration), eh? TJ also said this…

    “Whenever… preachers, instead of a lesson in religion, put [their congregation] off with a discourse on the Copernican system, on chemical affinities, on the construction of government, or the characters or conduct of those administering it, it is a breach of contract, depriving their audience of the kind of service for which they are salaried, and giving them, instead of it, what they did not want, or, if wanted, would rather seek from better sources in that particular art of science.”
    –Thomas Jefferson, 1815

  • BasicCaruso

    “If anything pass in a religious meeting seditiously and contrary to the public peace, let it be punished in the same manner and no otherwise than as if it had happened in a fair or market.”
    –Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Religion, 1776.

    • Rhett Hardwick

      It is an important distinction here that some churches are refusing to do that which is permitted (abortion, for instance), they are not refusing to do that which is required.

      • BasicCaruso

        It’s not religious liberty to deny medical benefits or insurance coverage to women or members of the LGBT community…

        “No one can seek religious exemption from laws guaranteeing fundamental civil and legal rights.”

        • Rhett Hardwick

          You present an interesting question. Are “medical benefits and insurance coverage”, “fundamental civil and legal rights”? I can recall no mention in the Constitution.

  • Joe Smith

    Good point Rhett. It’s an important distinction that the organizations are asking for exemptions from *parts* of an enacted law (mandated ACA coverages) – not a constitutional amendment. Congress passes and then modifies laws all the time (the ACA mandate, as made clear by Chief Justice Roberts, was constitutional as a tax law and last year Congress repealed the tax – but not the entire ACA).

    • Rhett Hardwick

      Thank you.
      PS, always beware of quoting Jefferson until you have read “Notes on Virginia”