Herald Journal Columns
July 25, 2005, Herald Journal
Pastor's Column

It’s time to take a stand to protect our freedoms

By Father Robert Mraz, Holy Family Catholic Church, Silver Lake

As I have pondered the news recently, I have wondered if we are losing our rights of freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press.

The Supreme Court, as usual, has given confusing and conflicting opinions on the public display of the Ten Commandments. It seems that if they have been there in a public place for a long time, e.g.. in front of a courthouse, in a city park, or on the facade or decoration of a building, as part of the architectural decoration without a religious connotation, but more as a historical curiosity, then it is OK.

But if you put them up to express your religious opinion, even when purposely putting other monuments of other’s opinions around them, then it is wrong, because you are trying to express your religious beliefs publicly.

So, what is so wrong about expressing your religious beliefs? Doesn’t the first amendment to the Constitution, the first right of the Bill of Rights, grant us the free speech to express our religious opinions?

Isn’t that first amendment: the right to practice our faiths, to speak publicly, and to have a free press to publish them in writing?

Now, we are flirting with “hate speech legislation,” as Canada and other countries do, in which if you express your religious belief that abortion is wrong, or that same sex marriage is wrong, even by just quoting Bible verses in church with no commentary on them, you can be arrested and go to jail. If you drive into parts of Canada and have a bumper sticker saying you disagree with abortion, you can be arrested and go to jail for “hate speech,” in which someone may be offended by your opinion.

I’m sorry, but the purpose of religion is this: religion is to the state what the conscience is to our own body. Our conscience bothers us when we do something wrong, and it should. Its purpose is to change our lives so we do not do what is wrong, and then, we will not feel guilty and uncomfortable.

But to pretend your conscience does not exist, or to bury it with alcohol or drugs, or to try to convince yourself that your conscience is wrong and that the crowd around you with its politically correct opinions and meaningless terminology, which says nothing so no one is offended, is correct – none of these will bring you peace of mind and heart. Only by following our consciences, formed by our faith in God, will we find peace of mind and heart.

The conscience is not hate speech or bigotry; the conscience sees the dignity each is called to and the preciousness of each person and asks us to treat them that way. That is what the Ten Commandments teach, and that is what the doctrines of our faiths teach us.

To be truly free, we need not to silence religion, not silence the conscience of our society – our churches and our beliefs. We need freedom to share publicly and openly the full picture of every issue, especially the moral issues.

We all need free expression of the rights of the First Amendment, the right to live and express our faith publicly and openly in public places, the right to speak and write the truths of our faith in public, if we want our country to be a free and moral nation in which all have the rights and privileges given to us by God.

Countries with laws that say you cannot say publicly what is right and wrong, you cannot challenge “current wisdom” of the state, are in a state of dictatorship in which no one is free.

Just look at the Nazi, Fascist, and Communist countries and other dictatorships that imprisoned people who spoke out for the rights and dignity of others taught by their faiths. Were these people free? No, they were, and are, slaves living in silence and fear.

Do we want to join them by refusing to speak out, and by allowing others to try to silence us? We must never give up our rights of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press if we want to remain free.

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