Those who promote separation of church and state seemingly derive the concept from the First Amendment phrases regarding religion and the no religious test phrase of Article VI.
The concept of separation of church and state allows citizens to establish, recognize, and/or favor one religion over another; this may constitutionally be termed freedom of religion. At the same time it prevents the government from establishing or officially recognizing a religion and/or favoring one religion over another in its laws; this may be constitutionally termed freedom from religion.
Yet, neither freedom of religion nor freedom from religion implies freedom from God with respect to his Word, Will, and Way. Unfortunately some erroneously interpret the US Constitution to imply such freedom from God. Indeed, both freedom of and freedom from religion require recognition of and surrender to God by both the individual and the government/state. For the individual, government, and other entities, the challenge is to obtain a righteous balance between freedom of and freedom from religion.
Religious Liberty and Religious Tolerance
These ideas of freedom of religion and freedom from religion together form the basis for religious tolerance. Religious tolerance is not complaining or blocking another person from believing and/or practicing his or her religious preference privately or in non-religious public institutions so long as there is no physical harm. Religious tolerance does not keep one from speaking against or standing against another’s religious beliefs and practices at an appropriate time and place and in an appropriate way.
Religious tolerance is not a requirement of public religious institutions since such institutions exist to teach, practice, and promulgate specific religious doctrines. Yet, such institutions should practice a loving measure of religious tolerance that is not injurious to the religious institution.
One purpose of Religious Liberty is to protect and guard against having to partake in another person’s sin. Another purpose is to protect a person’s biblical obligation and constitutional right to stand or protest against sin/evil. It does not give one the right to stop or block another person from sinning. That is, religious liberty applies to the process; it is not intended to prevent at all cost the result desired by a person, customer/client or otherwise.
One purpose of preaching is to change the person’s heart and mind so there is no longer a desire for an unrighteous result. But note that preaching and religious liberty are complimentary actions; they are not mutually exclusive.
So then a person with religious concerns has two fundamental choices:
(1) Resign his or her position
(2) Raise a valid religious liberty objection
Natural rights derive from nature and nature’s God. Natural rights transcend nations, societies, and generations. In the US Declaration of Independence these natural rights are called inalienable rights. Legal rights often derive from court rulings, customs, statutes, laws, of a society.
Religious liberty only applies to unrighteous laws. For more information on righteous, unrighteous, and natural laws see Righteous, Unrighteous, and Natural Laws
Note that religious liberty is an individual right; it is not a group right. It is not transferable to another person. It is an individual rather than group right since individuals within a given constituted group may differ as to religious conscience. That is, I personally have to discourage and personally warn and reprove. The church activity to which I belong is insufficient for that.
The fact that religious liberty is an individual right is the reason we cannot say that church opposition is sufficient to fight the battle for religious conscience. Indeed, church organizations/denominations differ on various religious issues.
This is not to say that churches should not warn and reprove as the Bible warns and reproves. However, the fact that the church and Bible warns and reproves is not sufficient reason to deny religious liberty; this is true even though everyone in America has access to a church and Bible. It is important that the church reach out to the community. Yet, ignorance is no excuse says the Lord and the Law.
In the case of a religious liberty objection, religious liberty requires that alternatives sources of products and services be identified, employed, and accepted by both government authorities and client/customers when other sources are available, it is a violation of religious liberty for either government or the public to demand products/services be provided by a particular source objecting on reasonable religious grounds.
If a person makes a religious liberty claim in a sincere objection to performing a duty or act that qualifies as partaking in a sin as described above, neither a government authority nor an individual citizen has the Federal Constitutional authority or right to compel that claimant to perform such a duty or act.
One may be tempted to consider including words of warning and discouragement directly or indirectly to someone to be a way to practice religious liberty so as to satisfy ones religious conscience. One may consider including words that state one is not authorizing, is in disagreement with, and is merely bearing witness to the government’s authorization of an action which one reproves.
One may be tempted to think well I am not endorsing the act but rather doing all of this as an agent of the State as part of my job and not of my on desire. However, none of this is sufficient if one still participates in the action directly or indirectly; such participation means one is partaking in the sin. Indeed, one must not be an agent of the state in assisting the state in doing eveil.
For example, if one places or authorizes his or her name to be placed on the same sex license as an authorizing official even as an agent of the state, then one has partaken in the sin of same sex marriage including its far reaching effect on other’s religious liberty. For one has chosen to obey man rather than God (Acts 5:29).
Even human law recognizes this fallacy and the weakness of such an argument. For if I say to the judge “Sir, I told Joe not to kill Jim but I still gave him my gun knowing he planned to kill Jim”. Would not the judge still charge me with accessory before the fact?
So then if I obey an ungodly command from a superior person or institution am I not still guilty of partaking in the sin of that superior or institution? Would this not be true regardless of what statement I make regarding my disagreement with the ungodly command.
The fact that I obeyed makes me guilty. This is why scriptures records with respect to the apostles conversation with the Chief Priests and Sanhedrin Council:
“But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.
(20) For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20)
And also the scriptures record “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)
As stated above, religious liberty applies to unrighteous acts. For example, it is righteous for an employer to require its workers to work six days a week. A person can then decide whether to take the job or not.
But now suppose the employee’s regular day of worship is Sunday. Suppose the employer always schedules the employee to work on Sundays but lets other employees doing the same job off on Sundays on a regular basis. Suppose the employee informs the employer of his/her need to be off a fair number of Sundays as the other employees. Suppose the employer refuses. In such a refusal the employer is engaging in unrighteous activity due to unfair discriminatory favoritism. The employee has a legitimate religious liberty claim. An example of this may be found concerning a Florida hotel dishwasher here.
If a person makes a sincere religious liberty claim government authorities shall make allowances for someone else willing to perform the duty or act. The government authority shall not impose any contemporaneous or future penalty on the claimant based on the religious liberty claim. Individual citizens shall seek products and services elsewhere within the city, county, state, or nation or online if a government official or business owner makes a sincere religious liberty claim.
For example, some states such as North Carolina have passed laws allowing state officials to opt out of issuing marriage licenses if they have a religious objection to issuing same sex marriage licenses. To avoid discrimination claims, this also means they cannot issue heterosexual licenses. Procedures are provided so other persons would be available to issue such licenses. It is unclear if such laws will hold up in the US Supreme Court, however.
At least one Alabama State Senator has proposed a Bill to take the state out of the business of issuing marriage licenses. There is a proposal to let the matter be a civil contract between persons. One judge in Alabama has proposed that the Federal Government issue marriage licenses instead of States.
In exercising religious liberty one should be mindful that the Federal Constitution and Laws have precedence over a State Constitution and Laws even if a State has not yet updated its Constitution and Laws to reflect Federal rulings.
If a superior makes a religious liberty claim based on freedom of religion, a subordinate may make a religious liberty claim based on freedom from religion, i.e., freedom from the religion of his superior. In such a case the claimant to religious liberty relinquishes all authority to direct subordinates and others regarding the specific matter. This is because religious liberty is an individual right and each affected person must choose to claim or not claim religious liberty regarding a specific matter. Moreover, a superior in a government or other non-church assembly/organization has no responsibility for a subordinate’s soul. That subordinate should be part of a spiritual assembly with pastors or other ministers who watch out for that subordinate’s soul.
So then if a superior refuses to perform a duty or act under a religious liberty claim, a subordinate may choose to perform the act or duty without interference from the superior if that act is part of the subordinate’s normal duties. In such a case the subordinate must otherwise have legal authority assigned through a court order or statutes to perform the duty or act. This legal authority may be concurrent with the superior’s delegated authority or activated upon the refusal or other inability of the superior to perform the duty or act.
If the subordinate’s authority is not court ordered or statutory but is strictly based on internal delegation of authority by the superior then the superior may with religious integrity delegate the authority to the subordinate to choose or not choose to perform the duty or act. Thus, the subordinate may claim or not claim religious liberty. In so doing the superior does as God did when he gave Adam and Eve the choice to eat or not eat.
To God Be the Glory!