By Rit Varriale
Independent Journal Review
May 11, 2016
Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, drafted in 1777, is one of the most important documents in United States history. It’s also perfectly suited to address the recent controversy surrounding North Carolina’s HB2.
Jefferson’s primary concern in the statute is the “natural right” of people to express their opinions without interference or retribution by civil or ecclesiastical authorities. For this reason, he begins the statue with the statement, “Almighty God hath created the mind free.” Thus, he wrote:
“To suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy…”
Yet, for decades, we have observed an ever increasing implementation of this fallacy by the courts under the guise of anti-discrimination laws.
No doubt, Jefferson acknowledged in the document that there are times when the authorities must step in, namely, when “principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order.”
What are some examples of peace and good order being disrupted? Exhibit A – the Civil Rights Movement (CRM). It was appropriate for the government to act in a manner which facilitated the desegregation of our society.
Notice I wrote, “facilitated.” For the government to take full credit for a movement (e.g. the abolitionists movement & the CRM) that was well over a century in the making is a little disingenuous. For that reason, I’m tired of hearing people, like Chris Wallace, equate the LGBTQ agenda to the CRM.
Just because government interference was right at one point in our nation’s history doesn’t make it right at all points. Arguing such is akin to saying, “Hey, I took a right hand turn and it got me where I wanted to go. Henceforth and forevermore, I will only take right hand turns.” That’s completely asinine — and so is equating the CRM to the LGBTQ agenda.
To return to the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Jefferson stated:
“Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics or geometry… therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence, by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages, to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right.”
However, the vogue philosophy of our day is to proscribe conservative religious citizens as unworthy of the public confidence unless they renounce their religious opinions with regards to the LGBTQ agenda. This is inherently un-American, anti-constitutional, and a violation of natural right. The freedom of the mind is just that — freedom. It means that I do not have the right to tell someone else how to think, but neither do others have the right to tell me how to think.
It is at this point that the left just doesn’t seem to get it. They don’t want religious conservatives telling transgendered people what to do, but they have no problem allowing transgendered people to dictate the decisions and opinions of religious conservative. If the left feels that religious liberty shouldn’t be used as a cloak for “discrimination,” that’s fine – back at you – “anti-discrimination” shouldn’t be used as a cloak for subjugation. The latter is far worse than the former.
Who started the bathroom controversy? Conservatives? I don’t think so. Who pushed the marriage controversy across the country because they wanted every state to accept their opinions? Traditionalists? Uh… that would be a negative. The answer is, those on the left. Conservatives were content to let the states decide for themselves how to handle the issue of marriage — that’s freedom.
It’s the left that keeps poking their fingers into the eyes of traditionally minded people. Then, when traditionalists have had enough and they stand up for their opinions, the left runs to the government and cries discrimination. If the left is so confident in their opinion, why do they run to the government?
Why don’t they follow the advice of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom:
“Truth is great, and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them.”
That the left doesn’t permit anyone “freely to contradict them” is no mystery. They can’t allow for debate because that allows truth to roam freely. If truth roams freely in modern America, it will easily destroy the left’s erroneous claims — like the claim that boys can actually be girls and girls can actually be boys.
There’s another truth in Jefferson’s statute that the left can learn from, namely:
“That all attempts to influence it [the free mind] by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and therefore are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being Lord, both of body and mind yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do.”
Hypocrisy and meanness can only be tolerated for so long before there’s another revolution. God forbid that happens, but if it does, then remember: conservatives weren’t the ones that started it. Conservatives weren’t the ones trying to force everyone to submit to their ideology.
As North Carolina stands firm, I have one challenge — where are the Christian CEOs who will move their companies to North Carolina? Where are all the Christian artists who will put on a free concert in Raleigh to support traditional values? Where are the country music stars who promote traditional values? Where are the Christian judges on our state supreme court? Those who have positions of influence should use them now. Those who have a voice, should make it heard now.
Now is the time for Christian leaders to stand up and be counted — to be remembered as those who stood for what was right… those who stood with North Carolina.
Proverbs 24:10 – If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.
Rit is a pastor, author, blogger, former Army Ranger with the 82nd Airborne Division, concerned citizen and unashamed Christian. Rit holds a B.A. from The Citadel, an M.Div. from Campbell University, a Th.M. from Duke University, and a D.Min. from Princeton Theological Seminary. You can read more from Rit on Facebook or at GodBeforeGovernment.org. The is article was posted at Independent Journal Review.