It didn’t take long after the first Easter Sunday for the powers that be to begin attacking Christians for their belief in the risen Lord. Now nearly two millennia later as Christians in America pause to celebrate Easter, we find ourselves under increasing attack by a government attempting to take what it never gave nor ever could: our sacred right of religious liberty. The Founders would be aghast—and profoundly disappointed. “Posterity! You will never know,” wrote John Adams, “how much it cost the present Generation to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make a good Use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.”
By signing the Declaration of Independence, Adams and his colleagues put their lives on the line—willing, if necessary, to pay the ultimate price—for speaking not just for Americans but for all humanity: “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.” Those immortal words teach us, says Princeton Professor Robert George, that “prior to any laws made by men are the immutable standards of justice—standards by which we judge whether the laws are just and can rightfully command our obedience.”
It was the remarkable genius of the Founders to expressly acknowledge those immutable standards and America’s perpetual need to adhere to them, as expressed by our first president —the “indispensable man,” as one biographer called him—both when he took office and when he left. “The propitious smiles of Heaven,” Washington warned in his First Inaugural Address, “can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained.” No wonder that eight years later in his Farewell Address, he could declare, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness.”
America is now paying a bitter price for such subversion, which is accelerating at an alarming rate in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell decision to legalize gay “marriage”—as if a human court could overturn what the Creator Himself established. The dire warnings sounded by the Justices in the minority are becoming ever more relevant: the decision “will have inestimable consequences for our Constitution and our society,” predicted Justice Thomas, while Justice Alito warned that it “will be exploited by those who are determined to stamp out every vestige of dissent.”
Justice Alito also dissented in last year’s Bostock decision in which the Court usurped congressional authority to redefine “sex” as used in Title VII (as a prohibited basis of employment discrimination) to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The majority opinion left enough ambiguity in its discussion of impact on religious freedom as to induce Justice Alito to empathetically note the objections of “a wide range of religious groups––Christian, Jewish, and Muslim” and their “deep concern that the position now adopted by the Court ‘will trigger open conflict with faith-based employment practices of numerous churches, synagogues, mosques, and other religious institutions.’”
But none of this prevented President Biden from issuing on his first day in office an executive order whose high-sounding rhetoric—“Every person should be treated with respect and dignity”—was used as justification for extending the Bostock reasoning to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the Fair Housing Act, the Immigration and Nationality Act, and all federal agencies under 44 U.S.C. 3502(1). Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.
Nor did Biden waste time in taking another major stride in the same direction. Not yet a month into his presidency, he issued a statement of unequivocal support for the egregiously misnamed Equality Act, which would classify support for traditional marriage as a “sex stereotype” constituting illegal sex discrimination. IOF and its colleague organization, National Organization for Marriage, are working overtime to counter this nearly unbelievable attack, which may well constitute the most dangerous departure ever from what Washington called “the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained.”
At this Easter season in America as Christians look to the victorious resurrected Christ, we would do well to remember also that the victory won by the Founders came after their sacrifice and their “firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence.” It is an enduring lesson as we do all within our power to urge our nation to return to those eternal rules and thereby preserve our divinely-endowed but highly endangered right of religious liberty.