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Religious Liberty: Conscience vs. Coercion

Posted By Connie Moody, Wednesday, January 9, 2013

CON´SCIENCE, n. con´shens. [Fr. from L. conscientia, from conscio, to know, to be privy to; con and scio, to know (that is, with knowledge)….] (bold parenthetical note added)

Internal or self-knowledge, or judgment of right and wrong; or the faculty, power or principle within us, which decides on the lawfulness or unlawfulness of our own actions and affections, and instantly approves or condemns them.

C̵OER´CION, n. Restraint, check, particularly by law or authority; compulsion; force. South.[1]


January 16 each year is the anniversary of the ratification of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (1786). Drafted by Thomas Jefferson, the Virginia Statute became the foundation for the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights. Like many of the documents of our founding generation, the Statute affirms the ideals first restored by Christ and upheld by the first century church—the primitive gospel of liberty and the limitations of men ruling over men. At this time the world was reminded of the truth that men were created free and with the capacity to reason and with conscience—the power of principle within us. The world has been witness to scores of individuals of many religious convictions for whom liberty of conscience became more important than their very lives. On the Chain of Christianity®, many apostles, disciples, saints, reformers and our own Pilgrim Fathers suffered persecution and sacrificed their livelihood and lives to shake off "the yoke of antichristian bondage”—the coercive compulsion of the civil authority to force a system of faith, worship, or belief-based actions on its citizens or force their restraint in the practice of the same.

"Be it enacted. . . that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain,
their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge,
or affect their civil capacities.”
Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom

Each individual is entitled by virtue of the Creator to believe and to act on his beliefs be they Christian or Muslim, Atheist or Buddhist, Jewish or Roman Catholic (of course, not all will be saved based on their beliefs—only by His grace). The role of the state is to limit the free exercise of religion only to the extent that such belief-based actions intrude on or inhibit the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of others. It is never the role of the civil government to use its power and authority to force citizens to exercise or support (e.g., government spending of some tax dollars) a religion or to unduly limit the exercise of one’s beliefs.

Christianity, not the Virginia Statute, originally gave this idea of individual religious liberty to the world and, thus, to all religions in nations embracing the principle. Of all people, then, the followers of Christ should best guard and steward it—they must live it, for "to reach the essence of liberty, and certainly to secure its blessings in co-operative living, choice must be exercised in conformity with moral principles. There must be a sense of personal responsibility, of self-restraint, and therefore of self-government…. The blessing of liberty, which political government may safeguard or destroy but can never itself provide, are therefore intimately connected with personal belief in, and practice of, Christian doctrine.” (Felix Morely, in T&L, p. 236)

What are we, as heirs to His Spirit of Liberty, doing to actively confess the faith and walk as children of Light in liberty of conscience? How are we actively standing against civil compulsion to violate conscience?

Remember, doing what is right and not doing what is wrong OR doing what is wrong and not doing what is right requires the consent of conscience. "My consent (active or tacit) is my title to keeping conscience in God’s will.” (T&L, p. 232)


For more on this topic, please see Teaching and Learning America’s Christian History: The Principle Approach, pp. 224-239.

Read more about religious liberty and the separation of church and state from a recent post at William J. Federer's American Minute. Click here.

ReligiousFreedomDay.com also has resources for teaching about Religious Liberty (especially regarding students’ rights in public schools), www.relgiousfreedomday.com.



[1] Webster, N. (2006). An American Dictionary of the English Language, facsimile copy of the 1828 edition. Chesapeake, VA: Foundation for American Christian Education.

Tags:  coercion  conscience  religious liberty  Thomas Jefferson  Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom 

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Voting God's Values

Posted By Connie Moody, Tuesday, October 23, 2012

"The legacy we leave behind for our children, grandchildren, and this great nation is crucial.  As I approach my 94th birthday, I realize this election could be my last.  I believe it is vitally important that we cast our ballots for candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel.  I urge you to vote for those who protect the sanctity of life and support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman.  Vote for biblical values this November 6 [2012], and pray with me that America will remain one nation under God.”

Billy Graham, Montreat, NC, October 2012
(Text from full page ad by Mr. Graham to run in several news outlets
before the November 6, 2012 elections.  See the original ad. )  

Knowing God’s principles makes many decisions of life simple—not necessarily easy, but simple.  "Consenting to do that which is right or that which is wrong is basic to Christian self-government. . . My consent [my vote] is my title to keeping conscience in God’s will.” (Slater, T&L, p. 232)

The power of internal principles is the vital force for unity.  And unity is a vital force for influence and impact in this world for the glory of God.

KNOW God’s principles and VOTE your conscience on November 6.

Tags:  Billy Graham  conscience  consent  election  principles  unity  vote 

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Religious Freedom Day

Posted By Connie Moody, Friday, January 13, 2012
Updated: Thursday, March 8, 2012

Jefferson's Virginia Statue for Religious Freedom (1786) is celebrated January 16th by presidential proclamation, a practice first established in 1993 by George H. W. Bush. However, the passage of the statute was extolled by James Madison in 1826 when he wrote in a letter that the bill establishing religious freedom had been "enacted into a permanent barrier against Future attempts on the rights of conscience”1. In another letter to the bill's author in the year of the statute's adoption, Madison proclaimed that it "extinguished forever the ambitious hope of making laws for the human mind”2 reiterating Madison's own belief that religious opinion, or opinion of any kind for that matter, cannot be compelled, coerced, or controlled by any legislation or action of civil authority as opinions are a matter of conscience—"our most sacred property”.

There is no denying the significance of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom as well as other state constitutions and bills of rights which recognized religious liberty and liberty of conscience for the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (only three states maintained established religions at the time of the Constitutional Convention). This peculiarly American principle became part of the supreme law of the land.

Unfortunately this "permanent barrier” is threatened by ignorance and complacency—the twin foes of personal liberty—among the citizenry. Don't leave the preservation of your religious liberty up to a proclamation by the president. Know and exercise your God-given, unalienable rights. Also, do not be deceived, post-modernism, secular-humanism, and atheism are religions which by law are not allowed preferred status, preferential treatment, or support for their establishment by disestablishing every tradition of Christianity in the public square. "Prescriptive pluralism destroys liberty of conscience (and therefore religious liberty) and attempts to equalize the relevance of all faiths. . . Religious pluralism is the postmodern counterfeit of religious liberty, which in turn, demands toleration.” (2008, p. 234)

A copy of the Virginia Statute and a paraphrase of the same are included in A Guidebook for Religious Freedom Day available at religiousfreedomday.com.

Dr. Gai Ferdon presents a well-researched explanation of these important topics in Chapter 6 of her book A Republic If You Can Keep It (2008) available from FACE in softbound print or electronically as part of the Christian History Library in Libronix®.

1 James Madison to George Mason, July 14, 1826
2 James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, January 22, 1786
Both of these references are cited in full in Chapter 6 Notes of Dr. Ferdon's book.

Tags:  conscience  Jefferson  religious liberty  Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom 

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