Government has often been the enemy of religion rather than its friend. Hear what the apostle Paul had to say, “At Damascus., the governor under King Aretas guarded the city of Damascus in order to seize me” (2 Cor. 11:32).
In addressing an American labor delegation in 1927, Joseph Stalin said, “We guarantee the right of every citizen to combat argument, propaganda, and agitation of any and all religion. The Communist Party cannot be neutral toward religion.” Within two short years, there was a “night of struggle against religion” in Leningrad on Christmas eve, 1929. After that, religious believers were being arrested throughout Russia. Churches were closed simultaneously, and large-scale arrests were made of ministers. Tanya Khodhevick wrote, “You can pray freely, But just so God alone can hear.”
For writing these lines she received a ten-year prison sentence!
In later years, Solzhenitsyn speaks of Christians who went off to camp to face tortures and death in Russia. He writes, “There are a multitude of Christians: prisoner transports and graveyards. Who will count millions? They died unknown, casting only in their immediate vicinity a light like a candle. They were the best of Russia’s Christians.” He then added, “The worst had all trembled, recanted and gone into hiding.”
I’m thankful our Founding Fathers wrote freedom of religion into the very fabric of our government. The words of Thomas Jefferson in the Virginia Act of Religious Freedom, 1786, spell it out clearly:
We, the General Assembly of Virginia do enact that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, or shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinion of belief; but that all men should 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.
Thank God for our Founding Fathers and the heritage they have passed on to us! [May we respect it and continue in it!] – John Gipson, Windsong church of Christ, Little Rock, AR