Tuesday, April 25, 2006

What Is the Source of Liberty?

In last week's blog, we asked the philosophical question, "Who Is Responsible for Educating Children?" We answered that question by referring to two sources: God's law and man's law. Perhaps surprisingly, both God's law and man's law agree that parents, not the government or church, are primarily responsible for educating their children.

What is the source for parental liberty to raise their own children? Last week, we examined three court decisions which upheld parental authority to nourish and bring up their children. Listen to the words of those judges.
• "One of the most important natural duties of the parent is his obligation to educate his child, . ." That language speaks in terms of natural law. We shall shortly examine the greatest statement of natural law in American history.
• "[T]he liberty of parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control . . . The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the state to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only." That language speaks of the "fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose. . ." We shall shortly examine the constitution of Indiana for further instruction on our title question.
• "Nor does this court have any difficulty in concurring with those courts that have found within the ambit of the free exercise clause a constitutional right to education ones children . . ." We shall also examine the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as we search for the answer to the question: "What is the source of liberty?"

I. DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. The greatest expression of natural rights and liberty in American history is found in our Declaration of Independence: "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 . . ."

In 1776, in a land established upon the Word of God, even an avowed deist such as Thomas Jefferson was fully aware of the source of liberty -- not a what, but a Who -- Creator God. The Declaration of Independence makes it clear that government is not the source of liberty; rather, as Jefferson next declares, "That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, . . ."

II. CONSTITUTION OF INDIANA. The first constitution of the State of Indiana was drafted in 1816 in the territorial capital of Corydon, which later that year became the first state capital. The first section of the first article is derived from Jefferson's language penned forty years earlier:

"That the general, great and essential principles of liberty and free Government may be recognized and unalterably established; WE declare, That all men are born equally free and independent, and have certain natural, inherent, and unalienable rights; among which are the enjoying and defending life and liberty, and of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety."

Although the source of liberty and those "natural, inherent, and unalienable rights" is only implied, that source is specifically mentioned in section 3, as follows (each clause is preceded by a number):
1. "That all men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God, according to the dictates of their own consciences:
2. That no man shall be compelled to attend, erect, or support any place of Worship, or to maintain any ministry against his consent:
3. That no human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience:
4. And that no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious societies, or modes of worship;
5. and no religious test shall be required as a qualification to any office of trust or profit."

Lest the reader wonder about the importance of these rights, consider the case of Abdul Rahman, the Afghani citizen mentioned in our first blog, the man who was charged with the crime of converting from Islam to Christianity. His country, Afghanistan, and numerous other Muslim countries, which do not believe in the separation of mosque and state, do not protect the religious liberties of its citizens. Would you rather live in a Muslim country or in America?

Lest the reader become incensed at Muslim countries in which the marriage of mosque and state results in the denial of religious liberty, keep in mind that the Muslim influence was virtually nonexistent in Indiana in 1816. Rather, the drafters of Indiana's first constitution were reacting to the marriage of church and state and the lack of religious liberty as found in colonial America and in the early United States! For example:
• The Pilgrims who established Massachusetts (1) did not believe in separation of church and state and (2) did not believe in freedom of conscience. With respect to Baptist preachers and believers who sought "to worship Almighty God, according to the dictates of their own consciences," the Pilgrims violated all five of the religious liberties found in the first Indiana constitution.
• In colonial Virginia, in which the Church of England was the established church, Baptist preachers were arrested and beaten for the crime of preaching the Gospel without first obtaining a license to preach from the Church of England. The lawyer who defended several Baptist preachers was Patrick Henry, a good Presbyterian. When Patrick Henry was later governor of Virginia, he supported legislation which would compel tithing to the church of your own choice, a great step forward in liberty for a people who had previously been forced to support the state Church of England. The legislation failed because of opposition of Baptist leaders, who believed, as Indiana legislators later believed, that "That no man shall be compelled to attend, erect, or support any place of Worship, or to maintain any ministry against his consent."

Just as Muslims do not believe in (1) separation of church and state and (2) freedom of conscience, neither do Roman Catholics and most Protestants, who retained their opposition to those fundamental liberties when they separated from the Roman Catholic Church during the Reformation.

III. CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. The Constitution, drafted and submitted to the states for ratification in 1787, faced intense opposition in several states. One of the reluctant states was Virginia, which opposed the Constitution unless religious and civil liberties were guaranted by a Bill of Rights. Baptist preachers, including John Leland, mindful of the earlier denial of religious liberty in such states as Massachusetts and Virginia, were among the leading opponents, insisting that religious liberty must be the law of the land.

Virginia finally voted for the U.S. Constitution in the middle of 1788, when the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments, were added. The very First Amendment, and the very first freedom protected by the U.S. Constitution, is as follows: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Please notice two things:
• This clause is the soul of brevity, expressing in sixteen words the twin pillars of religious liberty -- (1) separation of church and state and (2) freedom of conscience.
• These twin pillars of religious liberty were not insisted upon by Pilgrims, Anglicans, or Roman Catholics, who believed in neither, but rather by the strong contingent of Baptists in the original thirteen states.

In other words, the first liberty in the First Amendment is nothing more than codification of doctrinally distinctive Baptist beliefs -- separation of church and state and freedom of conscience. Since the adoption of the U.S. Constitution in 1789, America's principles of liberty have taken root in America and have been exported throughout the world. America and the world owes much to Baptists who stood firmly on the Word of God on behalf of religious liberty.

IV. CONCLUSION. Take one final look at the Declaration of Independence. Since the source of liberty is God, the freedom to worship God is foundational to all other liberties. The corollary has been borne out by history and by current events -- if a nation does not have religious liberty, then all other liberties wither, cut off from the source. America and the world continue to owe much to Baptists who continue to stand firmly on the Word of God on behalf of religious liberty.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Who Is Responsible for Educating Children?

It was an honor when Dr. Daniel Haifley, pastor of Grace Bible Baptist Church, Syracuse, IN, invited me to speak at the First Annual Home School Expo held on the grounds of Indiana Fundamental Bible College on April 29, 2006. As I examined the details of Indiana home school laws, it was perhaps fitting to place such an examination in the larger context of a philosophical issue: Who is responsible for educating children?

I. THREE PLAUSIBLE ALTERNATIVES

As we examine the question of “Who is responsible for educating children?”, let us consider three plausible alternatives.

# 1 -- The government is responsible for educating children.

This alternative, commonly expressed in the last 150 years by educators, humanists, and bureaucrats in America and around the world, faces two problems:
• Biblically, government plays no role in education. The Biblically ordained role of government is protection of life and property, not education of children.
• Legally, the courts of America have consistently ruled that government is not primarily responsible for educating children.

# 2 -- The church is responsible for educating children.

The church, assuredly “the pillar and ground of the truth” (I Timothy 3:15), should provide numerous opportunities for children to learn the truths of God’s Word; but nowhere does the Bible place upon the church the primary responsibility for educating children.

# 3 -- Parents are responsible for educating children.

Both Biblically and legally, parents have always had the primary responsibility for educating their children.
• In Deuteronomy 6:1-7, the fathers were responsible for teaching God’s Words to his children.
• “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother” (Proverbs 1:8).

As we will see, God's law and man's law agree on this big philosophical issue. Of course, the reason why is that man's law is based upon God's law (an issue which must be reserved for another day).


II. THREE COURT OPINIONS

As the following three court opinions demonstrate (one Indiana Court of Appeals decision, one U.S. Supreme Court decision, and one federal district court decision), discussed in chronological order, both state and federal courts have clearly placed upon the parents the responsibility for educating children.

A. 1904 -- The State v. Peterman, 32 Ind.App. 665, 70 N.E. 550, decided by the Indiana Court of Appeals near the beginning of the 20th Century, held that the Indiana compulsory attendance laws allowed for the operation of home schools. With regard to the question, “Who is responsible for educating children?”, the Indiana court quoted from a Massachusetts opinion which set forth that court’s opinion as to the relative duties of both parents and government, as follows:

"One of the most important natural duties of the parent is his obligation to educate his child, and this duty he owes not to the child only, but to the commonwealth. If he neglects to perform it, or wilfully refuses to do so, he may be coerced by law to execute such civil obligation. The welfare of the child and the best interests of society require that the State shall exert its sovereign authority to secure to the child the opportunity to acquire an education."

B. 1925 -- Pierce v. Society of Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus, 268 U.S. 510, was a U.S. Supreme Court case which reviewed the recently enacted Oregon compulsory attendance law which compelled parents to send their children to public schools. The Supreme Court noted the role of government with respect to education of children:

"No question is raised concerning the power of the state reasonably to regulate all schools, to inspect, supervise and examine them, their teachers and pupils; to require that all children of proper age attend some school, that teachers shall be of good moral character and patriotic disposition, that certain studies plainly essential to good citizenship must be taught, and that nothing be taught which is manifestly inimical to the public welfare."

However, with regard to the question, “Who is responsible for educating children?”, the U.S. Supreme Court could not have answered more clearly.

"[W]e think it entirely plain that the Act of 1922 [the compulsory attendance law] unreasonably interferes with the liberty of parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control. . . The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the state to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations."

C. 1985 -- Mazanec v. North Judson-San Pierre School Corporation, 614 F.Supp. 1152. This home schooling case was decided in the federal district court for the Northern District of Indiana, South Bend Division. Applying the Indiana compulsory attendance laws to a home schooling family, the federal judge ruled as follows:

"This court has no difficulty with the values that were announced in Pierce v. Society of Sisters, . . years ago. Nor does this court have any difficulty in concurring with those courts that have found within the ambit of the free exercise clause a constitutional right to educate ones children in an educationally proper home environment, understanding that the State retains a legitimate interest in the fulfillment of certain minimal requirements as established legislatively and administratively as a matter of public policy."

Praise the Lord that we live in America! But the battles for liberty shall never wane. In the meantime, may parents never forget these words by Supreme Court Justice McReynolds: "[T]hose [parents] who nurture him [children] have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations."

Monday, April 17, 2006

The MySpace Controversy

In the last few months, numerous Independent Baptist churches, colleges, and schools have been rocked by the MySpace controversy. As with so many other current issues, legal concerns abound. If you want the insight of an Independent Baptist attorney about this increasingly popular but controversial Internet site and how to respond to it, read on.

PERSONAL BACKGROUND. Any time that you read an article about the Internet, be aware of the author's background. As for this author:
• I am 57 years old, thus 40 or so years removed from the MySpace generation.
• I remember when computers were the size of a large room.
• I graduated from law school 30 years ago (in 1976), before computers invaded the hallowed halls of academia.
• I worked as a lawyer for nearly 20 years before I sullied my fingers with a computer keyboard.
In other words, I have been dragged kicking and screaming into the computer age, whereas the youth of today have grown up immersed and fully wired in the brave new world of the Internet, chat rooms, text messaging, and blogging.

MYSPACE. MySpace describes itself as "a place for friends." Frankly, I don't relate to MySpace; most people my age don't relate to virtual hangouts or virtual community centers. I am accustomed to dealing with people face to face; I am notorious for loathing the impersonality of drive-thru windows at banks and fast food places. However, before I can address the MyPlace controversy, I must first discuss this new form of interactive media.
• MySpace was formed in 2003 in California. In 2005 it was purchased by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., owner of Fox News.
• MySpace provides online space to teenagers and young adults to post personal pictures, profiles, and blogs.
• The membership of MySpace as of January 2006 was about 40,000,000 teenagers and young adults (yes, that number is forty million!!!!).

How do you personally compare to this MySpace generation? Consider the results of a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study: teenagers aged 15 to 18 average nearly 6 and a 1/2 hours a day watching TV, playing video games, surfing the Net, and social networking on the Net (e.g., MySpace). How do I compare?
• I don't even own a TV!
• I wouldn't waste my time playing a video game!
• I search the Net for research on specific projects; I am as likely to "surf" the Net as surf at Waikiki!
• The average teenager spends one hour and 22 minutes per day social networking on the Internet; I spend 0 hours and 0 minutes!

DANGERS IN MYSPACE AND OTHER SOCIAL NETWORKS. MySpace is just one of numerous social Networks (others include Facebook, Friendster, Buzz-Oven, and Xanga).
• Before we Baptists became concerned, several public schools, private schools, Catholic schools, and even libraries restricted access to MySpace because it has become "such a haven for student gossip and malicious comments."
• A quick view of the MySpace website reveals "profanity-laced comments, off-color topics and suggestive photos."
• Such social Networks have become an obvious target for "online enticement."
• Some private schools have even banned their pupils from accessing MySpace at home.

WHAT CAN PASTORS, EDUCATORS, AND PARENTS DO TO PROTECT THEIR CHILDREN?

1. Pastors, educators, and parents who are Internet savvy may ask "Doesn't the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (effective April 21, 2000) protect children from such Internet danger?" The general answer is No; teenagers and young adults voluntarily sign up to join MySpace, either wittingly or unwittingly giving up their privacy to the whole world!

2. Are there any privacy concerns if pastors, educators, and parents monitor their students or children online? Once again, the answer is No. Young people who become members of MySpace, opening up their personal and private lives not only to friends but also to all of the perverts in the entire world, can hardly expect legal protection from a concerned pastor, educator, or parent monitoring them online.

3. Should Baptist parents allow their children to join MySpace? That is a family question, not a legal question. In my personal opinion, a responsible parent should prohibit his teenager from going to MySpace unless that parent did NOT object to his teenager being exposed to the following: "student gossip and malicious comments," "profanity-laced comments, off-color topics and suggestive photos," and "online enticement."

Proverbs 29:15 applies as much to the current generation as it did in Solomon's day: "a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame." If a parent allows his child access to the Internet, then the parent should (1) become savvy enough to monitor the child's Internet use and to conduct personal research on MySpace and other similar social Networks, then (2) search the Scriptures, pray about the matter, seek the pastor's counsel, and make Biblically and spiritually correct decisions for the family.

4. Should Baptist pastors prohibit teenagers in the church from joining MySpace? A pastor can warn the teenagers in church about smoking, gambling, drinking, and drugs, but he can't monitor their activities full time. On the other hand, membership in MySpace can be monitored online with a click of the mouse. I know of at least one Baptist preacher who forbids teenagers in the church youth group from belonging to MySpace. In light of the controversy raging today, I would encourage Baptist preachers to conduct personal research on MySpace and other similar social Networks, then search the Scriptures, pray about the matter, and seek God's will on whether and how he should confront the issue of social Networking.

5. Should Baptist educators prohibit teenagers in the church school or Bible college from joining MySpace? Each school has the right to set its own policies and standards for admission and discipline; if the school has a clearly written policy which forbids unscriptural conduct or prohibits students from belonging to such social Networks, the church may lawfully enforce such policies without fear of lawsuits by either disgruntled students or parents.

CONCLUSION. If you are like me, being kicked and dragged into the Internet age, you may not be aware of the pervasiveness and danger of social Networks. But I have come to the same conclusion that the Apostle Paul came to nearly 2,000 years ago: "Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. Awake to righteousness, and sin not" (I Corinthians 15:33-34). We must get our heads out of the sand, become informed about the dangers of this new potentially harmful interactive media, then take appropriate steps to protect our children in the home, church, and school.

On the other hand, we can't ignore or deny that our children are living in this brave new wireless world. We must also do our homework to find positive, constructive, safer alternatives for our teenagers in this MySpace-dominated world. Do you have any ideas?

God bless you all!

TERRY LEE HAMILTON

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Why Baptist Churches Should Never Accept State Aid!

Sometimes, the U.S. Supreme Court issues a unanimous decision which reaffirms, in the boldest possible way, the correctness of our Baptist beliefs and practices. The recent court decision of "Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, Inc. [FAIR]," 547 U.S. ____ (March 6, 2006), pitting homosexuals and liberal law schools against military recruiters, brightly illuminates the correctness of the Baptist doctrine of separation of church and state.

THE “FAIR” CASE

Congress has adopted the following policy “with respect to homosexuals in the military. . . [A] person may not serve in the Armed Forces if he has engaged in homosexual acts, stated that he is a homosexual, or married a person of the same sex.” As you read the opening paragraph of Chief Justice Roberts’ unanimous opinion, try to spot an issue which relates to our Baptist beliefs.

"When law schools began restricting the
access of military recruiters to their
students because of disagreement with the
Government’s policy on homosexuals in
the military, Congress responded by
enacting the Solomon Amendment. . .
That provision specifies that if any part
of an institution of higher education
denies military recruiters access equal to
that provided other recruiters, the entire
institution would lose certain federal
funds. The law schools responded by
suing, alleging that the Solomon
Amendment infringed their First
Amendment freedoms of speech and
association."

RULING

If you haven’t yet spotted the issue which relates to our Baptist beliefs, consider the following: “The Solomon Amendment, however, forces institutions to choose between enforcing their non-discrimination policy against military recruiters in this way and continuing to receive specified federal funding.” A unanimous Supreme Court held that the Solomon Amendment does not violate the First Amendment freedoms of speech and association.

STATE AID FOR CHURCHES

In other recent Supreme Court decisions, the Court has ruled that the Establishment Clause is not violated when federal funds for education and other faith-based initiatives are directed to churches. However, in every instance where federal funding is accepted, the church school or church must accept applicable federal regulations, which may or may not violate the church’s faith or practice.

Consider the following scenario, which changes the facts just a little bit from the recent Supreme Court decision. Suppose a church school has been receiving federal funding for generations and is dependent upon that federal funding for continued existence. Then suppose that the government issues a new policy that the recipients of federal funding must issue a policy that not only prohibits discrimination against homosexuals, but also requires the recipient to embrace homosexuality as an acceptable sexual orientation.

In that scenario, the church school would face the same dilemma that the law schools faced in the FAIR case. The regulation forces churches to choose between (1) their beliefs on homosexuality and (2) continuing to receive federal funding.

BAPTIST BELIEFS AVOID THE DILEMMA

The liberal law schools faced a dilemma -- either stand up for their beliefs or sit down and accept federal funding. Those law schools chose to sit down. How about our Baptist churches? As you ponder which is more important to you -- your beliefs or your pocketbook -- consider the famous quote by that prince of Baptist preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, pithily expressing our Baptist beliefs with respect to this dilemma: “[W]e are not ready to accept any help from the State, to prostitute the purity of the Bride of Christ . . .”

Monday, April 03, 2006

Faith-Based Initiatives: God or Mammon?

President George Bush, as far as we know, is a born again Christian. One of the goals of his administration is the expansion of faith-based initiatives.

In the year 2005, the federal government gave faith-based grants totalling over TWO BILLION DOLLARS!!!!!!!

Surely, our Independent Baptist churches could use more funds to start more churches and help more missionaries. But where should those funds come from?
• From God?
or
• From Government?

Historicallly, Baptists have opposed state aid to churches, whereas Roman Catholic churches and Protestant churches, which do not believe in separation of church and state, have not hesitated to reach their hand into the government's vouchers. To better understand the Biblical and historical Baptist opposition to state aid for churches, let us examine three Baptist voices from the past.

1. ISAAC BACKUS. This Baptist preacher from New England during the colonial and revolutionary era was the leading Baptist opponent opposing the common practice of governmental taxation of the citizenry to support churches, usually state-sponsored churches. In a 1999 article published by the Library of Congress entitled "Religion and the Founding of the American Republic," the Library of Congress described Baptist preacher Backus and his Baptist beliefs as follows:

"Backus forcefully states the Baptists’ opposition to state support of the churches. This opposition was grounded in the Baptists’ reading of the New Testament and also of ecclesiastical history which demonstrated that state support of religion inevitably corrupted the churches. Backus and other Baptist leaders agreed with their clerical adversaries in believing that religion was necessary for social prosperity and happiness but they believed that the best way for the state to assure the health of religion was to leave it alone and let it take its own course, which, the Baptists were convinced, would result in vital, evangelical religion covering the land."

Please take a moment to read that paragraph again, a paragraph written, not by a Baptist historian, but by the Library of Congress. May we Baptists continue to follow our Biblical and historical Baptist beliefs with regard to separation of church and state and opposition to state aid to churches, and may be continue to labor for Jesus in the hope of a "vital, evangelical religion covering the land."

2. PATRICK HENRY AND GEORGE W. BUSH. There are good Christian men, not Baptists, who have made misguided attempts to help churches by providing state aid. One of those good Christian men was Patrick Henry, the famous colonial and revolutionary era attorney and politican who uttered the immortal words: "Give me liberty or give me death!"

Patrick Henry, a good Presbyterian, was opposed to governmental taxation to support the officially sponsored Church of England. When he was governor of Virginia, he supported legislation that would have required the state to impose governmental taxes, which would then be distributed to the church of the taxpayer's choice. Such an idea, which sounded great to the Protestant Henry, was staunchly opposed by the large contingent of Baptists in Virginia.

In one sense, George W. Bush is the Patrick Henry of today. He is taking great measures to protect the liberty which we value so highly in America, yet he is making misguided attempts to provide government funding to churches, an attempt which would ultimately undermine the same liberty which he is trying to defend. Baptist preachers today need to realize, as Issac Backus did 250 years ago, that (1) "state support of religion inevitably corrupted the churches" and (2) "the best way for the state to assure the health of religion was to leave it alone."

3. CHARLES HADDON SPURGEON. Perhaps the most famous Baptist preacher of all time, Charles Haddon Spurgeon of Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, England, held firm Baptists beliefs with respect to separation of church and state and opposition to state support of churches. Perhaps his most pithy statement on these issues is the following:

"Persecuted alike by Romanists and Protestants of almost every sect, yet there has never existed a government holding Baptist principles which persecuted others; nor, I believe, any body of Baptists ever held it to be right to put the consciences of others under the control of man.

We have ever been ready to suffer, as our martyrologies will prove, but we are not ready to accept any help from the State, to prostitute the purity of the Bride of Christ to any alliance with Government, and we will never make the Church, although the Queen, the despot over the consciences of men."

Spurgeon's beliefs, and our beliefs, go back to Jesus, Who stated even more pithily in the Sermon on the Mount, "Ye cannot serve God and mammon" (Luke 6:24). As Baptists, we believe that the local church should depend upon God (and God's people), not on government. Despite the perhaps well-intentioned efforts of leaders such as Patrick Hentry and George W. Bush, we Baptists should continue to resist the temptation of faith-based grants from the government, lest we "prostitute the purity of the Bride of Christ to any alliance with Government."


In next week's blog, we will examine a recent Supreme Court decision, which illuminates in a most enlightening manner, what happens to the firmly held principles of groups which feed at the government trough. See you next week!

TERRY LEE HAMILTON