You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
–Bob Dylan, Gotta Serve Somebody
In America, the basic human right of free exercise of religion is articulated within the first clauses of the first amendment to our Constitution. For this reason, it is often referred to as America’s “First Freedom.” However, such an understanding gets it backwards. Religious freedom isn’t our first freedom merely because it’s listed first; it’s listed first because it is the foundation for all that comes after, including freedom of speech, press, and association.
Religion is a universal human experience, bound neither by time nor place. As each of us ventures along in our quest to discover who or what to serve and how, our answers vary. Religious freedom is the right to a different answer than your neighbors’. From this fundamental right flows the rights to talk about your answer and its ramifications – what Christians call evangelism, to write about it, to gather with others who share it, and so on, in service to your god.
Free people everywhere owe a debt to Europe and the United States for the unearthing and application of the idea of religious freedom as a fundamental human right, going back as far as the Edict of Milan in 313. But, if I may borrow again from Dylan, the times they are a-changin’.
The alternative to religious freedom we see today is having the answers to life’s biggest questions dictated by government. As the government tells us what to believe, it also instructs us how to live, conforming the patterns of our lives to its demands, rather than the demands of our individual consciences. In a situation such as this, soon we find there’s nothing government can’t do. For it is god. And so we serve government in every way.
The demands of the state – in sync with the prevailing ideologies of our time – pose a severe threat to religious freedom, from the ways we conduct business, to the education of our children, and even our worship. Like the biblical hero Joshua, we must choose this day whom will we serve. Join me and over 545,000 others who affirm the proper role of government in society, placing God at the fore as the ultimate source of authority in life, by signing the Manhattan Declaration today.