Give Me Liberty 2022
Benjamin Franklin said: “A Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty once lost is lost forever.”
Baptists have always been guardians of Liberty.
Pastor George W. Truett (1867-1944) cited the American historian George Bancroft as having said, “Freedom of conscience, unlimited freedom of mind, was from the first the trophy of the Baptists.”
Truett also quoted the English philosopher John Locke’s statement, “The Baptists were the first propounders of absolute liberty, just and true liberty, equal and impartial liberty.”
In 1611-12, Thomas Helwys, who started the first Baptist church in England, published the first book-length defense of religious liberty in English. In A Short Declaration of the Mystery of Iniquity, Helwys calls for complete liberty of conscience for all people. One excerpt gives you the substance...
“The magistrate is not by virtue of his office to meddle with religion or matters of conscience, to force or compel men to this or that form of religion or doctrine: but to leave religion free, to every man’s conscience, and to handle only civil transgressions (Rom 13), injuries and wrongs of man against man, for Christ only is the king and lawgiver of the church and conscience (James 4:12)” .
Baptist Faith and Message, 2000.
“God alone is Lord of the conscience, and He has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are contrary to His Word or not contained in it.... The state has no right to impose penalties for religious opinions of any kind. The state has no right to impose taxes for the support of any form of religion. A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal, and this implies the right of free and unhindered access to God on the part of all men, and the right to form and propagate opinions in the sphere of religion without interference by the civil power.”
George W. Truett’s famous 1920 speech on religious liberty from the steps of the U.S. Capitol was an influential event for many 20th-century political and religious leaders. The First Baptist Church of Dallas pastor spoke to 15,000 people—many of whom were Southern Baptists in town for the SBC annual meeting, along with members of Congress, cabinet officials, and Supreme Court justices.
Truett told those assembled, “It is not the prerogative of any power, whether civil or ecclesiastical, to compel men to conform to any religious creed or form of worship, or to pay taxes for the support of a religious organization to which they do not believe. God wants free worshipers and no other kind.”
When we talk of Religious freedom it is more than the “freedom to worship” at church. It means people shouldn’t have to go against their conscience, core values, or beliefs in order to conform to culture or government.
The recognition of Religious freedom protects people’s right to live, speak, and act according to their beliefs peacefully and publicly.