Free exercise of religion is a bedrock principle of American governance. As schoolchildren, we’re taught that Pilgrims fled to America to avoid persecution by the Church of England. While many of America’s founders were Christians, they prohibited government from favoring one religion over another. Our constitutional protection for religious exercise is listed first in the Bill of Rights. That wasn’t a mistake.

Since I’ve been involved in Alabama politics, I’ve noticed that a good number of people, Christian conservatives in particular, tend to equate “defending religious liberty” with “defending Christian principles.” Many of the religious-liberty cases around the country that we hear about in conservative circles involve Christians being sued for refusing to do things that violate their beliefs. So I understand, to some degree, why this religious-liberty confusion occurs. That’s why it’s important, when we find ourselves thinking about the intersection of faith and government, to remember what the founders intended when they first laid out the concept of religious liberty.

We can turn on the news almost any given day and see people around the world persecuted for their beliefs. Even in America, we see targeting of different religious groups by radical individuals. I am thankful we do not live in a country where government-sanctioned religious discrimination exists, but with that comes the obligation of our government to defend the rights of all individuals to worship across all religions.

When it comes to politics, I am more likely to vote for a candidate who is a Christian, not because I think that they intend to use their office as a soapbox for our shared beliefs, but because I believe they are more likely to prayerfully consider decisions they may make. I have the right to do that, just like the person sitting next to me at my polling place has the right to vote for a candidate who has a different system of beliefs, or no religious beliefs at all.

I’m afraid if folks start thinking about what religious liberty really means, some won’t like it. From where I’m sitting, it looks like many are okay with the concept of religious liberty as long as it only applies to what they believe. But here’s the problem with that—who defines what’s right in terms of religion? I think John Adams said it best: “Nothing is more dreaded than the National Government meddling with religion.” True freedom means that people are given the opportunity to worship the way they see fit, and the government shouldn’t stifle or promote any particular religion, theology, or belief system.

Today, we live in a state where many politicians are proud to be Christians, and for that I am truly thankful. But what if, one day, that changes and Christians become the ones compelled to comply with another religion, or shamed by the government for adhering to our religion? One day, it could be that most of our elected officials espouse a religion that I do not. Would we want to receive the same treatment we’ve extended to other religious groups? If we can’t answer that question in the affirmative, we need to rethink our stance on religious liberty.


MORE ON First Amendment

Huntsville Radio: J. Pepper Bryars talks campus free speech on the Jeff Poor Show

API senior fellow J. Pepper Bryars recently discussed how Alabama could have what’s being called “one of the most … effective campus free-speech laws in the country” on the Jeff Poor Show, WVNN 92.5 FM in Huntsville. Bryars explained how House Bill 498, introduced by State Rep. Matt Fridy, R-Montevallo, would require the state’s public colleges and […]

J. Pepper Bryars: Alabama moves to protect free speech on campus

Free speech zones, meant to move certain discussions away from where they could offend listeners, or be heard at all. Speech codes, meant to limit acceptable topics to an ever-shrinking list of progressive-leaning beliefs. And heckler’s vetoes, meant to give the power of censorship to a loud minority. These tactics and others are part of […]

MORE ON Good Governance

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson speak at 30th Anniversary Mobile Celebration

The Alabama Policy Institute hosted its 30th Anniversary Mobile Celebration on April 4th at the Hangar at the USS Alabama. Hundreds attended the event featuring several celebrated public servants including Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson, and Former State Senator Phil Williams. In his candid remarks, Former Attorney General Sessions praised the […]

2018 Attorney General Candidate Questionnaire: Attorney General Steve Marshall Responses

Please see below for Attorney General Steve Marshall’s responses to the 2018 Alabama Policy Institute and Yellowhammer News Attorney General Candidate Questionnaire. Submitted Friday, May 18 at 7:56 am View responses in PDF format here.  2018 Attorney General Questionnaire Alabama Policy Institute and Yellowhammer News ACTING PHILOSOPHY Interpreting the Law Question: Attorneys general are in the […]

2018 Lieutenant Governor Candidate Questionnaire: Dr. Will Boyd Responses

Please see below for Dr. Will Boyd’s responses to the 2018 Alabama Policy Institute and Yellowhammer News Lieutenant Governor Candidate Questionnaire. Submitted Tuesday, May 15 at 4:57 pm View responses in PDF format here. 2018 Lieutenant Governor Questionnaire Alabama Policy Institute and Yellowhammer News POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY Question: What is your political philosophy and, if elected, […]

MORE ON The Forum

MOBILE RADIO: An update on Alabama’s pro-life bill

API Senior Fellow Rachel Blackmon Bryars provided an update on Alabama’s landmark abortion bill that is being considered in the state Senate today. Listen to the segment on 1410 AM/94.5 FM WNGL Archangel Catholic Radio:

HUNTSVILLE RADIO: Is there a groundswell of pro-life momentum in Alabama?

API Senior Fellow Rachel Blackmon Bryars and WTKI Radio host Fred Holland talked Friday about Rep. John Rogers’ recent grisly comments about the Alabama Human Life Protection Act and whether or not there is a groundswell of support for ending abortion in Alabama. Listen to the discussion here:

MORE FROM Taylor Dawson

Three Reasons Why You Should Care About Occupational Licensing Reform

During my years working in public policy, there have been a handful of issues that have gotten me fired up. Typically when I tell people about them, they have some level of understanding—a state lottery, education and school choice, taxes and budgets, things like that. These days, when I’m asked about the issue I most […]

What does freedom mean to me?

When most of us think about the Fourth of July, we think about pool parties, cooking out, fireworks, and spending time with friends and family. Others think about our love for America. Some of us even wait all year for an occasion to wear a t-shirt that has the Declaration of Independence printed on it. […]

API and Yellowhammer News Release 2018 Legislative Candidate Questionnaire

Candidates for public office, once elected, bring their underlying principles and perspectives on policy issues into office with them, thus defining how they govern. It is important for citizens to know and understand the candidates for which they are voting, and Yellowhammer News and the Alabama Policy Institute (API) are partnering to bring that information […]