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Public Statements

Religious Liberty

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. WALBERG. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to address this Chamber and to address an issue of great concern to me. I just heard my colleague and friend from Ohio and what he had to say, and certainly there is a debate that's going on that's worth being had, a debate about the progression of this great country, the greatest on this Earth, in the history of this Earth, a country that has distinguished itself in just a few short years, 236, 237, as a Nation that understands what liberty is about, but also understands the authority that we come under.

Mr. Speaker, I have wrestled with coming to the floor tonight, because since I first began my legislative career back in 1982 in the Michigan House of Representatives, and when I stood in front of people and asked for their opportunity or their support to give me a privileged position in that great body, I stated clearly, and I have from that point in 1982 to this very day, I've stated that, as a Christian and as a former pastor, while I would not flaunt my religion, I would not hide my faith.

I've continued that in coming to the U.S. House of Representatives as well. I truly believe that all laws are moral. Some of us would consider morality one way and others of us would consider it another. We all come through filters in life. I understand that, and I respect that. I believe that the Framers and Founders of this great country, its ideals that were based upon truth as they determined truth to be, as they understood it, truth coming from the revealed word of God that they declared to be found in the Bible at that time, and they were not ashamed to say that and quoted many times from Scripture, even without reference, because it was clearly understood by the citizens of that day that the basic ideals that this new government was established upon were ideals found and written down in the Bible and clearly understood to be the word of God.

I'd wrestle with the fact that I understand that there are filters, and the moment that I let it out of the bag, as it were, Mr. Speaker, that I'm a pastor, I'm a Christian, I come from a Judeo-Christian value system, that that's my filter, that I would lose the opportunity to speak to society in general. Well, I assume that risk this evening, because we have come to a time in our history where the unified understanding, whether we acknowledged it or fully agreed with it or certainly lived by it, because I know, as one who has feet of clay, that though I understand truth, I don't always live by it, yet our country is at crossroads in a battle along those principles.

I read in this greatest man-made document ever penned, the Constitution of the United States, I read the First Amendment, the Second Amendment, the Third Amendment, and on through the Tenth Amendment, which are classified as the Bill of Rights, Bill of Rights that were given and acknowledged by the Framers and Founders and the implementers of these amendments, the Bill of Rights, as really stemming from God, Himself, unalienable rights, God given, not man given, recognizing these rights as above simple human reasoning.

In recent days, I've read and reread our First Amendment that says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for redress of grievances.

And I go on to the final, the 10th, that gives the States the authority that they should have. And I see what's taking place in relationship at this point in time to one complex bill that was passed, called the Affordable Health Care Act, but with specifically one mandate that I clearly believe runs roughshod of this First Amendment when it, in fact, is a law that prohibits the free exercise thereof of religious beliefs. Now, again, that's my perspective, but it's a perspective I think is backed up by the Framers and Founders in their writings and their speeches and their beliefs that they implemented into this great, great country.

Just recently I read an article that, more than just simply being an article, gave names of fellow citizens, businesspeople, who through no fault of their own, except for the fact that they were religious, they were people of faith that had firm convictions, convictions that they believed went beyond themselves but went to the God that they honored, people like Chris and Paul Griesedieck--I hope I pronounced that name right. I don't know them personally, but I know they run a 105-year-old company started by their great-grandfather, a company in St. Louis that employs 150 people. They are sincere Christians that believe to be forced to supply health insurance that provides abortifacient coverage, agents that will produce abortions, is against their firmly held Christian beliefs and would be a violation of their responsibility to their God.

Now, that's their morality, that's their filter, but from the inception of this country, believed that that, along with all other religious beliefs, was protected under the Bill of Rights.

They are at a point right now, if they violate the mandate of the law, which they are attempting to get an injunction and attempting ultimately to see themselves covered just like churches and Christian colleges, but if they aren't, they're looking at a $5 million fine under that mandate, annually. They've indicated that that will put them out of business.

There's another company run by David Green--we all know it well--Hobby Lobby. We've seen their ads at Easter and Christmastime, full-page ads that he pays for with his own money, to declare the meaning of Christmas and the meaning of Easter in his faith. He pays for it, longstanding, and yet if he doesn't fall under this mandate and bow the knee to the government and not keep his knees bowed to his God that he serves, he'll pay a $1.3 million per day fine, which will take the 13,000 employees that he employs and potentially put them out of a job, many of whom agree with his personal strong faith.

He said, It's come down to the point that I'm forced to either abandon my beliefs in order to stay in business or abandon my business in order to stay true to my belief. That's not the America that was founded by people who put the Bill of Rights together, and specifically the First Amendment.

I could go on with other illustrations about other business owners. Well, let me point out one business owner here who is doing significant work not only as a very successful 85-year-old insurance executive of an insurance company, but he's taken those resources--like Mr. Green, who has given over $500 million to charitable causes, living out his faith--but this gentleman has done the same thing in reaching out to many needy people and developing a business that impacts peoples' lives who are in difficult circumstances. His name is Charles Sharpe. He is 85 years old. He founded Heartland Ministries with the money that he developed to provide a Christian rehabilitation program for men and women battling drug and alcohol addiction, and a boarding school for troubled youth, with his own money. Yet, if he falls under the mandate, the employees that are employed running this organization, but more importantly the lives that are impacted positively by this ministry, will be impacted and the ministry will go under.

As I said, I could go on and on with other illustrations of how this First Amendment liberty is being violated by a country that made this as the first of the Bill of Rights.

Just recently we all heard, I believe, a concern that a briefing had been given to U.S. Army Reserve recruits which classified Catholics, some Jews, evangelical Christians and Sunni Muslims as religious extremists along with the KKK, Al Qaeda and Hamas. In America, religions strongly held, firmly believed religious beliefs, are being attacked as extremist, along with terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda, Hamas and KKK.

Mr. Speaker, I submit to you this is not America. I don't care what the courts have said at this point. They've ruled on a tax. But on a constitutional question, I think it's clear for us who read it to understand it is more than just the document, but to understand it as a warning to us and a reminder that the blessings of the freedom of this great Nation come with a commitment to ideals that are beyond us, that are timeless, that are important, that we often call religion but are beyond that. They are faith that goes to our integrity, our convictions, our character.

John Adams, one of the Founders of our country, John Adams, who defended liberty even when he defended the Red Coats under the same premise that we believe that all people deserve a hearing and a just trial, John Adams, who was willing to give his life, his fortune, his sacred honor, said:

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

Why in the world would he say that? There is huge wisdom there, but it came from an understanding that humanity wasn't enough in itself. Human beings weren't wise enough in their own right, but rather had to flow from some truth wiser than that.

Social critic Irving Kristol I think encapsulated it when he said:

This appears to be a sociological truth. It is religion that reassures people that this world of ours is a home, not just a habitat, and that the tragedies and unfairness we all experience are features of a more benign, if not necessarily comprehensible, whole. It is religion that restrains the self-seeking hedonistic impulse so easily engendered by a successful market economy.

We are a successful market economy here in the United States, and I'm grateful for that, and we need to do a lot of work to continue that. But our faith beliefs--and I'm not talking about one religion over another. I certainly come from a Judeo-Christian viewpoint, and I believe it to be true. I would not have given my life to that belief if it weren't. It impacts society as a whole.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn understood it with his life. He said:

All individual human rights are granted because man is God's creature; that is, freedom was given to the individual conditionally in the assumption of his constant religious responsibility. Two hundred or even 50 years ago, it would have seemed quite impossible in America that an individual could be granted boundless freedom simply for the satisfaction of his instincts and whims.

Mr. Speaker, I submit to you that seems to be the point in time where we're at right now, where we're willing for our whims, our instincts, our desires, our own purposes to give in to the baseness of those hedonistic philosophies. And it's proven to be true. The results are there. Here are just a few of them.

Since 1960, we have the end of the so-called ``Christian America,'' as the media has called it in Newsweek. The U.S. illegitimacy rate has rocketed from 5 percent of all births to 41 percent. Among African Americans, the share of births out of wedlock is 71 percent. That's up from 23 percent in 1960. The percentage of households that were married couple families with children under 18 had plummeted by 2006 to just 21.6 percent. Since Roe v. Wade, 50 million-plus abortions have been performed. The Declaration of Independence? We are all endowed with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Between 1960 and 1990, the teenage suicide rate tripled, though the number then fell. As of 2006, suicide was the third leading cause of death of young adults and adolescents age 15 to 24, just behind homicide.

And I could go on with the tragic results of going away from religious belief, faith belief, truth, a moral character. Again, all laws are moral--right, wrong or indifferent. We all have filters.

I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that we are challenged economically, we are challenged socially, we are challenged in our security and we are challenged in our liberty because we have wantonly walked away from or in complacency have given away the underpinnings that allowed God to bless this great country, which is still receiving the results of much of that blessing.

The Founders argued very clearly that ``virtue derived from religion is indispensable to limited government.'' The American model of religious liberty takes a strongly positive view of religious practice, both private and public. Far from privatizing religion, it assumes that religious believers and institutions will take active roles in society, including ministers, including engaging in politics and policymaking and helping form the public's moral consensus. In fact, the American Founders considered religious engagement in shaping the public morality essential to ordered liberty and the success of their experiment in self-government.

John Witherspoon, a minister who signed the Declaration of Independence, said in talking about our Republic, ``a republic once equally poised must either preserve its virtue or lose its liberty.''

Mr. Speaker, as I began, I will never intend to flaunt my religion, but I will not hide my faith; and I believe, in this country where we've given the greatest amount of freedom to all religious beliefs, we would do well to remember that ourselves--to not hold it back but to encourage faith and to encourage laws that respect that to the fullest degree and say to people like David Green or to the Griesediecks or others: we respect you for what you do, your beliefs, and we will certainly honor your freedom. We will not impinge upon you by mandates, no matter how good the law might seem, because there is something higher than health, physical health--and that's our spiritual health, our character health, in this country.

There is a stone above you, Mr. Speaker, that's there tonight and that has been here since this great Chamber was put together, and it's a quote of Daniel Webster's. I read it often, and it says simply this:

``Let us develop the resources of our land, call forth its powers, build up its institutions, promote all its great interests--'' Daniel Webster could be speaking to us tonight and to our country, Mr. Speaker-- ``and see whether we also, in our day and generation, may not perform something worthy to be remembered.''

I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that if we would restore liberty and justice for all, if we were to restore the opportunity to live under our spiritual liberties and beliefs and not mandate people to go against that--bow their knees to almighty government as opposed to bowing to Almighty God--this Nation will be a blessed Nation under God, with liberty and justice for all.

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity tonight, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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