As citizens of the United States, we have the liberty and constitutionally protected right of freedom of religion. Our faith and hope extends from within our hearts to our daily living. Yet some government entities pass laws that prohibit this freedom to a certain degree under the criteria of separation of church and state.
In my home state, Alabama, we abide by the federal laws. Yet here, I see hope for continued freedom of expression of our religious beliefs and forms of worship in our daily lives.
When a non-resident hears the name Alabama his first related thought might be the civil rights movement. Or he might recall the controversial issue concerning former judge, Roy Moore, and the display of the Ten commandments. Yet there are positive aspects akin to these that never make it to the national spotlight.
As we all know, there is a current debate on whether to remove the words, “under God”, from the Pledge of Allegiance, even though the inscription “In God We Trust” is on our national currency. Prayer has been removed from our schools, except for students voluntarily gathering at the flag pole to pray.
Last week, on April 1st, the Alabama House in Montgomery passed a bill to permit the motto “In God We Trust” to be posted on public school classroom walls, with no expense to taxpayers. The signs or posters will be paid for by private organizations. The sponsor of the bill, a democrat, said, “I think God has been left out of everything. I think this will show respect for God”.
And I say, “Thumbs up, for these lawmakers!”
At the county level of government, there is hope being fulfilled for community and individual freedom to worship in public places, even on government owned property.
For instance, this past week I carried my sister to the Walker County Courthouse to attend to personal business. I parked nearby and waited in the car. On the front side of the courthouse square, amid the blooming trees, next to a confederate statue, was a gospel trio singing, with accompanying music, microphones, and speakers. The audience was sitting in lawn chairs and folding metal chairs. Some folks just stood. Business owners stood outside on the sidewalk.
A brown van pulled in and parked across the street from me. Mentally and physically challenged youth were helped out and escorted to waiting chairs. I could see happiness in their expressions as they enjoyed the music and singing.
As “Rock of My Salvation” was being sung, I could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit, not only within, but as if the downtown area was enveloped in His presence. How peaceful, and what hope I felt for our people.
This brought back memories of Wardell , a young black preacher who delivered his sermons on Saturdays from the courthouse square in ‘70-‘71. People sat on benches then. Wardell was full of love and the power of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes other preachers also preached from the square.
The above stories are great examples of people enjoying freedom of religion made possible by the decisions of state and local government.
On a different note, yet relating to government passed laws, was a front page story in today’s local paper, The Daily Mountain Eagle.
A newborn baby, wrapped only in a towel, was left in the front lobby of our local Baptist Health Systems hospital. This was the first local implementation of the state’s “ Secret Safe Place Act”.
For whatever reason the mother determined why she couldn’t raise her baby, she provided it with hope for a better life. Since the baby wasn’t over three days old, as the law states, they will not try to locate the mother, nor will she be prosecuted. The baby is healthy and safe, and will be placed for adoption. And wouldn’t you know it? The staff named the baby girl,” Hope”!
I am proud to be an Alabamian, to live in the “Heart of Dixie”(a phrase written on our vehicle tags). We are blessed with lawmakers who do not pass laws that suppress our freedom of religious expression. The laws allow, but do not force us , to do or not to do.
We continue to be free to worship and serve God openly.
This is also our hope and prayer for the people of nations where this desire is still burning, yet unfulfilled....