An Event Even the ACLU Should Love
by Mike Johnson, ADF Senior Legal Counsel
Safe to say, Religious Freedom Day probably isn’t the American Civil Liberties Union’s favorite government-approved event.
While the ACLU likes to promote itself as the prime defender of the First Amendment, some of its protections are a sharp thorn in its ideological flesh: freedom of religion (if it involves publicly acknowledging God) and freedom of speech (if that speech is formed as a prayer).
So Religious Freedom Day, celebrated nationally on January 16, will surely grind on the ACLU’s nerves. Leftists, after all, are only really fond of America when it’s being sledge-hammered into support for an atheistic agenda by complicit courts and pandering politicians.
There’s an incredible double-standard at play with the ACLU and its allies, who’ve always been more worried about praying children than preying pornographers; more concerned about committed Christians than committed terrorists. Their record and their relentless agenda defy logic and betray the best of our traditions. They are a threat because they are so subversive.
"There’s an incredible double-standard at play with the ACLU and its allies."
In recent years, the Leftists have made it their goal to eliminate prayer at public gatherings, concentrating much of their legal intimidation on hometown governments, hoping to bully them into surrendering a practice that dates back to our Founding Fathers. (The Alliance Defense Fund is meeting – and defeating – the secularists on each of these battlefields, by God’s grace.)
Yet, somehow – for all the ACLU’s aggressive legal efforts to eliminate invocations at city council meetings and graduation exercises and public events throughout the nation – prayer persists. People just keep talking to God. And some of them insist on doing it right out loud.
Leftists are especially fond of that old Quaker quote about "speaking truth to power." It makes them feel brave – the idea of standing up to a gracious, polite society, calling for the abolition of the essential tenets of Western civilization – with no one to back them up but an omnipresent mass media, a posse of increasingly activist judges, and the glittery Hollywood Thought Police.
The irony, though, is that public prayer is the ultimate way of speaking truth to power.
At the 1994 National Prayer Breakfast, Mother Teresa told a gathering of D.C. power-brokers:
"Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love one another but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion."
Those words brought hundreds to their feet, but not President Bill Clinton – or Mrs. Clinton, or Vice President and Mrs. Al Gore. Seats planted, faces set like stone, that quartet gazed, dazed, on the wizened old face of wisdom … and sat powerless, for a moment, in the face of the truth.
Scenes like that are why ACLU attorneys balk and rage at the prospect of public prayer. The truth is not always something most of us – including the ACLU crowd – are fond of hearing.
For the truth is, people have a right to speak, publicly, not only their vulgarities, but their beliefs. People have a right to distribute, publicly, not only atheist journals and non-religious books – but Bibles and gospel tracts, too. A community has a right to publicly celebrate its heritage – even when that history is Christian.
"Public prayer is the ultimate way of speaking truth to power."
If groups like the ACLU understood the difference between acknowledging a faith and endorsing it, they might learn to relax. What worries them, though, is the deep-down realization that there is still a power greater than mere government, stronger than any law, and more enduring than any microphone or TV camera.
And when – as individuals, as churches, as communities, as a nation – we exercise our religious freedom to pray, to sing, to speak His truth … that power can change anything. Even the hearts of the ACLU.