The Pryor Times

January 16, 2014

The right to religious freedom


PRYOR, OK — Religious freedom is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution for every American. This freedom comes with responsibilities.

During the month of January, our nation observes Sanctity of Life Month and on Jan. 22, the annual “March for Life” rally will be held in Washington, D.C. on the National Mall. There is no denying that the issues of religious freedom and sanctity of life are linked and both under attack from popular culture and a segment of society that does not believe an unborn child is worth protecting.

With the inalienable right to religious freedom, we have an obligation that comes from that freedom to be informed, invested and involved in the issues facing our community, country and culture.

People of faith are challenged to demonstrate that our religious values matter in the 21st Century. We show this through how we treat our fellow citizens and how we make our communities better places. Our words ring hollow if we act as if religious freedom means we have the right to judge others from the pew.  It must be by the example of our deeds, not just from our words, that we transform our culture.

Our values cannot be constrained to Sunday sermons. This should be part of our everyday life. The pews at church are not the front lines in the cultural battleground.

The front lines are on the streets where people live without hope. The front lines are in the neighborhoods where broken families exist or where the poor wonder whether anyone cares about their well-being. The sad fact is there are many front lines.

While Washington, D.C. celebrates the “March for Life” later this month, also on Jan. 22, a woman named Clair Culwell will be the keynote speaker at the ecumenical event, Tulsa March for Life. According to a recent article in the Eastern Oklahoma Catholic magazine, Culwell is the survivor of an attempted abortion. Her birth mother was taken to have an abortion after becoming pregnant at the age of 13. At the time of the procedure, the mother didn’t realize she was pregnant with twins. Culwell survived while her twin was aborted.

Today, Culwell is on the front lines, inspiring and helping others.

“My life is a testimony that there are wonderful alternatives to abortion (such as adoption in my case) and an accident/unwanted child still deserves life, even a child with disabilities,” Culwell states in the article. “If my life can touch just one person who has had an abortion or is considering an abortion or adoption, then I am fulfilling my purpose in the pro-life movement.”

As beneficiaries of religious freedom and believers in the sanctity of life, we step out of our comfort zones and protect the most vulnerable in our society – the unborn. We have the opportunity to fill the emptiness of today’s  society and to engage in the ongoing dialogue within popular culture to make sure our voice is heard and correctly represented, instead of allowing the media to define us.

I will always be a voice for both religious freedom and the sanctity of human life. I do not believe it is the role of government to use its power to force God-fearing Christians into violating their core religious beliefs.

I have only to look at our five children, two of which we adopted, to see the wonderful gift of life that God has blessed my wife Christie and me with – and to remind me every day that each life is precious and has value.