By Kathryn Moore
Constitution Day, which falls on Sept. 17, is tied to religious liberty, said Matthew Franck, a retired professor who gave a lecture on the proper role of religious freedom.
The lecture, given at the Carl Grant Events Center, was titled “Individual, Community and State: How to Think About Religious Freedom.”
“Our freedom to fulfill our duty to God must be first and last; nothing comes before it, and nothing surpasses it in importance,” said Franck, who directs the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, N.J.
He also is professor emeritus of political science at Radford University in Radford, Va.
The lecture, sponsored by the Center for Politics and Religion and Union’s political science department, fell on a nationally-recognized but sometimes rarely celebrated holiday.
“If the Fourth of July marks the day we made a promise, then Constitution Day was the day we kept that promise,” Franck said.
He gave several examples of groups with traditional moral values on college campuses that have been forced to compromise their religious beliefs because they refused to amend their organization’s requirements for membership that some people may find offensive.
Other church organizations and businesses with strong evangelical moral ties also are affected by constraints on religious liberty.
Franck said the mayors of Chicago, Boston, and Washington, D.C., all said that Chick-Fil-A is not welcome to do business in their cities after the fast food chain’s CEO made comments in favor of traditional marriage. Several Catholic adoption agencies have been shut down because they refuse to place children with same-sex couples.
Franck concentrated on the Health and Human Services mandate on contraception, a part of the Affordable Care Act.
Under this mandate, employers with more than 50 employees must offer health insurance, to include coverage of sterilization services and FDA-approved contraception, to those employees.
However, exceptions to religious schools and universities and several other faith-based organizations and businesses are not available. There are currently 27 separate lawsuits filed against the HHS mandate to challenge this exemption policy.
Franck argued that the HHS mandate should be repealed because the government has no right to rule over an organization’s or individual’s religious beliefs.
“The state should respect, honor and foster the role of religious institutions as essential members of civil society,” Franck said.
Cally Howell, senior elementary education major, attended the lecture.
“Religious freedom is definitely something that applies to Constitution Day because the Constitution and our religious freedom should be separate in all aspects of life,” Howell said.