Interfaith Day of Prayer and Reflection
Rev. Dr. Barbara S. Boyd
Director of Outreach/Faculty – Religious Studies Program, University of Oklahoma
Principle of Human Integrity
I was asked to speak today on “the value of religious liberty and freedom of conscience from the perspective of my own faith tradition.” I took this request seriously. As a result, I would like to read to you words from the document that governs my own denomination within Christianity.
From the Presbyterian Church, USA, comes these words:
“God alone is Lord of the conscience, and has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in anything contrary to his word…”
Therefore we consider the rights of private judgment, in all matters that respect religion, as universal and unalienable: We do not even wish to see any religious constitution aided by the civil power, further than may be necessary for protection and security.”
These words speak to my faith tradition and to my own faith journey as clearly as any I could imagine. In this land called America, I delight in the fact that my own denomination can hold such claims: that only God can guide the conscience and because of this declaration, religious liberty AND freedom of conscience are mine as well as yours to claim.
Over the years that I have practiced my Christian faith under the guidance of this directive, I have come to understand that this has far more to do with my neighbor than with me. On the one hand, as a minister within this denomination, I am personally granted religious liberty and freedom of conscience through these words and the God who governs us. But on the other hand, there is built in to these words a commandment that I am likewise to honor the religious liberty of my neighbors, be they Christians or Buddhists, Muslims or Jews, Native Americans or Sufis. The one freedom I do NOT have is to claim religious liberty only for myself or for those persons just like me. Under the constitution of my own church and under the constitution of my country, religious liberty belongs to each soul that inhabits this earth because each of us is part of this sacred creation.
Today is the National Day of Prayer….what better time could there be than this for us to acknowledge, celebrate and give thanks for the blessing of religious liberty. In these fretful times of turmoil and struggle between nations and religions, it seems fitting to come together in celebration of religious freedom, not only for ourselves as Americans, but for all humans on this earth. Religious freedom to serve one’s God, whoever or whatever that God may be, is not simply a right; it is a universal principle of human integrity and justice. Thank you--
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”
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