As the nation celebrates Independence Day the assault on our rights and freedoms continues on a scale virtually unparalleled in the history of the republic. The Declaration of Independence begins with the premise that "all men are created equal" and that "they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights." Yes, in those days it was politically correct to refer to the Creator. Moreover, the framers of the declaration posited the unique position that our rights are granted to us by that Creator, and not by king, queen or any governmental power.
Erosion of our freedoms is taking many forms. The Supreme Court of the United States has now ruled constitutional the ability of Congress to enact penalizing taxes to force us into compliance with a wildly unpopular health care law. Closer to home, a Lancaster atheist — backed by an ultra-left wing national group — has taken aim at our religious liberties.
Catalyst for this latest assault is a promotion being run by the Lost Cajun Kitchen restaurant in Columbia, Lancaster County. How, you might ask, could a restaurant in an all-American community like Columbia become embroiled in a religious liberty dispute? It seems the Lost Cajun Kitchen offers customers who show up with a church bulletin a discount on their meals. The restaurant's co-owner Sharon Prudhomme told a local newspaper the discount was designed to drum up business in that conservative, religiously-oriented county.
Enter John Wolff. Or, rather, not enter John Wolff. Without even having set foot in the establishment the self-professing atheist claims to have been offended by the church bulletin discount offer. He learned about it on the Internet, apparently while surfing the web in search of drumming up a problem that doesn't exist. Having become so offended by the Lost Cajun Kitchen's promotion he, with the help of something called the Freedom From Religion Foundation, filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.
So there you have it: a man who had never heard of a privately-owned restaurant, and who never set foot in it, filing a complaint with a government agency claiming his "freedom from religion" has been violated. This means the Prudhomme's will have to defend themselves to a state agency. This will take time and money away from running their business all over a person who never was, and likely never will be a customer.
Let's begin with the obvious: the Lost Cajun Kitchen is a private business. The radical atheist movement has long fought to trample the right of Christians and other those of other religions by limiting our ability to place symbols of our faith or utter prayers in the public square. Having met with considerable success in that effort, they are now moving on to private venues. Could it be much longer before they are "offended" by the Catholic church, the Jewish synagogue or the Muslim mosque on Main Street? The Prudhomme's own the business, no tax dollars are involved (other than the many layers of taxes their business pays TO the government), and nobody is compelled to enter the restaurant. Dining there is a private transaction between private individuals and they have an absolute constitutional right to market their facility anyway they like.
But deeper and more sinister forces are at play. John Wolff, along with his fellow anti-religion activists, seek not just to secure their right not to worship, but they seek to stamp out the rights of anybody who adheres to a religion. This is based on the fallacy that the constitution erects a "wall of separation" between government and religion. It does not; it merely prohibits the government from establishing an official religion. It is an establishment clause, NOT a separation clause.
Given that the founders recognized our rights come from the "Creator," and that the right to freely practice (or not to practice) any religion an individual wants was ensconced in the Bill of Rights, such frivolous actions like the Wolff complaint to the Human Relations Commission, represent a trampling of such rights not the enforcement of them.
Thomas Jefferson, primary author of the Declaration of Independence, once observed that "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." John Wolff and the Freedom From Religion Foundation are the latest threats to that liberty. More is at stake here than a discount on dinner. It is the latest battle in our "eternal vigilance" over our God-given right to worship as we please.
As for me, the next time I visit Lancaster County, with church bulletin in hand I will stop for dinner at the Lost Cajun Kitchen. I urge you to do the same.
(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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