or Full Speed Straight Ahead
The erosion of support for our “first freedom” must be halted and cooperation to alter present trends facilitated. Otherwise, the nation will make a U-turn and place itself once again in a pre–First Amendment situation. The dangers involved in that scenario today are qualitatively and quantitatively more significant than they were when the First Amendment was written.
So much is at stake in what happens—the status of religious liberty to be sure, but much, much more. Since religious liberty—our first freedom—serves as the foundation on which other freedoms have been constructed, the demise of this historic guarantee of liberty would weaken, if not destroy, the guarantee of other freedoms and rights as well.
Keep in mind that it was not by accident that the First Amendment to the Constitution included the first freedom—religious freedom. In a flourish of visionary wisdom, the Founding Fathers laid the groundwork for a freedom that was so integral to the country’s vision and development that this freedom could be lost only if the nation itself were lost. The reverse was also true: to lose this freedom would be to lose the nation.
At our country’s birth, religious freedom, like democracy, was a bold experiment. In reality, it remains an experiment to this day. Religious freedom is not yet secure. It is likely that it will always be under threat. All people, the great Thomas Jefferson included, see more wisely than they act, promise more hopefully than they deliver. A vision can fade. In difficult times of crisis, even free-