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Tyranny & the Rights of Conscience

During the past three years of the Obama administration, we have witnessed an unprecedented attack on our religious liberties. I use the word “unprecedented” intentionally because “the rights of conscience” have been protected by our government since the birth of this nation. But before we highlight the specific attacks, let’s pause to define the concept.

The word conscience is a biblical word; a term which becomes empty and meaningless if it is not understood in light of its scriptural moorings.

According to America’s first dictionary, “conscience” is:

“Internal judgment of right and wrong; the principle within us that decides on the lawfulness or unlawfulness of our own actions and instantly approves or condemns them. Conscience is first occupied in ascertaining our duty before we proceed to action, then in judging of our actions when performed. Conscience is called by some writers the moral sense.”

As was the common practice of Webster’s Dictionary, it then gave a biblical example to illustrate the meaning of the word:

“Being convicted by their own conscience, they went out one by one.” (John 8:9)

The English word conscience comes from the Latin word conscientia. The prefix con means “with” or “together.” The verb scire means “to know.” So the word literally means “to know with or to know together.”

We must ask to know and agree with what or whom?

The answer, of course, is with God – agreeing with Him regarding right and wrong. God Himself, His character and standards, is our benchmark. So the conscience is a God-given moral compass which helps us determine right from wrong.

Our Founders, without exception, believed in a Creator God who made human beings in His image and likeness. A person’s conscience, therefore, is something very sacred and ought to be both nurtured and protected.

So what role does government play in nurturing and defending the “rights of conscience?” We’ll address that in the next blog….

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