Remarks Delivered Friday, May 15, 2015:
Mister Attorney General, Mr. Sears, and distinguished guests, it is a great honor to accept the Edwin Meese III Award for Originalism and Religious Liberty. That honor is greatly magnified by the presence of Attorney General Meese and by the fact that this award bears his name. He is one of America’s most courageous defenders of human freedom and the American experiment in ordered liberty.
I am also honored to receive this award from the Alliance Defending Freedom and its President, Alan Sears. I have known Alan for many years, and I know him to be one of the most powerful advocates of virtue and liberty of our age. The work of the Alliance Defending Freedom is essential, singular, and urgently vital. This battalion of defenders fights most of all—and most effectively—for our “first freedom,” religious liberty.
I am deeply, and always aware that I could not be here without the constant support and love of my wife, Mary Mohler.
You will recognize that I borrowed from Sir Winston Churchill for the title of my remarks. In the first volume of his history of World War II, the great statesman looked back at the storm clouds that gathered in the 1930s, when he had bravely warned of a war that would determine the destiny of human dignity and liberty for untold millions of people.
We are not facing the same gathering storm, but we are now facing a battle that will determine the destiny of priceless freedoms and the very foundation of human rights and human dignity.
Speaking thirty years ago, Attorney General Meese warned that “there are ideas which have gained influence in some parts of our society, particularly in some important and sophisticated areas that are opposed to religious freedom and freedom in general. In some areas there are some people that have espoused a hostility to religion that must be recognized for what it is, and expressly countered.”
Those were prophetic words, prescient in their clarity and foresight. The ideas of which Mr. Meese warned have only gained ground in the last thirty years, and now with astounding velocity. A revolution in morality now seeks not only to subvert marriage, but also to redefine it, and thus to undermine an essential foundation of human dignity, flourishing, and freedom.
Religious liberty is under direct threat. Just days ago the Solicitor General of the United States served notice before the Supreme Court that the liberties of religious institutions will be an open and unavoidable question. Already, religious liberty is threatened by a new moral regime that exalts erotic liberty and personal autonomy and openly argues that religious liberties must give way to the new morality, its redefinition of marriage, and its demand for coercive moral, cultural, and legal sovereignty.
A new moral and legal order is ascendant in America, and this new order is only possible, in the arena of American law and jurisprudence, if the original intent and the very words of the Constitution of the United States are twisted beyond recognition.
These are days that will require courage, conviction, and clarity of vision. We are in a fight for the most basic liberties God has given humanity, every single one of us, made in his image. Religious liberty is being redefined as mere freedom of worship, but it will not long survive if it is reduced to a private sphere with no public voice. The very freedom to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ is at stake, and thus so is the liberty of every American. Human rights and human dignity are temporary abstractions if they are severed from their reality as gifts of the Creator. The eclipse of Christian truth will lead inevitably to a tragic loss of human dignity. If we lose religious liberty, all other liberties will be lost, one by one. I am a Christian, and I believe that salvation is found in no other name than Jesus Christ and in no other gospel, but I will fight for the religious liberty of all.
There is a gathering storm, and its threat is urgent and real, but there are arguments to be made, principles to be defended, rights to be respected, truths to be cherished, and permanent things to be preserved. We face the danger of a new Dark Age marked by the loss of liberty and the denial of human dignity. Thus, there is a battle to be joined and much work to be done. Together, may we be found faithful to these tasks. As Churchill would remind us, in every gathering storm there is a summons to action.