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The Right to Prophesy

November 21, 2011

According to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 18. “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

Freedom of religion is an inalienable right, not granted by states and therefore must not be restricted. People of faith have the same right to participate in the political process as all other citizens. They have the right to organize, to propose legislation, and to support candidates whom they feel best represent their concerns.

Those, who oppose policies generally supported by conservative religiously motivated citizens, routinely decry the participation of people of faith in the political process in hopes of disenfranchising their opposition. They whine about the “religious right” and claim violations of “separation of church and state” because they know they are losing. People of faith around the world are recognizing their duty to participate and taking advantage of the freedom to do so.

There is one area, however, where a number of governments which claim to support freedom of religion routinely restrict that freedom and this needs to be remedied. There are laws on the books in theUnited Statesand elsewhere which restrict the right of religious leaders to exercise the office of prophet by threatening to remove the tax exempt status of any religious group whose leaders speak prophetically on political issues.

Prophesy is not fortune telling, but calling people to repentance. A prophet is a person called by God to speak directly to the people about moral issues. Prophets have issued specific warnings to political leaders in their own and other countries, to their own congregations and to non-believers.

For Christians, prophesy is an essential part of religious practice. According toSt. Paul”God has set in Church first apostles, second prophets.” It is, therefore, clearly a violation of the fundamental freedom of religion, as well as freedom of speech, to restrict the right of clergy to speak prophetically on political issues. Governments have no more right to restrict the prophetic function that they have demanding that a church get a restaurant license in order to distribute communion.

Prophets have often had problems with the establishment. St. Peter told the Sanhedrin that he must obey God not men. He was whipped for his words.St. Johnthe Baptist lost his head for prophesying against King Herod. The prophet Jeremiah was cruelly mistreated for prophesying defeat in a war. While loss of tax exempt status may not be as physically painful, it is clearly designed to silence the prophets and therefore a violation of freedom of religion.

The right to tax is the right to destroy; therefore laws which allow governments to threaten the tax exempt status of churches violate freedom of religion. Such violation of fundamental human right must not be tolerated. All restrictions on the right to speak prophetically on political issues including the right to name names and warn citizens about the spiritual consequences of their political actions must be removed.

Some may worry that increased involvement in politics by churches may turn some people against religion. It may, but I can’t find a single place in scripture where God told a prophet he could take a poll before he spoke to see how his words would be received. Indeed many prophets knew the kind of reception they were going to get and would have preferred to have kept silent. True prophesy is rarely popular, particularly with the establishment. It is, therefore, all the more important for the right to prophesy be protected.

What about false prophets? Of course there will be false prophets, but not to worry, they will have to answer to higher authority than the IRS.

Why has this unconstitutional restriction on freedom of religion not been challenged before? I fear it may be because too many pastors saw the restrictions as letting them off the hook. They could avoid speaking prophetically by claiming they would loose their tax exempt status and thus not have to face angry parishioners. However, just as the politicians have no right to be protected from the prophets, the clergy have no justification in hiding behind the law.

Affirming the unfettered right to prophesy as essential to the inalienable right to freedom of religion in no way violates the boundary between Church and state, indeed it makes it clear that the state may not say one religious practice is acceptable and another is not.

Originally published in The Providence Journal

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 27, 2011 10:35 pm

    Dale,

    Excellent job! I have one question though. Am I wrong that the threat to tax-exempt status merely pertains to speaking for or against a candidate??

  2. November 27, 2011 11:06 pm

    I believe you are correct, but prophets — such as John the Baptist and a number of Old Testament prophets — directly addressed political leaders; therefore the right to prophesy includes the right to name names.

  3. Kevin Petersen permalink
    December 27, 2011 5:03 pm

    I’m deathly afraid of granting this right/freedom to our local mosques. Since all religions are NOT the same, how do we protect ourselves and our children from those who want us to convert or die? Unchecked freedom of speech and religion could be the death of us all.

  4. December 27, 2011 9:31 pm

    The limits on freedom of religion should be similar to the limits of freedom of speech “You can’t yell fire in a crowded theater when there is no fire.” Freedom of religion would not include encouraging terrorism or violence against non-believers.

  5. November 29, 2012 9:19 pm

    ‘Hate crimes legislation has its roots in the communist-inspired, so-called Frankfurt School founded in Frankfurt, Germany by Bolsheviks in the 1920s. Its goal was to implement communism in the West quietly by gradually subverting popular culture — a movement known as Cultural Marxism. One of its leading lights, Herbert Marcuse, opined that the prevailing Western social order is repressive by definition and discriminates against minorities simply by existing.

    ‘This creates a phenomenon he called “repressive tolerance” because even though other views are allowed within Western culture — you know, by that insignificant little old thing called the First Amendment — the Capitalist view is still permitted. It goes without saying that Marcuse considered that to be unacceptable.

    ‘Instead, he proposed what he called “partisan tolerance,” i.e. tolerating the views of those “repressed minorities” only — who Marcuse assumes share his partisan hatred for everything noncommunist — while actively muzzling the views of the majority.

    ‘So now we have a word for Democrats’ eye-popping hypocrisy when they wrap themselves in the mantle of free speech while simultaneously attempting to suppress non-Leftist ideas. We have a word for the Left’s double standard in championing “repressed minorities” only when those minorities share their politics, while savaging principled, accomplished minorities like Clarence Thomas, Thomas Sowell or Janice Rogers Brown. We have an explanation for why so many college campuses, supposedly the society’s heart of open-minded intellectual inquiry, actively, even violently intimidate conservative speakers — when they let them onto campus at all.

    ‘They have been practicing “partisan tolerance.” That is, tolerance of the extreme Left and virulent intolerance of anything else.’

    – Hate Crime Legislation – Back Door to Censorship by James Simpson
    American Thinker, May 10, 2009
    http://tinyurl.com/r3on2h

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