THE CONGRESSIONAL PRAYER CAUCUS
(House of Representatives - September 09, 2013)

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[Pages H5419-H5425]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                    THE CONGRESSIONAL PRAYER CAUCUS

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the Speaker's announced policy of 
January 3, 2013, the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Forbes) is recognized 
for 60 minutes as the designee of the majority leader.


                             General Leave

  Mr. FORBES. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may 
have 5 legislative days in which to revise and extend their remarks and 
include extraneous materials on the subject of our Special Order.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from Virginia?
  There was no objection.
  Mr. FORBES. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to come to the 
floor tonight to discuss our first freedom, religious liberty, as we 
recognize the 226th anniversary of the signing of our Constitution on 
September 17, Constitution Day.
  I'm hosting this special order as founder and cochairman of the 
Congressional Prayer Caucus, a bipartisan group of more than 90 Members 
of the House of Representatives dedicated to protecting religious 
freedom in America and preserving our Nation's rich spiritual heritage.
  I cochair this caucus with my good friend, Mr. Mike McIntyre, a 
Democratic Member from North Carolina, who, unfortunately, cannot be 
with us this evening.
  Faith and religious freedom are not party-line issues. Members of the 
Congressional Prayer Caucus gather each week in the United States 
Capitol to pray for our Nation. We leave political labels at the door, 
and we join in prayer for one another and our country.
  On September 17, our Nation will mark the 226th anniversary of the 
signing of the Constitution in Independence Hall, Philadelphia. The 
Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, was soon 
to follow.
  Religious freedom is the very first thing named in the First 
Amendment. It is our first freedom, and it's a fundamental human right.
  But as President Ronald Reagan so accurately observed, freedom is 
never more than one generation away from extinction. Our freedoms are 
fragile, and how quickly we forget their importance.
  An annual survey by the Newseum Institute's First Amendment Center 
revealed that only 24 percent of Americans are aware that religious 
freedom is a First Amendment right. We are forgetting our first 
freedom. It is this amnesia that results in the subjugation of the 
fundamental right of religious freedom.
  Just last month, a justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court recognized 
that their decision to uphold fines against a wedding photographer who 
declined to photograph a same-sex wedding meant that the photographer 
is now ``compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that 
inspire'' her life.
  But the justice called this trampling of religious freedom ``the 
price of citizenship.''
  The price of citizenship? No. Religious freedom is the very thing the 
Pilgrims sought when they landed in Plymouth and struggled to survive 
in a new and unknown world.
  Religious freedom was so important to our Founding Fathers that it 
was the first freedom they named as bearing protection from the 
government. It's not the price of citizenship; it is the hallmark of 
the American spirit of freedom.
  The American people recognize that the New Mexico Supreme Court's 
decision is wrong. A recent Rasmussen poll revealed that 85 percent of 
Americans believe that a wedding photographer who has a deeply held 
religious belief about marriage has a right to decline to photograph a 
same-sex ceremony.
  Even still, we see weekly reminders that religious freedom is being 
trampled in the name of tolerance. The Supreme Court's decision in 
United States v. Windsor has given validation to the basely false 
argument that the only reason anyone has to support traditional 
marriage is bigotry. We've forgotten President Obama's observation in 
2012 that there are people of goodwill on both sides of the marriage 
debate.
  Over the last few months alone, we've seen so many injustices, like 
the Oregon bakery that's been forced to close its doors because of the 
visceral hate mail, threats and boycotts they received simply for 
living their lives according to their faith.
  As some workers protest for higher wages, we see businesses like 
Hobby Lobby that pay their full-time workers significantly more than 
minimum wage fighting for the ability to keep their doors open and 
their workers employed because they dare to operate their business 
according to the dictates of their conscience.
  We see an attack on the integrity of the military chaplaincy, an 
institution

[[Page H5420]]

that exists to support the free exercise of religion for our brave 
servicemembers as they leave home and family behind to enter harsh 
and foreign environments.

  And we see servicemembers like Senior Master Sergeant Monk fighting 
to maintain their careers in the military because they dare to hold a 
traditional view of marriage.
  In Iran, Pastor Abedini languishes in the notorious Evin prison 
because of his Christian faith. He's an American citizen who has been 
wrongly sentenced to 8 years in prison because he dared to hold a 
certain religious belief, torn from his wife and two young children.
  As we approach the 1-year anniversary of his incarceration, we need 
to make sure that we realize that his fight for freedom is a reminder 
of how important it is that we remain a beacon for the fundamental 
right of religious freedom and the ability to live your life openly and 
freely on the basis of your convictions. We must defend Pastor Abedini 
and advocate for his immediate release to the safety of his family.
  As we honor Constitution Day, let us remember the fundamental right 
of religious freedom enshrined in the First Amendment. Members of the 
Prayer Caucus have not forgotten our first freedom. We stand ready to 
guard and protect it.
  I'm proud to partner with my good friend, Mr. McIntyre, in leading 
this extraordinary group of Members known as the Congressional Prayer 
Caucus.
  I'm so pleased to be joined this evening by my colleagues who are 
working to protect religious freedom in America and around the world, 
and at this time I'd like to yield to my good friend, Mr. Tim Walberg 
from Michigan.
  Mr. WALBERG. I thank my friend from Virginia and, Mr. Speaker, I 
appreciate the opportunity to speak on an issue of ultimate importance 
tonight, the First Amendment liberties.

                              {time}  1945

  We go back to those brave men whose shoulders we stand upon, and here 
in the Chamber today, people like Jonathan Witherspoon, who said:

       A republic once equally poised, must either preserve its 
     virtue or lose its liberty.

  Congressman Forbes, we are standing for that virtue today. We are 
standing for that virtue in a country that, sadly, has walked away from 
accepting it out of hand. And assuming that there will be differences--
there will be theological differences, there will be religious 
differences--America was known from its inception as a place where we 
could be free to have those foundational principles.
  Benjamin Franklin himself said:

       This will be the best security for maintaining our 
     liberties. A Nation of well-informed men who have been taught 
     to know and prize the rights which God has given them cannot 
     be enslaved. It is in the religion of ignorance that tyranny 
     begins.

  And so I went to some statements that were made in the constitutions 
of our States--specifically, those States that were our 13 colonies--to 
look at what our Framers and Founders, those back in the States that 
said we want a Federal Government, but we want a Federal Government 
that comes under the control of the States. What did they say about 
religion and those First Amendment liberties? I picked out three. I 
picked them out related to the highest offices of our land.
  The first was New York. Our Attorney General, Eric Holder, was born, 
raised, and educated in New York. In its constitution, New York State 
says:

       The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and 
     worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever 
     be allowed in this State to all humankind.

  That was New York.
  I went then to the State of Delaware, the State of our Vice 
President. And in that State, the preamble to the constitution starts 
out by saying:

       Through Divine goodness, all people have by nature the 
     rights of worshiping and serving their Creator according to 
     the dictates of their consciences.

  That's Delaware.
  And so then ultimately I went to the last State that I looked at. And 
I went to that because our President comes from Illinois. But that 
wasn't one of the 13 colonies, my friend from Virginia will inform me. 
So I went to Massachusetts, where he was educated at Harvard Law 
School. Article II in that constitution says:

       It is the right as well as the duty of all men and society, 
     publicly, and at stated seasons to worship the Supreme Being, 
     the great Creator and Preserver of the universe. And no 
     subject shall be hurt, molested, or restrained in his person, 
     liberty, or estate, for worshiping God in the manner and 
     season most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience.

  Mr. Speaker, I would say those are the foundational principles that 
led to the adoption of our Constitution and, ultimately, the First 
Amendment. And so a danger comes when we come to areas like prayer, 
where we have a municipality like Greece, New York, that is fighting in 
the case Greece v. Galloway for the opportunity to continue their 
tradition of opening with prayer.
  Patrick Henry said:

       An appeal to arms and the God of hosts is all that is left 
     us.

  An appeal. Isn't that a prayer? An appeal to God?

       An appeal to arms and the God of hosts is all that is left 
     to us. But we shall not fight our battle alone. There is a 
     just God that presides over the destinies of nations. The 
     battle, sir, is not to the strong alone. Is life so dear or 
     peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and 
     slavery?

  And then he appeals to God again. A prayer:

       Forbid it, almighty God. I know not what course others may 
     take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.

  So today we come to a situation in our country where we have people 
who are saying, basically, the same thing: give me liberty or give me 
death. Give me the opportunity to pray. Give me the opportunity to 
worship without Big Government collapsing on me.
  Mr. Speaker, there are enemies of our freedoms. And they have somehow 
caught it right.
  Joseph Stalin said:

       America is like a healthy body and its resistance is 
     threefold: its patriotism, its morality, its spiritual life. 
     If we can undermine these three areas, America will collapse 
     from within.

  He's right: we are collapsing, to our detriment and to those who 
yearn for freedom.
  I end with this. A patriot, a President, a believer in prayer, a 
believer in the First Amendment. President Eisenhower stated in 1954:

       Atheism substitutes men for the Supreme Creator and this 
     leads inevitably to domination and dictatorship.

  He went on to say:

       We must jealously guard our foundation in faith. For on it 
     rests the ability of the American individual to live and 
     thrive in this blessed land and to be able to help other less 
     fortunate people to achieve freedom and individual 
     opportunity. These we take for granted, but to others they 
     are often only a wistful dream. In God we trust, our motto. 
     Often have we heard the words of this wonderful American 
     motto. Let us make sure that familiarity has not made them 
     meaningless for us. We carry the torch of freedom as a sacred 
     trust for all mankind.

  And then President Eisenhower concluded:

       We do not believe that God intended the light that He 
     created to be put out by men.

  I thank my friend for allowing me these statements tonight. And may 
we stand firmly to the point that ultimately our First Amendment 
liberties--and even more than that--the God-blessed opportunities that 
come from His truth will be applauded in this land.
  Mr. FORBES. I thank the gentleman from Michigan for his great 
leadership on these First Amendment rights and for his words tonight.
  We have another great leader on First Amendment rights, Mr. Speaker, 
and that's Doug Lamborn for Colorado.
  Doug, it's a pleasure to have you tonight. I would love to yield to 
you for any comments you might have.
  Mr. LAMBORN. I want to thank my friend and colleague, Representative 
Randy Forbes of Virginia, for his leadership in this vital area of 
religious liberty and for putting this time together.
  Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of our constitutionally granted 
right to religious liberty and in support of our military. I am 
grateful for our Nation's military, and I feel privileged to represent 
thousands of men and women in uniform who serve at the five military 
installations in my district. Our military is made up of brave, peace-
loving men and women of all faiths serving to protect our freedom and 
our way of life. But there is a growing and troubling pattern of 
religious discrimination against our men and women in arms.

[[Page H5421]]

  Earlier this year, an Army Reserve training brief listed Catholics, 
Evangelical Christians, Sunni Muslims and some Jews as ``religious 
extremists,'' along with groups like al Qaeda, Hamas, and the KKK. 
Also, in July of this year, a Christian chaplain was ordered to remove 
a religious column he had written which simply detailed the history of 
the phrase:

       There are no atheists in foxholes.

  Furthermore, in drafting religious freedom policies and regulations, 
officials within the Pentagon have consulted with radical atheists who 
once characterized Christians as ``monsters who terrorize their fellow 
Americans who are die-hard enemies of the United States Constitution.'' 
This same radical atheist is calling on the Pentagon to prosecute 
military chaplains who share their faith with servicemembers, claiming 
that even speaking about your Christian faith amounts to 
``unconstitutional religious proselytizing and oppression.''
  Mr. Speaker, this is an affront to our civil liberties and demeaning 
to this Nation that has always believed in the First Amendment freedom 
of self-expression. Religious freedom is an integral part of America's 
greatness and has been a pillar of our Nation from the very beginning. 
We must remain firmly committed to defending religious freedom.
  Mr. FORBES. I thank the gentleman for his hard work in this area and 
for being with us tonight.
  We heard Mr. Walberg mention Patrick Henry; and from the State that 
Patrick Henry came from is my good friend, Rob Wittman.
  Rob, thank you for being here and your fight in all this.
  Mr. WITTMAN. Thank you, Representative Forbes. I want to thank you 
for your leadership in the Congressional Prayer Caucus and for taking 
the time to make sure we got together today to recognize the importance 
of today's date and the efforts by our forefathers to make sure that we 
have those liberties and freedoms to make sure that we can freely 
practice our religious beliefs here.
  I'm pleased to be here as a member of our Prayer Caucus and join with 
my other colleagues on the Prayer Caucus to honor Constitution Day and 
the religious freedoms of all our citizens.
  September 17, 2013, marks the 226th anniversary of the signing of the 
greatest governing document the world has ever known: our Constitution. 
Religious freedom is the very first freedom protected in the First 
Amendment. And just as Chairman Forbes has spoken of, it was really a 
discussion that took place years ago in Virginia.
  Governor Patrick Henry, there in the church at St. John's in 
Richmond, got up and spoke about the importance of the individual 
liberties and freedoms and the importance to make sure that we as a 
Nation had a Constitution that preserved those. As you know, he led 
that fight to make sure that James Madison, the author of the 
Constitution, provided in the Constitution just those individual 
liberties and freedoms. In fact, I think a lot of folks don't know he 
actually voted against ratifying the Constitution originally because it 
did not contain those basic individual liberties and freedoms, and it 
was his work that made sure that we enjoyed those individual liberties 
and freedoms today, based on our Constitution.
  It was that First Amendment that read:

       Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of 
     religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

  In today's world, there are far too many obstacles for many of our 
citizens to truly practice what is promised in the First Amendment. 
There are challenges to religious symbols. Religious freedom for 
members of our military is under attack.
  Air Force Senior Master Sergeant Phillip Monk was recently dismissed 
from his position and reassigned after he refused to voice his opinion 
when his commanding officer asked him if he could agree with her belief 
that openly voicing a religious or moral opposition to same-sex 
marriage is discrimination. He stood by his beliefs and paid the price 
professionally for that.

  Religious liberties are threatened, for many, each and every day.
  The Commonwealth of Virginia, as has been so eloquently stated, has a 
direct tie to the First Amendment. I stated Governor Patrick Henry's 
efforts there; but also Thomas Jefferson was very, very adamant and 
passionate about preserving those religious freedoms.
  The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom was authored by Thomas 
Jefferson and James Madison in 1779, and it states:

       No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any 
     religious worship place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be 
     enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or 
     goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious 
     opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to 
     profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in 
     matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise 
     diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.

  Thomas Jefferson, the second President of the United States, and one 
of our Nation's Founding Fathers, understood the need for protecting 
our natural rights, those provided to us by our Creator, those 
protected by our government, all of which were more important to him 
than any other element of what he espoused in the creation of our 
government. And we know that none meant more to him or to our Nation 
than the freedom of religion. The statute declares that compulsory 
religion is wrong, that no religion should be forced on an individual, 
and that the freedom of religion is a natural right.

                              {time}  2000

  The statute's doctrine and principles have inspired individuals 
throughout the Commonwealth and across our Nation.
  Thomas Jefferson requested that three of his greatest accomplishments 
be listed on his epitaph. Freedom of religion was so important to him 
that the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom was listed along with 
the founding of the University of Virginia and the writing of the 
United States Declaration of Independence as his greatest lifetime 
achievements. Thomas Jefferson believed deeply in that freedom of 
religion and wanted to make sure that it was something that our Nation 
continued to espouse today, and it was his moral foundation.
  The statute ultimately facilitated the path to complete religious 
freedom in the United States. As we know, the discussions that took 
place took place based upon that Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom. 
That was eventually included in the First Amendment to our 
Constitution.
  It is our duty to ensure that the Congress continues to protect our 
First Amendment freedoms for now and for future generations. And I want 
to thank all of my colleagues in the Congressional Prayer Caucus to 
make sure that we remember each and every day as we are here the 
practice of religious freedom, and to make sure that we understand that 
our projection of that freedom is what makes us the great Nation that 
we are today.
  Mr. FORBES. Mr. Wittman, I thank you for your dedication to First 
Amendment rights and to our military.
  One of the deep thinkers that we have in this area in all forms of 
policy, especially as it comes to First Amendment liberties, is the 
gentleman from Oklahoma (Mr. Lankford).
  Mr. Lankford, we are delighted to have you tonight, and I would love 
to hear some of your thoughts on this.
  Mr. LANKFORD. It is absolutely my honor to have the chance to be here 
as well to be able to speak out on the issue that was critical in the 
foundation of our own Constitution and of our Nation as a whole, and 
that is the right to believe.
  We in America have this unique thing, the right to believe or the 
right to not have a belief at all; but if you believe, to also have the 
right to actually live what you believe. It is this unique American 
freedom that people around the world sometimes stare at with awe 
because they are bound to have a certain set of beliefs to be in that 
country, but not so with us in America. You can have a belief, not have 
a belief; but if you have one, you may live your faith.
  Coptic Christians in Egypt would love to be able to live their faith 
and not live in fear right now. The Baha'i in Iran would love to be 
able to live out their faith and not live in fear right now. The 
Christians in Syria would love to be able to live out their faith and 
not live in fear. And the multiple religions that try to practice in 
countries like China and Vietnam and other

[[Page H5422]]

places that constantly live in fear because of their own faith would 
love to have that. But not so in America. Whether you be a Member of 
Congress, whether you be an individual in the administration, whether 
you be any person walking down the streets of America, you have the 
right to be able to live out your faith, and it is essential for us. 
It's a great value that we share, but it is essential that we also 
continue to protect. And on days like today, it is ironic that we are 
discussing again this unique value to say: Can we still live out our 
faith as Americans?
  Let me just give you a couple of examples where the challenge has 
been put to the test recently. It wasn't but a couple of years ago that 
the Obama administration challenged the Missouri Synod Church on 
whether that church and Hosanna-Tabor could choose their own minister 
or whether they would be fought from the outside, that the government 
could step into the church and say, No, we have to help be a part of 
selecting who the minister is. That was argued all the way until it got 
to the Supreme Court, where they lost 9-0, and the Supreme Court 
reaffirmed again that a church has the right to select their own 
minister.
  It is ironic that we are dealing with a great business that employs 
thousands upon thousands of people around the country, called Hobby 
Lobby, that the founders of that company are Christians, they live out 
their faith--they practiced their faith from when they were a craft/
framing shop in the garage of the family, and they continue to practice 
that business the exact same way now--to say: Can they live out their 
faith?
  They are currently facing a set of fines right now where the 
administration has stepped in to say, if you provide health care 
insurance that we choose, you're fine; if you don't provide any 
insurance at all, I'm going to fine you $2,000; but if you provide 
insurance that doesn't meet the administration's religious belief, you 
will be fined, as a company, $36,500 per employee.
  Let me run that past you again. In a country where you are free to 
live out your faith, if this particular company chooses not to provide 
insurance that violates their faith and it doesn't follow up with the 
administration's policy, they will be fined $36,500 per employee per 
year. And so they changed their insurance to meet the faith of the 
administration. It's not right. We are a place where we cannot only 
have a belief in a label, but also choose to live out that label. 
That's important for us as a Nation.
  Two things that I wanted to be able to encourage us as well. One is 
that students, on September 25--just a few days from now--will stand at 
flag poles around this Nation. They will gather early in the morning 
before other kids even get up and stand at a flag pole for an annual 
celebration called ``See You at the Pole,'' where students will gather 
to pray. It's not a demonstration; it's not a declaration. It is just 
students doing publicly what they do privately every single day, and 
that's pray for our Nation. They can do that because of our freedom.
  Today, I remember three Oklahomans that 2 years ago lost their life 
in Afghanistan. They are heroes. They were individuals that were 
protecting the freedom of people they had never met and protecting our 
Nation. Jane Horton, one of the widows, not long after her husband, 
Chris, was killed in Afghanistan, dropped by my office and got a chance 
to visit with me. We talked for a long time, and she handed me a tie 
that her husband had. I chose to wear it today, 2 years after he was 
killed, so that we would not forget those who stand for our freedom and 
that we will not forget what they have done for us and our Nation.

  Mr. FORBES. Thank you, Mr. Lankford, and for your great work on this 
subject.
  Probably no one has defended the rights of our military and their 
First Amendment rights and the rights of our chaplains more than the 
gentleman from Louisiana (Mr. Fleming).
  Mr. Fleming, thank you for your efforts in that and for being here 
tonight. We would love to hear your thoughts on this very special 
amendment and right for Americans.
  Mr. FLEMING. I would like to thank my good friend from Virginia for 
having this Special Order this evening and the leadership that the 
gentleman has provided in this area with the Prayer Caucus and so many 
other things, both on Armed Services and outside of Armed Services, in 
that realm.
  Mr. Speaker, I am greatly inspired and moved this evening with the 
speeches that I've heard talking about religious liberty and all of the 
things that we are struggling with right now with religious liberty.
  Religious freedom is at the center of who we are as Americans. With 
foresight and clarity, the Founding Fathers enshrined religious freedom 
as a First Amendment right. Quote: ``Congress shall make no law 
respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free 
exercise thereof''--the First Amendment.
  Despite these undisputed facts, time and again we have witnessed a 
whittling away of this freedom. The passage of the President's 
signature legislation, ObamaCare, ushered in a new wave of government 
oppression for businesses, religious organizations, faith-based 
schools, charities, and hospitals.
  Mr. Speaker, I am very concerned this evening that with ObamaCare and 
with many other things that we're seeing on the religious front, on the 
military front, that Washington and this administration is actually 
substituting its religious beliefs for our own; a very dangerous 
precedent.
  What have we talked about? ObamaCare. You know, we discuss ObamaCare 
and all the problems, the cost and the rationing board and all of these 
things, but what's left out of that discussion are some very, very 
important points.
  ObamaCare's HHS mandate requires that all insurance plans cover 
various items and services that are in direct conflict with deeply held 
religious beliefs or moral convictions. Three groups are singled out 
for this:
  Number one is health care providers themselves, who in many cases 
will be forced to participate in certain techniques, certain types of 
treatment that are against their deeply held religious beliefs, such as 
abortion, such as getting abortion pills--what we call abortifacients--
sterilization procedures, and such as that.
  Another important group is religious institutions. The Catholic 
Church has, for many decades--really, centuries--gone about the work of 
the Lord to provide health care to individuals but will be required, 
under the HHS mandates, to actually provide certain procedures, such as 
sterilization and birth control pills, that are against their deeply 
held beliefs. Regardless of whether you agree with that or not is 
beside the point. According to the First Amendment, the church and its 
institutions should be allowed to do what is right by their own 
personal religious beliefs.
  The third group is private businesses. You have already heard about 
Hobby Lobby and many others who, because of the HHS mandate, will have 
to provide coverage through insurance for certain things, which may 
include abortions, and yet that's against their own deeply held 
religious beliefs--and suffering fines of tens of thousands of dollars 
per episode and per day for having done so. That is not right under the 
First Amendment.
  There are 67 cases and over 200 plaintiffs that have filed suit 
against the administration to protect the First Amendment right to 
religious freedom. They are working their way through the courts.
  Tyndale House, a Christian publishing company, well known for their 
production of the Bible, as well as family-owned and operated business 
Fresh Unlimited, Inc., a fresh produce processing and packing company 
in Ohio, and Beckwith Electric, a Florida-based electric company, are 
among the 37 for-profit companies seeking relief from the HHS mandate.
  Hospitals, charities, Catholic dioceses, and religious colleges, 
including Louisiana College in my own State, are at various stages of 
defending their first freedom against the administration's 
constitutional HHS mandate.
  Instead of supporting publishers, grocers, electricians, doctors, 
nurses, teachers, and professors, ObamaCare strips away the ability for 
these individuals to live their lives in a manner consistent with their 
religious beliefs.
  This administration has relentlessly lambasted the religious freedom 
of hardworking Americans, threatening ruinous fines for noncompliance. 
And again, companies such as Hobby Lobby,

[[Page H5423]]

a well-known arts and crafts store that started out just as one single 
store, faced crippling fines for their religious beliefs.
  Congressman Fortenberry, Congresswoman Black, and myself have put 
together a compendium of conscience protections through legislation. 
We've attempted many times to get this up for a vote and passed through 
the House and through the Senate that would block many of these HHS 
mandates that come down from ObamaCare. So far we have not gotten the 
support from the other side of the aisle to get this done, but we will 
continue until this is completed.
  Then, finally, military religious freedom. We know that the military 
oftentimes is a microcosm of what happens in the demographics across 
America. And today, religious freedom is under tremendous pressure. We 
have situations where military members can no longer put a Bible out on 
their desk, that somehow that's offending someone and that's breaking a 
statute or a law.

  You heard the recent case of Master Sergeant Monk, who, because he 
wouldn't champion something that was against his religious beliefs--
closely held and taught by his own church--is now facing potential 
court-martial for speaking out against that. The list goes on and on, 
Mr. Speaker, of what's happening, and it's very recent.
  This is not your father's military. This is not really the military 
you were in even 5 years ago. This is a new military in which religious 
freedom is being pushed away and substituting Washington's morality, 
Washington's faith--this administration's faith--instead.
  So with that, I do want to thank my colleagues who are here tonight 
talking about the important things. What could be more important than 
religious freedoms? I think many would say that's the foundation, the 
basic foundation upon which this Nation was created and why many people 
have immigrated over the centuries here and many people even today 
continue to immigrate to the United States because of its religious 
freedom.
  Let's hold this dear. Let's not let go of the First Amendment, the 
ability to not only believe what you choose to believe in religion, but 
also to speak out and express as well, even to take action. All of 
these are fundamental and very important.
  So with that, I thank you again, Mr. Forbes, for the opportunity.
  Mr. FORBES. Dr. Fleming, we thank you for your expertise in both the 
health care area and the military, and thanks for fighting this fight 
so well.
  One of the truly great champions on religious freedom issues has been 
the chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution. He was 
actually selected as Christian Statesman of the Year because he truly 
practices what he preaches, and we are delighted to have with us the 
gentleman from Arizona (Mr. Franks) tonight.
  Mr. Franks, it's good to have you here, and we would love to hear 
your comments.
  Mr. FRANKS of Arizona. Mr. Speaker, tonight, as we talk about 
religious freedom, it is especially appropriate that this group is led 
by one Congressman Randy Forbes.
  Mr. Speaker, I came into Congress approximately 11 years ago, and Mr. 
Forbes has been a prescient and noble voice among us during that time. 
I truly believe that as long as there are men like Randy Forbes in 
Congress that America will continue to be a great and hopeful Nation.

                              {time}  2015

  Mr. Forbes understands the importance of religious freedom. He 
understands that religious freedom is truly the cornerstone of all 
other freedoms.
  I want to make sort of a layman's analysis of a quote sometime back 
from a great English statesman. He said:

       Out of deep dark bondage arises great faith. And that faith 
     leads to great courage. And courage leads ultimately to 
     freedom. And freedom leads to abundance. And abundance leads 
     to apathy. And apathy leads to dependence. And dependence 
     leads back to bondage.

  That has been the litany so often of great countries down through the 
ages, Mr. Speaker. I would just suggest to you tonight that there is a 
solution to breaking that pattern. That is for us to hold, as we are 
trying to do this evening, to the great foundations of religious 
freedom. Because, as we so clearly see in the insights of this great 
English statesman, that faith oftentimes is the precursor to all other 
freedoms. It is vitally important that we protect it, and to fail to do 
so is to imperil our entire Nation.
  Mr. Speaker, I believe that's exactly where we are in many places 
today. I want to give one special example tonight:
  Saeed Abedini is a United States citizen who has been imprisoned in 
Iran for exercising his Christian faith in a manner that is both legal 
and protected under Iranian law and international law.
  A few days ago, the 36th branch of the Tehran Court of Appeals 
confirmed Saeed Abedini's prison sentence and he is expected to serve 
the rest of the 8-year sentence in a hostile Iranian prison.
  The following statement is by Naghmeh Abedini, his wife and a 
resident of Idaho, in reaction to the news that Iran had upheld her 
husband's prison sentence. She said:

       When I learned that the Iranian Appeals Court confirmed 
     Saeed's 8-year imprisonment I was heartbroken. As tears 
     streamed down my face, I pondered how I could crush the 
     child-like hope with this news as my children tightly closed 
     their eyes and prayed in hope and expectation for their 
     daddy's swift return.
       Discouragement and disappointment washed over me. I was 
     discouraged that after a year of travel and numerous media 
     interviews, I felt no closer to Saeed's release. I am also 
     disappointed that the leader of my country, a country founded 
     on religious freedom, has been awkwardly silent when an 
     American citizen is wasting away in an Iranian prison.
       For an entire year, my husband has faced threats and abuse 
     daily by radicals in Evin Prison for refusing to deny his 
     Christian faith. And still, President Obama has never spoken 
     a word about him. I am grateful for congressional pressure, 
     but I do hope that as a Nation we realize that if we do not 
     collectively speak out against injustice it will only be a 
     matter of time before all our children will have to face what 
     my children are facing today.

  Mr. Speaker, the American people would be outraged to truly know that 
the Obama administration has responded with deafening silence when an 
American father, husband, pastor, and an American citizen, Mr. Speaker, 
was thrown into a harsh prison under an oppressive regime for having 
the nerve to practice his Christian faith. The Obama administration 
should be utterly ashamed of its disgusting failure to speak out on 
behalf of Saeed Abedini and his precious family. No wonder the 
oppressive Iranian regime holds the Obama administration in such total 
derision as it arrogantly proceeds to build nuclear weapons with which 
to threaten the peace and security of the entire free world.
  I hope that the American people will hold the Obama administration 
accountable for its absolutely criminal silence in the face of such 
heartless injustice forced upon this beloved American pastor, his 
innocent family, and so many others.
  Mr. Speaker, on September 26, Saeed Abedini will have served in 
Iran's harsh Evin Prison for an entire year. The appeal that Saeed 
Abedini just lost was his last hope of being released under a heartless 
and unjust Iranian judicial system that still demands that he serve his 
8-year sentence. Now, Saeed's wife, Naghmeh, is faced with ``crushing 
the child-like hope'' she speaks of of her two young children who have 
patiently ``prayed in hope and expectation for their daddy's swift 
return,'' and telling them that it will be a very long time before they 
see their daddy again.
  Mr. Speaker, when I hear the words of Naghmeh Abedini and I roll them 
over in my mind and I think of my own two little children at home, I am 
at once heartbroken for the Abedini family and enraged at the 
lackadaisical attitude and silence of President Obama.
  Iran has demonstrated an utter disregard for fundamental religious 
freedom by continuing to unjustly hold Pastor Abedini, an American 
citizen, Mr. Speaker--an American citizen--in a hellish Iranian prison 
for practicing his faith.
  Iran's tyrannical attempts to, in the words of Ronald Reagan, 
``stifle the freedom and muzzle the self-expression of the people'' 
have again been exposed to the world after the imprisonment of this 
beloved American pastor, who at

[[Page H5424]]

the time was working to build an orphanage in Iran when he was 
imprisoned.
  Mr. Speaker, Martin Luther King once said: ``Injustice anywhere is a 
threat to justice everywhere,'' and Pastor Abedini's case has starkly 
shown the far-reaching implications of even a single instance of 
oppressing religious freedom.
  By relentlessly refusing to forget this noble and gentle man, Pastor 
Saeed Abedini, we are upholding the sacred principle of international 
religious freedom as a ``first freedom'' that, Mr. Speaker, is 
fundamental to all of humanity.
  Mr. FORBES. Congressman Franks, we thank you for speaking out for 
this great pastor whose big sin was that he loved children who did not 
have parents and he loved his faith and his God. We just thank you for 
doing that.
  Our next speaker is someone who has been recognized for a lot of 
things--his fight on the Judiciary Committee--but tonight he's here to 
share and to stand up for First Amendment rights for religious freedom, 
Louie Gohmert from Texas.

  Congressman Gohmert, thank you for being here.
  Mr. GOHMERT. Thank you, my dear friend, Randy Forbes, for all that 
you do on behalf of religious freedom. I know it is not merely 
Christian freedom, but it is religious freedom, and it is under attack. 
When we look at what the Constitution says, I know it has already been 
read, but so often we forget the first word. We just blow right past 
the first word of the First Amendment, and that is that ``Congress 
shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or 
prohibiting the free exercise thereof.''
  Why was it that they singled out Congress, because they mentioned 
States in some of the other amendments. In the 10th Amendment, anything 
that is not prohibited to the States, that power is reserved to the 
States and the people.
  So why is it that they singled out Congress? It is because this was 
intended for Congress and not for the States. Because the people that 
voted for these amendments knew that every one of the States had some 
laws that dealt with some aspect of Christianity, whether it was the 
oath that was required to be taken, or in some cases, a belief in Jesus 
Christ. There were all kinds of State and local university laws that 
had to do with religion, and that, if you wanted to be part of this, 
you had to believe this way.
  It was supposed to be a restriction on Congress. We've gotten so far 
afield from that now we think that we are not allowed to even bring up 
a hymn here in Congress. Whereas, my friend Randy Forbes knows, and 
Trent Franks--you all know, right down the hall the man who coined the 
phrase ``separation of church and State,'' Thomas Jefferson, as 
President came to church every Sunday he was in Washington, and on some 
occasions he brought the Marine band to play the hymns. It was the 
biggest church in Washington for much of the 1800s right down the hall 
in what was the House Chamber back then.
  Now look at what has happened. We see these incursions on the freedom 
of belief, and Christians are persecuted and forced to endure the slams 
and the arrows that should never be endured. Like SEAL Team 6, for 
example, those heroic members that were put in harm's way in a 
situation they should never have been put in in Afghanistan, after SEAL 
Team 6 was outed as the one that took out Osama bin Laden. You can see 
the DVD, a recording of the Ramp Ceremony. They have an imam come up in 
his language and do a Muslim prayer over the American flag-draped 
caskets, and we know some of those guys were devout Christians. He says 
a prayer that when you get the interpretation, basically it condemns 
them to hell, that they will never defeat the Muslims, the followers of 
Allah.
  It turns out today we see persecution after persecution of 
Christians. When you look at the underpinnings of this Nation, it was 
Christians. About a third of the people that signed the Declaration of 
Independence were ordained Christian ministers.
  If you look at what drove Lincoln, it was coming closer and closer to 
a walk with God. Some of the most powerful Christian messages ever 
delivered include the second inaugural address of Lincoln. Why? Because 
the Christian faith that he heard John Quincy Adams right down the hall 
talk about drove him to come back into politics and to get back 
involved to try to eliminate slavery. He knew that it was difficult for 
God to bless America when we were treating brothers and sisters by 
putting them in chains and bondage.
  The next big step toward true Christian brotherhood and sisterhood in 
America came from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. What was he? He was an 
ordained Christian minister. And now within 50 years it has become only 
acceptable to persecute Christians. This administration and so many 
have taken a stand--yes, it is an outrage that poisonous gas was used 
by anyone in the Middle East, but you don't hear the administration or 
others talking enough, including us in Congress, about the persecution 
of Christians.
  One article here says ``Syrian Rebels to Christians: Flee or Die,'' 
an article by Bob Unruh, who used to be with the AP. He talks about the 
report. Over and over Christians were told, you either denounce your 
Christianity or die, and we've done nothing about it. That was written 
in June.
  We have an article September 9. The village of Maaloula has been 
taken over by Syrian rebels associated with al Qaeda, who have stormed 
the Christian center and offered local Christians a choice--conversion 
or death--as they screamed ``Allah Akbar.''
  Well, there is too much persecution of Christianity. That was never 
supposed to be the case. That was what so many said would be the 
salvation of our little experiment in democracy. It is time to stand 
for freedom of religion, not freedom to persecute Christians from 
Washington.
  I appreciate my friend very much for yielding.
  Mr. FORBES. I thank the gentleman from Texas for his words.
  The Wall Street Journal has recently written a big article about our 
next speaker, about how hard he works for constituents, but tonight 
he's here to work for the First Amendment and for freedom of religion. 
That is Steve Pearce from New Mexico.
  Mr. PEARCE. I thank the gentleman from Virginia for leading this 
discussion.

       Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of 
     religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

  Now, what would be in the minds of the people who wrote those words? 
It would do well to look at where they came from. They came from 
countries where kings ruled. The kings could tell you what church you 
had to be in. They could tell you what you had to believe, what you had 
to profess. If it conflicted with what you said, they had the ultimate 
power over you. And so they came here to establish a new government. 
They wanted this Constitution, this contract with the people and the 
government that said the government cannot bridge certain lines. And 
the establishment of religion and the free practice thereof were 
protected.
  The gentleman from Virginia mentioned early in his comments, there 
was a young couple in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the State that I 
represent. She had a way with cameras and started a little in-home 
photography business. Elaine Huguenin and her husband, Jonathan, just 
wanted to give expression. But they also wanted to defend their rights 
to believe what they did, so they made a pact between themselves that 
they would do nothing that compromised their faith, their religious 
beliefs. The Constitution protects that.

                              {time}  2030

  Very soon after establishing their business, they had an inquiry from 
a gay couple, asking that they photograph their vows. The young couple 
in the photography studio refused and were surprised when they were 
taken before the New Mexico Human Rights Commission. They were equally 
surprised when that commission found they had no rights of religion in 
this country. The New Mexico Human Rights Commission said that you are 
guilty of violating a different law, one that did not comport with the 
Constitution. They fined them $6,000. The young couple appealed to the 
New Mexico appeals courts, and just recently, the New Mexico Court of 
Appeals found also that they were in violation--a court of appeals in 
this country ignorant of what the Constitution protects.

[[Page H5425]]

  It's exactly these kinds of things that our Founding Fathers were 
alarmed about--commissions that would show up and tell you what you had 
to believe, what you had to profess. Catholics are afraid they're going 
to have to provide contraceptives from a government of the same mind. 
Doctors who are opposed to abortion fear that this government is going 
to tell them what they must do in violation of their consciences.
  Are we, the American people, supposed to stand by? I think not. I 
think it's time for us all--not just Congress, not just your 
Representatives, but all--to raise their voices and speak out against a 
government that is too strong and that has forgotten its limitations 
written into that Constitution, especially under the First Amendment--
protecting our free exercise of religion. Speak with us. Stand up and 
speak with us.
  Mr. FORBES. I thank the gentleman for his words tonight.
  My dear friend from Virginia, Congressman Griffith, we are glad to 
have you with us tonight for your comments.
  Mr. GRIFFITH of Virginia. I am so glad to be with you this evening.
  So many people in Washington and in other parts of the country 
believe that it was the intent of the Founding Fathers to bleach from 
our society our religious beliefs, and you have heard others speak this 
evening that that is not the case. In particular, I would like to share 
with you, in the short time that we have remaining, the words of Thomas 
Jefferson from that famous letter to the Danbury, Connecticut, 
Baptists, because everybody focuses on one phrase and not the entire 
letter.
  He opens with salutations to the Danbury, Connecticut, Baptists, and 
then begins the meat of the letter:

       Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies 
     solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none 
     other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate 
     powers of government reach actions only and not opinions, I 
     contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole 
     American people which declared that their legislature should 
     ``make no law respecting an establishment of religion or 
     prohibiting the free exercise thereof,'' thus building a wall 
     of separation between church and State. Adhering to this 
     expression of the supreme will of the Nation in behalf of the 
     rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction 
     the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man 
     all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in 
     opposition to his social duties.

  Now, the next paragraph--the closing paragraph--of the letter is very 
instructive because the man who some now say wanted to bleach religion 
out ends the letter as President of the United States as follows:

       I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and 
     blessing of the common Father and Creator of man, and tender 
     you for yourselves and your religious association, assurances 
     of my high respect and esteem.

  Obviously, it was never his intent to bleach out of our society 
religion, and the Statute for Religious Freedom today still stands on 
the wall of the House of Delegates where you and I both served.
  Mr. FORBES. Mr. Speaker, we thank you for the time tonight.
  Over your head stands the phrase ``In God We Trust.'' A few years 
ago, when they opened the Visitors Center, they tried to take that 
phrase out of it. Members of the Prayer Caucus came here and stood, and 
because of that it's now written and engraved in the walls over there. 
We believe that, if you can engrave it there and if you can engrave it 
here, we can engrave it once again in the hearts of the people in this 
country.
  I want to thank you for the time that you've allowed us today. I want 
to thank the majority leader for yielding us this time. I want to thank 
our Founders for giving us this great right of freedom of religion, and 
my prayer and our prayer tonight is that the American people will be 
wise enough to keep it.
  With that, I yield back the balance of my time.

                          ____________________