(House of Representatives - May 26, 2016)

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[Congressional Record Volume 162, Number 84 (Thursday, May 26, 2016)]
[Pages H3288-H3290]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                           RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the Speaker's announced policy of 
January 6, 2015, the gentleman from Oklahoma (Mr. Russell) is 
recognized for 60 minutes as the designee of the majority leader.
  Mr. RUSSELL. Madam Speaker, since December 15, 1791, nearly 225 
years, our Congress has operated under the constitutional requirement 
to do the following. Amendment 1 of the Bill of Rights to the 
Constitution of the United States of America:
  ``Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, 
or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of 
speech, or the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, 
and to petition the government for a regress of grievances.''
  I am saddened, Madam Speaker, that, in our current day, the greatest 
assault on the free exercise of religion is being perpetuated, 
seemingly, by those most responsible to protect it: those who are sworn 
to uphold the law.
  Worse still, we see our Armed Forces, whose singular purpose is to 
support and defend the Constitution, now perpetually being used as the 
vehicle to subvert the very document that they risked their lives to 
  In a recent example, we have seen executive guidance with regard to 
religious corporations, religious associations, religious educational 
institutions, and religious societies placed in jeopardy.
  More than 2,000 Federal Government contracts a year are awarded to 
religious organizations and contractors that provide essential services 
in many vital programs. Now many of these services are being impacted 
due to conflicting, ambiguous executive guidance.
  Here are some examples:
  Chaplain services. Multiple organizations provide chaplains and 
related services to the military and other government agencies.

                              {time}  1200

  Chaplains have faced significant religious liberty challenges in 
pursuing contracts with religious education directories, youth 
ministers, musicians, and other religious service providers who adhere 
to the teachings of their particular faith. Without protecting free 
exercise of religion, chaplains have been forced to hire people that 
work directly against their teachings, tenets, and faith. This is a 
clear violation of the First Amendment.
  Here is another example: refugee service providers. The vast majority 
of refugee and suffering vulnerable population relief is done by 
religious service organizations. I have worked with many on 
battlefields in my time as a career soldier.
  Because of bad agency guidance, now these organizations are facing 
mounting liability related to their performance under grants, 
contracts, and cooperative agreements. Sadly, when these organizations 
cannot partner with the government, the relief of human suffering just 
goes away, seldom being replaced.
  The groups under assault are often the best--if not the only--
organizations able to offer the assistance they perform, doing 
invaluable work to relieve the suffering, aid the returning combat 
warrior, assist in the rehabilitation of substance abuse for those not 
adjusting well, and many other such services that have been going on 
for many decades.
  To curtail the blatant discrimination against these groups, I offered 
a simple amendment to protect them under existing law which passed in 
the National Defense Authorization, and that existing law upheld is the 
1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.
  You would have thought I had killed someone's mother. Instead of 
upholding the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, we have now 
seen this body continue its assault on faith in America. It is not 
enough to level accusations of injustice by some. They will not be 
satisfied until their assaults of intolerance on people of faith in 
this country has produced an elimination of God in public life in 
  We are accused of hatred, called out as shameful on this floor, and 
enjoined to use the whole Constitution to support an opposing view that 
embodies behavior, mores, and outcomes that not only violate our 
conscience, but have been prohibited under the laws of nature and 
nature's God.
  In the last 50 years, we have seen the Constitution used by these 
ideologues to kill American children in the womb, eliminate family 
structure, elevate behavior over belief, redefine marriage, and assault 
into silence and inaction any who may oppose them. Not satisfied, we 
see them without rest on their quest to eliminate free exercise of 
faith in the United States.
  Do we really want a Nation without God?
  They would call it progress, yet our conscience knows differently. 
The Apostle Paul explains why when he said this:

       For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all 
     ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth 
     in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is 
     manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the 
     creation of the world, His invisible attributes are clearly 
     seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His 
     eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 
     because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as 
     God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, 
     and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be 
     wise, they became fools.
       Therefore, God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the 
     lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among 
     themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and 
     worshiped and served the creature, rather than the Creator.

  The Creator, our Nation has always been anchored in the Creator, from 
its inception throughout our history. God has been the foundation of 
our Republic as seen in the sweeping lines of the Declaration of 
Independence, when it drove our Founders to proclaim ``the separate and 
equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and Nature's God entitle 
them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they 
should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.
  ``We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created 
equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable 
Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of 
  That life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness could not be realized 
without God in our Republic. George Washington spoke for all Americans 
in his first inaugural address, that ``No people can be bound to 
acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of 
men more than . . . the United States.''
  Our Nation's survival and prosperity in the future were understood to 
be dependent upon faith. When Washington left office in the most 
remarkable, peaceful transfer of power the world had seen, he warned of 
a future that somehow supposed that we could have order and prosperity 
without faith. In his last address to the Nation, he declared:

       Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to the 
     political prosperity, religion and

[[Page H3289]]

     morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that men 
     claim the tribute of patriotism, who would subvert the great 
     pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties 
     of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the 
     pious man, ought to respect and cherish them. And let us with 
     caution indulge in the supposition that morality can be 
     maintained without religion.

  None of the Founders of this country believed that a governmental 
connection to religion was an evil in itself. They opposed the 
establishment of a national religion because it could prohibit the free 
exercise of faith but that faith would and should be freely exercised. 
This same foundational belief extended to a prohibition of a national 
press so that it could express freely, so people could speak and 
assemble freely, and that their grievance would not only become known, 
but redressed. This was embodied in the First Amendment of the Bill of 
  The Framers of our Constitution understood that restriction on 
religious conduct should not be from application of general laws but, 
rather, should be applied to those laws that target religion. Laws that 
``substantially burden'' religion, even if they are generally 
applicable, must be justified as the ``least restrictive means'' of 
achieving a ``compelling interest.''
  The same day the Bill of Rights was introduced, July 13, 1787, this 
Congress also introduced the Northwest Ordinance that laid guidelines 
and instruction on new territory acquired for a future United States.
  Article 3 of that Ordinance stated: ``Religion, and morality, and 
knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of 
mankind, schools and the means of education shall be forever 
  ``Forever be encouraged.'' Some in this body today, Madam Speaker, 
would believe forever stops in 2016 and should have stopped much 
sooner. They claim that Congress grants these unalienable rights and 
uses the powers of the government, without the consent of the governed, 
to regulate and diminish faith and eliminate it from public life.
  In 1798, in response to the claim that Congress could regulate First 
Amendment freedoms without abridging them, James Madison condemned it 
saying: the liberty of conscience and the freedom the press were 
completely exempted from all congressional authority whatever.
  Every constitution of our Thirteen Original States, and all 
thereafter following their example, understood this and embodied such 
language in their State constitutions, which survive today.
  New York, article I, section 3: ``The free exercise and enjoyment of 
religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, 
shall forever be allowed in this State to all humankind.''
  New Hampshire, article 5: ``Every individual has a natural and 
unalienable right to worship God according to the dictates of his own 
conscience, and reason; and no subject shall be hurt, molested, or 
restrained, in his person, liberty, or estate, for worshipping God in 
the manner and season most agreeable to the dictates of his own 
conscience; or for his religious profession, sentiments, or 
  Vermont, article 3: ``That all persons have a natural and unalienable 
right, to worship Almighty God, according to the dictates of their own 
consciences and understandings, as in their opinion shall be regulated 
by the word of God; and that no person ought to, or of right can be 
compelled to attend any religious worship, or erect or support any 
place of worship, or maintain any minister, contrary to the dictates of 
conscience, nor can any person be justly deprived or abridged of any 
civil right as a citizen, on account of religious sentiments, or 
peculiar mode of religious worship; and that no authority can, or ought 
to be vested in, or assumed by, any power whatever, that shall in any 
case interfere with, or in any manner control the rights of conscience, 
in the free exercise of religious worship.''
  Massachusetts, part 1, articles II and III: ``It is the right as well 
as the duty of all men in 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 worshipping God in the manner and 
season most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience; or for his 
religious profession or sentiments . . . As the happiness of a people, 
and the good order and preservation of civil government, essentially 
depend upon piety, religion and morality; and as these cannot be 
generally diffused through a community, but by the institution of the 
public worship of God, and of public instructions in piety, religion 
and morality.''
  Connecticut, article I, section 3: ``The exercise and enjoyment of 
religious profession and worship, without discrimination, shall be free 
to all persons in the state.''
  Rhode Island, article I, section 3: ``Whereas Almighty God hath 
created the mind free; and all attempts to influence it by temporal 
punishments or burdens, or by civil incapacitations, tend to beget 
habits of hypocrisy and meanness; and whereas a principal object to our 
venerable ancestors, in their migration to this country and their 
settlement of this state, was, as they expressed it, to hold forth a 
lively experiment that a flourishing civil state may stand and be 
maintained with full liberty and religious concernments; we, therefore, 
declare that no person shall be compelled to frequent or to support any 
religious worship, place, or ministry whatever, except in fulfillment 
of such person's voluntary contract; nor enforced, restrained, 
molested, or burdened in any body or goods; nor disqualified from 
holding office; nor otherwise suffer on account of such person's 
religious belief; and that every person shall be free to worship God 
according to the dictates of such person's conscience, and to profess 
and by argument to maintain such person's opinion in matters of 
religion; and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or 
affect the civil capacity of any person.''
  Pennsylvania, article 1, sections 3 and 4:
  ``All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty 
God according to the dictates of their own consciences; no man can of 
right be compelled to attend, erect or support any place of worship or 
to maintain any ministry against his consent; no human authority can, 
in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of 
conscience, and no preference shall ever be given by any law to any 
religious establishments or modes of worship . . . No person who 
acknowledges the being of a God and a future state of rewards and 
punishments shall, on account of his religious sentiments, be 
disqualified to hold any office or place of trust or profit under this 

                              {time}  1215

  New Jersey: Article 1, sections 3-5: ``No person shall be deprived of 
the inestimable privilege of worshipping Almighty God in a manner 
agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience; nor under any pretense 
whatever be compelled to attend any place of worship contrary to his 
faith and judgement; nor shall any person be obliged to pay tithes, 
taxes, or other rates for building or repairing any church or churches, 
place or places of worship, or for the maintenance of any minister or 
ministry, contrary to what he believes to be right or has deliberately 
and voluntarily engaged to perform.
  ``There shall be no establishment of one religious sect in preference 
to another; no religious or racial test shall be required as a 
qualification for any office or public trust.
  ``No person shall be denied the enjoyment of any civil or military 
right, nor be discriminated against in the exercise of any civil or 
military right, nor be segregated in the militia or in the public 
schools, because of religious principles . . .''
  North Carolina: Article 1, section 13: ``All persons have a natural 
and inalienable right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates 
of their own consciences, and no human authority shall, in any case 
whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience.''
  Maryland: Article 36: ``That as it is the duty of every man to 
worship God in such manner as he thinks most acceptable to Him, all 
persons are equally entitled to protection in their religious liberty; 
wherefore, no person ought by any law to be molested in his person or 
estate, on account of his religious persuasion, or profession, or for

[[Page H3290]]

his religious practice . . . nor shall any person, otherwise competent, 
be deemed incompetent as a witness, or juror, on account of his 
religious belief; provided, he believes in the existence of God, and 
that under His dispensation such person will be held morally 
accountable for his acts, and be rewarded or punished therefor either 
in this world or in the world to come.''
  Virginia: Article 1, sections 11 and 16: ``That religion or the duty 
which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be 
directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and, 
therefore, all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of 
religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the 
mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity 
towards each other . . . all men shall be free to profess and by 
argument to maintain their opinions in matters of religion, and the 
same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil 
capacities . . . it shall be left free to every person to select his 
religious instructor, and to make his support such private contract as 
he shall please.''
  South Carolina: Article 1, section 2: ``The general assembly shall 
make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the 
free exercise thereof . . . ''
  Last among them, the State of Georgia: Article 1, section 1, 
paragraph 4: ``No inhabitant of this state shall be molested in person 
or property or be prohibited from holding any public office or trust on 
account of religious opinions.''
  These constitutions are still in effect in each of these States 
today. All speak of the exceptions on maintaining the peace and safety 
of each State.
  Forever--forever--be encouraged. That is the way it was phrased. Is 
that where we stand today? Shall religious freedom, the hallmark of 
Columbia's shores, continue to be forever encouraged or do we who are 
so humbly honored to serve in these Chambers now just step aside and 
see the indispensable supports of religion and morality knocked from 
under our foundation?
  Madam Speaker, I cannot be silent. Since I was 18 years of age, I 
have pledged to support and defend the Constitution of this great 
Republic. I have been moved by conscience and dictates to speak out 
against the coercion of people of faith who are being discriminated 
against because they merely hold to the laws of nature and nature's 
  Our institutions, once based on the Creator of life, have now 
appointed themselves to usurp the authority of God, who is the author 
of life, marriage, and family. The most elemental sovereign unit, our 
families, has been destroyed by our foolish decisions.
  We are told instead by those of us sworn to uphold the law that 
murder is not murder, marriage is not marriage, and family is not 
family. We have allowed constitutional constructs to kill a child and 
call it a choice.
  We have seen discreet behaviors and private sexual preferences 
promoted to public display while what is constitutionally guaranteed to 
be able to express--religion--is now being publicly prohibited. This 
Nation, at its highest level, has taken a position against God.
  Is it possible, if that be the case, that we can form a more perfect 
union? Can we establish justice absent the giver of law? Can domestic 
tranquility be ensured that when we abandon His precepts? Can we 
provide for a common defense absent a mighty fortress and an unfailing 
  How do we promote the general welfare when every American is 
unanchored, adrift to do what seems right in his own eyes? Do we 
suppose that we can secure the blessings of liberty without Him? Can 
those of our posterity expect to obtain His blessing without 
acknowledging His existence?
  So, Madam Speaker, like our forebears, I cannot be silent. My faith 
directs that I act with love and civility in a gentlemanly manner. As a 
warrior on battlefields, I have seen the worst that human beings have 
to offer.
  But my optimism is secured by eternal hope and everlasting truth. My 
conscience speaks to God's eternal Being. So I am without excuse. His 
love and mercy cannot be separated from those that answer His call.
  I take solace in the words of Christ when He encourages: ``Blessed 
are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil 
against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for 
great is your reward in Heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who 
were before you.''

  Like the Founders of our Nation and Framers of our great 
Constitution, I speak with many as a Representative in this august body 
``with a firm reliance on the protections of Divine Providence, we 
mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred 
  So, Madam Speaker, I will stand with Joshua when he said: ``And if it 
seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day 
whom you will serve . . . But as for me and my house, we will serve the 
  I stand with the Apostle Paul when he said: ``Putting away falsehood, 
let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor, for we are members 
of one another. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but 
against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the 
darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the 
heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may 
be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.''
  So I ask America: Who will stand with me?
  Madam Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.