United States Constitution, the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
President Trump just concluded a summit at the White House on freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is the bedrock of our Constitutional Republican form of government. To speak freely is tantamount to creating and maintaining a civil society. Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer, Ph.D., executive director emerita of the National Institute for Civil Discourse found:
- 75% believe America is in a crisis.
- 83% say incivility leads to intolerance of free speech.
- 79% say incivility is leading to less political engagement.
I attend a weekly prayer fellowship group. We meet to discuss and learn from the Bible’s lessons. I have always said that there is nothing you will see, read or hear that has not been told or foretold in the Bible. By coincidence, or divine providence, this week’s lesson was from Daniel 3 (NKJV).
As we read Daniel 3 out loud I wondered if our Founding Father’s took the lessons of the Image of Gold from it when they wrote the First Amendment to the Constitution. The ideas contained in the First Amendment are being discussed today in Washington, D.C. just as they were during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon and leader of the Chaldean Dynasty, from 605 BC – c. 562 BC.
Daniel 3 is all about the First Amendment.
There are three lessons from Daniel 3 that are fundamental to understanding why we have a First Amendment.
- The idea of The Image of Gold.
- The idea of Disobeying the King.
- Two wrongs do not make a right.
Let me explain further what I took from reading Daniel 3 with my fellowship.
First: he idea of creating images of gold. Daniel (NKJV):
3 Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its width six cubits.
We have seen men worship images of gold either by consensus or by force. Nebuchadnezzar used force to have his people worship his image of gold:
“To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, you shall fall down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up; 6 and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.”
The fiery furnace reminded me of the Holocaust, where Adolf Hitler and the Nazis cast millions into the burning fiery furnaces of Auschwitz, Dachau and Buchenwald.
Second: Disobeying the king.
In every society there are those who stand up and defy a King. So it was for the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence. The signers of the Declaration of Independence concluded with this, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
So too it happened in ancient Babylon:
12 There are certain Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego; these men, O king, have not paid due regard to you. They do not serve your gods or worship the gold image which you have set up.”
When Nebuchadnezzar heard this he:
[G]ave the command to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. So they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good! But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?”
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”
Third: Two wrongs do not make a right.
King Nebuchadnezzar made two mistakes as outlined in Daniel 3. The first was creating the golden image, making government God. The second mistake was not learning from his first mistake and ordaining one monotheistic religion superior to all other religions.
After Nebuchadnezzar cast Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego into his fiery furnace something amazing happened, the three were not burned. Then Daniel 3 tells us:
29 Therefore I [Nebuchadnezzar] make a decree that any people, nation, or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap; because there is no other God who can deliver like this.”
Nebuchadnezzar created a new “state religion.” The King went from worshiping his golden image to worshiping the God of Abraham. Creating a state religion violates the First Amendment’s Establishment clause, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
I believe that our Founding Fathers understood the lessons of Daniel 3. They understood that none of the three branches of the newly created federal government must have the power to create either golden images or a single religion that is superior to all others.
This is why freedom of religion is the foundation from which is built the house that contains freedom of speech, the right to assemble and the right to petition government.
Without freedom of religion nothing else matters.