Congressman Russell Takes a Stand to Preserve the Free Exercise of Religion
Washington, DC – Congressman Steve Russell (OK-5) spoke on the House floor this afternoon in defense of the free exercise of religion, as stated in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. Excerpts from his speech, as prepared, are below:
“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 redress of grievances.
I am saddened Mr. Speaker that in our current day, the greatest assault on the free exercise of religion is being perpetuated by those most responsible to protect it—those who 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 they risk their lives to defend.
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 2000 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 and ambiguous executive guidance.”
“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 in the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1990 Americans with Disability Act. You would have thought I had
killed someone’s mother. Instead of upholding the free exercise clause of the 1st Amendment, we have now seen this body continue its assault on faith in America. It is not enough to level accusations of injustice. 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 America.
We are accused of hatred, called out as shameful, 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.”
“Like our forebears, I cannot be silent. My faith directs that I act with love and civility and gentlemanly manner. My optimism is secured by eternal hope and everlasting truth. My conscious speaks to God’s eternal Being so I am without excuse. His love and mercy cannot be separated from those that answer His call. And 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.’
And 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 Honor.’ 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 LORD.’ 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?”