Proposed Ballot Measure Claims to Strengthen Freedom of Religious Speech
Both the California and federal constitution are explicit on the subject of religious freedom:
“Free exercise and enjoyment of religion without discrimination or preference are guaranteed,” reads the 12-word declaration in Article I, Section 4 of California’s constitution. With only this 21-word exception:
“This liberty of conscience does not excuse acts that are licentious or inconsistent with the peace or safety of the state.”
Additionally, says the third of the four sentences in the section:
Counting the fourth sentence, which says religious beliefs don’t prevent someone from being a witness or a juror, the entire section totals 64 words.
There is no equivocation in its protection of religious freedom.
Pastor Allan Esses of Yes Jesus is Lord.org in Irvine wants the state to be more specific in its protection of religious speech. He’s introduced a constitutional amendment to add a second section to Section 4.
Esses and the backers of his initiative have until December 2 to collect 807,615 valid signatures to place the proposal before voters in 2014.
Collecting that many signatures is a daunting task even for well-heeled interest groups willing to spend several millions dollars to hire paid signature gatherers.
The section the amendment would add to Section 4 of the state constitution is 236 words long. The net increase in Section 4, however, would be only 215 words since the amendment would strike the sentence in the state constitution saying that religious freedom does not excuse conduct that’s licentious or counter to “peace and safety.”
At Yes Jesus is Lord.org, which says its reason for existence is passage of the amendment, backers say the change in the state constitution is necessary to “guarantee that we may freely share the love and hope of Jesus Christ and the full counsel of God’s Word, the Bible.”
Proponents fear that without the clarification of their constitutional amendment “we shall suffer further erosion and abridging of our constitutional rights, of freedom of religion and freedom of speech.”
Much of the proposed amendment lists topics a person could express an opinion on “using any part of the Bible’s content as authority” without being prosecuted.
The 74-word list includes “salvation, heaven” and “sin at any public or private gathering, school, church or other place of worship.”
While the amendment doesn’t define “sin,” the clear inference drawn from the amendment’s stated intent is that the meaning of “sin” can readily be found in the Bible.
More specifically, Californians would be free to “speak, pray, write, discuss, publish, preach, teach, hear, share (their) faith, to proclaim Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father, engage in street witnessing, distribute written material or otherwise communicate any views” on the following topics:
“Abortion, adultery, alcoholism, anti-Semitism, astrology, bestiality, bigamy, bisexuality, blasphemy, civil unions, coarse jesting, cohabitation, coveting, cross-dressing, cults, drugs, drunkenness, extortion, euthanasia, evil, evolution, fornication, gay marriage, gender identity, hell, heresy, homosexuality, idolaters, idolatry, incest, lying, marriage, murder, necromancy, other religions, pornography, psychics, rape, reviling, sex, sexual immorality, sexual orientation, sodomy, sorcery, stealing, transgender, trans-sexuality, witchcraft” and “yoga.”
Curious as to what the Bible might say about cross-dressing, California’s Capitol found the following pronouncement in Deuteronomy, Chapter 22, Verse 5:
“A woman shall not wear a man’s garment nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.”
As to yoga, biblical quotations are more oblique. Yoga isn’t specifically condemned except as part of a belief system counter to the one in the Bible. Yoga, one writer says, is premised on the concept of an impersonal God while Christianity isn’t. Yoga’s physical benefits can’t be divorced from the blasphemous tenets its practice is based on, several other writers conclude.
Yes Jesus is Lord.org includes this pitch by Pastor Chuck Smith of the Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa:
Pastor Smith and the Yes Jesus is Lord.org website don’t cite any specific laws muzzling their ability to express their views. Nor do they offer any examples of statutes that supersede Section 4’s existing 12-word guarantee of religious freedom and the protections of Article I, Section 2 (a)’s 35 words:
“Every person may freely speak, write and publish his or her sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of this right. A law may not restrain or abridge liberty of speech or press.”
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