Pastor Rick Warren stressed the importance of religious liberty to sustaining other basic freedoms during an interview at Georgetown University on February 12.
Warren, the founder and pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, highlighted how religious liberty is not only fundamental to what it means to be American—it is fundamental to what it means to be human. He argued that religious freedom “is the fundamental right on which all others are built; because if I don’t have the right to believe and practice what I believe, the freedom of speech, the freedom of assembly, those are worthless. It all starts with: do I have the right to make conscious moral decisions?”
For Warren, the call to religious liberty means solidarity with all faith traditions in America. To illustrate his point, Warren mentioned the ongoing Obamacare mandate debate that requires nearly all employers to provide insurance plans that include coverage at no cost to the insured for abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization—regardless of religious objection.
He asked, “Why would I force someone who has a conviction against [such coverage] to say, ‘You must do this?’” Warren compared forcing Catholic organizations to provide coverage for contraception or evangelical groups to provide coverage for abortion-inducing drugs to forcing Jewish delis to sell pork: “If they made a law next month that said all Jewish delis in Manhattan have to sell pork, I would be out in front, picketing and protesting with the rabbi.”
Warren also commented on last year’s Supreme Court’s decision in the Hosanna-Tabor case, which upheld the right of a religious organization to determine its own hiring standards. Drawing attention to the Court’s 9–0 vote in favor of religious liberty, Warren said, “I think that is a telling case—that even if you are conservative or liberal you have to stand up for religious liberty.”
Freedom of belief is at the very core of the American founding. That’s why, Pastor Warren argues, all Americans, regardless of faith, should stand up for religious liberty. It is what unites all people of faith, all Americans, and all human beings, making it worthy of its place as our first freedom.