Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 20, 1961
NUMBER 49, PAGE 1,12b

Religious Freedom

P. J. Casebolt, Akron, Ohio

Many are allowed to pursue their religious activities, because they practice little that would incur persecution anyway. These compromise and fraternize in such a way that they could enjoy "freedom" almost anywhere at any time. Yet, even these have not freedom, for by yielding themselves to every demand placed upon them, they become the servants of those whom they obey. (Rom. 6:16)

But to those who adhere strictly to the teaching of God, religious freedom is an evasive thing. It becomes something that is always just over the next hill, or the mythical "pot of gold at the end of the rainbow." Even as Ponce De Leon searched in vain for his fountain of youth, so many search for a religious Utopia, where they will be free from oppression in any form. Even when it appears that such has been found, it turns out to be a mirage, or else is only temporary in its nature. Often, it is surprising to see the direction from which the persecution comes, because the subjects of oppression become the oppressors all too often.


Israel knew that it was to be deprived of religious freedom. The seed of Abraham sojourned in Egypt, and was evil entreated four hundred years. (Acts 7:6) Another notable period of bondage was endured at the hands of the Babylonians.

But it was this same nation of Israel that became one of the most ardent persecutors of all time. Jesus indicted them, "Ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in." (Matt. 23:13) The crowning act of their intolerance was portrayed in their untiring persecution and unashamed crucifixion of Jesus Christ. One young Jew present when Stephen was stoned, was devoting his life to the task of pursuing, binding, and committing others to prison. (Acts 22:4) Thus, the prophetic statement of Jesus was fulfilled, "The time cometh that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service." (Jno. 16:2)


Hardly had the Jews ceased to be an effective persecutor, when Pagan Rome took his place. Millions ended their quest for religious freedom by finding death instead. They were thrown to wild beasts, burned alive, sawn asunder. The world was not worthy of these, yet they suffered.

Papal Rome continued this religious bigotry and intolerance, and now possesses one of the bloodiest records attainable for depriving others of religious liberty. At every opportunity, she identifies herself with the perpetrators of the Inquisition, while denouncing and berating others for "bigotry" and "intolerance." It could well be said of the Catholic Church today, "Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers." (Matt. 23:32)


Finally, people could stand no more. Led by Martin Luther, organized protest was made against corrupt Catholicism. But these same "Protestants," who fought so hard and paid so dearly for religious freedom, immediately changed from the role of the persecuted to that of persecutor. In fact, religious freedom became so scarce in Europe, and particularly in England, that many began sailing for America to worship and serve God without fear of being maligned and molested.

The Puritans

As the bow of the Mayflower parted the tempestuous waves of the North Atlantic, surely man's quest for religious freedom would be satisfied as quickly as the voyage away from all possibility of religious persecution? Would not the intervening miles assure them of the freedom heretofore unattainable?

If such thoughts were embraced, and surely they were, they were to be dashed upon the rocky coast of reality hardly before the Mayflower's anchor had settled to the bottom of New England waters. Even while these Puritans were establishing a thanksgiving feast in commemoration of their accomplished mission, trials for "heresy" and "witchcraft" were already in session. People were being denied the very thing for which they had suffered untold hardships. The persecution was mental as well as physical, but persecution nevertheless.

Again, people began migrating, looking for that freedom of religion which was always evasive, always just out of reach. Roger Williams fled to Rhode Island seeking that which he thought had been found in Massachusetts. Brigham Young led a procession that stretched from one horizon to the other as they crossed the Western plains, to practice the Mormons' interpretation of service and worship to God. But, before their "Zion" was built, and before the Mormon Temple could cast the shadows of its spires across the Salt Lake regions, these people who claimed to be fleeing from persecution began to exact their own peculiar brand of religious intolerance. Those who dared protest any part of the system fathered by Joe Smith, or tried to escape its tenaciousness, were subjected to persecution that was little different from that practiced in past ages.

"We Be Brethren"

For the present, we need have no fear of extensive persecution in this country because of our religious convictions. But, how long will it last? Without doubt, certain groups in this country would abolish religious liberty for all except themselves, were they given power to do so. We doubt not they are trying to effect this, and will continue to try.

But there is another area of religious intolerance that should trouble us. All the while some are saying "we be brethren," unconcealed efforts are being made to damage the names and reputations of other brethren. Quarantines and boycotts are the order of the day. Concerted efforts are being made to put brethren out of business, and preachers out of work. While some boast of their institutional benevolence, they blush not to impose hardships upon preachers, their wives and children by trying to hurt them financially and morally. Their support is cut off without warning; they are left to their own resources.

What if there were no civil laws to protect us from bodily harm? Would these, our own brethren, suit action to their words and threats? If they do this in the "green tree," what would they do in the "dry?" "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies." (Matt. 15:19) "Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer...." (1 Jno. 3:15)

Religious Freedom

What is this thing called religious freedom; where is it to be found? Search as you will, dear friend, I doubt that you will ever find it completely while living among the sons of men. Even those who desire it for themselves, will readily deny it to others. A man's foes may even be "they of his own house." (Matt. 10:36)

But do not give up the search. I have heard of a place, I have heard of a country, where there is complete, eternal freedom. But we must declare plainly that we seek such a city, that our names may be registered in the "Lamb's book of life." (Rev. 21:27) Once we are safely within the gates, we have the assurance that "there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie." (Ibid) Brethren, this will keep some of us out, unless we change our ways!

There, we shall be free from sorrow, oppression, fear and hate. We shall be free, absolutely and eternally, to praise God, and his Son who set us free. "If the Son therefore 'shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." (Jno. 8:36)