Payton Perspective: Exercising our right to religious freedom in the public square

During the recent debate over flying the LGBTQ rainbow flag at Antioch City Hall, I was most taken aback by the comments by one supporter of the effort. The lady literally said to the council, while directing her comments to those of faith in the audience, some who spoke against flying the “pride” flag, “You get to have freedom of your religion in the privacy of your own buildings.”

It’s not the first time I’ve heard that argument in someone’s effort to support what they claim to be the “separation of church and state”.

It was her way, and that of others, to attempt to silence those, mainly self-identified as Christians, to prevent them from arguing their point that the flying of the rainbow flag is an offense against the Bible and the Christian faith.

Her argument is completely hypocritical. What she’s basically saying is, Americans of faith are free to exercise it, but not publicly, and not have it   impact how they will be governed, while she and people on her side of the issue get to not only express themselves publicly, but have their views impact how we will be governed, and implemented into government policy and even law.

It’s ironic that she and her side complain that those on the other side of the issue are intolerant. Yet, her statement clearly shows her lack of tolerance of those with a different point of view.

Her statement is also completely false. The inalienable, God-given, and constitutionally protected freedom of religion – the first freedom and right enumerated in the Bill of Rights, because that’s what our nation was founded upon, going back to the Pilgrims in 1620 – can be exercised anywhere people of faith want to. That includes in the public square, specifically in public debate, discussion and decisions affecting all of us.

You can’t help but have how you believe, your views, and your faith impact how you will live and how you want to be governed in a democratic republic, such as the United States.

In fact, in this country we get to have what we believe implemented into law. It’s been said that every piece of legislation is a piece of morality, determining right from wrong, or what’s better or best about an issue.

Finally, there is no separation of church and state in the Constitution. The Bill of Rights are limitations and restrictions on the power of government, not the other way around. It’s actually separation of state from church. While there is not to be a state-run church or religion, as there was and is in England, the Church, i.e. people of faith, can influence how we are to be governed.

If you go back and study it, you will learn that Thomas Jefferson’s argument in his letter to the Danbury Baptists wasn’t about which religion’s views would be dominant in our government, but about which Christian Protestant denomination would be the dominant one in our federal government. Nevertheless, we don’t have or want a government-run church.

While flying the rainbow flag was a policy issue for the council to decide, the argument that those of us who still believe we are “One Nation Under God”, as is written in our Pledge of Allegiance, and that our nation was formed “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence” as our Founding Fathers wrote in the Declaration of Independence, aren’t allowed to share our views and values based on our faith, and want and can have them implemented by the government, is simply wrong.

The battle over whose views and values will dominate public discourse and decisions will continue. But those of us who are people of faith will not be marginalized, silenced or forced into the privacy of our buildings in order to exercise our freedom of religion – as Christians, Muslims and others of faith are forced to do in Communist China.

6 Comments to “Payton Perspective: Exercising our right to religious freedom in the public square”

  1. Michael Sagehorn says:

    Allen- The flying of flags by any government agency is what my journalism professor, now deceased, called a “pseudo event”. It really isn’t news- it’s a flag.

    Where I think you arguments are weakened is when the faith and beliefs of the Framers are used to support a faith based public policy. Examine the backgrounds of both the signers of the DOI and the Constitution. Most were deists and educated men and relished the learnings and healthy skepticism of faith. A good book to read is. – Sworn on the Alter of God- A Religious Biography of Thomas Jefferson, by Professor Edwin Gaustad

    Simply flying the LGBT flag is not the remedy for some of the students, many Christians themselves, with gender identity that candidly as a teacher I see every day. Creating a no tolerance policy to bullying and violence against all students makes sense. If it takes a flag to change this behavior in the public sphere it’s fine with me. My own faith, Episcopal, accepts all kinds.

    • Publisher says:

      Thank you for taking the time to read my column and write a response.
      However, you are incorrect. Most of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were Christians. – and Also, here are quotes from many of the Founding Fathers about faith, their faith, and government –
      But, my editorial wasn’t about their faith, or whether or not to fly the LGBTQ flag. It was about the fact that Americans can exercise their God-given, inalienable, constitutionally protected right to freedom of religion in the public square and speak out at public meetings and have their views and values implemented into government policy, actions and even law, and are not relegated to do so in the privacy of their buildings, as the one speaker stated.
      I also disagree with you, that it’s not news. The first time and frankly anytime such a controversial thing occurs and brings out diverse opinions and viewpoints, it’s news. Flying the rainbow flag in Antioch is controversial, especially since it was being done for the first time, and, as I wrote offensive to Christians for what it represents.
      All Christians are sinners, as are all people, and have some weakness toward one sin or another in their lives. Many people claim to be a Christian. But, a true Christian/follower of Jesus must acknowledge, confess and turn away from their sins in order to be saved from them through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, death, burial and resurrection, and not continue to willfully commit them. They will work with the help of the Holy Spirit to resist temptation and avoid sin. According to the Bible, any sex outside of a marriage between a man and a woman is a sin, whether it be heterosexual or homosexual.
      As for your students or anyone with gender identity/confusion issues, they need counseling and prayer, not encouragement in their confusion and delusion. Flying a flag is not the same as nor is it necessary to enforce a zero tolerance policy against bullying by one student against another.
      My faith – Christianity – accepts everyone, but it requires a change in heart which results in a change in choices and behavior because the person will want to please God and follow His ways and commands.
      Allen Payton, Publisher

      • tom says:

        Well said, Allen… raising that flag up a pole along side our state and hallowed stars and stripes is an affront to conservative values of this country. This flag is symbolic of pride and lifestyle contrary to God’s law, the very sins by which the angels fell… but at what point do we tolerate the intolerant?

  2. Bill M says:


    It’s not a matter of what your church accepts.

    • Michael Sagehorn says:

      I’ll send you a copy, Allen. It’s an interesting read. Flags and symbols don’t bother me. They make teaching history easier.

  3. Loretta Sweatt says:

    I think we should be flying flags that show our similarities and not our differences. I dislike the word “Diversity” it is obvious and redundant. We are all different and alike at the same time. It might be a good idea to fly a flag at schools that represent every student being treated with respect, kindness and courtesy. Everyone wants to be treated well. Students could be taught that being nice to someone else can actually make a person feel good about themselves and maybe make them happy too. The American Flag and the California Flag show that we are all Californians and we all live in the United States of America. That’s enough. Do we have a flag that says we are all good citizens of Antioch? I feel what we share in common as human beings is more important than our differences.

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