By: Marisa Jorge
The concept of “religious liberty” dates all the way back to the times of the Old Testament Israel. This Israel was a ‘theocracy” that recognized God as its Supreme lawgiver. According to the book, Christianity and the Constitution by John Endosome, the word theocracy originates form two Greek words,”theos” for God, and “kratos” for ruler. These words together mean, “God is the ruler of the nation.” During these times, government functions were separated from religious functions.
The Old Testament gives several examples of prominent religious and political figures being punished by God for their disregard of separate functions between church and state. First, Samuel 1:13 explains that Saul used the function of priesthood to offer sacrifices himself. As a result of his actions, God permanently cut his line off from the kingship of Israel. Second, 2 Chronicle 26:16:21 explains that King Uzziah tried to burn incense on the holy altar. As a result, God smote him with leprosy, which remained with him for the rest of his life.
In the New Testament, Christ further validates religious liberty. In Luke 20:25, He distinguishes the church and state as two separate kingdoms. This passage states “[r]ender therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are Gods” (Luke 20:25).
All of these examples establish that there is only one supreme lawgiver, God. The supreme lawgiver is the only power that has the jurisdiction to “rule” over both spiritual and secular matters. Every single individual who is a part of a society that recognizes this supreme jurisdiction has “no right” to interfere with it.