Religious Freedom and the Peace Pentagon
Prior to his death, President James Madison prepared one final message to the country he had helped found. With the U.S. Constitution as his greatest gift to us, he also left us with a posthumous warning which he entitled “Advice to My Country.” It reads in pertinent part:
As this advice, if it ever see the light will not do it till I am no more, it may be considered as issuing from the tomb, where truth alone can be respected …. [F]rom the experience of one who has served his country in various stations … and adhered through his life to the cause of liberty … [t]he advice closest to my heart and deepest in my conviction is that the Union of the States be cherished and perpetuated. Let the open enemy to it be regarded as a Pandora with her box opened; and the disguised one, as the Serpent creeping with his deadly wiles into Paradise.[Emphasis added]
An open enemy is easy to identify, as he comes bearing nothing but treason on his lips and uses the most overt language possible. However, a disguised usurper is much harder to discern, as his views may be shrouded in half-truths, couched in the semblance of propriety, or based on populist fear. Indeed, such a misguided creature may not even be aware of his own blindness, failing to comprehend the dangerous ramifications of his position.
On June 10, 2010, I appeared before the Grayson County Board of Supervisors seeking final approval for a special use permit to build Oracle’s Peace Pentagon – a place of inter-faith education and worship. Our permit already had been approved by the local planning commission. Thus, the hearing before the Board should have been nothing more than mere formality, since the project falls squarely within the uses permitted along the New River. Nevertheless, after a string of local Christian ministers barraged the Board with claims that Oracle is a cult, that I am a heretic, and that the Peace Pentagon would endanger the morality of Grayson County residents, the Board succumbed to the onslaught. Here is the local newspaper’s account of the hearing:
Oracle’s Mission Statement is an adaptation of Virginia’s Act for the Establishment of Religious Freedom, which was authored by Thomas Jefferson, sponsored by James Madison, passed by the Virginia General Assembly in 1786, and remains to this day a Virginia statute (See http://religiousfreedom.lib.virginia.edu/sacred/vaact.html). How ironic that Oracle’s appeal of the Board’s decision may be properly based on our own Mission Statement …
More ironic, though, is the notion vigorously asserted by some of the Grayson County Christian ministers that a place of inter-faith understanding constitutes a threat to their community. James Madison dedicated his life to religious freedom, in part, due to his childhood memories of seeing Baptist ministers imprisoned for preaching their “heretical” interpretations of the Holy Bible.
In searching my soul and seeking the advice of those whom I respect, I have gravely concluded that an appeal in this matter is necessary, if not obligatory. A teaching moment has presented itself, one that underscores the very reason why The Oracle Institute was formed. May all those with “ears to hear” join Oracle in our stand for religious freedom – the very principle upon which this great nation was founded.
And so, reluctantly, I find myself once again dusting off my law degree and using it in Grayson County, wherein all I wish to do is spread messages of Truth, Love, and Light. Yet, just as all good dogs go to heaven, so may the Good Samaritan … and the enlightened lawyer:
There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test Jesus and said, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus replied, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?”
[The legal scholar] answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.”
Jesus replied to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.”
The Gospel of Luke 10:25