When Adolph Hitler took power in Germany, he recognized immediately that the major threat to his tyrannical designs would come from the church. If he could neutralize the voice of the church, he correctly reasoned, there would be no one else to stand in his way.
Consequently, he immediately cranked up the Nazi propaganda machine to develop slogans designed to silence the voice of the church, slogans which were then relentlessly hammered into the minds of gullible Germans and their pastors, who meekly complied.
Hitler crafted two slogans in particular, and these became the bulldozers he used to push the church to the margins of the culture and so squelch its freedom to speak truth to power that the liberty of the entire world was soon threatened. Liberty was only preserved at the cost of millions of lives, including hundreds of thousands of America's finest young men.
These slogans, mind you, do not come from the United States Constitution or from Thomas Jefferson or from the mind of the Founding Fathers. These slogans come straight from the mind of Adolph Hitler, and bear a sobering similarity to the mantras of the ACLU, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State and the Freedom from Religion Foundation.
Here they are, straight from the mind of Adolph Hitler:
"Politics do not belong in the Church."
"The Church must be separate from the State."
If they sound eerily familiar, it will only be because you instinctively recognize in these words the voice of tyranny and repression.
Hitler himself drove the pilings even deeper when he said, in December of 1934, "The Nazi State will however not tolerate under any circumstances any new or any continued political activity of the denominations."
In the same speech, he added these ominous words: "But we will ensure the purging from our public life of all those priests who have mistaken their profession and who ought to have been politicians and not pastors."
The objective of the Nazi regime was virtually identical to the agenda of today's ACLU: Contain the voice of the church within the four walls of its buildings, turning them into nothing more than echo chambers, and punish any effort of church leaders to make their voices heard in the public square.
Further, in a manner that is strikingly reminiscent of efforts to purge any references to God from our public systems of education, Josef Goebbels said the following in August, 1935:"To educate the young people into religious ways may perhaps be the task of the Church, but to educate the young in politics is very much our affair. The youth belongs to us and we will yield them to no one."
All church youth groups were banned in favor of the Hitler Youth, which became the only legal youth organization in the country. Churches were no longer permitted to hold any meetings in public venues. They were instead locked up inside their sanctuaries, forbidden to speak their message outside the four walls of their church buildings.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
The current restraint on the freedom of the church in America to speak truth to political power was imposed in 1954 through the efforts of then Sen. Lyndon Johnson. Johnson, incensed at some non-profit organizations for opposing his most recent run for office, suspended the sword of the IRS over the necks of any religious leader who would dare to stand for justice and truth in the nation's political life.
And so today's church is still paying the price for this small-minded politician's petty and vengeful ability to use the power of the federal government to punish his adversaries.
Prior to 1954, churches had the freedom to be as engaged in matters of public policy as they chose. They were free to be actively engaged without fear of punishment, and free to be completely uninvolved in political matters if they so chose. That, my friends, is liberty, both of the religious and political kind.
While churches may still today distribute non-partisan voter guides, and pastors are free to speak to the moral issues of the day, watchdogs from the ACLU and other leftist groups are lurking around every corner, looking to pounce on any religious leader who would dare use his influence to help shape the direction of America's public policy.
Just this week, an IRS investigation has been requested by Americans United into a pastor who endorsed Barack Obama from his pulpit last Sunday. In a free country, he should be free to do so without fear that his voice will be strangled by the federal government.
Judicial activism has turned the First Amendment on its head, and the very provision intended by the Framers to protect religious liberty is now being used to repress it.
The remedy? First, Congress should repeal LBJ's onerous 1954 IRS restriction. Second, we must elect a president who will appoint justices to the Supreme Court who understand the original intent of the First Amendment and will restore constitutional freedoms of religion and speech in full to America's churches.
Then, and only then, can we be assured that true American liberty will be preserved for us, for our children, and for their children after them.
Nazi Persecution of The Churches, 1933-45," by J.S. Conway, Basic Books, 1968)