Recently we observed a National Day of Prayer and I was asked to speak at a gathering that day. My staff thought it would be of interest to many of you if our weekly column would be excerpts from the speech. Hope you enjoy it.
I understand that not everyone I represent in the 3rd Congressional District will agree with me 100 percent of the time, and I am not one to wear my religion on my sleeve. But one of the many great things about our country is that we can agree to disagree with our politicians without fear of retribution. And we are also a nation of religious freedom in which a person can openly discuss his faith, again without fear of retribution.
As a matter of faith, I hold dear certain principles that serve me well as a husband, a father, a grandfather, an elected representative and a Christian. Call them principles of faith. And while I am willing to compromise on the issues in Congress, I am not willing to compromise my principles and values.
I believe that a government that governs least governs best. I believe in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. I believe in the sanctity of life and marriage, and the importance of family. I believe in the Constitution of the United States. I believe that we are a nation of laws built on Judeo-Christian principles.
When I think about faith, I am reminded of our first president, George Washington. In 1755, a young George Washington survived a vicious battle during the French and Indian War in which his horse was twice shot out from under him and bullets took the lives of most of the officers around him while four bullets pierced his coat but not his body. I also think about Washington kneeling in prayer during the grim winter of 1777 – 1778 at Valley Forge. With that background, it follows that a dozen years later in 1789, in proclaiming the first Thanksgiving, Washington wrote “it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits and humbly implore his protection and favor.” Washington’s simple words of humility serve as an inspiration to me to pray often as the challenges of life bear down on me. We all face our own challenges but I believe God never gives us more than we can handle. And sometimes it helps us all to humble ourselves and ask God for his guidance.
In Congress, there are many of us that attend various prayer and religious services during the course of our week. One of my favorite quotes from those services that I like to share about religion in American comes from President Ronald Reagan: “We need religion as a guide. We need it because we are imperfect and our government needs the church because only those humble enough to admit they’re sinners can bring to democracy the tolerance it requires in order to survive.” He continued: “… without God, democracy will not and cannot endure. If we ever forget that we’re one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”
As our nation moves forward and we prepare for more challenges, we must defend against those who want to take faith and prayer out of our schools and out of our lives. Let us not forget that the Declaration of Independence mentions God four times and that our Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. As President Dwight D. Eisenhower once said in a warning that seems more appropriate than ever in today’s world: “A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”