By Lanie Rivera
Social improvement projects for impoverished people first requires the foundation of religious freedom within its country, said Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren at a Georgetown University Religious Freedom Project event yesterday.
Warren noted his worldwide healthcare work only flourished due to “the power of the church,” but all countries cannot receive the same treatment “because the religious liberty restrictions are ‘we don’t let churches do that.’ ”
So Warren accentuated the necessity of “private purity and public charity” because religious freedom means more than the freedom to worship. “My religion is caring for the poor and the sick, and the orphan and the sex-trafficker and all these different people,” said the 32-year evangelical megachurch pastor from Lake Forest, Calif.
This view of religion coincides with Warren’s PEACE plan, an initiative that merges spiritual and humanitarian efforts aimed to mobilize Christian response to worldly issues in which the “A” stands for assisting the poor.
In his church’s recent 40-day endeavor, three meals a day were served to the homeless community – a project that helped approximately 42,000 people.
Warren explained that religious liberty not only paves the way for the most effective social development programs such as this, but it also provided the foundation for all other human rights. If society condemns the basic Constitutional right of religious freedom, that makes all others are worthless.
“Without that right, no human being can be said to be living a fully human life,” agreed Thomas Farr, Director of the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown’s Berkley Center, at the event.
“Religious liberty is important for individuals whether they are believers or not, important for the health of every society and important for the success of every state,” Farr added.
Although a Christian pastor, Warren said religious liberty needed to be upheld by the combined efforts of all people, so Christians need to pursue common ground and freedom for all believers and non-believers, and repent for their silence in the face of religious injustice.
Marci Hamilton, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law who has previously refuted Warren’s views on religion in the social sphere, supported his emphasis on religious tolerance, but does not agree that Christianity established American basic freedoms.
“Our Framers borrowed from England, Europe and the ancients to craft our system. It works in part precisely because no one religion or tradition can claim superiority. In fact, this part of his message undermines his prophetic call for believers to respect each other,” Hamilton said.
But Warren stressed the need for an open marketplace of ideas to engage interfaith response to social issues where people “have to learn to disagree agreeably” because the decline of modern “civilization [is] losing it’s civility.”
In a statement regarding Hobby Lobby’s lawsuit in resistance to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services contraception mandate, Warren said the pursuit of religious autonomy “will likely become the civil rights movement of the decade.”