By Melvin Adams
One of the amazing things about this country is every citizen has the potential to influence legislation in ways that can bring tremendous good to all. Few things have more impact on our daily lives than legislation. On the issue of education, this is definitely true.
Unfortunately, few Americans actually use their opportunities to influence legislation positively. I challenge you to think differently about legislation and realize that your actions can bring much positive change.
First, let me be clear. Good legislation is NOT the ultimate answer for America, God is. Only a spiritual renewal will bring substantive and lasting change for the betterment of our families, communities, and nation. But legislation will also be part of the framework of that change as it happens.
What I mean by legislation
When our forefathers formed this nation, they wisely understood that laws were an essential underpinning for a people seeking freedom. Laws establish the extent and boundaries of liberty, for freedom only functions when it does not infringe on the liberty of another. So, from the very beginning, the United States was designed to be a nation governed by the rule of law. These laws were not to be established by decree but by the will and consent of the people. They were to be formed and enforced by the people’s representatives.
The framework for this form of government is found in the book of Exodus from guidance Moses received from God and people for his leadership of Israel. God established the Law for the liberated children of Israel when he presented them with the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. These Laws still remain an almost universal standard for basic human governance in the world today. In early America, they were inscribed on the walls and halls of courthouses, taught in school houses, and preached from pulpits of church houses across the land! How times have changed. Why is that?
Legislation is always a response to something
Our Constitutional Fathers established three branches of government: the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches. They also formed three levels of that government: the Federal, State, and Local branches. This design was intentional, ensuring a healthy balance of power by adequate exposure to and input from the people.
They rightly understood that government and law reflect the moral character of the culture, and culture is always a direct reflection of the moral condition of the people. Culture is what the people embrace as a life practice. Government and law respond to ensure it.
Concerns have been expressed about this process
There are volumes of documented reflection on this reality dating from the time of our nation’s founding to the present. I illustrate with only a few statements chosen from early American leaders who share my last name.
John Adams (Signer of the Declaration of Independence and Second President of the United States): “It is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue.”
“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
“The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If “Thou shalt not covet,” and “Thou shalt not steal,” were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society, before it can be civilized or made free.”
John Quincy Adams (Sixth President of the United States): “The law given from Sinai was a civil and municipal as well as a moral and religious code; it contained many statutes … of universal application—laws essential to the existence of men in society, and most of which have been enacted by every nation which ever professed any code of laws.”
“There are three points of doctrine the belief of which forms the foundation of all morality. The first is the existence of God; the second is the immortality of the human soul; and the third is a future state of rewards and punishments. Suppose it possible for a man to disbelieve either of these three articles of faith and that man will have no conscience, he will have no other law than that of the tiger or the shark. The laws of man may bind him in chains or may put him to death, but they never can make him wise, virtuous, or happy.”
Samuel Adams (Signer of the Declaration of Independence): “Neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt.”
These quotes and many more may be found at Wallbuilders.com and other reputable sites.
Legislative trends today
A quick look at our culture and the laws being passed to support it is shocking. The illustrated concerns of early American statesmen have proven to be prophetic! But that said, the system they established is still largely intact and can be used for good—if we will.
Think about it for a minute. Our legislative system is designed to ensure the will of the people. So how is it that same-sex marriage has become the law of the land? How is it that our schools have become laboratories of experimentation in sexuality, and legislation is now being formed to ensure that teenage boys who decide they want to be girls have the right to shower with your daughter in the public school locker room (case in Illinois)? The opposite is also true (case in Virginia). The answer is really quite simple.
A small but vocal contingent of the population began a relentless campaign to move the boundary of the freedoms of others in order to extend their own. This is the essential pattern of every moral and cultural movement in America. PBS published an interesting timeline of the “gay” struggle (1924-2011). 1 It is quite informative. Legislative action has only escalated since the completion of this documentary. However, the latest research still states that the actual number of Americans living this lifestyle is at or below 4%! 2
The ongoing struggle over the culture of life and abortion has a similar story. A minority population moved the boundary of where its rights begin and where those of others, especially the unborn, end. This reality adds clarity to the statement attributed to Edmund Burke, which says, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
But let’s look at the other side of the moral spectrum. There you find noble struggles including those for the civil rights of ethnic minorities (13th, 14th, 15th amendments to the Constitution), women’s suffrage (19th amendment), school choice, and many other significant ideas. There we find the same process to be true. When ideas are pursued and people (no matter how few at the beginning) rally to them, culture begins to change, and legislation always follows. So we conclude that our American system is not faulty, only the will and moral character of citizens who are content to let evil triumph.
Positive legislative trends—especially in the realm of education
There are positive trends in legislation related to education. Almost all are directly tied to the state of public education in this country. I will mention only two, but both are significant.
1. Legislation supporting homeschools
Homeschooling is the fastest growing education movement in America today. A few short years ago, people who chose not to put their children in public schools and wanted to teach their kids themselves were literally at risk of losing them to the state. This is far from true in most states today because of legislation that makes accommodation for homeschooling. More support is needed, but things are moving in the right direction.
2. Legislation supporting parental choice in education
Huge progress is taking place across the country by states that are passing laws that enable parents to choose where their child attends school. This is especially significant in that at least 14 states have now passed creative legislation enabling funding for educational alternatives outside of public and public charter education. This includes options that can provide funding to help students attend Christian schools!
It is truly exciting to see this progress. Parents should have control over educational choices for their children, and taxpayers should be given greater opportunity to support education they feel best serves their communities. This is legislation we should be working to see passed in every state. Renewanation participates in a couple of such state programs to support parents who choose Christian education for their children. Contact us at renewanation.org to learn more.
A couple of true stories
Many people don’t understand the significant impact they can have if they will get personally involved.
In Virginia, the battle over school choice has been going on for years. As in most states, nothing happens fast in Virginia politics. A friend decided to get involved, so he began to speak out whenever possible and connect with legislators who were interested in promoting school choice legislation. He visited with them, learned their interests and the challenges they faced with bills being proposed, and he shared his ideas with them. In 2012, pro school choice legislation passed in Virginia in the form of a Tax Credit Program. The problem was the bill had practical challenges for implementation. My friend continued to talk to legislators and in the 2013 session, significant improvements were passed on the original bill. A leading aide to the Senator who introduced the changes told my friend, “The Senator took your concerns about the original bill and your proposed changes to help it and introduced them in a bill that modified and improved the law.” As a result of this bill, several thousand students are now receiving Christian worldview education.
In Alabama in 2013, legislation supporting school choice by the Alabama House and Senate was stopped by a court injunction. The approved bills were not able to move on to the governor for his signature. Knowing that similar court action had stopped a bill in Colorado a year earlier but had been overruled by the Colorado Supreme Court, a friend of mine sent emails of encouragement to every conservative member of the Alabama House and Senate and shared the Colorado precedent with them. Within a week, the Alabama High Courts had addressed the matter, and the governor signed the bills into law!
The point of these stories is that we live in a country where citizens can have a significant influence on legislation—if we will. I encourage you to step forward and affect change through legislation.
Steps you can take to help shape good legislation
Stop cursing the darkness, and let your light shine.
Educate yourself on critical matters reflected in your culture in light of truth, particularly biblical truth.
Share what you discover, and rally your friends, your neighbors, and as many people as you can around that truth.
Get to know your local elected representatives and the legislators in your state who may share your values and can help support them with laws.
Understand that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against spiritual wickedness” (Ephesians 6:12).
Seek God’s wisdom, and work to honor Him for the good of all. He will help you do it!
1. “Timeline: Milestones in the American Gay Rights Movement” PBS.org, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/timeline/stonewall.
2. Volokh, Eugene. “What percentage of the U.S. population is gay, lesbian or bisexual?” Washingtonpost.com, July 15, 2014. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/07/15/what-percentage-of-the-u-s-population-is-gay-lesbian-or-bisexual.
Brody, Ben. “Americans Vastly Overestimate Size of Gay and Lesbian Population” Bloomberg.com, May 22, 2015. http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-05-22/americans-vastly-overestimate-size-of-lgbt-population.
Volume 8 Issue 1 - The Renewanation Review