Skip to main content
Listen to Acton content on the go by downloading the Radio Free Acton podcast! Listen Now
State Religion


Secularization and moral relativism are rapidly transforming a nation that once embodied the best ideals of Western freedom based on a Biblical worldview. And while secularization of society has reached new heights in America, we will always have religion and faith as strong components. An important question is how healthy of a role will faith play in the public square and who is given a seat at the table?

At the 2014 Evangelical Leadership summit sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute, Russell Moore declared: "If we do not have religious liberty, it does not mean we have a purely secular state, but it means we have a more religious state." Moore, who was interviewed in the Fall 2013 issue of Religion & Liberty, explained that we are headed to "a state that is dictating religious terms."

Language like "freedom of worship," only further ghettoizes religious liberty by walling it off inside churches and other houses of worship so as not to interfere with cultural relativism – today's dominant state religion. The American framers warned against government compulsion of religion and set up a republic intent on protecting its free exercise. However, a repaganizing of the West demands that the Church be removed as a buffer between the individual and the state. We've come a long way since Martin Luther King, Jr., declared the Church the "conscience of the state."

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia summed up what the future holds when he wrote in his dissent in the striking down of the Defense of Marriage Act: that the court is now saying opposition to moral relativism equals "enemies to the human race." During the 1st Century reign of Nero, the Roman historian Tacitus noted that Christians were persecuted and killed for their "hatred against mankind."

That the new state religion is being pushed with missionary zeal is clearly an ominous sign for dissenters. In 2014, the public university system of California, which consists of 23 schools, is banning all InterVaristy Christian ministries from recognition as a student organization. Other schools are following California's lead. The crime of the dissenters is creedal Christianity. The same crime outlawed under paganism and the 20th Century rise of totalitarianism. An ironic twist since many University mottos proclaim the motto Veritas, which means "truth," reflected in Christ's I am statement: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life." Universities, an invention of European Christendom, now demand its persecution.

Those calling for political change in the country often don't realize the culture has largely passed them by. America has largely been a source for good, prosperity, and peace, but its current economic and cultural trajectory is one of decline, even if is not yet catastrophic.

It's likely that dark days are ahead for American Christians, but those who are true to their conscience and the Word may be able to reclaim a more powerful and magnified witness. Some of the methods of the American Civil Rights Movement serve as a model of dissent and peaceful disobedience. "One word of truth outweighs the world," declared Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

The church of the relativistic government is proving itself bankrupt. It has largely become bankrupt of protecting the very purpose of government, to protect natural rights. It's essential that the Church, which has the answers for what ails the culture, speaks up. The decline of America and the West has long been predicted and prophesied, but it's wise to echo the Protestant minister J. Vernon McGee, who told his listening audience at the height of the Red Menace: "It is dark in the world just now – never too dark for [a] child of God."

Ray Nothstine is editor of the Civitas Institute in Raleigh, North Carolina