At a recent meeting of a Republican county committee, I was stopped by a gentleman who asked, "Why do Republicans insist on including God in every meeting? If you start every meeting with a prayer and a scripture reading, then you're going to alienate every atheist who believes all the other Republican policies."
Well, sir, we never intend to alienate anyone. Our vision for the Republican Party of Arkansas is a unified front of conservatism dedicated to seeing Republican numbers grow in elected office at every level of government.
But we do stand firm in the sacred duty we have as Americans--and yes, as Republicans--to recognize the author and creator of our most valued of liberties. Without that creator, there is no platform to defend. From our faith in God Almighty, we derive our principles of life, individual liberty, and limited government.
The most recent Arkansas Republican Party Platform, approved in 2020, states as its first principle, "the power of faith in God Almighty," and the Preamble continues by asserting, "God is the source of our rights, and they are protected by imperfect individuals who rely on their God-given gifts to serve their neighbors."
This language merely echoes that of the American founders when they stated in the Declaration of Independence, "they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
We believe that it is no accident that life is the first among this list enumerated by our founders. We hold fast in our defense of all human life as ordained and breathed by God, regardless of whether that life has been born or not.
The Declaration's first paragraph also appeals to the "laws of nature and nature's God." This knowledge of the Enlightenment principle of natural rights was firmly placed in a concept of justice which was authored by an active and personal God.
The founders understood that a government which shirks responsibility to this God-ordained justice or forgets God as the source of its power will be doomed to injustice, tyranny, and ultimate failure. This knowledge in the American founders is what prompted their concession in the Declaration of Independence that it would be the right and the duty of the people to throw off such a tyranny should it arise.
It is from this that many founding fathers rested their ideas of limited self-government upon, realizing the mutual responsibility of government to the defense of individual liberty and of the governed to maintain and pursue a virtuous society.
One of the nation's leading heroes of limited government was Patrick Henry, that Virginia legislator and orator perhaps best known for saying, "Give me liberty, or give me death." A devout evangelical Christian, Henry wowed a 1774 gathering of the Virginia legislature when he drafted a resolution to set aside a day of fasting and prayer for "Divine Assistance" for their neighboring colonies facing attack by the British. He believed that "the morally elevating influence of Christianity" was necessary to preserve the newly formed republican government.
Henry had quite a legal and political career in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and it was his rhetoric which influenced the drafting of the Bill of Rights into the Constitution. He was among the first to sound the alarm on what uncontrolled growth of a centralized national power could do to the rights which are held so dear by local communities and individuals.
Henry understood, like many of the founders, that a Bill of Rights which limited the power of the government was necessary to preserve the rights of individuals. Without those enumerated limitations on government, liberty would be trampled under the hell-fired hoofbeats of tyranny.
Now, there is a growing belief that our founding concepts of justice, equality, and rights are fluid, abstract things which are defined only by social construct. By removing God's authorship of these rights, they degrade altogether.
Under this government-authored approach, rights may change with the whims of each generation. Republicans understand through their faith that humans are fallible, and therefore, our governments are fallible. While we have inherited a legacy of freedom and prosperity, the removal of God from our political discourse will only reap subjugation and poverty upon our children.
So why do we insist on bringing God into it? Why do we have to pray at the beginning of our county committee meetings? Because we want our kids and our grandkids to have their right to life, their right to self-determination, and their right to live without government intervention.
In the words of President Ronald Reagan, "If we ever forget that we're 'one nation under God,' then we will be a nation gone under."
Jonelle Fulmer is chairman of the Republican Party of Arkansas.