RELIGIOUS right is the greatest boon that ever was given, or that ever could be given, to men.
That is the truth: and, being the truth, in the nature of things such a boon could come from God only.
Religious right, as generally understood and as contemplated in these lines, is the right of every person to choose for himself in things religious without constraint of any kind from any person or source whatever.
This freedom God has given to men, as is declared in the motto of the AMERICAN SENTINEL, in the words of the Lord Jesus, “If any man hear my words and believe not, I judge him not.” The right is given by the Lord to men, and is thus recognized by the Lord in men.
This is illustrated in the transaction in the garden in Eden. The man was made in the image of God, to glorify  God, yet left perfectly free not to do so if he should choose; and was left perfectly free to choose for himself whether he would or not. He was left as free to choose not to serve God as he was to serve him.
This freedom God gave to man, and recognizes in man; and it is this, more than anything else, that enables man to be really a man. Any person who would in any degree infringe this right of man aims a destructive blow at the dignity and the manliness of man, and at the honor and glory of God.
Therefore it is to the honor and glory of God, and in the interest of the everlasting dignity and manliness of man, uncompromisingly to oppose every attempt in whatever degree to infringe or to disrespect the right of any person to choose for himself in all things religious—to choose for himself as to all religious beliefs, rites, customs, and practices.
No State can ever have any shadow of right, by legislation or in any other way, to circumscribe the perfect freedom of every man to choose for himself whether he will regard or disregard any religious belief, or rite, or custom, or practice. And every man’s right utterly to disregard everything of the kind is as complete as it is to regard it.
No church has any shadow of ground for condemning any man or any number of men who disregard everything which that church holds sacred. Every person has perfect right to disregard all that any church or all churches together believe or practice. The professed Christian church or individual who condemns or criticises or sets at naught any person for disregarding any religious belief, or rite, or custom, denies the God of Christianity.
Loyalty to religious right does not consist in asserting our own right to be religious or not religious at our own unconstrained choice; but in the unswerving recognition of the right of the other man to be religious or not religious at his own personal and unconstrained choice. This is so plain that it must be recognized at once by every one. In the garden, God did not assert his own right to be religious for himself and other people too; that matter could take care of itself. But he did establish and recognize the right of the man to believe or not believe him, just as the man himself might freely choose. This he did again, in the divine motto of religious freedom, “If any man hear my words and believe not, I judge him not; for I came not to judge the world; but to save the world.”
This shows, too, that when one who is religious condemns one who is not religious for not being religious or for not believing what he preaches, he hinders the salvation of the one who does not believe. Then, religious friend, will you frustrate the salvation of men who do not believe, by bringing upon them your condemnation through denunciation from the pulpit, or the instrumentality of the police, the courts, and fines, and imprisonments? Will you not rather forever present to all people the winning blessing and grace of salvation, by recognizing his divine right not to believe and treating them all with the merciful and gracious consideration which the Lord has shown to the man whom he created?
Let every one who professes to believe in religious right show by his conduct that he really believes in it. Let the believing neighbor respect in Christian kindness, the unbelieving neighbor. Let the unbelieving neighbor respect in manly dignity the right which his believing neighbor exercises in choosing to believe.
Let the believing wife respect her unbelieving husband, let her request his exercise of the right to choose for himself whether he will believe or not. Let the unbelieving husband in true manliness regard his believing wife’s exercise of the right to choose to believe.
Let the believing husband respect the exercise of the right of choice not to believe. And let the unbelieving wife show that she believes in religious right, by respecting the choice of her husband to be religious just as he chooses.
This will show that you do indeed believe in religious right, in religious freedom. But so long as you act any other way than this, your profession of believing religious freedom is a fraud.
Let the precious divine boon of religious freedom never be dimmed by the actions contradicting the words in those who profess to love it!