U.S. President Joe Biden’s long-awaited National Security Strategy was recently published.
The Strategy is infused with a vision for a free, open, prosperous, and secure international order.
Its publication comes at a time when Chinese and Russian malign intent, influences, and activities are on full display in a world looking for American leadership to provide an attractive and effective alternative.
Biden’s Strategy does a good job recognizing the unique American advantage that comes with a broad and trusting network of allies and partners, while also emphasizing the need to prioritize investment in American strength at home.
Yet, in the section on “Strengthening our Democracy,” Biden makes a harmful and telling omission that erodes a core source of our national strength.
“We are reaffirming the rights to free speech, a free press, peaceful assembly, and other core civil liberties,” states the Strategy. This reaffirmation is important as a partial restatement of the First Amendment to the Constitution. Yet what is sometimes known as America’s “first freedom” – religious liberty – is curiously absent.
Maybe Biden and his editorial team forgot to include religious liberty.
Maybe the president lumps it in with miscellaneous rights described generically as “other core civil liberties.” Nevertheless, a restatement of the First Amendment that excludes religious liberty establishes a dangerous statement of priority, or more fittingly, a lack of priority.
Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man, than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority.” Americans throughout history have recognized the dear nature of religious liberty.
It is at the core of the American experiment. In many ways, it also forms the basis for all other rights.
Striking religious liberty from such a foundational strategic document signals an apathy towards religious persecution and erodes the fullness of liberty’s promise heralded by America’s founding principles.
John Teichert is a retired Brigadier General, who recently served as the Assistant Deputy Undersecretary of the Air Force, International Affairs. He is the founder and president of Capital Leadership, an organization developing the leaders and teams that our nation needs.