Free to Believe

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Questions of religious freedom show up in the news from time to time.  Depending on the sources you read, you can be forgiven for believing that religious freedom for Christians in America is under assault.  Luke Goodrich, a lawyer for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, has been at the forefront of many high-profile religious liberty cases, including some he has argued--and won--at the U.S. Supreme Court.  He is perfectly suited for bringing an informative and realistic assessment of the state of religious liberty in America in Free to Believe: The Battle Over Religious Liberty in America.



I appreciate Goodrich's level-headed, practical approach to the subject.  Too often, coverage of the religious liberty culture wars is strong on emotional appeal, weak on constitutional treatment.  The emphasis is riling people up, whether for fund raising or simply to stir up emotions.  Goodrich clarifies that sometimes the issues are more nuanced than they appear, and reassures readers that religious liberty in American may not be as fragile as the popular conservative Christian press implies.



To Goodrich, "religious freedom means the government, within reasonable limits, leaves religion alone as much as possible."  He writes that religious freedom "is worth protecting because it benefits society, protects our other rights, and is a fundamental human right."  Christians today readily acknowledge the history and importance of religious freedom in America, but most have a harder time coming to grips with the fact that "for the first time in American history, common Christian beliefs are view as incompatible with the prevailing culture."



As Goodrich looks at hot-button issues like abortion, gay rights, and Muslim influence, he promotes the model of the conscientious objector.  Just as certain religious groups have won the right not to enlist in the military due to their religious objections, so should conscientious objectors have the right not to act in other ways that violate their religious principles.  So Christians (and other objectors) should not be required to participate in medical procedures like abortion.  They should have the option not to provide services for same-sex weddings.  But many cases Goodrich discusses involve the Christians for who conscientious objection was not an option.



Goodrich brings a solid evangelical perspective, informed, first-hand experience with the cases, and a broad view of our diverse society.  He reminds Christians to take a deep breath and recognize the expansive freedom we enjoy in the U.S.  He reminds Christians that religious freedom for other faith groups can open the door to evangelism.  He reminds Christians that sometimes "we are called not to 'win' but to be like Christ.  That means we expect suffering, respond with joy, fear God, strive for peace, keep doing good, love our enemies, and care for one another in suffering."  He sets exactly the right tone and makes me glad he's out there, defending religious freedom for all of us.





Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!
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I highly recommend this book!! It's a very interesting, well organized, and well explicated book about our religious freedoms in America that affect every one of us. Not only is it important know these cases and precedents, it is an interesting read. While this book is geared toward those of the Christian faith, these cases affect people of all religious backgrounds. Amazing book!
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Free to Believe: The Battle Over Religious Liberty in America
By Luke Goodrich
I don’t even know where to begin. I enjoyed this book so much. I’ve read it on my own but also out loud with my family. It has opened up conversation and has been very enlightening. I was reassured in my faith and beliefs as well as in my country. I am thankful for God-honoring people such as Luke Goodrich who have boldly fought for the freedoms, we often take for granted. I strongly suggest reading this book for any and all. Goodrich has addressed religious freedom in an easy to understand and practical way. I appreciated how the big cultural issues were addressed as well as how to Bible-based the book stayed. 
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion. For more book reviews visit: https://simplyannehere.wordpress.com
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Thanks for the ARC NET GALLEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Free to Believe is a tutorial in the Constitution as it relates to the question of religious freedom. Mr. Goodrich is deeply respectful of the people on both sides of the issue. I was surprised that he dealt with cases involving multiple forms of faith which allows you to see the issue clearly and from new angles.  Tedious at times, the guy is a lawyer :), but overall very well done.
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First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Luke Goodrich, and WaterBrook and Multnomah for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

At a time when religious freedoms are being questioned and pushed through the courts, Luke Goodrich has penned this interesting piece that mixes some legal analysis with a plea to let those who have religious beliefs from being treated as outcasts. The topic of religious freedom—in America and around the world—is nothing new, but it would seem that there is a new birth of entitlement on both sides that their beliefs are enshrined in constitutional documents and legal precedents. Luke Goodrich begins by trying to help the reader understand the role of rights and freedoms in American jurisprudence before tackling anything more complex. What would seem straightforward is constantly revised and reinterpreted, making discussion of the topic all the murkier. With an understanding of what the Founding Fathers felt as they wrote the US Constitution and some of the Supreme Court precedents on the topic, the reader is ready to wade into the depths of religious beliefs and how they stand up to the law. Goodrich effectively argues that there is a place for beliefs without violating the law, as long as both sides understand the rules and roles involved. Citing cases related to abortion, employment based on religious beliefs, and same-sex marriage, Goodrich explores the perspective of the devoutly religious, both individuals and institutions, before trying to parse through current legislation and court precedent. This permits the reader to better understand the battle taking place, presuming there is a general understanding of the person feeling aggrieved by actions from the aforementioned devout group. Taking that ‘battle’ analogy a little further, Goodrich devises the ‘conscientious objector’ role, whereby those who are not violating laws in a sinister manner ought to be protected from prosecution. One example is the pharmacist who does not want to dispense the ‘morning after pill’ because of their religious beliefs, but is happy to direct customers to another pharmacy. There is no inherent judgment about the client seeking the medication, but also not a requirement to go against one’s personal beliefs in order to allay financial or legal punishment. Goodrich pushes the argument further to include religious freedoms outside of those tied to the Christianity he mentions throughout the tome. In an era when many beliefs are making their way into mainstream society, there’s a conscious need not to be hierarchical, as long as there is a clear understanding of the limits. In the latter portion of the book, Goodrich shows how the Bible makes mention of many early examples of religious persecution and defence of those beliefs. It is telling to see how the arguments can be made and scriptural passages presented without bringing the fire and brimstone coming from each page. Goodrich makes his point effectively and keeps the arguments sound, while not denying his bias on the subject at hand. Recommended to those who enjoy an open-minded discussion about one of the hot button issues of today, as well as the reader who finds legal topics of interest.

When I saw this piece on offer, I knew that I would have to give it a try. While certain provincial governments in Canada flex their muscle about religious limitations, Luke Goodrich makes strong arguments about the larger themes that have certainly affected many national governments around the world. Religious freedoms have grown over the years as courts re-evaluate views and inherent rights of all people. While Goodrich cites some horrible limitations on religious sentiment from decades past, the hyper-vigilant citizen is quick to call for unfettered freedoms. Two parties claiming freedom from opposing sides cannot always find solace in the law, but Goodrich seeks to find the happy medium, based on his years litigating in cases of this nature. The reader will not only see some of the arguments he made, but also the level-headed approach to the law when religious sentiment enters the debate. There is a happy medium, though it will require both sides to relax their vehemence. The tome is laid out effectively so as to offer the reader a clear path to understand the arguments, the triggers, and the solutions to the various issues. Goodrich is clear in his explanations, peppering the text with some Scripture where it helps substantiate his point, but not shying away from legal matters either. While the focus of the book is on Christian beliefs, there is a great chapter exploring Islamic freedoms and how they cannot be dismissed without creating a double standard. While some readers may want something more academic or detached, Goodrich effectively makes his points and is able to sway a sometime skeptic like me to see the larger picture. I can accept many of the arguments being made without suspending by own belief system, though I can see how many may not feel this same luxury. With poignant topics and well-argued chapters, Goodrich adds to the discussion without vilifying any side.

Kudos, Mr. Goodrich, for this wonderful piece. I am pleased I took the time to read it and hope to find other publications to enrich my knowledge on the subject.
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This concise and easy to read book is a tutorial in Constitutional studies around the question of religious freedom. Mr. Goodrich is clear and concise in his explanation of the cases dealing with religious freedom, and deeply respectful of the people on both sides of the issue. He is an attorney who has argued cases for religious freedom of different faiths (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Native American) in front of the Supreme Court, and has a wealth of knowledge. .Mr Goodrich asks important questions (and has some good answers) that everyone who has a religious belief should be asking. He is so up to date on religious freedom law. I find it encouraging that there is a way to proceed without hate or long-fueled, anger-ridden fights.

I'd recommend it as a gift to anyone you care about.  I was given a free advance copy for professional review on Netgalley, and will be purchasing this book.
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Free to Believe: The Battle Over Religious Liberty in America. Luke Goodrich. Multnomah. 2019.
288 pages. ISBN 978-0-5256-5290-8

As the Culture Wars are waged through the halls of government by the foot soldiers of the various factions, we will get more books that are “situation reports” on the current state of the battle. Free to Believe is one of those reports. It is well-written and documented. Goodrich has an easy writing style, though the book started feeling long about halfway through.

Because Free to Believe is a “situation report,” it cannot be the definitive book on the subject. Goodrich, or someone else, will have to update the cases that are being fought. There will be new fronts in the battle, new players. It is the nature of war that there are always new must-win battles.

About Free to Believe
Luke Goodrich is a well known attorney who has represented individuals and religious organizations in religious liberty disputes at all levels of the judicial system, including the Supreme Court. He has first hand experience in many of the pivotal cases that have come before the courts over the last 10 years. If you watch cable news, you may have seen him commenting on religious liberty cases on CNN, Fox News, ABC News, PBS, and NPR. There may not be anyone more qualified to write a book on The Battle Over Religious Liberty in America in the whole country.

A quick scan of the Table of Contents will reveal the scope and method of Free to Believe. Goodrich divides Free to Believe into three broad questions: What Is Religious Freedom? What Are the Most Serious Threats? and What Can Be Done?

Goodrich defines his audience and builds a solid foundation for his argument in Part I: What Is Religious Freedom? I feel that his target audience is politically active Christians who want to put their beliefs on a more solid footing. It is obvious that he knows his audience very well.

In Part 2: What Are the Most Serious Threats?, Goodrich identifies and goes into great depths showing the current state of the battle over religious freedom in the United States. In Chapter 4: Are Christians Under Attack? Goodrich shows that the problem of religious freedom is larger than an attack on Christians. He shows that recent court decisions are broadly eroding religious freedom. He uses Employment Division v. Smith as his example. Smith, a native American, used peyote in his worship which Oregon had criminalized. Smith lost.
The other chapters of Part 2 will touch on subjects near and dear to the hearts of his target audience. He will go over the state of the current battle over Abortion, Gay Rights, and Muslim rights. I find his arguments to be very well thought out and compelling, though I disagree at points.

Goodrich concludes Free to Believe in Part 3: What Can Be Done? The Chapter “Let Go of Winning” begins with a personal example of a lawsuit that Goodrich was in over a dispute about a lease. In this chapter, he examines the kind of people that Christians should be as they approach religious freedom cases. In these high stakes cases that touch the heart of different moral systems, it can be easy to stoke the fires of emotion and increase the strife and conflict. The antidote is to love your enemy and to “strive for peace.”

The rest of Part 3 is pretty standard fare. He tells his readers in Chapter 12 that they must “Learn from Scripture” that they will be persecuted for the faith, but they must obey God, rather than men. 
Chapter 13, “Prepare for the Future,” gives some very practical advice on how religious organizations can be proactive to avoid lawsuits. For some institutions, this chapter would be enough to buy the book. Goodrich provides very practical policy advice to religious institutions to protect themselves before they find themselves in a lawsuit.

Limitations of Free to Believe
In Free to Believe Goodrich has done a good job of giving religious leaders a lot of valuable information. In the course of the book, he tells Christians that they need to care about the religious freedom of all religions. His argument is pretty compelling. I am not sure that his target audience will like it.

In Part 1: What is Religious Freedom? of Free to Believe, Goodrich tries to found religious freedom in the creation story in the nature of who God is and the nature of mankind. He gives a quick discussion of why he believes that this is true and illustrates his points with various Scripture passages. He does a decent job, but the passages that he uses (or doesn’t use) defines his audience to a smaller group of Christians. Moreover, by opening with a 30 page excursion into the Christian roots of religious freedom, Goodrich is giving up a part of his potential audience who would benefit from large sections of Free to Believe.

Even the choice of the subtitle “The Battle Over Religious Liberty in America” limits the audience for Free to Believe. By looking at the symbols on his cover (a classical era temple) and the title, I knew that Goodrich was targeting the audience that he calls “Pilgrims.” This is the branch of Evangelical Christianity that is most likely to have a US flag in their sanctuary and believe that the US has a unique place in God’s economy.

His target audience may get surprised as they read Free to Believe when Goodrich begins defending why Christians need to defend the religious liberty of non-Christian religions. He is aware of this because when he broaches the subject he takes pains to defend his position.

As I read Free to Believe, I wondered how Goodrich would defend the gay couple who wanted to marry based on their view of how God created them and their church beliefs, or how he would defend the Mormon sects that still believe in polygamy. I feel that the US is either going to have a massive expansion of religious freedom to cover things like gay marriage and polygamy, or an extensive curtailment. Perhaps, we may have both depending on how the battles go.

Recommendations
I can give a wholehearted recommendation of Free to Believe to Evangelical Christians who want a survey the state of religious freedom in the US. I also think that people at the policy making level in religious organizations should read the last chapter, “Prepare for the Future.”

I was given a review copy of Free to Believe: The Battle of Religious Liberty in America by Multnomah.
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I thought this one was okay. it asks questions such as ''why should we know'' and ''what should we do'' a good read for people interested in the topic.
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WOW this book hit all the questions that EVERYONE who has a religious belief SHOULD be asking. Plus it is a super interesting read.

Finally, someone who is obviously brilliant at religious freedom law, and not just someone who wants to fuel online debates. It is both PRACTICAL and HOPEFUL that there is a way to proceed without hate or long-fueled, anger-ridden fights.

All leaders of churches, schools, or businesses with strong religious beliefs MUST read this book as a blueprint for WHAT TO DO to help ensure your religious freedom protection.

I'd recommend it as a gift to anyone you know in those circumstances. (Ministers/Priests, School principals, business leaders). Despite being given a free advance copy for professional reviewers on Netgalley, I will be purchasing this book for many people I know. It will stop a lot of people from saying stupid things and getting them to really understand what the valid arguments are.

Written by someone who has argued for religious freedom of MANY faiths (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Native American faiths) in front of the Supreme Court, this book is geared to Christians (both Catholic and Protestant) but is applicable to many faiths.

It is organized in a way that you see the history of religious freedom protections, the current debates going on (especially abortion and gay rights), and what we can expect in the future. 

Don't hesitate, just get it. I have not felt this strongly about a book in 20 years.

5 Stars
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#-FreeToBelieve#NetGalley#
By: Luke Goodrich
Review by: ILoveToRead/Librarian 
This is an insightful book by a practicing Christian attorney facing the legal and moral aspects of religious freedom in present-day United States. The chapters are arranged with pros and cons for each problem discussed. The author offers workable solutions for many of the most controversial issues and court cases facing today's culture.
I recommend the book as an instructive compass showing society what is presently going on in our country, and ways to deal with troublesome court decisions and at the same time defend our personal faith.
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What’s happening? What should we know? What should we do? What can we do? All are important questions addressed in this eye-opening look at religious freedom.
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When I started reading "Free to Believe", I did not know that Luke Goodrich is an experienced attorney defending religious freedom for people of all faiths. I have heard about some of the cases he has done, but attorneys are not always on the front page of the newspapers to be recognizable. He has offered a very different approach to presenting the state of religious freedoms today in the United States than anything I have ever read about it before. Using his personal experiences in court and different outcomes, he proves that religious persecution exists today in our society, and it actually does destroy people's lives. These people do not lose their life literally (yet), but they lose everything they have, they are chastised by the mainstream media, they receive death threats. Luke Goodrich brings up a very good point about provision for conscientious objectors in our laws, it is a genius solution to our problem! I do not understand why it has not been proposed in Washington D.C. yet to vote on!

This book is great, it has a lot to think about and learn from, it has a lot of factual information.
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