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After the Revolutionary War, members of the Church of England in America renamed their congregations, The Episcopal Church, and began work on a new Book of Common Prayer. Benjamin Franklin and other signers of the Declaration of Independence were a part of that enterprise.

One of the new worship services was for the 4th of July. It was their fear that Americans would forget that powerful statement of the core values of the new nation. They wanted Americans, each in their own places of worship, to pause and read appropriate scriptures and the Declaration of Independence. After the Civil War, the National Anthem was added.

As a renewal of my responsibilities as an American and as thanksgiving for those courageous political giants, I read the Declaration of Independence on the 4th of July. I remember that they sent King George their bold intentions, knowing that he would declare them guilty of treason -- a capital offense.

The explicit reasons given for their declarations are timely. For example, one of the stated reasons was King George's limits on immigration. "He (King George) has endeavored to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose, obstructing the Laws of Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither."

Probably the most quoted and the most difficult truth for me to see was the significant evidence of its moral and ethical impact from then until now. The document was the inspiration for some of our great leaders' declarations such as Abraham Lincoln's "Emancipation Proclamation" and Dr. Martin Luther King's civil rights sermons.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among them are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

My parents attended church every Sunday. They both had a "hearing heart" for children and adults with disabilities. In his administrative and political position as the superintendent of the Arkansas School for the Deaf, my father had the opportunity to work with Arkansas Senators J. William Fulbright and John McClellan on legislation that acknowledges the value of disabled Americans in the workplace. It passed across party lines, and my father was awarded the Sear's Humanitarian of the Year award.

Senators Fulbright and McClellan stood resolute in their support of the integration of Little Rock Central High. Arkansas Governor Faubus was a segregationist. Both senators were significant voices in the censoring of Senator Joseph McCarthy and the shutting down of his atrocious committees that destroyed the reputations and careers of Americans.

Before there was The Constitution, a Pledge of Alliance or a National Anthem, there was the Declaration of Independence. Can we still hear the beat of their brave and caring hearts? Can we -- dare we -- still believe with them and demand the unalienable rights for all people in America and the world? When can we, the people today, say enough? "Enough!"

Ken Parks is the former rector of St. Theodore's Episcopal Church in Bella Vista. He can be reached by email at Opinions expressed are those of the author.

Religion on 07/03/2019

Print Headline: Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

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