Not living one’s faith can become a threat to religious liberty, Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., said while speaking on a panel Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
“One of the greatest challenges we have to religious liberty in this modern day is people that actually claim a faith and don’t live a faith,” Lankford said. “Having a culture that is a vibrant culture of faith for people that not only have a faith, but they choose to live it, matters in our culture.”
“There are a whole group of people that say you can have a faith—just leave it over there, just don’t bring it out of your house,” Lankford continued. “Or that have a faith designation or a denomination designation, and it’s almost like a membership in a club for them.”
Lankford spoke to the crowd about how some foreign governments still require adherence to a religion. He noted that before the United States was a country, faith was not optional.
“Quite frankly, if you go back to the founding, we struggled with it in the very beginning, as well,” Lankford said. “As a Baptist, most Baptists were kicked out of the colonies early on because they weren’t accepted. Almost every colony had a designated religion for that colony, and if you weren’t that religion, you weren’t welcome.”
After the Constitution was ratified, the Founding Fathers determined the new country would not be like others, Lankford said:
[They said] we are not going to designate certain faiths. We are going to take this ultimate risk and challenge people to have a faith, live their faith. It doesn’t have to be the same faith as what they’ve experienced in the past. We are at our best when we choose to live out our faith.
Lankford went on to describe a modern-day struggle when faith is merely a label, like identifying with a political party.
“[It’s] not very meaningful in their life,” Lankford said. “It’s just—I have this particular label, whether it be Republican, Democrat, independent, conservative, liberal—they also had this label.”
Lankford later said: “I tell people all the time, if you have a faith, live it. For people that only practice their faith on weekends, I try to remind them: Things that you only do on weekends are called a hobby. That’s not a faith.”
CPAC, the largest annual national gathering of conservative activists, runs through Saturday at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, just outside Washington.