Freedom Classroom: A Message from Norm Farley

The Economist magazine dated November 5-11th published an article entitled “America’s Missing Middle”.  It featured an artist’s rendition of a hamburger bun sliced in the middle and separated but with nothing in the middle. We used to ask “where’s the beef?” The article made it very plain that the beef in America is missing.  In other words, “… the world’s most consistently inventive and optimistic country has lost its mojo.”  Numerous problems confronting us now have been on the national scene before.  However, there is one overwhelming difference “…politics far from offering a remedy is now adding to the national angst.  Eight out of ten Americans mistrust their government. There is a sense that their political system like their economy has been skewed to favor the few not the many.” The article goes on to describe in vivid detail something that we are all understand. Neither side has gained from the current political standoff. The fact is quite evident that there is no bipartisan cooperation instead there is extremism in both parties. Furthermore, the prospect of creating a major third party is dismal and this leaves us with an empty middle – “no beef” between the extremes!

So, like it or not the nation we live in and raise our children in is in the process of ominous change. The financial/social issues confronting us are the factors forcing traumatic changes and hardships. For example, many stock accounts have vanished or have been severely impacted; many jobs have vanished and subsequently there is a tremendous scramble to locate new careers; federal loans for education have become more difficult; 25 % of the homes in America will eventually be forfeited which will destroy or create untold hardship for families; MSNBC website reported on November 16 that many senior citizens who had hoped to retire at 65 will now work until 80. It also stated that many young people are making no plans to live on Social Security in the future. The same article reported that in order to make retirement feasible in today’s society a minimum of $350,000 is needed in savings. It is not difficult to calculate that the middle class in our nation is being systematically depleted and destroyed.  Our youth are being raised in a world where it is common to use extremes to accomplish agendas and goals, and many of the former constitutional hallmarks of freedom are being eliminated.  Freedom and prosperity are waning from the national sandwich.

Response: A Middle-Centrist Framework

Extremism, the fruit of polarized left and right agendas, needs to be mitigated by a third option that represents a middle-centrist framework.  Specifically, a renewed emphasis on freedom of conscience rights which is supported by natural law as established in the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights for all citizens. Consequently, less coercive political and religious solutions will respect the conscientious convictions of American citizens.

Freedom Classroom Purpose

Our purpose is to implement this middle-centrist framework by helping students to embrace the concept that the direct outcome of the Gospel is freedom of conscience. Our goal is to help students look through the long lens of history and discover that Christians never engage in coercion to fulfill the mission of Christ.  History is crowded with those who have sought to enforce the gospel through coercion. Those who resort to such tactics have worked for God like the devil!  Freedom of conscience, religion and the maintenance of individual rights is the high ground needed to restore bi-partisan efforts at all levels of society which includes the church.  Freedom exercised within a pluralistic community recognizes and respects conscientious convictions. It is in this framework that lays the nations strength and its unity under God!

The Freedom Classroom Experience

Freedom Classroom is a project being piloted this year throughout the Pacific Union. It is sponsored by the North American Religious Liberty Association (NARLA). Freedom Classroom will enable students to view freedom issues of importance through the eyes of a centrist perspective.  Students will be immersed in the rich history of historical pluralism and conscientious convictions that shaped our Constitution and its Bill of Rights. We will explore the current claim that America is a Christian nation and view the constitution which requires no State establishment or support of religion. We will also journey into the territory of State v Federal Rights.

The Freedom Classroom experience is geared to educate students how to make a difference through insightful query, intelligent discussion without marginalization, and the application of freedom of conscience principles. Academic studies in a parochial setting are often superb where history lessons can be fine tuned, and bible classes teach sound doctrine. However, we all understand that learning the theory of battle is just boot camp because it lacks the reality of being on the front line.  Freedom classroom brings youth to the front line.

Going to the front line enhances a student’s critical discernment skill through practice so that they can sort out what spiritual, social and political ‘meat’ really belongs in the middle of the nation’s sandwich and to help them recognize and avoid extremism in all its forms.

Freedom Classroom Essay Contest:  NARLA West Sponsored

Winners of the essay contest will visit historical sites where the union of the states almost met its end; battlefields where 23,000 thousand soldiers died in one day; visit Capitol Hill in order to listen to congressional debate, talk with their Senators or Congressmen; and have daily brain storming sessions about pro-active methods to help preserve freedom in this age of terrorism. Students will exchange their ideas with other essay winners about the critical freedom issues facing our nation and about how to fill the existing middle vacuum with both meaning and spirit.

Our academy youth have spent many hours in their Government-History-Religion classrooms. Now it is time to put them out on the front line! The good news is that NARLA West will provide six (6) $1,000 scholarships and six (6) $500 scholarships for the students who win the Freedom Classroom essay contest.

The Ultimate “Mission” Trip

James Madison said, “Conscience is the most sacred of all property.” During this electoral year it is traditional to speak of “values” and discuss “solutions” to near unsolvable problems. However, if the solutions being proposed enjoin coercion in its many forms (economic, political or religious) then we need to be prepared to be pro-active and our youth are the best ambassadors we possess because they are tomorrow’s citizens!

We invite teachers, parents, and students to jointly seize this Freedom Classroom educational experience as an opportunity to prepare the youth for a personal “mission trip” into the freedom of conscience arena! This has never been attempted in our church’s history before. This is the ultimate “mission” trip because our future freedoms will depend on the maintenance of the pedestal upon which this the “shining city” was set – freedom of conscience!

-Norm Farley President pro-tem NARLA West

Norman C. Farley is a retired Seventh-day Adventist pastor. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine in Portland, ME, Atlantic Union College in So. Lancaster, MA, Andrews University in Berrien Springs, MI, and received a doctoral degree from the California Graduate School of Theology in Glendale, CA. His interest in Religious Liberty and Freedom of Conscience dates back to his Business/Pre-Law education at the University of Maine. Dr. Farley currently serves as the President pro tem of the North American Religious Liberty Association (NARLA)-West and as a co-Director of Freedom Classroom.


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