â€œFirst Freedom: The Fight for Religious Libertyâ€ premieres in
Washington on WETA at 8 p.m., Tuesday, December 18. The
program will air on PBS stations nationwide in coming weeks.
By Punch Correspondent Attie Poirier
Many people wouldnâ€™t expect a nine-year-old boy to enjoy watching a historical documentary
about the U.S. Constitution, much less exclaim â€œIs this a great country or what?â€ at its conclusion.
But thatâ€™s just the reaction Dr. Charles C. Hayes heard from his son after tapping his family for â€œfocus group researchâ€ on a first-cut of the film â€œFirst Freedom: The Fight for Religious Libertyâ€ which will air later this month on PBS stations across the country. Hayes, director of the Religious Freedom Education Project at the Newseum, WETA TV 26 (DCâ€™s PBS station), and Groberg Films collaborated on the project, in which five-years of work culminate into an active exploration of the â€œinspired, philosophical discourseâ€ at the root of our nationâ€™s founding.
In October, the Newseum hosted a pre-screening and discussion about the continued relevance of the
feat accomplished by our Founding Fathers when they codified religious freedom in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitutionâ€”a first for any national government in world history. The film explores how the Founding Fathers struck a delicate between the huge importance religion holds in society, and infusing our aspirations, ideals and values into our whole culture, while taking the necessary precautions that kept religion independent of government influence. Reenactment actors successfully energized scenes captured at some of the most important historical sites from the birth of our nation, such as Independence Hall in Philadelphia, allowing the audience the faÃ§ade of witnessing history in action.
â€œCongress shall make no law respecting an establishment of
religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…â€
–Establishment clause excerpt from the First Amendment,
After the screening, a panel of expert historians offered perspective on the significance the fundamental
American value of religious freedom still holds in our global society today. They noted that over the course of U.S. history there is a significant growth curve in religious affiliation by Americans, which serves as a testament to the belief shared by many Founding Fathers that the free market of ideas available to U.S. residents would encourage religiosity to flourish in our new nation, much like their belief in the free market economy. Though a recent Pew Study found one-in-five Americans today is not religiously affiliated, the group also found that a majority of unaffiliated American adults consider themselves religious or spiritualâ€”more than two-thirds of the 46 million unaffiliated adults in the U.S. say they believe in Godâ€”adding to the importance of religionâ€™s place in our political discourse today.
History buffs and educators alike will appreciate this inspired investigation of the penultimate accomplishment by our Founding Fathersâ€”protecting the freedoms we hold most dear in the supreme law of the land.
Pamela Lynne Sorensen is the founder of Pamela’s Punch, a platform for profiling people who "make it happen" in the Capital region, reviews & topical blog posts. She launched Punch Enterprises, a connector consulting business in 2015 and Pacific Punch based in LA, in 2012. Pamela comes from an extensive background in sales and business development from a variety of industries, has been involved with charities and fundraising for a number of years and holds several Board and leadership positions. She currently resides in Arlington, VA. Follow her on Twitter at @pamelaspunch.