The Connection between Valentine's Day and Religious Liberty

Timothy Tardibono - Friday, February 10, 2017
As fragrant roses, decadent chocolate treats, and plush teddy bears fly off the shelves to celebrate Valentine’s Day, Americans should also take the time to celebrate religious liberty and the 1st Amendment.  No, really. The story behind Valentine’s Day is a tale of martyrdom in the face of government persecution against an exercise of religious belief.

According to various historical sources, Roman Emperor Claudius II needed to increase the Roman Army in order to continue the multiple military campaigns of the Empire.  However, Claudius’ recruiters were finding resistance as recruits weren’t interested in leaving their wives and families to go off to war.  To combat this family loyalty, Claudius II banned marriage in hopes that single men would be more willing to join and stay in the military.

Valentine, a priest of Rome, defied Claudius’ command and continued to marry men and women in secret exercising the proper role of the church against an invalid government edict.  As a result, after being imprisoned and beaten, Valentine was martyred by beheading.  Unfortunately for Valentine, the Roman Empire didn’t have a Bill of Rights and 1st amendment that specifically would have protected Valentine’s “free exercise” of religion.

Although the history of the real man Valentine, is mixed with a host of legends about the origins of the Valentine’s Day celebration, the idea of what Valentine died for is still relevant centuries later.  While American culture grows more hostile toward religious expression, and the threat of government action seeks to command conformity to non-religious ideas, more Americans might be faced with the decision Valentine had to make in defending marriage.

Hopefully, modern government and cultural leaders will tolerate diversity of thought and allow the 1st Amendment to do its job in protecting the inalienable right to exercise faith beyond the confines of Sunday morning.  If not, Americans will have much less to celebrate on future Valentine’s Days.