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Freedoms of Religion

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As the founding fathers made decisions over how the newly founded county of the United States of America should be organized one important subject covered was that of religion and man's freedom to choose who, what, when, where, and how he worships. Religious freedom was one of the many freedoms made available to the people, and in turn lead to the rising of several different religions and sects. However, over the country's history the concept of religious freedom, in a way, is confused as the government interacts with different groups in different situations. Although many laws within the government have not changed it can be said that their interpretations have changed as new men and women continue to be elected to office. The people then rely on their interpretation of the law so that justice may truly be paid. This however may, and does at times, lead to error, as their judgments and decisions are based off of what they think is right, and are sometimes influenced by their emotions. Sadly in 1993 the mistakes were made and lives were lost due to the poor and sloppy decisions of members of the American government as they dealt with the religious sect known as the Branch Davidians.

The Branch Davidians are a religious sect that broke off of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. The original founder of the sect was Victor Houteff an immigrant from Bulgaria who was expelled from the L.A. Seventh-Day Adventist church due to the doctrines he would preach. However, by then he had acquired a group of followers that would eventually follow him to a place just outside of Waco, Texas called Mount Carmel where they changed their group's name from "The Shepherd's Rod Seventh-Day Adventists" to the "Davidian Seventh-Day Adventists" in 1942. (A Chronological History of the Branch Davidians, 1996) As time went on Houteff died and eventually the sect began to fall apart as certain prophecies failed to happen. However, one of the groups that broke off was led by a man named Ben Roden He later renamed the group the "Branch Davidians" in 1959. Later on after Roden's death some controversy and even conflict as to who the next leader of the group should be arose. But by 1990 a man named Vernon Wayne Howell gained control of the group after conflict with Roden's son George. As he began his misistry he legally changed his name to David Koresh and taught with a focus on the "Seven Seals" spoken of in the book of Revelations in the Bible. Also he taught an idea of how he was the only one of the group to be married, this lead to his individual practice of polygamy as he married with some of the women of the group as well as some of the underage minors.

Word of Koresh's actions eventually got out as some followers left the group and reported his practices of polygamy, child abuse, as well as child molestation. Also it was well known of how Koresh was a strong believer of the constitutional right to bare arms as well as collecting them, which eventually sparked the conflict that transpired. It was a conflict that would eventually claim the lives of not only him but many of his followers as well, a sad tragedy that never had to happen the way it did.

Under the suspicion that Koresh and his followers were under possession of illegal firearms and explosives the Bureau of Alcohol, Tabaco, and Firearms (ATF) began to plan out an investigation, which would eventually lead to a raid on the Branch Davidians in February of 1993. (Waco - The Inside Story) The FBI would then eventually take over the situation and just as equally as the ATF act in a sloppy manner. It was an event the sparked a 51 day stand off that led to the destruction of the Branch Davidian complex and the deaths of most of the followers. Although, how the ATF and FBI decided to conduct themselves was unacceptable and their planning of the events was more than sloppy, there was no excuse for their action. But as hearing proceeded the events it was made evident that the ATF was an agency that had been scarred from past mistakes and that it was very possible they wished to use the situation with David Koresh and the Branch Davidians as a means to boost their publicity with hopes of improving their image in the eyes of the people. The truth was that they were in a hole and looking for the first



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