Here in the United States, that catch phrase has always been used as the defense people give when whatever they are engaged in is challenged. Don't like the way I run my business? That's your problem, it's a free country! Don't like the way I run my life? Hey, it's a free country.
I have heard this used to excuse all manner of behavior. The problem with the people of our nation is that we have used our freedom as license. In his 1828 Dictionary of the English Language (written back when this country was still in its infancy in the freedom department) his number two definition for license is the one I mean:
2. Excess of liberty; exorbitant freedom; freedom abused, or used in contempt of law or decorum. License they mean, when they cry liberty.
As the laws of the land have been adjusted to make evil good and good evil, people have been lured into a false sense of security. The laws of God remain true, no matter what the laws of man say. "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight!" Isaiah 5:20-21
Many years ago I heard someone say, nations do not have an afterlife, so God must judge them now. These are sobering words. I have often heard Christians use as their battle cry a promise the Lord gave to Solomon one night concerning the nation of Israel, "If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:13-14).
I am not convinced that this is an across-the-board promise to all of God's people wherever they find themselves in history, as God has not promised a happily-ever-after scenario for the world this side of Revelation 21. What I do know with complete confidence is that the person who truly humbles himself, seeks God's face and turns from his wicked ways will always draw His attention and gain His forgiveness and I also know that He will work all situations, no matter how dire, together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28, emphasis added).
"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17).