To The Daily Sun,
A recent writer to The Sun wrote that Jesus was not "pluralistic" and that our government is "antagonistic to religious freedom". Whether Jesus was pluralistic or not I do not know, but I do know that the U.S. Constitution permits and even encourages religious pluralism. It also guarantees separation of church and state and religious neutrality. Every American knows that the U.S. Constitution grants us "Freedom of Religion." But, a closer look at the Constitution reveals that we actually enjoy three separate religious liberties: No "religious test," no government "establishment" of religion, and "free exercise" of religion.
The first of these is in the Body ("Articles") of the U.S. Constitution where it reads that there can be "no religious test" for holding public office. I remember photo-shopped pictures of Obama swearing his oath as senator on a copy of the Quran. Although these were faked, it would not have mattered. As long as someone is legally elected it does not matter what their religion — or lack thereof — happens to be. We have had a number of American Muslims elected to office who took their oaths on a Quran instead of a Bible. It is their sacred text. One such Muslim took his oath on a Quran from the library of Founder Thomas Jefferson.
The second and third liberties we enjoy regarding religion are contained in the First Amendment. Government cannot make laws "regarding an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." In other words, the Constitution is neutral on matters of faith while allowing the most religious freedom in the "democratic world."
We do not have established churches, but we do allow churches a high degree of freedom and even let them avoid taxation. This tax-exempt status is even granted to religious bodies whose motives may be questionable to many. How is that a "war on religion?"
The "free exercise" clause is very broad. The only real limitation is interfering with another's rights.
Some Christian conservatives blame liberals, the U.S. Supreme Court, the ACLU, or whatever for "removing God from our public schools." As though anyone, even a liberal, had that power.
Actually, many misunderstand what the courts have actually ruled on this matter. Granted, you cannot have prayer or other religious exercises sponsored by a school or its staff. But, students are still free to pray or read religious literature on their own time and many do. Of course, a teacher can ask a student to close the Bible during class and open up the math book. Teachers are allowed to teach about religion or even have a class in the Bible as a work of literature, but they cannot preach or impose a particular religious view on their students.
As far as schools teaching the biblical creation story in public schools, there is no problem as long as it is taught in a mythology or humanities class and not in biology or geology courses.
Parents who wish to give their child a religious education are still free to teach them at home, send them to Sunday school, and even to educate them at home or in a religious school. Our laws regarding this right are much more liberal than in some European democracies. The taxpayers, however, cannot be asked to pay for such religious education.
Our founders in no way founded a "Christian republic" based on "biblical" law. Of course, they wanted a free but orderly and law-abiding society, but the Judeo-Christian tradition does not possess a monopoly on such values. True, most of the founders had some connection to some Protestant denomination as did most Americans at the time and some were indeed Christians.
Many others however, cannot be considered "Christians" in the traditional sense of that term. Some, like Founders Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin were deists, a commonly-held view in 18th-century Enlightenment philosophy which influenced our founders much more than Christianity. Deists held that God created the universe but that humans make their own destinies without God constantly intervening in human history. Deists also denied the divinity of Jesus, a belief central to Christianity.
Actually, in spite of some recent letters to The Sun that imply that those who think as I do are anti-religious, I actually take the same position regarding religion as most of our Founders: If your religion makes you a better person, citizen, or neighbor, then your religion is a positive thing. But, if your religion inspires you to bomb an abortion clinic, fly planes into buildings, or to otherwise interfere with the rights of others, then it is probably a very negative thing.
Finally, another alarm I often hear from conservatives is that there is a "war on Christmas." Are you serious? Do you really think corporate consumer capitalism would allow that?
E. Scott Cracraft
- Category: Letters
- Hits: 219