Incredibly off topic post on one of the two “taboo” topics, religion. I just have to rant a little. Drafted this two weeks ago, but completed it when I decided to post it.
Every so often, there is a news piece that upsets me. It is usually someone freaking out because someone displayed a religious symbol or attempted to practice their religion on government property. One recent example involved the denial of a student credit for service hours, as required by her honor society because the service was performed as part of her religious organization.
In some cases, there are legitimate concerns that are being addressed. The government must not favor any religion, or any organization that doesn’t pose a threat to society, over another.
The real issue is that people over-react. In the above situation, there is now a subsequent lawsuit, which is likely an overreaction. This applies to both sides of the argument. The government should not be a Christian institution. It also shouldn’t be based upon Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, or Atheist beliefs.
The US Constitution
The Constitution focuses on one thing, setting the foundation to prevent a state sponsored church. Many original colonists fled religious persecution to settle North America. By the time of the signing of the Constitution, there were many well established religions in the United States, including a healthy number of atheists.[Edit: Correction, no documented atheists. Several founders were deists, but that isn’t the same thing. Not key to debate anyway.] The Constitution set out to prevent that same persecution from happening in this country
Let’s read the two phrases quickly.
Article VI of the Constitution
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
The First Amendment
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
That’s it. Thomas Jefferson wrote the Danbury letter back in 1802 defined what he called the separation of church and state, but it didn’t really impact the meaning.
The thing is, they are just meant to be separate. The government can acknowledge religions, religious groups, and the work that they do for society. If a charity is religious based, as long as the money is going to help the charity and not primarily to preach, they can be given money.
Falling Down in Practice
The issue comes with religious references on government buildings. They are permitted, but can’t be restricted to any one religion. The “safe” thing most do is to have no religious references, thus alienating everyone.
Of course, this all goes wrong at Christmas. You can’t display a manger scene without allowing other symbols of religious holidays to be displayed as well. This all rational until someone decides to put a skeleton version of Santa Claus “nailed” to a cross up as well. That actually only has one purpose, to offend. Manger scenes and menorahs are not designed to offend, they commemorate.
If you are offended by religious symbols, then you probably have some serious issues.
Moments of silence in school, don’t advocate anyone one religion. It is a moment for people to pray or reflect upon the day if desired. It does not force anyone to practice any one religion. Heck, I usually spent it finishing my math homework.
Problems come about when people are upset that their kids are exposed to religious concepts at schools. So now people have been conditioned to keep their religious beliefs to themselves.
That is actually a violation of many religious beliefs. Many religions state that you should share your faith, share your beliefs, and educate those willing to learn. Hiding your faith is something done during times of persecution as a survival strategy.
So, I’m not hiding anymore. I’m a Christian, Methodist to be precise. I’m not going to tell you that I am right or that what you may believe is wrong. I’m not going to try and change your beliefs. I’m just not going to hide who I am. I’m not going to raise my kids to hide what they believe.
More importantly, I’m not going to be bothered when others with faiths (atheism is a requires faith) [Edit: Clarified atheism. Isn’t a faith, requires faith. See several comments] other than my own display their beliefs in front of my kids. I want my kids to have the same beliefs that I have, but more importantly, I want their faith be an informed choice. I want my kids to look at those other faiths, see the good in them, and still choose to be Christian.
I don’t want them to be afraid of different faiths. I want them to celebrate the diversity and live in a world where nobody has to hide.
That is all. I will now return you to the regularly schedule Information programming.