Posts Tagged ‘Separation of Church and State’

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of a Christian Nation Part 3

Came across this disturbing opinion piece on Right Wing Watch:

Against the backdrop of the religious mis-education of the nation, evangelical Christians must embrace (once and for all) that they must let their voices be heard in politics, the arts, and every arena of our culture. Although Catholics are well represented on the Supreme Court, there will likely be important cases that will need the insight of unbiased evangelicals to create an atmosphere for true justice. Failure of the faith community to engage in the world of politics and processes like the selection of judges could hurt the Christian community decades from now.

Protestants must take action today! We should return to the foundations that have made the US great. Further, we must not just act on behalf of our needs, alone. We must lead the country back to the safety of its guiding principles. At the same time, despite our personal views, we must act on behalf of the entire American family – religious and secular alike. Further, we must continue to encourage religious diversity and even atheists to remain true to their beliefs as it relates to the political process. The repression of minority points of view is un-American and petty.

Harry R. Jackson, Jr.  thinks that Catholics are biased and we need the unbiased protestants on the Court to keep those evil Catholics in check.  If the Religious Right gets their way in this country they will turn back the clock on human rights.

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of a Christian Nation

From Americans United for Separation of Church and State:

Inquisition In Jacksonville: Religious Right Grills Muslim Nominee For Rights Commission

Council Member Clay Yarborough, for example, sent a questionnaire – inquisition might be a better term — to Ahmed, demanding to know his views on everything from gay rights to the appropriateness of “under God” in the Pledge and on U.S. currency. No other nominee had been subjected to such probing in the past, but Yarborough apparently thought it was time to do so.

At a subsequent council session, Council Member and First Baptist congregant Don Redman, who serves as the council’s “chaplain,” led the audience in a Christian prayer, then demanded that Ahmed come forward for questions.

Redman said to Ahmed, “I would like you to pray to your god for us.” The implication was clear to many in the audience: Redman had just offered a prayer to the real God on behalf of the council and the assembled throng. Now he was inviting Ahmed to offer one to his Islamic deity.

Audience members, many of who came from a progressive group called OneJax, were appalled at the temerity of the demand and noisily burst into discussion and derision. The uproar finally settled down when Council President Richard Clark threatened to clear the room.

This is deplorable.  Christianity is anything but a tolerant religion.  One needs only a cursory reading of the Bible to understand that.  A truly Christian nation would be a very ugly place.

Franklin Graham and the National Day of Prayer

This year’s National Day of Prayer event certainly caused quite the stir.  It all began with the Wisconsin judge declaring the government’s proclamation of a National Day of Prayer unconstitutional and then continued when Franklin Graham and Tony Perkins were disinvited to participate in the Pentagon’s ceremonies over the controversial views of both ministers.  The Religious Right has  been highly critical of both decisions and have been declaring them just two more examples of how our religious freedom in this nation is being eroded, particularly the religious freedom of Christians. 

This whole event is a perfect example of why it is necessary to keep government out of religion and vice versa.  I’ve posted before about Madison’s and Jefferson’s views on issuing proclamations of days of thanksgiving and prayers and their other views of church and state relationships.  I firmly believe that both men would have firmly agreed with the decision of Judge Crabb and would have urged the Pentagon to cancel the whole event entirely were they alive today.  Both men argued that when government shows any type of favor to one religion those who are left out of that favor are demeaned and devalued and their adherent’s equal rights diminished.  Even though Graham and Perkins were disinvited, ministers from the Roman Catholic church, various protestant churches, Judaism and Islam still participated in the ceremony.  Christianity itself wasn’t discriminated against, however, a particular form of Christianity was and this is the very reason why no National Day of Prayer should take place at all which involves any type of government participation whatsoever.  No matter how hard the government tried to include all religions in the day’s ceremonies, some were still left out and their adherent’s made to feel less equal than the other religious viewpoints that were allowed to participate. 

Religion is a divisive influence in society.  It does not bring people together.  There were those in the religious right who fought to keep this day intact and there were those among the same religious right who felt the day was nothing more than an ecumenical orgy of heresy.  Religion is divisive even among its practitioners and therefore the government needs to say out of it and we need to keep religion out of government. 

I think it is also ironic that among all the outcries of religious persecution and discrimination we saw as a result of the judical ruling and the disinvitation of Graham and Perkins, that Franklin Graham was still able to hold his own prayer service/media event on the very sidewalks in front of the Pentagon (if that’s not the public square I don’t know what is )without being arrested, detained or otherwise obstructed by the government.  Regardless of the ranting of the religious right, we still live in a country of immense religious freedom.

Letter to the Editor Has a Selective View of History

I didn’t buy these arguments for a Christian nation even when I was a believer and had every reason to embrace them.  I don’t deny that the culture of America at the time of the Revolution was a Christian culture but to insist that the founders specifically used the bible to form the three branches of government, that America is God’s chosen nation, that capitalism is the only biblical economic system and that somehow we have special blessings from God is just plain ridiculous.  From the Opinion page of today’s West Bend Daily News:

Rulings on faith stray from Constitution

  I read some outrageous news in the Daily News last month that a judge had struck down the National Day of Prayer with the stroke of a mighty pen, which she since has set aside because of appeals. The ruling is another nail in the coffin of the United States of America, hastening the day of fulfillment for President Obama’s declaration to the Muslim states that America is not a Christian country.
   We are a nation founded on biblical principals. We have truly been blessed by God bountifully.
   All government meetings were opened with a prayer. This was the norm until anti-Christian lawyers misinterpreted the Constitution by adding separation of church and state as unconstitutional. There is no such things as separation of church and state in our Constitution.
   Lately, the 9th District in California ruled to remove the cross and “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance to please two atheists. Now we get this scenario in Wisconsin.
   What is wrong with people giving thanks to our God for His blessings on a National Prayer Day? Why are some judges ruling in favor of atheists, homosexuals and those for separation of church and state – a fiction which the judge must know? Why are they trying to destroy the unique liberties and freedom of a great Christian country? This is appalling, and I am justly irate, disappointed and grievously saddened by the destructive direction these judges are taking using their power with the pen – extreme judicial tyranny doing grave harm to our nation.
   No other religion is persecuted as Christians are because they dare not under pain of death. Our one true faith must be defended at all costs. We must uphold our National Day of Prayer as Rep. Pat Strachota has said. This is Christian America yet.
   
Ronald W. Hepponstall West Bend

First of all Ronald does not understand the concept of equal rights for all.  When the government favors or endorses one religion over another it is creating an environment where those who do not adhere to that religion are cast as outsiders and are not recognized as being equal with those believers.  That is the concept that drove the founders vision of religious freedom.  In an earlier  post, that you can find here, about this topic I printed a letter from James Madison.  From what he said in that letter I doubt Madison would have agreed with Ronald.   Nor would Jefferson.   Neither of these two founders could be considered hostile to religion.  Both were firm believers themselves, although Jefferson leaned more toward deism, and both firmly believed in the freedom to believe as a person saw fit.  Imagine if a politician were to speak those same words today as they did in their letters.  Actually, we don’t have to imagine to hard.  Judge Crabb said as much in her ruling and look what has happened to her.

Benjamin Franklin: A Good Religion Does Not Need Government Support

Benjamin Franklin to Richard Price

9 Oct. 1780

I am fully of your Opinion respecting religious Tests; but, tho’ the People of Massachusetts have not in their new Constitution kept quite clear of them, yet, if we consider what that People were 100 Years ago, we must allow they have gone great Lengths in Liberality of Sentiment on religious Subjects; and we may hope for greater Degrees of Perfection, when their Constitution, some years hence, shall be revised. If Christian Preachers had continued to teach as Christ and his Apostles did, without Salaries, and as the Quakers now do, I imagine Tests would never have existed; for I think they were invented, not so much to secure Religion itself, as the Emoluments of it. When a Religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and, when it cannot support itself, and God does not take care to support, so that its Professors are oblig’d to call for the help of the Civil Power, it is a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one. But I shall be out of my Depth, if I wade any deeper in Theology, and I will not trouble you with Politicks, nor with News which are almost as uncertain; but conclude with a heartfelt Wish to embrace you once more, and enjoy your sweet Society in Peace, among our honest, worthy, ingenious Friends at the London. [Emphasis mine]

May Day and the National Day of Prayer

There is an ironic event occurring at the Lincoln Memorial on May 1.  It is called May Day and is being organized by conservative christian talk show host Janet Porter of Faith2Action.  Faith2Action is of course the typical right-wing christian organization opposing, homosexuality, evolution, global warming, gun control, democrats, government and anything else that would contradict their literal reading of the bible. 

Here is what this event is all about:

May Day 2010 – A Cry to God for a Nation in Distress

When: May 1st 2010 – Starting at Sunrise (6:10 A.M. EDT) and finishing at 2:00 P.M.
Where: The Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

Join with Christian leaders of all denominations who love God to humble ourselves, pray, seek the face of God, and turn from our wicked ways—individually and as a nation.    Jesus will be front and center at May Day.   Prayers will be offered in Jesus’ Name!

Please plan on bringing blankets, sunscreen, bottled water, and food for lunch (unless you’re fasting from it), to the event.   We are not allowed to sell water or food, but will have a limited amount available to anyone who needs it in an emergency.

And whereas, it is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history:  that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.

Abraham Lincoln, March 30, 1863

Proclamation appointing a National Day of Prayer and Fasting

Promote May Day with your friends and at your church.   Here are two flyers: one with all the details and one with several quotes.

We now also have a Bulletin Insert that can be used for the same purpose.

Click here for information on tour package options for buses.This event is not to impress the media or those in Washington, but to reach the heart of God.  Publicly repenting and crying out to God for His mercy instead of the judgment our many sins deserve.

Here is the irony.  The purpose of this day is almost identical to the National Day of Prayer.  Many christian conservatives are decrying the recent ruling that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional.  They are claiming that the ruling represents further erosion of their freedom of religion and that Christianity has just been pushed further out of the public square, yet May Day is a solid example of just the opposite.  Here is the last piece of irony.  This event is happening without any type of government proclamation. 

Why can’t the organizers of the National Day of Prayer do what Janet Folger is doing and not involve the government in their nationwide call to prayer?  Surely they have the means to organize this day on their own without the help of the President.   After all, the National Day of Prayer organizer is the wife of James Dobson who controls one of the largest christian media outlets in the nation. 

May Day is an example of a perfectly legitimate free exercise of religion.  Rather than endorsing or encouraging participation in the event, the government is simply making public property available, and so long as it does so equally to other groups without regard to their viewpoint, there is no establishment clause violation.  May Day is an excellent example for the National Day of Prayer.  Keep government out of religion.  This is a nation of wide religious diversity and it is the government’s role to protect the equal rights of all to worship who, where, when, why and how.  It is not the role of the government to endorse any specific religion or practice.

National Day of Prayer and James Madison

As predicted, the religious right is bewailing the fall of this country into a moral cesspool, and the loss of their religious liberty with the recent court ruling on the National Day of Prayer.  I just got done listening to today’s Crosstalk program on VCY America, 107.7 FM here in West Bend.  Vic Eliason interviewed Matt Stave of the Liberty Council.  You can listen to the  program here when today’s edition is posted online.  Listening to it, one would think that prayer itself had been outlawed in this country.  One woman called in near the end of the show and asked what would happen if they went ahead and held the National Day of Prayer anyway.  Unfortunately neither host, nor guest tried to put the ruling into any kind of rational perspective. 

This ruling does not outlaw the National Day of Prayer.  Private religious organizations can go ahead and do what they have always done every year in the past.  They can hold their rallies all over the country at state capitols and can still hold a rally in Washington D.C.  The ruling isn’t applicable to the whole country and is nowhere near reaching the Supreme Court yet.  Even if the Supreme Court were to uphold this ruling all it would do is prohibit the State and Federal governments from issuing a proclamation calling on all Americans to pray on such and such a day.  Hardly an erosion of an individual’s right to exercise their religion. 

In an earlier post I referenced a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote outlining his reasons for not issuing a proclamation calling for a National Day of Thanksgiving.  Not at all dissimilar to the current National Day of Prayer proclamations.  In this post I would like to refer you to a letter James Madison wrote in his retirement about the same subject. 

I observe with particular pleasure the view you have taken of the immunity of Religion from civil jurisdiction, in every case where it does not trespass on private rights or the public peace. This has always been a favorite principle with me; and it was not with my approbation, that the deviation from it took place in Congress, when they appointed Chaplains, to be paid from the National Treasury. It would have been a much better proof to their Constituents of their pious feeling if the members had contributed for the purpose, a pittance from their own pockets. As the precedent is not likely to be rescinded, the best that can now be done maybe to apply to the constitution the maxim of the law, de minimis non curant.

There has been another deviation from the strict principle in the Executive Proclamations of fasts & festivals, so far, at least, as they have spoken the language of injunction, or have lost sight of the equality of all religious sects in the eye of the Constitution. Whilst I was honored with the Executive Trust I found it necessary on more than one occasion to follow the example of predecessors. But I was always careful to make the Proclamations absolutely indiscriminate, and merely recommendatory; or rather mere designations of a day, on which all who thought proper might unite in consecrating it to religious purposes, according to their own faith & forms.…

Notwithstanding the general progress made within the two last centuries in favour of this branch of liberty, & the full establishment of it, in some parts of our Country, there remains in others a strong bias towards the old error, that without some sort of alliance or coalition between Government & Religion neither can be duly supported. Such indeed is the tendency to such a coalition, and such its corrupting influence on both the parties, that the danger cannot be too carefully guarded agst. And in a Government of opinion, like ours, the only effectual guard must be found in the soundness and stability of the general opinion on the subject. Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together. It was the belief of all sects at one time that the establishment of Religion by law, was right & necessary; that the true religion ought to be established in exclusion of every other; And that the only question to be decided was which was the true religion. The example of Holland proved that a toleration of sects, dissenting from the established sect, was safe & even useful. The example of the Colonies, now States, which rejected religious establishments altogether, proved that all Sects might be safely & advantageously put on a footing of equal & entire freedom; and a continuance of their example since the declaration of Independence, has shewn that its success in Colonies was not to be ascribed to their connection with the parent Country. If a further confirmation of the truth could be wanted, it is to be found in the examples furnished by the States, which have abolished their religious establishments. I cannot speak particularly of any of the cases excepting that of Virga. where it is impossible to deny that Religion prevails with more zeal, and a more exemplary priesthood than it ever did when established and patronised by Public authority. We are teaching the world the great truth that Govts. do better without Kings & Nobles than with them. The merit will be doubled by the other lesson that Religion flourishes in greater purity, without than with the aid of Govt.

                              ——James Madison to Edward Livingston, July 10, 1822 (emphasis mine)

I firmly believe that government and religion are better off holding to Madison’s and Jefferson’s views on Church and State than we are with Matt Staver’s and Jay Sekulow’s.