Monday, December 13, 2004

This God Thing

We should take Thomas Jefferson to heart:
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State.

-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Danbury Baptist Association, CT., Jan. 1, 1802 (courtesy of here)

But, then we have Alex Ray who is a syndicated columnist in our Star Democrat. This is some of what he has to say under the banner:

The attacks on Christianity in our America continue
1. In the last century, Nazism and Communism tried not only to conquer countries, but to stamp out both the Christian and Jewish religions.....
2. The campaign to destroy Christianity has had great success in the schools where prayer is forbidden.....
3. I think back to last year when Alabama's supreme court chief justice was removed from office because he ordered the Ten Commandments displayed in the lobby of the courthouse....
4. Liberals have misinterpreted our Constitution and the courts have upheld them....
5. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was intended to prohibit the federal government from declaring and financially supporting a national religion, such as existed in many other countries at the time of the nation's founding. It never declared that religion should be kept out of government or our educational system (emphasis added).

Please note that this is a syndicated columnist and is displayed prominently in our newspaper. Let me address this points in order:

1. I was unaware that the Nazi's tried to stamp out Christianity. In fact, Hitler and most Germans were Christian. The Fascist regimes in Spain (Franco) and Italy (Mussolini) were openly allied with the Catholic Church (of course the Catholic Church may not be Christian to Mr. Ray).
2. Prayer is not forbidden in parochial schools. Prayer is forbidden in public schools. It is a rather elementary exercise in deduction, Mr. Ray. Who would the student's pray to? Which God? Christ? Muhammad? Buddha? Confucius? Yahweh? For your information, here are some demographics:
World Population: 6.42 billion
Christianity: 2 billion
Islam: 1.3 billion
Hinduism: 900 million
Secular/no religion/atheist/agnostic: 850 million
Buddhism: 360 million
And so on
(Judaism 14 million)
It is the wisdom of the American Constitution that no religion is preferred. And I, for one, don't want Mr. Ray's (for reasons that should be obvious from my posts on this blog).

3. The Ten Commandments are an official part of Judaism and Christianity. Setting them up in a public place would be supporting those religions in preference to others (or none). Why is this such a difficult concept?

4. I assume Mr. Ray has gone to Law School, has passed the Bar and has been admitted to practice before the Supreme Court with a specialty in Constitutional Law. Otherwise, he is not competent to pass judgment on what our courts say about this issue. Opinions he may have until the cows come home. Its just that they are un-American, those opinions. He should support our government and the courts like he pretends to.

5. In my opinion, this is exactly what our Constitution says, except for the last, italicized phrase, which is total junk. And I bring Thomas Jefferson into the argument to support me. It DID declare that religion should be kept out of our government (and, by extension, our educational system which didn't exist when the Constitution was written). And in case Mr. Ray still doesn't believe it, here is the word of the Father of the Constitution, James Madison:
An alliance or coalition between Government and religion cannot be too carefully guarded against......Every new and successful example therefore of a PERFECT SEPARATION between ecclesiastical and civil matters is of importance........religion and government will exist in greater purity, without (rather) than with the aid of government. [James Madison in a letter to Livingston, 1822, from Leonard W. Levy- The Establishment Clause, Religion and the First Amendment,pg 124]

1 comment:

BK said...

With all due respect:

1. Hitler was not a Christian. Like many, he used Christian language to try to impassion his followers, but any legitimate reading of Hitler and any look at his action absolutely rules out the idea that he was a Christian. I have not spent much time reading up on the Catholic Church's relationship with Spain and Italy, but I sincerely doubt that it was any more than a cowardly willingness to "look the other way" rather than face attack from these very close non-Christian governments.

2. He is obviously referring to public schools.

3. Its a difficult concept to anyone who understands that the history of this country is replete with references to God (i.e., the Christian God), and the Old Testament giving of the law in the 10 Commandments is every bit a part of that history. Setting them up in public is as legitimate of an exercise as setting up statutes of the various Greek and Roman gods (whose statutes also adorn public buildings apparently without any protest from people who demand a strict separation).

4. He has a right to his opinion, and it may not be so misinformed as you may think. (For the record, I passed law school and got a license to practice law in both state and federal courts, plus I taught Constitutional law for 10 years at the undergraduate level). However, without knowning more specifically his complaints, there is little else I can add.

5. His opinion on this point is a valid opinion which the Supreme Court has rejected in favor of a mess of contraditory opinions on the First Amendment. As far as James Madison goes, you are quoting from his writings when he was a bitter old man. His writings closer to the time of the actual writing of the Constitution (in which he had a major hand) and the writing of the First Amendment (of which he was one of the authors) reveals a point of view much more welcoming of religion into public discussion and law.