As our president makes his way to the far east to attend the Olympic games, concerns about religious freedoms and human rights continue to overshadow the games themselves. Here at home, those same concerns are echoed in the ongoing Presidential race.
65% of all Americans believe that the nation’s founders intended the United States to be a Christian nation and 55% believe that the Constitution establishes a Christian nation. This is according to a national survey released Sept. 11, 2007 by the First Amendment Center. Quite incorrect*, and it highlights an increasing disconnect between perception and reality, and forewarns of a dangerous trend toward the establishment of a state religion.
Among other things, one of the underlying reasons behind the United States becoming the United States was escape from persecution of state religion. Both Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary before her perpetrated a war on their religious opponents. Lands were seized, titles were stripped, and many were imprisoned and (in the severe case of Queen Mary) put to death.
But, you say, that couldn’t happen today. We live in a democracy. Yes, yes we do. A big reason we live in a democracy is that there is no state religion. Any time religion is involved in matters of state, a government “of the people, for the people, and by the people” is no longer possible. Because the church is part of the government and the government part of the church, the people’s wil and the rights of the individual become secondary.
One of the most dangerous things this administration has done is to forward the purpose of a “unitary executive,” with the concept that the President is a power unto himself, and answerable to no one. Previously, it was recognized by most politicians (if not most citizens) that endowing an executive with that much power could be disastrous, as eventually, the pendulum would swing, and the opposing party would gain the executive branch. This was always enough of a threat to keep checks and balances in place. Most Christians shrug at this argument, pointing out that we only elect Christian presidents. Very well, then.
What would happen if we elected another Catholic president? One who wished to make Catholicism the state religion? It’s a Christian religion, right? What’s the big deal? And being the unitary executive, (s)he has the power to make that a reality. What? Why are you getting angry?
That’s not even an extreme example. I’m sure there would be much more outrage if I substituted Catholic with Muslim. And that outrage is precisely the reason we CANNOT have a state religion. It is wrong, regardless of which religion is chosen, to impose that religion on others. Were anyone to attempt to do so to Christians, I’m sure a first amendment suit would be brought so fast, the irony meters wouldn’t be able to keep up.
We are now a nation of many cultures. There is no one that we can point to and call it exclusively “American.” Those cultures include religions. And all of those citizens have the right to practice the religion of their choice or no religion at all, regardless of whether we embrace it or not. As Americans, we MUST preserve that right.
*True. It was never about God. Our government is secular, our society is predominantly Christian. Those who founded our country did so not on “Christian principles,” but on a rule of law and justice derived from Greek, Roman and English systems. Not the bible.