Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Role of Religion.

It is unmistakable that religion has a very prominent role in American society and always has. According to an article published by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, over half the people in America say that religion impacts their lives in a profound way. “Religion is much more important to Americans than to people living in other wealthy nations. Six-in-ten people in the U.S. say religion plays a very important role in their lives”(851).
If this is the case, and it is evident that religion on a personal and communal level is not capable of breaching the Constitution, why now the reluctance to allow morality and religion be a larger part of the government? One of the reasons this is a more sensitive subject than in years past is due to the increasingly pluralistic nature of society. If a Judeo-Christian in the senate is voting based on his beliefs and religion, it is bound to upset the Muslim population. Some have a strong objection to the government ‘legislating
morality’. While this might appear to be a justified claim, it is still not an infringement upon the constitution to legislate what one thinks to be morally correct. All laws have their basis in an absolute morality. No one would accuse the government of “legislating morality” for imprisoning a convicted murderer. Consider the thirteenth amendment. It is highly unlikely that anyone would accuse the government of “legislating morality” for abolishing slavery. These are issues that have their roots in ’morality’. Issues such as murder, rape, slavery, and theft are all considered absolutely wrong, they are not subjective to different religions. In American society they are deemed unethical and morally wrong.
If the Judeo-Christian senator has not made a government establishment of religion, then he is not breaching the Establishment Clause by legislating what he deems to be moral. If the people are unhappy with the way the senator has voted, they have the unique right of not reelecting him or her.
It is evident that religion does have a very important place and is widely accepted throughout the United States. It is also clear that people of faith are guaranteed the right to exercise their religious freedom when and wherever they choose to do so. Their place of employment, i.e. a government agency, should have no bearing on their right to exercise their religious freedoms. The government is obligated to protect that right, not restrain it.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Establishment Clause.

It is evident that the constitution addresses the matter of religion. The Establishment Clause found in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution states; " Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof". It is clear that there is no mention of "A wall of separation". In fact, it would appear that the Founders’ intent when penning the Establishment Clause was by prohibiting the establishment of a state religion, such as the one they left behind in England, to protect religion from government, not government from religion. There is no
place in the founding documents of the United States that indicate that our government should be completely void of and separate from religion. Might it not be a violation of the principles of the constitution to prohibit an individual to display religious decorations at his job, even if the individual is employed by the government? The Constitution clearly states that congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion. To exhibit a monument of the Ten Commandments, a cross or crucifix in one’s workplace would not be a breach of the Constitution, whether one works in an insurance office or a court house. The First Amendment does not come with the qualifier, “you may prohibit someone’s free exercise of religion if they are employed by the government.” The first amendment, in fact, does not come with any qualifiers, it plainly says that the government is not to encroach on the free exercise of religion.

Seperation of Church and State.

Nearly all Americans are familiar with the expression "separation of church and state". When asked if religion should play a role in the culture around them most would agree, as long as it is within the confines of "separation of church and state". However, it would not be far amiss to assume that most American citizens are not certain of the origins of the phrase they so easily use to dismiss such things as, prayer in schools and the word ’Christmas’. It is largely thought to be found in the constitution, therefore giving it added weight. Of course, the phrase in question is not in the United States Constitution. It is actually found in a personal letter written by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists in 1802. “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.” Jefferson is simply elaborating on what the constitution so clearly already addresses. However, the actual phrase "Seperation of church and State" is NOT found in the Consitution, and it does not mean what the majority of people read it to mean.

No Such Thing As Legislating Morality.

There are sprawling accusations that the “fundamental right” wishes to legislate morality; which has in turn coined a convenient sound byte for the left. It would seem that conservatives can’t call anything right or wrong without being blamed of legislating morality.

In order for congress to legitimately legislate morality, they would have to agree that that matter at hand is right or wrong. That is where laws come from, the principles and regulations established in a society. No one would accuse the government of “legislating morality” by imprisoning a convicted murderer.

Or what about the 13th amendment? I sincerely doubt that any person would accuse the government of “legislating morality” by abolishing slavery.

Laws are made to legislate morality. Let’s take Obama’s governing policy for example. From his perspective, it is “moral” to take money that one person earned and place it into the pocket of another person. To some, such as Obama, that belief of governing is “compassionate and moral”. To others it is a form of slavery, “the forcible use of one person to serve the purposes of another.” (A quote from Walter Williams

Morals do not only extend to paleo conservative issues such as abortion and gay rights. They extend to all issues within government.

For instance, the recent housing crisis seemed to bring forth an economic panic in America. Stocks dropped, and a nation wide “economic tsunami” allegedly rolled in. Most would describe this issue as separated from the paleo moral issues, but really, they’re all in one category.

Why did the companies face bankruptcy? Who were the customers? And why didn’t the institutions have enough money to stay afloat? Obviously it’s a complex issue, but the moral bottom line is that people borrowed money beyond their means to repay. They chose life styles they couldn’t afford, and lived in bigger houses than their pocket books could support. This is a moral problem.

And President Elect, Barack Obama’s said solution to such “economic” moral problems is to give these companies money that doesn’t belong to them. If that’s not legislating morality, then nothing is.
So is it appropriate for religion to play a part in legislating morality? I contend that there is no such thing as “legislating morality” without morals there would be no law.

Education and Religion

Education and religion were meant to go hand in hand. The founding fathers intended the youth of this country to be taught with the same principles they founded their country on.
Prayer in public school is not founding a state religion, it is however an exercises of the participating party’s religious freedom and to forbid it is infringing on that freedom. The founding father’s wanted the principles they built their country on to be taught in the schools. Benjamin Rush wrote in a letter in the 1970’s “I lament that we waste so much time and money in punishing crimes and take so little pains to prevent them…we neglect the only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government; that is, the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by means of the Bible; for this Divine Book, above all others, constitutes the soul of republicanism. By withholding the knowledge of [the Scriptures] from children, we deprive ourselves of the best means of awakening moral sensibility in their minds.” It is evident that the founding fathers were far from opposed to teaching biblical and religious principles in the public schools. When the majority of the founding fathers were still living the Untied States Congress allowed the Bible to be taught in public schools. “In 1782, the United States Congress voted this resolution: "The Congress of the United States recommends and approves the Holy Bible for use in all schools." Click here to read more.


So, because our nation was founded on Christian principles, Christianity should be given more freedom then other religions? Certainly not. The founders were clear in the first amendment that the government CANNOT limit someone's freedom to exercise their religion, nor will the government establish a state religion.

Let's fall back to the definition of religion. "a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects"

So, the founding fathers created a country based on their "fundamental set of beliefs". Their religion. Therefore, to stray or vary from their basic system of beliefs would mean losing the foundation of our justice system.

This does not mean that the government will make all citizens become Christians. It does mean the government should stand fast and keep to the moral and ethical codes that it was founded on.

To read more quotes from the founders of this great nation visit here.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Individual V. Corporate

Thus, far I've discussed Religion on an individual level only. It is apparent that on a personal level it is nearly impossible to violate the Establishment Clause. Does the same principle apply in a communal setting? For instance, should a nativity scene be displayed on government owned property? Should the Bible be used as a school curriculum? For the answer to this question let's look at what the founding fathers may have said to such questions. After all since they are the ones who founded this great country certainly they must have some enlightening input.

Here are a few things the founding fathers had to say about Religion and our nation.

"Without a humble imitation of the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, we can never hope to be a happy nation." George Washington

"The Congress of the United States recommends and approves the Holy Bible for use in all schools.” The US Congress 1782

"I think the Christian religion is a Divine institution; and I pray to God that I may never forget the precepts of His religion or suffer the appearance of an inconsistency in my principle and practice." James Iredell Supreme Court Justice

These are just a few quotes from the men that founded our country. I don't believe George Washington, James Iredell or the US Congress would have had a problem with a nativity on government property, and I think they would certainly have been in favor of teaching the Bible in schools.

This does not mean they wanted to establish a nation wide religion, far from it. They were, however, aware that the principles they founded this country on were extracted from the Bible, and therefore the Bible should not be stricken from the government.