Recently, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue held a prayer vigil on the steps of the state capitol, encouraging those present to pray for rain to alleviate the horrible drought his state is facing. Across the street were protesters screaming that he was violating the "separation of church and state".
Earlier this week we were talking to our kids about Thanksgiving and the history thereof. We talked about the Mayflower and who the pilgrims were. When we asked "who did the pilgrims give thanks to?", the answer we got back was "the Indians". Apparently history has to be distorted to take every mention of God out of the curriculum to protect the "separation of church and state".
Yes, you can see where I'm going here. I'm about to get off on a rant, probably a long one, but I don't care. Things have gotten out of hand and I don't like it.
A lot of people that are standing on the street corner claiming the violation of "separation of church and state" really have no idea what they are talking about. The words "church" and "state", in their opinion, mean "God" and "everything". Anyone who takes just a moment to look into the meaning of the doctrine of "separation of church and state" will see what it really means.
The baseline is the First Amendment of the Constitution:
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.
The first clause is known as the Establishment Clause (so named because of the use of the word "establishment".) The second is the Free Exercise Clause (likewise named for the use of the words "free exercise".) Together these two make up the "religion clauses" of the First Amendment.
The Supreme Court defined it's position on the "religion clauses" and the principle of "separation of church and state" in the case of Everson v. Board of Education (1947):
"The 'establishment of religion' clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation between Church and State.'" (330 U.S. 1, 15-16).
Further support for the principle is given by citing the writings of the "father of the Bill of Rights", James Madison. In particular is his Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments written in opposition to a bill, introduced into the General Assembly of Virginia, to create a tax for the support of teachers of religions. While this document is not on the same level as the Constitution or the position of the Supreme court, it does give the reader an insight into the mind of James Madison when he formulated the Bill of Rights. The gist of this letter is that the government should leave the church alone, the church is a separate entity from the government and should not be supported by the people by force.
What does all this boil down to? Well, look at it. All of this basically says that government should not be in the church's business or the business of church. What it does not say is that history, the attitudes of individuals, and common sense should be separated from everything that even vaguely mentions the word "God". Things have gotten to the point where, in the name of "political correctness", we have taken (or allowed to be taken) God out of life. And I don't think that is what the Bill of Rights, the Supreme court, or James Madison had in mind.
Exactly what did they mean? Let's look at the founding documents of the United States.
The first is the Declaration of Independence. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Created equal... endowed by their Creator... These words obviously represent some sort of acknowledgement that there IS a Creator. The authors of this document were not trying to avoid what was the predominate belief of the people they represented, that there is a God.
The next is the Constitution and the first 10 amendments, known as the Bill of Rights. As cited earlier, the Establishment Clause states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." The fact that such an amendment was not only necessary but was the very first thing to be added to the Constitution, clearly shows the importance that religion held in the lives of the people at the time.
Many more examples can be given through the history of our country, from the Magna Carta to the Mayflower Compact to the Gettysburg Address. It's made abundantly clear that our founding fathers, at the very least, acknowledged the existence of God as Creator and the importance of religion in the lives of the people of this country.
As such, since our founding fathers acknowledged the existence of God and the importance of religion, freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion. (I could get into a whole rant on what religion really is, but for the sake of this discussion let's just say that "religion" means the beliefs of people pertaining to all things "God".) Me practicing my religion may bug you, but you practicing yours bugs me (or you by claiming you have no religion complaining about me practicing mine.) That's why the founding fathers put things the way they did. That's why, when confronted with the question, the Supreme Court held to, and continues to hold to, the position they presented in 1947. No ones religious beliefs (or absence thereof) should override anyone else's religious beliefs (or absence thereof). Tolerance does not mean I hide in a closet so I don't offend you, tolerance means you put up with my religious practices whether you like it or not.
Was Governor Perdue out of line by calling for prayer? No. Why? He did not ORDER anyone to do anything they didn't want to do. No one was forced to come, listen or pray. No laws were enacted and no money was given to anyone.
And when it comes to the pilgrims, teaching factual history does not endorse religion. Just because public school is funded by taxpayers does not mean that we should remove every mention of God from our text books. In fact, removing religion from the lessons is actually promoting a religious position: revisionist atheism.
Can we get back to reality here? A lot of people are religious, professing faith in one religion or another. Why does it make any sense at all to remove every mention of God from everything? Why are we letting a few define what is religion and what isn't? Why are we letting our Constitutional rights continue to shrink as the non-religious push us further and further into the corner? Can we get over our selfish BS and just let people be people? Keep government entirely out of religion, that means quit telling people what they can say and where they can say it. It means stop rewriting the history books and tell the truth.
Oh, and just so you know, guess what happened the day after Governor Perdue held his prayer meeting -