Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘religious liberty’ Category

As usual, Trump and his administration are in the news. For many things. The two that caught my eye for this blog are:

  • Trump putting into place a rule allowing more employers to opt out of buying insurance that provides coverage for birth control if they have religious objections to it.
  • The DOJ memorandum excluding transgendered people from legal protections, along with two follow on memos outlining the new view on religious liberty and federal law, views that will likely have a large and negative impact on LGBT rights. .

And let me add one more story relevant to this blog.  This one from Kansas, where the state has taken a child from his mother and grandparents and , over their religious based objections based,  the state is going to vaccinate him.

Now, I am not going to go into who is right and wrong here – although those who know413b4ee6dceb3098d9b515c6f3e6b5f2 me probably can take a good guess at what my views are.  Instead, I am going to briefly discuss why freedom of religion is on a par with the right of free speech, a free press, freedom of assembly and so forth.

First let me provide the list the rights from the Constitution’s Bill of Rights (note – many of our founders would object to my use of the word “list”. For the reason why, consider the 9th Amendment.

Amendment I

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.

Amendment II

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III

No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Amendment VII

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

Now, almost all of the rights listed here have rather a rather obvious relationship to a working government, especially a democracy.  Free speech, trial by jury, freedom of assembly, and so forth.  But freedom of religion?  How is that related to a functioning government?

To answer this, first, consider the freedom of religion might more properly be called the freedom of conscience, the right for a person to believe as they chose.  In many ways that is a more basic right than freedom of speech and such, since if you are not free to believe as you see fit then what does it matter if your speech is free?  Of course, you could argue then that political thoughts and ideas are free and protected, but not religious ones, not ones dealing with God and the afterlife and the moral teachings of a religion.  The problem with this is that so often, in fact most often, a person’s ideas and thoughts about politics are going to be influenced by his thoughts about morality at the very least. And for most, morality was associated with religion.  In other words, making a clear distinction is much more easily said than done.

Which leads us into the second reason. Religion is important to people. Their views of the universe, of life and what may lie beyond it, about how to live in this world, and all the rest of it are of critical importance to individuals and groups.  In fact, people consider these views so important that religion has had a prominent role to play in most of the violence in the world (note, I did not say cause, there is a difference).   This is something I wrote about in my blog What Most Have Forgotten.

The point here is that our founders, the creators of the Constitution, knew this history just as well as anyone did. Better than most actually. Along with this is the fact that most Religion-2of them believed religion to be of critical importance to a society too.  The best way they saw to avoid the violence was to give everyone the right to believe as they think best, without the government taking a side or promoting one view over another.  In other words, to have a free and functioning democracy, freedom of religion is just as essential as any and all the other rights.

 

As for the proof of it- well, our history has been free of the degree of religious conflict that afflicted both Europe and Colonial America. And that still afflicts much of the world.  It is also an idea that has been taken up by many nations around the world, to their betterment.  The challenge now that we have successfully created the separation of church and state so necessary for a stable democratic government is to maintain that separation in the face of those who  do not realize its importance.  One of the many challenges facing us in our suddenly changed times.

208-main-epi-illo-630x356

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

This blog has been lurking around in the corners of my mind for quite a while now, ever since July 1, 2016 when I passed a church bulletin calling for all to come to its celebration of God and America. This sign bothered me for several reasons.  Of course, me being an atheist will probably cause most to figure out some of the reasons it bothered me. But only some. As for the rest, well, the rest I thought would be surprising and I hope interesting.

It bothered me because not only is such a mingling of church and state bad for the state, but it is just as bad for the church.

il_570xN.472286975_c0u2

Let me first say that this church, and the many others that I saw with a similar message, have every right to do so.  However, not everything that is legal and that people have a right to do is also wise. And in this blog I plan to discuss why it is not wise for a religion, in this case Christianity, to mix religion and nationalism. To do so, I will speak as if I were a much younger me, young enough to still be a Christian.

Let’s start with a question – what is the purpose of the Church?

Answer, to spread the good news of the Gospels, the news about Jesus and his redemptive death and resurrection.  The church was also meant to provide support and teaching to fellow Christians, and to those who come to its doors seeking. And the church was also meant to serve as a moral guide and conscience of people, of societies, of nations, of the world.

While spreading the news of the Gospels might be easier done when part of a government, as part of the inside group, it does so at the expense of corrupting the church, and of causing great pain and suffering to others outside of that church.

A church is not the state.  Nor is it meant to be.  It is not meant to be a supporter of the state, an auxiliary of the state, a co-ruler with the state.

A church is meant to be an outsider in regards to government.

Christianity was born an outsider.

Jesus was born an outsider with Mary being pregnant before being married

Jesus was born into and preached to a people who were outsiders, the Jews.

Jesus served the outsiders among the Jews; tax collectors, the lepers, the unclean, the sinners.

An outsider preaching to a people of outsiders, that is part of what gave Jesus’ message its power.   His message was not to the rich and powerful, although it was theirs for the taking should they choose to listen.  His message was to the poor and powerless.

His message was not how to create a civil society, how to govern a country or state or city.  His message was about God’s love for humanity and how best to receive and spread that love.  It was a message of hope, not political positions.

Jesus, as the outsider, accepted all, but did not change his message, his standards, nor himself for any.

Jesus changed the world.

From its birth to its early years, Christianity was a religion off outsiders looking in.  Often ridiculed, sometimes persecuted, they nonetheless still for the most part, held firm to their standards and beliefs.  And they grew.

And then came the great split. No, not the Catholic and the Protestant split. Nor the disagreements among Christians, which had been present since the beginning as can be seen in the arguments about the nature of Jesus and his relation to God.

No, the great split I am referring to concerns the split from being outsiders to becoming insiders. The conversion of Emperor Constantine transformed Christianity from being a religion of outsiders to being a religion of the insiders, of those with power and money. Or rather, one particular set of Christians became insiders.  As part of the bargain, with Constantine, they had to have a uniform set of beliefs.  So, one set modified some of their beliefs and won, the others became persecuted and died, along with the pagans.

As Paul Johnson wrote in his A History of Christianity:

How could the Christian Church, apparently quite willingly, accommodate this weird megalomaniac in its theocratic system? Was there a conscious bargain? Which side benefited most from this unseemly marriage between Church and State? Or, to put it another way, did the empire surrender to Christianity, or did Christianity prostitute itself to the empire?”

Now, instead of criticizing the government and society, Christianity and the government tyndale-martyrdom-resized-600were one, and actions against the government were also actions against Christianity, and actions against Christianity were also actions against the government.  Given this, how could most Christians criticize any government action, no matter how bad or how flawed?  How could any government allow any deviation from the established religion, no matter how well argued and supported?

They couldn’t

An attack on the religion supported by the state was an attack on the state, and an attack vc006367on the state was an attack on the religion.  Such was the root cause of most of the religious violence and persecution throughout the years; the Inquisition, the forced conversion and persecution of the Jews, Catholics vs. Protestants, Protestants vs. Puritans, Puritans vs. Quakers, and on and on and on.

In addition to the violence against people, was the violence done to beliefs and morals as Churches assumed stately power. Compromises with principles and beliefs were common, as were the flat out ignoring of such principles and beliefs.

This violence against people and against the teachings of Jesus and of God is probably why the first person to propose an absolute and total separation of church and state was a Puritan theologian and the founder of the Baptist Church in America – Roger Williams. And he lived up to that ideal when he founded the state of Rhode Island.

The United States was the first secular government in the world. Something that the writers of the Constitution did intentionally, and with great forethought.

1st-Amendment_eroded_4

Their foresight and awareness of history is something lacking today by too many Americans, and is evidenced by so much more than just the signs I saw that inspired this blog.  This lack of forethought and awareness is seen whenever anyone:

  • Claims that the United States is a Christian country. And then advocates for laws to make it so – prayer in the schools, recognition of the Bible as the state book, etc.
  • Work to limit or take away the rights of those who are not the right sort of Christian or believer.
  • Tells Muslims to go home, even those who were born in the United States. And then tries to make it so.
  • Whenever permits are denied to religious groups due to their beliefs.
  • When President H. Bush commented that atheist could not be patriots due to not believing in God.
  • When Trump sends out a White House bulletin in which he states “America is a Nation of believers. As long as we have faith in each other, and trust in God, we will succeed!”

We, as a nation, as a people, have never been very good at remembering. But, today, that

two-kingdom-flag-church-cross-copy

lack of memory, of awareness, seems stronger than ever.  The evangelical support forTrump shows how far too many Christians and Christian organizations, are willing to go in dealing with the devil in order to gain political power.  And how many of their values and morals, and how much of the teachings of Jesus they are willing to ignore or give up in their quest for political power.

 

I think that they need to go back and read the history of religion, and of what happens when it becomes part of the state.  Some Madison, or Jefferson, or several others would be good.  But, perhaps, it would be best if they rediscovered the writings and thought of Roger Williams.  Before they manage to harm not just people, but the Constitution that will allow such harm to, eventually, be redressed.

 

 

Read Full Post »

Republican presidential candidate Gingrich speaks at a meet and greet at the Willow Ridge Golf Course in Fort Dodge,

“We should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background and if they believe in sharia they should be deported

…………

“Look, the first step is you have to ask them the questions. The second step is you have to monitor what they’re doing on the internet. The third step is — let me be very clear — you have to monitor the mosques. I mean, if you’re not prepared to monitor the mosques, this whole thing is a joke.” Gingrich on Fox News’ Sean Hannity.

how-much-donald-trump-makes-in-speaking-fees-compared-to-everyone-else

 

“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” campaign press release

 

“Do you think we might need to register Muslims in some type of database, or note their religion on their ID?” Yahoo Reporter

“We’re going to have to look at a lot of things very closely. We’re going to have to look at the mosques. We’re going to have to look very, very carefully.” Donald Trump response

……….

“Should there be a database or system that tracks Muslims in this country?”  MSNBC reporter

“There should be a lot of systems. Beyond databases. I mean, we should have a lot of systems.”  Donald Trump response.

 

And with these statements both Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump have stabbed with intent to kill that which both have professed to love and protect – the Constitution

religion 3

 “…no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States..” Article 6  United States Constitution

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”  First Amendment, United States Constitution

 

An integral part of being an American is being able to live your life in accordance with the dictates of your conscience and religion.

For those Jews so inclined there are rabbinical courts.  For those Catholics so inclined there are diocesan tribunals.   For other religious groups both Christian and not, there are organizations that, for  those so inclined, will resolve marital issues, individual disputes, business disputes, rule on inheritances, and more – all based on the precepts of that religion.

All of this is allowed by the free exercise clause as long  as they meet the following standards:

  • Participation is voluntary on the part of everyone.
  • What is decided does not violate US laws.
  • What is decided does not violate the US Constitution.

This is part of what being free to live in accordance with your conscience and religion means.  It applies not to just a few, not just to some, not just to most, but it applies to all Americans.

But Gingrich, Trump, and too many others wish to deny this Constitutional right to our Muslim citizens.  They would say to these Americans,

“No, you cannot follow your religious laws under the same guidelines as others follow theirs.  In fact, you are not allowed to follow them at all.  And yes, we are instituting a religious test on who is considered a full and good citizen of the United States.

And yes, although we may deny it, in doing so we are destroying that  which we profess to love and swore to protect.

And yes, by doing so we show that our true love is to the United States as a nation first and its ideals only a distant second.  And preferably a nation of Christians with a few Jews tossed in.”

 

Oh, what joy this must give our enemies who have charged us with hypocrisy, to have their once lies now made true.

Oh, what pain it gives seeing too many of our leaders recommending suicide as a way to protect our nation.

Read Full Post »

Words. I am amazed at how many people seem to believe that words mean something apart from how we interpret them. Yes, sometimes the interpretation is easy. Most often though, especially with those words whose groupings are considered to be among the most important, they are not.

Power of Words

Two recent claims of a belief in a literal view of words was brought to my attention recently. Or rebrought rather since I was already aware of them. And both dealt with the U.S. Constitution.

The first dealt with the 2nd Amendment and its use of the word “infringe”. As in “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

This person had posted the dictionary definition of infringed in an attempt to show that our Constitution is against any sort of gun control and that all laws regulating the purchase of firearms is an attack on one of our most fundamental rights. Now, I don’t remember exactly which dictionary this person used, but its definition was similar to if not exactly like this one from the Merriam Webster dictionary.

“to wrongly limit or restrict (something, such as another person’s rights)”

Of course, this person was focused on the words “limit or restrict” and interpreted “wrongly” as meaning all attempts to limit or restrict. However, I had a different take on this definition. Mine, and I believe most people’s, interpretation would be that “wrong” described a type of attempt, not that all attempts at limiting or restricting are wrong. In other words instead of any attempt then, wrongly means that some attempts are wrong but also strongly implies that there are also correct ways to limit or restrict.

I also pointed out to this person that they were ignoring the first part of the amendment, “well regulated”. Words when used in sentences or any other larger grouping cannot be understood fully in isolation Those other words can and usually do change or modify their meanings.
In this case, the dictionary definition supports the idea that there are ways to correctly “limit or restrict” this right, and when added to the words “well regulated”, then gun control laws are not unconstitutional. Some can be, others are not. This is recognized even in the recent Supreme Court case, McDonald v Chicago, that recognized an individual right to own a gun.
The other words under dispute was the phrase “separation of church and state”. As is usual for so many extreme conservatives, they like to point out that this phrase is not in the constitution. They then point out that what is in the Constitution instead is “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Words known as the establishment clause.

And they are quite right about this. However, where they go wrong is in claiming that the establishment clause of the Constitution has a plain and literal meaning at odds with that of the phrase separation of church and state. They act as if the establishment clause needs no interpretation. And to add to the fun, they then often then go on to interpret it as meaning to establish a state church and nothing more.

To cap it all off, their interpretation flies in the face of how the word establishment was used during the time of the writing of the Constitution.

It ignores the fact that the man most responsible for writing the establishment clause and getting it passed, James Madison, also used this phrase of Thomas Jefferson to describe the intent of this clause.

They also ignore the history of the ratification of the Constitution and how, although its writers and promoters were justifiably gravely concerned about it being ratified, they did not respond to the many criticisms hurled their way that the Constitution did not contain a reference to Christianity or Jesus or even to just God.

They further ignore the historical fact that even after its ratification attempts were made to correct this supposed deficiency, attempts which were always defeated both during the time immediately after the Constitution and for all the years afterwards – during President Andrew Jackson’s presidency, during President Abraham Lincoln’s presidency and on into the 20th century.

So, in their attempt to say that it does not need to be interpreted, they interpret it in a way at odds with the writer of those words and with history. Seems to me that their view is more the result of their ideology than any sort of reality. Or laziness. After all, it is much easier to look at a word, put your interpretation to it, pretend it is THE literal meaning of the word, and then be happy that it confirms your own biases and prejudices. Look at how much easier that process is than the one I used in the last paragraph above, wherein I had to find out how the word establishment was used in regards to religion at that time, at who wrote those words and how he described the meaning of what he wrote, and at the history of the Constitution.

word-map-27092008
Of course, the greatest argument against this idea of a literal reading is the fact that those who claim to believe in such so often disagree on what those words mean when applied to life and when enacted in the world. This is true whether the words in question are those of the Constitution, the Bible, the Qur’an, or any other set of words.

Read Full Post »

Daesh, al Qaeda, and other Islamic terrorist groups claim that the United States is waging a war with Islam. That we hate Muslims and that our religious liberties are for Jews and Christians only, not Muslims. That Muslims are a hated and second class citizens, at best, within our borders. These claims are part of how they manage to gain recruits, highlighting our supposed intolerance of Islam and Muslims and casting this as a religious war of self-defense on their part.

Irving-protest-fox-4-video-screenshot-640x480

For the most part, we have avoided playing into that scenario of theirs internally. American Muslims are among the most integrated of any countries. However, now we are letting our fears and biases provide an element of truth to the terrorist claims, making their propaganda and recruitment efforts even more effective.

With the rise of hate crimes against Muslims in America, talk of internment camps, registries, and such what do you think would happen to those Muslims who truly do love the US and are proud to be citizens? Imagine if this were to happen to Christians here, what would happen to your loyalty to the US? What if your religion were demonized and reviled, you and your family and friends viewed with suspicion and often outright hatred? What if friends and family who are Christian living outside the United States could no longer visit you?

I know that these proposals are not in place…..yet. But they are being talked about and too many Americans are thinking them a good idea. Along with the fact that too often when mosques are being built they are being protested, that even Islamic cemeteries face an uphill fight to get city government approval to be created, when protesters armed with guns march outside your mosque – how safe would you feel in your own country? American Muslims make up the single largest group providing tips to the FBI on possible terrorist activities. What do you think would happen if that should cease?

635780376027795482-image1

And in foreign affairs, this sort of rhetoric and these actions would be devastating. Our Muslim allies such as Jordan would cease to be allies. Our European allies would, justifiably, revile us. If a small percentage of Muslims based largely in the Middle East and Africa can create this much harm to us, imagine if the percentage were larger – or even to become the majority worldwide?

Carpet bombing Daesh with the huge loss of civilian and innocent life would indeed destroy the military capability of Daesh. But it would also give Daesh a huge propaganda win, feeding life into its Frankenstein creature of an American war on all of Islam. Our allies in the region would turn into our enemies. Muslims worldwide would decry the loss of innocent lives. And, if we made the sands glow, to paraphrase Ted Cruz, even our European allies would denounce us.

The short term destruction of Daesh’s military capability would be hugely offset by the fact that they would have won the propaganda war and would gain millions of new adherents and sympathizers. And take a good look at Paris – does that sort of action really require a country to support it? They can work underground and with the sympathy and help of millions of other Muslims, Muslims that had opposed them before, they can create even greater havoc and chaos more frequently.

This language, these proposals, these possible actions are just what Daesh and the other Islamic terrorist groups want. They want us to act out of fear, to violate our own supposed morals and principles, and create a reality in which more Muslims than ever would flock to their banner. There are many signs that Daesh is having a harder time recruiting Muslims. These actions and this rhetoric can turn that trend around for them. Trump, Cruz, and others as doing exactly what the terrorists want. Far from fighting terrorism, they are helping it.

And the above is just the practical reasons why all of this rhetoric from Trump, Cruz and too many conservatives is harmful. Just as important, in fact even more important, are the moral considerations.

We are holding people accountable for the actions of others due solely to the fact that they belong to the same religion. Not because they helped those responsible for their terrorist acts (the great majority denounce and condemn them). Not because they shared the same exact religion – like Christianity there are many forms of Islam, some good and some evil. Not because they even shared the same nationality or origin. Just because they share the same religion.

This violates all of our principles and morality. Our constitution requires that there be no religious test for office. The same principle should hold true here too – no religious test should be used to condemn a person. Especially not an American citizen.

Armed-Protest-at-Irving-Mosque-Reuters-640x480

This is not the only supposedly American principle this hateful rhetoric and proposed actions violate – innocent until proven guilty comes to mind too. Extreme gun rights people argue, correctly, that law abiding gun owners should not be blamed for the actions of those who use guns to kill (note: I do not intend and will not be drawn into a gun control debate here as that would take attention away from the central message). Yet, they seem to, as a group, to be one of the groups who have a hard time applying this to other situations – law abiding Muslims should not be held accountable for the actions of those who are not.

Our current political climate and the rhetoric and proposals coming mainly from the conservative and Republican side are helping the terrorists. Ironic that. And scary too.

 

Read Full Post »

Due to a recent Supreme Court Decision (not upheld by God though), in order to allow full religious liberty for all, we have had to revise our requirements and procedures for the obtainment of marriage licenses. Please read these instructions carefully and follow them fully.

In addition to the previous requirements of a valid photo ID and, if a previous marriage has been dissolved, proof of that dissolvement, the following information must also be provided (please be aware that a divorce could affect your ability to obtain a marriage license from this office)(please also be aware that providing false information on any of the information required is cause to reject your application and could also result in a fine of not less than $100).

  1. Form 434463-8BBB must be filled out fully.
    1. Include all employers, no matter how briefly the employment may have been.
    2. Include all past addresses, no matter how briefly you may have resided there.
    3. Be aware that to verify your checking and savings account a voided check will be necessary for the checking account and a blank deposit slip for the savings account.
    4. Your e mail address and passcodes for access to your e mail account are required.
    5. Your Facebook page, LinkedIn page, and other social media accounts are required.
    6. All information requested is needed for a thorough background check and is required. All lines and questions need to be fully filled out.  Should the information requested not apply to you do NOT leave the line blank.  Instead, put NA down.
    7. Be aware that leaving out requested information or providing false information are causes for rejection of your application and could also  result in a fine of not less than $150.
  2. Please answer fully form 2424998-CBU-21-X about your hobbies, interests, proclivities, and other activities.
    1. Provide a complete listing of all interests, hobbies, and other activities whether it is chess club, shooting range, flying, political party, etc.
    2. Be sure to include whether or not you drink alcoholic beverages and consume pork.
    3. Include both you and your potential partner’s religion and racial status.
    4. Be aware that leaving out requested information or providing false information are causes for  rejection of your application and could also result in a fine of not less than $200.
  3. Please answer fully form EZ956-29XZ-86680 about sexual preferences, past sexual history, and current sexual activity.
    1. This includes not only heterosexual or homosexual activities but also all instances of adultery (provided you have previously been married) pre-marital sex, mastubational activities, sexual acts with those related to you (provide degree of relationship), sexual acts with more than one partner, and sexual acts with organism or objects other than human.
    2. Be aware that leaving out requested information or providing false information are causes for rejection of your application and could also result in a fine of not less than $350.
  1. Once all forms and information have been provided please allow four weeks to process.  This is in order to ensure that we have a county clerk who, due to their firmly held religious belief, is not offended by one or more of your activities, associations, past history, decisions, employment, religion, racial status, sexual orientation, and sexual activities and thus not able to issue you a marriage certificate.
  2. Should this office have no one available whom you have not offended the firmly held religious sensibilities of, we will forward your paperwork to the next nearest county clerk office to see if they have a clerk whose firmly held religious beliefs will allow them to process this for you.
    1. Should all clerks there find that processing your application for a marriage certificate violates one or more of their firmly held religious beliefs then there will be a nominal charge of $25 to forward the application to the next county office.

Provided you can obtain a marriage license from one of our clerks, we wish you a very happy marriage.

Read Full Post »