Editorial by Glenn Mollette
July 13, 2013. We've seen religious fighting too often on television. From Egypt we've heard about the power of the Muslim Brotherhood and from Afghanistan the fighting between the Sunnis and Shias. We have enough problems in our country and the average American is not interested in religious violence.
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ..." Article VI specifies "that no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."
I do not know of any church or religious entity that wants to change our heritage of separation of church and state.
"Initially stated by Roger Williams who founded the first Baptist Church in America and then restated by Thomas Jefferson in a January 1, 1802 letter he wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut, Williams had written in 1644 of, "[A] hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world.”
Jefferson wrote, "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 & State."(1) "When we speak of religious freedom we mean the right granted legally to individuals to practice and preach religion. It also means not being persecuted for holding any form of religious beliefs."(2)
Our forefathers came to America to distance themselves from a religion run and oppressed by the government. As long as religion is not doing anything illegal or does not hurt the citizens of a country, then it should be free to practice its beliefs. Our nation is host to a multitude of religious opinions and groups. Each entity should enjoy the religious freedom that America offers. America is a land where we have the freedom to have religious convictions and the freedom to preach and practice our convictions.
America must remain a place where religions are free to come and practice their religion. I am a Christian, so I'm not very excited to see the explosion of other religions throughout our country. It is said that the general overall Christian population has become lackadaisical or lukewarm. This attitude is evidenced by a lack of church attendance and church buildings that have few people attending. Some churches have gone out of business and sold their buildings.
For years, America has declared itself as a Christian nation with a Christian founding. Christianity has flourished in America because we have had the freedom to do so. Christianity has the freedom to continue to flourish if it chooses to do so. No one in America is standing in the way of Christian progress. The only group that hurts Christianity is the Christians. Christianity has the freedom to wake up or die a slow death.
America is a land of the exercise of free religion. We should not begrudge other religions that become passionate and flourish in their work. We may not agree with their beliefs and what they are propagating but this is America. As long as religion does not violate the law, it should be welcomed in America.
I've been around strong religious opinions all my life. When I was child I would hear my grandparents and my parents declare their feelings about different religious ideas. I've been around church denominations that felt as if they had it 100% right. Some religious denominations think they are the only ones going to heaven.
As a young minister there were plenty of days when I ignorantly thought that some of the other Christian denominations had it all wrong. Actually, in my opinion some of them do have some of it wrong. The beauty of America is that we enjoy the freedom to look at another religious entity or church and disagree with what they say and teach as long as it is in a civil manner. We have the freedom to preach what we believe and proselytize members from the ranks of other churches and religions.
We should not harass other churches or religious entities. We can validate our point of view by utilizing persuasive language and religious documents. After this, the church, mosque, temple or whatever it is that sits across the street or down the road must be free to practice its religion.
This is part of what makes America great. We need to keep it great. Amen for the first Amendment that guarantees the exercise of religion and forbids the state from establishing a religion. Can you imagine our government trying to run a church?
We need to keep the wall of separation between the church and state as Roger Williams and Thomas Jefferson purported years ago. And, we need to always be alert to any movement in this country that would try to hinder the freedom of religion or any movement that tries to consolidate religion and church.
Does this mean we cannot have prayer on government property or at a government function? The separation of religion and government does not mean the separation of God and nation. Our Christian heritage began with the Pilgrims and continued through our early leaders. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and our leaders between them, before them, and after them have been people of Christian prayers.
This is what will eventually happen. Other religions are growing rapidly in this nation. They will want to say their prayers and espouse their teachings. They have the same legal rights as all Americans. The same is true of any religious entity. I do not have a problem with people praying and preaching at the courthouse or in front of the state capitol or in front of the White House. We have to note that when they are finished, someone with a different point of religious view may want to take the next turn. That is freedom in America.
The day may come in America when there are more of another religious group than there are Christians. How will Christians feel if another group becomes dominant and then pushes reading their religious documents and praying prayers that do not include the name of Jesus? There is great privilege and opportunity in freedom of religion. When a group is in the religious minority it may not feel very good when the religious majority pushes them around.
A praying America is a better and stronger America.
Rejoice for religious freedom! Practice it freely, passionately, joyfully! Respect others. Be considerate. Listen to what others have to say. Have courteous exchanges of conversations. Postulate your position but realize those listening may want to postulate a reply.
Thomas Jefferson passionately expresses the foundation of religious freedom and the separation of church and state on which our country has stood in his writing of "The Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom in 1786." As you study religious freedom and separation of church and state you will enjoy reading his passionate statement.(3)
1. Jefferson, Thomas. Jefferson's Letter to the Danbury Baptists: The Final Letter, as Sent. The Library of Congress Information Bulletin: June 1998. Lib. of Cong., June 1998. Web. 7 Aug. 2010.
Glenn Mollette is an American Columnist, Author of American Issues and nine other books. You can hear him on XM radio each Sunday night at 8EST on XM radio 131. Like his facebook page or contact him at email@example.com.
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