With all the rancor ensuing these days about religious freedom, the separation of church and state, the 10 Commandments in court houses, and judicial activism, I think we need a little perspective here.
There are basically two competing ideas here. For sake of time we'll just look at the polar ends of the spectrum (what you hear about on our sensationalized news coverage), and then I'll put in a "new" perspective for consideration.
The far left end of the spectrum is this (summarized): Get religion out of the public square. Practice whatever you want behind closed doors but don't bring it out in public. I don't want to see it or hear about it, unless your beliefs are completely and 100% inclusive to everyone else's. If you actually believe in a God, and practice any sort of religion, then obviously you are a lunatic and need not be taken seriously. There is no higher power than the human mind.
The far right end of the spectrum is this: We need to pray in school. In fact, Jesus is every school's principle. Our court houses should be in the shapes of crosses like the olden days cathedrals. Anyone who isn't religious is obviously gay or wants to be.
That sound about right? I'm sure you've heard these views (however summarized) before. In fact, I know some of you probably believe at least a little of either, or both.
So what is the answer? Does is lie somewhere in the middle? To the left or right of these views? Well I don't really view the answer as somewhere along these lines. I think I've got the solution - and this may sound egotistical - but I think I really know what our country needed when it was formed.
The far right wing solution here just will not work. Our country is made up of many different peoples from all different walks of life. To choose that path would be to slap in the face of everything this country was founded on (although they will tell you differently). Anyone hear of religious freedom? Regardless of whatever they tell you, the truth is that very far right people DO want to live in a Christian state. I don't know about you, but my ancestors actually did come over on the Mayflower to escape religious persecution. (we have records, seriously) The inevitable end to this viewpoint is this: One religion becomes entangled in the government and the people rebel for sake of religious freedom a la 1620 and the Mayflower. Forcing religion down anyone's throat never works.
The far left solution (read as "center" by members of the media and college professors) is equally horrible. In actuality, telling believers in God that they can not worship in public is nothing short of persecution. It is exactly in contradiction to what our founders intended. Anyone hear of relgious freedom? (wait, didn't I just say that earlier?) The inevitable end to this viewpoint is this is also the dissolution of the union. You might wonder how, and that brings me to my "new" interperetation.
In actuality, there is nothing new about it. I truly believe this is what our founders had in mind. Our founders recognized (and signed off on) the idea that all human rights were given to us by our Creator. They did not say that they came from a president, a legistlature, or a judge.
Here's the familiar quote:
"The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America. When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
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.
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it....."
Our founders recognized that our freedoms were given to us, and not voted on. Now you see from above that it is said our freedoms were given to us by God and the governments were instituted among men, receiving their actual powers (lawmaking ability) from the governed. This is a very important point, because it really does show that those with the inalienable rights hold the power. The rights, because they are NOT instituted by men, but a higher power, are non-negotiable - regardless of the government in current standing. What an awesome thought! Look around the world at the "godless" governments and you will see countries that do not believe in our rights, and do not afford them to their people. (China is a good example, as are other communist/socialist countries)
They also recognized that religion was a necessary component to freedom. Why? Because relgions teach morals. When a society's morals decline, the culture becomes decadent, frivolous, apathetic, and self destructive. There are numerous stories from history that prove this point, and the founder's knew them. They knew and wrote about the fall of Rome, they knew about the loss of the powers of Venice, and on and on. Our country's power arises from the consent of the governed, who make laws and make decisions every day. If our people are immoral, then we fall into the very same pits we crawled our way out of, and pulled others from.
So...how did they want us to behave in reference to religion? If you think we are supposed to live in a virtual theocracy, thats terribly wrong. By the same token, if you think we are to live in a land that has basically outlawed all public displays of religion, that is completely perposterous. You both are in the wrong country.
Somewhere in all the mess, their true intentions got mangled. I think this is what the founders were trying to say:
People can worship whatever and however they choose, as long as it doesn't actually harm anyone else. Public property is for public use, and as the public enjoys freedom of religion - anyone can worship on public property, as long as they don't prohibit anyone else from doing so. If you want to pray in school, or any other public institution, or gather together to pray there (freedom of assembly), thats fine as well. Just don't be offended by or mistreat those who don't. If you don't believe in God, thats fine. We aren't going to be crazy and establish a church that everyone must pay taxes to or anything. We aren't going to cut off your ears if you don't believe in the state religion. Please don't sneere arogantly at people who do believe in God, thats not nice. People's rights TO believe cannot interfere with those who's right it is NOT to believe, and those who choose NOT to believe cannot interfere with the rights those who do. Again, everyone just get along and stop trying to force your views on everyone. Convince people of your beliefs the old fashioned way by talking to them, not by legislating them or judging them.
Thank you, The "Founders".
I hope this all made a good deal of sense. While you celebrate this 4th of July try to remember this country's beginnings. Whether you believe that God actually gave us these rights or not, take comfort in the fact that our rights cannot be taken away by anyone so long as we defend them.
Happy Independence Day! Have a great weekend everyone.
"And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor." - Delcaration of Independence