Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Is American Religious Freedom a Myth?

And is that an excuse to scrap it in the New World Order?
(c) 2011 by Tom King

David Sehat wrote a muddled article on the Huffington Post that seems mostly aimed at complaining that religion has too much influence in politics. When a majority of Americans belong to churches and formal religious bodies, it seems inevitable that religion should inevitably impact public policy, though that influence is an indirectly shaping influence rather than a directly controlling one because of the Constitution that prohibits the government from "establishing" a state religion..

I had difficulty identifying what Sehat's beef was with the first amendment. Sehat's complaint about America's system of religious tolerance seems to be not that people aren't allowed to attend the church of their choice, but that the way we guarantee that right makes it almost impossible to elect an atheist to public office because of the indirect effect of religion? Is he suggesting that we fracture the influence of religions like Christianity by turning churches into political parties?

There is some hint at that based on his "I'm smarter than you" toned article. He suggest that the European model is more honest in that churches participate directly in political parties. He wants us to stop congratulating ourselves and feel properly guilty about the failures of our ancestors to meet the ideal of religious separation from government.  Once we feel properly guilty, we are somehow supposed to become more honest in our political debate.

And how is that?  Will that mean we change our beliefs on size of government, spending, abortion, energy policy, global warming? 

It's ironic that he quotes de' Tocqueville for support, an author whose home country, France, murdered and persecuted religious groups like the Waldenses, the Hugenots and finally the Catholics, brutalizing the faithful via government and sometimes government/religion partnerships. Of course, the French revolution gave them an openly atheist form of government and after years of bloody pogroms, the country was left with few openly religious people. Is that what Sehat wants?  Religion minimized rather than respected and celebrated? Is that what's so insidious about the "Myth of American Religious Freedom".

The article came out on National Religious Freedom Day. Sehat doesn't think we should celebrate that.

Yes, America does have a checkered past where religious liberty is concerned as it does with every other element of the Bill of Rights. What Sehat doesn't allow for is the time it takes to change an entire culture. If you start with the ideal and make progress over time towards the ideal, you wind up with a country that is always rather better than when it started. We did that with civil rights, women's voting rights, freedom of speech, and the press and assembly. We've had to fight it out in courts and legislatures for 200 plus years. As a result we're better than we were.

I never can understand why people think that because we were once less than true to our ideals, that it gives us a reason to go backward - to accept less than the ideal we worked so hard to achieve.

My own church's members were locked up in Tennessee for farming on Sunday (we go to church on Saturday) in the early 1900s. We fought that in courts and unjust Blue Laws were ended.  Just because Americans haven't always achieved the ideals we hold sacred, doesn't mean we should scrap the whole constitution in favor of a socialsit/progressive remake that sacrifices those ideals for some sort of illusion of security.

I hope we are smarter than that.

Tom King

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