For Justice Day 7 – Freedom of Religion
I take this subject personally and have a hard time editing for brevity. I have composed an essay that draws shamelessly from and combines the excellent work of Susan Jacoby,
Maria Luisa Tucker,
Tom Peters, and David Kirkpatrick (access denied by NYT gatekeeper.) See also About the First Amendment. You will probably want to delete and edit my personal declarations in the first part, please make changes as you wish.
I was born an American. Among all the blessings of my birth, that one has had the most powerful influence on my life. My parents did their best to educate me in their religion, but as I grew older I came to see that it was a matter of choice. The sacred documents of my country assured me that I was free to develop my own personal version of what God is. I am free to join a church, to worship or not, to pray or not, to believe what I will.
The creeds of America became my religion, I share them with anyone who tries to convert me to his own version of the truth. I have faith that all men are created equal, that we are alike even though each is different.
I am proud to belong to a nation that functions by the rule of law, with nobody above that law. I believe in the concept of fairness, and of opportunity shared by all. I believe that what is between my god and myself is a private matter.
The founders of the United States very deliberately gave us a democratic republic that eliminated class distinction and religion. As Noah Webster told us in 1783 “The very idea of a system of religious principles…is totally repugnant to the spirit of christianity. Every establishment is only a milder term for tyranny… It is an insult to humanity, a solemn mockery of all justice and common sense….”
This view has been opposed since our beginning when the Rev. John Mason warned Americans that they would “have every reason to tremble, lest the Governor of the universe…crush us to atoms in the wreck.”
The founders shared the belief that Europe’s melding of religion and government had been bad for both, so they guaranteed our basic freedoms with the Bill of Rights; separating our state from any established religion.
Religious reactionaries have been relentless in their attacks on our secular state. In the 1820’s Senator Richard M. Johnson had to defend the Post Office from accusations of sacrilege. President Lincoln ignored demands that the Constitution be amended to declare Jesus Christ lord of the land.
Now, we are subjected to the threats of Pat Robertson and his comrades of the cross, along with the so-called `war on Christmas.’ As Esther Kaplan points out in her book “With God on Their Side”
“You cannot underestimate the extent to which the Christian Right feels like this is the culmination of their work. This is the moment they’ve been waiting for. Roe v Wade was the single most important factor in the rise of the Christian Right as a social movement, and the brass ring has always been to stack the Supreme Court so they can overturn that decision. They have the Senate, they have the presidency. This really is their moment and they are going to pull out all the stops.”
Fundamentalists thrive on creating adversity, chaos and strife. Dominion is their goal, never peace. I am deeply frightened of the extreme animosity that smolders in our country, and dread that the confirmation of Samuel Alito could be the spark that sets it off.
Inevitably, a Justice will be influenced by his private morality and religion; but Judge Alito seems to believe it is constitutionally permissible to disregard the rights of both unbelievers and unorthodox believers. A man such as this does not belong on the Supreme Court.