I remember family gatherings as early as the 1950s. I learned from my grandfather and my uncles that two subjects were never to be discussed in group settings: politics and religion. However, in the 21st century those two subjects, intended to be separate and personal, are linked and dominate everything which happens in our nation.
I can hear everyone’s comments who read the Constitution or at least the Bill of Rights, “this is unconstitutional.” And you are 100 percent correct.
It’s pretty obvious that the interpretation of the First Amendment is very clear. It guarantees the right of every American to practice the religion of their choice or none at all, and at the same time forbids the alliance of our nation’s government with a single religion.
Well, let me tell you, that’s not what is happening today. I am not alone when I say that the First Amendment contains the most important guarantees of what it means to be an American. I find it offensive that one of the unconstitutional lobbies which control the future of our nation is the Christian Religious Right.
To understand the importance of this single issue, it is necessary to look at a little history and how the people of the new world valued religion at the beginning of America.
Returning to 1776. It is important to note that less than a handful of the men who added their signatures to the Declaration of Independence were Christians. The majority of our founding fathers were Deists. The men who signed their names on one of the two most important documents in our nation’s history left England for multiple reasons, but the final “straw” was when King George III declared that the Anglican Church was the one true religion of the British Empire.
This was unacceptable, and the reason why those who claim that America is a religious nation choose to be ignorant about our nation’s history. Our founding fathers understood the importance of religion for many of the new nation’s people, but they also understood the importance of recognizing that it is a personal choice, and should remain private.
In the New Testament, the reason for the existence of all Christian religions, Jesus Christ told his followers: “Render unto God the things which are God’s and unto Caesar, the things which are Caesar’s.” This is clearly an admonition to worship God for His existence and importance to human life, and the instruction to respect the laws of men for their concern and safety of all mankind. This is a clear and definitive reason for the concept of separation between Church and State.
Okay, I’m going to get personal here. I was raised a Catholic, and my reasons for leaving the Church are the same as many others. However, I find it offensive when Evangelicals and other Christian “spinoffs” use parts of the Old Testament to defend their opinions which oppose the teachings of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. There is no Christianity without the existence of Christ.
I have read the New Testament, and not once did Jesus Christ express anger or hatred for those who disagreed with His teachings. He never mixed his instructions related to attaining a place in the Kingdom of Heaven with the laws created by men. I believe it is more important to live according to His teachings, than the hateful ambitions of men who claim to be “Christians.”
The recent decision by the most prejudiced Supreme Court in history is an attack on the human right of women to care for their own reproductive health. The influence of the Christian Religious Right is the reason for the most grievous decision by the Supreme Court since Citizens United. Overturning a nearly 50-year-old decision is unconscionable and violates the spirit of the First and Fourth Amendments.
It may interest you that the fastest growing “religion” is none. Approximately 70 million Americans, over 23 percent, of all Americans, reject all organized religions. This fact has resulted in a more heated discussion when religion becomes the topic.
Allowing the Christian Religious Right to control the votes of one political party negates the rights of all non-Christians. This is a direct violation of First Amendment rights.
Today is Sunday, and millions of Americans will be attending churches across America. However, millions of other Americans attended synagogues and temples yesterday. Some of us will be at home writing and enjoying a day of rest. This is America, and your choice must be respected. Religion is invalid when it is forced upon us. This is what happened when The Six Bad Actors removed another right from America’s women on June 24, 2022.
Op-ed by James Turnage, Novelist
Freedom Forum Institute: WHAT DOES “FREE EXERCISE” OF RELIGION MEAN UNDER THE FIRST AMENDMENT?
Daily KOS: When the Word of the Lord is Not Enough
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Valentin Tikhonov’s Pixabay Page – Creative Commons License
First Inset Image Courtesy of William Ehrendreich’s Pixabay Page – Creative Commons License
Second Inset Image Courtesy of Elvert Barnes’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License