Enslaved by Doctrine

One of the greatest things about America is the First Amendment – the right to Freedom of Religion, Speech, Assembly, and Petition. Congress prohibited itself from legally suppressing these rights, but for the first one, they gave us a little extra. Congress cannot make laws that establish any religion as favored over others. That means that no matter what our founders believed personally, they refused to make those beliefs the law of the land. This was absolutely necessary because their beliefs were as varied and particular as they were. The same goes for us now; it can be seen in the many thousands of flavors of Christianity formed by centuries of disagreement. And every religion as well. If you don’t like the way someone baptizes, you can find a church that fits what you like. It isn’t a la carte religion, as so many people say with disdain; it’s freedom of religion.

Now, though, we see leaders in numerous states pandering to religious bigots who only want freedom for themselves. Abortion, for example, is a religious opinion, even though it never appears in either the Hebrew or Christian Scriptures. Forcing the placement of the Ten Commandments on public school walls is a direct abuse of the 1st Amendment. Having prayers at public school graduations favors one religion over all others. Allowing some groups to use public buildings while prohibiting others is bigotry. The rise of Christian Fundamentalism since the 1970s has been a movement to accomplish one thing: turn America into a hyper-conservative Christian nation. People enslaved by their particular doctrines are attempting to enslave the rest of us, and they are winning.

You can believe whatever you want about anything you choose; the 1st Amendment allows for that. It also allows the rest of us to do the same thing, which means that we are Constitutionally mandated to keep our religious bigotry confined to the walls of our houses of worship and our homes. You think women should be silent in church and subservient to men? As long as you aren’t hurting people or forcing them to stay against their will, you have that right, no matter how wrong I think you are. And I do think you are wrong, by the way. But if you think you are going to force the rest of us to live in your dystopian world, you better think again. That doesn’t mean we should never try to use faith principles in our public lives; that would also be an infringement of our rights. What it means is that it is illegal to force others to follow one faith perspective against their will. It also means that the secular authorities can protect people from our bigotry.

So, go ahead and practice your hateful and demeaning religion, but leave the rest of us alone. Your faith is between you and God, as mine is as well. We are both free to choose, whether you like it or not. That is the American way.

Prayer – Holy God, I see You in a very personal way, and I hope it is acceptable to You. Show Your love and truth to all who would use You as a weapon against others, so that we can all repent of our misguided ways. Amen.

Today’s art “Freedom of Religion” by William Cordero.