Saturday, August 6, 2011

Militant, Monopolistic, State-Sponsored Religion

The secularism of our Founding Fathers bears little resemblance to the “secularism” of today. The historian, Edwin Scott Gaustad, quotes perhaps our most un-Christian Father to this effect:

• “Almighty God hath made the mind free.” It follows therefrom that mankind should do all that it can to keep minds unshackled and un-coerced. Let us consider, Jefferson noted, that if an all wise and powerful God restrained himself from coercing either the bodies or the minds of men and women, how utterly absurd it must be for “fallible and uninspired men” to arrogate to themselves the right to exercise “dominion over the faith of others…Be it enacted,” therefore, “that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever.” One will suffer in no way for his or her religious opinions; on the contrary, all persons “shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion.” And whatever their opinions, this will in no way affect their citizenship or their rights. (A Religious History of America, 119).

Now, I’d like to contrast these sentiments with the fate of Laura Fotusky who just resigned as town clerk of Barker, NY,

• Rather than violate her conscience by facilitating gay marriage….She had hoped New York’s gay marriage law – passed by the Republican-led legislature on June 24 – would allow religious exemptions…But when the law didn’t allow such exemptions, Fotusky resigned: “Basically I had to choose between my God and my job.” (World, August 13, 2011, 10)

Governor Cuomo responded to Fotusky’s resignation, saying: “The law is the law…” However, the law hadn’t always been that way. It had demonstrated more respect for divergent opinions and issues of conscience. Instead of proclaiming that “the law is the law,” our Fathers would have made allowances, as the freedom loving Jefferson proclaimed that the people “shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion.” Would it have been too difficult to ask someone other than Fotusky to process same-sex marriage papers?

This is something that has been routinely done in mental health clinics. A new rape-case client is not assigned to a counselor who had just been raped. A Christian therapist is not assigned a same-sex (SS) couple. There had been respect for people’s feelings and faiths. However, this is rapidly changing. Two Christian students were dismissed from graduate counseling programs in two different state schools because they refused to acknowledge that same-sex marriage is morally acceptable. This is a far cry from the Fathers who proclaimed that government should in no way exercise “dominion over the faith of others.” Jefferson had insisted that all people “shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion.”

Just recently, the Obama administration eliminated certain rights of health care professions to not have to participate in activities that violated their conscience. Must today’s secularism compel a dogmatic religious conformity in these matters? Must it force the pharmacist to prescribe the morning-after pill against his conscience? On the same page of the same World Magazine,

• A chaplain at a briefing asked a senior Pentagon official if a biblical worldview on homosexuality would be protected in the post-DADT {Don’t Ask, Don’t’ Tell] military. The reply he received was chilling: If you cannot come in line with the policy, then resign your commission.

We still don’t know how the repeal of DADT will play out for the chaplaincy and religion. However, this Pentagon official, reflecting the opinion of many others, is essentially saying, “The only religion will be our secular religion! We no longer allow religious diversity.” But why not? We’ve made provisions for the conscientious objector (CO). Why not also for the integrity of the religion which has provided the very foundation for this nation? In “God of Liberty,” historian Thomas S. Kidd writes:

• “Whether evangelical or rationalist, most Patriots assumed that Christianity would, in some sense, be the cornerstone for the preservation of the new American Republic.” (112)

According to Kidd, these sentiments were broadly held for quite a while:

• “Through the era of the Civil War most Americans would continue to believe that the Christian religion should assist government in lifting people’s moral dispositions, so that they might contribute positively to the freedom of the Republic. Even the skeptical Thomas Jefferson believed that Christianity, in it original purity, ‘is a religion of all others most friendly to liberty.’” (114)

The religion of the Founding Fathers allowed for religious diversity: “Almighty God hath made the mind free.” Therefore, this should guarantee the free expression of religious conscience. However, today’s secularism wants to place it in shackles: “You must believe in SS marriage, or else! No alternative speech will be tolerated!”

Our Founding Fathers were wise. They realized that by compelling religious conformity, they would not only be promoting a State religion, but also would jeopardize any possibility of unity. Meanwhile, today’s aggressively militant secularistic religion is placing this unity in jeopardy.

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