Separate and Equal

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By The Oracle

President Cheeto has come out against the Johnson Amendment, which makes it so the Clergy can’t endorse a political candidate from the pulpit.  He believes it violates the First Amendment.  (The rule also applies to universities and charities.)  Essentially, because of their tax free status, it would make political contributions tax deductible and that would be…wrong.  You shouldn’t get tax breaks for political donations.

But this leads me to a larger problem that I see in society.  The separation of church and state is eroding around us.  The federal government is prohibited from making laws establishing a religion or creating laws to limit a religion.  The framers had seen firsthand the craziness that had gone in Europe when governments fought over religion.  Not to mention how many religions fled to North America to escape religious persecution.  The framers understood that government involvement in religion was dangerous.  Because here’s the rub, when governments get involved in religions…they have to pick one.  And then it’s a fight over which one gets dominion over the others.  Many think, “Hey, as long as it’s Christianity,” but Christianity isn’t actually a religious denomination.  There are a lot of flavors to Christianity, and if you don’t think the Baptists, Catholics, Mormons, etc. wouldn’t fight over this, you’re insane.  The framers of the Constitution knew that if our country was to be a welcome place to many faiths, the government would have to be separated from religious matters.  There were practical reasons for this; the country would have been awash with blood from the beginning if they hadn’t.  The Catholics were in Maryland.  The Puritans had New England.  Pennsylvania was controlled by the Quakers.  Many religions called America home before America was America.

Now, many in this country resent what they see as a limit on their faith.  It’s almost as if the fact the government is not involved in religion is seen as a form as persecution.  That their religious views aren’t dominant in government denies them legitimacy.  This was the exactly the sort of thinking that our founding fathers were trying to guard against.  These are the folks that freak out when the Starbucks cup is non-denominational, or when someone says “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”  They also fear Sharia law and other faiths’ religious practices gaining a foothold in government.  What it boils down to is because they’re not first, they feel marginalized.  Instead of vigorously defending government staying out of their relationship with God, they want to impose that relationship on others.  They want government to force people to worship as they do.  Unfortunately, the minute they start opening that up, other religions show up.  For example, the Oklahoma State Legislature passed a law making it so that religious statuary was welcome on the state capitol’s grounds.  (They wanted a statue of the Ten Commandments.)  The Satanists almost immediately petitioned to put a statue of Baphomet up.  The Christians almost sighed in relief when the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down the law.  It turns out they didn’t want to see a goat headed demon on their lawn.  But they never seem to understand that if you open it up to one religion; you open that same doorway to all the other religions.

And they will tell you that they’re just exercising their right to worship as they will.  To a certain respect, they’re right.  You can be bound by religious law, but only with members of your own religion.  Sharia law is going on, but only among certain members of the Islamic community.  It is part of how they show faith.  But Catholics don’t have to follow those rules.  And Muslims don’t have to take communion.  Baptists don’t have to keep the Sabbath.  Only Scientologists have to study Xenu.  The list goes on and on.  Unfortunately, the conflict comes about when in the exercise of your religious rights, you infringe on others’ religious freedom.  The whole Kim Davis fiasco in Kentucky is an excellent example.  She had every right to decide not to issue licenses, but she should have immediately resigned her position because of her inability to keep her oath to the county.  For religious reasons, she could no longer do her job.  If she had quit, I would have admired her greatly, but because she tried to force her religious beliefs on people outside her religious community, she crossed a line.

I’m seeing more and more “religious freedom” laws, which are just poorly veiled laws that let conservative evangelicals walk over people of competing faiths.  They can have religious objections to doing parts of their job, and still get to do it.  Pharmacists can be against birth control, but because of faith they can’t be fired, even though they won’t do their jobs.  OB/GYN’s could decide they don’t do abortions even though it’s one of the things that specialty should be able to do.  (Dude, you should have become a cardiologist.)  You’re seeing this a lot with the LGBTQ protection laws.  It is weird how many bakers don’t want to make cakes for gay weddings.  (I would be all over that.  There’s a lot of money in gay weddings.)  And it doesn’t matter that the people you’re serving are not a member of your faith, but they’re being forced to adhere to the rules of your religion. That’s where I feel it crosses a line.  I have no problem if you have religious objections, but the minute you make others follow the rules of your religion you’ve gone too far.  It’s one of the reasons I disagreed with the Supreme Court on the Hobby Lobby case. In the decision, the Justices decided that the owner’s religious rights were more important than the worker’s legal right to certain types of birth control.  But they never considered the worker’s religious rights.  What if their religious beliefs had no problem with those types of birth control?  It makes the owner’s religious freedom more important than the faith of their workers.  Why should their workers have to follow the religious tenants of another religion?  Which religious rights should come up on top?

It’s a thorny issue, but it’s one that needs to be addressed.  A strong separation was put in place to protect religions from just that fight for dominance.  Our country is home to many faiths that are able to worship God as they wish without fear of persecution from the government.  We set up a secular government to insure that all religions would have a level playing field, and it’s time that we address the vandals trying to dig holes in it.  At some point, someone is just going to get hurt.

Picture from kfor.com

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