Whenever I hear someone – especially a politician – say that the First Amendment protects freedom of religion, not freedom from religion, I just want to start screaming.
As I’ve pointed out many times on this blog and in other forums, that statement is inane and shows great ignorance of our founding principles. Religious Right figures started using it a few years ago, apparently believing they had stumbled onto something clever. In fact, they are simply spouting puerile nonsense.
Generally speaking, members of the Unitarian Universalist denomination have been strong supporters of the separation of church and state. In my travels for Americans United, I often encounter UUs among AU’s membership, and I’ve spoken in some UU pulpits.
I was rather surprised, then, to read an editorial in the Gloucester, Mass., Times defending a Unitarian church that accepted $30,000 in local tax funds to pay for some work on its building.
Your calendar might not note this, but today is Religious Freedom Day, an event that celebrates passage of Thomas Jefferson’s pioneering Statute for Religious Freedom in Virginia.
Some quick background: In 1784, Patrick Henry introduced a bill in the Virginia legislature that would have required all residents to pay a tax “for the support of the Christian religion, or of some Christian church, denomination or communion of Christians, or for some form of Christian worship.”
If you’re at all interested in politics, there’s one thing uppermost in your mind today: the presidential candidates’ debate tonight at the University of Denver in Colorado.
Democratic incumbent Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney will field questions from PBS “NewsHour” host Jim Lehrer. The focus of the debate is domestic policy.
I’m sure a lot of the questions will turn on the economy – the unemployment rate, the budget deficit, taxation, health-care reform, funding for Medicare and Social Security, etc.
Today is Presidents’ Day. Celebrate by reading some great presidential classics of religious liberty!
Start with George Washington’s letter to Touro Synagogue, one of the most succinct statements ever issued about religious liberty.
Of course, Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists, which contains the famous “wall of separation between church and state” metaphor, is always worth your time.
The governing board of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles has just approved a new license plate with three crosses and the words “One State Under God.”
This is the same governing board that had previously approved tags with “God Bless Texas,” “God Bless America” and “One Nation Under God.”
Supporters of the latest religion-themed plate celebrated the board’s decision as a victory for freedom of religion and speech.
I spent two hours Saturday evening in front of my computer watching the Religious Right’s “Thanksgiving Family Forum.” The event, which took place at First Federated Church, a large fundamentalist congregation in Des Moines, featured six of the leading Republican presidential candidates – U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, former U.S senator Rick Santorum, Gov. Rick Perry, businessman Herman Cain and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
Last week, I gave a talk about church-state history at my wife’s church. I called my speech “The ‘Christian Nation’ Myth.”
Although I’m not an attorney, I laid out the case against the idea that the United States is some sort of officially Christian nation as one would in a courtroom, by marshaling the evidence. I put forth the following points: