Culture and Religion

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Religious Conformance

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia recently said the government can favor religion over non-religion

"I think the main fight is to dissuade Americans from what the secularists are trying to persuade them to be true: that the separation of church and state means that the government cannot favor religion over nonreligion.”

This stated belief is not actually surprising given Scalia is generally very conservative, pushing for executive power and for corporate power (like in Citizens United or in McCutcheon). There are others also trying to push religion into the government.

For example, a number of religious activists have been pushing for the teaching of the Biblical story of creation into the public schools as part of the science curriculum. It is not enough for those parents to teach their religion to their children at home but they feel it also necessary for those children to also get that religion taught in their public school, even if the other students do not share their particular religious views.

For example, in August 2001 the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court placed a monument to the Ten Commandments in the rotunda of the state's judicial building. Roy Moore said this in 2013 about his interpretation of the First Amendment: "You know, when I look back, I was proud to uphold the law, the Constitution of the United States and the First Amendment, which states basically we must acknowledge God to have a moral basis for our society..."  This person obviously does not interpret the First Amendment like many judges in previous generations. There are also those pushing for prayer in public schools.

The big problem with allowing any religious practices into the school environment is the readily apparent conflict: as soon as a teacher or administrator says everyone should participate in whatever the activity is, like a prayer, anyone who declines to participate is immediately identified as someone acting in opposition to that authority. If the activity is supposedly not recommended by the teacher or administrator, like a student lead prayer, but if anyone is aware the teacher or administrator agrees with that prayer then all the students who decline to participate run the risk of identifying themselves as thinking counter to that teacher or administrator. One of the primary goals of our public school system (as currently defined, like by the No Child Left Behind Act or the Common Core) is teaching conformance and students quickly realize there are dangers with any nonconforming behaviors. When confronted by religion in their public school, the students are being given the non-choice of either submitting to authority or not. Once the religious activities come into the public school, where they do not belong, the school is implicitly pushing that religion on all students affected.

The irony in the present emphasis on religion is found in early American history. Many of the original settlers in the American colonies were those seeking freedom from religious oppression in Europe so in coming to the colonies they would find no state sponsored religion. The Pilgrims of New England came from England where the Church of England was dominant, while other Protestant groups were leaving the oppression by the Catholic Church dominant in much of mainland Europe.

Upon arriving many of these immigrants did not support religious freedom but rather emphasized practicing their particular religion, to the exclusion of others. For example the Quakers were expelled from Massachusetts. The Rhode Island colony was founded by Roger Williams with the specific intent of religious tolerance, clearly an alternative to the lack of tolerance found in many other colonies.

When the American Constitution was written, after the split from England, to define the governance of the new United States of America, it is important to note the words Jesus, Christ, God, Bible, or Church never appear. The word Religion appears, only once, in the First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

While everyone should be free to practice their religion, the founders were quite aware, from their experience with the Church of England or even the persecution of smaller religious groups like the Quakers during their recent colonial history, of the importance of preventing a national religion.

The current push to get religion into public schools and into the government is essentially the definition of a state religion. This is a framework establishing religious doctrine for the public to conform to. America over its history has absorbed many immigrants from all over the world, from different cultures practicing different religions. The goal for these Christian fanatics is the suppression of the other views, with the elevation of their Christian oriented views. In short order, America will no longer be the land of the free or the home of the brave, but instead the home for those in conformance with the 'approved' Christian practices, while the fate for those in nonconformance remains to be defined. As the American economy continues its decline with continued suffering for most but the fortunate (to be residing in the few places where sufficient well paying jobs remain), the treatment of a defined minority by the majority could be disastrous. Religion has often been used to divide and suppress minorities by those in political control; there is no reason to expect anything else if this trend continues.

created - October 11, 2014
last change - 10/11/2014
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