Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Fundamentally American Freedom

As a person of faith, I have a hard time understanding the zeal of some to have government embrace a particular faith, because when that happens, our precious freedom of religion is lost.

Today's Telegraph included an article by Amanda Creel, once a staff writer with the Robins Rev- Up, the base newspaper for Robins Air Force Base here in Central Georgia. Creel's husband is active duty, and they are deployed to England where she writes that her four year old was recently able to participate in Christmas play about the birth of Jesus at his publicly funded school. He even got to be Joseph. Unlike the United States, Creel writes, in England, "a play depicting the Nativity scene is an annual event for the reception program." They don't get hung up on that pesky separation of church and state thing. No joke.

Creel writes:

I can just imagine the negative publicity and numerous complaints a public school in the States would get if they attempted such a thing. It made me realize just how consumed some Americans are with the separation of church and state and how the political correctness surrounding it isn’t necessary.

How ironic that it is from England that Creel pens her column. There's a good, sound historic reason Americans are "consumed" with the separation of church and state. Many of our founding fathers, and mothers, were persecuted because they dared to freely practice religion. It is arguable that were it not for the fact of the state's establishment of a religion in England and the persecution of those who did not wish to support the state sponsored church, the American colonies might still be colonies. Indeed, separation of church and state is viewed quite differently there than it is here in the states. The have a state church, the Church of England. And their monarch is also considered the head of the church, a structure that has literally caused a few heads to roll. This country was founded by pilgrims who came to this new land seeking religious freedom. I am Baptist, and the founders of my faith were among those persecuted in England and here in the colonies because of their beliefs and their refusal to pay taxes to support the Crown's choice of minister. While things have changed in England, that country does not enjoy separation of church and state in the same way we do, and those who suggest that the government adopt a policy of disestablishmentarianism still face criticism.

While I am most appreciative of the Creel's sacrifice to protect our freedom, including our freedom of religion, I disagree that separation of church and state isn't necessary. When a government embraces a particular religion by using tax dollars to support the views of any particular faith whether it be Christian, Muslim, Jewish or something else, then that fundamentally American freedom is lost.


Vic said...

Do the modern day English Monarch's still have the same right as Anglican Church Founder King Henry the VIII to make heads of spouses roll at will?

It's a small price to pay to get to see the baby Jesus every year in a school play.

Amy Morton said...

I'm guessing that's high on the list of changes. The question for the writer is whether or not she would've been just as proud to see her son portraying a figure in Islam, or thrilled to watch a play abouta religion other than her own. It may seem that freedom of religion doesn't matter much so long as the state picks your religion, but even that is a slippery slope. In Hitler's Germany, when he sought to have the Natzi flag displayed in the churches, many Christian ministers were jailed. Generally, history tells us that religion in the hands of politicians and power mongers is dangerous indeed.

Vic said...

Regardless of what happens, blending church and state will eventually cause us to successfully embrace multi-cultuarlism. In about thirty years, the hispanic catholics will be in control and we can all do rosaries and say our hail mary's in spanish. And who knows, it might just be a better world.

Tina said...

The United States no longer has a homegeneous society in which "one worship fits all." Each religious group, however, is free to celebrate and practice its devotion in its own way.
That's one of the greatest achievements of American society...freedom of worship...but it is hard for some to allow others that freedom.
Compare, if you will, our system to a theocracy where all must adhere to a state-dictated religion or make sure they keep their mouths shut and their opinions to themselves.
Compare to theocratic European countries of some centuries back when dissenters were burned at the stake (along with those who dared to make the scriptures available in vernacular editions).
Also consider those, like Galileo, who dared to put forth new scientific theories.
An old friend of mine, now passed away, told me that Hitler had a ceremony at which he required ministers to bless military weaponry.
I once met a Jewish woman who spent three years in an unheated attic hiding from the Gestapo--food was passed up to her by two Christian German women who kept her presence there a secret.
All we to do is study the history of theocracies and dictatorships to understand and appreciate the freedom of religion that we have here in the United states.
It may not suit everyone that their faith is not treated more favorably than their neighbors' faith. We must remember, as a Hindu sage once said..each person drinks from the river nearest to him, but all the rivers run into the same sea.