Monday, July 2, 2007

My $0.02 on the Whole "Bloggers Against Theocracy" Thing

When I was checking out Greg Laden's blog earlier to see if he'd written any recent posts bashing homeschooling, I came across a reference to a "blogswarm" called "Bloggers Against Theocracy". Well, aside from the Wahhabists, the Christian Dominionists, and the ultra-Zionists, who isn't against theocracy? So I click over to the submission call and it says to post about the separation of church & state (no problem there). For more information, see an organization called "First Freedom First". So this is what the FFF website says:

"The founders of our nation believed that all Americans should have the right to worship according to their own beliefs, or not to worship at all. So strong was their commitment to religious freedom that they enshrined it in the first sentence of the Bill of Rights.

'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...'

This constitutional guarantee is often known as the 'first freedom.'

Religion is a deeply personal matter. Americans must be free to practice their religion without coercion. Government exists to provide for the general well-being of all people, and its workings must be independent of specific religious doctrines. Simply put, there must be a separation of church and state.

If we do not stand together as a nation, we stand to lose this fundamental freedom."
No problem with any of that, but it's important to point out that the Founding Fathers were trying to protect religion from government interference NOT the other way 'round!

The FFF website goes on to list a specific group of issues they are upset about, which show a distinct political bias:

(1) They are against the right of religious organizations to make religion a criterion for hiring or providing social services.
(2) They are for the legalization of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia.
(3) They are in favor of artificial contraceptives and abortion on demand.
(4) They are against the tax-exempt status of houses of worship and other religious organizations and the deductability of donations to them.
(5) They are against vouchers for attendance at private religious schools.
(6) They are in favor of embryonic stem cell research.
(7) They are in favor of homosexual "marriage".
(8) They are against student-led prayers in public schools and public prayers by government officials.

#2, #3, and #6 are not necessarily church-state issues as one does not need to be religious to respect human life from conception through natural death. Similarly, one could be opposed to #7 as unnatural without that belief being grounded in a religious tradition. Just because many religious individuals have very strong beliefs about these issues does not automatically make them religious issues.

#1, #8, and fights over forcing Catholic Charities to allow homosexual couples to adopt or Catholic hospitals to provide so-called "emergency contraception" really are a violation of the First Amendment. The "free exercise" clause allows religious organizations and individuals the freedom to practice their faith without government interference. It's not like there aren't plenty of secular social service organizations, adoption agencies, or hospitals out there. If you don't like the policies of the religious one, just find yourself a secular alternative!

#4 & #5 have to do with equal government treatment of religious and secular non-profit organizations. If vouchers are provided for private schools, it would be discriminatory to restrict them only to secular ones. Same thing for the tax-deductability of charitable donations and the tax-exempt status of non-profit organizations. Under the First Amendment, the government cannot show favoritism to secular organizations over religious ones.

America is a pluralistic country. We are free to choose if and how to worship. The Constitution makes it clear that the government cannot show preference to any one religious tradition over others. However, the Founding Fathers never intended for religion to be completely removed from the public sphere the way that many modern activist judges have interpreted the First Amendment.

I don't want to live in a theocracy but neither do I want to live in an atheistic society.

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