Opinion » Commentaries

Separation of church and state

A response to Al Fonzi's July 6 commentary, 'Faith, politics, and the founders'



When looking at our country's history, it is wonderful to know that some people of Christian faith were opposed to slavery, as they should have been. However, it is most disturbing to know that "passages in the Bible on the use and regulation of slavery have been used throughout history as justification for the keeping of slaves" (Wikipedia, Christian Views on Slavery), and that in the U.S., "when abolition was proposed, many Christians spoke vociferously against it, citing the Bible's acceptance of slavery as 'proof' that it was part of the normal condition."

Hmm ... Where have we heard this argument of "proof" before? Oh yes, very recently, in this very paper, as a matter of fact!

Some people use the Bible to "prove" that a person who is homosexual is immoral (when anyone with basic life experience and common sense knows that a person who is gay is no less normal and moral than someone born with red hair or as someone who dislikes certain foods). Our government is then allowing these people to discriminate against others who are homosexual because of this religious belief. Hopefully, these Christian fundamentalists can do a little less Bible quoting and a little more soul searching and see the problems with their type of biblical interpretation: literalism. In the meantime, hopefully other Christians (and everyone else) will continue to speak out against this injustice, as they did in the past against slavery.

Understanding how past individuals, and especially governments, have used their flawed interpretation of God's will and practice of religion in an attempt to control, coerce, discriminate against, and harm others explains why our wise founding fathers, in the First Amendment, guarded against an established religion and wanted to keep our nation state secular. In their own words:

"The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion."

—1797 Treaty of Tripoli, ratified by Congress

" ... no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution."

—George Washington

"Christian establishments tend to great ignorance and corruption, all of which facilitate the execution of mischievous projects."

—James Madison

"During almost 15 centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence of the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution."

—James Madison

"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people build a wall of separation between Church and State."

—Thomas Jefferson

"The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established ... ."

—James Madison

So please, let us all respect and promote this wisdom. This basic liberal philosophy of the separation of church and state is an extremely important part of what has made our country so great. We need to reverse the discrimination and fervently guard against further encroachment of religion in our government! As the old saying goes, the road to hell is paved with "good" intentions. We need to be careful where we are placing our bricks. We and our government need to side with human rights and common decency over some peoples' "religious" beliefs.

Kathy Riedemann thinks religion should continue to stay out of governing. Send comments to clanham@newtimesslo.com or be proud enough of your opinions to write a letter to editor and send it to letters@newtimesslo.com.

Add a comment