LETTER: 1st prevents religious preferenceTo the Telegram: I am aware that people of faith have deep and abiding feelings about their particular beliefs. In fact, I have often shared them, but regarding public meetings at government venues, one needs to consider the meaning of “public.”
To the Telegram:
I am aware that people of faith have deep and abiding feelings about their particular beliefs. In fact, I have often shared them, but regarding public meetings at government venues, one needs to consider the meaning of “public.”
“Public” implies the existence of a diverse group of people who do not share the same race, ethnic background, political persuasions, sex, ages or religions — or other demographic descriptions. These “public” gatherings often take place in areas of political significance. When they do, under the 1st Amendment, the government “cannot make any law respecting the establishment of religion.” This requires government maintain a hands-off attitude that promotes religious and secular equality and does not give government the right to display legally sanctioned prejudice favoring one religion over another, any religious beliefs over secular beliefs, and prevents government from representing any state-approved religion or politically-acceptable faith.
Believe it or not, when government forbids promotion of certain religions at meetings or activities involving government, it does so in order to prevent our personal faith, or the faiths of Lutherans, Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and others from being marginalized or unfairly endorsed by that government. No one is saying you cannot congregate in your own church, teach your children your own values, decide on your own type of service, read, write or think about your own ideas, or be restricted in anyway from practicing your personal faith. However public gatherings involving government entities do not have the right to permit the promotion of one particular faith, the faiths of other religions, or even, the deeply held convictions of Atheists.
If you disagree, just imagine you lived in Japan and discovered that your child’s public school insisted that each class begin with a Buddhist invocation or meditation session. Would you want your child to be forced to comply, or be convinced that only Buddha should be worshipped?
The fact is, preventing bias that favors one religion over another (or promotes atheism over belief, and vice versa) is what the Constitution guarantees in the 1st Amendment — not freedom to implicate the approval of the government when using any particular religious invocations at public gatherings, such as public schools, the County Court House, or a joint session of Congress. Although Bibles were once required in some court rooms, the Supreme Court now gives people of different faiths the right to use other Holy texts such as the Koran if they dissent the use of Christian texts, or if preferred, just to take a legally binding oath to tell the truth.
Many religious people completely do not “get” the difference between the freedom to practice their own faiths and prohibiting its use by the government to exhibit bias or establish a state approved religious faith. I really urge them to investigate further.
Peter W. Johnson,