September 23, 2013

Don't tear down that wall!

Many Americans no longer believe in the separation of Church and State, and indeed deny it is a principle found in the Constitution. But the wording of the First Amendment is quite clear, and its importance is underlined by its being first. It was certainly clear to Thomas Jefferson, who wrote, "I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church & State."

That's why it's alarming to see so many politicians who want to tear down that wall. It's most evident in the eagerness of states to permit the teaching of Creationism (under the guise of Intelligent Design) in public schools, despite the Pennsylvania ruling that "the overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory."

The other big test of separation of Church and State is seen in the attempt to legislate contraceptives, abortion, and other matters pertaining to childbirth. We've had politicians propose to ban all funds for Planned Parenthood, outlaw abortion under all circumstances, and allow employers to deny women access to cancer screenings and birth control.

The purpose of this post is not to discuss issues like abortion (I've done that before). I'm more concerned with those who want to pass laws enforcing their religious beliefs. It's apparent that they see no conflict between the laws they propose and the separation of Church and State.

The First Amendment provides that each and every American is entitled to follow the teachings of the church of their choice, or even no church at all. What if your beliefs, or church, permit abortion? Are you to become a criminal? Such laws legislate the personal religious beliefs of the legislators, which is unacceptable.

If I believe my church's teachings are correct, an appropriate course of action should be to convert you to my church, not pass laws forcing you to follow its beliefs. Isn't that obvious? It frightens me that politicians who bear the responsibility of upholding the Constitution have such a careless understanding of it.

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