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Friday, July 5, 2013
Glen Rose (“When religious place faith in science,” June 24 commentary), in a response to R. McNeil Foster (“When atheists pray,” June 15 commentary) wrote that Foster “doesn’t understand the importance of the Constitution’s separation of church and state.”
Rose also wrote, “In government-sponsored events, our Constitution prohibits references to faiths and creeds.”
Bob Crawford (“Prayer has no place in government,” June 28 commentary) wrote, “When a government body conducts or sponsors prayer in its proceedings, officials are conducting or sponsoring a religious practice or ceremony.”
Rose and Crawford appear to argue religion should be removed from all aspects of government.
To evaluate these statements, let’s first look at the United States Constitution.
Amendment I, ratified in 1791, states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
The phrase “separation of church and state” is not in the Constitution.
From the Federalist Papers and other writings by the Founders of America, we can see the Founders did not want the “Church as State” as they experienced in Great Britain. The Founders had a clear desire for individual liberty from an oppressive government. The Founders wanted to worship in a manner of their choosing, not the prescribed manner dictated by the government.
To help understand how the Founders put this intention into practice, we can look at their behavior.
There are many references from before and after the Constitution was ratified where the Founders regularly prayed a Christian prayer before their public and private meetings to ask God for guidance.
This is not the behavior of a group of people wanting religion removed from all aspects of government.
Currently in America, there is no law “respecting an establishment of religion.” When elected officials pray before meetings, they do so as individuals. They may pray any prayer they want, including Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, devil worship or anything else.
The Constitution protects this individual freedom in Amendment I, when the Founders stated, “Congress shall make no law . . . prohibiting the free exercise” of religion.
If the citizens do not like the actions of their elected officials, the officials will not be re-elected. The will of the people is the clear intent of the Constitution.
Rose and Crawford’s statements do not reflect the intent of America’s Founders or the United States Constitution.
As this debate continues, what should be our guiding authority? Should it be the Constitution, as written by the Founders, or “common civility,” as Rose, or any other individual, chooses to interpret common civility?
Crawford’s closing statement appears to want us all to believe the only way to preserve our religious freedom is to prohibit any public religious expression by government force.
The government not allowing the citizens to practice their religion is the same tyranny as the government forcing citizens to comply with a particular religion.
People of Christian faith believe America is the greatest country in the world specifically because of the Founder’s faith in the teaching of Jesus Christ and God subsequently blessing America.
However you may view the issue of prayer, the Constitution requires these decisions be made by the people.
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