Thursday, January 12, 2012

Let Freedom Ring

This week, Jessica Alquist won a hard-fought court battle over a prayer posted in her public high school’s gymnasium.  The court found the prayer unconstitutional, and ordered its immediate removal.  Jessica is an inspiration to the ideals set forth in the First Amendment.  She is a credit to her school, her community and her nation.

Not surprisingly, the backlash has been harsh for Jessica.  Indeed, the judge in his decision noted that the school board meetings she attended would often turn into religious revivals.  People in high-ranking positions flagrantly chastised Jessica for standing up for her rights and the rights of all Americans.  The opposition used religious language, and even quoted the bible.  In the end, this noise helped Jessica’s case.  Part of the Lemon test is if the subject of dispute holds a primarily secular purpose.   With people espousing personal religious beliefs and quoting scripture, it was clear to the judge and to all that this banner was in no way primarily secular.

More than this, since her victory, Jessica has been bombarded with renewed harassment.  All this animosity is curious to me.  The anger and spite shown to Jessica is astounding.  And yet, her victory ensures the people who disagree with her, can still disagree.

See, the thing is that this wall that separates church and state protects the church just as much as it protects the state.  While religion is kept out of government, people will be free to worship any god or gods they choose, or none at all.  We enjoy free exercise, and live without any pressure from government to have or not have faith.  This is the principle of the First Amendment.

Perhaps religious people don’t understand that if there is no wall, we all lose.  Perhaps they think everyone thinks like them.  Perhaps they think people will convert if the government endorses their position.  Perhaps they should figure it out.

Victories like Jessica’s aren’t just for atheists.  They are for the religious as well.  Perhaps even more so.  This victory allows the debate over the triune god, the salvation by faith, the transubstantiation, the virgin birth, and all other theological questions to go on.  This keeps those differences, those denominations, those sects alive.  This empowers the religious people to hold to their delusions as much as they want.  They will receive no criticism from government.

But they will from me.   

1 comment:

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