I was talking to Pastor Jon the other day (he’s my daddy), and he told me he recently testified in front of a house sub-committee regarding whether State Trooper Chaplains have the right to pray publicly according to their faith.
My dad, in good liberal fashion (he makes me proud), was testifying against the bill… with members of the Jewish community and the ACLU on his side. The bill was up for vote as a result of the fact that recently, the superintendent of state troopers in Virginia stopped all chaplains who were employed by the state police from public prayer in Jesus’ name… instead requesting that all prayers remain non-denominational.
This resulted in 6 of 17 chaplains resigning their positions in protest.
The issue was therefore put to a vote, and the bill passed despite the efforts of my father and others like him.
I’ve always been fascinated with the notion of separation of church and state, and what, exactly, it means.
I am reminded of my junior year of high school, when some officials were desperately attempting to gain support for “bringing God back into our schools”. Naturally, with my father being a minister, people were counting on his support.
However my dad, I’m proud to say, disappointed each and every one of them.
Prayer has no place in public school districts or public government activities… especially when the prayer is exclusive to one single religion.
I, like all Americans, have the right to enjoy the freedom to practice my religion… and I have the right to do so without interference or discrimination from my government- so says the First Amendment of my Constitution.
Anyone who honestly believes that mixing Christianity- or any faith, for that matter- with government functions equals freedom of religion is delusional- and likely a cocky evangelical Christian.
By my estimation, our forefathers knew exactly what they were doing.
Having narrowly escaped religious persecution themselves, they made it clear in our Constitution that absolute religious liberty was a fundamental right for all U.S. Citizens.
How is it that a Jew, a Hindu or a Muslim can enjoy that sort of freedom if Jesus Christ is constantly being shoved down their throats?
Ours is a nation that was supposed to have been built on tolerance and freedom.
The United States of America was created on the principle that no one- regardless of their religious beliefs- would ever be made to feel unwelcome.
It saddens me, this unrelenting push from the Evangelical right, to include their God in each and every function of our government.
Certain Christians will claim that they are the ones being persecuted… that the current drive to take religion out of our schools is an act of discrimination in and of itself.
To those people, I say spend a day as a Muslim, or a Jew.
Attend your child’s “Christmas Concert” as a non-Christian… where they sing nothing but “Here Comes Santa Claus”, “Silent Night”, and “O’ Holy Night”…
… Then tell me that you feel as if you and your faith have been respected and included.
Many people- friends of mine- who disagree with me, back their arguments up by saying if they were to attend a public function in a Middle-Eastern country, where religion is part of the every day government and public activities, they would not feel offended by prayers to Allah… they would expect such a thing to occur, and would understand that this is the way business is conducted there…
… Therefore, they claim, non-Christians shouldn’t feel offended to hear prayers to Jesus Christ in the U.S.
To those people, I remind them that we are a secular country. Our nation was founded on non-religious principles… our founding fathers fought and died so that people of all faiths could come together as one, being equal partners- citizens- enjoying equal rights- within the same great country.
As Americans, we are not given the task of merely tolerating those of different faiths…
… We are to embrace them.