Make no mistake: We’re a nation of believers, and anyone who thinks differently is in denial. To a man, the Founding Fathers were Christians or, in the case of Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, deists. However, those powdered wigs didn’t stunt their thinking. There’s a reason they didn’t give preference to any singular faith, either in the Declaration of Independence or in the Constitution.
Make no mistake: We’re a nation of believers, and anyone who thinks differently is in denial. To a man, the Founding Fathers were Christians or, in the case of Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, deists.
However, those powdered wigs didn’t stunt their thinking. There’s a reason they didn’t give preference to any singular faith, either in the Declaration of Independence or in the Constitution.
They understood the damage caused by state-run religion. For centuries, Europe had been torn asunder by bloody conflicts between government-based religious entities, the remnants of which still can be felt in Northern Ireland.
Most Americans, however, see no conflict of interest between their government and what they believe. In his book “Rediscovering God in America,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich notes many federal buildings are adorned with religious imagery, including the Supreme Court, which contains images of both Moses and the Prophet Muhammad.
But there’s a danger in equating patriotism with any particular faith. To say that this is strictly a country of a certain faith is the same as saying we are a theocracy. If you’re thinking that might not be a half-bad idea, ask people in Iran how they like it.
And if government can’t conduct its own business efficiently, why should it be permitted to meddle in matters of faith?
Have we forgotten who killed Jesus?
If we are indeed a Christian country as some people purport, which brand of Christianity are we? We can’t say it doesn’t matter; otherwise, we wouldn’t have so many different churches. Just as there are Protestants who would rather cut off a leg than genuflect, there are Catholics and Orthodox who would leave skid marks at the sight of a woman in a pulpit.
And we haven’t even gotten to the gay-bishop issue.
You see the problem.
But even a religious controversy can be a positive thing if it shakes people awake and gets them involved. Residents in Lake Township, Ohio, are marshaling their forces to fight the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an out-of-state organization that is demanding that the school district remove “Belief in God” from its mission statement.
The statement doesn’t seem unreasonable, though the courts have concluded otherwise. It’s my personal belief that the mere word “God” doesn’t violate the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which prohibits government establishment of any religion.
God at gunpoint
But I also understand concerns about the slippery slope. Held in the wrong hands, a “Belief in God” declaration can easily become a litmus test or a challenge to define what one means by “God.”
We have always rejected the idea of God at gunpoint because it goes against who we are as Americans. It’s why we recoil from the kind of religious fanaticism that produces a David Koresh or suicide bombers.
A possible counterproposal of “Belief in religious freedom” should not be viewed by residents as a watered-down compromise, but rather as a pragmatic solution to an issue that could generate a bruising court battle that could drain the district’s coffers. In fact, it’s pure First Amendment.
Charita Goshay writes for The Repository in Canton, Ohio. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. This column is the opinion of the writer and not of the newspaper.