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The New Great Awakening: Secularism Is Good for Religious Liberty

By Vickie Stangl
Opinion | August 18, 2010

WICHITA, Kan. - How much religious freedom do we Americans really believe in, especially if a particular religion has a history of intolerance, brutality, and flying jumbo jets into highly populated buildings? Do we take a second look at the First Amendment's protections regarding religious liberty to check for an asterisk that excludes protecting "bad" religions from "good"religions? We have reached the dilemma of wanting religious freedom for ourselves, but not so keen on protecting religions we view as openly hostile to Americans and our culture.

Let's be honest. Every since man first felt the need to set up gods to explain the physical and metaphysical world religions have not exactly ushered in Nirvana. There is also no question that people have performed selfless acts in the name of God to help others BUT, and there is always a BUT, religion seems to be a giant web that has trapped us in an endless cycle of fighting or hating one another. How can we awaken from this limbo of purgatory?

If we are going to allow religion to be part of society and I don't see how we can possibly stop people from wanting to believe in just about anything- including the Madonna appearing on a grill cheese sandwich, then there has to be a system set up to protect us from people who take their religion way too seriously.

We already have the answer to this dilemma in America. Our founders wisely set about placing boundaries around religion and government. We call that line in the sand, that boundary, the separation of church and state.

Americans are screaming right now about the building of a mosque several blocks from ground zero in New York City, and yet many of these outraged citizens and politicians are the very same people who have no problem allowing their religion to take over the American government and denouncing the separation of church and state as an attack on their religious freedoms.

These are the same people who kill abortion doctors in God's name, want to criminalize women who have abortions, deny gay couples the right to marry, and insist with great righteousness that invocations are harmless before government meetings because their faith is good and harmless. Only Islam and other scary faiths like Wiccans are to be suspect in America.

Islam should be held suspect in the same manner that any religion should be held suspect when it's teachings infringe upon the dignity and rights of individuals. The answer is to make Islam abide by the same freedoms and rules that apply to all other faiths in America. The only way to protect America's government from radical Islam or fanatical fundamentalist is to protect and uphold the separation of church and state for all religions.

If we continue to allow school vouchers for religions that weaken our public schools, pretend that invoking God in our Pledge of Allegiance is not religious, and continue to demand that religion must have a prominent role in deciding public policy in America, there is no point in fighting the building of a mosque since Americans have no intentions of upholding their own secular government in the first place. We have already lost our religious liberty and freedoms if we continue down the path of allowing any one religion so much leverage in the body politic.

The Supreme Court ruled many years ago, you may have the right to believe, but not always the right to act on those beliefs. Government should have the ability to discern which actions threaten the stability of our laws while allowing as much personal freedom to worship as possible. That's suppose to be the system in America but, year after year, religious conservatives in America have shamelessly attacked and weakened the wall of separation in the name of their God.

All the outrage over the mosque in New York City rings hollow to those of us who have been on the front lines fighting people who have demanded their religious beliefs be incorporated into all aspects of government. Suddenly secularism no longer seems like a godless liberal program endangering the morals of our society. Secularism, may in fact, be the very thing protecting all of us from losing our own religious freedoms and political rights.

People everywhere seem unable to control their religious fervor and exist in harmony. If we cannot uphold religious freedom for all, then perhaps it is time to think about a new proposal that would confine religious activities to houses of worship while maintaining neutrality in public regarding a personal expression of faith. What price are we willing to pay in our effort to protect American society from any religion determined to control our most fundamental freedoms?

Are we willing to think anew and come to the realization that we do not have to fear the destruction of our society if we are honest about treating all religions the same which means finally upholding the separation of church and state?

I call on all candidates running for public office,judges on the bench,legislators and all other governing officials to come to their senses and end this nonsense of believing only the other guy's religion is suspect. The danger to our individual liberties is all around us and it is not just coming from radical elements within the faith of Islam. It's time for both political parties to vocally support the separation of church and state if we are to really enjoy religious liberty in America.


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