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Freedom of Religion?

By Ken Poland
Opinion | May 28, 2012

COLBY, Kan. - Headlines reveal our Kansas Legislature had time and expertise to write a law that takes away religious freedom, but they couldn't get together to redraw our senate and representative districts. We are depending upon 'activist judges' to draw the lines. But we will leave no room for judicial discretion concerning religion! No doctrines or canons not referenced to 'Christian Theology' will be allowed! The next big test will be, whose theology will prevail.

Some will say, "How is Kansas taking away Religious Freedom?" When we single out a specific religious groups (e.g. Islamic) and make it illegal or unconstitutional to even mention their canons for reference concerning private contracts or guidelines concerning property, moral, or ethical actions, we are walking ever closer to the edge of the 'wall of separation between state and church'. Our courts, quite often, are called on to adjudicate differences of religious groups in how to dispose of properties.

Sometimes, it is hard to separate community property without someone thinking their individual rights are being trampled on. Some times our courts are called on to determine who has authority to draw up contracts and sign agreements, concerning real property for religious groups. Generally, all parties are allowed to present their side of the issues and why they think they should prevail. The court, then, has to weigh all the arguments, look at case history, constitutional limits and requirements, and, finally pass judgment. It is a messy and embarrassing way for religious groups to act. In fact, our Christian Bible indicates we should be very careful about relying on civil government authority to settle our differences. But, Christians, being human, in spite of some claiming an inside track on how to determine God's absolute will, have to rely on disinterested outside sources to settle their differences. Interpretation of ownership and authority is not the same for all divisions or denominations, within the Christian communities.

Freedom of religion also means freedom from religion. As long as my religious practices do not infringe on your safety or welfare, you have no right to declare, by law, that my practices as invalid. Neither do I have the right to force you're subjection to my religious tenets. Our system attempts to defend minorities from tyrannical majorities and prevent minorities from controlling society. We are, also justifiably, committed to the protection of minors from neglect or abuse of their elders. We will not allow any religious group, Christian or otherwise, to practice rituals that endanger the lives or property of others. Why do we need to single out any single group by specific laws?

There is no mention of Christianity in the Declaration of Independence, Preamble to our Constitution, nor the Constitution itself. The Declaration of Independence makes reference to 'Nature's God' and to man's 'Creator'. Neither of those references are clear acknowledgment of Christianity. Those references can be attributed to many different religious dogmas. The Preamble makes no reference to religion, period. Article VI of the constitution plainly states that no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States. That doesn't make any exceptions as to whether they be tests verifying Christianity nor does it allow tests that reveal any particular religious affiliation. Neither the Christian Bible nor any other religious book is mentioned as a source of guidance.

All the claims of George Washington being a devoutly religious man or a Christian are pure fiction. He was a self proclaimed Deist. He never participated in religious ceremonies in the church services, where he attended, with his wife. That doesn't mean he had no morals or principles that would meet Christian standards. Many of those in politics or public service were Agnostics, Deists or, at best, nominal Christians. The majority of the general population in the late 1700s and 1800s were not active church members nor did they even make claims of being religious. That doesn't mean they had no moral or ethical standards. They simply were not self righteous individuals who claimed superior religious motivations for their behavior. Historical data indicates that the United States had a smaller percentage of its population that claimed or admitted religious connections than most of the Old World descendants of Judeo/Christian heritage. That may be a reflection of the power the established religious leaders had on the people in the Old World. The people feared the wrath of their religious leaders as much or more than they feared the wrath of God. The power of the church/civil government authority was absolute and final. Greed and lust for power by individuals reflected human nature, not the Gospel or example that Jesus taught.

Religious symbols and architecture reflected the power and influence of religion in most cultures, Christian or otherwise. It is true that the population of the United States was predominantly from Judeo/Christian cultures. The Bible was the most prolific book in print. That is not a reflection of society's individual commitment to the 'Written Word'. It reflects the incentive for religious leaders to make their information available to the common man, in spite of the Roman Catholic hierarchy's objection, for a period of time. As a result, the Christian Bible was the most circulated reading material available to the public. Thus, educators took advantage of this to make the poetry and prose of the Bible a part of the curriculum to teach literacy to their students. That definitely had an influence on society, but it was not a mandate or intention of the founding fathers of this nation. The Bible, today, with all its translations, is still the most published manuscript in print. But, sad to say, society is woefully ignorant when a quiz is given on Biblical stories and events. Intellectual knowledge of Biblical laws and stories is no test for Christian identity. Many of the most Christ like individuals among us cannot quote unlimited scriptures nor contribute profound theological religious arguments.

Our relationship to God is reflected by His Grace and our acceptance of Christ as our source of salvation. Not on our obedience to law or evidence of our good works. God does not judge us according to the mandates of government or religious authority. We are individually accountable to God, regardless of our heritage or religious affiliations. The only valid human test of our Christianity is in how we relate to our fellow man and attempt to meet his needs, both spiritual and physical.


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