“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Those are some the most powerful words ever put to paper and as an American with deep roots in this country and a family history of military service my pride and love of country swells when I read them. When the “Star Spangled Banner” plays it never fails to bring a tear to my eye and the lump in my throat prevents me from singing, much to the pleasure of those around me I’m certain, the beautiful lyrics penned by Francis Scott Key. Both of these served to help unite a young country that was diverse in just about every area from state to state whether it was culture from their parent countries or even religion and dialect. Regardless of the diversity in the end they came together as the United States of America… one country, under one flag, and one constitution that was designed to protect and serve all.

In recent years we have seen a surge in the religious among us, it was once just the ultra religious but they have since expanded their ranks, trying to push our government into going outside the protections set in motion by our founders and this wonderful document. Some have even gone to the extent, in great error mind you, to base their argument on their belief that we were founded on Christian principles and that we are a Christian nation when nothing could be further from the truth.  This personal blog is just that, personal and I have no intention of branding myself a Constitutional scholar or trying to denounce all religions or religious people as bad for our country. What my intention is however, is to voice my opinion as I see it as a private citizen who is concerned about one group trying to force it’s way into our laws and throw the balance of power in the wrong direction which would harm the rights of others. One of our most notable politicians in our own lifetime, Barry Goldwater, put it this way in a speech in the Senate in 1960:

“I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in “A,” “B,” “C” and “D.” Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me?
And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of “conservatism.”

Once more he makes a similar statement in 1994 as quoted in John Dean, Conservatives Without Conscience (2006):

“Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.”

My question then is if Barry Goldwater saw it as that bad in 1960 and again in 1994 then how bad is it really fifty-two and eighteen years later? Answer: even worse.

It’s 2012 and we have seen Christians get up in arms over kids at a high school being disciplined for “Tebowing” claiming religious discrimination, over a man who was arrested for preaching at a California Dept of Motor Vehicles office, the whole gay marriage issue, and most notably the case of Rhode Island student Jessica Alquist and her fight to have a prayer banner removed from her public high school’s wall. It has seemed to become common practice for them to say that it is hate and persecution and bigotry when the law doesn’t side with their point of view but you know what the great thing is about the law and the first amendment? It applies to all not just one group especially one group who wants to call foul every time it doesn’t side with them. The next natural progression is to rant against the ACLU as an anti-religion and mainly anti-Christian organization set on removing the rights of Christians. To that I say bull. The ACLU, while taking some stands I do not agree with at times, also has a history of standing up for the rights of Christians whose right of freedom of religion and free exercise have been challenged and they even list it on their site.

So what’s the fuss? It all comes down to the United States is obviously a morally deprived country who has apparently forgotten god and therefore must repent and get back to it’s Christian roots and turn it’s back on gay right, abortion, and other such sinful acts. According to people like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and a handful of others America is being judged with hurricanes, tornadoes, and other disasters because of such actions. I don’t mean to offend, though I’m sure I will, but this is my opinion and mine alone… America is not a Christian nation nor does it’s citizens need to have a moral code forced on it via laws from one particular group and natural disasters happen whether you pray or not. That doesn’t deter the preachers, laity, or even politicians like Marco Rubio saying that god and creator is all we have. What about those of us who don’t agree? Are we not welcome? Are we no longer American enough? Are we and our opinions not to be represented? Barry Goldwater warned us and he was right and unfortunately we are seeing it come true. There is a group out there growing more and more powerful, whether on their own or via the Tea Party, that is seeking to get people in power that want to shape the laws of our secular nation to fit a Christian point of view. While I am all for freedom of speech, expression, and religion I am also all for having a responsibility that comes with that freedom and that is respecting and not trampling on the rights of those who disagree.

Our Founders had some very wise words on this subject that those who claim they were Christians, only John Adams was the rest were Deists, and that this is a Christian nation tend to forget namely:

“The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”

An even better statement directly addressing the issue is a letter from President Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Rush:

“I promised you a letter on Christianity, which I have not forgotten…The delusion…on the clause of the Constitution, which, while it secured the freedom of the press, covered also the freedom of religion, had given to the clergy a very favourite hope of an establishment of a particular form of Christianity through the United States; and as every sect believes its own form the true one, every one perhaps hoped for his own…the returning good sense of our country threatens abortion of their hopes and they (the preachers) believe that any portion of power confided to me (such as being elected president), will be excerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly: FOR I HAVE SWORN UPON THE ALTAR OF GOD, ETERNAL HOSTILITY AGAINST EVERY FORM OF TYRANNY OVER THE MIND OF MAN.”

All of that which has been said can only best be summed up in those beautiful words penned over two hundred years ago:

‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
These words protect us all from the tyranny of one group, grant freedom to all groups and individuals involved, and guarantees our voice can be and will be heard when some would rise up with determination to silence it because they disagree. It allows the Christian student the right to wear their cross to school and carry their bible, the Muslim to wear their Burqa, the atheist to challenge a religious prayer at tax payer expense, and even the freedom to go to whatever assembly you deem worthy on whatever day of the week they worship. That’s only one aspect of this beautiful document but it still needs to be preserved and cherished so that all can enjoy their own version of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness regardless of their race, color, creed, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Is this a rant about and against Christians only? By no means certainly not. What it is, however, is a reminder that when one group seeks to force their will on others that is tyranny and something that our Founders fought against and our Constitution protects us from.
Worship who and how you wish to worship, love who you wish to love, and speak out to make your voice heard but please allow the rest of us the same right even when it disagrees with you, your religion, and your book.