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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Freedom of Religion Freedom From Religion


I would not describe myself as religious.  I have a spiritual side but I am not religious.  I was born and raised Mormon and have great respect for that religion and agree with some of its teachings but not all.  Now, when I go to church I go to Catholic Church with the Lovely Sharon, a born and raised Catholic.  I have great respect for that religion and agree with some of its teachings but not all.  I consider my spiritual leader to be Monsignor Moore in Draper Utah one of the bet men I know.  So with that background I want to go into a tirade over the current mess with religion and politics.
Freedom of religion, as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, involves two important components. The first is a prohibition on the "establishment of religion" by government - the separation of Church and State; and the second, ensures that the government allows for the practice of religion. The Amendment reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" (Constitution). Also, the Fourteenth Amendment supports freedom of religion as it includes a provision protecting the rights of individuals from the encroachment of state law (Constitution).
I find the litmus test that some current candidates and many of the electorate (primarily the religious right) attempt to impose on the presidential election process. Consider:

·        Romney is a Mormon and not a Christian and therefore some consider him not suitable to be president.  I don’t want Romney to be president but to rule him out because he is a Mormon is total horsepucky.

·        Many of the religious right question President Obama’s claim to be a Christian just as they questioned his citizenship before his birth certificate was presented.   Here is an interesting  snipet from a New York Times Blog ( http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/21/billy-grahams-son-questions-obamas-faith/) :

 The Rev. Franklin Graham, son of the evangelist Billy Graham, said on Tuesday that he was not sure if President Obama was a true Christian and that he could not definitively say that the president was not a Muslim.

“He’s come out saying that he’s a Christian,” Mr. Graham said of Mr. Obama in an interview on the MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “The question is, what is a Christian?”

Asked if he would declare that Mr. Obama was not a Muslim, Mr. Graham replied, “I can’t say categorically, because Islam has gotten a free pass under Obama.” Mr. Graham cited the rise of Islamic parties in the Middle East as part of the Arab Spring and what he called a weak American response to the growing persecution of Christian minorities in Africa and the Middle East.

“All I know,” Mr. Graham said, is that Mr. Obama “seems to be more concerned about” the Muslims of the world than “the Christians that are being murdered in the Muslim countries.”

In fact, the Obama Administration has spoken out for the rights of religious minorities and has condemned the growing violence against the Coptic Christians in Egypt, for example, calling for punishment of those responsible. But it has not heeded the call by Mr. Graham and some other evangelicals to threaten an immediate end to American aid to Egypt or other countries where Christians have suffered.

"If he says he’s a Christian, I’m not going to say he’s not,” Mr. Graham said of the president. “For me, the definition of a Christian is whether we have given our life to Christ and are following him in faith and we have trusted him as our lord and savior.”

This is not the first time that Mr. Graham and other evangelicals have cast doubts on Mr. Obama’s Christian beliefs. Last weekend, Rick Santorum, the Republican presidential candidate who calls himself a conservative Catholic, said that the president was guided by “some phony ideal, some phony theology.” He later said that he was not questioning Mr. Obama’s Christianity, only his view of man’s place in nature.

            Last October, Rick Santorum gave an interview with an Evangelical blog called Caffeinated Thoughts, in which he said contraception is “not okay,” and that this would be a public policy issue he would tackle as President.  Do we really want the government to take a position and advocate for no contraception?  This is truly a position of violation of freedom from religion.

            The Obama administration recently advocated that church sponsored businesses such as universities and hospitals that employed and served non church members must provide for contraception as part of their health care plans.  The opposition to this position by the Catholic Church and others is truly an avocation of freedom of religion and I was glad the Obama administration backed off on their position.
             Santorum has said “We look at the shape of mainline protestantism in this country and it is in shambles, it is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it.”  Santorum, a Catholic is critical of Protestant churches.
             One of departed candidate Rick’s Perry’s religious advisors, Robert Jeffress, has called both Mormonism and Catholicism cults.  Perry did not disassociate himself from the comments but rather said he agreed.
     
            So in this time of financial meltdown and worldwide threats to the way of life we as Americans want and believe we are entitled to, we are faced with candidates and their supporters saying (i) Mormons are a non-Christian cult; (ii) Catholics are a cult, and (iii) protestants are gone from the world of Christianity.  Doesn’t this remind you of the 1500 year battle between Shia and Sunni Muslims?  Our religion and our beliefs are true and of God and yours are not.  And because yours are not, you are at worse evil or at best, not qualified or otherwise a proper person to be an elected leader in America.
             This kind of thought seems so contrary to what America is about. Do we really want a government that is a theocracy built around the ideals and litmus test of some select religion?  I don’t like the Mormon theocracy we have in Utah state government and certainly don’t want to have the same on a national basis.  America is diverse religious and non-religious country.  We have all kinds of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and atheists that make up our country, all of which are entitled to constitutional protections.

             We should celebrate our freedom of religion, but we should also celebrate our freedom from religion.

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