Monday, August 6, 2012

Not as Simple as "One Nation Under God"

(The following is a response to an op-ed piece appearing in the Adirondack Journal under the title of "One Nation Under God" by Daniel Alexander.

I found your editorial, "One Nation Under God" a bit schizophrenic.  That generally happens when you attempt to marry the Establishment Clause of the Constitution with public displays and practices of religion,  The real greatness of America's "Grand Experiment" was not that it guaranteed the rights and freedoms of the majority but, in doing so, it also protected and guaranteed the rights and freedoms of the minority.

I find it offensive that you denigrate certain groups for "skillfully [using] the freedoms we enjoy" in seeking redress in the courts.  That, frankly, is one of the freedoms we enjoy, one of the freedoms guaranteed within the framework of the "grand experiment".  The Founders did not limit dissension to commonly held beliefs.  One of the great hallmarks of this country is that no one turns water cannons on people praying on the steps of the Supreme Court or marching in opposition to government policies on the Great Mall of the United States.

I applaud your statement that "there must be room in this country and its government for all forms of religious and spiritual beliefs".  However that statement fails to recognize that public prayers in this country tend to reflect the majority Christian viewpoint at the exclusion of most others.  I cannot think of or imagine a public prayer that seeks the blessings and assistance of multiple gods (One Nation Under God means one god no matter what beliefs may be present) or entreats the spirits of the earth (you mentioned pagans) to guide our deliberations.

Your editorial goes on to state that "our courts need to quit attacking religion and slowly chipping away its importance in our society".  It has become fashionable to rebuke judges as activist whenever they take a position contrary to (one side or the other's) position.  Your article does not mention specific instances where the courts chipped away at religion or even acknowledged the existence of cases that found FOR religious interests.  The men and women who wear the robes are, to my mind, honest, deliberative, intelligent human beings who take difficult issues seriously and decide them to the best of their abilities.  I may not always agree with their decisions - sometimes I might feel like screaming - but  I believe in the honesty of the process.  That, too, was part of the "grand experiment".

Finally, your suggestion that Mr. Douglass (in Essex County, NY) call for a moment of reflection has merit.  When someone, somewhere discovers a way for a supervisor or a principal or a teacher to suggest prayer without making it feel like a requirement to pray, maybe we can put this issue to rest.

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