Counterpoint on Religious Liberties
Disclaimers. Being part Irish, I acknowledge a certain contrarian streak in my DNA. But, I am not an atheist. In fact, I have written a chapter in my upcoming Book IV presenting the arguments for the existence of a God. I acknowledge my status as a “back-row” Catholic. My views on “religious liberty” are not based upon the hierarchy of a theology within any organized religion. My views are based upon a Christianity that adopts love, acceptance, inclusion, forgiveness and the overarching “do unto others” message of the historic Jesus of Nazareth, the man in sandals who walked from Galilee to Jerusalem where he was crucified after a due process trial— rigged, as it was, by the combination “unprovable” religious beliefs (Messiah… to be or not to be ???) and a Roman occupation that brooked no dissent (revolutionary or spiritual… “My Kingdom is not of this world”).
I appreciated the coverage of Religious Liberty Law in the April 2021 Michigan Bar Journal. “Religious liberty” under the “free exercise” clause of the 1st Amendment of the Bill of Rights is the next constitutional law frontier. That new frontier will be defined by a very conservative majority of six, right wing, Catholic-educated Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. In the upcoming years, those six, Catholic-educated Justices will dictate the boundaries of that new frontier, and tell us just how the “unprovable” beliefs of organized religion (mostly the Christian religion) will now curtail the human rights of the rest of us. As they say in the radio business, stay tuned.
Of the four Religious Liberty Law articles in the April 2021 Michigan Bar Journal, three were written with clarity while the fourth was unintelligible. All articles seemed to bear an under-current that religion is good and the lack of it bad. All articles seemed to be a subtle combination of founding-America, political science, Bible study and theology. All the articles plead for their own, “unprovable” religious beliefs (mostly unprovable Christian beliefs) to prevail over and trump the beliefs of non believers.
If for nothing other than “balance” and for the good of the order, I must now use “equal opportunity” to reply to the April edition of the Michigan Bar Journal, and point out that the subject and focus on religious liberty in the in the Bar Journal comes right out of the America’s right wing, moral majority— those who seek to impose their “unprovable” belief system on the rest of us. As I say, the articles in the April Bar Journal on “religious liberties” seem to assume that religion is good and lack of it bad. Contrary wise, I assume that spirituality and the golden rule are good, but organized “religion” not necessarily so. As history shows, one man’s religious liberty and “unprovable” belief system is another man’s shunning, rejection, loss of human rights, discrimination or death.
* Galileo had to abandon his provable scientific theory that the Sun was the center of our Universe (really the solar system) or face death at the hands of the Roman Catholic Church for contradicting the Bible that incorrectly said “from the rising of the Sun to the going down thereof.”
* The Salem Witch Trials in America put poor, sweet innocent girls to death by murderous, Puritan religious leaders (14 women hung, 6 men hung and 5 died in prison), all because of the “unprovable” religious “belief” about who is, and who is not, a witch. Rapture gone wrong ???
* 50,000 executed as witches in Europe during the Dark Ages, hung, beheaded and burned alive. All of those lives lost and all that suffering because of an “unprovable” religious “belief” system.
* The Christian led Crusades during Middle Ages killed and maimed tens of thousands men, women and children— killed and maimed because God’s Christians laid claim to God’s Holy Lands in the Middle East, and sought to wrest them back from God’s Muslims (because one unprovable belief system wanted to suppress another unprovable belief system). All that maiming, torture and all those deaths because one religion’s “unprovable” belief system” runs counter to another religion’s “unprovable” belief system.”
* Or, how about the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial. John scopes, a teacher in Tennessee, convicted in a Criminal Court, despite Clarence Darrow’s brilliant representation, because the teacher (along with Charles Darwin) taught “evolution.” The teacher’s life ruined because his scientifically provable “beliefs” ran counter to the “unprovable” religious “belief” of the Adam and Eve and the “Creation” story.
* Or, how about Jesus himself dying an agonizing death on the cross for supposedly claiming he was the “Messiah”… an innocent man killed because his “belief” (Messiah) was contrary to the unprovable “beliefs” of the religious/governmental authorities of his time.
* Or, how about all the innocent Muslims killed by the ruling governmental bodies within the ISIS Caliphate, al-Qaida or the Taliban Government of Afghanistan. Those State actors (without any separation of Church and State) put innocent Muslims to death because the innocents had “infidel beliefs.” And, if a Muslim Judge in a Muslim country dare tell me that I am the “infidel,” you can bet my life, my civil liberties and my human rights will all be at risk, maybe even set me on fire in a cage, crucify me or blow me to kingdom come because I don’t believe their “unprovable” belief system.
In any government that separates Church and State, the above unjust atrocities don’t occur. Repeat for emphasis, Don’t occur. A simple overview of history, and the historical violence inflicted by believers on non-believers confirms how essential it is to separate Church and State. Preserving fundamental, unalienable, God-given liberties and basic freedoms demands that no-one gets punished, discriminated against or ostracized for their “beliefs” or their lack of belief. In Democratic societies, citizens are punished for their “actions,” not their “beliefs” (nor lack of “belief”). Look at the history of world violence when the governmental power of theocracies are used to punish, discriminate against or ostracize citizens (and others), all because of “unprovable,” religious beliefs. ISIS, Taliban, al-Qaida, etc. To respond by telling me, “Well, this is America, and it won’t happen here” is to fool yourself, and reject Greatest Generation wisdom, “better safe than sorry.” To tell me that we don’t need to separate Church and State in America is to not understand the words of the first Black, Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall, “Ah America, the greatest Country that never was, but, hopefully, always will be.”
America is a Democracy, not a Theocracy. The Countries in the Middle East are Theocracies where the Constitutions of “the people” are regularly nullified by a country’s religious leader’s subjective interpretation of the unprovable beliefs set forth in the Koran. America must guard against the intrusion of all “unprovable” religious belief systems that seek to intrude into the house of government and take control. We don’t need the Christian Bible nor the Evangelicals running the government… any more than we need the Koran and Sharia Law running the government. It’s like the “historic“ Jesus said… “Give to Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God that which is God’s.”
I am openly and stridently opposed to American law and institutions pandering to the faithful of any (unprovable) belief system… whether it be Christians, Jews, Muslims (Shia, Sunni, Wahhabism), Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhas, Taos, Zoroastrians, etc. The world has had its fill of wars, punishment and death brought on by “unprovable” religious “beliefs”… including the Christian Evangelicals who are so pleased that America moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, and so pleased that Israel declared Jerusalem as its Capitol City. Why ??? Because their Evangelical, biblical interpretation says that the Armageddon of “end times” will happen in Jerusalem, and the Jews will convert to Jesus or be slaughtered, and the blood of the dead Jews will run as high as the shoulder of a horse. See Diana Butler Bass’ CNN report of May 14, 2018. That unprovable belief is the exact opposite of the “turn the other cheek” “message” of Jesus. I love and admire the Jewish people, and their struggle for survival. And yet, here is the Evangelical Christians trying to force the “unprovable” beliefs of Christianity on the Jews, who must convert to Christianity or die.
But, with today’s Catholic-educated, Christian Supreme Court Justices in charge (ClarenceThomas, Samuel Alito, John Roberts, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett), the trend of the State promoting the “unprovable” Christian belief system over the belief systems of others is just beginning to gather on a darkening horizon.
* When a Christian prayer is used to start a legislative session in the Town of Greece in upstate New York, a Jew and an atheist who complain are told to just grin and bear it. See Town of Greece v Galloway, 572 US 565 (2014).
* In a convoluted legal journey started by my Father’s favorite charity, the Little Sisters of the Poor, Catholic Nuns were handed the “religious liberty” power of the veto, to veto an act of Congress (and governmental regulations) that provided birth control benefits to their female employees under the Affordable Care Act. In essence, American employees can be deprived of birth-control, health insurance benefits provided by Congress simply because the Nuns have an “unprovable,” moral belief that any and all contraception is immoral… despite no mention of this moral dilemma in the Sermon on the Mount. See Little Sisters of the Poor v Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 591 US Reporter, 140 S Ct 2367 (2020).
I think it time to return to the words of our Irish American, President, John F Kennedy… and (hopefully) re-center a Michigan State Bar and an America that are both straying away from Democracy, and playing with the fire of a theocracy that is gathering speed down a slippery slope marked, “no separation of Church and State.”
“I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish – where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source – where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials – and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.”
Stay tuned for the further demise of Separation of Church and State. Stay tuned to an America that is straying away from Democracy and playing fire with a theocracy. Stay tuned for Christianity’s reign of Supremacy under the present Supreme Court’s conservative Catholic majority. Stay tuned for the role of unprovable religious “beliefs” (mere beliefs… not the “exercise“ of religion) to nullify the freedoms, rights and civil liberties of non believers. Stay tuned for an America Court system to further encourage the myopic views of the Christian right to trump the views of the rest of us.
Onward Christian Soldiers
Leading as to war.
Would Jesus even recognize
What you’re fighting for ???
Fred Lauck (p16445)