Monday, January 07, 2008

Freedom of religion, and all that that implies

I was on my pal FranIAm's blog and found her link to tengrain's posting of a questionnaire from the people at First Freedom First, an organization for separation of church and state and religious freedom.

Even back when I was a mass-attending Catholic, I always believed that one of the finer things the founding fathers did was establish the Constitutional guarantee of separation of church and state. The First Amendment in the Bill of Rights reads "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." If you believe in your right to peaceful assembly, or free press, or free speech, you have to also accept that freedom of religion is guaranteed in this country. To me, "no law respecting an establishment of religion" means that "religion" cannot be established by law, nor should it be connected to "law," and by extension our government.

FAF's questionnaire follows, along with my answers inserted. Please feel free to copy the questions and provide your own answers, either in the comments section or on your own blog. I'd be interested to read your thoughts on these issues. (OR you could always say that your answers are your own damned business, and true freedom means you can keep 'em to yourself!)

1. Leaders on the religious right often say that America is a “Christian Nation.” Do you agree with this statement? NO—see my reasons above. Mentions of “God” as in “In God we trust” on governmentally issued things like money and so forth were incidental, the common usage of the day, NOT some sort of Christians-first rubber stamp.

2. Do you think Houses of Worship should be allowed to endorse political candidates and retain their tax exempt status? NO. I don't even think the words "houses" and "worship" should have capital letters, either.

3. Do you think public schools should sponsor school prayer or, as a parent, should this choice be left to me? LEFT TO ME—as an atheist, I think this is more important than ever; even schools which try to respect diversity and give a nod to all faiths would NEVER say anything like "and if you don't believe in a god or higher power, please feel free to use the time as you wish" or whatever.

4. Would you support a law that mandates teaching creationism in my child’s public school science classes? HELL NO. Nor would I allow the teaching of fairy tales as historical fact, either.
5. Do you think my pharmacist should be allowed to deny me doctor-prescribed medications based on his or her religious beliefs? NO. The entire idea is simply absurd; if a pharmacist tried to do this to me, I'd complain until he/she lost his license.

6. Will you respect the rights of those in our diverse communities of faith who deem same-gender marriage to be consistent with their religious creed? YES, or even if they're not religious!

7. Should “faith-based” charities that receive public funds be allowed to discriminate against employees or applicants based on religious beliefs? NO. Acceptance of public funding means they agree to operate under the law, including anti-discrimination law. "Faith-based" should be "faithful-funded."
8. Do you think one’s right to disbelieve in God is protected by the same laws that protect someone else’s right to believe? YES. Religious freedom includes the freedom to NOT be religious.

9. Do you think everyone’s religious freedom needs to be protected by what Thomas Jefferson called “a wall of separation” between church and state? YES!

10. What should guide our policies on public health and medical research: science or religion? SCIENCE SCIENCE SCIENCE!

Some of these questions made me laugh; the very idea that a public school would even mention creationism in a science class is hilarious to me. Believe what you will about the origins of the universe and human life. But in a science class, stick to the science. Otherwise, I will demand that my closely held personal belief that angles that look the same size ARE the same size be accepted in my analytical geometry class. Just sayin'.

Tengrain also asks if there are any other questions we'd ask; I'd probably only add, "Do you believe in the rights guaranteed by the US Constitution?" because that would pretty much end the debate.


FranIAm said...

Thanks D for the shout out and the linkage. This is a VERY important cause, which as people of various belief systems we need to support in unity!

Mary Ellen said...

I have the feeling that the majority of people who believe in God or are a part of some religious institution believe in separation of church and state. It's those 30%ers that are pushing for all this religious teaching in public schools and not the majority of Americans.

Like you and FranIAM, I think churches should keep their faith to their own congregations and leave everyone else alone. I also think that they should not have tax exempt status for any reason.

dguzman said...

Fran and ME--I think there are a lot of churches who believe in "witnessing" as I've heard it called--going out and actively recruiting, basically, talking about Jesus to any- and everyone. That is a real problem, in my book. Shouldn't it just be enough that they themselves believe? Why try to recruit among strangers, who may either belong to another church (which they should be happy about) OR are non-believers like me and won't be swayed anyway? Get the hell away from me, I say.