The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights says this: 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.
Putting this into practice, though, can be problematic it seems – particularly because many “Christians” seem to believe, despite this statement, that Christianity has a privileged position in U.S. law. At the very least, some maintain, a generic belief in God can be “established” even if no particular religion is “established”. “Founding Fathers” such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison made it very clear, though, that this non-establishment clause meant that a person may believe in one God, twenty gods, or no god without governmental hindrance; and those who believe in God may belong to any religion, not just Christianity. Hindus, Muslims, and Jews (as well as all others) enjoy equal protection under this amendment.
Christians in general in the U.S.A. don’t want to let go of their perceived privilege over all others, though. I want to look at 3 recent cases which challenge the First Amendment.
(1) In 2007 in California Barry Hazle Jr. spent a year in prison as a result of a drug conviction. He was then paroled, but his parole contained a requirement that he attend a drug rehabilitation program. This was acceptable to Barry; but the problem was that the drug programs were religion (or ‘faith’) based, and Barry is an atheist. He was not interested in going to ‘religious’ drug rehabilitation sessions, and requested an alternative. While waiting for a hoped-for alternative, he attended the ‘faith-based’ sessions for about a month.
At the end of a month, though, the program he was in reported to his parole officer that he was being ‘disruptive’, though in a ‘congenial manner’. What does being disruptive in a congenial manner mean, I wonder? I suppose he wasn’t being ‘properly’ respectful toward the ‘Higher Power’ whose help he was supposed to seek – yet perhaps without being rude, and maybe being a bit humorous about the whole matter.
As a result of this report of ‘disruptiveness’, Barry’s parole was revoked and he was sent back to prison. Barry sued, and in 2008 a court ruled in his favor. However the jury refused to award him any compensation. Later the Appeals Court overturned the lower court ruling, saying that Barry was certainly due compensation for the injustice done to him. Recently, Barry has been awarded almost $2 million: $1 million from the State of California, and $925,000 from the Westcare facility which ran the rehabilitation program.
This case was clear: the State may not require anyone to attend any religious functions against their will. To do so would be to “establish” religion, and violate the individual’s right to freely express his/her religious (or non/anti-religious) beliefs. To be imprisoned because one does not wish to participate in a religious program – and perhaps one shows a bit of (humorous?) disrespect for the religion – is a clear and flagrant violation of the Constitution of the U.S.A. Those who violate this basic right should certainly have to compensate their victim.
(2) In Danielsville, Georgia, a monument with two Bible quotations on it was placed at the Madison County High School. The two quotations were: (A) “If God be for us, who can be against us?” [Romans 8:31]; and (B) “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” [Philippians 4:13]. But a couple of ‘atheist’ organizations took exception to this monument, with the result that the school board voted to change the wording on the monument (or perhaps remove it). Naturally, the local “Christians” are all upset over this “anti-Christian” decision, since they wrongly think Christianity is the established religion of the U.S.A. and has certain rights to promote itself that no other religion has.
The school board is absolutely correct, of course, in deciding to change the wording or remove the monument. The school is a “public” school, meaning it is financed by the Government. If it were a private school, receiving no government funding, there would be no problem. But the government is not allowed to “establish” or promote any religion; and obviously allowing a religious monument at a government funded school would violate that Constitutional prohibition.
The school board had 3 options to correct the situation. They could (A) remove the monument; (B) remove the Bible quotes from the monument; or (C) arrange to have monuments containing ‘scripture’ quotations from other religions (Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, etc.) as well as perhaps some atheistic quotes – such as “there is no god to be for us” and “there is no Christ to strengthen me”. 😆 Apparently the school board has chosen option ‘B’.
Since the article says that the monument was intended to encourage the football team, I have to ask: exactly what sort of ‘encouragement’ were the football players supposed to receive from those Bible quotes? Were they supposed to imagine that for some unfathomable reason ‘God’ was going to favor them rather than their opponents? Is ‘Christ’ going to “strengthen” them rather than their opponents? This just shows the depths of darkness and stupidity into which “Christianity” has fallen, and would just about be enough to drive someone to atheism!
(3) In Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, a Satanic organization (based in New York) wants to place a statue of Baphomet (human body with a goat’s head) at the State Capitol. This quite naturally has “Christians” all over the country in an uproar.
This indignation of the “Christians”, though, just shows their hypocritical double standards, since the Satanists’ desire to place that statue is simply a response to the placing of a monument containing the 10 Commandments at the Oklahoma State Capitol. If the “Christians” can place a Biblical monument on State property, then by all means other religions ought to be able to place their own monuments and statues there – even such ‘offensive’ religions as Satanism!
In fact, according to this article linked to above, the State of Oklahoma put a moratorium on any further monuments at the Capitol “after it got requests from a Hindu group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.” 😆 There has been no decision to remove the 10 Commandments monument though.
Here again is another flagrant violation of the U.S. Bill of Rights. In point of fact, the State of Oklahoma should not have any religious monuments, plaques, or statues on its properties. If they’re going to allow one religion to put up such material, though, then the Constitution requires that other religions be allowed to place their materials also in order to avoid favoritism and establishment. But again, “Christians” stupidly think they enjoy an ‘exceptional’ and ‘privileged’ position so that they can be ‘established’ whereas no other religion may be.
In contrast to this sense of “Christian exceptionalism”, let me introduce one other case. In Glendale, Wisconsin (a suburb of Milwaukee) a group of Jewish students at a public High School wanted to put up a “Sukkah” (booth/‘tabernacle’) in celebration of Sukkot (feast of booths/‘tabernacles’) this year. They were allowed to do so last year, and intended to do so again this year. But they got a surprise when their request was refused this time.
Why was it refused? The Jewish parents came to realize that it really wasn’t appropriate or Constitutional to be setting up a religious symbol at a public/government school; so they asked the school not to allow it. They realized that they would object to Christian symbols – such as a ‘manger scene’ – at ‘Christmas’ time (as well as Muslim or Hindu symbols), so it was inappropriate for them to put up their own symbols. What a pleasant contrast to the privileged treatment “Christians” tend to expect!
The Jewish students were permitted to set up the Sukkah across the street from the school, though, so the situation was handled to everyone’s satisfaction. Jewish students – and non-Jewish students who were interested – could cross the street to visit the Sukkah; but it could not be seen as a school/government supported display.
Anyone who has been reading my blog articles will know that I have no sympathy for the “Jewish State of Israel”, Zionism, and the Judaism which underlies them. This certainly doesn’t mean that no Jew can do anything right, however. In this case, I’m quite happy with the Jewish parents’ wise decision and their sense of ‘fair play’. This is one instance where “Christians” could well take a lesson from the Jews (or at least those particular Jews) – even though I would not expect Christians to embrace Judaism and would hope that they would denounce Zionism and the “Jewish State”.