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Location: California, United States

I am a neolibertarian minded individual who feels that freedom and individual rights take precedence over the wants of government. I believe government exists to serve the people and not to protect us from ourselves. I am an advocate for private firearms ownership, smaller government, reduced taxes and freedom to live your life however you choose, providing you do not directly hurt others.

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Friday, January 28, 2005

Revisiting Freedom of Religion

I'm pleased to say I have received numerous comments on the Freedom of Religion post via email and personal discussion. Below are a few of the more interesting arguments I received.
Argument #1:
The movement to remove God from the pledge, currency and public schools is really a leftist attack on conservatism and the "religious right". The people most outspoken about removing religious references are usually affiliated with very leftists groups.
While I agree that this is most often the case, it still seems to me that the references to God conflict with the first amendment, as it is an affirmation of monotheism, which could be taken as our government sponsoring a specific type of religion.

Argument #2:
The Declaration of Independence includes references to God and this sets a precedent for our government to be able to affirm the existence of God in other areas.

Examples from Declaration of Independence:
". . .to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them . . ."
". . .they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights . . ."
These references do indeed exist. It should be noted, however, that the Declaration of Independence is really a statement of intent and is not a document that limits or defines our government. It simply told the world that the British colonists declared their separation from England, and explained why they did this. Our amended Constitution is the document that defines our government, and it lacks these references to God and explicitly forbids our government from establishing a religion or prohibiting the free exercise of religion by the people.

Argument #3:
By removing existing references to God, this could be viewed as a state sponsored promotion of atheism, which would be as much a violation as leaving the references in place.
Absence of affirmation is not necessarily a tacit disavowal. Removing existing wording to comply with the rules imposed on our government does not challenge the existence of God or promote atheism. If the wording were changed to "In God we disbelieve", or "One Nation, without God", this would be in support of atheism and would be in violation of our fist amendment.

Argument #4:
The constitution does not forbid the government from acknowledging God, it simply prevents it from establishing a religion and from interfering with the people's free exercise of religion.
True. Nevertheless, it is easy to argue that by affirming God, the government is interfering with the people's free exercise of religion because it is excluding non-monotheist Americans. In effect, by including "Under God" in the pledge, the government is denying non-monotheists the right to sincerely speak our nation's formal pledge of allegiance. Likewise, "In God We Trust" means a non-monotheist must hand out pro-God leaflets whenever they use cash with this slogan to buy a product. Also, keep in mind that in the "Lemon Test" established by the Supreme Court in Lemon v. Kurtzman, requires acts of government to be secular in nature and to not have a primary effect that advances or inhibits religion.

On a personal note, it might interest my readers to learn that I do not personally wish for the removal of these references to God as they do not offend me and they are a part of our history. Nevertheless, I think that there is a legitimate legal basis for challenging them, and I respect the right of those who are offended by these references to seek to have them removed. The freedom to debate and challenge issues like this is one of the many things that make it a joy to be a United States Citizen.



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