I have a new name for the ACLU: the American Civil Litigation Union. Well let's face it, that's all they seem to do these days. If you offend someone, and by someone I mean a minority or liberal, or both, they will sue you until you either submit, apologize, resign, pay up, or any combination thereof. It seems that their goal is social engineering via intimidation. One of their most recent crusades has been to completely remove from our government and society any references whatsoever to God or religion.
To effect this extrication of the deity, the ACLU has attacked our currency, the Pledge of Allegiance, public religious displays by any level of government, and now The Declaration of Independence. They contend that even referring to or mentioning God publicly is offensive to some. When done by an elected official or in any "official" capacity, the ACLU says it violates the separation of church and state clause of the US Constitution. The funny thing is, the Constitution has no separation of church and state clause. There is only the First Amendment, the first part of which states:
Congress shall make no law respecting
an establishment of religion, or prohibiting
the free exercise thereof...
It all sounds pretty straight-forward, but, maybe I've missed something in those sixteen words. I guess I better go through them bit by bit, just to be certain.
The legislative branch of our government. It is comprised of the 535 elected members of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Congress does not include the President, Supreme Court, members of any federal, state or lower courts, governors, mayors, state legislators, local councilmen, businesses, etc.
SHALL MAKE NO LAW:
It means CONGRESS is prohibited from drafting, constructing, passing or even considering a specific law.
RESPECTING AN ESTABLISHMENT OF RELIGION:
If we take ESTABLISHMENT to be a verb, then it refers to the setting up or imposing of a national religion. If we take ESTABLISHMENT as a noun, then it refers to a specific religious group.
Or making illegal, implicitly or otherwise
THE FREE PRACTICE THEREOF:
A citizens right to freely practice his/her freely chosen religion.
Although written 217 years ago, the language still seems pretty clear, even when scrutinized under the microscope of today's legalese. In short, the US Congress is expressly prohibited from legislating a specific religion upon the citizenry, legislating about a specific religion, and interfering with citizens' rights to practice whatever religions they chose.
It does not, anywhere in those sixteen words, prohibit the US Congress from REGOGNIZING that religion exists or that people are religious by nature. Congress is also not barred from recognizing that God exists, from mentioning God, or from allowing or even participating in religious activities. All that may be drawn from the clause in the Constitution is that Congress may not favor one faith over another.
It may be argued from this that neither Christmas nor any religious occasion should be a national holiday. Given how advertisers and the media have absconded with Christmas and turned it into a secular, materialistic free for all, I'm not sure that would be a bad thing. However, it would still not preclude a national Christmas tree at the White House, or for that fact, a national Menorah in the Capitol Rotunda. All these and more should be welcomed and respected.
According to the 2001 American Religious Identification Survey, 80.2% of Americans identified themselves as belonging to some faith. It's time for us Americans to make it known that as the clear majority, we will not allow our children to forget the reason why the original settlers came to these shores almost 400 years ago. We must not allow the few who complain to push the rest of us into belittling the beliefs of the founding fathers. As forward-thinking as those men were, they still placed a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence It is time for the non-religious, secularist minority to add another adjective their title...SILENT.
Though you may live in a technically "secular" nation, it it only so out of fairness to all religions. Never forget it was founded on Judeo-Christian principles by pious men and is populated with religious citizens who want to practice their faiths unhindered by the few who, by rights, may chose not to participate. In short, grow up, stop whining and learn to deal with it. After all, there are four of us for every one of you. Finally, it is time for the ACLU to realize that the civil rights and freedoms it claims to hold dear and champion apply to everyone, including the majority.
Freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion. In fact, quite the opposite. It means that we may cherish our individual faiths, and still respect the faiths of others. I would be as proud to see a Nativity on my town green as I would a Crescent and Star, or any other symbol of faith. These are clear expressions of the freedom we all have a right to expect. It is abhorrent for anyone to feel they must hide their religious expression for fear of offending someone else. It is inexcusable for any government - local, state or federal - to validate such intolerance and oppression by catering to it.
A version of the above article was published in the Waterbury Republican-American, January 2005. It is based on a previously published letter to the editor of the Hartford Courant, January 2002.