The 9th Circuit decision on the Pledge of Allegiance could not have been published at a more opportune time. With the 226th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence upon us, and the events of September 11th not too far behind us, it is time to reflect not just on our freedoms, but how fleeting those freedoms can be if we do not assert the source of our freedoms loudly and proudly.
Despite the fact that this nation has the greatest tolerance of all faiths, including the right to have no faith, it seems that the foes of faith in this country will not stop until God is removed from anything and everything meaningful to our existence as a nation. The foes of faith apparently will not be happy until religion is no longer tolerated at all.
It was once said that the church “…is not the master or servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state.” Who made this statement? Would it matter who said it? Is it the message or is it the messenger that incurs the wrath of those who cry foul when religion is injected into the public discourse? What if someone was to say that they were “grateful to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe for our liberties…” Would you be offended? Would you believe that these statements were unconstitutional if made by a public official? Are they appropriate statements to be used by someone attempting to affect public opinion? How about someone saying that religion is simply the “opiate of the masses?”
We must remember that the Pilgrims were seeking spiritual freedom, not freedom from spirituality. Thomas Jefferson later used the following words to declare independence from England: “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness…”
The “establishment clause” of the first amendment has been used to legitimize the complete severing of moral conscience based on spiritual principles, from the very method of governance that relies on spiritual principles for its just existence. What the foes of faith have forgotten in their zeal to protect government from faith is the remainder of the sentence in the First Amendment; “…or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Try to find the term “separation of church and state” anywhere in any state or federal constitution in this country.
Those that continue to eliminate spirituality from the public discourse use the courts to “prohibit the free exercise” of faith. They have made a mockery of free speech. These people have used the coercive power of the courts to interfere with the free exercise of faith. The foes of faith have been allowed to cry foul every time someone expresses spiritual principles in public discourse. It is time that the rest of us stood up for what is right: the free exercise of religion.
We have become very proficient at asserting rights in this country. The problems we face as a society are, in large part, caused by the belief that our founders wanted us to assert rights because we can. Our founders assumed that in asserting our rights we would ask the fundamental question of whether we should do something, not simply whether we could do something. So, what is it that gives us the guide in deciding what we should do?
Our founders envisioned a spiritual people; people who recognized their existence in relation to others, the common good, and the greater good. They envisioned self-government; government from deep within our being. We can tie any sense of moral decay we presently have directly to an abandonment of the fundamental principles of our governance–self-control and accountability based on spiritual principles. Moral decay in government, business, and in individuals flourishes when we amputate spiritual accountability from our governance. When we emphasize man-made laws as the way to assure ordered liberty, the question for individuals becomes what is “legal,” not what is “right.” Hence, life becomes a quest to manipulate and amend these man-made laws to suit the ends of the people that are the most vocal and powerful.
James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 10 that in a republic we need to use our sense of right and wrong in electing “a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations.” Where else does a person get a sense of the “true interest of their country,” and the “love of justice” but from a sense of spirituality? How does one know if they are going to “sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations” if they do not have a spiritual sense of right and wrong?
If you’re curious, Martin Luther King, Jr. said that the church “…is not the master or servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state.” The preambles to a number of state constitutions make the note that we are “grateful to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe for our liberties…” Karl Marx, the father of communism, felt that religion was the “opiate of the masses.”
Would segregation have ended if Dr. King had not asked us to look to our conscience? How many of the present deficiencies in our society can be traced back to the ingratitude we have shown for the source of our liberties? Where will we end up if we embrace the beliefs of Karl Marx that the state is the sole source of our conscience? We still have a chance to let people be free to exercise their conscience, publicly and privately. We should not be afraid to tolerate all faiths, or we cheapen the very reason we became a nation in the first place. Nearly every religion accepts the fundamental tenet of spiritual accountability and it is time we allow people to make the choice to live their faiths openly in all contexts. Sure, there are extremists in all religions, but those that blame religion for inequities and injustice forget that it is humans that fail religion, not religion that fails humans.