Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Church, State and Sliding Sideways

Remember the other day when I said that since the election...I had buried my head deep in the sand on a self imposed media blackout? Yeah well....I goofed up and happened to catch the headlines of the news the other night as I was getting ready for bed. I found myself standing there with my mouth opened....completely speechless as I listened to the opening story. Before I go there though.....let us take a walk down memory lane.

Let us go back to late 1960 something. It was the dawning of the age of Aquarius. Tye dye, mini skirts and floppy hats were the fashions of the day. Civil rights were still part of the headlines as was the Vietnam war. Draft cards were burned and people were taking a stand against a war they didn't agree with. Peace was a word that was said with conviction and the hippie movement was well under way. The United States had enjoyed a period of post war rebuilding and peace time after World War II and even though we were gradually changing and moving away from our Ozzie and Harriett image.....we were still the greatest country in the world. There was no denying the change though as we could turn on the evening news and not just hear about what was going on in Southeast Asia....but we could watch it as if we were there thanks to journalist who were camping out on the front lines. With this up close view of the fighting on another at home....the reaction was just as visible. Sit in's, school riots and peace demonstrations were fighting right along side the war for media attention. It was a time in our country when the world seemed to be spinning sideways and the generations were colliding. The generation who had lived through WWII saw the Vietnam war as a stand the US had to take. The younger generation though, saw it differently. They wanted a peaceful solution to what they viewed as an unwinnable war....and words such as "tolerance" and "acceptance" along with "peace" and "love" became the buzz words of the era. And in a strange way....they meant something.

In all the midst of all the craziness and change during that time....I went to public school. Each day was started with the Pledge of Allegiance in which the words "One nation under God," were said just as easily as we took our next breath. Following the Pledge we always bowed our heads and prayed. In kindergarten I think we were taught a basic prayer where we asked God to bless our day and bless our class. In higher grades we just bowed our heads and said a silent prayer. It never once occurred to me that my head being bowed and my silent inner prayer might be offensive to someone.

The first time I ever ran into someone being offended by prayer in school...funny enough happened in of all places, a Catholic school. I was in the third grade and living in New Mexico. I had just moved there half way through the year and I was still trying to learn the ropes. My teacher was an older nun that I was immediately NOT fond of. She told me that my handwriting was horrible and when my mother sent a note to school one day about an appointment I had, Sister looked at me and said..."Now I understand where you get your horrid handwriting." In Sisters class we always said morning prayers as school started, grace before lunch, a prayer after lunch and a prayer at the end of the day. They were mostly traditional Catholic prayers such as The Morning Offering, The Angel of God, etc. One day though....a young boy in my class refused to bless himself or pray. In fact he acted out making faces and dropping books while the rest of us prayed. He was kind of an ornery kid anyway and Sister went and stood by him while we prayed. When we concluded she asked him why he acted that way, and he said his family didn't believe in God and so he wasn't going to pray. If this was true or not....I don't know and I am not sure why he would be going to a Catholic school when there was a public school just down the street if as he said his family didn't believe in God. The next day before school started this boy and his parents were talking with Sister as we came into class. When the morning prayers began....Sister said that this boy would not be praying with us. He would step outside the class room while we prayed and then would come back in. Apparently he was happy, his parents were happy and other than Sister telling us that he would be stepping outside....nothing more was ever said about it. Strange for a Catholic school? I guess...but I had no idea at the time, how this would be setting the stage for the future.

When I came back to Kansas things were starting to change. When I went back to public school, we still had our morning prayer, sort of....but it was either called our moments of silence or our moments of meditation. God/prayer really was not mentioned. my opinion it was an okay compromise. I could silently say my Morning Offering that I had grown to love and anyone who didn't want to pray could just think about their dog, the assignment they didn't do.....or nothing at all. I was not forcing my love of God on anyone and no one was forcing their beliefs or lack of beliefs on me. In a perfect world where people really were tolerant and accepting....this should have worked. However, we are not living in a perfect world.

It was about this time that the late Madalyn Murray O'Hair was preaching her atheistic views far and wide. In O'Hair's world.....Christians were expected to be sensitive and respectful of the beliefs (or lack thereof) of their atheistic brethren but Atheists felt no desire to return that sensitivity or respect. Quite to the contrary. O'Hair made it her mission to take all prayer/meditation/moments of silence, out of the schools and any place else she could. For  the most part....she was fighting and winning this battle. Prayer in school and God in many public places was quickly becoming unconstitutional. Children could be reprimanded or even put in detention for openly praying in school, especially if it "offended" someone and a teacher could be fired for speaking of religion outside historical text. During this time the term "Separation of Church and State" was thrown about a great deal. I remember asking my mother about it as I did not fully grasp what was going on. I remember her explaining to me that the Separation of Church and State was originally meant to give people of this country more religious freedom. After all those who had left England to come here had left because the church and state were one...thus depriving people of their choice in religion. The separation keeps any one religion or the beliefs of a few from dictating laws and rules that go against the beliefs of the many. In other was never intended that we kick God out of our country, schools, etc it was intended so that we had the freedom to worship as we chose. O'Hair though twisted this into something that ultimately tried to rob those who did believe in God of their right to openly pray. Tolerance and acceptance became a one way street.

Through the years....O'Hair's presence has been felt often as there have been efforts to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance, out of traditionally patriotic songs and off of public buildings where His name has stood for many years. In other atheist can be offended by Christianity and the Christian can lose his rights but if a Christian is offended by an atheist....then the Christian is intolerant and unaccepting. And we continue to slip sideways. 

So now we come to the headlines on the news the other night. A small town (Buhler) in my home state of Kansas, has to change their long standing city seal...because a group in Wisconsin called the Freedom From Religion Foundation threw a fit calling their seal unconstitutional. guessed it, the city seal had a cross on it. The town could have fought this as the majority in the town were outraged over the issue, but the town council realized that to keep their seal, it would result in a legal battle that they simply didn't have the financial resources to fight. The few won and tolerance and acceptance never once even had a horse in the race.

And so the outrage. I am a Christian. I believe in God, the Ten Commandments and yes...the bible. I believe everyone has the right to believe as they choose, but I also believe that no one has the right to have their beliefs over rule mine. More and more Christians are being victimized simply for their belief in God. The tolerance and acceptance that atheists, pagans,  muslims, etc feel is owed them for their beliefs, is in no way reciprocated by these groups as a whole. As Christians we can no longer take a stand for our beliefs because it might offend someone. Privately owned Christian hospitals and universities can no longer stick to their core religious teachings and beliefs because the government is now dictating how they practice their beliefs. We have gone from a country who separated church from government so that there could be more religious a country who is letting government dictate to religions thus squashing freedoms and working with desperate speed to make us not a country of freedoms but a Godless country run by Godless people hellbent on stripping us of our wealth, our ambition, our freedoms.....and our God.

So with all of this being is what this Christian is going to do. This season...if I see you...I will wish you a Merry Christmas. I will proudly display a Nativity scene in my home as a quiet reminder of the reason for the season. I will say God bless you when you sneeze and Thank God when a prayer is answered. My house will have a crucifix above my front door and I will always have a rosary in my pocket or my purse. And finally.....I will always take a stand for my faith and my God for as the saying goes...."I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find out there isn't, than live my life as if there isn't and die to find out there is."




Anonymous said...

It seems we forget that the Constitution was originally created with the belief that the citizens of this country would always hold their freedoms and each other with respect. Never could they have predicted what has come to pass in this current century. Religious freedom like our other freedoms will only remain with us if we fight for them. So far though, this country seems to be rolling over and succumbing to those who are trying to destroy us. Anything worth having is worth fighting for and if we don't start fighting soon, there will be nothing left. Nice blog.

Anonymous said...

Reading this made me realize just how upside down or "sideways" we really have become. This was a great piece of writing and I think I will be passing it on.

Ben G said...

When I was growing up the saying in my family was always "God, country and family, in that order." No one ever questioned that is how it should be. Now it seems like the saying is "Me, me and me." We are a country of self indulged whiners who want everything given to them. They worship things and are grateful for nothing. Forget sideways, this country is upside and inside out. Love this blog.

Doug Indeap said...

It is important to distinguish between "individual" and "government" speech about religion. The constitutional principle of separation of church and state does not purge religion from the public square--far from it. Indeed, the First Amendment's "free exercise" clause assures that each individual is free to exercise and express his or her religious views--publicly as well as privately. The Amendment constrains only the government not to promote or otherwise take steps toward establishment of religion. As government can only act through the individuals comprising its ranks, when those individuals are performing their official duties (e.g., public school teachers instructing students in class), they effectively are the government and thus should conduct themselves in accordance with the First Amendment's constraints on government. When acting in their individual capacities, they are free to exercise their religions as they please. If their right to free exercise of religion extended even to their discharge of their official responsibilities, however, the First Amendment constraints on government establishment of religion would be eviscerated. While figuring out whether someone is speaking for the government in any particular circumstance may sometimes be difficult, making the distinction is critical.

A word should be added about the common misconception that this is all about people easily offended. We’re not talking about the freedom of individuals to say or do something others find offensive; each of us has that freedom. We’re talking about the government weighing in to promote religion. Under our Constitution, our government has no business doing that--REGARDLESS of whether anyone is offended. While this is primarily a constitutional point, it is one that conservatives--small government conservatives--should appreciate from a political standpoint as well. While the First Amendment thus constrains government from promoting (or opposing) religion without regard to whether anyone is offended, a court may address the issue only in a suit by someone with "standing" (sufficient personal stake in a matter) to bring suit; in order to show such standing, a litigant may allege he is offended or otherwise harmed by the government's failure to follow the law; the question whether someone has standing to sue is entirely separate from the question whether the government has violated the Constitution.

Anonymous said...

Doug what you say is true and this is the way it "should" be but you and everyone else knows this is not the way it is. More and more what was once accepted is now being viewed by a select few as unconstitutional and government is picking and choosing right now. We can't keep the cross at Ground Zero but we can build a Mosque there. Things such as this are thumbing their nose at Christians. It should not be an us against them it should be the same rules for all and I could sit here all day and site case after case where this is no longer true. Good comment Doug on how it should be but not on how it is.

Jamie James said...

Doug I am with anonymous above. What you state is true but it is simply not happening. What was not seen as unconstitutional 25 or 30 years ago is suddenly offensive so there for unconstitutional. Like Buhlers city seal for instance. How long has it been there as a source of pride and now suddenly because someone complained it is gone. This was not the government who stepped in and said take it down it was an atheistic group who found it offensive and yet you say it is not about offending someone. We can have a picture of Obama as Christ on the cross which offends most Christians but we cannot have a public nativity scene which offends non Christians. This is not about a separation of church and state it is about the few being offended, throwing a fit and getting their way and sir, that is not constitutional.

Anonymous said...

How far off center we get is in direct proportion to who is in office. Right now if we go any further left we will be saying Hile Obama! and I am not sure that is too far off. Christians are becoming a group who are starting to feel the persecution of a non-Christian president. Yes, I believe that to be true. Mark my words, history will repeat itself and Christians may have a very rough road ahead of them.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Indeep, you can tell people how it should be all you want, the fact is that is not how it is at all.

When you have a sitting president that has little to no respect for the Constitution you can pretty much kiss rights and freedoms both government and individual, good bye.

Saying that what is going on in this country today is not about being offended is a joke. Throwing a kid out of school because they are wearing a cross or t-shirt with a biblical passage on it is stepping on individual rights and free speech, but it happens. Individual rights get stomped on every day and government along with special "offended" groups are starting to dictate what is and isn't acceptable in this country.

Yes I am a proponent of small government and states rights but that is not what we have. We currently have government involvement in everything, regulations on everything and slowly we are losing all our individual rights. The way our current government chooses to translate the Constitution would not even be recognizable to our founding fathers, nor would the people of this country.

Indeep, your words are correct but in today's government they mean little. Maybe you should write them down and send them to our current administration. Perhaps our president might learn something. Until then, we will not be governed by the Constitution but by special interest groups and leaders who view the Constitution as an antiquated piece of paper to be stomped on and tossed aside and "We the people" will no longer have a say in anything.

Doug Indeap said...


Again, it is critical to distinguish between "individual" and "government" speech and actions. When you say "we" cannot keep a cross at Ground Zero, but "we" can build a Mosque there, how can one tell whether you are talking about actions of private individuals or the government?

What I described is what the law "is," not some idea of what "should" be. Wake Forest University has published a short, objective Q&A primer on the current law of separation of church and state–as applied by the courts rather than as caricatured in the blogosphere. I commend it to you.

Changes in Latitude said...

So Indeep, please explain to me how an individual can be unhappy about a picture of a cross on a town seal that has been there for years, contact a non-profit anti-religion group and that group threaten legal action because of the offense of one person? This cross was not new and the "majority" of the town not only liked it but was proud of it as part of the town seal. However, the majority had to bow down to the individual because they knew that if they tried a legal battle that this non-profit would have the ACLU with deep pockets in their corner. Legal action even if they won would have bankrupted the town. So in this case I think the line is quite blurry between government and individual. What is clear though is that one person being offended took the right to have this sign away from the majority of the town. Lines like this are getting blurred all over the place and the minority are starting to rule the majority. You can quote how it should be all you want. The fact is that is not the way it comes down in many cases. Government is no longer protecting the rights of it's people and letting the majority rule. It is now bowing down to special interest groups and slowly regulating us out of our freedoms. One person and a non-profit group from another state took away Buhlers freedom of speech and it doesn't get much more simple or straight forward than that!

Doug Indeap said...


In the case you posit, the first step is to recognize that the action in question (maintaining a cross on a town seal) is an action of the government, not an individual. Whether the government's action is popular (i.e., supported by a majority of voters) does not matter. Since this is government action, the next step is to determine whether the government's action promotes religion contrary to the constraints of the First Amendment on government. That depends on the circumstances. Not every display of a cross is necessarily an effort to promote religion. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't.

As for the individual who brings or threatens a suit to challenge the government's action, note that whether the government has acted contrary to the First Amendment does not depend in the least on whether one, or ten, or ten thousand people are offended. In order for any individual to get a court to hear a suit, however, that person must show "standing" to sue, which may be shown by alleging that the person is offended by the government's failure to follow the law. That allegation just gets the person in the courtroom; it has nothing to do with whether he will succeed in proving that the government actually violated the First Amendment.

Anonymous said...

Loved this blog and I loved the fact that originally separation of church and state was to expand religious freedom not destroy it. Individual offense is a huge factor and I agree that the special interest groups carry far more weight anymore than the majority. Why? Because the majority have become apathetic. It is less trouble and you are less likely to have to argue with someone if you simply just keep your mouth shut. Unfortunately, that apathy is being mistaken for acceptance and here we sit. Don't you think it is time for the majority to get off their apathetic butts and start speaking out again? Great blog.

Anonymous said...

Funny but this blog reminds me of a conversation a friend and I were having just the other day.

Atheist find Christianity and all forms of religion offensive. They see it as religious or religions not only wanting to be accepted by all but they want to shove their beliefs in your face. I don't see that as being true of the majority of faith based people, but there are those who constantly preach and try to convert non believers.

The girl I was having the conversation with was not only an atheist but also a lesbian, so I said I could understand her point quite clearly. It was just like the gay and lesbian community who not only want acceptance but they want to shove their sexuality in your face such as in their gay pride parades and their special treatment in the work place (God forbid you try to fire a gay or lesbian for being an incompetent worker because it immediately become a sexual discrimination case.)

It seems she did not see or understand the correlation between the two. The fact is though you can legally be discriminated against for being a Christian and outwardly showing your Christianity but you can't be discriminated against for being gay and outwardly expressing your sexuality.

Christians are offensive to others if they show respect to God, but they should not be offended if someone walks half naked through the streets, imitating sex acts and demanding we applaud them for such behavior. On the contrary, they should be celebrated. Right? Interesting isn't it.