Religious Liberty?

This is an idea that Christians in the United States love. That is to say, if the religious freedom you express is Christian.

The First Amendment Center surveyed 1,007 respondents’ opinions on the First Amendment and found:

Only a slim majority (56 percent) of Americans said in a 2007 survey that freedom of worship should extend to people of all religious groups, no matter what their beliefs (down 16 points, from 72 percent in 2000).

To be fair, I looked at the actual survey instrument and the question is worded to ask, “Do you feel that the freedom to worship as one chooses…applies to all religious groups regardless of how extreme their beliefs are, or was never meant to apply to religious groups that most people would consider extreme or fringe?” [emphasis mine]

Clearly, the respondents were of a different opinion than the group surveyed in 2000, probably due to the attacks of 9/11, where religious extremism is popularly, and, perhaps, incorrectly viewed by Christians as only a Muslim problem and not a Christian one. Yet, there are other questions asked that are somewhat revealing.

Teachers and other public school officials should be allowed to lead prayers in public school.

To this, 58% of those surveyed were in agreement -42% in strong agreement.

The nation‟s founders intended the United States to be a Christian nation.

and

The U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation.

To these two questions, 46% and 38%, respectively, were in strong agreement. But one that stands out:

A public school teacher should be allowed to use the Bible as a factual text in a history or social studies class.

To that question, a full 50% were in agreement -33% in strong agreement

Christian pundits like Ann Coulter and Chuck Norris continuously whine about wanting to include Biblical teachings in public schools and cry foul that teachers are prohibited from leading prayers and stating that their god and superstitions are facts. Many genuinely believe that the United States was founded as a “Christian nation” and refuse to accept evidence to the contrary. What they want is religion taught in public schools, but not just any religion. They want their own brand of superstition.

Christians never seem to realize that the separation of church and state in public schools is an advantage for them. Instead they keep pushing to have religion re-introduced. I say they should be very careful what they wish for. It isn’t implausible that a modern American community could emerge with a predominantly Muslim (or Hindu) majority that demands their religion be taught as fact just as Christians do. What happens when the one or two non-Muslims return home from their public school with the news that their Muslim teacher has told them that Allah is the one true god and only the Koran holds his word?

And what if Christians had their way altogether? Which particular cult of Christianity would then be the right one to follow? Would it be Catholicism? Baptist? Lutheran? Episcopalian? Methodist? Presbyterian? Mormon? Jehovah’s Witness? Some of these and not all? How would Christians decide which would be the right cult to allow in schools? Would it be a geographic issue? Would the majority faith get to teach their dogma as the right one and the minority cults be told to conform? Where would the Jews fit in? The Muslims? The Hindi? What of the Native Americans who follow traditional ways?

In nations where theocracies are already established, such questions are irrelevant. Minorities shut the hell up and have few rights in the face of the majority cult.

Religious freedom is about both freedom of religion as well as freedom from religion. Muslims should be free from having to conform to Christian dogma. Lutherans should not have to adhere to the Book of Mormon. And the non-religious should not need to have their children taught by publicly funded officials that the teacher’s particular superstition must be believed or mommy and daddy will burn in a lake of fire.

References:

Lapman, Jane (2008) U.S. religious freedom is being eroded, advocates say: Misconceptions and ignorance are weakening the Constitution’s ‘first freedom.’ Christian Science Monitor, January 16, 2008 edition

First Amendment Center (2007) State of the First Amendment 2007 Final Annotated Survey [PDF]

About Ylooshi

An anthropologist who is an atheist. My blog at breakingspells.net concerns itself with breaking the spells of superstition and religious belief through examining human superstitions and religions scientifically and rationally. Breaking Spells, the blog, also focuses on atheist and secular concerns such as the separation of church and state as well as the negative influences of Islamo-Judeo-Christian religious cults on society.
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