Each year since 1993 the President has declared January 16th to be “Religious Freedom Day,” in order to remember the passage of Thomas Jefferson’s 1786 Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. President Obama is scheduled to release his proclamation tomorrow.
Jefferson’s statute continues to be a strong expression for the value of religious liberty even today. Though the statute has been discussed in many places and in great depth, there are two important points to take from the statute. First, Read more
A US Naval Academy midshipman (cadet) recently took to the internet to complain about Annapolis’ tradition of noon mealtime prayers. (This daily tradition has been under routine attack almost annually, often from the ACLU.) With emphasis added:
Every day the entire brigade of midshipmen congregates in our massive dining hall for lunch, and every day one of the chaplains gets up in front of everyone and says a prayer before the meal. Most of the time it’s a Christian chaplain from some denomination or another, but usually once a week there’s a Jewish chaplain.
I guess there’s really nothing wrong with it, since I don’t have to pray if I don’t want to, but it is incredibly annoying when you just want to eat your lunch and get on with the day. It doesn’t help that some of the chaplains (especially the Jewish ones, for whatever reason) are incredibly long-winded.
Something occurred to me the other day during prayer. As usual, I wasn’t bowing my head, but was instead looking around at the rest of the midshipmen, the majority of whom are religious. It occurred to me that there’s just something incredibly servile about seeing 4000-odd otherwise intelligent people all bowing their heads in unison. To me, the act of bowing your head is saying in body language that you’re not good enough on your own and you can’t do anything without the help of whatever higher power you happen to believe in. I’m generally not an angry atheist; I like to live and let live, but every time I see that, I become an incredibly angry atheist for a brief moment.
Every cadet is allowed to grouse, of course. It’s practically required to survive four years at any of the US military’s service academies.
The disturbing thing Read more
This isn’t actually news: Justice Antonin Scalia has long said nothing in the US Constitution requires the government to scrub all appearances of religion from the public square. He did put a new twist on it this time, though, essentially saying the government can favor religion over non-religion:
“I think the main fight is to dissuade Americans from what the secularists are trying to persuade them to be true: that the separation of church and state means that the government cannot favor religion over nonreligion,” Justice Scalia said.
There is nuance to that statement. Scalia had Read more
The group American Atheists recently installed a granite monument in front of the Bradford County courthouse in Starke, Florida. The group placed the monument there as the result of a compromise, after a local Christian group refused to remove their Ten Commandments monument — and then both groups filed First Amendment lawsuits.
David Silverman, the American Atheists president, called his own monument a “counterpoint” and an “attack.”
“We’re not going to let them do it without Read more
Since former cadet (and current MRFF “client”) Blake Page made his awkward public departure from West Point over “criminal” Christianity, there has been a simmering of the issue of prayer at the US Military Academy. For the most part, the only loud voices were critics who want to see West Point end public prayers.
The Alliance Defending Freedom just recently weighed in, encouraging West Point to stand firm in the face of criticism and honor both its legacy and religious freedom. The ADF’s David Hacker said
“The First Amendment allows public officials to acknowledge our nation’s religious heritage,” he notes. “Anti-religious groups with misguided ideas about the First Amendment should not be allowed to destroy a time-honored, perfectly constitutional American custom.”
The ADF sent a letter to West Point on behalf of the Chaplain Alliance Read more
Today we celebrate the 235th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, the document that set into motion the creation of the United States of America.
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…
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States…
The Declaration was signed by 56 men, including Read more
The attempted assassination of US Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) generated an interesting “distancing” exercise on several fronts, with regard to allusions of weaponry and political vitriol. There are indications the “targeting” symbology from the political action committee of Sarah Palin has been removed. Keith Olbermann “apologized” for any implications of calls for violence in his own prior speech while saying “violence…has no place in our Democracy” (Thomas Jefferson might take issue).
In a fascinating display of naiveté, an internet blogger even attempted to play the “distancing” role for Michael Weinstein. Said Christine Woodman: Read more
In several articles on this site, the premise has been repeated that true religious freedom is not the suppression of differing ideas, but the encouragement of them. Sometimes this is a cautionary tale to Christians who feel that other religions should not have the same freedoms as Christians. More often, however, it is a rebuttal to those who would silence or restrict Christians in order to avoid offense or exposure to a differing moral stance.
Hugh Hewitt has a similar explanation on his site, in his criticisms of those who criticized CBS for allowing Tim Tebow and his mother to air a “Celebrate Life” ad during the SuperBowl:
Most people of faith are strong proponents of religious liberty because they are very acquainted with the stories of religious persecution in almost every other part of the globe. The answer to religious intolerance Read more