Contrary to popular belief, separation of church and state is not a right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, but the concept is a fundamental building block of that document.
In a letter to the Banbury Baptists dated Jan. 1, 1802, founding father Thomas Jefferson wrote about the First Amendment:
“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State,” he wrote.
That “wall of separation” is one of the most important things lawmakers should consider when acting on behalf of the USA, whose population exceeds 313 million and where religious freedom is just as important as freedom from religion.
That is why I shudder when I hear legislators considering laws that affect issues such as same-sex marriage.
Try as they might, lawmakers have yet to come up with compelling reasons why gay marriage is wrong without resorting back to religion.
But consider what would happen if the dominant religion in the country was Hinduism, which might effectively ban eating meat? Or fundamental Mormonism, which might legalize plural marriage?
Rather than allow religion to affect their jobs in the least, lawmakers should do their jobs from a platform of common sense, a concept that has seen some measure of victory over the past two days.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and effectively ended Proposition 8.
On Tuesday night, Texas Democrats halted a sweeping anti-abortion bill that would among other things have closed most of that state’s clinics.
At their very centers, these stories are neither about abortion nor same-sex marriage. Even more importantly, they are about freedom from the tyranny of those who use their own religion as a legislative tool and a way to impose their beliefs on others.
So, as we move forward I urge everyone, whether they are atheists, Christians, Jews or any of the hundreds of other religions out there to avoid looking at these issues through the filter of your faith. Instead, take a deep breath, and use common sense.
Because common sense and religion too often find themselves on divergent paths.
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