Sunday, July 10, 2022

Freedom of Religion OR Freedom from Religion

The question surrounding the 1st Amendment that everyone seems to be grappling with these days, in education as well as the public square in general, has less to do with a separation of church and state, and more to do with a pretended idea that they are assaulted by other people’s religious beliefs when the government protects the free exercise of religion in public spaces.

They want to be free “from religion.”

I often ask such people if they believe they have a constitutional right to be free from the influence of religion as it pertains to the public practice of religious beliefs?

I’m often surprised how many answer that question with a resounding, “Yes!”

How warped is this idea? Look to the first Amendment it’s not shrouded in mysterious language that needs a great deal of philosophical debate to uncover its meaning.

1st Amendment:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech…”

The Constitution is clear!

Government is to protect the people’s right to the “free exercise of religion” and to prohibit the government from making “law respecting an establishment of religion.” I.E. establishing a state church.

Thus, it is not that people have a right to be free from religion in the public square, but rather that people are protected in their religious liberty to freely worship and exercise their religious beliefs both in private and public.

It is ludicrous to expect that you can be protected from the influences of others beliefs, ideas, world views, etc, and still have a clear and robust 1st Amendment which includes the right to speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly.

It’s disingenuous for secular Americans to pretend that their world views, ideas, and beliefs are in a separate class than those world views, ideas, and beliefs based on a religious framework. Whatever the nature of the framework upon which your world views, ideas, and beliefs are founded — they are non-the-less personal beliefs with the power to influence society. A person’s right to think as they choose, to believe as they choose, and to practice those beliefs and speak freely of them are unalienable natural rights for all.

The first Amendment is 1st because it articulates our first natural unalienable rights. Freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom to assemble with whom we please and fir what purpose we please, and the freedom to transmit one’s ideas and beliefs into the public sphere are essential liberties.

There can be no freedom where people are protected in public spaces FROM the ideas and beliefs of others.

**An addendum to this statement as it pertains to public institutions of education.

The application of the first amendment in public education should follow four clear principles, 1) Children belong to their parents and their parents have a natural right and duty to direct and influence their child’s education, including deciding what ideas they want to transmit to their child through education.

2) Public schools are meant to be governed locally by the communities in which they are organized and with particular accountability to the parents whose children they teach. They are democratic in nature and thus the teachings found in these schools should reflect the world view and beliefs of the majority of parents within their district or state.

3) The rights of the minority in such institutions should be respected, in particular, students should remain free to speak openly about their world view, ideas, and beliefs and practice openly their beliefs so long as they do no physical harm to others.

4) The rights of teachers to practice their religious beliefs in this setting should be respected so far as they are not using coercion or secret methods of influence to undermine the views and beliefs of a student and their family.