A New Perspective: Part 4
Today’s post is written in honor of a fellow Classicist, Madeline Miller, who recently won the Orange Prize for Fiction for her debut novel The Song of Achilles. This story is about the love affair that Achilles and Patroclus share in the midst of the Trojan War. I have a very strong appreciation for the subject matter. So I wish to send out my congratulations to her for this award on her debut novel.
I come to the last part of my discussion of the First Amendment. We have come to the section that speaks about the freedom of religion. This clause of the Amendment also secures that no establishment of any religion by Congress. As I don’t want to confuse any of the language, here is the exact text and the website to verify:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. http://constitution.laws.com/1st-amendment
The two parts are the establishment of a religion and freedom to practice any religion. The first clause has become the historical reference for those that believe that this is the separation of church and state language. These words actually gain support as such from Jefferson and Madison.
Thomas Jefferson, during a set of correspondences to the Danbury Baptist Association, wrote the phrase as “wall of separation of church and state.” James Madison, the author of the First Amendment, wrote in his papers and used the metaphor “great barrier” in regard to this clause. In the historical context, the clause was at the root of what those revolutionaries and Founding Fathers were sacrificing everything for. The Church of England and the Catholic Church had held sway over decisions in the governments and our Constitution authors made sure that such would not continue.
On this establishment of a religion, battles have been fought in the Congress, states, and courts of the country. Each day, this single right is at the heart of the discussion. Some have made the connections while others have their own agendas. However, we have seen a recent trend in our country and the states that have shifted this battle into some of the bloodiest attacks that we have ever experienced.
With the attention being set on the legality of abortions, birth control, and gay marriage, many supporters of the laws brought to the floor are a step toward the establishment of a religious belief of certain faiths. Once these laws are set into the stone, the precedent is established that religious beliefs can be legislated and the church will breach the “great barrier.” A law is made for the benefit of the society to protect and serve the greater good. These laws against abortion, birth control, and gay marriage do not benefit society except to the holders of these religions. A separation must be kept.
As to the practice of religion, it has been often stated that we are a country established on the very principle of freedom of religion. We are greater because of the diversity in beliefs and to hold a belief does not place one on the opposite side of the Law. We are best when we respect the ideals and beliefs of others. So, this respect for ideals and beliefs can be tested against the issues of abortion, birth control, and gay marriage. Each is an individual belief or ideal for the lives of those involved, while those who are not involved should respect the rights of the individual. The community is not affected by these matters, so they should respect the practice of beliefs. If they don’t, it could someday come back to a removal of their rights to practice as they believe.
For me, the First Amendment is fairly straight forward and has been judged by our system in a just way. Nothing is perfect, but our society needs to remember that blanket laws can infringe on the rights of those who may need that freedom to decide what is best for them. I have faith in our country that we will work through the troubles, but I wish that we would spend our energies on matters of importance to improving our society. I do not want us being pulled back into the dark ages of oppression by religious fanatics. Our forefathers settled here to escape that oppression. Move forward.