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 The first clause has become the historical reference for those that believe that this is the separation of church and state language.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.
In a world where each of us has a responsibility to pay heed to our society as part of our citizenship, it is time for me to express a few specific ideas into the internet ether. As I titled this blog with an obvious stance, I wanted a place where I could express my opinions on some key issues. In starting this, I realize that I am about to swim into an ocean of such blogs where everyone has an opinion floating aimlessly. However, as a life preserver in this stormy sea, I am taking this in a different direction. A rant is characterized as “an emotional and loud exclamation” according to my friends at Merriam-Webster- Merriam-webster.com. So allow me to clarify one subtle point to my outburst of opinion here. I would characterize my rant as an emotional yet somewhat rational speech. I have established this with my writing so far and it will continue this way in future posts.
With all that said, I imagine that quite of few people would like to know my purpose in this blog. Do I plan to make a weekly statement about some foolishly hatched decision by some equally foolish politician with no concern for his constituency, but for his own special interests? Will I speak out in order to create a wave of public opinion that will change the tide of our society from some strange, fringe demagoguery to benefit a small group? I may not post weekly, but the timing will come on those occasions that I feel a need to point out how a person or idea is destructive to our society. I will not comment on every point because we have 24 hour news channels to take care of that. I am very interested in the topics of diverting the notion that it is ignorance and intolerance that moves this world. For that, I am eager to see how this all comes into being. I am very excited to join the ranks of voices in the blog universe.
Where does one start with all of issues thrown out to the hungry public waiting to hear some news story that helps to reinforce their beliefs about a situation or opinion? The true purpose of journalism is to inform the public of the facts, but this is often lost in the spin of opinion and the slant of the news organization. This is truly a strange statement for me to write because I do, admittedly, have my own opinions and sides to most issues. Each comes from a particular strong conviction related to the topic. However, I want to express that the extremes of both sides are the ones that divide the community rather than work to find the truth in the middle. Some of my opinions are on the fringe, but I will warn everyone ahead of time that I am going extreme. Consider this your warning: I am going to an extreme today.
Social commentary can lead to a great many volatile discussions, but today, I must comment on a story that has been pressing my brain against the back of my skull for the better part of a year. In the realm of state politics, we have all seen the numerous stories that speak of a campaign to bring the issue of abortion back into the limelight. Decades after a landmark decision was made in the SCOTUS, the movements of social conservatism raised this issue back to the surface with the agendas of many state governments proposing and passing laws that will regulate a woman’s body. Several of the laws have gone to the point of explaining when life begins as if this is the sticking point.
The purpose is twofold. One is that these states believe that the issue has not been settled with the Supreme Court decision because it is not morally right to allow the abortions. This comes from a belief that if they can legislate when life begins then they can determine if abortion is murder. These new laws have stretched the guidelines from which trimester a pregnancy is in, to stating that life begins at conception. These laws include that the circumstances of the conception is not a determining factor. So, in the cases of rape and incest, the pregnancy must continue. Some advocates against these measures also read into this that certain contraception will become illegal due to how they work. At this point, the matter becomes so multifaceted that one can quickly become lost in the arguments. For me, it comes down to a simple matter of individual rights. A woman’s body as well as a man’s body is their own. It is not owned by the government in any manner. If we begin to legislate on these matters of controlling individual bodies, freedoms of all kinds will become sacrifices on the altar to whichever morally righteous group has majority in our lawmaking assemblies. In this, I have to lean in favor of the individual over the community.
The second point is the struggle over the state’s right against the federal government. The tenth amendment rests behind these decisions as the states work hard to reclaim their powers of government in their state. Strong supporters turn to this and suggest that the federal government has no right to legislate on these issues. It is for the state to decide. The individual states are struggling against the community of the United States. It is true that the states should have power over their citizens. The argument that the Supreme Court’s decision was overreaching has some validity. How can the state continue to have rights if the larger community overrules the decisions within the states? To answer that, let me reflect back to the first point. Is it right to remove the individual rights of a person in the case of their body? Do the states have any moral high ground to cry out that the larger community is taking away their rights as they are themselves taking away the rights of the individuals in the state?
There is no reason for a society to simply make a blanket law over its people that do not benefit the people as a whole. We are all individuals with different beliefs and moral standings. Laws are meant to create a society where all rights are shared equally by all the citizens. Rights are not something that can be taken away by laws. They are granted to all citizens. Stop this madness and return to helping the society rather than controlling them.