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 The first clause has become the historical reference for those that believe that this is the separation of church and state language.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.
Can this country and its states just take a step back for a moment? We are a country of many people and many thoughts. Our forefathers came here to have a freedom of religion. They did not seek to sail over the waves and risk their families just to set up a new home where they would be ruled by someone else’s religious rules. These ancestors were the ones that helped establish our country as a place where freedom rings true under the premise that all men are created equal. They are the very people that wrote the Constitution and sacrificed their lives to see that it would become the ruling government of our country.
Yet, today, we have groups and parties that cry out that they are in full support of this document while stripping away rights and privileges based solely on religious beliefs. They have initiated laws that will deny a group’s equal rights because their lifestyle is considered sinful by these lawmakers’ religious affiliations. In other words, the government of the state or states in favor of these laws has established their religion as the preference of the government.
The rights of a woman’s health or the rights of gay marriage are under attack by many legislatures in the states. A few states have even passed laws that deny gay marriage or established the judgment of when life begins. One particular law has been passed in Arizona with the side effect that some forms of contraception are now considered illegal. This set a point when life begins. In this case, it is set at the last day of the woman’s most recent menstruation. This is actually the day that is used to determine the due date of the pregnancy. So, life begins before conception. I think my head started hurting when I heard this. This will make the forms of contraception that regulate the body illegal. To me, this entire law is just a way for the states to sidestep Roe v. Wade decision.
Another law has even stepped into the work place and will allow the business to request medical information of the employee to determine whether health insurance will cover contraception. Arizona has decided to give rights to businesses to determine if their employee insurance will cover birth control used by the employees. It gives the employer the right to ask the employee for the details and deny them coverage if they are using it for any reason outside medical ones. This caused me to do a double-take. We have people making decisions on medical cover who have no medical certification. These matters are starting to just get out of control.
Here is my question to the states and the federal government: Why are you using all this energy to create new laws to circumvent settled laws and to usurp personal rights when it should be used to create a better environment for economic recovery and growth? In my opinion, our elected representatives are focused on an agenda that distracts the public with these unnecessary laws while the true needs of our country become a political tagline in a speech. No one is moving on this during an election year, but they were not moving on it before that.
One additional point on this entire subject is the desire for some politicians to push government into the medical rights of a woman while men’s rights are not touched. Whether one agrees with the entire idea of abortion, the thought that the group clamoring for regulation of women’s health is the same group that speak of pulling the government out of everyone’s lives. The hypocrisy is often more than I can truly handle. Of course, the other side of the aisle has their moments of complete hypocrisy also.
So to wrap up, we need to stop the push for women’s rights over their own bodies to be regulated. If your reasons for wanting control over the woman’s reproductive rights are because your religious doctrine has created the belief that woman have no right to end their pregnancy for any reason, I suggest that you try to remember that women are no longer second class citizens to be ruled over by a patriarchal system. This is America and we have changed. Perhaps this religious doctrine needs to have a reexamination. However, if your reasons for wanting the control are your own insecurities over your lack of control, it is definitely time to make some changes.