The idea of offering respect to the religious institutions has never been a terrible thought. It is a respect originally generated from the purpose of wisdom that can be provided by these entities. They hold the status of non-profit organizations in the same fashion as charities, due to the services provided to the community. This very idea at its core holds steady with beliefs set down by some of the great fathers and mothers of the country. In fact, it is crucial to the ideal that no religion is established by the government or prohibited in its practice. It is a principle that would be difficult for any citizen to avoid supporting.
However, it has begun to feel that such a simple principle has been corrupted and ruined by the activities of these organizations. That is not to say that all are, but when an organization grows large enough to create its own form of lobbying, it may be time to re-examine this situation. As many have concluded in the past, there is an understood and well-supported case that the US Constitution speaks of a separation of church and state. This separation works to help offer the religious organizations the special tax exempt status, yet some of these organizations have become a political tool to influence the congregations. This is the line. Once a tax exempt entity enters the arena of the state, the separation is gone and the exemption is void.
Now some might consider it to be difficult to make a judgment of how far is too far or that freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. Consider that statement and remember that it is a barrier to help protect the state from the establishment of a single religion while protecting the various religions from being persecuted as being the wrong religion for the whole country. It is not a matter of negotiation for how far, but a simple concept of keeping the structure protected. If a tax exempt organization steps into a position that will influence the state, it loses its status.
On the same principle, the state does not cross the line either to establish a single tax exempt organization above others. Now, it is understandable that one religion or charitable group might have a majority, but it needs to remain separate. Imagine what would happen if the Red Cross become so imbedded in the state that other charities could not raise donations to support their cause. Yes, we know that the Red Cross serves in emergencies and disasters, but we still need those charities that support research into cancer and various social causes. We need to have a level playing field and not some lopsided debate.
In the end, the point remains that tax exempt status for non-profit organizations should be honored to those that remain inside the guidelines. The boundaries occur for a reason and once they are broken, all the guarantees of a stable society are in jeopardy. What is the point of a democracy if the voices of the many are drowned out by the voices of the few? There is no doubt in my mind that if we can find our balance again, we will never stop our progress as a country and a world of human kind.
Have I lost my innocence? I once thought and believed with all my soul that United States of America was the greatest country on this planet. We had spirit and tradition that drew us together like no other force. We created patriotism and national pride without the heavy weight of forcing the citizenry to follow along. It was the deep faith in the dream of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that pulled us through the wars and hardships. We nearly divided over those same thoughts until someone used the duct tape of the Constitution to hold us together. We are US citizens and we need to remember the core values that hold us together.
It is not some ideological, partisan fife that we should be marching to. It is the simple faith that we are Americans. No force in the universe can shatter that belief if we remember to hold strong to it. Just because we have our differences on opinion, lifestyles, or public policies, it is not reason to break the bonds of brotherhood that brought this great nation together. We fought tyranny in the form of a monarchy to become free of such concepts. We fought each other to understand the very soul of humanity that we represent. We fought the harsh realities of intolerance and ignorance to keep a single regime from wiping out an entire group of people for being different. We have become the very ideal of freedom that some fundamentalists would hope to destroy from within and without. There is little reason to allow that enemy to win.
Old fashion traditions have held us together for so long. We are a divided people because of our very nature, which comes from the forefathers. We were divided on the ideals of our society then, but we came together to compromise to the middle and make a nation that I respect and honor with my actions everyday. We should not let the politics and harsh rhetoric pull us apart and keep us apart. We elect a leader to hold us under a single voice for one branch, but we hold that person in check with an assembly in the other branches. It does little good to pout and kick our feet when it does not go our way. We are not spoiled children. We are American citizens and honorable adults. Let’s start acting that way.
One last thought and I will let this go. Most feel that the arts and entertainment of our culture has corrupting elements. Tones and topics which are inappropriate for young children can be found in examples, but there are wide sweeping themes that inspire new visions and arts for the future. I understand that it is important to protect the young minds so that traditions and ideals can be passed on, but think about something for me. When in a crisis or disaster, who is it that we turn to as a society? As a whole, who are we going to embrace to get us through those tough times? I find that it is the irony of the ages that the one thing that holds us true to our course is the very thing that never escaped Pandora’s Box. It is the very thing that settles into our soul and protects us from our own worries and despairs. In an essence, Tolkien and, in his own way, Joss Whedon direct our understanding of the human nature through the entity of Hope. It is shared in the definition that life without hope is despair. If we despair, we become nothing but the cruel, twisted life forms that seek only to consume others and their brains. In other words, hope is our foundation and refuge. Don’t waste it with removing it from our world.
So, have I lost my innocence? NO. I seek the future that has not been written and aim to write my own. I dwell on the very essence that we are all humans with a wide variety of differences. In these differences, there is hope that we will never despair and remain the unshakable force that we all hope to be.
By the way, go and vote tomorrow. There is little reason not to. Some feel that it is pointless, but they are the ones that despair. Nothing is written. Hope can change who we are. Find your liberality and cognizance to avoid being a zombie!
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.
A few posts back I stated that I would be delving into the matters of the First Amendment. I promised to perform this task in three separate post to help explain a little more of my opinion on this Amendment in addition to relating it to current topics such as gay rights, women’s rights, and the SCOTUS’s new stance on corporation and their own freedom of speech. It has been a very troubling debate on both sides and it will continue to be the heart of the debate for a long time. For this particular posting, I will be turning our eyes back to the historical context of the First Amendment. This will include a brief overview of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who both played a role in the interpretation of the First Amendment.
In the late 1700s, the colonies had come to understand the struggles of their own forefathers who had brought them to the New World. To these colonists, there was some distant authority claiming the power to tax and to direct the lives of the colonies without a single chance to represent their voice. The separation of the colonies from England formed the basis of the coming Revolution and the establishment of a new kind of democracy that would change the world. At the roots of this coming conflict were the ideas on the freedoms of speech and of religion.
This notion had brought the first colonists across the ocean to settle as pilgrims or Calvinists from England. They were looking for a land that would allow them to escape the persecution from the Church of England. We often looked to this group as the seed of the revolution that the colonists would fight one day. Their desire to have liberty to choose a life where they could worship as they wanted was essential. They wanted a freedom to speak their voice without fear of prosecution. That spirit continued to grow until 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was finally signed and presented to the King of England.
The idea of free speech has a very long history, but for this reflection, I will narrow it down to the context that we are addressing. Speech had been regulated and censored by the governors appointed for the colonies by the King. The suppression of the press and the right to speak out against injustice allowed the thought that the colonists were suffering from ‘taxation without representation.’ The stir to have a voice set the spark that all should have the right to free speech. The friction was building. It would have to be dealt with in a defining moment.
Along with this, the powers across the sea also held great sway over the established churches in the colonies. Not all of the colonies had arrived with the freedom to choose. The Puritans were still linked to the Church of England. In Maryland, the establishment of a Catholic colony was granted by England’s throne, but later, it was revoked. The colony was reestablished as under the authority of the Church of England. This authority barred Catholics from office and disenfranchised them. It was not always enforced, but the practice was in place. In Massachusetts, the church of the state was a combination of Puritans, Calvinists, and Protestants.
It is clear that these colonists were seeking to be free so they could practice their own religions without some government or large organization ruling over them. The Reformation, a few centuries before, had set a precedence that supported the spirit resting in the hearts of these colonists. They wanted to be free to worship as they believed.
This is the context within which Jefferson and Madison had come to the table. Each brought several wordings of the First Amendment, but most were rejected by the others as being too narrow when it came to the clause pertaining to the religion. With the wording that set the establishment of free speech, the authors of the First Amendment wanted to guarantee that the government being created would not be allowed to set one religion above the others or prohibit any religion. This was the simple phrase that would become the source of great debate in the centuries that followed.
Now, that the context of the First Amendment is understood and the players in our little country’s history are in place, we can explore how all this applies to our current policy debates. It is obvious to me that while we may have come from that rebel’s cry for a government that was meant to serve the people; some in the government have decided that they will only serve a few people. It is time that we all use our free speech to remind the lawmakers that they serve the majority rather than the minority.
So, I will leave this topic for now. The next part will allow us to drive right into the freedom of speech clause of the First Amendment. We will not explore the beginnings of the ideal, but we will allow the context that I have established here to support the matters of our current policy debates.