In another discussion thread, I recently mentioned the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution, saying that it is meant (in part) “to ensure freedom of religion, not freedom from religion”. This assertion drew some howls and catcalls from our left-wing opponents, so I thought it would be useful to review this principle a bit more.

I suppose some may find the notion a bit too centrist for their taste. But perhaps we should consider what some notable political figures have upheld (in their words at least, even if not in deeds) on this subject:

Sometimes I think the environment in which we operate is entirely too secular. The fact that we have freedom of religion doesn’t mean we need to try to have freedom from religion. It doesn’t mean that those of us who have faith shouldn’t frankly admit that we are animated by the faith, that we try to live by it, and that it does affect what we feel, what we think, and what we do. – William Jefferson Clinton (August 30, 1993)

As a people, we need to reaffirm our faith and renew the dedication of our nation and ourselves to God and God’s purpose […] The Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. – Joseph Lieberman (August 27, 2000)

I believe strongly in the separation of church and state. But freedom of religion need not mean freedom from religion. There is a better way. […] The history of the United States has proven our founders’ wisdom. They believed — and I believe — that we can protect against the establishment of religion without infringing in any way on its free exercise. That belief is at the very heart of our Constitution. And we must keep on working to make it a reality in our public life. – Al Gore (October 15, 2000)

I do believe in the separation of church and state. But I don’t think separation of church and state means you have to be free from your faith. My faith informs everything I think and do. It’s part of my value system. And to suggest that I can somehow separate and divorce that from the rest of me is not possible.  […] Freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from religion. And I think that anything we can do to promote the idea that people should express their faith is a good thing. – John Edwards  (March 4, 2007)

Did they really mean what they said? Or were they just pandering to the electorate, in an attempt to gain some votes from religious-minded people? Knowing how politicians can be, it is so much easier to “talk the talk” than it is to “walk to walk”. I suppose you’ll have to judge according to their actions, rather than their rhetoric. But I digress.

The point is that there was a good purpose, politically speaking, in saying such things. Acknowledging that “freedom of religion” does not mean “freedom from religion” is something that resonates very well with the mainstream of America. Over 90% of Americans believe in God, even while they may organize themselves into a patchwork quilt of varying denominations.

Those who argue for “freedom from religion” want to ban religious expression from the public square. It’s the domain of groups like FFRF – Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. – whose primarily atheist supporters seek to promote a strict “separation of church and state” that far exceeds what’s actually written into the Bill of Rights. Consequently, they seek to narrowly confine freedom of religion. In their view, religion should be limited to our private lives, at homes or in churches, and it should never inform our judgment in public affairs or public life.

The way it’s been going lately with the Democratic party being effectively hijacked by the most radical of the left-wingers and the “politically correct” crowd – or as Ann Coulter so aptly describes them in her book, the “godless” – we are tending to hear them speak more often in support of “freedom from religion”.  And that’s something we ought to watch very closely, because of its potential danger to our hard-won freedom of religious expression.

When you stop to think about it, even atheist secularism is a belief system. In excluding other belief systems from public life on the basis of “freedom from religion”, secularism enjoys an unfair advantage. It tends to become the de-facto religion of our country, because all other faiths are suppressed under this principle. Is this what our Founding Fathers envisioned? Certainly not!

2 Responses to “Freedom From Religion? It’s not in the Constitution”

  1. on 25 Jun 2007 at 1:23 pmopal

    Thank you for this commentary.

  2. on 25 Jun 2007 at 8:47 pmNaCN

    Oh oh, Dave. You mentioned the “Coulter.” Prepare yourself for the inevitable fusillade from the left. That’s all the excuse they need to shoot the messenger rather than addressing the issues.

    Speaking of issues, when I think of the inability of SSM supporters to respond to my questions, or yours, I realize how correct you are. Secularism really is a belief system. It’s their religion. It just astounds me how your discussing facts sets some of them off in a sputtering lather.

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