For some, the most appropriate topic for a religion column on the Fourth of July would be a discourse on how the United States is a Christian nation.
I refuse to participate in that exercise in historical revisionism. A timelier topic might be a discussion concerning those who would mold the United States into a Christian theocracy.
Most important for me and a growing number of Americans is the desire to maintain freedom from religion. This liberty is really one side of a double-edged sword.
As much as there is constant chatter about freedom of religion, it is actually just the other side of this sword. One should not be had without the other. This was true even in colonial times. Some of the colonies were founded by people seeking religious freedom even though they were not tolerant of other faiths. In cases like the Salem witch trials, they were not even tolerant of some of their own.
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If you read Tom Paine and others who wrote concerning the establishment of our country, you will find they often tie the tyranny of King George to the tyranny of the Church of England. Baptists of the time strongly supported the establishment of our country to assure freedom from the Church of England. Religious tolerance was in most cases a myth.
Jump forward 200-plus years, and the lack of tolerance, especially for those professing no religious affiliation, remains. Look at the preoccupation that too many state and federal legislators have with forcing Christian faith-based beliefs on the entire population.
You know what I’m talking about: legislation against LGBT rights, no-choice legislation on women’s health concerns, Christian-only prayer in public meetings, Christian-only holiday displays on public property, biblical interpretations of science and other subjects inserted into taxpayer-funded public school curricula.
I realize that some readers will see purpose and value in the activities I have just condemned. I do understand the motives of those wanting to promote a moral code to which they subscribe.
Unfortunately that desire is often misguided and unjustifiable. For historical reference, look no further than the period after World War II. In the early 1950s, fear of communism and in particular its anti-religious aspects caused this country to experience nothing short of a 20th-century Salem witch trial.
U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy led the nation through a despicable proceeding involving character assassination unequaled in recent history. The purge was laced with religious overtones.
During that same time, Congress saw fit to insert “under God” into our Pledge of Allegiance. A short 65 years later, a disturbing number of politicians have found the need to once more go down that ill-fated path of mean-spirited religious discrimination.
So on this Independence Day, celebrate the principles for which this country stands. For me, not the least of these is freedom from religion.
“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Jim Skinner, one of The Star’s Faith Walk writers, can be reached at email@example.com.
The Star is currently looking for a new round of Faith Walk writers. If you are interested in writing for this column, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.