"I stand for the separation of church and state...for the same reason that I believe our forefathers did; It is not there to protect religion from the grasp of goverment, but to protect our government from the grasp of religious fanaticism... The church I go to is the one that emancipated the slaves; that gave women the right to vote; that gave us every freedom that we hold dear. My church is this very chapel of democracy.. I do not need God to tell me my moral absolutes. I need my heart, my brain, and this church."
The above words, spoken within an actors' performance, taken from the pages of a script, and crafted by a screenwriter, spoke to me in a profound way that inspired me to create this website.
With a deep and abiding love for my country and fellow man, I am compelled to ask some questions that I fear in the shadow of the September 11, 2001 tragedy, and in light of a heightened spirit of Patriotism, will garner me some form of admonishment. However, as an American who treasures her freedoms and right to free speech, and in deference to the dedication and sacrifice of our forefathers who fought so valiantly for these freedoms, I will ask these questions of my fellow Americans;
Are we as a Nation, on the cusp of losing our precious freedoms to the intolerance of religious fanatics within our own borders? Is the ever fading line that separates Church and State in jeopardy of complete eradication as a casualty of unity? Does this misguided sense of unity foster misperceptions that see unpopular opinions and beliefs as anarchy, and Patriotism as simply echoing popular sentiment? I believe that we are standing upon a perilous precipice.
Now, as our Nation embarks upon a War against Terrorism in response to the most horrific acts perpetrated against the United States and mankind, the American people have drawn together in a display of unity essential to the survival of freedom and instinctive in all shocked by the horror. However, while we stand united in our stance against terrorism, we must be careful not to confuse this unity with true Patriotism or the essence of the American spirit that gave birth to this great Nation. We must be careful not to sacrifice diversity or free speech and the public discord which that freedom affords, to the cause of unity. We can be united in our fight againt terrorism and maintain our individuality along with the rights that protect and allow us to enjoy diversity. Patriotism should not require subscription to any one religious or political doctrine, or call for unity that does not allow dissent. Patriotism comes from the heart and the brain, individual to us all.
I worry that this War on Terrorism will have the same corrosive effect on our Bill of Rights as this Nation's nearly one hundred year long War on Drugs. The War on Drugs has taken a terrible toll upon our Bill of Rights, and eroded this precious document to it's very core. I worry that those who will voice objection in defense of our rights to any war related initiatives will be deemed unpatriotic or accused of treachery. We must be vigilant, and we *are* still Patriotic when we keep watch over our goverment during this crisis, and speak out loudly when we see our rights being further compromised.
I am likewise concerned that there are those within the right-wing religious communities who are inclined to use this time of great sorrow and the spiritual need for answers as an opportunity to further intrude itself into the halls of democracy, blurring the line that seperates Church and State that much more.
In my fervent hope that my children and future generations should enjoy the freedoms which so many have long enjoyed, and for which so many more have fought and died,
The Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia in 1787 to write the document that still forms the basis of the United States Government. The voice of dissent was present during that convention. George Mason, delegate from Virginia and author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, left the convention bitterly dissappointed, and became one of the Constitution's most vocal opponents stating that the Constitution had no declaration of rights. Ultimately, George Mason's views prevailed. When James Madison drafted the amendments to the Constitution that were to become the Bill of Rights, he drew heavily upon the ideas put forth by Mr. Mason in the Virginia Declaration of Rights.
In the famous words of Thomas Jefferson, the Constitution erects a "wall of separation" between church and state. The First Amendment's Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause serve as the principle bulwarks against government intrusion in religious life.
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