Press Release

The religion clause of the First Amendment says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  The First Amendment also protects freedom of speech, press, assembly, and redress.

The religion clause of the First Amendment says: “Congress
shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the
free exercise thereof.”  The First
Amendment also protects freedom of speech, press, assembly, and redress.

The religion clause has been interpreted over the years by
scholars and the Supreme Court to mean that the state shall not interfere in
the realm of religion nor shall religion interfere in governance by the state.  Many scholars, including Thomas Jefferson,
have called this the wall of separation between church and state.

The Central Savannah River Chapter of Americans United for
Separation of Church and State has been formed to affirm the First
Amendment.  Our concerns center on public
education and religious diversity, threats to hard won individual freedom from
theocratic interference in governance, the threat to religious freedom by the
dominance of the religious majority, and the threat to religion by government
interference in religious activities.

There are a number of religions represented in the CSRA, all
of whose members are guaranteed the freedom to practice their beliefs within
the bounds of the laws protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness
guaranteed to all citizens.  While there
are some limits on the practice of religion, the freedom to practice one’s
religion is one of the most fundamental rights of citizens of the US.  Religious practices in the CSRA are varied,
including the more common Christians, both Protestants and Catholics, the less
common Jews and Muslims, but also the minority Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists,
Pagans, B’hais, Jains, Agnostics, Humanists, and others.  The Constitution guarantees the individuals
of all these religious affiliations, or indeed non-affliated individuals, the
right to practice religion as each sees fit within the confines of the
law.  Religion is a highly variable,
intensely personal belief system that requires considerable tolerance by
governance to protect the variety of practices that arise within religious
ideology, but have no adverse effect on the efficient and fair function of the
state.

The democratic process requires that the populace be educated
so that the populace can make informed decisions concerning the well being of
the government.  In order to protect
religious freedom that education should include education in comparative
religion so that voters understand the tenets of a myriad of belief systems and
how each belief system can be accommodated wisely
within the confines of protecting individual liberty.  Note that the education proposed is not an
indoctrination into a specific religion, but an education about the general
tenets of each religion, recognizing that within each religion there will be a
number of sects that exhibit subtle differences from the common tenets.  Indeed, it is likely that each of the
individuals within those sects will exhibit subtle differences from the
professed beliefs of that sect.  All of
these religious beliefs are protected by the first amendment as long as the
practices that they promote do not interfere with the rights of others.

Over the years there have been attempts to use government
resources to promote specific religious ideas. 
Most recently efforts have been directed toward the teaching of Creation
Science and Intelligent Design in public schools.  These ideas have been proposed as
alternatives to teaching the process of evolution, but both of the ideas
originated as religious tenets and were dressed as science for presentation to
the public.  There is no scientific
evidence for either of the ideas, and while we believe that anyone has the
right to believe those tenets if they choose to do so, government resources
should not be used to promote either Creation Science or Intelligent Design
because both are fundamentally religious. 
And they certainly should not supplant the teaching of evolution, since
there is considerable scientific evidence supporting that process.

Nor should government funds or property be used to support
the posting of the Ten Commandments.  The
commandments are fundamentally religious in nature and as such should not be
promoted by the state.  Indeed, only four
(6 thru 9) of the ten commandments are relevant to government, the other six (1
thru 5 and 10) are the promotion of monotheism, respect and desire, religious
functions indeed, but not functions that should
involve government.

The religious clause of the first amendment also guarantees
that the dominant religion will not bully minority religions into
submission.  Human history is replete
with examples of such bullying.  It is
time to recognize that individuals have a right to their own religious views
and that neither the state nor a religious corporation has a right to impose
religious beliefs on any individual.  The
best way to guarantee both religious freedom and the neutrality of government
is to keep religion and government
completely separate.  It is our job as
the Central Savannah River Chapter of Americans
United for Separation of Church and State to educate the public that complete
separation of church and state is desirable, possible, and, indeed, imperative.

 

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